The poetic description: Mira LaCous decorates the nighttime sky. Fire is her paintbrush! The heavens are her canvas! Put it another way: She blows stuff up for a living. Her company, Hollywood Pyrotechnics, provides fireworks displays for any occasion, and Mira is the one who lights the fuses. Born and raised in St. Paul, she lived through the old days, when the definition of "legal" was more forgiving. Remember the really good stuff?
"As a kid it was a different world. We had a much broader range of fireworks -- a lot more firecrackers, bottle rockets, things that are restricted today. Cherry bombs, of course. If you strapped several of them together, throw them into a shallow pond, you could feel the shock wave through the sand or the clay soil." Ah, the good old days. "But today we have more broad assortment of colors and effects. I travel to China virtually every year and work with the factories on new designs" -- Whoa, stop right there. Minnesota has contributed to advances in their ancient art?
"One of the new designs I worked on is the quadrant peony -- it's red, blue, green, yellow. Next thing I want to do is change the color of the different quadrants. We have a wind chime, wind bell, hangs there in the night sky for 20 seconds. At Blaine on the Fourth, we'll shoot half a dozen in the air at once."
Ooooh. Ahhhh! So what Minnesota lost in M-80-strength firepower, we gained in beauty? "Exactly. It's turned into an art form. In China hundreds of years ago, fireworks were all about the bangs, using firecrackers to scare off evil spirits. That migrated over here, where people associated noisemaking with celebration. Now the chemistry has improved, and it's more about the color, what the firework is doing. But there's still something visceral about that bang."
She still gets that deep-down fireworks joy, but in different sense. "There's something about hand-lighting the fireworks -- it's called 'lift' when the shell leaves the mortar; you'd be walking around the racks and lighting them, and feeling the whoomph. It's very exciting, but you don't get to enjoy the fireworks; your head is down towards the dirt, wondering if everything's OK up there." It's computerized now, but Mira doesn't push a button and let it go: She's out in the field with a joystick, pushing the buttons and running the show. You may now feel an all-consuming sense of envy.
It's possible to reduce it all to computerized performance, but where's the fun in that?
"I'd hate to take myself out of the loop. You've see the movie 'War Games' -- what happens when the computer decides it's going to take over?" You'd probably get one of those underwhelming shows that seems to go on forever. "If it's just one shell after the other, you've lost the audience. I have a rule -- no show's longer than a sitcom. It needs to be fresh throughout, something that grabs the audience and gives them something to remember."
Sounds like you enjoy your job, Mira.
"It's a blast."