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Saddest Ghost Lamp

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Pistol Is Just a Very Special Kind of Firecracker

Forgive me for sounding like I'm rejoicing in the tragedy of others, but I wanted to bring your attention to the fact that, sadly, one of the legions of functionally retarded Chicagoans who insist on detonating weapons-grade "firecrackers" in the middle of the goddamn street every 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th of July has suffered the consequences of his idiocy. Last night a Chicago Heights fireworks enthusiast was shot in the face by his neighbor, who evidently didn't want massive explosions rocking his home all night. I would have preferred it if the guy had blown off his own arm or something, but at least the fireworks afficionados have been warned.

If I sound bitter, that's because it's July 5th and I live in Chicago. For anyone who's never experienced Independence Day in this Godforsaken city, the holiday always serves as a blunt reminder for any Chicagoans who have been briefly lulled into a hazy dream of urban sophistication by the concentration of coffee shops and independent record stores that we are all stranded in the heart of the Midwest, surrounded by Illinoisans and Indianans who don't care how many fingers their children have and whose eyes glaze over at bright lights and loud noises.

The city turns into Little Chechnya. Industrial explosives pound the air from all sides. If you're stupid enough to leave the house on the Fourth, driving home is like a scene from "Salvador"--giant clouds of smoke hug the asphalt, and people literally set up roadblocks with their cars to clear the street so they can set off their displays. These are not humble little store-bought fireworks; they are massive, professional explosives suitable for municipal use. It's like handing over the Mall fireworks to your drunk neighbor, a thousand times over. I took the picture above on the Fourth a couple of years ago. Those are not officially sanctioned fireworks--they were set off by idiots in the street.

I've never seen anything like it. It's bizarre, it's maddening, and it makes you want to shoot someone in the face.