As I began writing this, at 9 p.m. July 4, I could hear from the backyard the snap-crackle-boom of nearby fireworks (either that, or gunplay--hard to tell 'round here on holidays). They were coming from the front yard too, as dads and their kids popped off a bottle rocket or two, figuring that since it was still drizzling after the downpour they wouldn't catch anyone's house on fire. (And it didn't hurt that for whatever reasom, Dallas County was the only one in the area that didn't have a fireworks ban within county lines, and though it's still technically illegal within city limits, try telling that to the folks who twice a year, including New Year's Eve, turn the city into kaboom town.) Same thing went on for a while Monday night; at 10:30 we stood in a neighbor's front yard engulfed in a Technicolor swirl of sparkler smoke, and it conjured either a vivid childhood memory or a Vietnam flashback, not sure which. This went on into the late-late, as the parents finished floats for the Independence Day parade that annually crawls through our neighborhood led by waving police officers and politicians out doing their duty. Mitchell Rasansky, our district's council member, told me before the parade started we were his fifth of the day. "No, wait...fourth," he said, before his wife handed him the cell to take an important call. "We're on our way to the fifth after this." Two years ago, we got Martin Frost. Clearly, we were due for an upgrade.
It's the annual tradition in our neighborhood: From about the last week in June till July 2, every street plans its float, and on July 3, the folks and their kids get together to bang, nail, paint, glue and tie together some elaborate trailer-hitch ridealong teeming with kids throwing candy at curbside bystanders who treat this rinky-dink ritual like it's some cross between a Mardi Gras panoply and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day processional. It's truly spectacular, in a wholly unironic way. You should see some of these floats: the kids who built their own Army tank (and got one of them to walk beneath it to move it forward), the families that built half an American Airlines plane and half a Southwest Airlines jet and faced them off in a Wright Amendment showdown, the moms and dads who painted a Bourbon Street scene to pay homage to New Orleans, the next-door neighbor of mine who fashioned a sleek and blindlingly shiny model that looked like it floated out of 1957. In fact, the whole event's quaintly retro and provides the reminder, just when I need it most, of why it is I moved back into the neighborhood in which I grew up: because it's a neighborhood. --Robert Wilonsky