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“I Appreciate It, and Good Night” to Andy

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I think a lot of us felt like we’d lost a friend when word came yesterday that the great Andy Griffith had passed away at the age of 86. Most of us “knew” Andy for pretty much our entire lives- whether it was as the homespun sheriff of Mayberry, or the irascible lawyer of “Matlock”. He was an excellent actor- could pull off comedy and drama equally as well, and show real heart in doing either. He starred on Broadway- he could do stand-up; his early records are considered classics- and he actually won a Grammy for a gospel record he recorded! If you ONLY know Andy from his TV shows, I suggest you take a look at his movies –“No Time for Sergeants” for one, and especially “A Face in the Crowd” for a real tour de force of Andy’s acting prowess. On the original “Andy Griffith Show”, Andy would often do a final commercial at the show’s end- and wind it up with- “I appreciate it, and good night.” We appreciated you- and good night, Andy. Rest in peace. Now, about the traditional fireworks we all (or most of us) enjoy on this holiday-this is especially a good year to leave it to the professionals, with the very dry conditions- in fact, you may have heard-even some of the professionals are taking this year off , rather than do anything that might cause a fire. As I’ve written before- if it goes bang or boom or flies, it’s illegal in Illinois. (I’m talking about fireworks, so, keep whatever jokes you have about that first sentence to yourself!) I have certainly bought fireworks in neighboring states- but, quite honestly, I’ve ended up blowing them up in those same states…I’ve always enjoyed stuff that has a lot of light and color, but, not so much overly loud stuff (blame that on my sensitive ears as a child)-and especially love skyrockets that end in a nice display. I’m also a fan of the packaging- really interesting artwork and, many times, strange concoctions of words, thanks to whoever is trying to translate something into English. One of my favorites, that I find every so often at fireworks purveyors, is a small cardboard car with a cardboard monkey in the driver’s seat- emblazoned with the title-“MONKEY DRIVE!” I can never decide if it’s just a sort of broken English description, or if it’s a command…but it never fails to make my friends and I laugh. A related little ground display that always made us laugh was called “the Nutty Monkey” (what’s the obsession with fireworks that these monkeys have?) It was like a fountain of sparks, and very nice, but- it was the artwork on it that really made it- a drawing of what looked like a crazed simian, like one of those toy monkeys who plays the cymbals gone berserk! Add to this me describing this to a good friend at the time we had obtained this incendiary item in the voice of Bill Murray as Karl Spackler in “Caddy shack” – and we were all laughing like idiots (the kind of idiots who would actually light the fuse…) A favorite item for some to make to add to the noise factor on the 4th was a “potato gun”-you make a sort of bazooka out of a big hunk of plastic pipe, with a little electronic igniter in it- load in a potato-then you spray something like hairspray inside the rear chamber- aim, and hit the igniter- and the potato just about goes into orbit, accompanied by a huge boom! You could use the “people are starving in other countries” argument about wasting potatoes- but, there have been times when it seemed like you could just send one of those spuds to them with the power of the tuber bazooka. I think some fireworks have a tendency to bring out the destructive worst in people. We all know someone who has blown up small model cars and airplanes (or worse) with firecrackers. I had a good friend from my high school days- a quite, intelligent guy, good student, always on his best behavior- went on to be a solid radio and TV newsman in Cedar Rapids, Minneapolis, and now in Florida. Put a package of those little Black Cat firecrackers in his hands and you were asking for trouble. I recall one 4th of July when he was just wandering around with them, tossing them here and there- including through the front door of a neighbor’s house. They had a screen door- but one panel had no screen, no window- nothing- and he blissfully tossed a cracker right through, into these folks’ living room! Please- if you are planning on the “do-it-yourself” fireworks this year- you might want to rethink it, and save the fire department some work. Now , if they’d just come up with digital LED fireworks…