There are moments of your life, glorious resplendent moments when you look around and feel the flow of life running through you. Those glorious moments when your perspective seems to shift into an orbit around you. You take in every sight and smell and feeling of the room or scene. You let the moment washover you and you fall back to bathe in its sweet feelings. These sublime moments- a personal sartori that don’t really lead to any great revelation, nothing special about life nor the human condition. In these moments you just are, you are you, you truly feel -viscerally- that you are the universe experiencing itself subjectively. And all is done with the knowledge that till your dying day, this moment will be burned to your memory. Age or injury can dim these moments, but if life flashes before you, it is these scenes that will be the chapters.
I had a moment like that in Wudaokou, Beijing- the university district, or at least it was then, that town changes pretty quickly so you never know. I went to celebrate the birthday of a now closed punk rock club. D-22 was the name, I think. Strange how I just said these moments are burned into your mind but the name of the club slips my mind at the moment. Ironic. The club is gone these days anyway, one of many casualties of efforts to purify Beijing from any elements that might be against Xi DaDa. For the birthday concert a band called Carsick Cars played. One could argue that they were the best indie rock/punk band playing in China at the time. It’s a big country so it’s tough to be sure, but if they weren’t the best, they were a strong contender. One of their most famous songs is called ZhongnanHai, named for the cigarette, that is in turn named for the compound where the Communist Party headquarters is located. The story goes that they were formulated in the early 1960’s specifically for ZhongNanHai’s most famous resident of that time- the Great Helmsman, the Red Sun in the Sky- Chairman Mao himself, though I’ve heard he was a committed Red Pagoda smoker, I’m sure such a gesture was made. By the time my sorry ass rolled up to the People’s Republic, Mao was full of formaldehyde and on display and Zhongnanhais had become the cigarette of youth, perhaps youthful rebellion, perhaps just the palliative for the struggles of youth. I always imagined the students in Tiananmen smoking them, and lovers that were my age sharing one in bed after passionate love making- I may or maynot have done this myself with a few daughters of the Middle Kingdom. But this song was an homage to this hallowed cigarette brand, this symbol in a land where most symbols are banned or tightly controlled. When the band struck up the tune, as their encore, I was on the dancefloor, which was the entire ground floor, above was a square mezzanine that covered the stage and the edges of the dancefloor. From up on high, when the song hit, a blizzard of ZhongNahai cigarettes floated down from fans who were throwing them on the crowd below by the carton.
I laughed maniacally and spun around as the snowfall of cigarettes turned multicolored in the lights as they fell and the crowd around me pulsated to the beat. I felt one of those respindate moments then. I felt my youth, I felt part of the brotherhood of man, I felt the beauty of music, I felt it all- and it was orgasmically beautiful. I managed, in my drunken uncoordinatedness, to successfully grab one of the falling cigs and light it up. As the smoke coursed through my lungs I felt beautifully alive. And I still smile thinking of it to this day.