When the 100-foot golden dragon passed him, snaking, weaving and bobbing in the midst of Chinatown's New Year's celebration yesterday, Al Boswell, Jr., a Washington advertising executive, no longer could restrain himself.
He leaped in between two of the 20-plus Taiwanese students carrying the dragon and, waving a little Nationalist Chinese flag, bobbed and weaved with them for a block or two.
"Whew!" he said when he finally stumbled into the crowd, exhausted by the efforts of just trying to keep up with the students. "I didn't realize what hard work that might be."
A few yards away, Danny Affholder, a giant of a man attending the Northern Virginia Community College, pulled tiny Daniele Soviero, a Churchhill High School student, onto his shoulders and charged a Chinese lion manned by two Taiwanese students.
While the crowd looked on in delight, Soviero bounced a long balloon off the bobbing nose of the lion as it tried to snatch it away.
Once again Washington's Chinatown was celebrating the New Year. It was the coming of the Year of the Monkey -- a symbol of agility and intelligence -- and the beginning of the year 4,678 on the Chinese calendar.
The crowd, estimated by the police at 5,000 people, most of them non-Chinese, gawked and cheered, squealing at the abrupt loud bursts of firecrackers that filled the air with smoke and shreds of red paper.
Everywhere fathers had sons or daughters on their shoulders as the children clapped their hands excitedly at the antics of the dragon and three lions.
"Hey, dad," asked one young boy, "Can I get up on your shoulders, too?" "Sure," said the father.
"Ooooooo! It's a hundred miles long!" said the boy when he finally was able to see over the heads of the crowd. "What is it?"
"It's supposed to be a dragon," gasped the father, pushing one small boot out of his face.
Under cold and clear skies -- the Weather Service said the 2 p.m. temperature of 34 degrees had the impact of 16-degrees thanks to the 15-mile-an-hour winds -- most everyone was warmly dressed. For those who were not, the Chinese restaurants that lined the street offered warm havens for frigid hands. Not suprisingly, most of the restaurants had crowds waiting to get inside.
"Business is terrific," beamed one harried waiter in the Tai Tung restaurant on H Street along the parade route.
Out on the street, the parade, which began at 1 p.m. at 6th and H stretts NW, featured a couple of Chinese bands with gongs and drums, four Kung Fu schools carrying banners proclaiming their affiliations, and the dragon and lions. Not to mention several dozen Taiwanese who carried Nationalist flags in a phalanx at the head.
Like the dragon, a bicentennial gift to Washington Chinese community by the Taiwanese government, the parade wove its way back and forth in the H Street area. The crowd surged and ebbed, according to where the loudest burst of gongs or firecrackers could be heard.
"Sin nien kuai le (happy new year)," said the Chinese in the crowd when they greeted their friends.
"Kung si fa tsai (may you have good fortune in the New Year)," came the reply.
If everywhere there were American and Nationalist flags to be seen, there was no evidence of any mainland Chinese participation.
Were they invited to participate?
"Most definitely not," said the Rev. Victor Wong, one of the parade organizers with the Consolidated Benevolent Association of Chinatown. "We are all favoring the Taiwanese government, the [Nationalist] flag we say represents all the people of China."
Hsuan Meng, a Taiwanese student at Georgetown and one of those mainpulating the antics of the dragon, disagreed -- slightly. "We even invite some of our Chinese Communist friends. To look," he said, laughing.
If no representatives of the People's Republic were in evidence, mainland China was nonetheless playing a very impressive part in the parade: All the thousands of firecrackers exploded were made in Kwangtung, a southern city on the mainland.