Sunday, February 11, 2007

Memories of Chinese New Year, part I

So Chinese New Year is just round the corner. Next weekend, to be exact. To the uninitiated, it's like THE biggest holiday for many in Asia. Bigger than Christmas, or New Year. Bigger than the Superbowl. Even bigger than the one with Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.
A 15 day celebration, with generous helpings of food, money in red packets, lion dances, gambling, and of course fireworks. Till today, the smell of gunpowder brings back those fond memories of my childhood.
No parent will wittingly let her child play with low-level explosives that may potentially hurt or maim. However, Chinese New Year seems to be an exception, because of some ancient legend of some monster that would come annually to feed on hapless villagers, who despite his size, was terrified of noise from fireworks. So, many parents spend up to hundreds of dollars on these instruments of goodwill and luck (aptly named 'Thunderclap', 'Tank' or 'Bazooka').
Coming from a household with 3 boys and 1 tomboy (thankfully now grown into a beautiful young lady), one doesn't need a lot of imagination to guess what kind of mischief we got into with some ammo.
One of our favourites was the humble firecracker. Looking like a miniature stick of dynamite, these small red suckers had an inch-long fuse that would ignite and burn like a pissed-off snake. Psshhhhh-boom. You'd hardly 2 seconds before the explosion. It was small enough that you could poke a small 0.5 cm hole in the lawn, stuff one in, and watch the ground explode. And it was easy to blame the dozen or so holes in our garden on our 2 dogs.
"Yea mom, Snowy was out digging again, honest!"
Except you'd see fragments of red paper, evidence of our act.
Sooner or later, you'd find some poor animal to stick this too (yup, us boys were monsters. My patients have trouble believing this now). Me, I'd find some pest to blow up (personal favourite- fireants), though my brothers have blown up a frog or two.
There were cows in our neighbourhood way back then. Another favourite target of ours was fresh cow dung. Really. You'd find one, the size of a medium Chicago-style pizza (except it was a dark bile-green colour), about 2 inches thick, gently inserted a stick into the middle, get the newbie kid in your group to light it and run. Except with the short fuse, everyone would invariably get some splatter. It stank like the devil, but the crater left in the dung was a real beauty.
Another favourite of mine was the 'Moon Traveller®'. Small bottle rockets, one of those things that would fly up and explode. Stick one of these into a pipe, and you'd have an instant missile launcher, with a range of about 50 meters. My neighbours and us would have inter-street artillery wars. Naturally, because of our balcony, we had a better vantage point and had a better hit rate than they. The neighbourhood wars stopped one year after we set fire to a neighbour's lawn (I swear, it was too dry anyway). That was about the time I had a fascination with astronomy and the multi-phased Saturn V rockets used to transport the astronauts to the moon. So I soon learnt to loosely attach one moon traveller to another and light one fuse a moment later than the other. And vóila, you'd have a multi-phased bottle rocket. Psssh-pop-psssh-pop. Double the range. At about the time when I stopped playing with these things, the humble moon traveller was replaced with the mighty Thunderclap®. It's like comparing the Stinger missile to the Patriot. Instead of a wimpy pssshh-pop, you get a banshee-like scream as the rocket lifted itself into the sky, followed by a flash of light and a loud boom a second later.

You'd find anything to aim these rockets at. Including a drain swollen with rainwater; the rockets still flew underwater and made a loud pop and big splash.

I imagine Bush and Saddam had the same stupid maniacal grins when they lit their rockets and ran for cover. Except theirs cost over 4 millions times more than those fireworks. It's hard to believe parents actually let kids play with this stuff. And we were lucky we never blew any of our fingers off. Can't say I wasn't too surprised when they finally banned these things in Malaysia.

Then again, looking at our Mentos-Coke and Dry Ice exploits, I guess boys never do grow out of their fascination with things that go boom. Someday, I imagine the social workers would come and take my son away from me, for teaching him the finer things in life, like how to make a dung-bombs with firecrackers.


Blogger 4nOcean said...

The mentos-coke big finish, with the four bottles. . .spectacular. Reminds me of something from the Bellagio Hotel.

9:30 PM  
Blogger flaminglambo said...

LOL! You just brought back some painful but fun memories! We used to light and throw those little red dynamites around. Those things definitely teaches a kid to grow balls (or shrink them). Used to scare me shitless cos' the fuse was so short. Sigh...good times indeed.

Happy New Year!

10:51 PM  
Blogger PaulOS said...

I remember how we rocket launched them at our "opponents".. .light them up while holding the coke bottle aimed at the enemy camp.

My fren and i once tried to send ants up to space... obviously the ANT-tronauts did not survive the challenger like explosion.. hehehehe

11:57 PM  
Anonymous simmie said...

Ah, those were the days.

Can't believe this is my eighth Chinese New Year away from home. Anyway, here's wishing you and Kristin a Happy Chinese New Year.

3:35 AM  
Blogger Bernard said...

Legal or not... every 12mn of CNY and the 9th day will reverberate with the noise of firecrackers.

7:18 PM  
Blogger caryn said...

I recall the time when one of those bottles toppled right before the 'launch', and following that, the rocket flew to the porch, right beside the cars. Hahaha.. darn scary. Thinking back, you boys were such crazy devils ler.

12:46 PM  
Blogger cooknengr said...

That cow dung story sound so familiar. I remember lit up a delay- fused fire cracker and tricked a 6 years old " Hey. go check out that dog shit". "Kaboom!" ".Wah..." The crying 6 years old stunk like dog shit of course.

9:24 AM  
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8:46 PM  

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