31 December 2005

thar she blows

I think I might be a little bit frightened of the Icelandic new years. I heard it was big on fireworks but based on the build-up (and the video I saw of last years festivities), it is going to be far beyond anything I have ever seen before. Since Christmas finished, all the tree sales signs have been replaced with fireworks sale signs. From our balcony alone we can see four of them, and since they are legal during this period, people have been trying their goods out with great abandon. The instant it gets dark, fireworks spring from both ends of our view. First Seltjarnarnes, then the hardware store down the street, then Seltjarnarnes again, then was looked like the recycling center down the street. I have had to stop running to the window to see where it's coming from because it is literally every 10 minutes, and this is just the warmup!

Mind you, when I say fireworks, I am not talking about sparklers, roman candles, and black cats (a la growing up in Vermont where fireworks were illegal but we still shot them off in the yard). These are the big leagues- the cakes the dimension of two industrial food-service tomato cans, containing 8 or so colored "flower" fireworks. We're talking huge BOOM fireworks that rattle the doorknobs. These people are already shooting off so many fireworks I am starting to understand what it must have been like to be in a fort during the Revolutionary War. The smell of gunpowder is thick in the air, mixing with the clouds, and the flashes and whining of the shooting fireworks a constant presence.

After a gunpowder-scented pool experience yesterday, J and I stopped by one of the semi-shady looking fireworks shops that have sprung up around town. These things are all in old warehouses, set up in the corners of parking lots in shipping containers, or in the upstairs of car dealerships. They've put up inflatable fireworks, turned on neon signs, and added flashing lights. The signs even have candles flickering in front of them, and sometimes I think the displays we have been seeing the past few nights are further advertisement.

Anyway, this was like a fireworks grocery store, with the wares lined up on shelves around two sides of the room, big posters showing the package deals, and bins of rockets interspersed. All the fireworks have been packaged for the Icelandic market with Icelandic names, and all of them are bigger than anything I've ever seen up close and personal.

I can't help but wonder what kind of casualties happen during this period, since the only safety measure I have seen is a fairly graphic ad on TV showing a burned child that reminds you to follow the instructions. I commented on this to one of my coworkers after we had shot off our own cake of fireworks, saying either people are very safe or very reckless here, and he said, "I think it's a little bit of both". So there you have it.

Ship sighting: I saw the Danish arctic research ship moseying around in the harbor yesterday, and then last night it was alongside the whale watching boats with all its edges trimmed in white lights. I made J drive down alongside it so I could peek in the portholes and admire the lights. I love this lights-on-boats tradition. More places should do it.

1 comment:

The Prima said...

This post makes me homesick (of Texas). That's pretty much the norm down there. By age 11, my little sisters were allowed to buy New Years & 4th of July "arsenals" that would cover the dining room table when spread out. Everyone in the family had a personal arsenal. In 2003 I bought one of the big "artillery" packages ones that come with fat tube and "artillery shells" with 2 foot long wicks; those shells made flower displays. The boom was breathtaking, followed by a floral.

At midnight, the town sounds like a war zone. After one particularly humid New Years, driving back to my mom's house was a challenge because the roads were actually slick with gunpowder residue.

It's amazing how different some parts of the country can be from another. I keep telling people how fun fireworks are, but no one in New England appreciates the opportunity cost.

Uuuh! Thanks for letting me vent on your comment board.