You realize just how serious this is, don’t you? Aspen has perhaps permanently turned the corner on ever having another Fourth of July fireworks display. I must admit, there’s a rebellious, contrarian part of me that wants to blow stuff up this time of year to prove I’m an Aspenite and an American. Long live the Smuggler cannon!
That’s why I got a real kick out of reading the anti-firework quotes from our indomitable, intrepid, much-loved Sheriff Joe DiSalvo as he led the non-explosive charge to cancel this year’s fireworks display — four months out. Refresh my memory, but wasn’t he bosom buddies with the good Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the guy who shot at, blew up, lit on fire and then sprayed lead at anything within his buzzed, blurry, bespectacled range of sight?
Part of me is relieved; if I hear the word “fire!” again, I’m going to gag. The other day I smelled a wisp of wood smoke and tensed up from Lake Christine Fire PTSD. Last summer was a total drag. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a gross part of me that felt some emotional sense of morbid satisfaction seeing the kids who started the fire crying on the cover of the paper.
I get it: Fireworks send a mixed message. The “optics,” as they say, are bad. We’re trying to turn over a new leaf here in terms of fire prevention and being a leader in doing the right thing, which we are, but the deviant in me still wants to see large, colorful, saturated, fire-rich explosions raining over town. After all, Aspen has a rich history of blowing things up: mountains, buildings, cows, people — anything, really.
Let’s not alienate ourselves from the ugly truth of our roots, lest we end up looking like someone whose hair has grown out from a months-old dye job.
One can only imagine that back in the mining days, the soothing peals of dynamite explosions were a daily auditory backdrop. Their booming sounds were a comforting reminder that work was being done, and riches would soon follow. If only we could find a frozen miner preserved in ice, resuscitate him and really pick his brain about fireworks in Aspen …
I wonder how many huge explosions we heard this winter ringing out from Aspen to Snowmass. A thousand, maybe more? At one point it got so bad, they were throwing bombs out of helicopters, for Pete’s sake. That’s why it seemed contradictory to cancel this year’s fireworks display so far in advance; if ever there were a year to have a huge one because of low fire danger, this would’ve been the one.
One Fourth of July, after a series of really bad decisions we ended up with front-row seats on top of that huge water-storage tank on skier’s left of Little Nell to watch the fireworks. It was all fun and games until a giant mortar misfired and exploded right on the 1A side of Ajax. In an instant, the hillside caught fire. We panicked and headed for terra firma, only some joker had taken away the rickety access ladder that led up to the permanent, fixed metal ladder welded onto the side — leaving us stranded in a potential burn zone. You had to execute a risky 10-foot, hang-and-drop maneuver with flip-flops on to get down, while the ski run burned right next to us.
The stalwart Aspen Volunteer Fire Department, in a noble display of fearlessness and their trademark “same day service,” put the blaze out that night. You could see the firefighters running around on the mountain stomping out hot spots. Then a fire truck came charging up Summer Road and squashed the blaze. It was a frantic scene I’ll never soon forget. In retrospect, had the 1A side of Ajax burned that night, the skiing over there would be a lot better. The inevitable mine-tailing mudslides to follow? Not so much.
After the second cancellation of a proposed drone light show, we’re looking again at the very real possibility of seeing fireworks again. Besides, there’s something to me about a drone that lacks the patriotic punch of a huge fireworks display. Go ahead, call me ignorant and old-fashioned. And then there’s that town in Colorado that’s already issued a decree to shoot down any drone in its American airspace. Last year they found a dead drone over by Hunter Creek with a bullet hole in it. That’s partly funny, partly disturbing.