Sunday, October 02, 2005

Strange Lights in the Sky

Last night Miss L and I went to a fireworks display sponsored by the Kennedy Center. The display was designed by Cai Guo-Qiang, and chinese painter who's made a side career out of developing unique fireworks displays. The Kennedy Center developed a month long program of Chinese music and cultural events throughout all of October, and the fireworks last night kicked off the month.

Quite a number of people showed up. We arrived about ten minutes before the 9:50 p.m. start time, and the banks of the Potomac just to the side of the Kennedy Center were jammed tight, with people standing and sitting in lines all the way down to the bridge into Virginia several blocks away. The viewing patio at the Kennedy Center was likewise packed. There was a nice mix of people: families, adults, students killing some pre-party time wandering down from GWU.

The demonstration started when severall small boats pulling tiny platforms behind them tacked back and forth across the water. The platforms began shooting fireworks into the air above them as the boat continued their short journey, back and forth. The fireworks exploded above the boats as they moved, creating a dazzling line of color and light in the sky. One of the difficulties of the location is that the section of the Potomac the display was on sits directly underneath one of the main arrival patterns for airplanes coming into National Airport. The boats had to halt their air barrage from time to time when planes flew too low.

A good sized barge floated in the water directly across from the Kennedy Center to give us the finale, an "awesome tornado spiraling across and punctuating the sky". The barge shot off two barrages of exploding flowers of fire, explosions so loud I felt them reverberate in my chest and the echo that bounced off the buildings in nearby Georgetown was still pretty damn loud. But after those initial volleys they seemed to have severe technical problems. We waited it out for a good half hour, watching a police boat shuttling over to the barge, checking things out and then leaving the barge back by itself. I just hope no one was hurt. Despite the problems, it was quite a beautiful display for anyone who likes bright shiny objects dancing in the sky. And judging by the crowds, that's just about everyone.


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