Lighting a fuse all willy-nilly is no way to win a potato salad war…

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Mornin’ all.

My kids decided to sack out in the living room last night so they could have a summer evening Netflix marathon while the neighbors set off fireworks in inexplicably random intervals.

…hang on a sec. I’ve mentioned my neighbors and their fireworks before, and I don’t want there to be misconceptions of where I stand on the pyrotechnics debate. I friggin’ love fireworks. I’ll be even more New Hampshire and say they’re wicked awesome. Live free or die, and do it under the pretty sparkles of burning chemicals. My problem with the neighbors isn’t that they set off fireworks.

My problem is that they do such a poor job of it.

I know NH has far more lax fireworks laws than most states, so for those of you who don’t have the ability to walk a quarter mile down the street and enter the wonderland that is a discount fireworks warehouse, I’ll explain the basics of home fireworks displays. Because when you buy a sack of fireworks to entertain your friends, you’ve got a responsibility to do it right.

**This isn’t about safety. I should hope you’d know to have people watch from a safe location, and not look down the tube of a roman candle to see why it didn’t light. This isn’t about that kind of responsibility because I don’t think my readers even need me to say how dangerous fireworks can be if you don’t handle them properly. This is about the cadence of the display, the way to make the fireworks themselves shine, and the way to be a hero in the neighborhood.**

So you’re having a summer BBQ and want to make it more special than the one the Hendersons threw last week. Since you aren’t going to beat Marge’s potato salad (and let’s face it, who could?), you’ll want to have something the Henderson’s didn’t. Bouncy houses cost too much, there’s no way you could afford lobster for everyone, and the last time you rented the mobile petting zoo, the goats ate your wife’s begonias and you’re STILL hearing about it. Clearly the ONLY path is fireworks!

The first step is the actual purchase. Newbies will get lured in by the big fancy displays at the front of the store. Usually these will be large, flashy-looking fireworks with colorful labels, either in a patriotic theme OR depicting landing UFOs. They won’t be the highest priced option, but they will be big enough give you visions of your friends and family looking up from their red solo cups of beer and going “oooh” in unison.

Skip those.

“But Bethie, this one has an American flag driven right through the alien crash site!!! TEAM AMERICA!”

SKIP IT! Walk past. Resist. Why? Because while those are good, and maybe you’ll end up getting one in the end, it’s the first part of the display that gets people in the mood. For that, you want bulk. Walk past the grand finale temptations and spend the majority of your money on a sack of smalls. You have to warm the crowd up. You can’t just rush to the grand finale of the US kicking alien ass in a green showery burst of flame. If you do that, you’ll be broke, people will be disappointed, and all that money you spent on the hamburgers with all the fixin’s and the keg will be for naught. You’re battling Marge’s potato salad here. Don’t grab the first bit of flash you see. You want a lot, and for that, you need to start small.

Fountains are a great way to start a display. They are cone-shaped ground fireworks that shoot a spray of different colored sparks up a few feet. Some crackle, some pop, some change colors. Generally, though, they’re bright enough to draw the attention of the crowd.

Then there are cute novelty fireworks. Some people shun these, but I tell you what, they really suck in a crowd. These can be little cardboard cars that zoom around when the firework is lit, or the classic jumping jack that pops and zips for a minute before it fizzles out.

My kids have a favorite, and when we can afford fireworks, we get some…the farting chicken. Hey, they’re teenage boys…what did you expect? The farting chicken fireworks consist of a cardboard chicken with a balloon in the butt. You light the firework, it does its thing, and the heat and exhaust from it fills a balloon, which then slowly lets out a bbllppfft noise. The farting chicken. Exactly what it sounds like.

When we were kids, my dad would always get spinners and tanks for the 4th of July. The tanks were just that…little cardboard tanks. You lit the fuse and stepped back and the force of the firework would send the little tank zooming and spinning down the road. Those rocked. It was especially fun when they’d get a bit wonky, when the firework would slip from it’s position and change the course of the tank, sending it turning and zooming right for us. Nothing beat the sheer exhilaration of kicking off my flip flops to gain traction as I raced down the pine-needle covered campground road to get away from a firework tank attack.

Spinners, too. Those are neat because they swirl, and everyone likes to watch something swirl. They’re round, with a series of fireworks around the outside placed in such a way that one will light the other in sequence, pushing like a little propulsion jet and sending the whole deal spinning. They come in all different varieties, but basically do the same thing. Some you have to nail to a tree or a post. You pin them in the center, and by doing so, those can get spinning so fast that it becomes a bright, shiny blur. Some dangle on strings. When we were kids, we used to have spinners on sticks, like individual ones that you’d hold like a sparkler. After the spinner exhausted the final firework, there would be a pop and the dead firework you were holding would open to reveal a paper lantern. Those were the best. Hands down.

I looked for those in the Warehouse of Awesome down the way, but was told by the cashier they don’t carry them for safety reasons. I suppose a product marketed towards kids that lights up, spins with fire, and then explodes, all while being held by a skinny stick is probably not going to be a big seller these days. Bummer.

Of course, we also had Jarts as kids, sooo…

Anyway, ground fountains and novelties. They’re only a couple bucks a package, and you can use them to really warm up the crowd. Plus, you can shoot them off to great effect even before full dark. Reel ’em in early and draw out the experience. That’s the goal. Can Marge’s potato salad do THAT? I didn’t think so. Get smalls, and THEN get some of the other stuff.

So the crowd liked all the smalls. They cackled like children at the farting chicken, as we knew they would. The spinner nailed to the little foot bridge kinda sorta started a small fire, but the mad dash to toss drinks on it and stamp it out became a fun audience involvement experience, so even that worked out in the end. But you can’t get cocky! Remember, you’ve just warmed them up. After it starts to get dark, you want to move away from the novelty fireworks. Stash any you haven’t set off away for another time and shift to the small aerials and more fountains.

“Aren’t the fountains played out by now?”

Hell no! Have you ever seen them? They’re mesmerizing! You can’t play them out. Besides, they come in all colors and sizes and, as we said, they are cheap. Besides, they’re only ground displays. You know exactly where they are going to be, and you know you’ve got a couple minutes to safely go into the field and set up your aerials. *taps head* Trust me. I know what I’m talking about here.

This is the time to set off some bottle rockets and roman candles. They are a great, inexpensive way to tell if it’s getting dark enough for the big guns yet. Mix up your order of firing for them, too. Don’t buy two packs of roman candles and set them off one right after the other. Plan it out a little, alternate between firework types. Keep the crowd guessing.

Once it’s full dark and the mosquitoes are really out like a mutha and someone’s toddler has had way too much cake and sun and is starting to make everyone glance towards their cars and itch to get away from the brat, it’s time to shut him up by dragging out your grand finale level of fireworks. Those need no more pomp. You’ve already done all the work! You simply need to light the fuse and walk away. Make sure you get one with a very long fuse so you can take your time walking away as if you don’t have a care in the world, James Dean style. It might seem like a good idea to slowly put on sunglasses as you’re doing it, but resist. The grand finale firework is enough to cap off the great night. Sunglasses would just be gratuitous.

You do it right, and people will forget you burned the hamburgers. They won’t mind the fact that they itch all through the next day because you didn’t buy the citronella tiki torches to ward off the vampires of the bug world. Hell, they’ll even start to remember that Marge put capers in her potato salad. CAPERS. You get the order right and people will remember the evening as THE neighborhood BBQ of the summer.

Now, I might have had to explain this to you folks who don’t have the good fortune of living in a state that embraces the wonderment of backyard pyrotechnics. However, to any NH native, this should be basic knowledge. Anyone who walks into an Emporium of Explosives should already know what to do. My sisters and I knew all this by the time we were ten. Ten year old me could have done such a better job with the neighbor’s fireworks last night.

And THAT’S why the neighbors’ fireworks nights annoy me so much. The waste. The lack of flow. There’s no planning, no showmanship, no finesse. They just light up whatever whenever at random intervals with no rhyme or reason.

*shakes my head* What an abuse of power.

The kids like watching them, though, even though I think they’re secretly rooting for the neighborss to misfire another into the big pine tree like they did on the 5th. I let the boys stay up to watch and then sack out in the living room. I had to play “the floor is lava” in order to reach my computer. I don’t know how I didn’t step on a kid or spill my coffee on them. I guess I’m a “floor is lava” master.

I’ve got an early appointment this morning. I like early. I do early well. It’s much better to get it done and then you aren’t waiting. Have I ever mentioned I hate waiting?

After that, we’ve got to get our asses back to town to show a car we’re selling for my Mum. She’s coming up on a big move and her vehicle must remain in NH. It’s not the first car I’ve sold, and I priced it to sell fast to get her some cash for the move. Holy smokes, the interest has been staggering.

I said it’s not the first car I’ve sold, and it’s not. However, what I personally get, like, and work on are old German diesels. I love a diesel engine, especially pre-90s where there are no computers trying to complicate the car. They are so simple in design and function, and damn near bullet proof. However, we live in a climate that sees hot, muggy summers and icy, cold winters. The back and forth makes them testy, and they aren’t an easy sell. They’ve got rabid, absolutely RABID devotees…but they’re few and far between.

Because of this, the cars I’ve sold in the past have taken awhile to actually pull out of my drive with a new owner behind the wheel. We got lots of tire-kickers looking for that elusive one-owner grandma car, or dealers who want to buy the brand but not the problems that come with it at less than half of what we’re asking.

Mum has a Jeep. I tell you what. The amount of instant interest in the car, even with it’s clearly stated problems, makes me think I should be restoring and reselling SUVs instead.

KIDDING. Gug, have you ever tried to work on one of those things when there’s a problem in the electrical system? Or emissions? Or ABS? NO THANKS.

My husband is off work today. I popped the ad up on craigslist, and set up test drive times with people specifically when he’ll be here. I always do that.

“Bethie, aren’t YOU selling the car?”

Yes, but my husband is the one that’s a scary bastard. I’m a marshmallow…a marshmallow who reads the news. Look, there’s gender equality and female empowerment and all…and then there’s sheer stupidity. I’ll work on the cars just as much as my guy. More, on body work and electrical. But if someone is going to deal with a stranger and take that potential ax murder on a test drive, it’s going to be the one that’s intimidating enough to make the ax murderer sheepishly hide his weapon behind his back and slink away, NOT the one with a goofy grin who is clueless to the target on her back. That’s not sexist. That’s just smart.

So I’ll do the talking, I’ll be the up front one and answer questions. And he can put on his terrifying expression and take the hopefully-scared-enough-to-behave craigslist responder on the test drive. I’ll take the cash, though.

You wouldn’t believe how good I am at that part.

Thus concludes a Muse for Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Fingers crossed the Jeep sells fast. I’ve got a ton of stuff I need to do to get ready for my yard sale this weekend. And by “ton” I mean “all”, since I haven’t even started to gather stuff to sell. I KNOW I KNOW. Sheesh. I’ll get it done…

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