Fourth of July (2) – 1977

This one is a relatively short story that happened just a week or two before I was transferred from Okinawa to Guam.

There were no plans for a get-together of coworkers this time, but I did go down to Gate 2 Street and get some fireworks, anyway. Pretty much the same things as the year before: bottle rockets, fountains/showers, roman candles: that sort of thing. This time, however, I just figured I’d shoot them off in the driveway and maybe the neighbors would come out with their own, or at least watch while I set off mine, and that is sort of what happened . . . eventually. The thing is, after work, while I was waiting around for it to get dark, I ended up falling asleep. Next thing I knew, it was dark and I was under attack.

I was awakened by the sound of small pops—bottle rockets to be exact—going off at minute or so intervals around both porches and over my roof. I’m not sure how many they sent my way before I woke up and figured out what was going on. Once I got my bearings, I peeked out the window and saw the neighbors getting ready to launch another rocket at my house. I decided not to go out and surrender, but, instead, I left the lights off, grabbed my bag of fireworks, and went out the back door.

Watching them from the back corner of my house, I saw that after they launched a rocket they ducked back around the corner—laughing and talking, though I couldn’t hear what was being said from where I was—so I waited until they fired the next one and ducked back, then ran down the stairs and around the far side to the back of their house, sneaked over to their side, and watched them get ready to fire another one. I could hear them from where I was, this time, and the conversation went something like this . . .

Dad: “I wonder why he’s not responding. Are you sure he’s home?”

Mom: “I’m pretty sure. We heard him drive in, and his motorcycle is still in the garage.”

Dad: “Huh. I don’t think he’s the type to just ignore us.”

Mom: “Maybe he’s sleeping.”

Dad: “Maybe, but he doesn’t strike me as a heavy sleeper. He might be up to something.”

(The above is not verbatim—it has been almost 40 years after all—but it’s pretty close.)

Their son was mostly just laughing as far as I can recall, and while they were discussing what I might be up to and deciding whether to launch another one, I got out a bottle rocket of my own.

– Side bar: As I’m writing this it suddenly occurs to me that, since I didn’t smoke back then, I’m finding it hard to remember how I managed to light the bottle rocket. Best I can recall is I either lit a punk before I left the house (most likely, I think), or I bought some matches, but I don’t remember doing that. –

In either case, I did have a way to light it, and while they were still wondering if I was home or not, I let my rocket go (aiming by hand since I also forgot to bring a bottle). It arced over their heads and popped in the driveway, but they heard the fuse and had already turned around with smiles I could see even in the semi-dark.

Dad: “Aha, he was up to something. He’s behind us.”

I told them how I was asleep at the start of their offensive, and how I managed to get behind them and stuff, and it was mostly just casual conversation after that. We set off the rest of the fireworks in the driveway like I’d originally planned and sat around talking for a little while after that, then they went back inside and I went out for some drinks and to spend one of my last few nights with my then girlfriend.

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A Good Deed

A rather short story this time. 🙂

I came home from work one afternoon and found the neighbor’s young son sitting out by the driveway when I rode through the gate. He had his head resting on his chin and looked pretty sad to me as I rode past into the garage to park my bike. Kinda looked like he either had been crying or was about to when I sat down next to him and asked what was wrong.

He told me that neither of his parents were home and he couldn’t get in his house and he was worried that something had happened to both of them and quite a lot of other stuff that kinda just came pouring out. I wasn’t really sure how to handle this kind of thing, but I told him that being that they were both in the military they were probably just working late. He was pretty adamant they weren’t though since one of them was always home before him. Always!

I didn’t really have any toys like a ball or a frisbee or anything back then or I would have just tossed it around with him until one of them got home. I wish I’d thought of going up on his roof to get some of the toys which were likely back up there, but that never occurred to me.

However, when he mentioned that he couldn’t get into his house, it reminded me of something that I’d completely forgotten about, and I suddenly got up (surprised him a little, I think) and said, “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

Amazingly for me, the thing I went looking for was still in the middle junk drawer in my kitchen, right where I put it over a year before. He was still sitting there when I came back with the third key the rental agency had given me when I first rented the place.

I said, “You know, a long time ago the agency gave me three keys, but I was never able to figure out what this one was for. I doesn’t fit either my front door or the back one, and it doesn’t fit the door to the storage area below the stairs either.”

He was looking up at me then with a hopeful look in his eyes when I went on. “Come on,” I told him as I led him back down the short path to his house. “Let’s just see if maybe this key might fit your front door.”

Damned if it didn’t. He got a big smile on his face when I gave him the key and asked if he’d be okay now. He said yeah, he would, and I told him that it was his key now and that needed to take good care of it.

It seems like that would be the end of the story, and to be honest I thought it was, but . . .

A couple nights later I was just lounging around, listening to some music and reading a book (I don’t remember which one) when there was a knock on my door. It was the neighbors and they were bearing gifts. Well, a gift. The wife (I believe I called her Mary in a previous story) had baked me an apple pie to thank me for being nice to their son earlier.

That was just so damned cool I was completely overwhelmed. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before or since. 🙂 🙂 To use an entirely overused and inaccurate saying – That was awesome!

Fourth Of July (1) – 1976 (Bi-Centennial)

I don’t remember exactly where this story starts. Possibly at work on the 4th, or possibly a day or two before. I only remember that at some point or another, several of us at the Awase site decided to celebrate the bi-centennial at [David’s] house. (No, I don’t remember his last name.)

To that end, Cyrus Brooks and I were tasked (or possibly we took it upon ourselves) to go down (up?) to Gate 2 Street and get an assortment of fireworks.

Gate 2 Street Night Life

Gate 2 Street at night

Largely, what was available there was pretty much all the same things you can get at any stand here—bottle rockets (both the noisy ones and the ones with exploding showers), roman candles, various ground shower displays, etc. So, after work, off we went to cruise Gate 2 Street to see what was available at the various outdoor shops.

A curious thing about Okinawa, at least then, was that while it was not illegal to sell fireworks, it was illegal to buy them. Just as the lady at the stand where we bought all the things we wanted (and lots of them) was giving them to us, a couple of local foot-patrol policemen came up and took all of our fireworks away. The lady from the shop immediately got into an argument with the officers, which Cyrus translated as best he could, (he, like Willie, was married to an Okinawan, so could speak Japanese fairly well). This was how I learned about that curious law.

In any case, the woman lost her argument and the police confiscated our fireworks and continued on their way. But, while Cyrus and I were standing around wondering what to do next, the woman handed us another bag filled with all of the same fireworks we had just bought. When we reached into our pockets to pay again (which neither of us could really afford) she shook her head and waved us off and told us not to worry about it; that the police would bring her fireworks back later. Apparently, after long exposure to U.S. troops being stationed there, the police are well aware of what the Fourth of July means, and do their best to limit the amount of ‘celebrating’ that goes on. So we got our fireworks and immediately proceeded to prove that the police might have been on to something.

We drove over to BC Street and had the crazy (and somewhat stupid) idea to shoot some roman candle flares out the windows in celebration.

BC Street, Okinawa 2

BC Street

It was our intention to shoot them straight up in the air so they wouldn’t land on people on the sidewalks, but I’m not so sure a few of them didn’t get away from us. After I lit the first one and handed it to Cyrus, who was driving, I turned to light my own, but … before he could transfer it to his other hand and point it out the window, the first flare went off, bounced off the roof above his head and landed in his lap. By this time mine was lit too, so I had only one hand to deal with the situation while still keeping my candle pointed out of the car.

For his part, Cyrus had one hand on the steering wheel and one hand pointing his candle out the other window. This meant he had zero hands of his own left to deal with the burning flare under his ass. So he’s bouncing around in his seat trying to drive the car and also keep more flares from going off in the car … and also screaming at me to get that ball of fire out from under him. (He wanted me to pick it up and throw it out the window.)

Now, there was not a chance in hell that I was going to pick up a ball of fire, and besides, I was laughing too damned hard to be of any use, plus I still had to keep my flare pointed out of the car. I don’t remember for sure if I managed to brush it out of his seat and onto the floor or if it just went out on its own, but we did get through the ordeal unscathed. We did, however, cause something of a stir on BC Street, so we (Cyrus) decided not to go out to the main road to make our getaway.

He took an alley over to, and across, Gate 2 Street, before going out to the highway and back to the housing area on MCAS Futenma where [David] lived. As we crossed Gate 2 Street, we did see a couple of police cars with their lights flashing heading toward BC Street, but whether or not that was because of us we never found out.

The funny thing is, while we were shooting off the rest of the fireworks at Dave’s house, the base police showed up and took our fireworks away. Apparently it’s illegal to shoot fireworks off on base, even during the bi-centennial celebration.

Go figure.