As a rebel Aquarian, I’ve yet to cozy up to Independence Day and the requisite summertime frolic that trails its threadbare ideals.
In theory, it’s fantastic—a day spent honoring the energies of sovereignty. But the jingoistic reality of the infamous Fourth rarely lives up to the idealized propaganda upon which it rests. Plus, I loathe firecrackers, charred animal flesh and drunken patriots.
And so it is that I’m spending yet another Independence Day straddling the threshold between tradition and hypocrisy here in Santa Fe, wondering what freedom even means anymore.
First on the day’s agenda: a wedding aboard The Due Return—local arts collective Meow Wolf’s time-traveling pirate ship, conveniently docked at the Center for Contemporary Arts’ Muñoz Waxman Gallery. Mere hours before the wedding is scheduled to begin, my boyfriend casually tells me it’s a “costume encouraged” kind of affair and frowns audibly as I zip myself into floor-length cotton voile.
“It’s grossly inappropriate to wear white to another woman’s wedding,” I assure him, as he rolls the hem of his Daisy Dukes, fidgeting inside his cropped muscle shirt.
“Oh, OK,” he exhales, relieved I’m not going to embarrass him with proper or tasteful and thrilled when I don a straw cowboy hat, Mardi Gras beads and glittery gold desert boots.
Inside the installation turned chapel, squinting in the artificial, extradimensional darkness illuminated only by the candy-colored meteors dangling from the ceiling—I mean, deep space—we climb our way onto the upper deck to join a fragrant array of masked, wigged and painted guests (and by fragrant, I mean really superstinky). The preponderance of psychedelic polyester, what with its suffocating, inorganic, petroleum-derived fibers, isn’t helping.
My gay-for-the-day boyfriend silences my excited hands from mashing piecemeal control panels and flicking a litany of levers as the groom takes his position at the ship’s hull, knuckles white and entwined, dangling between the grenade and the handcuffs decorating his belt in ironic homage to that tricky freedom he’s about to sign away on this here “Independence” Day. A pair of bridesmaids—one dressed as Cleopatra, the other hidden behind a plastic fox mask—march a trail to the altar as the Star Wars theme blares from crackly speakers. The bride follows, wrapped in a black cape that complements her half-shaven head and gripping the elbow of a man wearing pigtails and Saran Wrap.
A bottle blonde witch in military-issue coveralls calls in the four directions and, a light-year later, officially marries the nervously tittering lovebirds. The occasion is awkward and disjointed, and while I can blame the polyester and the masks—and I kinda do—there is the matter of that wheezing white elephant cowering beneath the kitschy vintage rug in one of The Due Return’s secret compartments, the one murmuring, “This is bullshit; forever is a conceptual prison; hearts are too wild and chaotic to be tethered to a contract, even if it is scrawled in witch blood, meteor dust or Hello Kitty spit.”
While the newlyweds dance self-consciously down below, on interplanetary terra firma, we explore the ship’s quarters, lying supine on sheets of questionable cleanliness, gazing at thousands of sparkly glass shards encased in hundreds of crystal Christmas-tree balls. While I flip through GI Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, volume one, my supergay-today boyfriend circulates the multidimensional seafaring, time-/space-bending, art a go-go-go vessel, grilling guests about whether or not there are going to be fireworks.
“I hope not!” is the unanimous reply, given the multiple fires already blazing, painting the sky gray and sunsets electric pretty pink, though not pretty enough to quell the agony of heat and flame and ash and evacuations and fear and every hiking trail closed indefinitely (yay, freedom!). If we’re too stupid to be trusted to stroll the mountains without setting them on fire, how can we be expected to handle deadly explosives? And why would we want to anyway?
Oh, right: Yay, freedom…
And so here we are, sweating out sunset at the dog park because it’s the only place left to run the pups, and the only reasonable hour to set foot and paw on unshaded earth. Darkness descends on the Fe as flames flicker atop the mountains to the east, and fireworks explode to the west. Straddling the murky space between, our eyes dart left, then right, then left, then right, taking in the lackluster spectacle of (yet) an(other) irrelevant tradition, honoring an ever more aqueous conceptual freedom by blowing shit up and making a ruckus; and then marveling at the electric flames licking their way skyward and cityward.
It’s a mesmerizing testament to our reckless stupidity, a glowing reminder that we are but tiny and powerless dust bunnies compared to the savage power of nature, that very same infinite, unseen force that renders our hearts bold, illogical and untamable, regardless of what our Hollywood fairy tales would have us believe, and how much we may want to wear that pretty white dress.
Let freedom reign.