Happy Lunar New Year!

Whether you are rolling in your Buddha mobile, pinching on the cheeks of cute babies, or on your high school lunch hour showing your friends the dancing lions that eat cabbages and lucky money from the sky, or just a ramen noodle mascot taking a break from a crowded event, I salute you.

This afternoon there was a fireworks show at Sara D. Roosevelt Park. I stood at the edge of the crowd on top of a low, concrete wall, shins against the guardrail, mouth open, ears plugged as a fiery outline of a horse ignited in the center of the basketball court and then more big explosions and balls of smoke happened in the trees above. Buzzed with excitement and smiling with strangers. Just as it ended, there was a confusing moment when no one knew if we were being dusted by fresh snow or ashes from the fireworks. A man who looked to be in his 70s popped up on the wall by my side. He was friendly and asked me something in Cantonese, and I fumbled, said dui bu qi and I’m sorry I can’t speak Chinese, feeling that I had disappointed him. But then he started trying to get down. While he straddled the 3 foot drop with one foot on a bench, and I scrambled to go first and stuck my hand awkwardly into his armpit to support him. He said, thanks, and I said, happy new year.

That’s how it often goes for me in Chinatown: not fully a part of things, but not apart from them either. And it still makes me feel at home.