On the People Inside Lion Costumes and How the Condition of Your Narcissus May Affect Your Bus Ride Home

My focus was the people InSide the Lion costume. They are incredibly athletic. Let me step back for a moment. There are Lion Dances, and there are Dragon Dances, both are celebratory Chinese performances. A lion usually consists 2 people - their 4 legs comprising the 4 lion legs. A Dragon may only consist of 2 people (a really short dragon) but the most dramatic ones consist of many people running one after another in unison, much like a centipede. Both lion heads and dragon heads have mouths that open and close, and eyelids that bat.

Eight lions came out to dance at the Chinese New Year Flower Market in San Francisco Chinatown. The hind legs belonged to beefy Chinese guys, and the fore legs were those of spry, light weight men and women. To the live percussive sound track of swift drums and cymbals, the hind person hoisted the fore person up. I was impressed by how long the hind person held the fore person. Meanwhile, the fore person lifted the head and turned it this way and that.

After the lion dance, I headed into the flower market, and decided to buy narcissus, one of the several popular Lunar New Year flowers. Others include chrysanthemum, peach blossom and gladiolus. But Chinese New Year isn't until next week! Some of you exclaim. Yes, this is true, but flowers are akin to Xmas trees, decorating the home to set the mood before the holidays.

I joined the throng of mostly older Chinese women, carefully inspecting the pots of narcissus.

There are some rules to narcissus selection. One should maximize on all these factors... (1) Find a pot where the bulbs have not yet flowered, so that they will open at (and not start withering and looking disheveled before) Chinese New Year. (2) The stalks and leaves should not be too tall, or you risk the whole plant looking floppy. (3) The ends of the leaves should be in good condition - not raggedy/ ripped/ bent. (4) Because Chinese people are always very concerned about getting the best deal possible, the more bulbs stuffed in a pot, the better. (Yes I can say these things because I'm Chinese)

Had I known I would be beleaguered by elderly Chinese ladies concerning the condition of my narcissus, I would have fought my crowd-weariness and gone on to another flower stall to find non-open-flowered bulbs. At the bus stop, one woman gave my flowers a disdainful look and commented loudly to her companion in Cantonese: "Those narcissus are All Open!" (NOT true, they were maybe 1/4 open). I sat down next to another older Chinese woman on the bus. Right away she scrutinized my flowers and announced in Cantonese: "Your flowers are all open! My flowers are still closed!" and proudly patted her plastic bag.

At this point, I was sure all the old Chinese ladies on the bus were eying my narcissus, secretly congratulating themselves on their superior, closed-narcissus purchase and feeling sorry for this amateur narcissus buyer. "There weren't any closed flower ones," I told my neighbor in English (I'd already apparently made a fool out of myself with open narcissus, I wasn't about to butcher Cantonese and embarrass myself further). Perhaps she took pity on me. She said "They're very fragrant."

To check out upcoming Lunar New Years events in SF for yourself, refer to:
There's another Flower Market at the Botanical Gardens Feb 13, and the grand finale parade is on Sat Feb 27th!