Saturday, June 20, 2009

right in the middle of the second ring

So I received an email from a guy named Tim that I used to work with at "the fucked up place run by crazy people". Tim has a band here in town and the email was announcing that his band was playing tonight. I believe the email said, "the devil will be let loose tonight" or something like that. Tim is an interesting person. He is probably in his 40s. He has dyed jet black hair and he looks a little like Ichabod Crane or Abe Lincoln or even Michael Gira--the big adam's apple, sunken features, big eyes and somewhat sallow skin. For some reason Chinese girls think he is super attractive (for the record, my Chinese teacher once described Abe Lincoln as her 'dream lover') . He is from New Jersey and he is a full rocker. Tim is sort of negative and grumpy, but you don't have to go too far underneath to see a pretty gentle and friendly person--but he is a bit uptight. He used to tell us stories at lunch about being a victim of road rage or about a documentary he has made about the Beijing rock scene or how he is all over posters in Kunming because he once stared in a promo video for Kunming city. He would tell us these stories while he chewed on the same piece of food for much more than the recommended 100 chews. Once, I looked him up on myspace and to my surprise there was a picture of him in a rainbow wig on stage--I expected to see a screaming goth man more akin to the Headless Horseman rather than Gallagher. You can imagine that I was eager to see this enigma of a man in action on stage. The email said that there were several bands and it started at 9pm.

We live sort of far away from the club where it was to go down and it was already 9pm, so we decided to take a cab to the show instead of the subway. We found a cab easily outside of our apartment building. The cabbie was friendly and enjoyed practicing his English with us. That is always nice, because it is an opportunity for us to trade language. I have learned some very practical Chinese from cab drivers. As we started off, we got on the 2nd ring road near our house heading north. Then the big road turns east going toward the Lama Temple. The Lama Temple always surprises me when I drive by it. It just pops out of all of the steel and cement--so much bigger and more beautiful than anything around it. So, tonight as we are heading toward the Lama Temple there is a traffic jam. This is a pisser--what if we miss the band!? I can tell I have been living in Beijing for a while because I am starting to get a little impatient with the cabbie who is being polite and letting others change lanes (really to no avail) in front of him. At this point we are going maybe 5 miles an hour. The speed limit is probably 65 miles an hour. I start cursing under my breath a little but I can see that up ahead near the temple, the traffic starts to speed up to normal speed--just after the flashing police lights. Beijing has been setting up DUI check points all around the city and it is not that weird for them to stop a whole 4 or 5 five lanes to check everyone. So as we approach, I can see the policeman with something in his hand--it is a radio. There is a newer black car stopped in the middle of the road. I start to think that someone is getting arrested..........then I see it.

He was laying in the middle of the 2nd ring road. Face down, arms spread out legs spread out like he was on a cross. He was covered in blood. He was not moving and there was no person attending to him. Right by the car stopped in the middle of the road was a handsome man in his late 50s--the driver. He had such a helpless and distressed look on his face as he tried to explain to someone on his mobile phone--maybe his wife--what was going on. I see no bike in the road or motorcycle or anything--only the stopped car, the driver and the body. By the time I register all of this, I try to tell B not to look, but I hear her reaction.

Soon after, we are going 65 miles an hour again. B, the cabbie and myself are all quiet. No one says anything for most of the rest of the ride.

When we get out of the cab I ask the driver to be safe--he smiles and knows what I mean. B and I talk about how it seems important to take in and remember what we saw. It is almost our duty as humans. I feel upset for the dead man, but more upset for the driver. I mean, if a man is without transportation and is in the middle of basically an interstate, it was probably just a dumb move on the pedestrian's part. Maybe the guy was drunk, or maybe he was trying to take a shortcut and cross the road, or maybe he was trying to kill himself. It doesn't matter. Even if it isn't the driver's fault, he HAS to carry the burden of being a cause-and that makes me feel sad for the survivor of the incident.

We get to the club at about 10:10. There is a generic sounding metal band playing. There is no sign of Tim. I send Tim a text message asking if he has played yet. Tim texts back and says he has already played. We assume he has left the club so we start to leave. As we are exiting, Tim is coming in the door with, of course, a very pretty Chinese girl. B and I decide to stay and talk to Tim for a few minutes and he introduces us to his girlfriend and his friends. Tim basically says nothing to us and goes to watch a band. How strange--we haven't seen him in 6 months and he doesn't really even pause to talk to us. I tell his friend that we saw a dead body in the middle of the 2nd ring. He responds saying he has seen 6 or 7 in the 4 years he has lived in Beijing. I guess it is part of living in a crowded city. The band is too loud to talk. B and I decide to leave. As we ride home on the same road, I try not to look where the incident was but my eyes defy me. There is nothing to see and the drivers going full speed over the spot have no idea what has happened. I think how it is kind of nice that it happened so close to the temple. Maybe the man was a Buddhist and maybe the Lama Temple held a lot of meaning to him. B and I talk about how it seems that our only purpose for going out tonight was to witness.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Heart trumps money in food too.

So for some reason I can't access my blog (or any blog on this site) right now. I used a back way, so the links you will have to do manually.

So B's parents came at the beginning of last week. It was good to see them. We asked them to bring us some stuff and they graciously accepted the challenge. When they brought it to us, I realized that all I asked for was basically toys. They brought me a 10-pack of nose flutes (, an e-bow (, two sets of whiffle balls and bats and a Nerf football. They also brought us a treasure of chocolate candies. Yeah, I am pretty much a kid in an adult's body.

So anyway, during the time that they were here in Beijing, we were being escorted by various people related to the business that B's father is doing here. They were very nice and interesting people, but they insisted that we go to "special" restaurants that were super expensive for every meal. This was very thoughtful of them, and it was luxurious but the food actually sucked in every upscale place. I found it nice when I had to work one day so I ate by myself and chose the cheap restaurant around the corner where the cleanliness is sub-par. This experience only reinforced my theory that most expensive restaurants suck or they are equal to the non-expensive ones. Now I'm not talking about taco bell here--I mean taco bell sucks. In China, if you want a meal that tastes good, I recommend that you choose the smaller, dirtier, hole in the wall where the waiter is the owner. I think the thing is, in the smaller mom and pop restaurants you have two factors that make them taste better: 1) The people who cook and wait are the owners and they NEED your business because this is their lively hood. 2) The people who cook have opened the restaurants because they have been told a thousand times, "damn, you are a great cook. you should open a restaurant". so they do. The bigger places concentrate on rare ingredients and presentation, but not on the taste. I really do think that a good meal is always cooked with heart. Some guy who cooks in a restaurant just cause he needed to have a job or because he is trying to pay off his loans from cook school is going to cook with heart less often than the owner themselves.
I think this "Mom and Pop are better than Fancy" theory could also be true all over the world. I remember when we lived in New Mexico, the Taqueria Mexico (which was completely staffed by a sibling group of 10 and had 6 tables in a former gas station) was far superior than the fancy Mexican or New Mexican restaurants. I mean the Taco Truck on Broadway was blew the doors off of Sadie's (only ABQ people get this one). In AL the BBQ that came out the smoker which was being dragged by a truck was always better than the sit down fancy places.
If you come to China and want to visit me, I will take you to the fancy restaurants if you are scared of the sanitary issues but I will probably try to convince you to eat at the smaller places too.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

long time no something.

Rob went and did it.  In fact, two of the Rob's that I know went and did something.  The first Rob went and had himself a baby girl--that would be the now famous in the Albuquerque North Valley-Ida Rose.  Happy Birthday kid, we love you and don't even know you.
The second Rob did something that effects us more directly in this place that we are now. He started a blog.  His blog is called "Elephant Rock" (I wonder if it is named after a state park in Missouri) .  In starting his new blog, he has given me a 
virtual-space dare to get off my hands and type something.  It has been 5 or 6 months since my last one.  I'll try to make them a little more often.   
So if I haven't called or emailed you in a while, we are doing good.  Beijing is getting hot--it was supposedly over 90 degrees yesterday and seems just as hot today.  We can tell that we actually reside here now because we have a couple of friends and a couple of people we loathe.  Life is like that famous daoist circle and you haven't really lived until you've seen both the light and the dark.
You might ask, what has gone on in the last 5 or 6 months?  The answer is simple--a lot of stuff.  The dark side of the circle had Brynna and I working for this place called "The Learning Center" starting last September.  You know how in the book Dune, Paul Atreides has like three names--Paul, Muad'ib and Usul.  Well, we didn't realize that The Learning Center also had three names:  "The Learning Center", "Fucked Up Place with Crazy Bosses" and "Fake Decaying Villa of Death".  Unlike Usul, the Fucked Up Place with Crazy Bosses did not have some poetic meaning unless you think sharp increases stomach acid is poetic.   To make a long story short, we thought about giving up and leaving the country, but just about the time the Fake Decaying Villa of Death tried to IBM our ass by giving more hours with less pay, Brynna got offered an insanely good job at an international school called ISB and we quit The 'Learning' Center as of December 17, 2008.  This was just the capper to a really hard, hard year for B and I.  We went home for Christmas and it was nice.
When we came back, we experienced Chun Jie which looked like this:

I had a little time off and was able to compose some music which was fun.  Then I started working part time at a University at the edge of town.  I like working with college kids.  Brynna is working, I am working, we are feeling creative and ready to explore.  Brynna's folks are coming next week and we are gonna go to Zhang Jia Jie.  I guess there is something wrong if I can write for a week about the negative things and not too much about the great things.  I guess words aren't that peaceful to me.  Not that they are aggressive, but they are often out of excitement, anger, loopiness and frustration.  You ever notice that Yoga doesn't involve a lot of talking?