Each month, I write a column for Transistor (http://www.transistormag.com) called CTRL+ALT+DULUTH. (Yes, it plays on the "duh-LOOT" pronunciation.) Below is the text from July's entry:
For all of you firecracker enthusiasts out there who failed to work through your entire stocks this weekend, allow me to make a suggestion:
Shove the rest up your f*cking a$$es and light the fuses.
Yes, kids, it’s another installment of “Uncle Mike Shakes his Microbrew at the Unwashed Masses.”
(Fortunately, despite the coming of my 36th birthday on Wednesday, I don’t have a cane to brandish quite yet.)
Few cultural phenomena offer irony quite as sublime as fireworks. Outside of cigarettes (another of Uncle Mike’s faves), can you think of anything else so dependent for survival on the very group of people to whom they pose the most harm?
For you slower readers, I’m talking about kids – in both cases.
When I was young, the weeks preceding the Fourth of July turned our neighborhood into a wonderland for war games and other aggressive fun. When my friends and I weren’t using the constant din of pops and cracks as the soundtrack for our Star Wars reenactments, we’d play a morbid game of “assassination” that could only fly in our white-bred suburban subdivision.
It went like this: With any random explosion, one of us would stop whatever we were doing – whether it was shooting hoops, riding Big Wheels or diving into the community pool – convulse wildly and then hit the ground (or water) as if we had just been shot. The other guys, provided that they also had not reacted similarly to that particular SNAP! (a frequent occurrence prompting many arguments and occasionally some actual bloodshed), would rush to the felled comrade and scan the houses and tree line for the culprit, yelling “Sniper!”
Much like in Minnesota, fireworks with any real punch were illegal where I grew up. Naturally, that only fueled the fascination. On every trip through Indiana, I’d sit with fingers and nose pressed to the car window, peering longingly at the parade of billboards, campervans and corrugated metal sheds (that’s when you’ve made it in the fireworks trade) offering up untold incendiary delights. We never stopped.
(BTW - Fireworks sales, along with cheaper taxes on tobacco and booze, constitute the bulk of Indiana’s economy, as far as I can tell. Credit to Mike Manderino for most of this thought.)
Despite the obstacles provided by the law and intelligent parents, I managed to get my fix as time went on. Friends with means (i.e. relatives in Indiana or Wisconsin) enabled me to work my way up from the classic trick of lighting and holding onto Black Cats until the very last moment all the way to blowing up porta-sh*tters with half-sticks of dynamite in college.
But that, unfortunately, is where the proverbial fuse burned out. Listening to some jackass shoot screamers out of an empty Miller Lite bottle at two in the morning (or, being that jackass) suddenly lost its appeal when I had to get up for work four hours later.
The motto for the, er, home fireworks enthusiast seems to be, “It ain’t worth a damn if it can’t blow off your hand.”
At least we have their grisly injuries to thank for what is now the highlight of my Fourth of July: the ubiquitous TV news piece wherein the local police department destroys a series of storefront mannequins with M-80s.
Enter again, the irony though: Can you think of anything that could make firecrackers look cooler to a kid than that? Hell, it’s almost enough to light my punk for a shopping excursion to Douglas County.