Fireworks And A Friend
Tony was a crazy, mixed up soul, a wild, OCD type who couldn’t sit still. He went non-stop all day, planning out events on the weekends when we’d stay at their house. There would be breathtaking rides on his Cigarette boat aptly named, Tony The Tiger, going so fast you best not turn your head sideways or your sunglasses would fly off. There would be long trawls on his houseboat down the part of the lake that was the dammed up Blackwater river. It wound for miles and miles, and he’d have the music jamming and drinks flowing. Tony used to be a bartender in Raleigh, back in the day, and drinks and music went side by side with any activity he was involved with, which was fine with us.
When it was time for the fireworks, we’d either get back on the houseboat, or on his pontoon (which had TWO 75hp engines) mounted on the back. I’m not kidding. It was the strangest sight to see this flat, tubular boat with a rooster tail out the back. I was always afraid of flipping over, no matter which boat we were on, because Tony only knew one speed – fast.
We’d get to the area where they were having the show, put out the anchor, sit back and enjoy the sight of hundreds of boats on the lake, at dusk, red and green lights winking off the water, and the darkening mountain as a backdrop. At nine o’clock promptly, the first of the fireworks soared over the top of the mountain. When it was over, everyone honked their boat horns in approval, and then we all slowly drifted home – even Tony, who seemed mellowed out by the sight.
Then came the time when Tony decided to put on his own fireworks show. He rented a barge and it was anchored in front of his lakeside house. He and two or three others, ran back and forth on the barge, lighting up the fireworks he’d purchased, and we couldn’t believe 1) no one was set on fire, and 2) the house wasn’t set on fire, and 3) how good they were. I always wondered what Smith Mtn Lake Management thought when his show almost, almost came out as good as theirs?
Tony died of stomach cancer at the age of 63. He lived on the edge for so long, most probably wondered how he’d lasted as long as he did. His ex-wife and I remain the best of friends even though I don’t get to see her or talk to her as much as I want. Some of my happiest (and CRAZIEST) times were with them, on the weekends when fireworks were part of the agenda, and I miss them both, very much.
Tonight, I’m happy to stay here at the house, pop open a beer, or have a glass of wine on the patio, and celebrate July 4th sans fireworks because we are too lazy to fight the crowds. Still, we will raise our bottle or glass and give thanks for our many freedoms, and the sacrifices made by the ones who came before, and sadly, the ones who will inevitably find themselves in harm’s way at some point in the future. Here’s to them, and to my long ago friend, Tony, one hell of a firecracker himself.