Rockets Red Glare
What is the best of the Boston cheap bastard activities? Definitely the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Fourth of July extravaganza, with fireworks choreographed to the music of the 1812 Overture.
If you want a seat for this free event, you need to show up at dawn, and be prepared to guard your territory all day. On a day like yesterday - with two violent thundershowers in the afternoon - the prospect of this CB camping out for the BSO was non-existent. After all, sometimes being a cheap bastard isn't about money, it's about that other precious commodity - time. Is it really a free concert if you have to sacrifice twelve hours of your summer to it?
That being said, the SG and I both love fireworks and Boston's are world-renowned, thanks to annual prime time broadcasts. So, how to enjoy the event without sacrificing time or money?
The cheap (and dirty) method is to take the MBTA Redline inbound to the Charles/MGH station. Perched above the Charles River, the subway platform offers an unobstructed view. But time it carefully, the hundreds of Boston cops on patrol on July 4th won't allow two hour loitering on the platform in anticipation of the fireworks, although they will let you stay if you arrive just in the nick of time.
Looking for something more romantic than the T, the SG and I rented a Mini-Cooper convertible from Zipcar from 9:30 to 11:30. Zipcar is a members only car sharing service that allows you to rent cars by the hour. They have cars scattered all over the greater Boston area, from BMW's to Hondas. A Mini-Cooper convertible is a premium car for this service, so we paid a premium price of $11.75 an hour (which includes gas and insurance).
We picked up our Mini at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square, a red hooded cutie named Myles. With the push of a button, the roof slid down. I tied a patriotic scarf over my hair, climbed behind the wheel, and we set off in search of a prime viewing location.
We cruised along Memorial Drive, listening to the BSO on AM radio. We crossed the BU Bridge, which on July 4th is a hairy experience. Staring at 9:30 p.m. cars start to park on the four lane bridge, which has no breakdown lane. By ten p.m., cars are double parked.
Additional danger comes from the fireworks fans who decide the best place to sit is on the bridge's narrow sidewalk with their legs in the road, or to lie on the bridge's cross beams. And where was DCS when some parents decided to switch sides of the bridge by nosing their baby carriage into oncoming traffic? And where was the suicide intervention for the scads of bikers in black, with no helmets or headlights, wearing headphones?
SG and I pulled into a BU parking lot just across the BU bridge facing the tower of the BU Law School. Never having tried this cheap bastard trick before, we weren't sure if we'd be able to see anything once the fireworks started. The safe rule of thumb in judging the suitability of a watch site is whether you can see the Hood blimp, itself poised to film the fireworks. If you can see the blimp, conventional wisdom says you'll be able to see the fireworks. (Which is nonsense, if you think about it - if you can see me, it doesn't follow that you can see what I see.)
SG and I parked, turned off the engine and left the radio on. In what must pass for diversity for the BSO, they launched into "Dixie" - even the SG was confused by the choice. The blimp glowed straight ahead, a white beacon for the longing fireworks fan.
And then the fireworks began. They were elegant waterfalls of light. They were scatter shots of gold pebbles casting ripples on the surface of the sky. They were phantasms of red and blue. It was spectacular. It was partially obstructed.
If the fireworks were high in the air (about 2/3 of them) we saw them perfectly, framed between the BU towers and the trees along the Charles. If they were low, as many of the exploding smiley face style fireworks are, we saw only a red or green glow fading upward. Still, to sit in the lap of rented luxury, with the radio on and the SG's hand in mine, it was pretty close to heaven.
Or as close as a CB can get for $23.50.