Lucid Culture


Fireworks in Hedge Fund Land

This is where the hedge funds live, horses tethered to stables on rolling green hills behind electric fences. My sister tells me she can sometimes hear Puffy or his pilot making their way across the sky to his private helipad: somewhat ironic when you consider it sounds just like the police helicopters circling over Harlem or Compton. She also shared a rumor about Mexican laborers coming out of the woods late at night, pushing wheelbarrows full of rock taken from old stone walls now protected by the state. Apparently they have a rustic patina not available on stone fresh from the quarry, and it’s become a popular decorative touch at the estates of the speculators and the downsizers.

My sister and her family had invited us out to watch fireworks. They schedule them early out here, perhaps so as not to compete with New York City. And the adjoining towns stagger their schedules, so if you’re properly situated, you can see flares and roman candles for several hours, from varying distances.

Holidays are a big deal in these parts: the resident servant class takes them very seriously. It took a staff of at least a dozen residents, from the grandfatherly gentleman who took my sister’s VIP parking pass and soberly announced, “Paid!” to the squadron of middle school kids who couldn’t figure out how to orchestrate a simple nod and a wave to an open spot, to get the car parked. What made the VIP parking area any different from the hoi polloi’s lot wasn’t clear: it still would have taken us an hour to get out of there, had we stayed with everyone else til the bitter end. Perhaps these jobs are popular because they’re actually paid positions, which wouldn’t be a surprise, considering that property taxes out here are like a mortgage except that the only equity you get is not having your house taken by the town.

They have the same band here every year before the pyrotechnics begin, a bunch of geezers in grey ponytails and tie-dye, phoning in covers of stuff like Stand By Me and Under the Boardwalk. They only really cranked it up at the end, the horn section blaring away during an unusually long version of a Kiss song. A few people were definitely reliving their lost youth.

The fireworks started later than usual. The truck carrying them had been stopped at the Connecticut border, the local authorities fearful that its contents might be destined for Al Queda. A furious exchange of phone calls, emails and faxes ensued, the final result being that the police stopped traffic across the bridge until both lanes were clear, then gave the truck an escort across, finally allowing mystified travelers – who were by now backed up for miles – to resume their journeys. As I mentioned, they take their holidays seriously out here.

I watched my niece run through the neatly manicured grass, chasing her glowstick as the sun went down. By now, it was almost 10. My nephew grew tired, so my sister took him home: the rest of us stayed, drinking beaujolais from plastic cups as our blanket and the field underneath grew moist with dew. A second band played. “Younger folks,” my brother-in-law told us. This made sense: they seemed genuinely psyched to be there, doing a lot of Beatles covers. The bass player had obviously taken the time to learn all the right McCartney licks, and this was a good thing considering that pretty much all you could hear was bass unless you were right next to the platform the band was perched on.

Then the fireworks started: New York has absolutely nothing on these little country hamlets. There was no crush of onlookers, no demon chorus of car alarms, and we were right on top of the action. Fireworks were literally going off over our heads. My niece put down her glowstick and enjoyed the show; I put my hand over my wine to keep out the cinders and the ash. “It’s like a Civil War battlefield,” laughed my brother-in-law, as the clouds of gunpowder smoke grew thick and pungent. We figured we’d get a jump on the other VIP’s – a motley crew in minivans and pickup trucks, mostly – and head out before it became impossible to leave.

I wonder how many other three-year-olds missed the fireworks this year because the truck got held up crossing the state line.

July 2, 2007 - Posted by | Culture, Music, Politics, Rant

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