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Wednesday, July 5, 2000

It was much quieter tonight, wasn't it? The United States on the night of July 4 becomes a spectacle of colors and sounds. You can go to a public fireworks exhibition, or you can pull the shades and cower behind your door. I've had occasion in past years to do both.

Another alternative is to do what we did this year, gather all the family and friends you can get word to, eat and drink lustily until dark, and then blow up the neighborhood. Sonoma County outlaws all kinds of fireworks in unincorporated areas, and the cities have other restrictions, so I'm not sure how much of what we did last night was strictly legal. I suspect that some of it, at least, was outside the boundary.

I hated sparklers when I was a kid. I'm still not fond of them, but when someone hands a sparkler to you and one to the five-year-old standing next to you (or at times behind you), you take it, and you find a way to be enthusiastic about it, so that she doesn't give in to her natural tendency to freak out. If I'm in control, she's safe. (I guess. Might've been the other way around.)

One thing I know is that I didn't set off anything illegal, but that's because I didn't set off anything at all. Many people brought many different kinds of devices. I stood back and watched the show.

I had plenty of chances to stock up as we drove through Wyoming last month. Apparently everything is legal there and available at stands all along the highway. I wasn't tempted. When we stopped, I waited in the van. I have no personal knowledge of anything purchased by more adventuresome members of the family. But I will say that there were some frighteningly magnificent displays last night.

Every time I thought the show was almost over, someone would bring out a bigger, brighter, louder device. I don't know how that many people survived all that destructive power without injury, but apparently those in charge were taking more care than met the eye. There was plenty of supervision, so nothing truly got out of hand, in spite of the air of chaos. The kids enjoyed watching, and that's what's important. After all, it was all for them, right? Right?

Last Thursday night, before we went to see Romeo and Juliet, Mom, Suzanne and I stopped at a local pizza and pasta place for some dinner. I had the fettuccini al pesto; I make it better myself, frankly, but at least the service was . . .

Well, sad to say, the service wasn't great. We were quite tolerant, I think, considering that we had to pirate a place setting from another table (even after our meals had been served), and Suzanne never got the soup she ordered, and we had to ask for the bread that came with the meal. The charming young waitperson tried to cover up the beleaguered look in her eyes, but she was obviously in a bit over her head.

We came to believe she was new there, and as I said we made allowances. Still, we didn't want to pay for the missing soup, and Suzanne asked that it be deducted from the check. With elaborate apologies, our waitress (I really prefer that word, sorry) delivered the bill and told us that they weren't charging us at all for Suzanne's meal (she did get her salad). We didn't think that was necessary, but we thought we'd be making more trouble for her by arguing. We just hoped that she wasn't in big trouble with her boss. I would have hated that.

The play that night turned out to be the preview performance, and it was reviewed (quite favorably) by the Press Democrat's theater critic. There were members of the repertory company in the audience, including the children who play the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, one of the other plays on the summer schedule.

As you might expect, they were everywhere, darting in and out and around the lobby and up and down the aisles before the performance and during intermission. It was kind of a riot of high energy, and you had to be on your guard against being bowled over by the little dears, just too excited to watch where they were going. It actually cracked us up, especially when Suzanne commented, "People come and go so quickly here."

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