San Diego Stories by Salvatore Filippone

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July 10, 2002

Roman Candles

I was on my way home from a barbecue at a friend’s house when I saw the bright flashes reflecting against the thick blanket of clouds covering the city. I had committed the gravest of sins: I had forgotten about the fireworks. I drove down towards the bay and stopped to watch.

The sky lit up and flickered with each blast. The explosions reminded me of dandelions; only they temporarily hung in the night sky, their petals then cascading to the water below. No wind was blowing, leaving the bay a glassy mirror in which the action reflected. It looked almost like a painting. Off in the distance I could hear a tinny version of the Star Spangled Banner coming through someone’s speakers. I looked towards Little Italy and could see folks out on their roofs and terraces, taking in the spectacle. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized I had company.

I used to spend the 4th of July at the beach with my family, during my early teenage years. We’d pack up everything we could--food, drinks, coolers, boogie boards, chairs, tents and sleeping bags, and head out for Mission Beach the night before to set up camp. At midnight, we’d see the other folks come and set up, until there was a row of tents a quarter-mile long. There was a buzz in the air, keeping most everybody awake until the sunrise.

Seeing the sun rise was as important as watching the fireworks. It meant the beginning of a great day.

fourth (12k image)

This holiday, I went to Ocean Beach to celebrate with some new friends. It was the first 4th in San Diego for Kate, Shelley, and Amy Beth, who moved out here from the east coast. They were celebrating in true Southern California style, with blankets, tunes, drinks and friends out on the beach. The weather was a bit cloudy, but the sun still managed to leave a little burn wherever the sunscreen didn’t hit. I stayed awhile, bid my friends goodbye, and then moved on to a friends’ barbecue over in Golden Hill.

It was there I spent the last few hours of the day, conversing with friends and new acquaintances. Doug brought over his guitar and Paul played a few tunes while burgers cooked on the grill. I gave the guitar a whirl and played a few tunes myself, before it was retired to its case. The guacamole dip slowly disappeared while the sun quickened its pace towards the horizon. The barbecue finally wound down, and it was time to go home.

On the drive back, all the events of the day pulsed in my mind, mixing together with memories of past Fourths. The first time I lit a Roman Candle. The time I went to Coronado and had a firecracker explode near me (my ears are still ringing!). Seeing the blazing waterfall of fire at the OB pier. Camping out in the early morning near Mission Beach. Sneaking into the pool at the Bahia Hotel. Like the fireworks they rose, exploded, and then slowly faded into the darkness.

I turned my eyes back towards the sky, catching the last few explosions of the finale. As the last ashes descended to the surface of the bay, I set off for home.

It was a great day.


Posted by sfilippone at 10:05 PM