ANNAPOLIS, JULY 4 -- Waiting in Ego Alley for the fireworks is not like waiting for the fireworks any place else.
One way to make the scene: Show up at this see-and-be-seen place in front of the Annapolis City Dock in a humongous shiny boat, with a hull that stretches to the horizon.
Mark Keller's 41-foot Silverton qualified. At noon today, with the harbor master's thermometer shuddering around the 100-degree mark, Keller's guest, Daniel Callahan, and a friend who had fallen asleep on top of her Vogue magazine were stretched out on deck, waiting for the rest of their July 4th party to show up.
A Washingtonian who owns a Texas tire-recycling plant, Callahan was sunning and discussing "a pile of tire chips as big as that building over there," clad in nothing more than a Rolex and neon swim trunks.
Making the scene, Version 2: Jerking his thumb at the big powerboat on the other side of Ego Alley, Richard Foster stood by his sailboat and delivered the quintessential anti-powerboat tirade.
"All they want to do is show off bigger and bigger boats; that they're big men -- big men -- it's the phallic thing," said Foster, as his guest clutched her seltzer water bottle.
"I used to live on the Severn River," he recalled, "and even from there, when they went by, it sounded like 30 or 40 Hell's Angels."
Despite those traces of animosity, the powerboaters and sailboaters generally laid aside their hostilities yesterday to enjoy the mid-week holiday, the sunny, if scorching weather, and the prospect of old-time Fourth of July fireworks.
The Independence Day tradition, in this city of boats, is to claim a slip or some little piece of Chesapeake Bay waters for the night and watch the fireworks set off in the Severn River near the U.S. Naval Academy.
It was difficult, however, for sailors to stay in their slips with the 15-to-20 knot winds blowing, surprising for the usually windless summer season.
Bob Hayden, in his boat, Timothy ("named 15 years ago after a dead cat"), was trying to get out on the water but had to fix an oarlock on his dinghy.
"What am I doing here?" he said, surrounded by tools, and looking longingly out to the bay.
The bay was buzzing with powerboaters, cigarette boats, sailboats, snackboats, water taxis, canoes, jet-skiers, workboats, even a boat with a political message.
The local chapter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was carrying on a kind of floating lobbying campaign against a cosmetics company. Their boat carried a banner that said, "Light a Firecracker Under L'Oreal! Tell L'Oreal to Stop Animal Tests."
Working watermen, for their part, had their own message. Independence Day may have meant sleeping in for most people, but Joe "Henry" Michaeljohn was up as usual at 3 a.m. and was on the water by 4.
By the time many of the habitues of Ego Alley were just arriving for the ritual swing down the watery runway, Michaeljohn was there on his boat, listening to country western music, drinking beer and ginger ale and contemplating his catch for the day: almost 12 bushels of blue crabs, which he'll sell for $60 a bushel.
A lifelong waterman and Annapolis resident, Michaeljohn said he has to keep crabbing to make a living, even on holidays, especially with the diminished yield since the bay pollution became a problem.
"Take care of the bay and take care of the watermen," he said, gesturing over to Annapolis's raw bars and restaurants. "If we don't catch 'em, you don't eat 'em."