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Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, June 30, 2000

Nothing will be
popping on the fourth

ANYONE expecting a massive fireworks blowout on the Fourth of July doesn't understand basic firecracker dynamics in Hawaii.

Blowing off firecrackers is like having sex. On New Year's Eve, there is a point of climax -- midnight. On New Year's Afternoon, island residents take part in sporadic pyrotechnic foreplay, blowing off small strings of firecrackers and the occasional illegal rocket. As New Year's Night comes, the action intensifies, getting louder and louder. Finally, at midnight, the island erupts in an orgasm of fiery passion, a deafening, heart-pounding roar accompanied by aerial explosions shooting thousands of feet into sky.

Then everyone settles down, sucks in one last lung-full of firecracker smoke (the figurative cigarette after the act of amour) and then they go to sleep. In the morning, they look out through the haze, see the results of their reckless, irresponsible, yet wonderful one-nighter and dream about next year's date. It's the only time of year when you see neighbors out sweeping mounds of red firecracker paper from the streets together saying things like, "So? Was it good for you, too?"

The Fourth of July is not a day of passion, although it should be. It's a time when a few people pop off firecrackers at odd times throughout the day. There's no focal point. There's no build up. There's no climax. Where New Year's is about wild, erotic abandon, the Fourth of July is just a kiss on the cheek.

I'm not the first person to connect fireworks to sex. In the old days, when you couldn't show actual sex in movies, directors would hint that hanky-panky was about to ensue by showing bursting aerial fireworks. When Cary Grant smooches Grace Kelly in "It Takes Thief," director Alfred Hitchcock pans out the window to a pulsating eruption of air bombs. (Get it? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)

In Hawaii, the sexual analogy is further strengthened by Puritans who wag their fingers at those who engage in the annual pagan orgy. ("Shame on you. What you are doing is immoral and dangerous. Why, do you know that when you engage in unprotected fireworks ignition, you can catch all kind of bad things, like, on fire?")

SO, the Anti-Detonation League already was getting all hot and bothered about the approach of July 4th. They expected, wrongly, that people would snatch up as many fireworks as they could, knowing that on New Year's, they'd be limited by a new law to only 5,000 firecrackers. They hoped that July 4th would be a huge, annoying, loud, smoky, smelly mess so they could wag their fingers even more vigorously, pointing at the burning buildings, howling charred dogs and streets littered with the blown-off fingers of small children and say, "See? See? We told you it was a bad thing! Next year we'll get a complete ban of sex, we mean, fireworks!"

But the Fourth of July is about picnics, barbeques, parades and professional aerial fireworks displays. In terms of "Gilligan's Island" philosophy, the Fourth is about Mary Ann, New Year's is about Ginger.

And besides, everyone knows there'll be plenty of firecrackers available next New Year's. Open the door to the sale of one legal firecracker and you open the door to the illegal sale of 10,000. Allow the sale of 5,000 per person and watch out, it's party time.

Hawaii definitely has a love affair with fireworks. But most residents are happy to limit that romance to one yearly tryst.

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 or

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