Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sleep in heavenly peace

I’ve been here so long now that Christmas in China is no longer a novelty. Just a reality, though events like my office Christmas party – scheduled at 7pm on Christmas Day (!) and featuring no booze, warm soft drinks, bananas, weird nuts and a staff fashion and talent show –and no Santa, but two people in large Bugs Bunny costumes (Year of the Rabbit coming up) still kinda makes me yearn for office parties gone by.

Like the one at the Denver Press Club where my newspaper's aging married-with-children editor got sloshed and tried to express his heartfelt Christmas wish by sticking his tongue down the throat of a startled and shocked 20something clerk.

He should've been canned, but cuz he was corporate he was kicked upstairs shortly thereafter and mostly wasn't heard from since.

The most moving Christmas Eve Ive had was shortly after the mother of my best friend died. I hadn't been to a Christmas Eve service before or have since but it was important to him and it was their church and another tender way to remember her.

We drove back afterwards talking about his mom through a very light Boulder snowfall, moon shining brightly and rounded a curve to see a doe standing by the side of the road, not startled, just being there as if it had been placed by Disney central casting as the white flakes fell around its tawny lithe body.

“It's a miracle,” he said. I'm not sure why he said it, but I felt it. He pulled over, stopped and doused the headlights as we watched it gracefully amble past before disappearing into a nearby cemetery.

Christmas Eve this year was a bit more surreal if you're old enough and politically ironic. A Chinese friend had an extra ticket to Swan Lake featuring a troupe from totalitarian post-Soviet bloc rogue state Belarus and the venue was the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square in the auditorium where the Chinese Communist Party National Congress normally meets.

Our seats were like school seats, each with a desk slot to hold important papers and not enough room to stretch or even doze comfortably. Ours were about 65 yards from the stage and probably normally occupied by a midlevel provincial boss of a State-owned toxic chemical and infant formula company. Not bleacher seat, not A-list, just mediocre. Like the performance.

When we emerged it was bitter cold, but clear and moon-swept and Chairman Mao's wax corpse was slumbering peacefully in its mausoleum across the wide street where 21 years and 6 months before things weren't as beatific.

Silent night, holy night...