I'm sitting out on my patio in O.B. watching the SeaWorld 'Summer Nights' fireworks show illuminate the night sky over Mission Bay and thinking to myself: 'Cool!' and 'Wow!' and 'Is this really necessary?' and 'What are we celebrating? That tourists feel like they got their 60 bucks worth?'
Summer Nights is sponsored by Pepsi in partnership with Anheuser Busch, owners of SeaWorld. These corporations don't give a damn about you, me, Mission Bay, San Diego or anything except making money. If one of their trained-seal PR hacks responds to this column, they will tell you they care, but they're paid to say it. They will also tell you that Pepsi and Budweiser are good for you. PR hacks will tell you whatever they're paid to say.
Every wide-awake San Diegan knows this: The San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park are cool, and SeaWorld is lame. The Zoological Society of San Diego is a nonprofit and its people actually care about conservation and work hard to dignify an already dubious set of encounters. SeaWorld's conservation efforts are window dressing.
SeaWorld is a perverse trick, in which caring trainers and conservation-minded employees are forced to hide their tattoos and piercings and prostitute themselves to the King of Beers, just like the fish prostitutes performing for Midwesterners who've been suckered into spending a week of their salary stuffing their starfish-abusing kids with chocolate-covered deep-fried fish sticks. SeaWorld is a saltwater-themed amusement factory pumping loud, crappy Muzak from speakers hidden throughout the 'park' containing embedded subliminal messages designed to brainwash children into drinking Pepsi and Budweiser. The SeaWorld folks won't rest until they've turned peaceful Mission Bay Park into a big, obnoxious Fisheyland. They don't care about the City Charter-they've already violated the spirit of the charter every chance they could get. You know what, kids? Shamu is dead. The killer whales that take turns playing Shamu in the condescending 'Shamu Rocks' show are servant-actors. There is no Shamu. Shamu is dead. He got sick of his soulless job and drank himself to death on free Bud Lights back in the late '80s.
The Summer Nights thing is the big, toxic, incendiary orgasm at the end of the daily fish orgy. It reeks of overkill, waste and artifice. Every weekend starting in May, SeaWorld floats its barge loaded with gunpowder and chemicals into the bay and fills the sky with pretty poison. Then in June, they ramp it up and start firing away every night, all summer long, right up to Labor Day. They even call it 'Skyblast.' That works out to something like 80 nights blasting away at the sky, spewing toxins into the air and bay.
What's in fireworks?
Shitloads of dangerous, polluting chemicals and heavy metals like lead, chromium, mercury, cadmium, strontium, copper, titanium, magnesium, aluminum, strontium, boric acid, potassium, rubidium, arsenic, tungsten, zinc chromate, radioactive barium, dioxins and much, much more!
Last year, local environmental group Coastkeeper threatened to sue SeaWorld unless it obtained a special permit and tested the bay after fireworks shows to ensure that the water isn't being contaminated. SeaWorld complied and cancelled the displays for a while, but it started up again this year. The permit process has been delayed because it got kicked up by San Diego's Regional Water Quality Control Board to the state Water Resources Control Board and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which are, right at this moment, drinking their couple cases of free Bud and looking around the room belching at each other, trying to remember what in the hell they're hangin' out for.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, SeaWorld officials predictably say there is no evidence their fireworks are harming Mission Bay. They also boast that SeaWorld workers pick up scraps of fireworks litter after each show. Every last scrap! Or else those workers are Shamu meat. They also brag that annual water monitoring required by the state Coastal Commission has found no contamination. Environmentalists say the tests are merely 'cursory.'
What SeaWorld doesn't say is that these tests have only been conducted twice a year-in May and October, before and after the display season, not during. You think they'd get the same results if they tested the bay surface on a July morning? I'd like to see these same corporate spokesbots toss their own kids in the bay for a dog paddle every morning after Skyblast, all summer long, right where the fireworks drop. What's a little extra mercury, dioxin or radioactive barium in your kids' diet when you're swimming in Budweiser money?
Even if SeaWorld weren't dumping chemicals and metals into the bay night after night, the noise is pollution enough. The blasting causes dogs to bark, scares children, triggers car alarms and wakes people up who have jobs to go to in the morning. Not everyone is a SeaWorld tourist-some of us are trying to live here.
I understand that we all enjoy fireworks. They're aesthetically amusing. And we've been gawking at them on the 4th of July since we were kids, so they tend to set off big, loud patriotico-nostalgia bombs in our sappy, sappy hearts. But maybe it's time to give the bombs bursting in air a rest. If you miss the thrills, just watch the real bombs on TV, or let the pyrotechnic geeks put on lit-up recycled water fountain or laser shows or something.
Look, I can admit my prejudice. My distaste for SeaWorld's crass corporate modus operandi makes me extra annoyed by its toxic, transparently phony theatrics. At least the 4th of July means something. I'll tell you what: I'll give in a little and let you keep your 4th of July sky-warrior freedom-spectacle and your kids' ooohs and aaahs, their tiny faces illuminated by the warm glow of incendiary toxins. I'll give you the 4th of July. Now, will you give me this: Can you at least admit that we don't need these poisonous little bombs blowing up over the bay every damn night for three months of every year?
Write to dak@SDcitybeat.com and editor@SDcitybeat.com