Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

A revelry of new year in Shanghai. The dread dissolved. The club, called Sin, was warm and inviting. The timing was smooth. Nic, another teacher at Lida, and I got to the club via taxi in time to check in coats, visit the restroom, get a libation, meet up with his pal Daniel, look to the screen, see the countdown at 27 seconds and enjoy the midnight downfall of gold snow. 
The whole club was in a great mood. A fun mix of Chinese, Non, gay, straight, smoking and non, all whooping it up. There were a coupla stages that folks would hop up on to dance, but then there were also beauteous dancers with real breasts, that felt brazilian rather than vegas. The uncanny thing was that there seemed to be the exact right amount of people--comfortably crowded but not packed. There was not a wait for the loo the first 3 times I went, then around 2 or 3, it started getting crowded. The drinks were new year's prices, but Nic was slick to drink some down and ask the bartender in Chinese to add more vodka--lo and behold they do! God bless the double obedience bred by confucianism and communism. Or the hypnotic effect of a charming white dude speaking Chinese. Or both.
Daniel is Mr. Fabulous. His smile warms the heart and his wit is super hip.  He is so not the typical Chinese--aka, he knows how to have fun. Lord knows the Chinese are fastidious and industrious at everything they do, but having fun requires a cool, savoir faire of non-care, and Daniel is open and funny and, well, FABULOUS!
Nic reminds me of my pal Moises in that he laughts just a little bit too loud...but that just makes me feel at home. On the way home, the taxi driver wanted to stiff him cuz he's a foreigner and Nic had an argument in Chinese--why are you so impolite? To which the driver said: why are you so implite? To which Nic says: I am a guest in your taxi and you are so impolite. To which the driver replied: why are you so impolite? To which Nic said: Hurry. Move forward. Go! A few more rounds of that including a triple jacking-up of the price. But we get home regular.
Something about the reverie in the gold snow won't let any cranky taxi cramp an evening.
New Year's Day was clear and unfussy and bode well for the rest of the year. It was a completely free day of recalling the revelry and open to the possibilities of the coming year. My resolution: astute articulation of China to the U.S., and the U.S. to China; of the world to the self, of the self to the world.

And for a proper ringing in of the year in Shanghai, what could be better than an awesome Chinese meal with Dr. Ding and his family? 
That's his wife Lucy on his left (my godfather Paul Chow's sister, which makes her my godaunt?--sounds French) and his son Hengle on his right. They kind of remind me of a Sartre No Exit situation, the part where there is commentary of what is being said, while it's being said--strong personalities who have lived through all of China's recent historical stages tend to be fiery this way. It's a dynamic that I absolutely treasure and learn from. Here they are in front of their apartment in the French Concession, just down the street from the Anting Villa.
I just can't resist Dr. Ding. I sit behind him in the taxi admire his ear muffs.

We go to a Chinese Chinese restaurant in Xujiahui called He 'something' xiao cai. The Family He's Little Dishes. It is chosen because it is good and everyday they have specials. There are two such restaurants right next to each other, but we go to the one that has the elevator (cuz it's on the 4th floor) and it's easier for Dr. Ding, who can't see. Dr. Ding wears his University of Chicago sweatshirt. Obama taught there, I say to him. Yes, he smiles. He can also speak Indonesian.
Today's special: Clear stir-fried shrimp. Our New Year meal continues with tender kidney flower (one of my favorites that my pops used to cook for guests), dou miao (pea sprouts, also tender) minced pork wrapped in bean curd, special shanghai chicken, and a really, really succulent flounder, steamed with ginger and scallions. There were also wontons and a puff-pastry radish dumpling.

Best of all: the most helpful and courteous wait service I have ever, ever experienced in China. Maybe because I was with Chinese old folks? Is that the gold card? Anyway they were patient and attentive with cheerful dispositions. The only thing is that our waitress sided with the Dings when I asked for her to give me the bill. And then the onslaught of the bill-paying massacre. There is no way they will let me pay and Lucy will shout me down with her lived-through-three-political-Chinas-including-the-Cultural-Revolution fervor and Hengle will apply his Red Guard intensity, even if he never really was one. I'm American, I don't do the Chinese wrestling match of paying the bill. It's a new year, and I'm so well-treated.

If the first day tells how the rest of the year smells, then 2009 gonna be mighty mighty fine.

I hope you had a great start!



Blogger Elaine Avila said...

happy new year alice! this post made me so hungry--i miss the great asian cuisine in vancouver, here in the southwest. but if i leave, i'll miss the chile. love what you said about china--u.s. articulation. i'm working on two projects involving china. your blog is so cool and inspiring. xxxoo

January 4, 2009 at 12:49 PM  

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