Thursday, December 04, 2003

Rocky Mountain Way
As much as I like it here, yes, I do get homesick and it hit me hard two days ago when I was mucking my way through the tangled syntax and tortured grammar of a feature story about a 24-year-old Shenzhen woman who had returned here from the states to promote a book she'd written and a movie she just acted in that is based on the book.
Her pen name (all Chinese authors have them) is Niuniu, and her book, written in Chinese, is a best seller here.
It's called A Sheep with Wings (the title refers to her Chinese birth year sign, a sheep). It and the movie - no title for it yet - are based on her years living in England as a Chinese expat while she attended a boarding school. Interesting, though the reporter's prose had me rapidly traveling the one-way express straight to Comaville.
I suddenly regained consciousness, though, as the reporter detailed Niuniu's more recent years: "She awarded Economics degree presenting by University of Denver."
My mind did an immediate Homer Simpson: eyeballs rolled back, mouth drooling, tongue flopping....Broncooooos, Rockiessss, Boulderrrr, Flatironssss...
My mission was clear. I had to meet Niuniu. We had important matters to discuss.
Turns out her English name is Jennifer Li and she laughed when I finally reached her cell phone number. Maybe it was because I was babbling incoherently: "You really went to DU? Can'tbelieveit! Gawd-it's-so-good-to-talk-to-someone-here-who-knows-where-Colorado-is. Meet-me-for-coffee. Marry me! Or just have coffee. Pleeeezzeee!"
She took pity on me and obliged. 'Twas wonderful. She speaks flawless, American accented English ("I purposefully got rid of my English accent when I got to Denver") and is attending NYU film school now, as her recent movie experience turned her attention from economics and finance to acting and directing. But she misses Colorado - her Subaru, mountain bike and her "favorite pillow" are still there in storage - but, as she said, "It's like, whatever!"
Yes, she actually said: "It's like, whatever!"
I melted. As cliched as the phrase is, I realized I hadn't heard it for months. I actually missed it. I almost asked her to repeat it, ("SAY IT, JENNIFER! C'MON, SAY: 'It's like, whatever!') but figured she'd think I had some kind of creepy old guy linguistic fetish.
We talked about her book (she's writing a sequel about her years in Denver), her fans, her movie, acting school, the trials and tribulations of being a stranger in a strange land - and, of course, Colorado.
She misses the weather. "There are actually four seasons there! Amazing!" And we both shared memories of the Blizzard of '97. Me about digging my car out of 3-foot drifts and her delight at seeing her first snow.,
"It was so huge, I'd never seen snow in Shenzhen and it blew me away. I was in a dorm with foreign students at DU and we lived on chips for the weekend because the cafeteria was closed. But we loved it. Absolutely loved it!"
She also misses Pho 97, a Vietnamese noodle place in Denver ("You can't get decent Vietnamese food in Shenzhen"), the spring cherry blossoms on Evans in Denver, going to Rockies baseball games and snowboarding at Keystone.
My snowboarding skills are like my brain surgery skills, nonexistent, but I could relate to all the rest. It felt like home for a moment.
I returned to the office and a coworker who was working late asked me where I'd been.
"Oh, I had coffee and a long talk with Niuniu," I said casually. He looked awe-struck. "Niuniu! She is very famous!" It was if I'd offhandedly told someone in America that I'd just had lunch with the likes of Jennifer Aniston or Gwyneth Paltrow. But I played it cool.
"Yeah, it was OK. You know, it was like, whatever."

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