July 4th on the Charles

I spent Fourth of July watching the Boston fireworks on the Charles from my kayak. Without a doubt, it’s the best way to see the fireworks.

I’ve done this a couple of times now; Charles River Canoe and Kayak rents boats from their Brighton and Kendall Square locations for the event. The first time couple of times I did it, the atmosphere was very relaxed, and there was a lot less security. I remember one year seeing a couple of guys on a raft made up of office water cooler bottles, and people on floating rafts; after the marathon bombing, security was tightened up. The last time I did it, in 2013, all boats had to be anchored by 7 and there was a Coast Guard boat with a big black machine gun on the front deck patrolling the river.

This was the first year I did it in my own boat. I put in from Herter Park, just downstream from Charles River Canoe and Kayak, around five-thirty-ish, and got to the Mass Ave bridge a little past 7. There were already a bunch of boats there, some of them fairly large. Boats were required to anchor by 8:15, but I felt like a motorcyclist among a bunch of SUVs with all the boat traffic, so I waited until nearly 8 to anchor. I wanted to be able to move if a boat did something stupid.

Once I anchored, there was nothing to do but wait. Fortunately, the weather was gorgeous: clear, not humid, not too warm. There was enough wind to raise a little chop, but it kept the bugs away. It was really nice just sitting there in the boat. We were treated to a spectacular sunset:

Sunset, July 4th
Sunset, July 4th

This year, the concert and fireworks were on network television. I’ve been to years both with and without the network, and I much prefer it when network TV isn’t calling the shots. This year, they played the 1812 Overture fairly early, with a small display of fireworks, and then there were 90 minutes of filler country music until the main show at 10:30, timed to end just before the 11:00 news.

But, oh, what a show it was. It made the wait worthwhile. Not only did they shoot them from the barge, but they launched sprays of fireworks from the Mass Ave bridge itself, and I was close enough to the bridge to feel the heat from the fireworks. There were jets of fireworks flying up from the length of the bridge, with sprays of light in the sky beyond. It was magnificent.

Finally, though, came the finale, and then it was time to up-anchor and head back. It was kind of cool kayaking in the dark, part of a stream of boats heading upstream. Each boat had at least a light, and several of us were adorned with a number of glow sticks. I’d been worried about pulling out of the river, but I found the exit pretty easily, and was able to get out without a problem. All in all, a wonderful night.

Happy 2015!

Happy 2015. For me, 2014 was a year of big changes: the loss of one job, and the start of a better one.

Once again, I went to First Night Last night. I started at Copley Square, and saw the ice sculptures and Grand Procession (and no, I didn’t see the protesters), then took the Green Line up to Park Street to see the ice sculptures on the Common. There were three there: one devoted to Einstein, an American Eagle, and Captain America:

Captain America Ice Sculpture
Captain America Ice Sculpture

Ice sculptures at night are hard to shoot — pictures don’t fully convey both the color and the detail simultaneously.  I suspect it would take a tripod and HDR, which would be very difficult to manage with the throngs of people there. Once I had seen the ice sculptures, it was only a short wait for the early fireworks.

After the fireworks, I walked down to Old South Church, for their “Pipes and Pops” performance on organ and brass. Once again, they opened with Also Sprach Zarathustra, AKA the 2001 Theme, and ended with a very good version of the 1812 Overture.

From there, I hurried down to the Hynes convention center to see a comedy program, “Divas After Dark”, performances by three female standup comediennes. The first and last ones were good; I thought the middle woman was more of a soccer mom than a diva — she had some good lines, but her delivery needed something.

Next up for me was some puppet improv, courtesy of the Puppet Showplace Theater. I’d never thought of Puppet Showplace as a place for grownups; these two guys were very funny.

Then came what was probably the strangest performance of the night, “Sleeping Weasel: Birth Breath, Bride Elizabeth”.  The description runs:

Revel in madness and cake in this runaway hit “lecture play,” written and directed by Kenneth Prestininzi. A deconstructed Mary Shelley/Bride of Frankenstein, performed by Stephanie Burlington Daniels, gives a wackadoodle lecture to young brides/scholars — she’s never sure which, due to her alternating bi-polar mania and verbal short circuiting.

I have to give props to Ms. Daniels – she nailed the performance, and I liked the idea of a mock lecture, but the content itself, while funny in spots, was definitely strange.

For the last show of the evening, I went back downstairs to the Puppet Showplace Theater, for the Late Night Puppet Cabaret.  This was four performers, including a shadowbox performer, and a couple of marionette performers who amazed me with what they could do.

By this point, it was quarter to twelve. I didn’t see any point in waiting around for the count down, and didn’t have the time or the inclination to get over to the waterfront for the late fireworks, so I called it a night, and headed home.

Happy New Year, everyone.