Friday, September 29, 2017

Shanghai Diary: A Beautiful Day

Today was a beautiful day in Shanghai. The air was so clear that I could see the Shanghai Tower from my apartment window.

It was my last day of working with Laura and Jason. They're heading back to Michigan tomorrow.

We spent the morning at the office, going over budgets, wrapping up their stay, and celebrating office birthdays. With Golden Week starting Sunday, there were fewer than normal people in the office and we went back to the hotel for lunch.

Jason was in need of a new bag for some of the things he's gotten so we went back to the underground mall at Century Park. Fortunately, this time around we had something of a guide to keep the annoying hucksters at bay. One of the guys that works there, James, is an acquaintance of my listeners who put us in touch. I always enjoy saying, "I know a guy..."

That worked out well.

We went back for drinks at the hotel before Jason and Laura packed for the return trip. I met up with them for Japanese food at a place just down the street from me. Dinners this week have included Japanese, Brazilian, Mexican, and American. There's been a real dearth of Chinese food in my diet since I've been in China. Likewise, my diet's gone out the fucking window. I hope to make it to the grocery store and get on a regular eating schedule again once I'm on my own.

I'm curious what it'll be like when I'm flying solo starting tomorrow. I'm hoping kind of routine. That'll be easier once office is open again after Golden Week. I also did a little research and found a bar that does pub trivia on Monday nights (The White Horse). They're resuming games on 10/10.

Places like that pub and some others that I've been wanting to see are just a bit out of my walking range and I don't want to take taxis everywhere. That said, I bought myself an electric scooter. I've never driven a motorcycle (this is a light version of that) so I'm a little shaky so far. Think I'm going to do a lot of practicing before I just let loose and go on a longer drive. Maybe I'll try to hit the grocery store (poor choice of words?) tomorrow. Of all the dumb things I don't know how to get, it needs air in the back tire and it's not like I've seen gas stations on every corner. I haven't seen any at all.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

UK Journal: The Cure for Abuse


Dude, The Cure concert was rulin'... or was it?

We went to the Financial District of London today. Yawn. After coming home at about 11:30 with a fun bus ride: this one chick, Suhani, is a Nazi bitch so Jim and Kevin started making fun of her. They played a game of the Stars of David vs. The Swastikas and as a collateral, I bet Jerusalem. This pissed Stacie off, who started crying and carrying on. [Our hearts were in the right place, trying to humiliate a Nazi though we could have done it better.]

In the afternoon today we took in The London Experience which was OK. Then, instead of waiting in London, we went back to Tolworth to Michelle's and missed the train as it was canceled so Michelle and I arrived at Waterloo about two hours after we said, or actually after Leslie told us. And then took the Underground to Queenspark to change trains and go to Wembley [stadium]. This is the time that tried my soul.

Michelle and Leslie went to the bathroom and told Doug and I to wait. Apparently, when they came back they thought they saw us get on the grain there -- which we didn't.

After waiting an hour we went to look for them (the concert had already started about 45 minutes earlier) when a worker came up to us to tell us that Leslie and Michelle were in Wembley -- not in the bathroom -- and not in trouble. So, we waited for the next train to take us to Wembley. Boy, were we pissed. Once we go there I exploded and pushed Leslie. I pushed a bit too hard and got her really made not that I wasn't. So they started running to the concert but Doug and I said "Bullshit on that" and as they walked a block ahead of us, we decided to just go home. It was a fifteen pound loss but I think it was worth it. I hope that by Saturday Leslie and Michelle will be mellow.

So here I am in Kingston. The wrong train again.

So now I have to go back to Wimbledon or Raynes Park and wait, after this train shows up.

I know it was a really shitty thing to do to Leslie and Michelle but it seemed right at the time. I'll see how they are on Saturday. Until then, I'll try not to think about it.

Dude! This [note]book is almost through. I bought a new one but Michelle has it. Fuck. I liked Natasha. She was nice. But she was somewhat dorky and a drunk. I like Michelle - she's nice but she has a boyfriend.

England needs:
Iced Tea
Air Conditioning
Less Litter
Faster Rails
Better Roads
Everything Cheaper
Happier People

[This incident with Leslie -- physically shoving her when we finally arrived at the train station after being worried sick about our friends who just disappeared -- still haunts me. This is the first and only time I ever abused a woman without her consent. I won't try to make any excuses. It was a terrible thing to do and something for which I'm still sorry.

By this point in the trip, it seems that nerves are getting raw and the angst in my pants is just making everything worse.]

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Shanghai Diary: A Little Preparation

I like doing research. Before I came over to Shanghai I tried several avenues to get an idea of what to expect. Some of them were more successful than others.

As I mentioned a few posts back, I listened to the Two White Chicks in China podcast and I can't say how invaluable that was. I had some amazing listeners to The Projection Booth podcast respond after I put out a brief "I'm going to Shanghai and I'm not sure what's going to happen" announcement. I also read a few travel books and scoured the web for travel blogs. I even visited a Reddit and Facebook page maintained by "expats" living in Shanghai.

The person who wasn't very helpful was one of the people from my office. My biggest questions before coming over here involved 1) getting Andrea here (she arrives November 2) and 2) getting some kind of per diem so I don't have to worry about credit cards. I was concerned about that as I kept being told that American credit cards are not honored here in China.

My contact person "researched" my per diem request and came back with an answer that "Yes, American Express is definitely workable here in Shanghai."

The truth is that a few places -- even in the more "Westernized" area where I'm staying -- take AMEX but the majority do not. The most prevalent form of payment that we've seen thus far is using one's phone and either AliPay or WeChat Pay. There's also something called Union Pay which is based right here in Pudong. Cash is still accepted, of course, though it can get a bit bulky.

The other night, Laura went over to a nearby massage parlor and when she went to pay she found out that they didn't take AMEX or Visa (the same thing happened at a restaurant the same day. Fortunately, I was with her and able to pay cash). The owner of the parlor followed her back to her hotel and waited while she got money for him.

That said, I hope she gives my contact person an earful about payment methods in China.

One of the things I heard on Two White Chicks in China was about Mobike -- the bike rental service. They're around but nowhere near as plentiful (on my street anyway) as Ofo. It seems like I have connected my US AMEX to their app and will be able to rent a bike for a measly 1 RMB (about 15 cents) per trip (so one way to the grocery store is one trip, coming back is another trip so thirty whole cents. I'm looking into these electrified bikes I occasionally see, too.

Electric Bikes for Electric Youth

I'm not above riding the bus here (once I get a Metro card) though I have to say that taxis are fairly inexpensive. And, there's a thing I have yet to get over about tipping. Let's just say that Mr. Pink would be very happy here. "He don't tip." It's difficult for me to have restaurant and not leave a few RMB for a tip.

I'm looking into buying a scooter -- either like a "scooter scooter" one of those ones with the two little wheels and the long handle that I can fold and carry or something like a Vespa. Of course, I'm worried about the "Vespa" being stolen but I'm more worried about being hit by a car. I've been WeChatting with some people who I've found on that are selling their stuff. Like me, they're "expats". I've got an appointment set up for Saturday morning to see one bike (kind of pricey but legal) and maybe will me another one tomorrow (cheaper but illegal -- no license plate).

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

UK Journal: A Parisan Side Trip


Well, dudes, we're not being excellent to each other over here. Mr. Lee is yelling at me because I noticed a bus station but didn't look at the times and all this other garbage.

"I work my ASS off and he spends my money on that TRASHY White Bitch!" [I'm not sure what this is from though I imagine The Mack. Whatever it is, I like it.]

We went to the London Dungeon. Weak. We went to Trafalgar Square. Great.* Pigeons and statues aplenty.

England -- not just one smell but a cornucopia of stench.

Last night I just hung around with Michelle. I didn't discuss meeting with Natasha today. I guess I'll call her later. We went down to the S&M [what we called Marks & Spencer] shopping and talked to her [Michelle's] skater boyfriend, Rob's house.


[Drawing of a calendar]

July 21, 22, 23 PARIS
July 24 The Cure
July 25, 26, 27, 28 Dusseldorf
YOU MAKE ME WORK! [Cameo reference]

Here I am in Kingston. Some nice shops here but no McDonalds?!? I finally found a park to sit down and have my lunch. I sat home all morning but then I went down and noon and called Natasha but she wasn't home so I curtailed my Wapoling activities and ventured forth to Wimbledon to cash another traveler's cheque and then took the train here. Starting tomorrow I'm going to have one hell of a week! I have to be up by 5:30 tomorrow and then it's no sleep 'til Brooklyn.

Ya know what I want? A really senseless physical relationship with a good-looking woman.


Then I threw out all those credit cards... Yeah... [Oran "Juice" Jones reference]


The Left Bank
Jim Morrison's Grave

I'm now in FRANCE.

I've seen London. I'll see France... So far I only have one question. What do the cows say?


Ah, Paris.
City of Lights.
City of Stench.
City of _______

We arrived at a bit past 8 and found that I was paired off with Doug, the kid from Cali, who seems really cool. Wen we got in after a 12+ our trip I got a well-needed shower, probably the best thing to happen to me today. After that we checked out everybody's rooms. Our is SO SMALL. Two single beds, a table, a window, a wardrobe, a diminutive bathroom. We then sallied forth and met up with some friends:

The Amazon
Fran & Friend
Natasha, Stacie, & Heather

And went to this church FAR up on a cliff [Montmartre] We paid F23 for a fucking Coke and then went to the church [Sacré-Cœur] to discover that it was closed.

We sat down on the MANY steps that led up to the church and several swarthy dudes began hitting on the girls. Oh, it was fun. We walked back to the hotel and discovered that just about everyone was drunk or in the process of getting there.

Oh my, Jim was having a real fun time, too, with his two Scandinavian goddesses in Room 44. I think I'll stay away from Natasha for a few days, or maybe I'll wait 'til after France so she can be alone while I'm in Germany.

I'll have fun, fun, fun 'til Frannie takes my passport away. Kirk out.


REMINDER THE RED FLAMINGO [I have no idea what this means]



It is SO filthy here. The water is not safe to drink. The whole city reeks. And the Metro smells like a urinal.

We had a Continental Breakfast which seemed like it was from the continent of Antarctica. A croissant, a small loaf of bread, and coffee. Then we went to the coach: It's so hot in here. Let me out, please! [Arthur Brown reference].

We went to the church again and hung around a bit and Michelle made the barter of a lifetime.

This guy drew a picture of her in chalk and after he quoted the price of 300F she said, "All I have is this" a 10F piece and the guy accepted it. A mark down of 1/30th of the price.


On the way to Versailles.

So anyway, then we went to Notre Dame. It is so cool. The architecture was astounding. Too much for words. Towering spires. Majestic.

We then proceeded to the Eiffel Tower. It was a lot bigger than I had expected. I didn't, however, go to the top. At the moment, I didn't have enough flow [money] and Kevin took off before I knew where he was going so Michelle, Natasha, Stacey, Heather and I sat around and ate. Eventually we went back to the bus which later dropped off Doug, Jimmy, Kevin, Natasha, Stacy, Heather, Leslie and I off by the Louvre.

Once we got to the entrance, I finally got to see the great glass pyramid and while I was taking a picture of it everyone else was getting in line. When I turned around, everyone was gone.

So, I looked EVERYWHERE, believe you me, I was flipping out after I couldn't see them. Then, after an hour or so, I finally went inside just as they were all coming out! [I remember this as being very traumatic but I don't got into that here].

We actually made it back to the hotel alright, probably because of Heather's expert advice. And now to tell us how to better live our lives, Mrs. Know-It-All.

And then... another great shower.

It is SO hot in France. More humid than just hot. Later we went on our dinner and boat trip. No, not a dinner boat. We went to some hole-in-the-wall and then cruised the Seine. Very pleasant. When we got back to zee 'otel we decided to go back to that church again. Natasha basically ignored me so Michelle and I hung out. The swarthy dudes weren't as bad as the previous night and they left Michelle and this girl Karen alone after they said they were lesbians.

We went back -- Kevin, Jim, Michelle, Doug, the two Swedish girls -- and met in Natasha, Stacey, and Heather's room. When I arrived, Natasha was getting drunk. Cool guy (not).* But other than that, it was fun just to hang out with basically cool people, it would have been better in another room. One without Natasha, Stacey, and/or Heather.

At this moment I'm sitting on the bus - it's actually cool for once. We're on our way back to England. Jim wants a t-shirt that says "I Hate France." He says he's going to write a book on how to improve Europe. I'd buy both. Today we went to Versailles. It reminded me of Oxford. A pretty town unlike anything in the U.S. but it had fewer people than Oxford, a definite plus. I'm going to have fun telling Mrs. Lee how much France sucks and that I didn't go to the gardens at Versailles. What I did was hung out with Michelle and checked out the Versailles food shops.

[What I didn't write is that Versailles had a great open air market and that we bought some fresh peaches and brie. Both were possibly the most delicious I'd ever had. Though I slagged on France a lot, I would go back in a heart beat. I don't know why I was being such a jerk. And, gosh, it's hot in July. Imagine that!]

*The more I read these kinds of things he more I think that Donald Trump writes his tweets like I wrote when I was 17 years old.

Shanghai Diary: A Few Snaps

Yesterday was the first day that I've seen the sun while here in Shanghai. It was glorious after three days of pretty solid rain. The humidity kicked my ass but, otherwise, it was good.

Here's a shot from the window of the Marriott where Jason and Laura are staying. They have been inviting me there for breakfast every morning. I'm still not sure if that's clouds, fog, or smog.

This is posted on the front window of the building where our office is. I can understand most of these but not all.

Two shots of the river that runs through my neighborhood. Pudong has lots of little rivers that run through it.

UK Journal: Disco Damnation

[Undated Entry]


Today we went to Oxford. I found two 45s by P.i.L. and about eight books by Michael Moorcock and one about John Lydon, in all I spent about 30 pounds -- much too much but oh well. Oxford was a little dull but it was beautiful.

Tonight I go to the EF DISCO!

While in Oxford I went on a thing called "The Oxford Story" and then we went "punting" which is something like a combined canoe and gondola ride.


Dude, the disco was cancelled!!! Yesterday we went to Oxford and had a jolly old time. The buildings were really cool but the best part was that I found "Metal Box" on cassette and got both "Warrior" and "Disappointed" on 45. When we got back to Wimbledon we went to Pizza Hut and had the best meal since I've been here.

Then we went to the place where the disco was and found it was cancelled. Damnation!!!

I did find out on the way, though, that our leader, Fran, likes Monty Python and The Young Ones. So then we, the little campers of Leslie, Michelle, Jim, Natasha, me, the Atlanta kid [Kevin] went back to the Toby Jug. On the way there, though, I found out that Michelle has seen Car Wash! Then, while at the Toby Jug, I found out that the Atlanta kid likes CAMEO!

Everybody seems really cool. Even the Canadians! (Those Dern Ferriners). The kid from L.A., Jim, likes The Smiths but also likes Eazy-E. But, they call got drunk, even Natasha. But when Natasha was drunk I told her how much I liked her and she said she felt the same way towards me. I hope she does.

Today, however, was the train strike - but despite this major setback I still managed to spend the afternoon with Natasha.

Leslie is supposed to order Natasha and Jim both a Cure ticket and I they weren't too far away and if Natasha sees to still like me (more I hope), I'll trade tickets with Jim. Today we just hung around Wimbledon where I got some Francs for Friday. Time's going by so quick (sic) and some more pounds sterling, not enough though. I'll only have 17 after I pay for Paris so I guess I'll have to cash another cheque.


Check with Fran about Friday 7/28 and CALL MOM at 5:00

Meet 6:30 at Wimbledon

Departure flight 936 British Airways

Pick up pre-paid ticket

7:20 AM depart

Monday, September 25, 2017

Shanghai Days and Bollywood Nights

While my American coworkers are in town this week I'm going to have anything but a normal schedule. Though, I think that this whole trip is going to be unusual in its structure what with dealing with the U.S. office and the time here. Things will only get worse when the U.S. "falls back" with the end of Daylight Saving and the difference between me and home becomes 13 hours rather than 12. At least 12 makes it easy to remember.

Yesterday I made it into our Shanghai office for a couple hours while Jason and Laura met with a vendor partner. I said my hellos to a lot of my office mates and settled in a bit to my new desk. The space reminds me of the time I went to Blue Cross/Blue Shield for an interview a few years back. They're in the Renaissance Building and take up a floor, meaning that you get off the elevators and can go either left or right and get in the office. It's all one big circle. I know I'm going to get turned around a few times early on.

I've got my badge, my desk, and still have yet to get a working Chinese phone. I keep debating about getting a new SIM card either for my work phone (iPhone) or personal phone (Android).

Back in my office in Southfield, I discovered that there are no provisions for people like me who are on a temporary assignment. The policy is written for permanent transfers and short stays but nothing a month or more. That means that when I was told, "Put in a request for a work phone as we've got coverage in China" that no one thought that this coverage was a $10/day "day pass" from Verizon meaning a grand total of $840 at the end of the trip. The day I left I got a call from an IT guy saying that I'd have to get an unlocked phone and that the IT guys in Shanghai would get me a new SIM card. I never got the new phone as the guy I was supposed to get it from wasn't at his desk(!). Thus the confusion. I like my personal phone a lot more and would like that to be the fully operational one. The only thing is that no one could call me at my regular number... not that I get many calls. It's more texts and with Andrea I've asked her to switch over to WeChat so I can get used to it.

My co-worker, Jade, and I went over to another big mall-type complex to meet Jason, Laura, and another co-worker Jasmine (who seems to be in charge of the Digital Marketing department over here) for lunch and a meeting with another vendor partner. The place seemed like some kind of chain restaurant and the Western posters and the English chalk drawings on the wall didn't dissuade me of this opinion.

This picture was in the bathroom at the mall -- actually, every bathroom at the mall had the same art work. I think this is called, "Baby, I'm gonna bolt you so hard..."

During the meeting the storm clouds outside just got thicker and thicker until it almost looked like night out. It doesn't help that the sun sets around here at 6PM, meaning that it's going to only get worse before it gets better.

I went back to my apartment and chilled for a bit before meeting Jason for some Indian food. The place is called "Bollywood" and they weren't kidding. There are pictures of Bollywood movie stars everywhere and they were playing a great video mix of songs from a variety of movies. Between that and the food, I could eat there all the time... Oh, wait, I can! I can get Indian food almost ever night of the week if I want once I'm on my own.

I came back and got on some conference calls until 11PM and then started watching "Star Trek: Discovery". It seems a little pompous for my taste. I an imagine Michelle Yeoh ordering tea and it taking ten shots and swelling music to get it. Also, for whatever reason, probably because she mentioned that her "number one" should get a command of her own that Michelle Yeoh is going to die in this first episode. It will add some false gravitas. And, "Star Trek" doesn't like when "number one"s actually get their own command on their own. Right, Mr. Riker?

Also, it was pointed out that I didn't show my balcony view. Here you go:

Sunday, September 24, 2017

UK Journal: British Food and Toby's Jug

Undated, 1989 [I imagine this is either later in the day or the next day]

Well, here I am. I met Mrs. Lee [my host mother] and she seems nice. Too soon to tell. I napped and then ate (Yuck). The food is really filling and just a tad bit disgusting but I'm sure I'll grow accustomed to it.

Then we checked out the rail road station. I hope to see the others soon. Well, time for bed, Hasta Luego.


9:00 Wimbledon station 7/15


Welp (sic), here I am on the train to Tolworth. Today, 7/14, we walked around Wimbledon, our nearest biggest community. I hung out with Natasha most of the time, if not all. I'm liking her more all the time. Mrs. Lee on the other hand...

I bought two 7"s [those are records, kids], "Overground" and "Israel" [Siouxsie & The Banshees] and I also saw the 7" for "Disappointed" [Public Image Ltd] but didn't get it. I found "Viva Hate" but under a different name, if I don't find Andy's other albums, I get him that. [Andy Feudner had given me a long shopping list of singles from The Smiths].

Tonight we went to the EF party -- dull. We did not do anything. Then we (Stacy, Natasha, and I) went to Wimbledon and looked around. We went a man who went to U of M [The University of Michigan]. His family s Arabic and live in Wimbledon. They should us 'round the house: it was HUGE. The whole family seemed very nice and knew how rude the English usually are. Good clothes but bad attitudes.


Andy's expenditures

Andy can spend
- £16.50

9.90 DM = £3.30

Party Pyramid:

Bash -- Drunk and fucked
Party -- Drunk
Get-Together --> Us

[Undated Entry]

Oh, June! I'm Home!

What did you do today, Ward?

Well... The train was 25 minute late to Wimbledon but luckily Michelle, Leslie (a fellow Michigander and frequenter of Teen-Nite at the Shelter) and two older guys were there so I had a pretty good time waiting for the train.

We eventually got to Wimbledon and then went on to Waterloo where we took the tube to Piccadilly Circus. While in he station I was reminded of An American Werewolf in London: the part where the guy is chased up those steep escalators which I had to face today. Then we toured London on top of a bus and saw many things but I was totally disoriented by the driving. Then we were allowed to go off on our own so Natasha and I went all over London where we were at [a horrible sentence].

I bought some 12"s [more records, kids] for Andy and some Monty Python albums and a Public Enemy t-shirt for myself. She bought a leather bracelet and t-shirt for herself.

We are supposed to go to some really fine shops soon and I hope it is soon and I hope they are fine.

Then she and I walked all over for hours, buying tea and ice a few times and having a rather inexpensive dinner and then went back to St. James park for a lovely sit down.


72 New Malden Police 152

July 16

"Well, at least Mussolini got the trains to run on time."


Meet 7/17 at Wimbledon at 8:45

Tonight bring "The Scream", Seldane, batteries [Sounds ominous]

[Undated Entry]

Right, today I went to Buckingham Palace and saw a bit of the changing of the guards. They even played "The Washington Post" march when they marched out. It is so hard to believe that so many people from so many different parts of the U.S. can enjoy one anothers company as much I feel our group is.

My parents want to send me to Germany while I'm here so I'm going to check with Fran [our leader] tomorrow to see if there are a few days that I wouldn't mind being gone.

After Buckingham Palace we went to Hyde Park and saw Speakers' Corner. Quite a novel and necessary idea. Then Natasha, Stacy, a girl from Washington named Heather, and I walked to the Hard Rock cafe. Rip off, boring. Then we went up the street ad found all sorts of vendors where I found tons o' Smiths crap. I got two buttons for 10p each -- a Siouxsie and a Bauhaus -- then we found a guy who sold packs of four buttons and one post card where I found Siouxsie again and where Natasha got the same plus some Depeche Mode, Morrissey, and one other which eludes e for a minute. Then we had a perfectly awful time just sitting around Piccadilly Circus and riding the underground.

I found out that Michelle and the L.A. guy [Jimmy] both live in Tolworth. I was supposed to meet them at Toby's Jug tonight but I didn't feel like it. Sitting in a smelly English pub with a bunch of drunks and then walking home didn't really appeal to me. So, I watched some stupid show about three English vets with a stunning bovine rectal examination scene.

Public Enemy and the Blues Brothers seem to be popular. I've seen more stuff with them than anything except maybe Michael Jackson and The Cure.


Tues 7/25
Fri 7/28

Wed Waterloo at 10:30
Thurs Free
Fri Paris
Toby's Jug.... 533
Heathrow... 609

[To be continued]

Shanghai Diary: Trip to the Malls

While I'm here this first week, two of my co-workers from the Southfield office are with me. They arrived a week before I got here and then leave this coming Saturday.

One of them is my direct boss, Jason, and the other is the CMO of the company, Laura. Laura wanted to do a little shopping today and I wanted to talk with them and get out a bit myself. After I met them at their hotel, we took a taxi to the "underground mall" at Century Park. Indeed, it was a mall of sorts that took up either side of the metro stop there.

We entered into a maze of stores (or booths, really), each seeming to stock a slight variation of the other so that it felt like we were in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, us walking in front with the same handful of stores rotating in the background. To abuse the metaphor, we were something of a Scooby Gang, fending off hordes of shopkeepers -- most of them in their twenties -- who would attach themselves to us and start throwing out brand names and products, "You want to buy some watches? We have Rolex, Tag Heuer..." or "We have bags for you, Prada, Gucci..." and a simple "no thank you" would not dissuade them. This gave me a good chance to try out my limited Mandarin with a "Wǒ bùxiǎng!"

There was only one store that finally seemed interesting to me where they sold the most tacky tchotchkes I could want. I made note to possibly come back for some in the future, though I'm not sure if I could handle the hustle of the sales pitch again. I actually had a good time of watching it happen when Laura and Jason went into one booth to buy some shoes. The haggling with the shopgirl, the way the girl kept insisting that her items were quality, the pushing of different products, the demuring about their authenticity until finally "admitting" that they were just as good quality as the name brands that were illegitimately marked on them, and back to the haggling. It was quite a dance.

I managed to get Andrea a little solar powered Maneki-neko ("Chinese" lucky cat) for her office area at home.

Afterwards we went to a more "legitimate" mall where little-to-know shopping happened but it was still interesting to see the layout of the stores. It reminded me a lot of the indoor/outdoor malls of Las Vegas. On a rainy day like today there wasn't much desire to walk around outside but we could see the stores we wanted to get to from one level to another or across the way.

This is where we had lunch. Though the hostess seemed to know her English, the wait staff did not. But, a picture menu on an iPad seemed at first to help. That is, until the questions about "what kind of meat is that?" started cropping up. Apparently, years of "The Iron Chef" have inured me to being squeamish about ingredients. I tried to use Google Translate as best I could but the white text on a white background confused the heck out of the app. After about 20 minutes of going back and forth, they had ordered a few dishes (including french fries, cokes, and fried rice). I went more for presentation and got some dumplings and a dish that looked interesting and spicy.

While they picked at their spread of plates, I chowed down on mine which seemed to be some deep fried squab, un-fried shrimp, peanuts, and hot peppers. I'm guessing squab because of the number and size of bones. I didn't really care. It just tasted good. The dumplings were great, too. And the balsamic vinegar dipping sauce was potent.

After some more walking around, we decided to head back to their hotel which was a very quick cab ride away. Their hotel is about a block from my apartment, though in the pissing rain it feels longer. Thank goodness Andrea dug out an umbrella for me.

They seem to have a lot of umbrella etiquette. They have dispensers at the hotels for plastic bags in which one is supposed to wrap their umbrellas before going inside. And outside of a restaurant I went to yesterday they had a caddy for umbrellas. If the rain has been this bad for the last two days, I can't imagine what it's like during monsoon season.

We ate a little dessert at the hotel in the lobby and I was supposed to head back to meet them for dinner but I begged off. I got incredibly sleepy around the time we would have probably met and the idea of going back out in the rain didn't appeal to me. My eating and sleeping have been thrown off significantly so far. I'm trying to maintain my meal program but I've found that I was incredibly hungry on the flight over and haven't been too hungry today since the one meal.

I crashed out for an hour and now I'm back up and waiting for 10PM when I try my first Skype call + recording for an episode of The Projection Booth on Polanski's The Tenant. It'll be a three time zone affair and my maximum speed of internet is about 2 Mbps so I hope that can sustain a good call.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

UK Journal: Part 1

When I was 17 years old, my parents sent me over to the UK as a program called "Educational Foundation" (EF). I remember seeing ads for it late at night when I was watching The Young Ones on MTV and having a free packet of information sent about it. I don't know what possessed them -- I don't recall presenting a very good case -- but they ponied up the money and put me on a plane in the summer of 1989. It wasn't so much an "exchange program" as this wasn't done during a school year and there was no back and forth. It was just a bunch of American kids going to England for six weeks(?) with the opportunity to do two side trips.

While I was on my way, I started doing a little journaling. I want to transcribe those journals here as a counterpoint to my "Shanghai Diary" and as way to preserve these journals as they're little memo pads and likely to get lost.

With no further ado:

July 12 (1989)

In St. Louis, Missouri... about 2 1/2 hours until I go to New York and, so far... I met two fellow EF students such as myself; Stacy and Natasha. Both seem very nice. Natasha is the, must I say "typical?" dark poet. you know the type, "all around is darkness" kind of stuff. Stacie, on the other hand, sees cheerful and happy. They are staying together at the same house when we get to Surriton [sic. Most likely I meant Surbuton]. According to Stacey, we're all going to be in the same general area. Good. They seem pretty cool.

I'm a stranger in a strange land.

St. Louis?
The Arch.
Sears Tower.

It's strange. So far I've seen a Steve Convery, Mr. Menard, and now John Litman. Does everyone look the same in each city or am I just making people look familiar?

I wish I could look around St. Louis but by the time I fond the exit to this airport it'd be boarding time.

Well, time goes on, and on, and on, and on, but we don't. St. Louis is civilized to a point. They have iced tea but it's $1.27 a glass [I didn't understand the concept of "airport pricing"].

Here we are. St. Louis. The plane was late and so are we. We aren't even sitting on it yet. Sitting here listening to people, or to my headphones.

Oh Boy! Excitement! It's about an hour after we should have left and here we sit.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to New York. I certainly hope to make my flight to England in time. It's 6:07 and we've been in the air for about an hour. We had our snack time and the condiment of choice was "Grey Poupon" known the world over for its fine flavor. Made with the finest white wine.

By the way, did I say that Peter Lorre was a flight attendant?

We're supposed to land in 25 minutes.

Okay, I can handle this. After a run to the New York terminal and 4 1/2 hours in the air it's now 6:00 in England but I'm still here in mid air.

Natasha and I talked for a few hours. She seems quite nice. Not the brooding, tempestuous poet that she first seemed to be. Right now, she's asleep while Stacey is writing as well. Stacy managed to sleep a lot during the flight and Natasha finally managed but I, alas, could not. It is a pity that Natasha isn't a closer friend or I could use her shoulder as a pillow for I am sure I could have fallen asleep then.

Our dinner was late and not tasty. We had chicken with an awful batter.

I certainly hope to be seated with these two on y return journey. I believe I'd thoroughly enjoy their company on the 5 1/2 hour layover back to Detroit.

DUDE! I am still airborne [sic]. I am still tired. I am still amazed that the sun's up. Will the English girls have hairy armpits? How shall I phrase the question? "'Scuse me, darlin' but..."

Wakey wakey Mr. Parrot, this is your 6 o'clock alarm call!!!

I still haven't met the other EF students as they are all spread out over the plane.

DUDE! I'M HERE! I'm in England! After about a 3 hour wait at Heathrow, we're finally all on a bus headed to our host family. I met a pretty cool girl, Michelle, from West Virginia.

[Random notes]

4 Gypsy Lane
Ring wood

Waterloo Station.
Meet for fun orientation at Raynes Park Station at 10:00
Where is rail station?

7:30 at RP Methodist Chuck. A party. Invite host family.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Arrival

Though the flight from Detroit to Shanghai was "only" a little over 14-15 hours, it was really over a day due to the time change. We flew to the northeast rather than west as I had expected. Some of my fellow travelers posited that it might have been to give North Korea a wide berth. Going that way, the sun seemed to set a little early and then "rise" again at 11PM as we made our way over Greenland. At one point I looked out the window and it seemed like we were going over the face of another world. With no clouds, we seemed to be very low in the sky (no sense of perspective). The was nothing but white with only shadows from the sunrise to give any depth. It looked like mountains and "rivers" of snow. I tried to capture it with my cellphone but, of course, you can't really see the depth and clarity of the human eye.

The sun rose and set while I was in the plane. It was after 7PM Shanghai time when we finally landed. I had tried to sleep on the trip but only managed to nod off about a half hour from touch-down. Then it was the rush rush rush of everyone pushing their way through the airport as if we weren't going to have to wait about an hour for our luggage, no matter how fast the Customs lines went.

At the mouth of the luggage return there were two ladies who seemed to have one job of turning luggage on its side in order to fit bags on the carousel in a proper way. The carousel would occasionally stop while more bags were being loaded somewhere. When it'd start again they'd work quickly to handle the new demand. Of course, I could only think of Lucy and Ethel working on that candy line. "Let 'er roll!!"

I had a bit of a SNAFU with not seeing the person who was supposed to bring me back to my apartment. I ended up getting swept away by a gypsy taxi driver who ended up charging me much less than the apartment then (double) charged me when I checked in.

I need a little clarification from my office when I get there on Monday. The apartment has me checking out after two months though I'm here for three. That's a bit concerning.

The apartment is pretty nice. I took a video of it:

It took me a while to get the air conditioner working. The lady who brought me my apartment's fresh water supply showed me how to use a remote control to turn the air on and off. With the settings all being in Chinese and Celsius, it'll take a little figuring but I found the all important "colder" and "not so cold" buttons.

Though the mattress being anything but "cushy", I slept like a stone. I think being awake for 28 hours will do that.

Now I'm off to explore the neighborhood a bit and get a new SIM card and data plan for my phone. Once that happens my 734 number won't work until my return.

Currently Reading: The Tenant by Roland Topor.

I have a lot more reading to do:

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Introducing the Shanghai Diary

I'm not a good blogger, Jenny... But I know what love is. And I know that there's no way I should start a separate blog just for a three month stint. Though definitely not as film-centric as my old TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) diaries, I still wanted to keep a record of my trip and my thoughts about going to Shanghai, China.

The Frequently Asked Questions I get are as follows...

Are you going for vacation? No. This trip is a work trip, though I've never gone away for such an extended period. Most work trips I've taken over the years have been for conferences, training, and face-to-face meetings, but the longest of those has been a week, tops. This trip is over twelve weeks! I've never been away from home that long.

The longest I've ever been away from home occurred when I was 17 years old when I went to the UK. I am sure that I'm going to talk a lot about that trip as I talk about this trip.

Will you be going alone? The first week I'm in Shanghai, two of my co-workers from my office here around Detroit will be there with me. They'll be arriving a week beforehand and staying that first week I'm there. Then they depart and I'm on my own insofar as people I know already. No, Andrea isn't going with me. At least, that's how it seems. We're hoping that work will pay her way over. If that happens, then she may go. If not, she'll stick around the homestead, watching the kitten and dogs and we'll save that money for another day.

Will you be working all the time? Oddly, the second week I'm in Shanghai is "Golden Week", a week-long holiday. That means my office there will be shut down, however I'll still be working on some of my regular projects, albeit in a very different time zone. Shanghai is 12 hours ahead of Detroit. This means that midnight "my time" will be noon back in the office here. I don't see me working that late but still doing a lot of checking in.

Once Golden Week is over, I'll be back in the Shanghai office and working those hours as well as doing some checking in. I'm not quite sure how much I'll be working over my day schedule. Though this is a work trip so I think I should be disposed to the job whenever needed.

Do you speak Chinese? No, I don't speak Chinese. Not Mandarin, not Cantonese, not Shanghainese, none of the dialects. I have been listening to Pimsleur's "Speak and Learn Mandarin" over the past four weeks and picking up a little. I have a feeling that this isn't going to be a major issue but, again, we'll see. I at least know how to ask, "Do you speak English?" and say, "I don't speak Mandarin."

I've been prepping for over a month now: getting my inoculations, obtaining my work visa, reading up about Shanghai, watching any and all "reality" TV I can about it (Bourdain, "Bizarre Foods", "Culture Shock", etc), and countless blog articles. I've also been binging on Two White Chicks in China a podcast from an American and British ex-pat out of Chengdu. They've provided some valuable insights and, moreover, have made me feel a lot more comfortable about going over.

I've been on an eating program via Henry Ford hospital since March which has me eating pre-packaged shakes, bars, and other sundry items from Unfortunately, they don't ship to China which means that one of my bags is going to be packed with a ton of these powders which I know will run out a few weeks after I arrive. I feel like I'm going to be measuring out everything like Matt Damon in "The Martian." Fortunately, it's all high-protein and low-carb and I think I can find enough "real" food like that in Shanghai. I'm also hoping to find some kind of bulk food store where I can stock up on similar items.

I'm also going to be getting a lot more exercise than I do here in Metro Detroit where a car is a necessity. Meanwhile, Shanghai is one of those places that has embraced public transportation -- like all civilized places should. A real metro line (one that is longer then 3 miles long), regular buses and maybe even some trolleys. I plan on walking to my office every day which may be 2 miles away. I say "may" because my apartment and my office show up in different places depending on what map I view -- Apple or Google.

I'm working on loading up my iPad with some things to watch and read during my upcoming 14 hour 22 minute flight. I have to pack a stack of physical books because of studying up for the podcast (I still plan on podcasting while I'm there) but I'm also working to find electronic versions of as much of those as possible to save room. I'm also making sure that my computer has all of the files I need for watching movies and editing podcasts while there. The toughest part of that seems like it will be the 15 hour time difference between Shanghai and Pacific Standard Time.

I'm hoping that this trip will allow me some much needed time to catch up on some projects, do a lot of editing, reading, watching movies. However, I want to make sure that I take time every weekend to go out and explore. Being a movie nerd, I'll admit that I'm curious to attend some screenings there and seeing what some Shanghai theater are like. Plus, there are some movies coming out that I really want to see: Thor 3, Blade Runner 2, and Kingsmen 2. Fortunately, I'll be back in time for Jumanji 2.

Flashback: When I was 17 and preparing to go to the U.K., I had so many less toys and gizmos than I do now. No worrying about SIM cards, very little worry about conversion for plugs. When I was going there I went with a list of record albums that friends, mostly Andy Feudner, were looking for. Amazing that now it's the opposite -- so many gadgets and no need to worry about buying things for people. The world is such now that there aren't many books, albums, or objects that we can't order from any part of the world. With the exception of my diet food, I suppose.

Nerding Out: Going from around 40 degrees latitude to 30 degrees latitude will give me some different weather and throws off my idea of trying to figure out exactly what percentage of the circumference of the earth I'll be traveling. As best I can figure, I'll be going about a third of the way around the globe.