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The Purge Independence Day Edition
Rich thought 4

Last week was Independence Day where the great game of “Gunshots or Fireworks?” began all across the country. This year was no different. I’ve heard more peaceful settings at the police range during quarterly qualifications than I did over the July 4 weekend.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fireworks display, but one done in a safe environment and by professionals. But it now seems things have gotten to the point where a select few, with their illicit pyrotechnics, have taken a national holiday and sanctioned it into a civic tradition similar to the popular motion picture known as “The Purge” when all crime is legalized for 12 hours and all police, fire, and ambulance services remain unavailable.

Case in point at Villa Paloma over the holiday.

Mrs. Rich and I were returning home from a barbeque just as night fell and I noticed the neighbor across the street was having his own get together. One of the party goers, we’ll call him ‘Sparky,’ went to the middle of the street and lit what looked like a Roman candle that shot small shots with sparks about 15 feet into the air.

Sparky, proud of his display, was leading the kids in the group to shout “’Merica” with every pop from the device.

No big deal, it wasn’t shooting very high or loud, I had the shake roof replaced with a composite shingle roof earlier in the year, wasn’t too worried and went inside.

Then the attack started …  It was about 10 minutes later and the window shaking explosions came fast and furious causing over 200 pounds of black-furred dogs to scramble for any available hiding place, knocking over any fixture in their way. A little note; a dining room chair doesn’t stand a chance against a 110-pound Bernese Mountain Dog playing Chicken Little when the sky was falling.

As I made my way to go outside I caught the familiar hollow-sounding “foonk” noise taking me back to my military days with the resonance of a mortar rocket propulsion. I opened my front door just in time for a colorful explosion and the spark-shimmering shower falling above Sparky with the praise of “’Merica” hollered from his little audience of minions.

Now, I have no problem in approaching people and letting them know when I am not a fan of certain things, especially when those things are illegal and/or dangerous. Goes back to my cop days I guess.

So I tell Sparky to cool it with the illegal stuff and his response is, “Listen around you, everyone else is doing it.”

Sparky did have a point. It did sound like a war zone with all the ordnance going off in the distance.

Welcome to The Purge – Independence Day where any explosive device or projectile is legal, or at least socially accepted, and where all emergency services remain unavailable – or in this case, are all tied up.

But still … everyone else may be doing it, but they’re not doing it in front of my house.

As I debated with Sparky the advantages of him stopping or at least moving to a more open area with less chance of an inferno, listening to his rationalization that he’d spent a good deal of money for the fireworks as well as if he moves to an open area he’d be caught by the cops and lose all his stuff (I guess it made sense to him), Mrs. Rich intervened playing to his sensitivity that the rockets were scaring her and the pets and she would call the police to make it stop (who in actuality were probably so tied up with similar incidents throughout the city, she’d be number 55 in the queue of calls for service).

Despite the illegality of Sparky’s contraptions, they’re also dangerous. Hardworking firefighters are constantly busy battling roof fires, grass fires, and other structure fires because some guy just like Sparky decides he can play the part of pyrotechnic expert in a crowded area.

And though I could care less about Sparky, and feel Karma would have struck, hospital ERs overflow every Fourth of July with patients like Sparky suffering from mangled hands and severe burns because they either lit a fuse while being negligent or someone got hit with a firework shot off in their general direction.

So now I’m the bad guy to Sparky and his minions, the Devil, Prince of Darkness, unpatriotic spoiling and shutting down the fireworks show Sparky is trying to put on for them. AKA – I’m anti ‘Merica.

In Sparky’s eyes I had become the Debbie Downer who can’t appreciate (or just feign awe and surprise at) the popping noise that each of the rockets made – despite the fact that the previous ones did the exact same thing.

Reluctantly, and with the advocating of my neighbor who knew he had to still live in the area with other upset homeowners, Sparky agreed to move somewhere else. We went back inside with Sparky muttering and making hand gestures.

Looking back, I felt I was on solid ground with my request to Sparky, but my self-righteousness can be a curse also – you should see me at a movie theatre when someone is yacking or on their cell phone.

So Sparky, feel free to give me the finger because you thought I was out of line – at least your digit is still attached because those fireworks didn’t go off in your hand.

… and hey, stay off my lawn too.



Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.