Lunar New Year 2015, Part 2 | Dim sum and dragons
Recalling back to Part 1 of this Lunar New Year trilogy, a few Saturdays ago I found myself almost getting battered by a dancing lion during the Tết celebrations at the Vietnamese community on Argyle Street. Despite that, I decided the following morning to push my luck with the parade in Chinatown. While I was thrilled with the prospect of once again shooting with my X100 and Fujichrome Velvia “film,” this venture in retrospect turned out to be rather boring.
The morning that Sunday started off fine. I was uncertain the night before whether or not to attend the parade in Chinatown as I have already done so for the past few years. In fact, last year I ended up climbing under a police barricade and serendipitously blended in with the horde of photojournalists covering it. I also had a repair job sitting on my desk—a broken lens. After photographing at Argyle the day before, I proceeded to Northwestern to catch the finals of a collegiate fencing championship. In my hast while swapping lenses during the last moments of women’s sabre, I had dropped my workhorse lens, the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8. (I have since repaired it, and it is once again working beautifully.) I felt, however, that I could not pass up the opportunity to be surrounded by a mob of people trying to watch local high school marching bands and floats serving as mobile advertisements for businesses stroll down Wentworth Avenue. It does amaze me, though, how a parade for an Asian holiday can contain so many non-Asian elements. That is merely an observation and should not be construed as an editorial at all.
Anyways, one thing that I have stubbornly learned about photography is the importance of not shooting on an empty stomach. As such, and this being a holiday after all, I attempted to rally a few friends for a dim sum brunch. One answered the call, and by extension her companion. I dislike being a third wheel, but I would acquiesce for dim sum at least.
After being treated to several lion dances during our meal, the three of us walked to the parade a block away. As usual, it was jammed packed. We tried to squeeze in to find a suitable viewing area, but our attempts were futile at best. Alas, we had to watch the ComEd and McDonalds floats from afar. But at least I got some frames of the spectators, who are arguably more interesting to watch at most parades.
When the parade looked like it had ended, I parted company with my friend and her companion. I initially intended to hop on a train to head home, but something inside held me back. I knew from last year that the parade usually ended with either a lion or dragon dance at the corner of the parade route below the VIP and emcee stage. I turned towards and dashed into the crowd that was converging around that corner. People from down Wentworth were mostly trying to exit through the narrow channels between the barriers. It was much easier for me to slip through the thick but fluid wall of people this time. As I got to a steel barricade, I climbed over it without hesitation as people were shuffling around trying to find their way out of the area. Working my way through a few more rows of people, I found myself once again up front and forming a line with other photographers as vibrantly dressed performers, just in time to catch a dragon dance.
Perhaps it was a case of “been there, done that,” but that afternoon just seemed rather anticlimactic. I may be unfair, however, as I am comparing this Argyle where I dodged lions and firecrackers. In fact, it would be substantially prejudicial to compare that rather mundane Chinatown parade to the spectacular Lunar New Year festival at Navy Pier the following week at which I almost got kicked in the face by a Chinese fan dancer. I guess I have become too accustomed to being in harm’s way.