Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Monday, January 11, 1999

Ban the ban until
after year 2K

THE rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night, that Hawaii on New Year's Eve is one of the nuttiest places in the universe.

Watching the thousands of aerial explosions, punctuated by the roar of millions of firecracker detonations this year, convinced me that allowing the personal use of fireworks in a major metropolitan area is one of the most irresponsible, bone-headed and absolutely spectacular things a group of relatively sane people could conceive.

This year, the illegal aerials, which means all of them, were bigger, brighter, higher and more glorious than ever before. The illegal pipe bombs were louder, more nerve wracking and, apparently -- gauging from the number of dismembered fingers collected from driveways -- more powerful than ever before.

(One particularly dramatic explosion caused the neighbor's cat to launch himself directly into a garage beam where he remained attached by his claws for several hours. I would have laughed except I was too busy picking my fillings off the carpet and wondering when my heart would stop its savage staccato Morse Code.)

The midnight eruption of zillions of firecrackers -- purportedly to assure good luck for the New Year -- issued forth in one long cavalcade of fury that could not be matched unless you actually inserted your head into the main engine of an F/A 18 Hornet jet fighter and managed to hang on when it went to afterburners.

NATURALLY, all this fun, along with a few house fires, attracted the attention of a bunch of party poopers who are once again calling for a ban on fireworks.

I'd be the last to say that this issue does not deserve some serious discussion but I'd be the first to say, "Ban fireworks? Are you nuts? Next year, we will be welcoming a new millennium and we're going to need some heavy firepower."

Let's just all agree right now that it's really crazy to have a bunch of people throwing and firing flaming rockets and gizmos all over a largely combustible island like Oahu (neighbor islands, you're on your own). But, hey, we've been doing it for years and we got out of this year relatively unscathed. Any discussion of a ban should take place in the year 2000, not 1999.

Hawaii residents have shown that they can find a supply of illegal fireworks easier than a crack addict can find dope. And if you think that banning fireworks is going to keep islanders from welcoming the Year 2000 with pyrotechnics that will put the siege of Baghdad to shame, you're dreaming.

You might as well make walking down the sidewalk a felony, because if you ban fireworks before 2000, you are converting at least half the population into instant criminals.

So, let's not even talk about the evils and dangers of fireworks. They are stupid, noisy, fraught with peril and they cause asthmatics and small animals fits. But they also unmask the extremely stupid (they are the ones who blow their fingers off making pipe bombs) and they allow us a release of tension like nobody's business. There are a few highly-publicized fires related to the annual orgasmic conflagration, but when you consider the sheer volume of explosions, the misfires are equivalent to a thimble full of vermouth in a martini the size of Kaneohe Bay.

In fact, more people were injured or killed by choking on mochi in Japan and by idiots shooting off guns in Miami than were injured by fireworks in Hawaii this New Year's.

So let's all take a deep breath and table this discussion until Jan. 2, 2000. And if you having trouble breathing, don't blame it on fireworks. It's vog and we can't ban that.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to charley@nomayo.com or

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