Independence Day

By Dave Barry
as appeared in "The Miami Herald", June 26, 1998

	This year, why not hold an old-fashioned Fourth of July Picnic?

	Food poisoning is one good reason.  After a few hours in the sun,
	ordinary potato salad can develop bacteria the size of raccoons.  But
	don't let the threat of agonizingly painful death prevent you from
	celebrating the birth of our nation, just as Americans have been doing
	ever since that historic first July Fourth when our Founding Fathers --
	George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Bob Dole and
	Tony Bennett -- landed on Plymouth Rock.
	Step one in planning your picnic is to decide on a menu.  Martha Stewart
	has loads of innovative suggestions for unique, imaginative and tasty
	summer meals.  So you can forget about her.  "If Martha Stewart comes
	anywhere near my picnic, she's risking a barbecue fork to the eyeball"
	should be your patriotic motto.  Because you're having a traditional
	Fourth of July picnic, and that means a menu of hot dogs charred into
	cylinders of industrial-grade carbon, and hamburgers so undercooked that
	when people try to eat them, they leap off the plate and frolic on the
	lawn like otters.
	Dad should be in charge of the cooking, because only Dad, being a male
	of the masculine gender, has the mechanical "know-how" to operate a
	piece of technology as complex as a barbecue grill.  To be truly
	traditional, the grill should be constructed of the following materials:
	-- 4 percent "rust-resistant" steel;
	-- 58 percent rust;

	-- 23 percent hardened black grill scunge from food cooked as far back
	as 1987 (the scunge should never be scraped off, because it is what is
	actually holding the grill together);

	-- 15 percent spiders.

	If the grill uses charcoal as a fuel, Dad should remember to start
	lighting the fire early (no later than April 10) because charcoal, in
	accordance with federal safety regulations, is a mineral that does not
	burn.  The spiders get a huge kick out of watching Dad attempt to ignite
	it; they emit hearty spider chuckles and slap themselves on all eight
	knees.  This is why many dads prefer the modern gas grill, which ignites
	at the press of a button and burns with a steady, even flame until you
	put food on it, at which time it runs out of gas.

	While Dad is saying traditional bad words to the barbecue grill, Mom can
	organize the kids for a fun activity:  making old-fashioned ice cream by
	hand, the way our grandparents' generation did.  You'll need a
	hand-cranked ice-cream maker, which you can pick up at any antique store
	for $1,875.  All you do is put in the ingredients, and start cranking!
	It makes no difference what specific ingredients you put in, because --
	I speak from bitter experience here -- no matter how long you crank
	them, they will never, ever turn into ice cream.  Scientists laugh at
	the very concept.  "Ice cream is not formed by cranking," they point
	out.  "Ice cream is formed by freezers."  Our grandparents' generation
	wasted millions of man-hours trying to produce ice cream by hand; this
	is what caused the Great Depression.
	When the kids get tired of trying to make ice cream (allow about 25
	seconds for this) it's time to play some traditional July Fourth games.
	One of the most popular is the "sack race."  All you need is a bunch of
	old-fashioned burlap sacks, which you can obtain from the J. Peterman
	catalog for $227.50 apiece.  Call the kids outside, have them line up on
	the lawn and give each one a sack to climb into; then shout "GO!" and
	watch the hilarious antics begin as, one by one, the kids sneak back
	indoors and resume trying to locate pornography on the Internet.
	Come nightfall, though, everybody will be drawn back outside by the
	sound of loud, traditional Fourth of July explosions coming from all
	around the neighborhood.  These are caused by the fact that various
	dads, after consuming a number of traditionally fermented beverages,
	have given up on conventional charcoal-lighting products and escalated
	to gasoline.  As the spectacular pyrotechnic show lights up the night
	sky, you begin to truly appreciate the patriotic meaning of the words to
	The Star-Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key to commemorate
	the fledgling nation's first barbecue:
	And the grill parts' red glare;
	Flaming spiders in air;

	Someone call 911;

	There's burning scunge in Dad's hair

	After the traditional visit to the hospital emergency room, it's time to
	gather 'round and watch Uncle Bill set off the fireworks that he
	purchased from a roadside stand operated by people who spend way more on
	tattoos than dental hygiene.  As Uncle Bill lights the firework fuse and
	scurries away, everybody is on pins and needles until, suddenly and
	dramatically, the fuse goes out.  So Uncle Bill re-lights the fuse and
	scurries away again, and the fuse goes out again, and so on, with Uncle
	Bill scurrying back and forth with his Bic lighter like a deranged
	Olympic torchbearer until, finally, the fuse burns all the way down, and
	the firework, emitting a smoke puff the size of a grapefruit, makes a
	noise -- "phut" -- like a squirrel passing gas.  Wow!  What a fitting
	climax for your traditional old-fashioned July Fourth picnic!

	Next year you'll go out for Chinese food.

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