What’s the deal with May 1st? I made plans at the beginning of the week for business travel in China on Thursday and Friday. Come to be reminded that it is a holiday here today. My kids will have Thursday and Friday off and then need to report back to work on Sunday. Me and all the other people who 呕心沥血 are officially mandated to slow down today, and rest.
Some eighty countries in the world, including China celebrate May 1st as International Workers Day. America celebrates “Labor Day” for the first of September. I assumed the schism had to do with our nation’s official, historical aversion to anything to do with socialism and communism. And upon looking I’ve confirmed that International Worker’s Day began with the Second International, which unlike the first excluded the anarcho-syndicalist movement and the unions. The day was originally chosen, oddly, to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in Chicago in 1886, when a bomb went off at a peaceful protest leading to the wrongful conviction of eight anarchists.
May Day is also commemorative of the rights of spring. In pre-Christian Europe it was associated with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers and with the Walpurgis Night celebrations in Germanic countries and from this we get our May queen and the fertility symbol of the maypole. During the Red Scare in the US the day was apparently pasted over with nationalist nonsense and referred to as “Loyalty Day” in 1958, which fortunately never went anywhere. Now apparently people in the U.S. are trying to unite the “green root” and “red root” holidays into a combined revision. I don’t know if all this legalization progress back home has sapped this reference, but I seem to recall May Day was also Jay Day, for public consumption of marijuana, back in the Lower East Side. A quick examination and the “cannabis parade”, is still going strong. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_day
My favorite Asian “Labor Day” anecdote was from when I lived in Hong Kong. I was, perhaps not unlike yesterday preparing to go to work on May 1st, back in 2007 or so and was told my a staff member with the thick Cantonese accent that May 1st was a holiday. “Which holiday?” I asked. “Neighbor Day.” Huh? OK. What the hell is “neighbor day” I wondered? I envisioned knocking on the door of the heretofore stranger families who also lived on the 9th floor there in Pok Fu Lam, and saying “hello, well, yes, how do you do? I’m John and we live in 9D and seeing how it is “neighbor day” here in town, I thought I’d take it upon myself to pop over and introduce myself.” “What? Today is “labor day” asshole, not “neighbor day.” Go home, and stop knocking on my door,”
And so labor stopped, briefly this morning. My younger daughter insisted my wife and I play a board game. And I’ll let you all know at the outset that it was “Ms. Scarlet, with a pistol in the hall,” these turned out to be the ghastly details, in our game of Clue. I couldn’t say how long it has been since I played Clue; probably at least thirty-three years or so. I thought it would all come back, but it was good have the directions handy. “No doubles Baba! No doubles!” “Are you sure? I figured I go again if I got doubles.” She was right. My wife, who had never played Clue, didn’t have a clue, but after a decidedly clueless start, got the hang of dispelling rumors discretely. I still think I prefer Monopoly.
Another morning I was glad to be in the gym alone. The Isley Brother’s 1975 classic “Fight the Power” from the album “The Heat is On” started off the mix. It’s odd to think of time when I didn't’ know that song with its refined frustration, commanding bass groove and subtle flourishes. But it was only in 1989 when Public Enemy released a same titled song with the Spike Lee film “Do the Right Thing,” that I and my circle of music intimates bothered to find out the inspirational source. In my mind, I looked pretty good doing air-bass on May Day there on the rotating stair machine. Thank Flora and Saint Walpurga it isn’t available on Youtube. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Isley_Brothers
 ǒuxīnlìxuè: lit. to spit out one's heart and spill blood (idiom) / to work one's heart out / blood, sweat and tears