Thursday, July 04, 2024

Beer Can Fourth of July

Today is July 4th. This is observed in the United States as our country's Independence Day. This is not something that I generally choose to celebrate. I don't like the heat, or crowds, or loud noises. Independence Day is probably my least favorite of the holidays, but the movie with Will Smith and Bill Pullman was good. 

I don't really believe in national borders. I guess it's indicative of growing up engrossed in a fantasy existence. I like the idea that everyone in the world deserves the same opportunities regardless of the accident of their birth, whether it's their nationality, their race, or their gender. As the barriers to communication continue to erode thanks to technology, I like to imagine that we are heading towards a united world. I like the dream that Gene Roddenberry shares in his vision of the future.

I don't support recent events undertaken in the name of patriotism. I don't believe in building walls to keep others out or in storming our capital to protest the peaceful transfer of power. I am grateful for the opportunities that being an American has given me, but I want everyone in the world to have those same opportunities. Shoring up our borders is never going to get us there.


I do have one 4th of July story from my childhood. It's short, but I have often recalled it, because it speaks to the distinct personalities of myself and my two sisters. It's a story that I call:


Beer Can Fourth of July

It was July 4, 1975. I was 9 and about to turn 10. My sister Sally was 8, and my sister Karla was 5. Mom and Chuck were working in the role of tavern keepers, watching over and running a tavern for the owner. Literally watching "over," as part of the arrangement allowed us to live in the apartment above the tavern.

Mom and Chuck had worked late that night as one does when running a tavern, and they were asleep. We, being children who had not yet achieved our hibernating teen years were up and about. We knew better than to wake Mom and Chuck. So, we whispered and played quietly. This didn't last too long. Being quiet was boring. We needed to go outside. 

Going outside meant sneaking downstairs into the tavern, through the back storeroom and out into a fenced in backyard that was really more of a weed filled alley than a yard. That's what we did. First we reveled in the novelty of being alone in the tavern during the day. We played with the pool table. We stole and shared a Slim Jim from a big barrel of the things. (Why we did that, I can't say. Those things are awful!)


We did eventually make it outside through the storeroom. Sally stole a can of warm Coke from the storeroom because the salty Slim Jim had made her thirsty. We must have been careless with the Coke, because when she popped the top, it fizzed and a stream of Coke shot into the air. I would have thought that she would have been upset over the wasted Coke, but instead she was overjoyed.

"It's fireworks!" She exclaimed.

Karla chimed in, "Yay! Fireworks!" (I don't think she even knew what they were.)

That was it. The game was afoot and high jinks were about to ensue. We rushed back into the storeroom and, I went to grab a case of Coke, so that we could drag it outside.

"No!" Sally objected, "Don't waste the soda."

Right! Sally was always thinking ahead. We grabbed a case of beer instead. We didn't care about the beer. In fact, in our minds using the beer in this fashion would leave Chuck with less beer to drink, and we liked Chuck when he drank less. It seemed like a win, win.

We took turns shaking up beer cans and "exploding" them into the air creating our own fireworks. 

We watched in sublime rapture as can after can of beer shot its glistening, fizzy, amber payload into the sky over our heads, sparkling in the bright morning sun! Then raining glistening drops of golden beer sparks all around us.

It was glorious! 

To this day, it is the best fireworks display I have ever seen.

In the end, I believe that we shook up and shot into the air, a case and a half of beer. What did we do with the cans? Nothing. We just left them laying all over the ground in the back alley. As the sun began to rise higher in the morning sky and noon approached, we were smart enough to sneak back to our rooms and play quietly like nothing happened.

Then of course, the door to our room opened and Mom and Chuck were there. Here is the part of the story that I always remember because what happened next was just so … "us."

"Do you want to tell me about the beer cans?" Chuck asked with a sort of calm that said that we were really in trouble.

I knew that we were caught, and suddenly became aware that what we had done was probably wrong. Funny that this never occurred to me during the beerworks display.

I hung my head in shame, silently. It was all I could do.

Sally, who was and still is the most cool headed human being that I have ever met, looked Chuck straight in the eye and said, "What beer cans?"

Karla, only five, had not honed her survival instincts just yet, but she wanted to be helpful. So, she looked to Sally and said, "You know…"

Thinking back on it now, I'm sure that we smelled like a brewery. 

There was no avoiding the consequences. We took our lumps, and we had to pick up the cans. It didn't matter. We had won. 

We had our very own fireworks show, and we got away with a little something extra in the process.

Because, you see ... they never did find out about the Slim Jim.

1 comment:

  1. It was my favorite fourth as well. Also the bar owner would not allow Chuck to spank us so it was a win at that. Thanks for the smile. Sally