Ah, the 4th of July. Delicately nestled within the sweaty meat of an endless summer, the holiday is less emblematic of its intention—celebrating the birth of a nation—and more about the gluttony and decadence that has come to define the birthday boy.
Hot dogs and hamburger pucks charred by a drunken relative; perspiring bottles of low-brow domestic beer clutched in chunky, knuckle-free fists. Awkward conversations on a busted-ass lawn, forever dodging dog droppings as you snake your way to the dessert table featuring red, white and blue cupcakes, or better yet, that no-frills sheet cake with the whipped-topping frosting where strawberries and blueberries represent the stars and stripes.
And the fireworks. Oh boy, the fireworks.
If you’re anything like my white-trash family, you know a guy who gets the big stuff. You know, because he hauls-city loads and gets access to the professional grade goods, probably EXACTLY like the stuff Worlds of Fun uses, probably PRECISELY because he steals it from the back of the truck. And maybe, just MAYBE, this dirt bag guy and your dirt-bag uncles set the big stuff off in a residential backyard, and PERHAPS they misfire, because, are you fucking kidding me? It’s not like they’re professionals. And when this happens, your grandpa’s windbreaker catches on fire and you roll his elderly bones on the ground to prevent severe burning and possible death, and most likely, the cops come.
Fourth of July.
But if your family is nothing like mine—and for your sanity AND longevity, I pray that they are not—you’re stuck with the stuff you buy from tents in Riverside. For your shopping ease, I’ve ranked your possible purchases from worst to first.
(Remember: fireworks are barely legal anywhere, so don’t tell anyone I said that these are okay to buy and/or ignite. In that regard, you‘re on your own.)
12) Sparklers: Sparklers are the worst. They’re ridiculously dangerous and not at all fun. More people are injured each year by simple sparklers than by any other firework. (Maybe. I think I’ve heard this before. Or I just made it up.) But they’re cheap and plentiful, and people think they’re safe for children. If you allow your children to play with these delightful death sticks, you’re basically saying you don’t care if your children are horribly mutilated. Way to go, mom and dad.
11) Snakes: These are little coal-black rabbit pellets that grow when heated, curl into a blackened piece of dog-shit, and blow away gently before crumbling into nothingness. I can think of nothing more pointless than snakes.
10) Snap-Pops: Really, really stupid. The only reason these aren’t further down the list is that you can satisfyingly attack someone with snap-pops. Seriously, give it a shot. You’ll be the hit of the party. (Or asked to leave, which is something I’m always hoping someone will ask me to do anyway.)
9) Lady-Fingers: The pussy of the firecracker world, lady fingers are good for the elderly, the infirm and the very young. They’ve got a satisfying POP! but they’re too dainty—hence the name—to do any real damage to your flesh. Strictly for beginners and those with slow reaction times and/or aversions to awesomeness.
8) Tanks/Roosters: Place on flat surface with plenty of distance, ignite fuse, and try to set your wife’s cat on fire with the resulting spectacle. These can be “souped-up” with the attachment of some sort of propulsion device such as 6 bottle rockets taped together.
7) Black Cats: A good, solid firecracker. While they lack the true danger of something powerful (M-80, Cherry Bomb, dynamite), they’re great to light off whole-strings at a time, particularly if you put them in some sort of pot, especially if you’re using them to maim and disfigure a GI Joe.
6) Jumping Jacks: For the uninitiated, jumping jacks are like firecrackers except they make a WHIRL! instead of a POP!, they emit brilliantly colored sparks, and they fly around haphazardly, threatening anyone within a 6-foot radius. Great for chasing pets and vagrants, and sending older people into fits of cardiac distress. A real winner.
4) Bottle Rockets: If you’re one of my uncles, you light these and hold them until they shoot from your hand, singeing your arm-hair (and dignity) in the process. If you’re normal, you put them in a bottle, light the fuse and flee. If you’re 8-year-old Brandon, you tape a grasshopper to the bottle rocket, then get confused when it fails to launch. Perhaps the best firework available for errantly setting a neighbor’s roof on fire.
3) Gigantic Bottle Rockets: Like a regular bottle rocket, but more bad-ass.
2) Artillery Shells: They’re like a Professional Grade Firework Lite. My dad buys these in bulk, and launches them out of a PVC tube specifically built for the occasion. (He doesn’t limit himself to holidays like “Fourth of July” or “New Years Eve,” however, because why should he? Who DOESN’T like a rocket’s red glare in the sky at 3am on a random Tuesday in May?)
1) Professional Grade Fireworks: You know, like Worlds of Fun or Union Station, or after—HAHA!!—homeruns at a Royals game. Nothing compares to the blood, sweat and tears of a thousand little Chinese people when it comes to creating an undeniably festive atmosphere.
Have a safe holiday, KCC!
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