Friday, February 17, 2006

San Francisco for Chinese New Year

While I wait for proofs from my publisher, I'll tell you about our trip last weekend to San Francisco. We stayed at the S.W. Hotel in Chinatown, and watched the big parade that marked the end of the Chinese New Year celebration. The parade was about 2 and a half hours long, and we made the tactical error of being near the end of the route. By the time the dragons (one was 210 feet long) and the lion dancers reached us, they were exhausted. Next time we'll get a spot closer to the front.

There was plenty to see, but the parade was poorly organized, so there were gaps of nearly half an hour during which nothing happened, except that hoodlums uphill from us rolled smoke bombs down into the crowd. One strange aspect of the parade was my reaction to fire crackers; I would not have expected it, but every time someone set off a string of them, I had to supress the urge to grab my family and shove them under cover. We didn't come under fire that often when I was in Iraq, but it seems that when we did, it made a bigger impression on me than I'd realized. I don't know to what else I can attribute that response.

The next day we drove around and saw some sights. We took a boat trip under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz and we had a great time. I had mid-term exams this week, but for those two days I didn't think about them at all, and it was great.

Aside from just spending time with Susan and the kids, the best part of the trip for me was buying paintbrushes in Chinatown. I bought eight of them, all various sizes, and all of which taper to the finest points you've ever seen. I couldn't wait to get home and try them out.

You can see them hanging in this picture of my studio.

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