Chinese New Year

I walk a mile from home to grocery shop, and my destination is an acre of parking lot at College Ave and El Cajon Blvd that’s lined with a strip mall that’s anchored by a Von’s grocery store.

The approach takes me past things I’ve seen over and over: A boxing gym that’s sometimes full and sometimes empty. A pawnbroker with a long white beard who stands outside his shop and watches cars pass on the boulevard. A storefront church and a fashionable coffee shop called the Living Room.

I cross College Ave, which is always stuffed with traffic, and I start to wind my way around the sandwich shop that blocks my view of the strip mall. But this time I hear something, and it’s not the white noise of a car stereo. It’s a drum.

It’s steady and live and distant. And as I come closer I hear the sound embellished with cymbals and bells. Then I see the dancers. They’re dressed up like dragons and they’re called lion dancers.

As they dance, they stand up then get back down on all fours. They shake their heads and blink their eyes. They do pantomimes of eating heads of lettuce, falling asleep and becoming agitated.

Then I realize it’s the Chinese New Year. Is it the year of the rat or something? I’ll have to look it up on Wikipedia. I’m so ignorant I’m lucky I knew it had something to do with a new year.

But I like the lion dancers. They are like big cartoon characters. Best I could tell… a man filled the hind quarters and a boy took the front. It was the best thing I’d ever seen in the parking lot of a grocery store.

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