One witness who saw it occur right after having one beer and two shots of tequila claims to have seen a white phosphorescent charge hit the Town Park playground and people running for their lives. An admittedly secondhand street report claimed a baby carriage was blown up. Another report, again carried around by secondhand street mail, featured someone racing to grab a child out of a baby carriage as they themselves ducked for cover.
The best evidence wasn’t by word, but by photograph: A shot from down the street by former Telluride Mayor Amy Levek showed the entire park exploding from some kind of beautiful anti-personnel device sending shimmering fragments of spider-webby silver streaks across the grounds.
Like, wow! … Nobody shares a more intimate connection to both nature and explosives than those thousands who come to the base of Bear Creek Canyon in Telluride for the Fourth of July!
According to Telluride Fire District officials, the fireworks display’s very last shot, a 16-inch shell, failed to reach proper height before going off, but certainly delivered the advertised firepower. The additional good news was, of course, that nobody claimed any injuries, and the event itself was shut down without any further incident. The dust cloud of baby carriages simply left without rioting and the unnoticing throng of proud Americans was somehow sated, without demands for any more spectacular displays of controlled violence than what they’d already just experienced.
Another rumor on the street is the actual errant rocket purchased for the event was supposedly banned after 9/11, though one would have to wonder why: It seemed completely effective, in terms of sheer terror, or, sorry, sorry, Shock-and- Awe values.
A visit to Firecracker Hill a couple of days after it was lit up that July 4 evening like a smoky Fort Sumter still turned up some evidence of the rocket red glares, including a scattering of round, purplish cardboard caps and burned-out yellow, AA battery-sized cylinders, plucked right out of a young pine tree like bad fruit, around the compromised hill otherwise covered with small mounds of gravel pits built as launching points for the fireworks blasts. A close look around the trampled, fire-burnished mound reveals that over the years the treetops have all died or been diminished in some way, as if singed by frequent spaceship landings.
No other place in town is allowable for such abuse, and resulting small fires all around the base of Bear Creek were being put out well into the next day. By Thursday night it rained, washing away the any burn scars and, if it ever existed, that apocryphal burned-out baby carriage.
Forensics aside – sight lines on a bazooka pointed down to Town Park are clear enough to strafe the playground – the real critique here is not that we’re lucky nobody got fried. Nor is it that, like the ancient Aztecs, we as a culture are willing to sacrifice the hilltop at the base of a national geologic and primordial treasure such as Bear Creek for our once-a-year ritual of flaming ecstasy (even when, if that canyon ever caught fire, it would be the rough equivalent to setting off a firecracker in ones’ navel).
Nor should we go into the physics of indirect or misguided flight. Nor wax on what gunpowder does, or the fact that the right to blow up such elemental stuff in metal tubes with triggers is guaranteed by nothing less than the U.S. Constitution.
No, what’s really FUBAR about this obviously faux military exercise is that occurs at, of all times, during annual periods of Mercury in Retrograde!
Everybody knows nothing works right during Mercury in Retrograde.
This is not rocket science. This country, born under a bad sign, now celebrates that bad timing with a series of loud, threatening and potentially fire-triggering explosions. All to great applause. No wonder we scare the bejesus out of the rest of the world.
As any decent astrologist will tell you, during such periods of Mercurial misanthropy everything goes bad, from our technological marvels to our planetwide maze of communications. One Web-based wizard put it this way: “At 23:41 UT (Universal Time), just before midnight on June 15, 2007, Mercury, the cosmic trickster, turns retrograde in Cancer, the sign of the Crab, sending communications, travel, appointments, mail and the www into a general snarl-up … This awkward period begins a few days before the actual turning point (as Mercury slows) and lasts for three weeks or so, until July 10, when the Winged Messenger reaches his direct station. At this time he halts and begins his return to direct motion through the zodiac …’’
Of course, planets are never retrograde or stationary; they just seem this way because of this “cosmic shadow-play,” as the astrologers put it. But regardless of what some might see as superstitious nonsense, the metaphor works. There’s the national symbol as mixed messages, the bad communications, the poor shooting, the messed-up rocketry – and here’s shadow-play.
Which brings us to faux generals George Bush II and Dick Cheney, two true-blue retro-graders who, last week, here in Telluride, were the targets of a local petition drive to have them impeached, at least locally, for launching “Shock and Awe” for all the wrong reasons, and at far too great an expense (a plea the Telluride Town Council will hear today).
Of course, this impeachment petition is a symbolic act, but our July 4 fireworks are symbolic as well. Since we are all particles in the same cosmic “Shock-and-Awe” footprint wrought by the White House, let us consider Telluride Fire Chef Jamey Schuler’s statement after the display: “The fireworks went off without a hitch,” he said, “except for that one shell,” which could be parsed like “democracy works in Iraq, except for that one civil war” or even “we are all born free, except for the slaves we own.”
By now you should be looking at this and going, gee, not only are we putting a firecracker in the very belly button of our tourism economy – even worse, this town is annually transmitting cosmically challenged political messages at the wrong astrological time.
So let’s shake the whole thing up next year and declare no more commit pyrotechnical piracy, no more fireworks in our navel, until the current war is declared over. That would be a far clearer symbol than trying to impeach the “Shock and Awe” twins, who barely have a constituency in San Miguel County.
Cancel the fireworks, and therefore the crowds it brings in? To mitigate the financial impact, we could, say, move the Yankee Doodle Doo-Dah to its proper night, and suggest bringing in, say, Country Joe and the Fish for a special concert and laser-light show in its place. Probably those who consider tourism the engine in our regional democracy will receive this suggestion as well as the news of the end of the Crusades was received by the arms and shipping merchants in the benefiting ports of the Mediterranean (or, for a modern-day comparison, as happily as news of a drop in Halliburton stock).
But, if we really only have one last, big, fat, finale rack, post-9/11, crowd-strafing16-incher to play with next year, shouldn’t we just not shoot it off at all? Make it the Shot Not Heard Around the World Festival instead, and put the faulty rocket under glass at the museum. Tell everybody next election year, “Hell No, We Won’t Blow.” Let people just stay home fry in the bake and stink and denial of the cities on the Fourth of 2008 until they learn to vote better. Now that would be a shot not heard around the world.