I was born in the part of Chicago where the Illinois/Indiana border was located just a few blocks away to the east.
|Many of those fireworks you'll hear this weekend came from places like this store in Hammond just off Interstate 80-94 and four blocks from the Illinois border. Photograph by Gregory Tejeda|
I was raised in suburbs right on the state line – heck, State Line Road was literally just another side street and places like Hammond, Munster and Whiting were just nearby towns.
AMONG MY CURRENT bits of employment that allow me to earn something resembling a living is work I do for one of the daily newspapers covering Lake and Porter counties in Indiana.
My point is that I probably have spent a lot more time amongst the Hoosiers (although I think that Hoosier-dom doesn’t really begin until one gets east of Valparaiso – everything west is just an extension of Chicago and Illinois).
But in coming days, for all I know even tonight, we’re going to have one of Indiana’s chief exports dominating our scene – no matter how much we wish it would go away.
I’m speaking, of course, about fireworks. All those explosives that will be blowing off particularly on Monday but some people just won’t be able to wait until then and may begin as soon as Saturday night.
IT’S INDEPENDENCE DAY come Monday – the date we celebrate the fact that the British colonies on the East Coast officially broke away from Great Britain, then eventually grew their way into our beloved United States of America.
Personally, I think I’m going to wind up with my father on that day – as he’s already getting himself geared up for all the relatives he’s inviting over to his house so he can fire up the grill and try to pretend that he’s engaged in something resembling gourmet cooking; outdoor-style!
But what would an Independence Day holiday be if NOT for the local yahoo who lives on your block feeling compelled to stock up on all kinds of explosives so he can fire them off throughout the night (simulating the “rockets’ red glare, the bombs burst in air” of the Star Spangled Banner?).
And because such explosives are heavily restricted in Illinois (the official municipal fireworks displays are coordinated by local police and fire department officials to ensure they don’t wind up burning down their towns), people in the area turn to Indiana in order to buy their devices.
IT ALWAYS AMAZES me the stores gathered near the state line on the Indiana sign that go out of their garish ways to advertise the fact they have for sale products that would warrant one’s arrest just a block or two to the west. Almost as tacky as those tobacco products stores bearing such names as "Smokes" or "Ciggies."
For as it is, Illinois people aren’t committing a crime of any sort if they blow their money on fireworks, then shoot them off over on the Hoosier side of State Line Road. It’s the moment they try to drive a trunk full of fireworks back across the border that they become the legal equivalent of smugglers.
Although I don’t think they’re so much venal as just idiotic.
Sorry, but I’m not a fireworks-type person. I just don’t see the point of such a spectacle – particularly since I feel I saw it when I was a kid and don’t need to keep doing it over and over and over again the rest of my life.
SOMEHOW, I CAN’T help but think there are better ways to pay tribute to the efforts of those “founding fathers” who created a nation that has been a world-leader in bringing about the concept of freedom to parts of the globe.
Eating the Italian sausages my father plans to grill on Monday (I have a niece who insists on having them even though she usually insists she won’t eat pork) and watching weak little bombs go off overhead can’t be all there is to the holiday?
Somehow, I even think the people who will be at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday to see the White Sox take on the New York Yankees will be doing something more worthwhile with the holiday – even if they’ll have to endure the sound of REO Speedwagon (memories of junior high school-era bad music pop into my head) performing the national anthem AND “God Bless America”).
And in the end, at least a few neighborhood cranks will wind up calling the cops Monday night when their neighbors feel compelled to show us just what they bought during their little side trip to Indiana this weekend!