Fireworks burst in the air over the old neighborhood here almost nightly now. I’ve noticed this more and more as the Fourth of July careens into view. Here, in Casa Isabella, I can often be found jolted out of writerly reverie at the first kaboom of a string of maybe eight kabooms at, say, 11:28 p.m. on a Tuesday. Invariably, I look out of my second-story window, because I like fireworks and I’m never one to turn down a free show.
My neighbor, Nick, told me that there used to be something of a fireworks war every summer. Around the end of June through the middle of July, West 67th and West 69th would have a sort of competition to see which street could offer up the best fireworks show each night.
We were at a cookout, Nick and I and his family and the rest of our neighbors and a dog with an Irish name, and I couldn’t help but be thankful that I lived in a neighborhood where a fireworks competition was a thing. It’s so goddamned halcyon and American. It’s summertime in flight.
I was told before moving here that this neighborhood is not like other neighborhoods. I didn’t really grasp what I was being told at the time, except for the fact that vigilantism is a cultural meme here and that I could appreciate such a thing; I simply liked the apartment and needed to beat out “this one other couple that’s looking at it too” and secure the thing. Done.
The other day, I stepped outside and started unraveling my headphones before running down to Edgewater. Three kids down the way rolled a basketball hoop into the street. They were just sorta messing around, but then I realized what they were doing as I tuned in. The one kid, the oldest one, I guess, was dribbling and going up against a shorter kid. “Here, yeah, like this,” he was saying as he ducked forward and back, dribbling low to the ground. “And then he was like this.” Lean back. Up. Shoot. Rim. Try it again.
“Yeah, and then you come over here and guard me,” he says, as the play starts up again.
They were acting out Kyrie’s three-pointer from Game 7 in the NBA Finals.
I felt like I was in a painting.
When I got back from my run, the sun was beginning to set slowly across Lake Erie. A train chugged across the Norfolk Southern. The stately neighborhood chicken strutted into the street, greeting me with a filial nod. Over on West 67th Street, a deep explosion rattled the neighborhood, and, once again, I glanced upward and watched the yellow glare drift over the rooftops.