Monday, February 09, 2004

 
My City Was Gone
In two days I've lost my bank and handy neighborhood cigarette and news kiosk. Both have vanished, gone, nada, el zippo - as if they never existed. Recently I made a soggy, cold rain-soaked trek to the bank designated for me by the apartment owner to deposit money from which phone and utilities are deducted. It was a monthly ritual - that is until Sunday when I found that the bank was gone or else entombed within an enormous concrete slab that bore fresh new Chinese characters and a phone number. Perhaps the Tomb of the Unknown Teller with a hotline to Paradise? The bank had sat on the top of a steep embankment with stairs leading to the entrance. I stared at what had been the stairs only to see the massive slab instead. Above it, no bank, not even a foundation.
I thought perhaps I'd misplaced it - "Excuse me! Have you seen my bank? I think I might have dropped it near the foot massage parlor.." and spent another 30 wet minutes wandering around the neighborhood to no avail.
It's still a mystery, though one coworker says he thinks it might have moved somewhere nearby. He's promised to help me track it down. Phone calls to a bank branch made by another coworker were fruitless. "She says she doesn't know anything and that all is in order," I was told.
Then this morning on the way to work I planned to stop at the corner newstand for a pack of cigs and copy of a Beijing English language rag. It's been a dependable mainstay, a pleasant morning habit and I've gotten to know the owner and his wife in as much as we've exchanged smiles, greetings and limited vocab lessons in both languages. I'd passed it last night on my way back to the Lucky Number and waved to Mrs. Newstand Vendor. She smiled and waved back.
Fourteen hours later, like the bank, it's MIA. Nothing to show that it had been there except a modest newstand-sized rectangular square on the sidewalk.
I'm beginning to think I'm living in some kind of Chinese Bermuda Triangle.
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