Fireworks in NY
The fireworks display from the South Street Seaport. Photo: JH.

The Fourth of July 2006 was a hot one in Manhattan. Late morning I took the dogs down to the Promenade by the river for their walks. We walked down a tree-shaded street into the oppressively warm sunshine by the river. Usually there’s a bit of a breeze there to cool us. But not this morning. The storm clouds came and went several times in the course of the day, leaving no precipitation behind them. I went to dinner at 7:30 at Orsay on 75th and Lexington, after it had cooled down some, with the same two friends with whom I saw “The Devil Wears Prada.”

At ten to nine we walked over to the East River and 81st Street for a place to watch the fireworks that the city sets off every Fourth of July. All walkways, platforms, stairs and bridges along the East River were jammed with people – lots of families, lots of children and dogs – waiting for the show.

It is a serene metropolitan site standing just a dozen or so feet above the vast channel spread out before you, its waters now dark and rippling reflections from all the city surrounding. They’d closed down the FDR Drive northbound so there was no rushing din of traffic.

There were some boats in the river, probably police boats. In the distance were the skeletal frames of the 59th Street Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge. (JH was down at the South Street Seaport, so he had an entirely different vantage point and the only possibly interesting pictures.)

The fireworks usually begin between 9:10 and 9:20 and last about a half hour. From my vantage point they were at quite a distance but pretty spectacular considering that they were being launched two or three miles to the south of us. No matter how ingenious the explosions are, it is always more thrilling when you’re within close proximity.

I wandered into the crowd to see what kind of pictures I could get. Not much. When I got back to my women friends, they were watching the fireworks and outlining the marriage and divorce history of a rich and well known women friend of ours, brick by brick, husband by husband. The juxtaposition of their conversation with the rest of us, a Fourth of July celebration crowd, watching massive fireworks in the distance over the East River, marking (although almost forgotten) a profoundly impactful historical event ... was funny.  And tomorrow is another day.

From the South Street Seaport ...
From the Promenade along the East River at 81st Street ...


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July 5, 2006, Volume VI, Number 109
Photographs by JH & DPC/


© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/