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Tiny Points of Light

photo: fireworks, 14 july

Hidden in the darkness, hundreds of thousands little lights fans.

Paris Life - No. 12

by Laurel Avery

Paris:- Wednesday, 16. July:- Forty-eight hours ago I was watching Paris live up to its reputation as the 'City of Light.' There are numerous reasons that I have heard for why it was given this moniker. One says it's 'in tribute to its intellectual preeminence as well as its beautiful appearance.'

Another notes that it is due to the quality of its sunlight, which is why artists are so drawn to it - and the fact that in summertime it stays light until well after 10 pm.

But I am of the opinion that it is the less romantic explanation, as provided by a tour guide at Giverny, that it was given the name at the 1889 World's Fair - the same Fair for which the Eiffel Towerphoto: barry wright was built - since it was the first city to switch to the use of electric street lighting.

As the evening of Quatorze Juillet wore on, I joined the throngs in the streets in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower and waited expectantly for the fireworks to begin.

A full moon was rising and hovered directly over the Tour de Montparnasse, making it look like a giant 'i' - perhaps standing for 'intense' or 'impressive' or 'illuminated,' all of which the evening was.

Barry Wright took the fireworks photos and got lost, then found.

Looking around, I noticed that most of the people surrounding me were not the typical French we imagine from old 'I Love Lucy' reruns, wearing striped shirts and berets, with a baguette tucked under an arm.

They were from North Africa or Croatia or Germany or America, all gathered to celebrate a French holiday. It was not unlike a typical Fourth-of-July, except that there were no hot dogs or Budweiser beer in plastic cups in sight - though plenty of Heinekens in glass bottles!

It occurred to me that this rift between the USphoto: fireworks, tour eiffel and France was ridiculous, in light of the fact that both the US and the République Française were founded on the same principles, i.e. getting rid of an oppressive royal ruler and the right to enjoy bad beer on a public holiday.

After finding a spot where I could see the Eiffel Tower but still have enough room to inhale, I waited for the fireworks to begin. And waited... and waited... and waited....

Both fireworks and the sparkles of the Eiffel Tower.

I had just begun to think that perhaps I had gotten the date wrong and the holiday was actually supposed to be Quinze Juillet, when the light show began. I was glad for this, as I had a flight to the US scheduled for the next morning and was wondering if I would get any sleep at all.

But the pyrotechnic display was spectacular and I was pleased that the French don't use those loud booming fireworks that sound like bomb blasts nearly as much as we do in America. Americans have a great love of loud booming noises - thus, the birthplace of hip-hop.

I kept forgetting I was in France, since there was a preponderance of red, white and blue fireworks. My particular favorite was one that looked like a weeping willow tree with falling gold and platinum leaves. This was apparently also a favorite of others in the crowd, who broke into thunderous applause when this one appeared.

The new lighting scheme of the Eiffel Tower, which bursts into thousands of sparkling lightphoto: laurel avery at the beginning of every hour after dark, made it blend seamlessly into the fireworks surrounding it.

At the same time that I, along with hundreds of thousands of others, was watching this gorgeous display of light, it occurred to me that simultaneously, a few thousand miles away in New York, the funeral of my best friend's father was likely occurring.

Mr. Heffron had been ill for some time, and while not unexpected, the death of a loved one is never easy for those left behind. I imagined him as being one of those gorgeous fireworks, going out in a stunning blaze of light.

The author - Laurel Avery.

I was amazed at all of us standing there, televisions and sophisticated video games forgotten, mesmerized by nothing more than tiny points of light set against a background of darkness.

Laurel Avery © 2003 - Photos, B Wright © 2003
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