The Comeback, and How I Learned to Love the (fire)Bomb

2 02 2011

First and foremost, happy Chinese New Year, or the year of the auspicious rabbit. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen some action here on phillipinbeijing, and I blame that all on winter. It’s really been way too cold to go and have adventures worth writing about around the city. It’s been a quiet, low key existence here in Beijing, and I can’t say that I haven’t enjoyed it. I’ve watched a ridiculous number of movies, and have reacquainted myself with American television. I’ve made great friends with both the owners of the noodleshop downstairs, and my McDonald’s delivery man, as I’ve been traveling the path of least resistance in respect to the food to face process.

But my quiet, zen state of being was abruptly brought to an end by the coming of the Chinese New Year. I’ve never celebrated the holiday in China before, so the past two days have been quite traumatic for me in a way. My childhood experience with fireworks consisted of: dinky bottle rockets, sparklers, and giant blooming displays at 4th of July. In China, however, these notions of playful pyrotechnics are either discarded completely, or bastardized into a twisted barrage on all your senses. I promise if you check back later, I’ll include videos to each one of these sequences, but…

So I’m just chilling out in my sweatpants before work, gathering myself before the daily grind, when all of a sudden, I hear this BANG. It was far enough to gather that it came from outside…but close enough to cause the windows to shake and set off all the car alarms in the nearby vicinity. This bang is then proceeded by what sounds like rounds from a Gatling Gun, uninterrupted for a good two minutes. This sequence would continue throughout the day, starting at 7:30 in the morning and going as late as 1 the next morning. It felt like the city was being shellacked, and while you kind of got used to it after a while, there were still that one or two that would be way closer than you expected and really give you a good jarring.

But that’s what the Chinese love about fireworks. Loud, fucking loud, and lots of it. Phosphorous colors and swirly shapes mean nothing to them. They just want everyone in a 2 mile radius to hear all 40 of their 1 trillion decibel whizzbangs. And its everywhere, in every neighborhood, on every street corner, with no regulations dictating where and when. There’s a gas station where we live…and there were maybe three separate parties of pyros setting off fireworks not but 20 meters from the gas station. Madness, absolute chaos.

And so later in the afternoon, I took a plane down to Shanghai to spend the holiday with family (as both parents are here visiting for the time being). It seemed that there was some semblance of order when I arrived, in that it didn’t seem like Kosovo. But no, they were actually just waiting until midnight to create the largest clusterfuck of fireworks I have ever seen in my life. You know on the Fourth of July, where everyone gathers around in their lawn chairs and watches a nice little show that lasts about 30 minutes? This no joke lasted an hour. And it wasn’t just over the Charles River, or in the San Francisco Bay, this was THE ENTIRE CITY. It honestly looked like the place was on fire. If anyone ever tried to pull something like this in the States, that city would maybe be razed to the ground.

So after a while, the father and I leave our apartment vantage and head down to the streets to see what was going on. And as expected, it was crazy. All traffic was more or less stopped, as people set up boxes of 100 cylinder bottle rockets in the middle of the road. A group of drunk, off hour chefs were lighting some of those abrasive whizzbangs, and I guess a few slipped and came shooting right at me. I got pegged in the right calf, and it felt like getting hit by a rubber bullet. Luckily, only a slight bruise.

Tune in for upcoming episodes here in Shanghai, and come back for first hand video accounts to be uploaded once China and Youtube decide to cooperate.

*update*

if you skip to 2:21, you can see some good sparks right outside the window.

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