fireworks“And the rockets’ red glare
the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night
that our flag was still there…”

Last weekend our country celebrated another birthday. We celebrate with “bombs bursting in air” and flags in our yards. As a nation, we had picnics & BBQs, went swimming, giggled and laughed. Overall, it was a good time.

Being me, I was coming to tear down your happy. I was going to talk of patriotism and soldiers lost. I was going to explain how I’ve told my children, since they were very young, “each and every spark of a firework represents someone that died for our freedoms.” I was going to go all maudlin…

And then Becky happened.

Let me back up. It was a great weekend. Dickie came down from Canada. Apparently, the fireworks up north aren’t that great. We played thursday night. I went to sleep at a decent hour so I could go to work friday, and the boys stayed up until the wee hours doing god knows what—but I hear no llama’s were involved.

Della & Scott came down friday night for a while. Evil Gypsy that I am, when she texted they were close, I suggest to the boys that we play Rock Band and timed it just perfectly. When D&S pulled up, Bob was singing Bon Jovi and Dickie was dying on the drums he’d turned into bongos. Embarrassing your friends on purpose? That’s love. They visited for a while and I played with sparklers like the 12-year-old I am. Many giggles and lots of magic.

Saturday was a million degrees and the three of us spent the day in the pool. We were waterlogged but had a great time. There were tiki torches and an amazing meal of grilled kabobs & shrimp. Qwee showed up after dinner and hung out for a while. After dark there were more sparklers & two larger fireworks that the old woman at Black Cat promised would be good. She didn’t lie. When Qwee left, I made the boys play with sparklers until they remembered that they weren’t too old for magic, and we discussed childhood magic vs. adult adventure until the wee morning hours. I learned that I’m an anomaly. Apparently, Alethea and I see magic far more often than those around us, and friends that notice it feed off it. I decided to spend the rest of the weekend trying to fix this.

Sunday we went to Baltimore. The plan was to hit Poe’s grave, Poe’s house, wander Fell’s Point, see fireworks and hang at Howl at the Moon until they kicked us out. We had some failures along the way, but some happy surprises as well. Poe’s grave is closed. The city of Baltimore proved again that they have no love, respect or desire to improve either location for the man that many of us would eagerly invite to dinner. Scheduled tours, the first and third weekends of the month, friday at 6 and saturday at 10, are the only times you can get in the graveyard now. The house? Well, it’s still closed, but we didn’t know right away. When we pulled up there were two squads and three cops at the house next to it, blocking the one-way street so we couldn’t get there. We laughed at the Poe Fail we were having and decided to wait it out, rather than walk into some blazing gun fight in the projects. We waited. We finally squeezed through the road block to see the “closed” sign and I sighed, “Oh hell… take us to the hotel.”

We checked in, Dickie found an A/C vent in the hallway that he started having romantic conversations with, we freshened a touch and ventured out into the blazing heat to wander Fell’s Point. Again, there was a plan. The plan was to wander, yes, but to also show Dickie the Santeria shop found on a previous adventure. The one with the plain brown packages in a cooler in the back. The one Hippie is a little afraid of. And as Sunday Fail would have it, it was closed. We managed to get him to the comic store, and I’m still surprised he didn’t buy the bacon tuxedo. We wandered back toward the hotel. I declared they should feed me. And we found heaven, er, sushi to die for. After stuffing our faces with godzilla rolls and angel vaginas, we hit the hotel for a power nap. Yes, we’re that old.

Awake, refreshed, changed and ready for an evening of fireworks and debauchery, we headed back out into the heat. After double Poe fail and Santeria fail, and half the other shops I wanted to see being closed, I was expecting an announcement that fireworks had been canceled and we’d have total Baltimore Fail. But I didn’t say it out loud. I didn’t give the universe that one.

The fireworks were amazing. They were magic. Period. I’m sure there are pretty words to describe it, but I just can’t. Even my muse was speechless. The finale looked like someone had thrown a giant bag of cupcake sprinkles into the sky and lit them on fire. The sparks, each one deserving a thank you, and reflections on the water were exactly what this gypsy needed. I’m a simple girl. I’m easy to please. I requested water and fireworks, the rest was just extra. Extra was closed for renovations but I got my heart’s desire.

We then took off for Howl at the Moon. I learned that my shoes are hawt but cobblestone sucks and went barefoot. Yes, I was in Baltimore barefoot. Yes, I watched my step for hypodermics. We met up with Amber & Doug, the piano guys played the standard Piano Man almost instantly and then Bon Jovi for the boys as if they’d been told. We left there, and went to Hard Rock, where I had the most amazing strawberry margarita ever. There was jokes and laughs and smiles and memories all day and all night. When Hard Rock closed and we headed back to A&D’s hotel to find an open bar and pizza, we found a large fountain instead. It was beautiful. It had waterfalls and statues and spraying water and great big signs that said “no swimming.” HA! I had my feet in the water immediately. Amber followed. We sat on the edge for about two minutes splashing our feet before we looked at each other and giggled.

Signs, signs
everywhere there’s signs…
do this
don’t do that
can’t you read the sign

Um no. I can’t. I suck and have an issue with authority figures and rules that make no sense. Amber and I hiked up our miniskirts and hopped on in. It was amazing. It was magic. The boys sat on the bank and watched. I saw the smiles. I knew they at least understood the magic, even if they couldn’t feel it themselves.

The hotel bar was closed, we wandered barefoot for a few blocks, found a cabby that knew nothing and left A&D to head back to our hotel—because we were smart and had packed squirrel supplies for the trip. We got back, the boys made secret squirrels and we headed out front to smoke on the sidewalk.

The weekend was fun. The day was amazing. There were tons of memories and lots of magic and my glassy eyes thanked every single one of those soldiers in the sky. And while we were recapping, we met Becky.

Becky had been evicted the day before. She’d been living with a couple and paying them rent, however, they were not paying the landlord. She’d been to all the shelters and they were full. She and her Wal*Mart bag of possessions were desperate. She had a water bottle, clean arms, clear eyes and a passion in her broken voice that made me go quiet. Me. The band on her left hand wasn’t a wedding ring, it was a reminder of the son she’d left with an aunt while she got on her feet. She told us of the hostel she’d found that would give her a bed, a shower and three squares. She’d been begging for the last three hours and everyone had been rude and cruel and mean to her. She made some comment about destitution depressing others and they turn cold at the sight of it. We’re not everyone else. We asked her name. We made her feel human again.

I see magic everywhere. That night, I saw it in both my boys and a stranger. The boys were beaten into remembering that it’s there to see, you just need to look. And Becky had forgotten magic even existed. Wallets came out. Kind words were passed. Her eyes lit up and relief washed across her face. She had a plan, she’d told us already, and now she was a step closer to it. She was turning 40 in 10 days and with any luck wouldn’t be on the streets by then. Hippie sent her off to her hostel and future with a glimmer in his eyes. I loved him a little more at that moment. I hated humanity a little more at that moment. The fact that everyone had been cruel to her, on the 4th of July, angered me for some reason…

Magic. I see it daily and hug it tight like a teddy bear. I see it in my surroundings and I see it in hazel eyes. The lightening bug that says hello, the child that smiles back at me. It’s everywhere. I saw it in Baltimore’s night sky, reflected in the Inner Harbor. I reminded the boys of it every time I saw it, every time I noticed them seeing it on their own. And I saw it in those weary blue eyes as they walked away from us that night, her step a little lighter than it had been when we met.

I was originally calling this blog “Thank you” to the men and women that have died for our freedoms. Instead, I’ll say Happy Birthday to the country they keep free. And to Becky. Perhaps next year, she’ll see the magic in the fireworks above the harbor… reflected in her son’s eyes.

The Misadventures of a Writer’s Spouse

I was actually going to blog about my Nana and how we celebrated her 90th birthday with a huge shindig at my mom & dad’s [thank god it didn’t rain or there would have had 98+ people in their house].  But I’m only using that as the lead-in now… When I wasn’t playing the role of paparazzi, I enjoyed watching Nana as she watched everyone else. There were friends from way back, now-divorced-from-but-still-adored ex-inlaws, and of course, relatives in all shapes and sizes.  The party went without a hitch and grandma had a blast.

And then the partygoers went home and we brought out the fireworks and margaritas and brandy slushes [and Magic decks, but that was later and a whole different blog].

It wasn’t quite dark yet, but that was ok. We set Nana up in a chair in the driveway, and the immediate family gathered around her, sitting on coolers, chairs, vehicles or the ground.  My brother David was in charge of the mass amounts of fireworks that my sister and I had separately procured this summer. My youngest brother, Chris, started out on water duty with the hose, but his reaction speed made better firemen out of slugs and he was replaced by my niece’s boyfriend—much quicker on the draw and always willing to help. My husband occasionally helped with the lighting of fireworks.

We had “emits showers of sparks,” silly things like frogs [because fireworks should look like frogs?], some that flew [including one that popped out a little parachute with no one on it] and even a few loud, useless strobe effect fireworks that were quickly banned to prevent a group seizure. And the coup de grace, the Birthday Egg of Depression.

A firework that had been purchased the year before for my sister’s birthday that was so silly [thus the name it had earned] she ran out and grabbed a few for this year. Shaped like an egg with what looks like candles for a fuse, it sings and melts. Well, it plays “music” without vocals. But it does melt. It’s made of plastic and as the sparks spray out, the heat destroys the plastic. The song? Here… recorded for your enjoyment, because it is just so sad [thus funny, but maybe that’s just my warped family].  The second egg was hosed before it melted and this apparently stopped it from melting the part inside that plays the music.  The tinkling of warped birthday tunes continued through the entire evening—finally ending with a sledgehammer and severe giggling because it just wouldn’t stop. But it was the first egg that we need to discuss.

The Birthday Egg of Doom.

It melted, as designed, and turned into a green lump on the pavement. As we learned later with the continual tinny sounds of Happy Birthday from the second one, melted doesn’t always mean done. It should also be noted that a lack of sparks doesn’t always mean done. And as my now-ex hubby went to light something else, the Egg of Doom gave its final performance:  a loud pop, followed by the ex-hubby jumping back several feet.

“That’s going to leave a mark.” He declared through the hand that had instinctively gone to the injury. As he pulled his hand away, he and the rest of the group saw that it would indeed leave a mark, as his palm and mouth were covered in blood.  He spoke and I don’t remember what he said, only that his teeth were completely covered in blood as if he’d been in a massive fistfight.

This is why fireworks should only be done with adult supervision. So that you have someone available to get the first-aid kit. A washcloth, some paper towels and baggie of ice later, he was back in the chair next to Nana—no longer helping with the evil fireworks. It was one of those injuries where several of the women suggest stitches and the men claim it’s just fine. His teeth were intact and it didn’t get his good eye, so he was happy enough to take the gaping wound in his lip, pride and icepack, and sit to watch the rest of the fireworks.  The evening finished out, the parents went to bed and the two younger generations played some Magic.

On the way home the next day, the swelling had gone down and it no longer looked like an open wound.  Seems there was a spring inside, found later by the children, that had smacked him dead in the lip at mach 3. What looked [the night before] like one of those flesh wounds that results in a flap that you set back in place hoping that it will re-seal, was simply a circular gouge. Still quite the sight, but not as bad as we’d first feared. He mentioned it felt like it was drying out and he was afraid it was going to bust open when he talked and be one of those injuries that just never heals, so when we got home he went in search of the Neosporin.

From behind the corner of the bathroom, as he was supposedly applying salve to his lip, I heard a string of curse words that made my mouth look like that of a Buddhist monk. No really. You know how I talk, especially when agitated, and this was enough to put my best efforts to shame.

“What did you do?”

“What the hell is this?! And what’s it doing in the first aid box?!”  He held up a tube that yes, if you were blind and going for shape alone would resemble Neosporin.

“Oh noooooo…that’s Compound W!”  Yes, my (ex)husband had put wart remover on an open sore on his mouth.

He wiped it off with Kleenex, ranting about the fact that it shouldn’t be in the medicine cabinet, while I giggled and tried to explain that it was medicine and was therefore exactly where it belonged.

“Use soap and water.”

“It shouldn’t have been in there.”

“Just clean it off.”  I have now left the room because I’m likely going to get things thrown at me for the giggling. When it’s not life threatening, we laugh around here.  Hell, our motto at the fire pit is, “Remember, we laugh and take pictures before we run for help.” And gee, we learned that from Nana, who, when I was about 3 years old and fell down her stairs and gave myself two big ole black eye, ran me to Sears for portraits! Have I ever mentioned that I love my family?

“My lip’s numb.”


“What’s this stuff do anyway?”

This confuses me.  He has apparently never heard of or used wart remover gel [this particular tube was purchased for the girl child]?

“Well… You put it on, it dries, and then it EATS the flesh underneath it.”

“Oh wonderful. Now I’m going to have an even bigger hole in my lip!”

“Just clean it off.”

Still numb, but thoroughly cleaned and with no signs of that telltale “whiteness” that comes with the dried gel, I call it safe and decide we don’t need to call Steve at poison control [yes, in my house, we know the names of the different shifts at the 800 number—a few hours earlier and it would have been Jeff].

Across the alley a while later, I share the silliness with the crew of the fire pit—of course.  He doesn’t find humor in this, everyone else does.  After some friendly ribbing he gives me that look, “Don’t you dare…”

I cannot count how many situations over the years have ended with “do not use that in your writing” or “don’t you dare blog about that.” But this time, I can’t be a nice wife or a good wife…not when it goes from bad to worse like that.  And to think, I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to blog about this week!

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