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Monday, January 15, 2007

Beaches, Blasts, and Bounding Escapes

Life cannot get any better than the beautiful collision of the beach, hundreds of Christians together, and…this still very important ingredient….fireworks. Without these things…well, we’d probably mourn more and praise less. But no! such gifts do exist and may each of them in their own separate way woo us to opened-eye wonder, and let all of them mixed together make us all cheer in grin-faced symphony.

The day was yesterday and I happened to be down at the beach. -Panama City Beach, Florida where the white sands and sparkling waters charm the masses of those who have the slightest tinge of aesthetic longing. Where this time of year, the only masses are those that are of a particular snowbird species, flocked in bridge-clubbing, RV-formations from Michigan, Minnesota, and Canada, and such cold places. –And also the rare occasion that a Christian organization has the brilliant idea to host a huge beach blast for Christians in this praise-provoking and reflective surrounding. It is a smart move…dozens and dozens of college Christians rushing to the coast when the party-crowds of spring and summer have not awakened from their pagan hibernation. A Christian is he who is both dead and fully alive to everything around him. It’s all a matter of what is dead and what is alive. A non-Christian can only act in appropriate seasons of death and life; he knows no other meaning but the rhythms by which he is carried. Therefore a Christian, can mourn in the season of indulgence, and so can he laugh in the season of dearth. A good Christian should always be willing to sing his heart out in winter and, yes, celebrate and shoot off fireworks when there is no real holiday for it. (That’s my excuse for the following story and if you want my bluntness then I guess I will have to say that my maturity level may not be a pole vault in progress, but at least we had fun…good, clean fun for the most part.)

God was kind to us. Our stay at the beach was high in the 70’s with blues skies that were ripped apart by the magnificence of a bright, beautiful sun. Even the nights were pleasant. And it was one of those nights about 6 or so just after the sun had given his lime lit stage performance to the subtle stars that I called my friend Nathan.

“You think it’s time?” “I think now is perfect.”
“I’m going to get some lighters.” “Okay, I’ll be with the stuff down on the beach.”

The plan was quite obvious. Nathan and I were pretty much veterans in these sort of affairs. We had manned fireworks tents together in the summer. And we knew quite a lot about our merchandise. We also knew the appeal, zeal, and effect that explosions in the air had on people. We called a few others and before long we had a total of five people congregating on the beach with an artillery tube lying at a 75-degree angle with the base buried in the sand. Among them there was Monte Baugh from my hometown who was a part of the Auburn crowd. There was David Duer the more mature of us, who somehow we talked him into coming out there. And then there was Ross a young guy from Tennessee.

Now these were not just simple firecrackers. These were as loud and as big as you can get without a special permit. Our main selection of awe-delivering weaponry was called Excalibur. For the most part, these types of fireworks woke up narcoleptics and were probably somewhat illegal inside all city limits. The first shell was dropped into the tube. The fuse gave a fight to be lit. The anticipation was intense. The ocean yawned ahead in patient eagerness. The fuse was lit. The sparks flew lighting up the white sands. I could feel my heart pounding to the ocean’s tempo that was mere seconds away from being interrupted. The sparks ate its way down into the tube. A moment of pause while we cupped our ears….and BOOM! The shotgun sound echo across the sea as the shell rocketed into the night air, following by the 2nd bang tearing the darkness into dazzling light. And there from behind us, where the hotel towers arose a chorus of applause and cheer resounded. We had ourselves an audience. All three hotel towers came outside to see what the noise and lights were. We had hitherto, believed that we were nearly alone and that our pyro-toybox was only for us. But we had neglected to realize just how many rooms and balconies there were overlooking the ocean in the entire Edgewater hotel complex.

A second artillery shell was dropped into to the tube and the same struggle against the winds to get the fuse lit and another boom echoed. The 2nd report this time was multicolored and the crowd again hoorayed the fires in the skies. My heart leapt with joy. I jumped up and down like a kid in glee.

We tried other things. A humble spinner and then a full cake load of 500 grams, a multi shot, that shot shell after shell up madly into the air. All the while, the cheers behind us oohed and aahed and clapped their hands begging for more. Then more of trusty Excalibur as both our audience and ourselves got drunk with sight and sound and the smoke-filled air. Just then David got a phone call, a tip that security was on their way out there. We did what any rational person would do if he is honest with himself. Each of us grabbed a container and ran.

Our escape had us running parallel to the pool area to get off the beach. The audience from their balconies could see everything and just when we thought that our applause was over there erupted from the 3 towers such cheering and hooraying that I felt I was in the World Cup chasing a soccer ball down the field. The crowd couldn’t get enough of us and we couldn’t get enough of them and we would cheer back at them with the containers full of fireworks and the security on our tails. Nathan had these flip-flops that worked like snowshoes propelling him across the white sands like a frilled lizard. My shoes are good for hiking put not sprinting across sand. I could feel the sand multiply in my shoes. A spectator and beloved cheerer later informed us that there was a security officer watching the whole thing and he was nearly waiting by the fence as we ran by. But we passed him so quickly that he soon gave up chase.

David Duer, had the smoothest means of escape. He just walked down to the beach as if he had nothing to do with us. For the security’s main attention was drawn to those of us who were frantically scurrying away like a herd of antelope. Then Monte had the bright idea to split up and confuse them, so he detoured from the rest of us.

The 3 of us ran, Nathan, Ross, and I into the front parking lot of one of the hotels. We stashed our firework containers under this white car and then we split up. Nathan had spotted the taillights of a real police officer. And we slowed our running down to catch our breath. We climbed many floors and witnessed the police car stopping random cars in the parking lot checking them for firework wielding miscreants. But we hid out and let things cool down for a bit and after we saw the police leave the complex, we returned to the white car where our stash was hidden and to our disappointed eyes, the fireworks were gone. We found the others and recounted our stories and decided that losing the fireworks was well worth the entire adventure. I have had many adventures in my life, but none that were watched and cheered so marvelously before. One feels like a sort of heroic rebel and one looks forward until the next to light up the skies with fire, suspense, and hoorays.


Anonymous Jeremy said...

dude, what's your phone number and email???

This is Jeremy Bartlow.. your guatemala traveling buddy.

dude i was just looking over those pics..they are awesome. did you ever get them???

send me a text if you have a cell.. 817-487-1976

10:13 AM  
Blogger Brian Harrison said...

Yes, Somehow I never got your email address before I left Mexico. My number is 334-701-8757. My email is alastorcbh@yahoo.com

No, I didn't receive any pictures. I may call you sometime soon. I want to know what is going on.

9:09 AM  

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