Sunday, July 05, 2009

Pyrotechnical Interlude

It's been a bad summer for celebrities at all levels of fame, dying as they are in multiples of three, it seems. Who among us will ever forget what we were doing when we heard about Billy Mays' untimely passing?

Few outside Chicago may have heard of Dempsey Travis, who also died last week, but I met the man once. I went down to his South Side office late in the winter of 1989 to interview him for the commercial real estate magazine I edited at the time. Our meeting was one of the better interviews I ever did, but not because of much that I did. Travis was interesting. More than interesting. He told fascinating stories of times and places I would never see myself. So RIP, Mr. Travis.

The Fourth of July began around here with rain, but by twilight's last gleaming the skies were clear. We made our way to Wheeling, Illinois, for that town's fireworks, as we did in 2004 and '05, and we weren't disappointed. The pyrotechnicians put on an excellent show, one without someone else's idea of a patriotic soundtrack, and including some wiggling displays I'd never seen the likes of, plus a number of teasingly false endings.

The professional shows need to keep innovating, I figure, because amateurs can get a hold of some sophisticated little rockets and shells these days. Besides the usual bottle rockets and so on, people were shooting off small peonies and loud explosive shells before the professional show.

I also have to wonder whether old fireworks pros can look at a tape of a display, and pin it down to a particular decade or even year. Fashion comes and goes in much else; fireworks too?

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