Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chinese New Year

...It is difficult to capture the immensity of this, one of the largest cities of the planet. We stared out over the city. From the 64th floor, we could see the lights in every direction. Skyscrapers were silhouettes surrounded by the glow from myriad street lights on the surface level. The omnipresent haze that lingers about softened the orange and yellow beacons that dot the paths through the maze of urban sprawl. Following the trails, taxis were fewer than expected, the millions of watchers poised in anticipation at their positions throughout the city in order to witness the event.

As we traveled to Le Meridien, a sampling of the collective was witnessed on every street, alley, corner, and square. The noisemakers rumbled like machine gun fire and the fountains set the night ablaze. This was only a taste and as the midnight hour neared, the intensity and frequency increased like a sweltering crescendo from a raging orchestra. High above the city floor we watched as the invisible conductor waved his baton and directed the pandemonium. A burst on the street below us was answered with thunder and a crash from another district. The volley had started. In a fever I rushed to another window to see if the South and the East were as tumultuous as the North and West. Without disappointing, every direction was exhibiting its clamor and felicity. Rainbows of color were flying into the night from all locations on the compass as the towering behemoths of Shanghai wealth presided over as darkened sentinels dancing the bursts of fire and light off of their gleaming windows. No longer were the people of this city defined by the postcard panorama of it's definitive skyline. It was the people on the streets that provided the vitality and the evidence of power in the human collective. Explosion after explosion, wonder followed by amazement, pride followed by humility, anxiety precluded peace. My eyes started to fill with tears, either from my unblinking gaze or from the profundity and awesomeness of the sight before me. I was a solitary observer of an ocean of fire and light. From my perch I flew over the war zone searching for the outer limits of the chaos. I found none.

The only image I retain is the one permanently burned into my retina and pounded upon my eardrum. I shall never forget the firefight. And as midnight passed and the Year of the Ox traveled upon its first hours, the sulphur and smoke rose up the elevation, hugging the pillars of concrete and steel. Come morning, the only remnants of the prior night were the thin red shells of mortars and dynamite collected in the gutters and doorways and dispersed in the naked branches and skeleton dwellings...

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