Sean Beckwith: Second, third and fourth options for Fourth entertainment
Watching fireworks is to lighting off fireworks what watching someone play video games is to playing video games: It’s fun for a little while, but eventually you just want to man the controls.
I spent a portion of my youth in Missouri, one of the fireworks capitals of America. The “Fireworks next exit” signs along the highway are almost as frequent as fast food billboards. Bottle rockets, artillery shells, firecrackers, fountains, spinners and screamers were my “Fortnite.”
We used to play with M-60 firecrackers that are basically miniature sticks of dynamite — as fifth- and sixth-graders. A pyro phase was more rite of passage than fleeting obsession. It’s a wonder I didn’t Jason Pierre Paul myself.
Where am I going with all this nostalgic talk about making things go boom (other than the closest state that sells bottle rockets)? Well, my Roman-candle-to-the-back-of-the-neck hot take is missing out on Fourth of July fireworks is fine when you consider you’ll never be able to touch the art.
For those of you who’ve been limited to solely snakes and sparklers, you’ll never understand the fun of sparking a fuse with a lit punk and then running for cover. There’s not much difference between watching things explode from afar and a drone laser-light show — if it ever happens. It’s colorful and still makes you check your watch, wondering what time the finale is. If it’s anything like the Pink Floyd laser light show I went to in high school as an excuse to smoke weed, it should be pretty fun given you have a suitable attention span/level of intoxication.
The concern I have is about the aural aspect. There’s no bangs or zips or booms or pops or fizzy crackles. Is there a soundtrack? Maybe cue up John Denver for the Aspen crowd or Bruce Springsteen for the East Coast west delegate. I guess we’ll see next year.
If you’re really bummed, concentrate your energy on other Fourth traditions like OD’ing on hot dogs, eating parade candy off the street or desecrating the flag with your stars-and-stripes Speedo.
It’s the one day a year when people aren’t disgusted by Joey Chestnut because they’re so patriotic, they’d rather see a grown man taunt death than let Kobayashi take the crown back to Japan. I once worked with a guy at Subway who was training to be a competitive eater — and he wasn’t too much faster than the normal clientele. The key is lubing up the sandwich with enough mayo that it easily slides down your gullet.
If exhausting yourself to the degree that a dive in the shock-inducing waters of North Star sounds fun, immerse yourself in the parade. Get there early, sway in the sun for a couple hours like it’s your first music festival, pray the kids hit you with squirt guns rather than candy and find the nearest body of water before you collapse from heat exposure.
Speaking of exposure, you can always tease the rules of indecent exposure with a sexy take on the American flag. No one is going to question your fervor for ‘Merica if it’s shoved into every crevice of your body — they may question your BAC, though. Getting the ketchup, burger grease, sunscreen, beer, watermelon, Truly and mustard off your body is easier than getting it out of your clothes anyway.
The only suggestion I have for livening up a fireworks-less Fourth of July is creating a new event in hopes that it catches on and turns into a tradition.
A rocky mountain oyster eating contest would combine gluttony and bull balls to form an event that could prematurely provoke the rapture.
I’ve always been a proponent of water balloon and Super Soaker fights but mere H2O isn’t Aspen enough. I propose filling your arsenal with bubbly so you can drown the sobriety out of your opponents. Or maybe both teams wear white with red and blues hats to signal each side, dye the water blue and red and the first team to coat the other in patriotism wins. (I haven’t been thinking about giant water balloon fights since my 12th birthday or anything. Why do you ask?)
My last suggestion isn’t sustainable but would provide an excuse to blow things up. With all the slated development in Aspen, make construction crews wait until July 4 to demolish buildings. The key would be to make them fall like controlled detonations of old casinos and football stadiums.
The city could hand out illness like a demonic Oprah. And you get asbestos! And you get asbestos! And you get asbestos!
Aspenites are confronted with a world without fireworks from now until global warming turns the Rockies into a barren desert. The only option is to adapt … or visit Missouri, Tennessee, pretty much anywhere in the South.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at email@example.com.
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“Holding a brush and applying a splash of color here and a line there, I began seeing the world anew. I have no illusion of becoming a great artist, or ever calling myself an artist, but since painting is what it takes to open my eyes to the world, then a painter I will become in the private studio of my kitchen and the private gallery of my dining room,” writes Paul Andersen.