Saturday, July 07, 2007

Rockets Red Glare

"Watch your step."

I stumble and slide as I make my way up the path. The people behind me are hankering to get ahead so I step aside to let them pass. It's almost dark and the narrow path we're on has us knee deep in ivy.

I can see dark shapes of people all around me. For some reason many of them have blankets wrapped around themselves.

"Shall we?"

I look up at Mr. Gryphon and then keep moving, but I don't say anything.

It's the 4th of July and other than a 7 foot tall golden imaginary gryphon, I don't have any other companions with me. I'm feeling a little excitement as I make my way up the hill, but at the same time my insides are churning. All day long I've been brooding, vacillating between anger and sadness. It wasn't a good day for me.

I reach a small area where many people are standing and sitting around. It's now almost dark and I'm thankful I have the key chain flashlight my brother insisted upon buying me. I see the dark shapes of people making their way to a still higher hill and follow them up.

It's a cold night. The day was glorious, clear and warm around 80 degrees. Weather like that spells paradise here in SF and I spent most of it indoors with the shades drawn. The wind is really blowing and I'm climbing steadily up the hill, Mr. Gryphon behind me. I reach a small path that skirts a concrete observation area. There are many people there, standing and milling around.

I make it to the top of the hill and move easily, anonymously among everyone. People are talking to each other and into their cell phones. I briefly consider making a phone call, but decide against it.

The view of nighttime San Francisco is wonderful. I can see the Bay Bridge, the lights of downtown. In the distance fireworks are going off in Sausalito to the northwest and Alameda to the east. Here and there are the bursts of fireworks all over the City particularly near City Hall and in the Mission. We are waiting for the main event and it's just about 9:30 pm. To the west, I can see our famous fog starting to roll in. Cold gusts of wind blow through us and I wish I had a hoodie on to keep my hair from blowing into my eyes.

"This was a good idea, Miss Turtle," says Mr. Gryphon. He doesn't look at me while he says this and again, I don't answer. People don't notice him as they move around and he manages, somehow, not to block anyone's view. We wait.

I try not to think too much, focusing instead on what a good idea it was to come up here. Wisps of fog float by us, but nothing that will obscure the view.

"There we go," says a male voice somewhere behind me. The fireworks have begun at Aquatic Park in the Marina and they are impressive. They have two sets going off at the same time. We oooh and ahhhh. Multicolored bursts fill the air to be followed by flashes of white, red and green. Then there's a blue flash and one that looks like a blue planet surrounded by a red ring appears. Then there's one that looks like a smiley face, heart shaped ones and green cube shapes, like a pair of neon dice. My favorites are the kind that look like big dandelions. They hang in the air for a long time afterwards.

We watch the fireworks. Occasionally a gasp escapes me or a little laugh. And even though Mr. Gryphon is standing there with me, I'll still all alone.

People start leaving, climbing over the concrete barrier in front of me, clutching their cell phones, each other, their blankets as the fireworks finale goes off. Then it's all over. People and the sounds of starting cars dominate. I slowly make my way back to the path that skirts the observation area and turn on my little flashlight. I walk slowly down, sliding a little.

I reach the road, crossing it to the next dark path, the one with the knee deep ivy.

"Dating is a discouraging business, Mr. Gryhon," I finally say. He nods at me and we continue on. I shine the flashlight behind me so he can see the path.

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