This year, I’ve seen fireworks displays in three countries, three states, five cities. That’s an unusual number of times, especially since it’s only mid-July. (Holy shit, it’s mid-July! Whatever happened to this year– or this decade, for that matter?)
I’ve witnessed New Year’s Eve fireworks in Baguio (Philippines), BenCab’s celebratory fireworks to mark the opening of his museum (Baguio, again), Tet (Vietnamese New Year) in Ho Chi Minh City, fireworks at Phish (Alpine Valley, Wisconsin), fireworks at Disneyland (Anaheim, Calif.), fireworks at Summerfest (Milwaukee, Wis.) and Fourth of July fireworks in New York City.
Fireworks at the BenCab museum
While Araceli, Stacey and I were watching the amazing lights displays from both the New Jersey AND New York City (we watched the Fourth of July fireworks from Battery Park), I realized how lucky I was. Fireworks, no matter what, are portents of celebration, revelry and happiness. You have any kind of holiday, any party, any kind of fun event, and someone lights a firestick that explodes in the sky. And there I was, on my seventh show in a year, each event extra special. It’s good to know my life is full of celebration and sparkly lights going strong into the night.
We traveled in the heat from Saigon to Siem Reap aboard a Vietnamese bus that stopped at various roadside canteens. Hungover from Tet activities, I threw up at bathrooms that slowly degraded — from tissue papers in toilets to just holes in the ground, until we passed by Kampong Thum, the town closest to the Vietnamese border.
I had fallen asleep, tired from my headache and too much alcohol in my system, when I realized the bus had stopped again. I woke up to look for my mother and found her, in her brightly colored shirt and sequined bag, surrounded by litttle children selling things. “Pretty lady, you buy from me,” one girl who looked about 12 said to her. She carried bags of sliced pineapples…and a giant tarantula. “This my friend,” she said to my mother. “You like?” she asked, shoving it near her face.
It confused me; it looked almost exactly like the Philippines. It was dusty and hot and crowded, with coconut trees and rice fields everywhere. But I looked around and saw vendors selling tubs of insects-as-snacks. Locusts coated in coconut, fried spiders and turtles were the fares of the day. A limbless man crawled past my mother to ask a Korean man from my bus for alms. I went back to the bus, where I ate a locust the Korean offered me. It tasted like a shrimp head; not so bad, and pretty crunchy.
All of a sudden it hit me: I was eating an insect, and I was in a country that was so poor, they ate insects as snacks. I swallowed the locust and tried to stop the hot tears welling up my eyes, but I couldn’t. I put my head on my mother’s shoulder and cried the rest of the way to Phnom Penh.