The three boys arrived in Shanghai early on Friday, New Years day. Mcguiness and I walked through the airport and came up to a slick, black, marble doorway with a bright crucifix lit right inside. Next to the crucifix was a swastika. It stopped us in our tracks. The Swastika originally was a religious symbol associated with Hinduism and Buddhism and, well, most ancient religions, but those damn Nazis ruined it for everyone. So it’s common to see it all around Asia.
On the subway ride to our Airbnb a boy in his teens walked in the car followed by a disheveled man holding out a hat for money. The boy was mentally disabled, and he played a harmonica, very well, while the older man asked for money. I haven’t been on many subways here in China, only Chongqing and Beijing, but it was weird to see it go down, just like New York. And the people who gave money made sure to give the older man a stare-down to let him know they didn’t approve of him using his son for money, just like New York.
Shanghai is a beast of a city. With a population of over 24 million and an infrastructure to rival Krypton, it is an in-your-face example of contemporary China’s love for show. The Airbnb is a man’s home on the outskirts of the city, and he rents three rooms for foreigners and Chinese tourists alike. The room has three beds in an awkward arrangement and the walls are covered with layer upon layer of smoking stains. The smoke lives in the walls. The family was very warm when we arrived. The owner had his friends come over who spoke some English and provided tea and orange slices to us when we sat down. It was fun to watch Mcguiness make friends with local Chinese folk. There is no man with a bigger heart than Nick Mcguiness, and his friendship is very dear to me. That short, hercules chest having, God loving, moody, Irish kid with the fun laugh has been a constant in my life since I was 19. We met on the water polo team in college, our friendship moved past the drinking stage and we became roommates my final year before I left for Chile. We used to sit up late and talk about moving to New York City and taking over the world with our music and grand plans. He made it to the city before me (well, Hoboken-no jokin’) working as a sales manager at Pepsi-Co, making the big bucks. His hard work paid off as he rose up in the company, and then last year he quit it all to be a starving artist, just like me. And now here he is in China, digging his heels deeper into the world around him.
We walked along the Bund, taking in the impressive buildings across the river, then came back early to try and recover from New Years eve the night before. The next day we woke up and walked across the street to get some bottled water, and sat down to eat at a Muslim noodle restaurant. Take a look at the western border of China, above Tibet. China borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan to the Northwest, and then of course there’s Kashmir but we don’t have to get into that now, do we? No, no, no, we certainly don’t. The family running the restaurant all wore Kufi caps for the men and a style of Hijab for the women. They spoke a language other than Mandarin, their eyes were light, and their faces were darker with bright red cheeks. There was a poster on a wall corner facing away from the street, saying that there is only one god, Allah, and that Muhammed is his prophet. It was an interesting sight, being in China’s most populated city, having the best noodles I’ve ever had in my life, wondering what I should avoid writing about in my next blog post out of fear of deportation, and then there was a Muslim boy from the hills of Northwest China stretching out noodles and slamming them down on the table again before tossing them into a giant pot of boiling water.
After walking along the tourist packed French concession district, Flowers met up with, Claire, a Chinese girl that works for him in the states and we walked for a while before finding a pub. We had some IPAs, some buffalo wings, and I asked Flowers and Claire to tell me all about the world of consulting, especially about it’s relationship with the US government. Somehow that led into Donald Trump and then Bernie Sanders and then Marco Rubio and then gay rights, and then it was time to meet Chantel from my first week in Qingdao! You know, remember when I hiked up the mountain in Qingdao to see the German tunnels? The rest of that group bailed so Chantel invited us all to get some Thai food. Then we played beer pong and not to toot my own horn (that phrase actually makes me uncomfortable) I dominated, then we went to an underground club that Chantel knew about. I looked around the club and saw pockets of girls and guys talking to each other. I don’t know how this happened, but I came to the conclusion that if I go around and try to dance with random girls I’ll most likely come off as creepy and then face rejection which will lead to depression and heavy drinking, so I just bought one beer and danced by myself all night long. And it was fantastic. Chantel was making out with a belgian dude, Nick is cracking up by himself, Flowers is talking to a German dude, and there is a Latina getting some serious work done on the dance floor next to me. Once in a while we would catch each other’s eye but it was a beautiful relationship of mutual solo dance respect and not interfering with each other’s moves. Is this what being an adult at a club is like? I haven’t been to one in so long semi-sober.