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I Saw Fireworks

posted at 11:46 am
on Jul. 29, 2004

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I’m in Vancouver, staying with my friends Martin and Tracy.

Martin and Tracy live downtown.  I crossed the border in North of Seattle, and as I was driving up Highway 99 / Oak Street I called Martin to tell him that I’d be arriving soon.

Martin told me, oh, you’d better cut right about a klick (kilometer, that is) and head into downtown via this other street, because the bridge ahead of you is closed for the fireworks show. Ooo-K…

So I arrive at his place and find a parking spot out front. (How’s that possible?) He asks if I want to walk over and see the show.  Just then a large boom.  One hour to the show, and they’re signalling via a large blast.  This ought to be fun!

I grab a sweater, we start off.  We walk across to the very other side of downtown down to English Harbor—20 minute walk.  The streets are packed.  Literally.  The traffic is stopped.  Police have barricaded the streets.

We arrive at the park at the edge of the water and there are (roughly) 300,000-500,000 people—we’ll know what the paper says tomorrow. (Update: There were only 250,000 people, uh huh, sure.)  People on blankets, on curbs, leaning against buildings.  Literally no place to sit, but we find a spot and squeeze in.  At a safe distance, boats surround a large barge with sponsors logos etched in light.  Planes circle.  video cameras on tripods are set up.  There’s almost no wind.  The sky grows darker drip by drip.

The “fireworks show” Martin was telling me about is an annual global competition.  The top four countries compete in Vancouver each year.  Tonight was the Swedish team (perhaps Spanish, dunno) (Update: Actually, Chinese. Hard to tell from that distance). He says it costs about $1,000,000 per show, and there’s three more in the next two weeks.

Next show is Sunday.  We walk back. You just can’t even imagine how many people there were.  And no shoving.  And no trash.  And so many people just walked there from wherever they live.  The smell of weed drifted over us—police stopped someone and wrote them a weed ticket.

Last time I know of that a single event had 500,000 people in the downtown streets of L.A.? The ‘92 riots.


“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?




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