Monday, February 2, 2009

New Year's celebration: Chintatown

Traveling, to me, is a state of mind. And as much as I want to soon be in a country where the likes of me stands out like a sore thumb, I also believe that, just like Dorothy, sometimes you don't have to look beyond your own backyard. I've felt like that about Boston for so long. I've never done the Freedom Trail (and I hope I die never having done it), have been to the Union Oyster House precisely one time in the 28 years that I've lived here, and avoid Faneuil Hall like the plague, but I'm constantly being delighted and surprised by experiences here that a person would have traveling to a far off city.

I fell in love with Chinatown the first time I ever set foot in its groady streets. I can remember when Chinatown pretty much consisted of a four-block neighborhood. It gives me my much-needed fix for the Far East, and there's nothing I like more than sitting down in a restaurant where I am the only farang. I know it's going to be good if only the locals eat there.

Yesterday the Chinese celebrated their New Year, or at least as much as I know about it, one of the days of their New Year celebration, and yesterday, a glorious day that felt like a heat wave after the bitterness winter has delivered, dragons and drummers and enough gunpowder to blow up all the bad spirits coursed through Chinatown.

I've seen this celebration on many occasions, and I've always felt like a voyeur. This day brings more white people to Chinatown than I usually see there. Sue and I rode the Red Line to South Station and walked over to the Gate. Immediately we were swept up into a crowd following oe of the organizations that go to each business frightening away demons.

It's an amazing display of the spiritual world intersecting the reality-based commercial world. Right now I sit here and smile, thinking of dragons and drummers shouting their way through the ad agency I just worked for. If anywhere needs demons exorcised, it's American business. What if every year we had pounded drums and lit firecrackers on Wall Street? But the belief just isn't there, the belief that a spiritual world sits right there, next to us all the time, we just don't see it. And it interacts with us in a real way on a daily basis.

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