Fireworks in Taipei
I touched down in Taipei at 11 AM, visited school wearing just a T-shirt (..and pants) because Taipei’s winter is Indiana’s spring, unpacked, slept a few hours and dreamed about being cold (it didn’t take long for me to weaken), dined on fried calamari and sweet potato from the night market, and headed to City Hall for the New Year’s Party.
Most of my acquaintances watched the show from the roof of their dormitory because it promised to be so crowded on site, but I enjoy being inside a crowd. I’m not a Dementor, but I feed off that liveliness. I don’t even mind being squeezed inside a subway car as long as my neighbors don’t smell badly or pick pockets, and the people of Taipei pass the test. The trip there by subway took an hour, twice as long as normal, and the return by walking in the somewhat right direction, subway, and more walking took one and a half. It was nice exercise, and everyone displayed great patience. They cleared the way for an ambulance on the busiest street…and when a crowd of young people ran in the wake of the ambulance to get ahead, the others laughed instead of stabbing them with their glow sticks.
Taiwanese pop stars performed in the public square prior to midnight, and LCD screens atop towers projected their images all over the place. The city splashed $2 million US on a 288-second fireworks program at Taipei 101 to celebrate the 100th year since the emperor abdicated and the Republic of China was made. (Ironically, the commemorative glow sticks of Chinese democracy’s 100th anniversary were Made in China.) This was the city’s second extravaganza of the season following the opening ceremony of the International Flower Expo, which was unfortunately ruined by
communist mad scientists seeding the clouds a rainstorm from an approaching typhoon.
This show was a success! It looked great; the music sounded good, and the timing was impeccable. The crowd wasn’t overwhelmed, but perhaps it’s because they were so excited, they expected the Second Coming. Some had staked their seats on the sidewalk a couple hours in advance. The fireworks were shot off of and around Taipei 101, sometimes out the windows (if that’s possible; it looked incredible) and sometimes spiraling the structure. They burst, flew, swirled, cascaded, and smoked. There was a tree between me and the tower which eclipsed the bottom of the building, so I had a mystical view of the tower rising up from the same roots up above the tree branches. Fireworks were shot from several different buildings encircling us, so we had a 360-degree view. The explosions were bright white and went off in bulk, making the skyscrapers seem like giant firecrackers. The explosions reverberated in my chest, so I felt the show rather than just seeing it. Fireworks seem like an appropriate way to celebrate the day: they’re boisterous, beautiful, and transient.
Everyone except the small children had their cameras and cell phones out the entire show. They wanted to show their friends and family what they were seeing, and so did I: I captured all five minutes even though the City of Taipei will probably have its own recording ready in no time. I worry, though, because when I thought back on the show on the way home, half my mental pictures were of parts I’d seen through the preview window of my camera rather than with my own two eyes. Because fireworks are fleeting, you can’t have it both ways: either you see them, or you don’t. “Digital communication gets in the way of real communication” was the Column Subject of the Year, but I’m also worried that a large part of my memories are of things that I saw on a screen. Like this guy. Are Internet conversations, games, and recordings second-hand experiences? Does managing a camera dilute our enjoyment of something? And doesn’t the time I spend writing about my experiences take away time I could spend on new ones?
I elected to hold my camera up but keep my eyes on the tower itself. Ironically, because my dormitory Internet is so slow, and my school is closed for the next couple days, I can’t upload anything right now anyway. Hopefully, this brought some of the night to you, and I wish you a Happy New Year yourself. This is a holiday everyone can support. Someone always says Thanksgiving and the 4th of July celebrate imperialism, and Christmas and Easter are cultural battleground days, but no one ever says, “Crappy New Year! I’m opposed to the measurement of time!” So I can freely say, あけましておめでとうございます！ ¡Prospero Año Nuevo! 新年快樂！