First Blush

Reflections and sightings from [almost] daily jogging at dawn

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sunrise 5:52: Whither Picolo Pete?


Today is both a Wednesday and the 4th of July - and the female Dawn Jogger has thoughts on both. Being a Wednesday, it should have been a glorious start to the day's festivities with a Dish run. But the Dish remains closed. There was, however, a sliver of hope published in today's Palo Alto Weekly, which reported "The Stanford Dish, the site of last week's grass fire that consumed approximately 128 acres, will remain closed through July 4..." The female DJ is hoping that implies a reopening, and she will be monitoring the situation closely. Today she made do with a run up Valpraiso through Sharon Heights.

As for the 4th, it remains a very nostalgic holiday for both DJs. The celebration will be modest this year - going to see Ratatouille with Julie and John followed by a simple barbecue - but it was quite the opposite during the 80s when they lived in South Pasadena and John was elementary school age. The day started with the pancake breakfast at the fire house and segued into the town's rather ragtag parade which concluded at Mitchell Park. The kids often got in a swim before the Wayne/Edgewood/Chelton/Milan neighborhood gathered for a potluck picnic at Eddy Park (where the DJs were married in 1981). Then it was off to the high school football field for the officially sanctioned fire works.

But as Peter Hartlaub writes humorously about in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle, the grand finale was setting off "Safe and Sane" fireworks, which were illegal in South Pasadena but sold widely in neighboring Alhambra, in some one's backyard. Much as Hartlaub recalls, there was much ritual involved. Buckets of water were filled less some lawless slithering black snake escaped, and all sparklers were placed in these buckets after use. The oldest kid in the group was allowed to assist the men with the lighting - in the early years always Anthony Stefano (hopefully the statue of limitation has run out). It was only the loud wailing whistle of Picolo Pete that each year potentially exposed the surreptitious activity.

The female Dawn Jogger tends to agree with Hartlaub's questioning of just how dangerous these Safe and Sane fireworks ever were (but a house in South Pasadena did burn down one year when a bottle rocket landed in its roof - a sobering occurrence). And she, too, is concerned about the prepackaged everything feed to today's children. The backyard fireworks provided a cultural fabric in John's boyhood and the DJ's suburban life. But as almost all municipalities bane the sale now, it's a ritual, as Hartlaub writes, that's endangered if not extinct. One vote here for Hartlaub's plea for "the chance to light the fuse of freedom"...

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