Every year, my brother and I take a trek to the Indian Reservation to pick out fireworks for our family’s Fourth of July celebration.
And it is a thing of beauty—not the family affair, though Mom’s potato salad is wonderful—but Dave’s and my system in which we attack the Reservation (metaphorically speaking.)
Through trial and error, we have fine-tuned our approach over the years. We wander the multitude of ramshackle stands at Firecracker Alley, looking for a stand that has the best of both worlds; large cakes of fireworks that are sure to please the whole crowd, and a good variety of the smaller stuff that will keep the kids busy all day—bottle rockets, snakes, firecrackers, and smoke bombs.
But it always feels just a bit seedy. We are solicited at every turn, as if we’re doing a back-alley deal; “Psst…Buddy. Yeah you! Come on over here, we’ll give you a good deal. We’ve got all the best stuff. Let us hook ya’ up with some stuff that’ll blow your socks off.” (I’m compelled to go to confessional afterwards. And I’m not particularly Catholic.)
Once we find a booth that feels right, we go to work; Dave starts asking about the big cakes, the ones listed for seventy, eighty, one hundred dollars. He’ll ask about the highlights, and receive pyrotechnical jargon like “aerial barrage,” “reports,” “repeater,” and “mortar shells,” and terms having to do with the look of the display; “chrysanthemum,” “brocade” and “comet” and “peony.”
Dave responds that we don’t really care about all that. We just want stuff that will shoot high and fast, that will be colorful, and after it explodes, there’s a good chance our audience will be bleeding from their ears.
As Dave takes care of the big-ticket items, I grab handfuls of Pop-its, Ground Bloom Flowers, sparklers, smoke balls and any number of chickens, ducks, boats, cars and tanks, all of which emit safe-and-sane showers of spark, smoke, and then “pop” at the end. I slyly pile the kid-friendly things alongside Dave’s growing arsenal, hoping the booth operator doesn’t see how much I’m asking him to throw in on the deal.
Next is the moment of truth, when the proprietor takes out his calculator, plugs in entirely fictitious numbers (or secretly spells “BOOBLESS” and “SHELLOIL” on the calculator,) while laughing to himself about what rubes Dave and I are. We have arrived knowing exactly what we will pay, and we know that his total will be at least twice our number. This year was no exception. His final tally—twelve hundred dollars! Our number? Due to the probability that our wives might read this, we have sworn an oath of secrecy.
Suffice it to say, after a fair amount of give and take, we leave the Reservation thinking we have just made the deal of the century, while the booth owner is still laughing, with the knowledge that we just spent
seven hundred dollars a lot of money on something that cost fifty-six dollars to manufacture.
One of my favorite parts of buying fireworks is walking amidst the firework stands, and reading the names of the fireworks. My favorites from this year were “One Bad Mother-In-Law,” and “Final Felony.” Other offerings this year included:
Viagra Va-Voom!: If your fireworks show is hitting a sagging, use this firework to get your display up and going strong. If this lasts longer than one hour, call the local fire department.
Smokey Joe: A safe-and-sane favorite for the kids— light-up Smokey Joe and see him emit multi-colored smoke, followed by an onerous battle with lung cancer.
Palin-A-Palooza: Shoots flaming stars-and-stripes high and far in a random, almost incoherent pattern.
Shock and Awe: The price of this firework will shock your wife, and the lameness of it will leave your friends in awe that you got ripped off by such a dud.
TacomaAroma: Sprays a whimsical array of color (and odor) overhead that will have your family wondering, “Aunt Edna, did you do that.”
Rep.WienerWrapUp: A brilliant display, with potential for greatness, until it implodes upon itself and fades into the night.
Piccolo Pete-sa: A long, high-pitched squeal, with a stream a white, Canadian bacon-scented smoke make this a Fourth of July (and dinnertime) fan favorite.
Alopecia Totalis: This firework is so hot and explosive that afterward, your audience will look like a Yul Bryner convention just hit town.
Anyday Arsonist: Shoots a flaming displays far and wide, dispersing little gasoline-accelerant balls for added excitement.
Sheen-O-Rama: Is an amazingly brash, over-the-top display of noise, light and heat. Only one word can describe this firework—Winning!
Paratroopers In Paris: Shoots parachutes into the sky, which land on a map of France, followed by immediate surrender by a cardboard cut-out of Charles DeGaulle.
Heavy Metal: This firework emits so much colorful smoke and sparkles that your party will inadvertently ingest 75% of the elements from the periodic table.
Fizzle Fuh-Shizzle: A firework which emits small explosions timed to the beat of Will Smith’s Getting’ Jiggy Wit It.
Roman Candelabra: Shoots a flaming display of fabulous colors, which form the outline of Liberace’s face.
Sure-And-Be-Gore-Ya: Your viewers will want to watch this firework with rapt attention as it emotes green smoke and wee shards-o’-metal in random directions.
Al Qaeda’s All Right’a: Strap this firework onto your back and surprise your imperialist-dog guests as you light up the sky like Riyadh on Ramadan. Sure to induce eews and ahs! (Works best as a grand finale.)