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February 25, 2013 / betweenstops

Chinese New Year Parade etc

Hundreds of thousands people hit the streets to watch the lunar new year parade. It doesn’t seem like that many when you are there. Every year we go over the Bay on BART (the subway) and arrive before 4 to stake out our place somewhere on the route. We are not the first ones there by far.

Why we do this every year is for the magic. All of these people are there committed to being happy. The people in the parade who are not preforming are waving and we are waving back. We are all smiling. It’s not like you are waving to a real person, you are waving to whatever they are representing. We have all agreed to that. This became most alive for me as I waved to a young guy in his twenties dressed up like a fire-cracker. I was waving to a live fire cracker, all red and gold.

The thousands of children in the schools marching ARE what they are representing. The awesome beauty and innocence of the littlest ones is breathtaking. Especially when you are inches away, which we were, being first row in the bleachers.

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 These are my kids and their friends. The three on the right: my daughter, Joan and Mies decide to go get a hot drink as it is freezing, especially on the metal seats sitting still. It used to be that all of the shops in Chinatown were Chinese owned but that was decades ago. They wander into one of the Arab stores with ugly glass and sentimental life sized bronze sculptures. Joan, who is editor of the high school newspaper which is nationally known and awarded (for over 100 years!) and the daughter of Harvard graduates decides to change the film in her film camera in this store. Suddenly a large man swoops in and looms over her. He has seen her put something in her pocket and accuses her of shoplifting. She pulls the empty film canister out of her pocket and is released. She tells me how awkward it was and how she felt guilty until proven innocent. I thought about how the US makes arabs feel that way all the time so I guess an arab in a store making a blond white girl feel that way is just par for the course.

Despite the non-chinese owned tourist shops, you can still be born, live your entire life and die in Chinatown and never speak english. The three finally find a restaurant. It is the only one they can find open. They are the only white people in there. Everyone else is Chinese and many of them are getting free food for having been in the parade. The waiter does not speak english. He does not understand what they mean by a hot drink. It is not on the menu so they can not point to it. They do not order tea because they want hot chocolate. They settle on steamed milk. When it comes it is cold. After they pay their bill, the two glasses still sit  on the table where the waiter has placed them. White and cold.

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