Tuesday, July 5


For my last birthday my wife gave me a small pair of binoculars. They fit easily into a coat pocket and are very handy for Broadway shows and for Yankee games where the upper deck seats that I favor (i.e. can afford) are located somewhere in the vicinity of the orbit of Pluto.

On July Fourth I decided to take my new binoculars with me when we went over by the river to watch the fireworks show. I know some people like to get there early to stake out a good viewing spot, but since we live within walking distance it's a more casual event for us. We usually wander over a few minutes before the scheduled start, meet up with some neighbors, and watch the fireworks from behind the heads of all the people who got there early. I invariably end up behind a tall man carrying a tall child on his shoulders. This is not as bad as, say, being in a movie theater seated behind a tall man with a tall child on his shoulders since fireworks spread out pretty far across the sky and if you don't see every single sparkle, well, that's good enough.

Unfortunately Nelson, my nemesis, was there. Nelson is one of those fellows who always have the latest, brightest, biggest, and fastest whatever it is you have the older, duller, smaller, and slower of. This evening he had a pair of binoculars that looked like something the Navy might use for observation at sea. The body must have been a foot long and the lenses were the size of cake plates. He was busy adjusting the focus and I quietly guided my wife past him so we wouldn't be noticed.

Several of the other couples greeted us as we settled in to watch the fireworks and I proudly pulled my new binoculars out of the pocket of my jacket.

"What have you got there, Jim?" I heard Nelson's booming voice. "Opera glasses?"

"No, Nelson, they're not opera glasses," I replied haughtily. Then, searching for an appropriate rejoinder, I ill advisedly chose, "They're more like bird watching glasses."

I believe I heard my wife groan, but I'm not sure.

Nelson made a great show of looking at the now completely black sky. "Not too many fowl out tonight, Jim. I'm afraid you're in for a disappointment." He slowly brought his binoculars to his eyes and looked into the empty sky. "Hey," he shouted, "I think I can see Pluto."

I refused to let this incident quell my enjoyment of the fireworks, and through my opera gla…--I mean binoculars -- got a perfectly good view of the rocket's red glare haloing around the back of some tall kids head.

And I believe I spotted a Great Horned Owl on the way home.

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