As I sat there in the lawn chair watching my friend load the mortar shell, I noticed that for the first Fourth of July in a decade, I was sober. I also noticed that he was taking a long time to light the fuse. The mortar shell was the second of two massive fireworks, and I felt the tingling apprehension of pre-disaster adrenaline creeping into my fingers.

This could very well be the Fourth of July I would never forget.

fireI wish I could say the same for a lot of other Fourths. See, the thing is, when you drink a lot, the days start to run together, and then the days turn into months and seasons and years, and you eventually start to wonder if that rad house party you went to (the one with the band and the wet t-shirts and the huge brawl at the end) happened in 2005 or 2004. Some people call this getting old, but until I’m old, I’m going to call it getting drunk.


Last Fourth of July, I was at a friend’s parents’ pool in Lost Creek for a few hours, and then I had to go bartend. I think I ate a lot of chips, but then again, that doesn’t differentiate that Fourth from any other Saturday. Or Monday, for that matter. I remember the Fourth before that but only because I got in trouble for lighting sparklers inside The Moon. After that, I have no idea, unless there’s a photo with a time stamp. Unless something gets blown up or burned down, Fourth of Julys pile up in my memory and fade like National Geographics in a backyard shed.

This year, I think the Fourth will stand out to me for once, though not from any conscious effort to indelibly sear the day in my memory. After all, it wasn’t too long after I rolled out of bed that we started to party, and by the time we got to this barbecue, well, I had one of those grins on my face that says, “I was wasted before I had to go to Fiesta to buy chips.” In other words, Fourth of July 2010 was business as usual.

Thing is, Fourth of July is a holiday, and holidays always mean way more food than anyone can ever eat –– though not for lack of effort. It didn’t matter if I’d drunk one beer or 70 last weekend, I wasn’t going to get drunk, because brisket was practically oozing out of my pores –– and that was even before we put the burgers on the grill. (I must have been a little drunk, though, because I soon found myself snacking out of boredom.) The sun went down, and a drinking game started, but I couldn’t do much besides melt into a couch and watch the Star Wars marathon on Spike TV. Fighting to stay awake, I’d periodically try to be social and waddle outside to see what was going on, but time and again I’d be back on the couch to accommodate my gastrointestinal misery.

The beer was almost gone by the time we started to light fireworks, so it’s not surprising that that mortar shell went into the firing tube upside down. There was a deafening POW!, and chunks of flaming cardboard flew past my friend as he bolted away. A couple of houses down, someone answered with his own salvo, and white and purple sparks blasted up above the neighborhood’s trees. We lit some more, but pretty soon we were out of fireworks. I found a lonely can of Schlitz at the bottom of the cooler, but I didn’t see the point anymore. A few of us walked to The Moon for a beer and a shot, but I just had a glass of water. I’d seen enough to remember this year, and I really just wanted to go to bed.
–– Steve Steward


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