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China

Last night we went to the museum. I got separated from my wife & kids and wandered into a room containing a massive scale-model diorama of Hong Kong and the entire Pearl River Delta. I could see tiny cars crossing the bridges, and see crowds around the bases of the skyscrapers.

A voice came over a PA. This exhibit was on the earthquake threat to the region. Sluices in the walls opened; water began to pour into the room. The diorama started to to shake.

I saw the bridges break, imagined the hundreds of cars falling into the sea. The streets began to flood, the skyscrapers to crumble. The PA explained that in the event of such an earthquake, the region would subside. I watched Hong Kong and Shenzhen, with their millions, sink beneath the rising water, until it was just me, standing waist-deep, with nothing else visible above the surface.

Drains opened. The water poured away and the diorama rose again for the next demonstration.

When I caught up with my family, my 6-yr-old asked “What did you see, Daddy?” I didn’t tell her. I didn’t want to scare her.

Then I woke up.

I have always heard the Doors’ “Light My Fire” thusly

The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire
China we can only lose
And our love become a funeral pyre

Let me explain. There was a phrase, common in the McCarthy era: “Who Lost China?” As in, who was responsible for allowing good, decent, Pearl-Buckesque China to be subsumed by the Kremlin Red Slava Rodina Konspiracy (Spoiler: McCarthy, upon consultation with what he pulled out of his own ass, decided it was Owen Lattimore)? By including the saying in “Light My Fire,” Jim Morrison was mocking the anticommunist piety of the previous decade, putting the ghost of Tailgunner Joe on the altar of his Fire

Did I honestly ever think those were the lyrics? Not really. But that’s what hit my brain.

(I also got the first line wrong, though not in any way that changed the meaning)