Me and Chairman Mao
  Big Bam Boom.
Based on that subject line, some of you are no doubt wondering if I'm planning to discuss the late mid-80s Hall & Oates album of the same name, while those of you not as familiar with Hall & Oates oeuvre as I apparently am are no doubt wondering what the hell I'm talking about. To the first group I say no, although the first cassette I ever purchased was in fact Hall & Oates Rock & Soul Part I; to the second group I say do you seriously not know who Hall & Oates are? Maneater? Private Eyes? Kiss is on My List? Method of Modern Love? Seriously?

Anyway, enough about Hall & Oates. As you are aware, having carefully read everything I write, Chinese New Year / Spring Festival is now officially upon us. And as you also may be aware, it turns out that China has some fireworks. (Hence the subject line, of course--see where this is going?) And as you may or may not be aware, people here tend to light said fireworks on the night of what I guess I will call Chinese New Year's Eve, starting as soon as it gets dark and culminating at midnight, much like the way things work on the Fourth of July in the States. How many fireworks do they light, you ask? As far as I could tell, all of them. Yes, that's right, all of them.

There are two phrases I can think of to describe the experience: Holy Shit and Jesus Fucking Christ. I'm not sure which is more accurate or if, when you really get down to it, there's a difference at all, but I think both apply. If I was to sum up the experience in one word, that word would be loud, in all caps. So LOUD, I guess. If I was to sum it up in more words, I would say it was what I would imagine it would sound like if I ever had the misfortune to be shelled. And yes, I mean shelled as in being shot at with big to very big bombs by mortars or even possibly howitzers in the middle of a war zone. But, you know, without all the death and everything.

Anyway, it was insane. The first insane thing was the fireworks themselves. I'm not talking about firecrackers, although there were plenty of those. No, I mean the big, bright, blossoming kind, the kind that you go specifically to see during your major fireworks-based holidays, such as New Year's Eve, Fourth of July, etcetera. (Including, I should add, the two-stage ones where they blow up, and then the smaller pieces blow up again.) Except, of course, these big firework displays weren't at a park, over a lake, or whatever. These were just in the middle of the street. And I mean that literally: people would go out into the middle of the street with these big firework boxes and light them (and not step nearly far enough away, in my apparently overly cautious opinion). So, for example, as we were sitting there plowing through several bottles of wine at a local wine bar on Chinese New Year's Eve, we were looking out the window at fireworks displays that, in small-town America, would be the entire show. And they were everywhere, all night long. It was like seeing a new fireworks show every ten minutes. (Mostly, I guess, because we WERE seeing a new fireworks show every ten minutes.)

But back to the insanity. (Insert your own "Stop the Insanity!" joke here.) Anyway, the second insane thing was the sheer number of fireworks. By midnight, we were back in our apartment, and when the fireworks started going off, they went on for thirty solid minutes. And it wasn't like a typical fireworks show, where it might last that long but have lots of pauses. This was solid fireworks for thirty minutes. Yes, thirty straight minutes of explosions: there was a nice foundation of firecrackers, the sputtering rat-a-tat-tat sound that, to be honest, got pretty annoying after the first 10 continuous minutes; the rhythmic thwump, thwump, thwump of the boxed fireworks shooting their payloads into the sky; and, occasionally, the thunderous boom of God-only-knows-what exploding in the distance. (Any war zone comparison is, of course, completely intended.) Oh, and did I mention the car alarms? Every car alarm in the place started going off about thirty seconds after the first fireworks did, and they kept going off until a few minutes after the fireworks stopped. It was, as you can imagine, completely awesome.

I would say that was it, but, of course, it wasn't. The final insane thing was that, at midnight, the people setting off these fireworks at our complex were doing so on the sidewalk between three very large apartment buildings. Not far away from the building either--like thirty feet away, tops. So to sum up, picture the fireworks show you watched on New Year's Eve, then surround it with three roughly thirty-story buildings. We're on the 26th floor, which meant that we were looking out at the fireworks going off and they were at EYE-LEVEL. Fireworks detritus--cardboard, I guess?--was hitting the sides of the buildings, including ours. At one point, something even hit our window. This probably would have been a little less jarring if I hadn't been pressed up against said window trying to take pictures, but no harm, no foul, right? It could have been worse, after all--I could have had the window open to get a better shot ...

Anyway, it was crazy. Luckily, as I just mentioned, I risked life and limb to take pictures, some of which are even decent, so you experience it all too. I'll probably put them up
... well, as soon as I get around to it. But for now I'm tired, and I'm going to go dig through our pile of Oscar screener DVDs for something to watch. I’m thinking Syriana, so hopefully it's good. And if you know the ending, don't tell me. Well, at least not for the next two hours or so. After that, feel free.
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