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May 27, 1999

Truly Safe Sex

All right, I'll admit it. I've been hiding it for most of my life but enough is enough. It is time to come clean. I am ready for the program. "Um... uh... Hello. Uh... my name is Ian, and the only reason I look forward to Canada Day is because I'm hopelessly addicted to fireworks...".

I guess it all started when I was a kid. At that time there was no Canada Day - the holiday that kicked off the beginning of the summer season was the May 24th weekend. But it wasn't until much later that I realized that the 24th was actually known as Victoria Day. As far as I was concerned, it was Firecracker Day. And Firecracker Day was like Christmas, New Year's and the Comet roller coaster at Crystal Beach all rolled into one.

Every year, my dad would buy packages of checkered, striped and menacing monster red firecrackers and set them off in our backyard. The thrill I got from watching them go off was pure sensory overload: the flash of the explosions, the deafening roar, the smell of burnt gunpowder and paper that hung in the air when all fell silent. Fireworks were the ultimate in exciting. And apparently they were dangerous, too. Everybody seemed to be going out of their way to tell me how dangerous they were. But if that were true, why did my parents buy them? And why were they having such a good time setting them off? Obviously this 'Dangerous' billing was a ruse. Fireworks might warrant some precautions, but fireworks were FUN. And you got to use matches to light them, too! Could things get any cooler?

Since we were way too young to purchase fireworks of our own, my friends and I would discreetly scoop some from our parents' arsenals and set them off in the dugout at a nearby baseball diamond. But forget Dad's throw-them-on-the-lawn-and-stand-back approach - that was for beginners. We set them off much more stylishly, packing them into model cars, my sister's toys or empty glass jars. Reducing Barbie's Country Camper to charred fragments represented a whole new level of the art to us. We didn't light firecrackers. We detonated ordinance. And with our way the danger quotient was infinitely higher - a one quart Bicks jar packed with M80s had a kill zone of at least thirty feet! Fireworks were amazing. I was hooked.

As with all addictions, these things can only escalate. As a member in good standing of a local service club, my dad also helped to set off the town's fireworks display. Infinitely bigger bangs. Infinitely more dangerous. But this part didn't translate well at the retail level. Those dinky little 13 ball Roman Candles and Volcanoes were pretty lame next to the bone-jarring chrysanthemums that Dad set off. So it seemed that my participation at this level of the sport would be restricted to the role of a spectator, at least until I was old enough to join the Optimist Club.

I never got around to joining the Optimists, though. It turned out that there was no need to. A gal I met in university introduced me to the idea that I didn't actually have to go to all the bother of competition-grade pyrotechnics to get that fireworks rush of adrenaline - there was another way! And it was available 365 days of the year!

I felt like such a rube! Why hadn't I realized it sooner? It was staring me in the face the whole time! When Cary Grant grabbed Grace Kelly in his arms and sank onto the couch at the end of To Catch a Thief, they didn't zoom in on them for a voyeuristic flesh-fest - they panned to the fireworks display out the balcony window. The opening credits of Love American Style didn't feature impassioned lovers wrestling on a waterbed - they had fireworks! It was at that point that I realized that there were infinite parallels between fireworks and sex. And anyone who says there isn't is either lying or boring. Or Baptist....

  1. The most obvious has to be that both fireworks and sex feature tremendous bursts of energy and excitement followed by an eerie silence.
  2. A good fireworks display is one that's well paced with different styles of fireworks grouped together and separated from the rest by a brief pause.
  3. There are many different types and styles of fireworks and everyone has their favorites.
  4. Some types of fireworks are illegal in some jurisdictions.
  5. Fireworks are really expensive to buy.
  6. Sometimes really promising-looking fireworks turn out to be duds.
  7. It takes careful orchestration to enjoy fireworks in a public place without getting into trouble.
  8. You can go to public displays and watch other people's fireworks but it just isn't the same as when you have your own.
  9. People watching fireworks displays always say, "Ooo", "Ahhhh", and "Oh WOW!".
  10. Bigger fireworks are not necessarily better fireworks.
  11. Even though you've set off a lot of fireworks in your time and seen other people's too, you can never really remember them exactly. Only the general impression. When someone says, "Hey, remember the Symphony of Fire we saw in '93?" you answer, "Oh yeah..." but you really can't remember anything specific. You can't remember that the floral bursts were especially good or that the whistling rockets really blew you away. Only that your general impression was positive. Same thing when someone says, "What ever happened to Angie?" "Oh yeah..."
  12. Videotaping fireworks may seem like a great idea at the time but effect is lost on a small screen.
  13. Many people, myself included, are willing to travel great distances to see a first class fireworks display. However...
  14. ...readily available third-rate fireworks are better than no fireworks at all.
  15. Well-orchestrated fireworks displays never just fade to a close. Serious pyrotechnicians are conscious of the excitement building in their audience and always try to finish the display with the biggest, most spectacular bursts of the evening.
  16. Half an hour after you've seen the coolest fireworks of your life, it's like nothing ever happened.

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