I live in Cambridge, less than a mile from the Charles
River. When I first moved here, I figured out that it was fairly
easy to walk down to the river on the evening of the Fourth of July and watch the fireworks being set
off from a barge near the Esplanade on the other side of the river.
At that time, there weren’t giant speakers blaring the music of
the concert, but usually people had brought boomboxes and you
could hear the end of the concert just before the start of the
My schedule was to leave my apartment when they started the
1812 overture. I would see the fireworks at the end of that piece
from Kendall Square, and then walk to Memorial Drive (closed to
traffic for the event) in front of the MIT East Campus to the
strains of “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, watch the fireworks
with the large crowd, and walk home.
At some point in the 90’s they started having large speakers on
the median strip
playing the concert overamplified. They also changed their
schedule, and had the pop star of the year perform after the
Overture and before The Stars and Stripes.
Then in about 1998, they decided to have recorded music
“synchronized” to the fireworks display. People who watch it on
TV actually seem to like this, but if you’re not where the TV
cameras and sound recording are, of course the synchronization
isn’t very good. And fireworks are too loud by definition, but
accompanied by music that’s too loud, it can be literally
So while I still enjoyed the fireworks, it was an enjoyment
increasingly mixed with a “Why are they doing this to me?”
So there have been several years when I accepted cookout
invitations in some other town, and the year before the hip
surgery I was in Cambridge, but I just couldn’t face walking a
mile there and back, standing for an hour or more, and still
having to walk the dog when I got back, so I just walked the dog
around the block, where we could see a little of the highest
Yesterday, I was feeling disgruntled and not much like
community celebration, so I walked the dog at 9:30 so that we’d be
home before the large crowds were walking by our house on their
way home. This turned out to be during the 1812
Overture, and we could see those fireworks pretty well from
the athletic field we had walked to. So we got home and watched
the Pop Star of the year (country singer Toby Keith), and when the
fireworks started, I went out to see how much I could see of the
fireworks without going anywhere much.
It turns out that the new park across the street affords a
pretty good view, and there were several neighbors to watch with.
Of course, you didn’t see any of the low-lying display, but you
often don’t see that very well from the river, either. And it’s
far enough away that the sound and the light of the display are
pretty badly out of sync, and of course the sound isn’t as
exciting as it is closer. But those disadvantages are really
worth it to not be bombarded by the overamplified “music”.