The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

EXPAT MOMENTS: Unravelling the enigma of American fireworks booths

Another post in our series focusing on little moments or images of expat experience.

Like a fungal spore, they appeared unannounced one morning about four weeks ago. Every parking lot in town had one — a single compact wooden booth covered in brightly colored posters.

Inside each of these booth, sweating in the summer heat, sat a vendor surrounded by merchandise – box upon box of fireworks. The vendor lists off the inventory, the names sounding more like dive-bar cocktails than pyrotechnics: Shagadellic Mojos; Fiery Frogs; Round Red Dahlias; Falcons Rising; Dragons’s Tears.

Over the next few weeks, I learn two things about these booths. First, that each booth has been set up by local group, that depending which booth you choose you are, in fact, deciding which school or church or local charity you want to help raise funds for. I calculate that there must be around 200 of these booths around town. That is a lot of local groups and non-profits and yet my response is an apathetic one, the response of a man who feels untethered to this community, who has no cause here he wants to endorse and support. The second thing I learn, from those who cast me a conspiratorial glance, is that I don’t want to waste my time with these booths. They know a man. He has “stuff” from Mexico. It’ll blow your mind, and possibly your arm — Shagadellic Mojos these ain’t.

And then, a week or so after July 4th and just as quickly as they appeared, one morning you wake and the booths have gone. 

STAY TUNED for next Monday’s post – a round up of Olympics books.

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5 responses to “EXPAT MOMENTS: Unravelling the enigma of American fireworks booths

  1. ML Awanohara July 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    I saw many such fireworks stands going up when I was in Vermont at the end of last month, but they seemed innocent enough… Maybe that’s the difference between West and East coasts?

    Of course, on a day like today, with the horrifying news coming in about the shooting in the movie theatre in Colorado, I’m thinking better fireworks than firearms!

    p.s. Doesn’t UK sell fireworks like these for Guy Fawkes night, or is this strictly an American, and Asian (Chinese love them!), phenomenon?

    • awindram July 21, 2012 at 12:59 am

      Oh I wouldn’t say they are sinister (prob. a godsend to school groups) it’s their sudden appearance and ubiquity that amazes me. I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say they number around two hundred booths in the town. It really is an invasion in that regard.

      Yes, you can buy fireworks for Guy Fawkes night, but normally in existing stores or off-licenses rather than specially constructed booths solely for the purpose. Never noticed them on the East Coast myself, certainly not to this extent.

      • ML Awanohara July 21, 2012 at 8:42 am

        Come to think of it, I don’t remember fireworks stands going up on the East Coast during my youth. And I probably would never have noticed them, living in NYC, if I hadn’t ended up in small-town Vermont just before July 4th. I wonder if these stands are a relatively recent development? And if so, where did they come from? I’m having a Repat Moment, it seems… 🙂

  2. Tony James Slater July 23, 2012 at 12:53 am

    All I can think of is, hm… tiny little wooden shack full of gunpowder in a big empty car park all night… I can tel you straight away why they don’t do that in England! Hell, I’d have gone and blown one up for the hell of it, and I was a good kid! Yeah, they’re strictly licensed over here (and mostly illegal here in Australia). I think the UK nanny state would happily ban them given half a chance – it’s only because Bonfire Night is such an institution (and technically a pro-government one, though no-one cares about that) that it’s still allowed. But you should see the amount of effort that goes into the ‘fireworks are deadly’ type campaigns surrounding the 5th November!

  3. GoodMigrations (@GoodMigrations) July 23, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Too funny — I grew up in Pennsylvania, and we had to drive across state lines to buy fireworks because you couldn’t get them in PA. But other states would check your license and wouldn’t sell them to you if you were from said states where fireworks were prohibited, so we’d always bring a buddy who had a military ID and could buy them anywhere. But then they’re illegal to set off in most places… I never really thought about how weird this whole thing is…

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