Saturday, January 01, 2011

First Night 2011, Scranton

I went to Scranton's "First Night" celebration with some friends last night.  This was the third time I've been there, though the first two times were 2000/2001 and 2001/2002, and things have changed a bit since then.  A decade ago the parties were concentrated in and around Courthouse Square, the city's central park.  This time events were dotted throughout the city's downtown with a concentration at the Steamtown Mall and along Lackawanna Avenue.

The party was pleasant enough.  The streets were full of people of all ages, with families and younger kids staying close to Lackawanna Avenue while the twentysomethings drank themselves senseless at Scranton's Hardware Bar (formerly Tink's.)  Still, for some reason I was filled with a sense of foreboding.  The stark shadows on tall buildings and the deep trumpet calls from the plastic vuvazela-like horns being sold by street vendors put me in mind of...well, a movie I've never seen:  Cloverfield.

I tried to put this out of my mind and enjoy the evening as we hiked around the city with which I had twice in my life felt a sense of oneness.  We wound up on the far side of the festivities, at the Scranton Fire House listening to a bluegrass band - mainly so one of my friends could check out the fire trucks.  As the night wore on and midnight approached we decided to hike back to Lackawanna Avenue so we could have a prime spot for the fireworks at midnight.

We made our was to a spot not far from a bandshell where a band was playing music somewhat harder than bluegrass.  I approached a vendor and bought one of the deep-toned trumpets I had first noticed nearly ten years before.  I was taken aback as I watched little children produce the most awesomely deep, resounding notes from their trumpets, while every time I put mine to my lips I produced a series of squeaky flats like a balloon deflating through a pinched opening, then a long medium note, and then the deep note that resonated off the buildings around us.

Midnight approached.  The band stopped their music to count off the final few seconds.  As the cheer went up at midnight we looked around anxiously to see where the fireworks would be.

And as they began to explode directly over our heads, I was reminded again of my Cloverfield premonitions.

Now, I don't mean that the fireworks were above us in the sense we had to look up to see them.  I mean they were above us in the sense that as each one went off, shrapnel and burning debris rained down directly onto the spot where we were standing and a twenty foot radius around it.  (Note the dark specks in the image above - debris from the fireworks falling down onto me.  All of these photos were taken with the camera pointed straight up.)

Of course, most of the people around us had the sense to back off to less shrapnel-filled viewing sites.  Not us.  We had a great spot to see the fireworks, and we weren't about to abandon it.

Usually in a photo of fireworks you can get a sense of gravity by the direction in which the burning effects are falling.  In this case, the little burning things are all falling straight at me - note the symmetry of the image trails, all extending from the central point.

The fireworks were being launched from the top of this parkade, I believe.  Note the falling embers.

And then it was over.  We gathered ourselves together, brushed the debris out of our hair, and headed back to the cars.  I blew my trumpet in a farewell toot that seemed to resonate through the mostly-empty parkade forever, and we were off, heading into a new year.

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