Independence Day 2020

My memories of July 4th—that's American Independence Day, don't you forget it—split into two categories.

The first, the old ones:

Sitting in the field near... (I have to go to the map to look this one up...) 4th Street and Birch Street in Canton, watching the fireworks. The Fireworks—a Tradition. The Fourth of July Fireworks were something you could count on—a stable point in the year that you knew would be there.

The later, but still old ones:

Driving across Illinois, from Champaign to Dawson or Mechanicsburg, leaving campus to go party with old (as in former, at the time, but now I guess we're getting closer to old as in Old) Scout Camp friends. I'll tell you what life is like growing up in the Flatlands: if you drive down the highway at the right time on July 4th, you can see the fireworks go up in a half dozen towns—no topographical aberrations in the way. Farmer City. Monticello. Decatur. Illiopolis. I don't even know, honestly—the specifics are lost to time and, more honestly, the July 4th party on the other side of the drive. But I'll tell you: there is nothing lonelier that that drive across the glaciated flatlands, seeing the pop-pop-pop fireworks of some small city, imagining a former you there watching, but you're a current you driving, driving driving driving, moving on somewhere else, experiencing your past selves while you transport your current self Onward.

Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car at night?

—Jack Kerouac, On The Road (1957)

Oh, hell. If we're going to break out On the Road and talk about fireworks, let's at least break this one out:

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'

That's alright, that's alright—I can sleep calmly now after that, I think.

I've seen so many fireworks from the road. (Presley's what I go by / Why don't you change the stations / Let's count the grain elevators as they go by in the rearview mirror.) A pop-pop here and a pop-pop there. I can hear the fireworks in the distance here in Ballwin, a pop-pop here and a pop-boom there. Blow it up—blow it all up. Fine. Scare 2020 all the way back into its hole and let's start afresh.

The fireworks in Canton, sitting in lawn chairs with my parents, are the ones I miss.

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