Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Vogs through Shanghai II: French Concession

My Vogs have brought me across Central Yan'an Rd. from the Shanghai Exhibition Centre where I'll hit Chengshu Rd, and head south towards Hengshan Rd and arrive in the heart of the French Concession. The clouds have convened, and suddenly, the stylish Vogs ask for a plain surface, something a little less cobbled, a little less historic.
I can feel I'm in the vicinity. Hengshan road shows its treelined streets and French influence. The clouds are ominous, kicking up the ions, the electricity is plapable, the barometric pressure turns, it darkens. In the back streets, the ladies are packing up their sidewalk sewing machines, and I find myself jogging in my vogs, having taken my umbrella out and unlatched it. Downpour is eminent. I'm trying to get to Dong Ping Rd. where I'm aiming for a Peruvian tapas restaurant.
The winds are kicking up. It reminds me of the the rustling trees in Central Park this last August 2nd, when I was at the Delacorte, experiencing the Tribal Musical that is Hair. Midway through the first act, you could feel that same change in pressure, but it had this dynamic effect, as if the music were actually moving the molecules around and affecting the meteorology. Next thing you know it is pouring and the love is wet and the vibe is free and the show is rain delayed. The audience is asked to exit en masse, and for 40 minutes, the crowd watches the downpour under shelter. Everyone susses out whether to stay or go. The starving go feed, the others build the electricity. The best overhearing of conversation in sensurround ever at a theater event. And when it does let up, the audience is a community. There's no plot to review (it's a revue) and the heightened excitement of seeing the actors back on stage adds to the hippie love, we've been through something together, man, even before the play unfolds. Organic, uncorny, clensed. aquarian joy. The soldier lays dead on the American flag, as the departing company echoes to Let the Sun Shine In where we all had waited. And then it explodes into a massive dance party on stage. Gosh if theater could more readily embrace this dionysian element always crowded out by the indoors of the apollonian.

I'm joggin in my Vogs at this point...it's feeling like dusk in the middle of the afternoon. I turn on Dong Ping Rd and see two security guards sitting outside their indoor post. I'm still obsessed with documenting this day with the Vogs on. I ask the younger security guard if he wouldn't mind taking a photo of me walking down the street. No, no, he waves his hand. i ask his older partner, a portly fellow with a suntan if he might do it. He gets a kind of static look in his eyes, moves slow to unfold his arms, staring at this little camera. He will. Great. I just want you to get me walking down this street...This street, he asks? What's so great about this street? Just push this button when I walk by. The younger guard is not looking at the camera, trying to show him the button, I know I know he waves off. I take my position. Push. The old guard immediately takes the camera away from the shot. Flash. O, he is startled. Yeah, the timing of this camera is a little off because it's dark and the flash...
Let's try again, he suggests. Great.
Great. They both look at the photo. Hey this street looks pretty good in the photo. The trees. I thank them, and it starts to pour. I mean coming down hard. it's raining capitalists and communisits. I duck across the street, to the tapas bar.
Azul, it's called and I enter with Billie Holiday singing. I get seated by the big front window and it continues to pour. The Peruvian chef Eduardo Vargas has made a very hip spot: tapas on the ground floor and a club called Viva upstairs.
In the bag there are two cubbys with low tables and lots of pillows. I get the chilean sea bass ceviche and the lamb skewers with mint salsa. My feet rest well.
The subway stop is just down the road. It's small and quaint, not with the usual ads, but with warriors enjoying an afternoon of drink.
I'll come back to the French Concession, to hang for coffee and people watch, My security guard buddies suggest one more photo, with the backdrop of this pink building they sit across from. I want to take their photo, but the young guard has already changed out of his uniform and is ready to leave work, and the older fellow sits, arms folded. Au revoir.

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