Thursday, February 24, 2005
The hotel sits back maybe 200 feet (maybe only 100. I didn't pace it off) from the street. There is a wide front pass-by drive and a line of trees at the curb. The cannons were set up between the hotel and the trees. Mind you-these are not the almost industrial sized crackers that have been on sale on evry street since we arrived here. Real deal.
In the States, since everyone is litigation-mad, a cordon is drawn in a what, 45-mile radius from the cannons? Not here in China! The land forgotten by lawyers! The crowd was gathered up to the cordon drawn about 50 feet from the cannons. The explosions were going off over and behind us. And for the record, them things are very loud (I used to wonder why tvs, radios, and karaoke in buses, bars and homes was always turned to max volume. No more does my feeble brain need to wonder). Missiles were bouncing off the hotel; burning shards of..whatever were landing on the hotel, on cars, on the trees, and almost on people. As balls of flame descended on the crowd, the "ooh"-ing would escalate the closer the flames fell and arms would go up as though to try and touch them! Standing there, watching balls of fire go off over our heads, my sister and I were continually wiping fallen gun powder out of our eyes, making note of the MANY works that made it no more than 5 or 10 feet into the air (visions of a mass detonation filled my mind....and then a nice pretty firework went off and I'd forget about it). This was not the only display in the city. From our vantage point (not raised) we could observe 3 other ongoing shows. I don't think we could see the one at the cigarette factory (touted by all as the place to be. Govt owned factory, with many monies donated for the festival). All this served to distract us from the...less than safe? position we held.
On the corner BEHIND us, a firework that didn't detonate in the air, hit the ground and went off. BEHIND us. The people close by looked a bit spooked, but the rest seemed to shrug it off. My friend and I looked at each other and exchanged glances that shared the same sentiment: "Shit"
Don't worry, the display ended without any damage (that we could see). A small show with kung-fu (of course) and Beijing Opera stuff and what ever else (we never saw any of it) was put on in front of the hotel, where the cannons once stood. Immediately after the last explosion of light, the crowd, en masse, literally ran to the stage. Now, for those who have never been here, let me explain social custom-pushing is fine, lines don't exist. Meandering over, I was shoved on all sides by people of every age (I think a walker clubbed me upside the head). Once we got our spot, in back, it continued. Continually jostling for position, the shoving increased. People were using their little kids as battering rams. Literally. And learning from an early age, the kids needed no prodding to shove. In fact, as I stood there, one little kid ran at me and slammed both his fists into my ass. I turned and looked at him in disbelief. His look seemed to say: "Get the shite out of my way!" Unbelievable. And the worst part, we were at the back with a few feet between us and the people in front of us! ven with plenty of space to pass by, I swear paths were diverted so that contact (shoving) could be made. I kid you not.
A path was kept 'clear' between the front door and the stage (performers route). I felt bad for the guys trying to hold the line. They'd shove people back, then move down the line to attack others. As they moved away, the people they had just moved back took this opportunity to move back out, always feigning ignorance. The crowd had these poor guys running back and forth.
And the thing is? I don't think most people really tried to see the show. They just wanted to be there and tell people later about it (My interpretation).
The best part? Since I tend to be bigger and weigh more than most people here, I could stand like an oak (granted, a small one) amongst the crowd and not get shoved around. Still annoying as hell to be amid all that. Fortunately, we soon moved off out of the crowd.
Crazy insane or insane crazy