Am finishing up the last day of work at the office. What sounds like heavy artillery is going off all outside the window, and has been for the last few days: they’re allowing fireworks inside Beijing’s fifth ring road this year, for the first time in more than a decade, and ever since the things went on sale at the start of this week, people have been getting quite carried away: loud, resounding bangs slap back and forth between the highrise buildings. At Gui Jie last night, someone was setting off fireworks right on the street, pedestrians or no pedestrians, protected area or no protected area.
People have been talking about this for months.
“This year’s going to be really killer,” said one cabbie. “Did you hear? They’re letting people set off fireworks inside the Fifth Ring Road.”
“Yeah, but it’s not like the ban ever stopped people before.”
“Well, yeah, but that was only a few people. It’s going to be loads more renao this year.”
[Renao (热闹) means “hot and noisy,” and is generally used for something that’s fun, busy, jumping, or good craic, but it doesn’t translate all that well into English. ]
“Damn right it’s going to be renao. Hot and noisy is what it’s going to be — I’m going to stay indoors with earplugs in.”
Untrue. I’m going down to Zhuhai, Macau, Shunde, and Shenzhen, and maybe Guangzhou and Hong Kong if I’ve time. SL and I fly down tomorrow morning at 7.
Shunde, in particular, sounds like it should be fun: supposedly it’s the place to go for creepy-crawly Cantonese delicacies. SL speaks more Cantonese than I do – I’m limited to food and obscenities, pretty much – but is still of no help when I ask her how to say “I would like fried panda, stewed tiger, broiled civet cat, and anything else cute and endangered that you might have.”
Oh well. There’s always sign language.
Ka-blam! Car alarms are going off, 20 stories down, the way they have been, every five minutes, since the start of the week. A few smaller pops come up from further east along Gongti Bei Lu; it’s like I’m back at school in North Philly again. I haven’t actually seen anybody setting up the fireworks, lighting the fuse, and running back, laughing, and so as pops, bangs, bursts, and ka-pows rattle the windows, I’m tempted for a second to imagine that it’s all one mad bomber, cackling wildly as, moved by the Chunjie spirit, he runs up and down the streets, spreading joy and the smell of gunpowder wherever he goes.