A Pain in the Arsenal

We were hanging out at McMenamin’s on the Columbia a few days ago, enjoying a late lunch with Tara’s friend Betsy before dropping her off at the airport, when Tara discovered a French fry mixed in with her tater tots. I immediately pounced on this and declared it the best thing ever! before practically inhaling it. Err…sorry if you wanted it, babe. I just love when you order something like tots or onion rings and find an accidental fry hidden in there. It’s such an unexpected bonus! I equate it with the feeling you get from a winning scratch-off lottery ticket or a bonus scene tucked in at the end of a movie after the credits have rolled. Invariably, that unexpected French fry tastes far better than a whole platter of fries would if you’d ordered them instead.

Never underestimate the allure of surprise, folks.

Betsy, who lives in Las Vegas, came up for a visit Friday night and stayed through Tuesday afternoon. We had a blast showing off our favorite sights and, in fact, dragged her all over the place: downtown Portland on Saturday, a waterfall hike on Sunday, a girl’s trip to the Oregon coast Sunday night-Monday. She even got to meet my parents when we had them over for dinner on Monday night. Much fun was had during her visit (and much alcohol was consumed – there is a correlation between the two). Good times, good times.

The 4th of July itself was quiet, a sentence I have never once written in 23 years of living here.

Vancouver, WA has always resembled a war zone this time of year. Evidence of the upcoming assault first came in mid-June, when large canvas tents sprang up like weeds everywhere, taking over parking lots and grassy fields across town. Soon, boxes of fireworks of all shapes and sizes filled the tents. They were legal for the week leading up to the 4th, and the day after, and we’re not just talking sparklers. You could buy mortars and rockets that rivaled anything you’d find at professional fireworks shows. When the kids were little and we owned a house, I’d shell out (pun intended) at least $100 every year on fireworks. We would then set them off in front of our house, joined by our neighbors. The whole thing turned into quite the free-for-all as everybody on the block got in on the action, turning Independence Day into a bona fide Event. My ex’s family even made the pilgrimage up from California for a couple of years to take part in the festivities.

Fireworks over Vancouver, WA.

As time went on though, it started to feel like a drag. With so many of our neighbors contributing their own personal arsenals, those fireworks shows would go on well past midnight. Cleanup afterwards was a real bitch, and there were a couple of close calls, incidents that could have resulted in a loss of limbs or a house fire. No matter how responsible we were, there was always an errant gust of wind or a defective fuse to worry about. I’m kinda surprised we made it through those years without even a minor injury to contend with.

Citywide, residents complained constantly. The noise was excessive, people were reckless, dogs spooked by the noise ran away from home, and fires occurred. So gradually Vancouver scaled back their ordinance. Instead of the fireworks being legal for a full week, they cut it down to three days, then two. Last year they were allowed on the 4th of July only. And this year, a complete citywide ban on all fireworks went into effect. While there were some scofflaws risking the $500 fine, it was nothing at all like in years past. It was so quiet, in fact, I almost forgot it was a holiday. I don’t mean to sound like the grumpy old man who yells at kids to get off his lawn, but the whole thing is a relief. I much prefer the peace and quiet to the weeklong chaos that was the norm for so many years. Plus, I’m $100 richer now. Go, me.

Hope you had an equally peaceful 4th!


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

15 thoughts on “A Pain in the Arsenal

  1. This was probably our quietest 4th ever. We are the party people but didn’t have one this year. I was surprised to hear very little random fireworks in the neighborhood.
    I also love to get a random treat mixed in with my food!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was your mention of the errant pickle, as a matter of fact, that jogged my memory about the French fry. I would have gone absolutely nuts had I found a pickle where I wasn’t expecting one. Unlike you, I should clarify I mean “nuts” in a good way! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I know what you mean about the fry. I remember it in reverse though: an onion ring with my fries. That was a great day. I’m glad you got to enjoy the insanity and then the lack of it as you got older. Seems you’ve kind of gotten the best of both worlds then. And I’m glad you stayed safe. What’s the clean-up like? That’s not something I’ve ever thought of or know anything about as I’ve never seen fireworks going off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lots and lots of fireworks debris, from empty cardboard tubes and wrappers to spent casings. We would wet everything down and place it in a plastic bag away from the house, just in case it felt like igniting sometime during the night (this never happened). The entire neighborhood smelled like gunpowder the next morning, especially if the wind was light.

      I would also love finding an onion ring in my fries!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That does sound like a pain. Apparently it was worth it at the time. Kind of sounds like a hangover though, from what I’ve heard.

        Pretty much finding anything fried and edible is a plus. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I might be a contrarian on this one. I kind of miss the noise and chaos of a “proper” fourth, even if I wasn’t one of those folks dropping $100 on fireworks. Maybe it’s because when I was young and everything wasn’t so overprotected I saw and heard what real noise and chaos was – these days the fourth is turning into just another homogenized holiday. And if nothing else, those big boomers were a reminder of what war could be like, and why we should be grateful for peace.

    Of course, if that chaos was going on on the 3rd of July…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d be okay with legal fireworks on the 4th only, but last year when that was the case because people had already stocked up, they were setting them off days early. Unfortunately, you give some people an inch and they take a mile.

      Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Philly, being a HUGE party-town was, as in previous years, very festive and noisy on the 4th. I also think because Philadelphia has a lot of American history within its roots, we get a lot of out-of-town visitors on the 4th who enjoy visiting the various sights. In fact, in Philly, the fireworks start several days BEFORE the 4th.
    Love your photograph of the fireworks over Vancouver, WA.! Great shot!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can imagine that Philly goes all out for the 4th of July! Birth of independence and all that. Do you typically get out and enjoy the fireworks, Ron? Actually, I bet you can see them from your apartment window…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, it’s quite an arsenal alright in Miami. Gun shots rule the night. It is insane. Same on New Year’s Eve. Now in North Carolina where there are more guns than Marines and US Army combined. Yet just sensible firecrackers sparklers and disappointing Roman Candles. On the other hand I was only one on 4 blocks with flag.

    Liked by 1 person

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