Thursday, February 19, 2009
Bombs Away, Dreambabies
It was one of those "only in China" moments. I had been invited by a senior editor for a Feb 8 Sunday afternoon and evening "New Year firecracker viewing" with his wife, 10-year old son and some of his pals who included two he described as a "China Supreme Court justice" and "head of the China Press Association" (I took the titles as loose translations, though who knows?) to Zhuo Zhuo, a small town about an hour outside of metropolitan Beijing.
After a lot of mao tai (Chinese rocket fuel) toasts and food with the deputy mayor and his entourage, we piled into various vehicles in a ramshackle caravan and police escort that lead through most of Zhuo Zhuo's blighted areas - a large aluminum factory that seems (or seemed, it appeared to be shut down, but possibly on hiatus) to be the town's main industry, to a large open field. It was pitch black as we pulled over to the side of the road and our hosts began unloading many crates of high octane fireworks.
I'm not really a pyrotechnic freak and after a month of near-Baghdad/Beirut combat night shellings in Beijing (the worst was to come with the New Year burning of the new CCTV hotel/convention annex) all in the name of "traditional Chinese New Year" fun, I had been getting weary (and growing deaf) amid the revelery. But as I watched and dodged the rockets and low-end mortar shells for awhile on the roadside perhaps it was the mao tai in me, but I got into the spirit and began pulling bricks of small ariel shells out of the boxes, tearing the wrappers off like a kid at Christmas and lighting multiple fuses.
I tossed one brick like a grenade into field, then quickly stumbled back as the shells went whistling horizontally at me and the others. One of our hosts pulled me aside and said something in Chinese. My editor translated: "Don't throw them! Stand them up!" Okay, okay. Sorry, sorry...
The fire fun continued however to the point that me and the man identified as the Supreme Court justice and I were good naturedly squabbling over the remaining brick o' explosives about 10-minutes later. I diplomatically surrendered it, handed him my lighter and mused briefly imagining tussling with the likes of John Roberts, John Paul Stevens, Clarence Thomas or maybe Ruth Bader Ginsburg over a remaining fistfull of M-80s in a vacant lot in a depressed Pennsylvania factory town on July 4 ... as his Chinese honor lit the fuse and the rockets screamed.
(Note to faithful readers, all 3.4 of you. It is with sincere regret that I've switched the comments to pre-approval mode. It grates on me as a supposed advocate of free speech and all that, but recent contributions by an anonymous troll or two have forced the change. I continue to accept constructive brickbats and corrections (Jaxxson, you reading this?) but nothing from malformed stalkers.)
Posted by Justin at 11:31 PM