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You can't be serious, Mr. Mayor! Cancel the Season because of ten thousand miles of flaming forest, a city torched, and the inevitable corpse?

Think of the economy, stupid!

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, June 19, 2002.

Sometimes the clichéd representation of stupidity gets confused in the public mind with the real thing.

For example, remember in Jaws how the town mayor refused to close the public beaches just because a couple of suspicious cadaver items had bobbed ashore, eerie bass notes emerged from the deep, and Richard Dreyfus refused to wear a shirt? Remember how forced the whole thing seemed, given that the whole controversy could have been solved with a “Swim at your own risk” sign rather than the all or nothing beach closed/beach open conflict. It seemed like a really desperate plot mechanism.

That didn’t stop it, of course, from being used a zillion times since. Every slavering monster and aspiring serial killer in the known universe manages - to this day, if movies can be a guide - to arrive on the eve of some local holiday, the biggest business weekend of the year, or some huge gathering that no contrived gab can make significant in comparison to the mass loss of human life, edging its way into the “Pretty damned likely” column. After the first deaths are announced, the principal, the mayor, or the summer camp director pleads with authorities not to cancel Whiffenpoof and Walpurgis Weekend with its traditional Cleavage and Bare Navel Ball held on the island in the middle of the lake because they won’t financially make it through the winter if it’s cancelled! Even the folks who actually scream in surprise that a teenage girl who announces she’ll walk home alone and gets – gasp! – horribly murdered groan at this forced contrivance. Where do Hollywood screenwriters get the idea that adults would really weigh short term economic benefit for long term condemnation, financial risk, and the curse of the dead?

And now we know.

Colorado. Right after a startlingly candid and concerned Governor Bill Owens said the state was, correctly, afire, and that we sure hope it doesn’t get any worse, and that we were in a lot of trouble and let's be damned careful, an array of concerned business types appeared and, with carefully furrowed brows, felt the need to inform the nation and world that not all of Colorado was burning, and that there was still plenty of pretty trees to see, and that the weather was really terrific, and the smell of wood smoke in the morning and evening was, you know, refreshing. And of course: Gee, sure hope our Governor didn’t discourage a single possible tourist with large stacks of legal tender from visiting our lovely, lovely state.

All of that is true, in its way, although by the time evening rolls around the whiff of wood smoke might be considered sort of, well, terrifying to the average tourist. As terrifying as the thought is to me that nobody has banned fireworks outright from the state for the July 4th weekend, absent lots of rain in the interim. A few towns have, but really, we should shut her down state wide for a year. It somehow seems superfluous to say this, but apparently local people need to understand that the fact that their woods are still there does not mean it's any safer to invite guests to enjoy them with games of propane torch tag for the summer.

Look, people. The fact that a human thorax with the clear tooth marks of a large shark washed ashore three miles up the beach does not mean it's safe for Grampa and kids to swim in cattle chum here, no matter how traditional this behavior is in the family. Further, it is not the state’s duty to reimburse family members for traveling here for a cancelled event. And even if it is infuriating that the state has the gall to ticket you for the chum in the water just because it energizes every finned creature with a single eye tooth into a feeding and burp frenzy and endangers everyone else on the Eastern seaboard, you'll just have to suffer ashore. It’s dangerous out there, there’s a friggin’ shark.

And hey, that works as a metaphor! See, just because a tinder dry forest fifty miles south burned and ours didn’t, doesn’t mean that it's okay to fill our woods with drunks, firecrackers, and smokers because, you see, our woods are just as explosive as those woods! You know, I am sorry you won’t sell your quota of Dairy Queen globules and festive explosives and hotel rooms, but if we have another one of these fires, we may not have the water, people, or inclination to protect your home or business from the mathematically predictable disaster.

So what I’m saying is, I don’t give a flying fungo bat about lowered tourism, a terrible local economy, or your reduced Christmas presents for the kids. Because, you see, a hugely scarred landscape including the remnants of buildings and bodies will last a lot longer and be far worse. It would be so wonderful, someday, for a local Chamber of Commerce to say "This isn’t the year to visit us. Sorry, but we want you to see us at our best, when you'll be safe and not dicing with death, economic and actual."

Which is to say, I want there to be some difference between real life and the movies.