Having celebrated my 38th birthday in Macau, I was now set to embark on the next leg of my journey: a train trip from Hong Kong to Shanghai. I bundled all my books and clothes into my travel suitcase and backpack and took the bus down from the peak where my hostel was. As the driver swayed and swerved down the mountain road, I blasted NIN, Too Short, and Timbaland on my iPod, watching the fauna zip by the window. Soon enough I was unceremoniously dumped off at the Sai Ying Pun MTR station.
As I took the MTR to the train station, I pondered when I would really know that I had left “The Pearl of the Orient” and arrived in “The Middle Kingdom”. As it turned out I didn’t have long to wait. As soon as I had turned over my train ticket at the gate and taken the elevators down to the train platform I came upon a large scrum of people, looking like something out of Night of the Living Dead, jammed at the doors to the train carriages.
I caught the attention of a train clerk and in fumbling Mandarin asked where my train car was and then, even more boldly, ordered a bottle of water delivered to my car and berth, “Car 4 berth 3.” An hour later I asked another clerk when I would be getting my bottle of water. I then learned that my bottle had been delivered to Car 3 berth 4.
After that inauspicious introduction I found my next week in Shanghai to be packed, pulsing, polluted, phosphorescent. From the bright and shiny exterior of Pudong to the teeming subways and chaotic roads, it was hard to find a quiet moment in the city. Everything screamed for your attention: the bright lights of the buildings and malls at night, the hucksters and touts yelling out as you walked by, the vendors riding bicycles with speakers bleating out ads for their wares, it just never quit. When my time finished after a week I was thrilled to have been in the city but also ready for a quiet sea voyage to relax before reaching Japan.
Unfortunately my calm sea voyage, as I imagined it would be, was a rough a violent one and I spent the night at sea next to a porcelain god. I was more than relieved when we reached the calm waters of the sea of Japan two days after departing Shanghai.
On the train from Hong Kong to Shanghai.
Although the trip was hot, cramped, and smoky… I enjoyed the chance to see the Chinese countryside. I chatted with a guy I was in the same cabin with and he helped me get a legit taxi (and not a rip off pirate one) when we arrived in Shanghai.
My first free day in Shanghai. Check out all the bicycles!
No… cars don’t drive on the left in China. They drive on the right but the totes put their wares onto the street in front of their shops, so the cars have to drive into the oncoming lane to avoid plowing into them.
Welcome to China!
Pudong, a commercial district across the river from the Bund which is the old business district of Shanghai.
Two competing visions of the city, one new and one old, placed adjacent to each other.
Pearl TV Tower, Pudong District. I spent the afternoon in Pudong doing some sight seeing. At the time the NBA was having an exhibition game in Shanghai and that afternoon I saw a couple of the players shopping at a mall in Pudong.
Nanjing Road, Shanghai.
At this point I was still cash poor so I spent many hours window shopping in this area. The “Road” is a long concourse that functions as a walking street with a lot of foot traffic coming from the nearby business district and subway.
Nanjing Road, Shanghai. pt.2
While I was on a stroll here one evening a tout stopped me.
“Where do you come from,” he asked.
“America,” I answered.
“America? Do you have a gun,” he asked.
“No, I don’t,” I answered.
“Oh. I want a gun. Guns are cool,” he finished.
Nightclub crawling in the French Concession Area, Shanghai.
A weekend in Old Town (Nanshi), Shanghai.
When I went the place was crowded with tour groups whose leaders shouted through megaphones. Not exactly a quiet excursion, to say the least.
A weekend in Old Town (Nanshi), Shanghai. pt.2
I think these are Koi. They were in a fish pond in Nanshi.
The Humble Administrator’s Garden in Suzhou. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A couple of backpackers I met in the hostel I was staying at took a day trip with me to Suzhou where this garden is located. To say this garden is beautiful is an understatement.
It was like walking through a painting. Every angle was sublime.
The garden is divided into three sections: the western, the central, and the eastern sections.
I believe this pond is in the central section, but I cannot recall correctly if it is.
To find this duck pond you have to walk behind a quaint house and then down a slope to a pond that runs underneath.
I love that to find it you have to do some exploring.
It wouldn’t be a legit blog post without a selfie, so here it is.
Also the Geek necklace is there for street cred, because fans.
Remember how I said every angle in the garden was designed to be appealing? I submit this as proof.
I also believe the placement of the paths and ornate doorways like this one has something to do with Feng Shui and is meant to direct the energy flowing through the environnment… but I am no expert on the matter so don’t quote me.
Or do quote me.
I’m not your boss.
… or am I?
My group left the garden and as we began making our way back to the train station, I spied this shop owner standing outside her stall in the fading light, so I took a snapshot of her.
I believe this is the Beisi Pagoda.
You can also see that when I took this photo night had come. My group had under an hour to catch the train so I took this photo as we were leaving Suzhou.
Photo from the deck of my ship. I took a boat from Shanghai to Kobe, Japan.
The sea was rough and I got so seasick I stayed overnight in the men’s toilet. The ship’s crew saw me stuck in there and the head of security came to talk to me because they thought I was a stowaway. When I say they saw me, I mean they saw my legs from under the crack at the bottom of the door of the stall.
When I say came to talk to me, I mean a succession of crewmen banged on the stall door and spoke to me in Chinese until they finally got one who could speak English and demanded I open the door and show my passport.
Indiana Jones never had to deal with that shit.
Video as my boats departs Shanghai for Kobe, Japan.
Notice the heavy winds? Later that night those winds and the rough seas they caused would ruin my night.
Calm after the storm. I took this photo the second night of my boat journey as we neared the shore of Japan.
Next time will be the fourth stage of my journey through Asia: Kobe, Japan.
That is all for now. Be well.
Penthouse TV: San Diego: 1985
Around the turn of the 21st century a friend and I had the grand idea of starting our own public access show.
At that point in history, cable TV was the Iron Throne of power in the digital kingdom. In my local fiefdom, Bay Area CA (representin the 415!), there were such hella outré gems as the Viking Wrestling Bonnaroo, the Lesbian Nerds Fantasy Book Club Pajama Party, and the Pirate Indie Music Cavalcade (the views expressed in this sentence are the sole responsibility of the authors imagination and in no way reflect with any semblance of historical accuracy the real programming on public access of the time in question – but come on man, I swear the pajama party… that was a thing).
So a public access show for two Gen X, schlubawamba slackers with too much free time seemed like a no-brainer, kind of like a flamethrower in a zombie cocktail party. We shot the footage for our pilot episode guerrilla-style: with too much perspiration and not enough preparation. The M.O. for our caper was to marshal the troops (our friends) with 24 hour notice and then go out into San Francisco and just starting shooting: grab some remote stuff from Golden Gate Park and the blocks of the Inner Richmond District, do the desk stuff after hours from our job (the views expressed in this sentence are the sole responsibility of the authors imagination and in no way reflect with any misdemeanor activities involving shoe races in high heels between myself and my friend at our work place after midnight – but come on man, I could totally kill it in a nice set of pumps).
In a frantic whirlwind of activity we willy vanilli got anything and everything that crossed our mind onto video. Later we would try to Cuisinart it together in the editing.
The desk stuff was the easiest and the best: I’d spent most of my college years staying up until the early morning hours watching the late night talk shows. The one that was my jam was, of course, Late Night with David Letterman.
My infatuation with Late Night (later it became The Late Show) began in high school. The show aired at 12:30 A.M. and for a teenager like me who had to be up at 6:30 A.M., it was much too late for me to watch. However, I was able to catch it on Fridays when I would go spend the weekend with my dad and my grandparents. Part of the routine of hanging out with my dad was tuning into Late Night together on Fridays: the NBC years were scrappy and ironic — it was the kind of program your parents weren’t supposed to get. The show didn’t feature glamorous A-list celebrities; it had Andy Kauffman or Harvey Pekar. It didn’t have remote spots from far flung locales; it had watermelons being tossed from rooftops.
The part of the show that I had the most interest in was the interviews at the desk. I was an introverted, socially awkward, radioactive teenage nerd. I was one super power short of being an X-Man and that super power was social skills. I tried to find my solution in comedy.
The old saw among comedians is they became funny to avoid getting beaten up. I am living proof that this is a goddamn lie. I tried to be funny and all it got me were two black eyes instead of one. To my surprise and astonishment my humor seemed to make the beatings worse instead of better.
“You take back what you said about my mother.”
“You take back what you said about my mother.”
“Stop repeating what I say.”
“Stop repeating what I say.”
I studied how Letterman interacted with his guests. When he was gracious with his guests, and when he teased them. When I got into college and could burn the midnight oil, I watched Letterman every night. I eventually learned about his antecedents: Jack Parr, Steve Allen, Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett – the one I always like the most was David.
My friend (Brian Gathy) and I never got our public access show off the ground. We were unable to navigate our way out of development hell. In the end it was probably for the best – it left me with more time to work on my writing. However, I did eventually manage to develop some social skills and for that, in part, I have Dave to thank.
So now he is passing into the not so gentle night. No more top 10. No more stupid pet tricks. No more Paul. No more cue cards tossed into the back drop.
For the good you’ve done for me Dave: in being part of my bonding with my father, for helping me develop social skills, for just making me laugh when I needed to laugh… thank you.