Gainesville’s big fireworks celebration returned this year after an absence last year caused by, what else, budget cuts.  Fanfare & Fireworks has been a 20-year tradition in the Swamp City and its return was eagerly anticipated…until it rained.

A not-so-well-kept local secret is that the best place to watch the show is from the deck of Chopstix Restaurant on SW 13th, at the southeastern end of Biven’s Arm.  Months ago, Mr. B. expressed a desire to get a deck seat at the restaurant while I wondered how hard that would be to accomplish.  Chopstix has about five plastic outdoor tables and scant space on its deck; I envisioned myself drinking ten Thai iced teas while Mr. B. gorged on plate after plate of creative sushi and finally exploded in a million multi-colored sparks from all that wasabi.

At 8:30, we realized the sky was simply too dark to enjoy anything but a heavy rain.  We set out anyway.  I drove to the UF campus, figuring that the show was probably cancelled.  People streamed from Flavet Field, soaked in their t-shirts and shorts.  The sky was thick and low and it felt as if you could wear it.  The rain was blinding and I was almost hit by an RTS bus. There was no point going to Chopstix, so we went back to my apartment, where I made Mr. B. a disappointing meal of smoked salmon served over toasted rounds of garlic baguette.  I served the meal and a drink and I even served up a napkin and a plastic fork.

No sooner had I served this snack than I heard a muffled thud in the distance.  Fireworks! It was about 10:20.  They must have started late. Mr. B. immediately announced that we should try to see it, so back we went down Archer Road despite my protestations that what we were hearing was the grand finale.  I come from foggy San Francisco and I am used to the thud of fireworks against a low cloud cover.  My first Fourth in San Francisco was a foggy and cold affair where I wore a ski jacket to have a margarita in a crappy Mexican restaurant in the Lombard flats.  The nearby fireworks in Crissy Field, which I might have seen from the roof of my apartment building, were nothing but a series of dull thuds and dim flashes against the clouds.

So it was as we drove up Archer.  The show was over by the time we’d gone four miles; what we’d seen resembled cloud-to-cloud lightning.  We turned around and went home and Mr. B. ate the now-cold appetizer and drank his watered-down drink.

Sunday, I had the idea to go to St. Augustine. I had no reason for wanting to go there other than that I wanted to see the Atlantic Ocean.  We got lost and by the time I’d figured that out we had lost an hour.  The wait was worth it, however.  St. Augustine was a zoo of a type I hadn’t seen since certain San Francisco street fairs and I was awfully glad that we went.

The next couple of days will feature my St. Augustine photos.  I begin with a series of pictures taken in a local bar, Tradewinds, which is where we started out.  The Tradewinds is a combination of old-man bar, biker bar, tourist bar, and local bar.  It employs the “oldest waitress in the oldest bar in St. Augustine.”  That’s what the country-and-western singer in the flag shirt said by way of introduction and although this information isn’t of tremendous importance, I might use it later to indicate some superior knowledge in a battle of Florida trivia.  And now I have shared it with you. The waitress had on bright red lipstick and stripes of frosty white and blue eyeshadow.  She smiled as she walked through the mostly empty bar, serving up half-pints of foamy American-brewed suds.  This was a good start to the holiday even as I refused to touch a drop.  Thanks to the bartender for not offering to serve me anything, either, and for letting me take pictures of his domain.