A beautiful late afternoon, sunny, clear, and 68 degrees, we stake out a spot on Post near Stockton for the Chinese New Year Parade, ‘09, Year of the Ox. In San Francisco, the crowds are already one deep, but the north side is filling fast. We choose a perch on the south side, and as the sun passes to twilight the usual breeze kicks up east to west through this canyon of the City. We’re not the first on the curb and it’s OK; it’s still a great view. We unravel our travel stools and hunker down behind a family on the concrete. The parade usually lasts around 3.5 hours.
The excitement rises, as the chain of children and adults grows deeper and broader along both sides of Post. Venders patrol up and down selling noisemakers, hats, and funny glasses. I wish they were offering hot coffee and whisky, but I can’t complain. Sometimes in this town, it’s good to be a kid (new or old). Up the road towards Union square one family is sitting on top of the daily/weekly paper stands, and across from them, straddling Stockton, a proud father provides his three daughters, 7-10, with step ladders complete with cup holders. No obstructed view for them, Thanks Dad.
The parade begins with the thunder of drums and the clang of cymbals. We hear strings of firecrackers, and the air fills with gunpowder. Public works, firemen, policemen, marching bands (high school, college, and independent seniors), banks, airlines, casinos, and the hope of the future, scores and scores of children and young adults parade though downtown and into Chinatown They dress as oxen, lions, or dragons. The firecrackers scare away evil spirits. The Dragon breathes excellent weather for a bountiful harvest. And, the Lion summons luck and fortune for the future.
This year, our economy will be tough. The Ox is humble and methodical. It puts down its head and gets the job done. We need its tenacious stubborn focus to return prosperity. Either circling a water pump or charging up a steep curve on Wall Street, I hope the Ox will bring forth a more balanced approach to thrive. Gung Hay Fat Choy!