Sunday, July 05, 2009

5 JUL 09: A Saturday Night Special

Happy Fifth of July to you. Unless you're one of those who drank your fifth on the fourth, if you know what I mean....

I suspected my Saturday night run on the Riverwalk would be different, because crowds of people would be out to watch fireworks. So what happened? Come join me on the jogging trail....

0.05 miles: Approaching Broadway, firecrackers already can be heard in the distant west. It's illegal to shoot them in the Phenix City limits - but people probably run out of gas on their way home from Fireworks Outlet.

0.25 miles: Between Golden Park and the Riverwalk, the lawn is swarming with soldiers. Either they're receiving a special tribute from the Columbus Woodbats, or someone told them an autographed Saddam Hussein playing card is hiding in the grass.

I've never felt safer on a Saturday night run in my life - passing by dozens of soldiers as I head down the ramp to the Riverwalk. But I know better than to run south from the ramp. Earlier in the day, I saw a section of the South Commons parking lot blocked off - clearly to prepare for a fireworks show. It's yet another reason to wear a helmet at the skateboard park.

The Riverwalk near South Commons is the wrong place to be, when a baseball team has a post-game fireworks show. I learned this the hard way during a run five years ago [8 Aug 04] - with explosions above me, spent shells falling around me, and a wartime experience even more lifelike than the National Infantry Museum's displays.

0.6 miles: So after turning right to head north on the Riverwalk, I jog by two Fort Benning soldiers sitting on the hillside. I salute them with my right hand and ask: "Is the baseball game that boring?"

(One soldier responds with something about a "furlough, sir" - but I jog on and don't catch all of it. The late-night news showed so many soldiers inside Golden Park that perhaps too many were put on the Fort Benning buses.)

0.7 miles: The first motorboats pass me, heading north on the Chattahoochee. I suppose this is the coolest way to watch the Thunder on the Hooch fireworks. Well, unless you have a martini inside the River Club.

1.0 miles: The Riverwalk is getting crowded at Sixth Street, as we trod farther north. People are walking four-wide across the walkway - or as I've come to call it, a quadruped.

Years of experience have taught me not to barge through a crowd of walkers ahead of me. I merely clap my hands a few times to get their attention, so they can make room for me to get by. The people in the Atlanta airport transportation mall seemed more surprised by it, though.

A little boy gets my attention from a park bench near the wooden amphitheatre. "You can take him with you," he says pointing at another boy. "He doesn't have a job, either." That's funny - my T-shirt did NOT say NCR on it.

1.2 miles: A couple of people make remarks about having a runner pass them on the Riverwalk. But others in the crowd walking north are concerned about one of two things - wandering children or glowing cell phones. Are that many people providing live updates to WCGQ-FM?

1.35 miles: I jog under the Trade Center -- and even though there's no fence, I decide to make that the turnaround point. I'm now very close to the fireworks shooting zone, and I didn't wear a ball cap to protect my head.

1.6 miles: I'm now running south, against the flow of fireworks traffic. That actually makes the pace easier, but I have to dodge a couple of dogs on leashes. Haven't these owners heard the warnings about keeping pets inside during fireworks shows? Or do they prefer howling dogs to patriotic music?

2.05 miles: I jog for the second time under the Oglethorpe Bridge, and can't run any farther. I slow to a walk, after my best outing in several weeks. It was 90 degrees F. when I went out the door - but yes, it matters that it's a "dry heat."

I climb the stairs near Golden Park, and find more Fort Benning soldiers walking around. "Is the baseball game really that boring?" I ask again. Considering East Alabama beat Columbus 8-4, they could have been honest and said it was.

"There they go, there they go!" I tell the soldiers, pointing up Broadway. The Thunder on the Hooch fireworks are starting, around 9:20 p.m. ET -- before it's completely dark. The soldiers don't seem thrilled, and keep walking on their way. The Army drill sergeants program their brains well....

I jog, then walk north on Broadway - and find a perfect open spot to watch the fireworks show: near the southbound lane, just south of Fifth Street. Someday I'll gain enough strength to go running with a lawn chair.

After admiring the explosives for a couple of minutes, I decide to jog home and head to dinner - but then another fireworks show begins. The Woodbats game is over, and a much louder set of explosions has begun next to Golden Park. Competing shows only about six blocks apart - that's what U.S. freedom is all about.

2.4 miles/final: "It's like stereo," I tell a neighbor after returning home. Only I've probably made the wrong decision, by NOT wearing stereo headphones during the jog to listen to the NASCAR race on radio. The explosives from Golden Park are too loud, even from across the street.

Dueling fireworks shows burst to my left and right for several minutes. The Thunder on the Hooch show ends about one minute before the Golden Park show does, but Thunder on the Hooch ran longer -- a bit surprising, since that party was four hours shorter this year.

"I guess it's safe for me to drive to dinner now," I tell a neighbor. Safe from fireworks, yes - but there's a crowd of cars in my neighborhood, as I bring home dinner from Krystal. Thunder on the Hooch fans are looking for any way home they can. This is what happens when Riverfest disappears from the Historic District.

P.S. As I'm writing all this, my Internet curiosity takes me around Australian radio stations - and I stumble upon one in Sydney that's playing nothing but U.S. music to celebrate Independence Day. How strange is this? I thought President Obama said other countries don't like the U.S. anymore....

But the Sydney station is playing some "American music" I've never heard before. The list includes an Eydie Gorme tune called "Don't Try to Fight It, Baby." Not even the old "Unforgettable 1270" played that one - which I guess means it was forgotten by everyone except the Aussies.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEK: An e-mail inspires a review of my bedroom closet....

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