This 4th of July, I’m Making Fireworks With My Child


Every time I open a bag of Chex Mix, I get the slightest sense of grief. A sense of loss, even. I think back to the old Chex Mix commercials – the ones that advertised Chex Mix the recipe, not Chex Mix the finished product. The old commercials; where the mother would prepare Chex Mix for her family while her husband was at work, and the little dipshit kid would chime in and pretend like he helped. It’s like bitch we know you didn’t help – you asked if you could lick the bowl over and over and when you found out it wasn’t brownies you threw a temper tantrum.

I’m not sure why I feel mournfully nostalgic when I think of those ads. I didn’t grow up in an environment like that, and it’s certainly not the kind of household I’m providing for my child. I suppose I’m longing for something that may have never existed, and in that sense, it’s not regressive and nostalgic so much as it is aspirational. I really just wish I knew how to make Chex Mix at home, and that my son could help. Not because I need the help, but because I want him to feel like he’s able to accomplish something, instead of just being a constant burden on myself and society at large.

Well, my mother never taught me how to make Chex Mix, and I think that’s partially why I have ended up in jail several times as an adult. There’s no jail in Chex Mix. Actually, that’s not true, they have it at the commissary and I ate it almost every day. But, there’s no spirit of Chex Mix in jail. Jail represents the failure of a generation to properly teach their children about making Chex Mix, bonding, and delegating responsibility. You see, we’re all like Chex Mix. Some of us are the bagel crisps – highly respected, responsible, and delicious; while others, like myself, are like those bullshit zigzag breadsticks – discarded and overlooked because comparatively, they taste like shit, but alone they would be a perfectly acceptable snack. I don’t want my son to be a breadstick. I want my son to be a bagel crisp, or at least a pretzel wheel.

While jail certainly didn’t teach me how to make Chex Mix, it taught me how to make a lot of other things. It taught me how to be resourceful, it taught me to see things differently. Where others see a toothbrush, I see a knife. You might think a bar of soap is just a bar of soap – to me, it’s a knife. A shoelace? Also a knife. In jail you learn how to improvise. You learn how to make do with what you’ve got. And you learn that a pussy isn’t just a thing to trade for cigarettes, it’s also an excellent hiding place, a change purse, and a makeshift microwave when you’ve been banned from the commons area.

You can also learn, from other inmates, how to make small incendiaries and explosives. And that’s exactly what I did. And guess who is learning how to make fireworks at home in the garage with me today? That’s right – my son Mason.

The fourth of July is about our independence. We’re celebrating the independent spirit – the Chex Mix spirit – of our forefathers. In many ways, the founding fathers were a lot like myself – their disenfranchisement by an overbearing British government parallels my experiences with drunk driving witch hunts brought about by MADD and overzealous politicians. They were the breadsticks of their time, and they risked it all so we could all be bagel crisps. Wow, that’s great. Let’s reflect on that a moment.

I can’t stress enough the importance of passing these values on to our children. Teach them to make their own Chex Mix. Teach them to rely not on a corporation to assemble their party snack ingredients for them. Teach them how to mix kerosene and Styrofoam, reduce it, and put the contents in a PVC tube with a bunch of match heads. Teach them that independence is not defined by their ability to follow the rules, but to pay attention to details. Independence is not their willingness to participate, but their ability to take credit. Being an independent American is about making homemade explosives with your child because you can no longer drive in the state of Pennsylvania – where you could purchase them legally.

Go out, buy some paint thinner and peroxide. Get your hands dirty. Get parenting. Happy fourth of July.