Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy ante diem quartum nonas Sextilis

They've just started the fireworks down on the Charles River ... even though I'm six miles away in Somerville I can hear it.

Boston's fireworks are, I think, second to none in the world. They are "composed" by an artist of no mean talent: and I say composed because they feel like works of music. Symphonies in light and fire and percussion.

People begin to camp out on the Esplanade, on the southern (right) bank of the Charles river in Boston, the night before, at least. By sunrise on the morning of the fourth, the island is already crowded with people and all of the good spots on the riverfront are already taken. Spots further back on the island are really no good since there are large trees that get in the way, especially of the lower fireworks. I've never had a riverfront spot, myself, at least not right there, in front of the barge. That would be fantastic, with the reflection in the water. It would also be interesting to be on one of the hundreds of boats that crowd into the basin throughout the day -- a huge traffic jam through the locks at Charles river dam that no doubt begins the day before, and ends up with a river so crowded that you could practically walk from one bank to another without getting wet ...

Many people, of course, also fill out the Cambridge side of the river. That's not nearly as good, as the closest you can get to the river is on a sidewalk, behind a metal railing. The sidewalk is far too narrow to accommodate many people, and the railings will get in the way. The grassy areas in Cambridge are behind Memorial Drive, which makes it even worse. Some people set up chairs on either the Mass Ave ("Harvard", though it's nowhere near Harvard) or Salt-and-pepper (Longfellow) bridges. But they have the same disadvantages as the Cambridge side.

Many years ago I did find a great spot however that is a good alternative to the Esplanade island: and that is the strip of land between the lagoon (which separates the island from the mainland) and Storrow drive. That area does not fill up until after 6pm on the fourth itself. You can usually find a spot right on the bank overlooking the lagoon itself. You get the advantage of reflections in the lagoon (admittedly not as good as the Charles), and the trees and people on the island are far enough away that they are too small to block the view. It's quite ideal, at least unless you want to spend more than 24 hours in the same spot.

Watching the fireworks on the Esplanade is quite a commitment: by 8pm, every single square inch is filled with human bodies. You can no longer tell where there's pavement and where there's grass. And you had better have done whatever you needed to do before then, because whatever spot you happen to be in by then, you will be there, come what may, until 11:30pm at least. It's like some sort of nightmare Science Fiction scenario of the world after a massive population explosion. And it takes hours to get home by then, too, though they do run the T for extra hours, and it's free. God help you if you drove.

When Lotus still owned the Lotus Development Building right on the Charles, people used to watch from one of the balconies; and when Lisa used to work on the 14th floor of the Green building at MIT, she had a picture window overlooking the Charles and the Boston skyline just above where the barge is usually moored. I never watched from either spot. I just don't see the point of not being there, on the Esplanade, if you're going to do it at all.

Tonight, though, I have to admit I'm glad to be home in the air conditioned cool, and not out in the muggy, crowded, sweaty heat with a quarter of a million other crazies on the Esplanade. I've done my Esplanade time. I'm all about the comfort nowadays!


Track with co.mments
At Fri Jul 07, 12:25:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Margaret said...

I disagree! The Cambridge side is great and unobstructed! I have gone there (just beyond the Longfellow, in front of that building with the blue on it) for years now and enjoyed it very much.

Btw, channel 4 Boston has done a cool thing this year and posted the entire fireworks show on their site. It's not the best video quality but it's fun, nevertheless.


Enjoy! and happy 4th!

At Fri Sep 07, 11:40:00 AM EDT, Blogger Roberto Iza said...

Kind regards

At Fri Apr 16, 12:09:00 AM EDT, Blogger Not Afraid To Use It said...

I didn't see an email address for you, so I'm doing it here. I am sad to see there are no newer posts than 2007. You are the only other blogger I've come across who uses an historical avatar. I think I am going to very much enjoy the next few days of reading through your archives. Seems we have quite a bit in common, and that is not something I say very often.


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