There are lots of places to see fireworks in Los Angeles on 4th of July. You could cruise over to Santa Monica, but you’ll have to take out a second mortgage to pay for parking. You could make the trek up to Dodgers Stadium, but you’ll have to sit through the mind numbing tedium of a baseball game. You could even do down to Culver City High School, but what are you, six? The only real way of seeing fireworks is by having them shot all around you and sometimes at you by random strangers. That’s why the only place to be on the Fourth of July is Echo Park. Walking through Echo Park on the night of the fourth is like walking through downtown Beirut circa 1983. The air is thick with smoke and the smell of gunpowder. The constants sound of rat-tat-tat is punctuated by random booms, which can be so loud they set off car alarms. A few years ago, a palm tree in the middle of the island somehow caught fire (it turned out that one of my friends was to blame).

This year, I saw an errant firework explode inches away from a man holding a small child. I could’ve sworn I saw blood on the poor kid’s traumatized face. And then there’s the guy who sets off home-made bombs to scare people walking by. But it’s not just the random violence. There is a real sense of community. It’s the only night where hipsters and Mexicans share such a common cause: watching shit blow up. Where do all those fireworks come from? Why, they sell them right in the park by the shopping cart. And they’ll sell to anyone. A six year old could by a roman candle, and borrow a lighter too. But it’s not just the random violence. There is a real sense of community. It’s the only night where hipsters and Mexicans

This happens every year. And every year, the cops wait till around 10:30 to break up the party. Patrol cars circle the park, announcing the illegality of setting off fireworks by loudspeaker, while a helicopter with a spotlight hovers above. People leave without a fuss. No arrests are made, and by 11:30 the park is empty and completely trashed. It may not be for the faint of heart. But afterward, you’ll know that if you’re more than 10 feet away from the fireworks, they’re not worth looking at.

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