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7.7.2003 by Dan, every Monday.

I have been led to understand that many of you have calendars. And, of those of you that do, nearly a third actually have them displaying the correct month. (As of this writing, that would be July. You're welcome.) So, it's a good bet that many of you are aware that the July 4th weekend has just passed.

Now, for those of you who are both Canadian and have sustained some sort of brain trauma, July 4 is American Independence Day, in which we celebrate our independence from everything but large corporations by taking part in the following activities:

- Contributing to the holiday traffic problem. An age-old American tradition for any sort of event at all is to load the kids up in the SUV and sit in gridlock for hours. Dad turns the air conditioning up to high, while mom turns on the radio and the kids make up reasons to scream. This is why more and more convenience stores sell do-it-yourself divorce kits.

- Cookouts. This is customarily done on the back patio. Basically, the idea is that you spend $500 on a giant propane grill with add-on burners, an integrated cooler and a built-in spice rack so you don't have to walk six feet through your patio door and use your kitchen, because if you cooked in there, you might end up with recognizable food. Also, you would miss out on the fun of balancing your food on a soggy paper plate while looking for somewhere to sit, because there are no mosquitoes fifteen feet away in the dining room.

Self-maiming. Unfortunately, this most definitive of July Fourth traditions is slowly fading away, due to the increasing number of states with fireworks and arson laws. The act of maiming one's self is viewed as a deeply personal act of self-expression and thus tends to vary widely from individual to individual, but it's always preceded by spoken warnings such as these:

”No, these fuses burn real slow.”

“Say, I wonder what happens when-”

“Do mullets burn?”

“The lighter ran out of fuel, so we'll just use a burner on the stove.”

“Hey guys, watch this!”

“Trust me, I know what I'm doing.”

The extra-patriotic may request red, white, and blue skin grafts.

A new activity that's emerging in place of self-mutilation is “watching fireworks,” which is in many ways a combination of the other three traditions. You load up the kids and sit in gridlock on your way to the lake, then eat undercooked hot dogs, or potato chips if you're a vegetarian, and scratch an ever increasing number of stinging mosquito welts as kids of people you don't know run up behind you and shriek and/or cry for no discernible reason. You choke on the cigarette smoke of everyone around you as thunderous blasts from fireworks you're too far away to fully see shake the air, causing the kids to shriek and cry even more. And as you watch, surrounded by your fellow countrymen, a deep, special feeling wells up in your chest, something unique and amazing. This is, of course, the intense, passionate, and burning desire for one of the giant firework shells to fly off-course and detonate in your midst, raining flaming doom on the slack-jawed morons around you. Think about it: it would kill the mosquitoes, give the kids a good reason to shriek, singe off those ”Joe Dirt” mullets, drown out the cigarette smoke and maybe even cook those sickly looking hot dogs.

Of course, and I say this with all honesty, be careful where you share these sentiments, or you'll end up on the National Terror Watch List. Yes, it's true - if you're a vegetarian, then the terrorists have already won.

And that, my friends, is what the Fourth is all about.

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