Photo by Jo Santiago
In South Florida, The fourth of July is always a spectacular. Fireworks shoot off at midnight, shattering like champagne bottles, announcing the national holiday's vivid presence. We have beach-side celebrations with sand castle building contests, young and old alike meeting to build ocean-side doll houses or life-sized hot dogs or glowing sand angels or the Statue of Liberty. We barbecue in the park while shimmying around to Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run, forever talking about the time that he suddenly appeared in Palm Beach and strolled around the very park we're standing in. There's tropical soda pop in every glass, so fizzy that the ice crackles and snaps indefinitely, and every table boasts Americana classics from apple pie to hamburger buns frosted with sesame seeds. The local taquerias fly American flags from the roof and blast thrift-shop cassettes of Elvis Presley and The Beach Boys, humming out their Spanish equivalents.
The downtown district is littered with families picnicking by the intercostal, sprawled out on old tablecloths with feasts of peanut butter sandwiches and Mallorca sweet bread and cranberry spring salads and ice cold pop. Their children do cartwheels and handstands on the water's edge, peering over the concrete divider and into the sunwarmed inlet below, watching expectantly for a glimpse of a twenty-foot shark or some other elusive beast. They howl out in desire while tugging on their mother's pant leg, begging for a cotton-candy ice cream cone from the nearby tiny pink shop while mom and dad slow-dance barefoot in the grass to Louis Armstrong.
When the sun begins to set over that ever-expansive ocean, the entire city seems to spontaneously light up in a sudden flicker of fireworks. They shoot into the sky leaving smoky mascara trails, popping into pinks and blues like a wine-bottle cork pulled from the bottle. If all the lights in the tiny city of Palm Beach were to be turned off all at once, the light from those shimmering fireworks alone would be enough to keep the world spinning madly on. They crackle deep into the night, even after everyone has packed up their picnic blankets and carried their sleeping children back to the car, lulled into sleep by the wistful light show. No, those fireworks seem to keep on going, even when their audience has long since been laid to bed.
They just keep on shooting, illuminating the sleepy sky until the stroke of midnight when they too can finally be laid to rest. And there they lay, resting their tired eyes until the next forth of July when they get the chance to mesmerize the world again.