Tomorrow will be the 4th of July. A great, time-honored Kansas City tradition is to light things on fire and blow stuff up. I got over the “blowing stuff up is cool” phase when I was about eighteen, but I completely understand the appeal and wish all those little teenage arsonists well, as long as they stay away from my house and my material possessions. My comic book collection may not be worth much, but I don’t want it and my house to go up in flames because some kid decided to see if the roof shingles on my house were fire-resistant.
I have no funny stories about the Fourth, except for the innocent ritual of my parents driving me to the big tent on the street corner to by fireworks. I was able to browse the aisles and buy what I wished – within reason – while my dad would always chat up the guy behind the makeshift counter, trying to get him to show us the “really good stuff” he presumed they hid in a trailer out back somewhere. My dad was more excited about blowing stuff up than I was, and the bigger and more obnoxious the explosion the fireworks produced, the better.
I was naturally a bit less adventurous – not only did my mom breed in me a healthy fear of dying by misadventure, but the one time I did try to live on the edge, I immediately screwed it up. My friends and I one year were lighting firecrackers, and instead of the traditional method of setting them down, lighting them, and running away, somebody was bold enough to light them in their hand and throw them, greatly impressing the rest of the group. I tried this a few times and started to get more confident with it until I got one with a short fuse that exploded a few inches from my hand. I can still remember the pain I felt, and I think about it whenever I see the local police using illegal fireworks to blow up department-store mannequins during their annual scared-straight bits on local tv year after year.