Voices | Sam Allis

Well, that was fun . . . wasn’t it?

Look up tonight and relish our enlightened finale to a weekend pursuing happiness

By Sam Allis
July 5, 2010

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It is about this time of year that I’m reminded we have no National Fun Day. This omission flies in the face of the pursuit of happiness defined by Thomas Jefferson in our Declaration of Independence as an inalienable right. I’ve seen a lot of pursuit but not much smiley face around the Republic for some time. To the best of my understanding, fun was a premillennial concept.

Fun is an essential part of a healthy society. Fun means the glass is half full. Fun means, counterintuitively, that you take life seriously.

Why aren’t there fun days instead of furlough days? We don’t have fun on Memorial Day — we’re not supposed to. We don’t have fun on Labor Day because of its sense of impending doom. So we must find our own fun, and we have. The great American people have settled on the Fourth of July as our National Fun Weekend. It’s that simple.

National Fun Weekend means strings of motor boats tied together off a sandbar with an overload of fleshy middle-age men and women, burdened by a surfeit of kids, who engage in serious fun. Booze flows. Bodies burn. Melanoma beckons. The music — each boat with a different playlist — congeals into white noise that can be heard off the Jersey shore. No one cares.

Speaking of booze, I noticed a full-page newspaper ad last week by the organization the Massachusetts Retailers Initiative touting big savings on vodka, rum, tequila, gin, whiskey, scotch, wine, beer, and something called FMBs. (I just found out FMB stands for Flavored Malted Beverage, not to be confused with the Federal Maritime Board.) Does this tell you anything about the spirit of the Fourth of July?

National Fun Weekend means backyard barbecues that get neither old nor better. Dad loses all semblance of self-control as he tries to figure out why the grill refuses — that’s what it is, bald refusal — to work. Mom is up to her elbows in deviled eggs and guacamole dip. And where are the tongs? Followed by: I need a half gallon of rum, and I’m not talking Captain Morgan. Mount Gay is the answer to all our problems.

Hubby has his old apron on with the funny writing and his dumb chef’s hat with a lobster on it. His face is mauve from his labors over the grill. He’s had a few libations — who’s going to deny him under the stress of it all? — and food production is not going all that swimmingly well.

Hubby is overwhelmed by the volume and variety of orders from the assembled multitudes: burgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chicken, salmon. Each consumer has his own demands as to how the fare should be cooked. Think burnt to blue. How can you possibly remember it all?

Worse, people start changing their minds: I don’t want the cheese anymore. I’m not eating it if you don’t get rid of the cheese. And: I know I told you well-done, but I want it medium-rare. Well, get another one. Then this news flash: The bun supply has been exhausted.

People start grilling for themselves. Others repair to the kitchen to make s’mores. The dog, delighted to see everyone, knocks a tray of shrimp off the bench with one sweet sweep of his tail. Two men and one woman are pushed in the pool. Children try to start someone’s SUV in the driveway. A body is passed out on the sofa in the den. Party on.

Then there’s the whole beach thing. To wrangle two or three generations of relatives to the water is an Outward Bound experience. Before that, though, is the water wings crisis — they’re lost, or at least unfound — robbing the youngest children of a safe ocean experience. It is somehow your fault. You are dispatched to the basement to look behind the snowshoes — no luck — and race off to find new ones. (Remind me where they sell water wings these days?)

Finally come the fireworks, tonic to all the madness. The mania is over. No booze now, everyone is hung over. Mothers in hoodies cradle their kids, transfixed by what happens above. Adults become children again. We are humbled and, finally, speechless.

You can see why I call it National Fun Weekend, right?

Sam Allis can be reached at allis@globe .com.