It’s the Chinese New Year. I spent a Chinese New Year in San Francisco. It was the year 2000. I stayed at the Clift Hotel downtown, took photographs of the hotel interior and downtown San Francisco while the person I was with went off to meet with the Minnesota chorus she was in. It was their annual meeting.
I had been to San Francisco two other times that year on business. I don’t normally travel for business. But that year was a boom. The company I worked for was merging with a San Francisco company, something none of us were happy about. Eventually, all jobs here were lost. I have found out since that the business operations of that company moved back to Minnesota last year.
Silent revenge. But I’m not a vengeful person. And that’s not what I want to write about.
I want to write about the Chinese New Year. I didn’t know it was happening until after we got there and walked right into the middle of it one evening after dinner. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was the Year of the Dragon. Long ornate dragon tails, red banners and flags spinning in the fog, blazing, crackling fireworks in the drizzling rain.
Yes, it rained. And we visited the giant Old Navy that had just opened downtown, I think it might have been four floors, to buy rain jackets. I bought a mustard windbreaker with navy blue trim and sleeves that zip off. I think it’s for boating and sailing. I wear it in the cool Minnesota spring nights to ward off damp wind and dew when I zip along the Mississippi on my Honda Rebel.
We took refuge under a ledge and watched intently as hundreds of paraders walked by in costume. Kids were stacked on their parents’ shoulders. The longest dragon I had ever seen meandered down Grant Avenue and Kearny Street and I snap, snap, snapped my Canon Rebel SLR. That was back when film was still the norm. None of those pesky digital delays on the shutter. I got some good shots.
I read later that the fireworks and all the red are to ward off Nian, the mythological meat-eating beast from the mountains. He’s afraid of loud noises and bright colors. That’s how I felt last week coming off the silent retreat.
The Chinese calendar is lunasolar indicating moon phase and the time of the solar year. The first day of the new year containing a new moon is the Chinese New Year. I love that. I’m a Cancer. The Moon is my planet. In astrology, the Moon is still a planet. And so is Pluto.
Take a look at the night sky. There are all these parallel Universes operating right over and under each other. There is no one way to do anything. There is no one New Year, no one religion, no one way to write, no one way to live. We take snippets of what’s been passed down to us. And we run with it. Or slow walk, whichever we prefer.
I like to think of the world operating in stratified layers much like the rock formations I see in the Badlands. It makes me feel like there is a place for everyone.
Sunday, February 18th, 2007