Sunday, July 24, 2005

Shaking All Over (or When Expats Go Bad)
I have no idea what kind of coverage it may be getting in the US, but Hong Kong is currently the site of one of the most fascinating murder trials I've read about. It has Court TV, Vanity Fair true crime and optioned-for-cable-movie and silver screen written all over it.
Sex. Cheating Hong Kong/Vermont socialite spouse Nancy Kissel (41-year-old wife of murdered millionaire Merrill Lynch banker Robert Kissel) was cheating on hubs with a 41-year-old American cable repairman/electrician (Michael del Priore, who lived in a trailer and had two ex-wives, the last of which was 15 when he married her in Alabama) while away from Hong Kong in Vermont. Bludgeoned-to-death-with-a-mysterious-object victim Robert Kissel was crusing Internet porn sites for gay bondage sex sites in Paris and Taiwan while Nancy was away. While crusing for gay sex online he also used online spyware to monitor steamy her e-mails with the Cable Guy after presumably wondering just how many times the TV service in the US had to be fixed. He also had a PI videotape and photograph the happy couple as del Priore tweaked her reception and fine-tuned her horizontal hold.
Drugs. Robert was beaten to death after he was served a "pink colored milkshake" by his spouse. A friend of Roberts who also imbibed one of Nancy's special shakes that fateful day managed to get back to his house, but later his wife found him babbling, red-faced incoherent, partially nude and smearing himself ''like a baby''' with handfuls from three gallon tubs of ice cream he'd consumed. Mrs. Kissel had told him the strange colored shake was a "secret recipe or something like that." A post-mortem on Robert revealed five different drugs in his stomach, including Rohypnol, the infamous ``date rape'' drug for which Nancy had also been surfing the Net.
In-house we've dubbed Nancy the "Milkshake Murderess." Friends of Nancy's from Hong Kong's United Jewish Congregation described her as a devoted mother of three and talented photographer.
In her defense Nancy claims Robert was also a coke addict and alcoholic and that he was on a binge when he demanded sex and she refused. He then "disappeared" she said - that is until...
....No rock 'n' roll as such, yet. But after Robert's head was rocked his body was rolled into one of the Kissel children's sleeping bags, wrapped in plastic sheeting, duct taped and then rolled again in a large, expensive carpet that Nancy shopped for a day after he "disappeared." Worried friends and coworkers who called for him were told by Nancy that her husband was unavailable due to "health issues." The strangely heavy and bulky carpet was hauled by baffled apartment complex maintenance workers at Nancy's behest into a storage room where police later discovered "a stinky decomposing body." Chinese language papers described it as a "salty fish" smell, though it turns out that that's a translation of a Cantonese cliche for the smell of a rotting corpse.
There's more to come. Due to the strict media reporting laws here this case isn't being given the full-tilt juicy boogie treatment of say OJ. But apparently the prosecution will drop a bombshell soon after learning that the defense has been in possession of the "real" murder weapon - a baseball bat - after police failed to find it when they searched the Kissel abode. Until now there's been a lot of back-and-forth exchanges between the defense and prosecution over blood spatter patterns and skull fractures that don't exactly fit a "large metal figurine" that also came into play during the fracas.
Nancy's pleaded innocent and is free on bail, though I don't think she's doing a lot of photography, rug shopping or milkshake making.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Borders and Boundaries
My Standard column for this weekend. Mostly new stuff with a sprinkling of reheated blog. Thanks also to my Shenzhen Daily foreign barbarian copy editor replacement (and CU journalism school alum) Daniel, from whose blog I lifted some insightful, entertaining material. Interested parties can read more of his stuff at
Though Shenzhen and Hong Kong are close neighbors bound at the hip by Beijing and separated only by some piddling linguistic, educational, cultural, economic and historical differences one might think that someone who regularly bops back and forth between both is a reckless adventurer -- a 21st century Captain Cook of sorts; either that or just a cretin, that is if questions and reactions I field from residents of both cities who have never been to the other are any measure.
``You live in Shenzhen? What about the dead bodies?'' was one I got early on from a Hong Kong native after taking a job here, though I still maintained a Shenzhen apartment.
``What dead bodies?'' I was genuinely bewildered. The only corpses I'd seen were the flayed farm animals and poultry in the markets.
``My father said there are many dead bodies on the streets,'' she said.
It turned out that her father had fled to Hong Kong in 1949 and not looked back. She had never been to the mainland and it was clear that her father's horrorific tales of civil war and poverty ensured that she probably never would.
But several months later a news story that began, ``A man's body parts have been found scattered in three neighborhoods in Shenzhen ...'' gave me pause.
You know, I thought, sometimes father does know best.
In Shenzhen the stereotypes are less brutal. Hong Kong is regarded in almost mystical terms -- a shimmering wonderland of untold wealth, sophistication and opportunity if you've got the right travel pass or can fold yourself into a fetal position and breath through a pinhole while a friend casually tries to pass you off as ``heavy baggage'' at the border.
(Odds are it works, at least halfway. I often see the mainland guards at the border X-ray baggage scanners snoozing, sharpening their solitaire and hand-held video game skills or just slurping tea and gossiping as unviewed suitcase-after-suitcase-after unwieldly blue plastic vinyl wrapped lump of uranium yellowcake trundles through.)
There are some honest differences, however. The most stark I've seen were in communications with mainlanders schooled in a system where critical thinking and questions only bring trouble at worst and puzzlement at best.
Here's an example from a blog kept by an American who replaced me at the State-owned English language paper for which I once labored in Shenzhen. What was under discussion was a story about a bridge that was overloaded with traffic. The Shenzhen government's solution? Close the bridge after 45,000 vehicles have used it and open it again the following day. Repeat as necessary.
Foreign copy editor: ``So, what happens after 45,000 vehicles?''
Shenzhen page editor: ``Well, the bridge closes for the rest of the day.''
Foreigner: ``And what happens to the traffic then?''
Page editor: ``Uh, ... anyway ...''
Foreigner: ``Is there an alternate route for the drivers?''
Page editor: ``I don't know, the report didn't say.''
Foreigner: ``What?!''
Page editor: ``Maybe the drivers should know the way.''
Foreigner: ``What if it's a foreigner who doesn't know the area?''
Page editor: ``Uh ... anyway ...''
Foreigner: ``Didn't they consider anything for what might happen after the bridge closes?''
Page editor: ``No, they know they'll know after the program starts on Friday.''
Foreigner: ``They didn't think about the future at all?''
Page editor: ``No, they are `nowists.'''
Foreigner: ``What?!''
Page editor: ``You know, `nowism,' in which only `now' matters.''
In Hong Kong, the overcrowded bridge issue would've been simple. A simple six-month period of public consultation, followed by a survey, a decision to impose a huge toll hike and build a canopy over the bridge, a subsequent lawsuit or two followed by a public transporation and truck driver hunger strike and some demonstrations with people sporting inflatable chicken heads on their heads. Healthy public debate, in other words. None of this `nowism' nonsense.
But the most common cliche spouted by Shenzheners, usually by those who also aspire to dress to impress, is ``Hong Kong people judge you only by what you wear and how much money you have.''
Like the corpse question, I found this one to be initially ludicrous -- until I had a November dinner engagement with a Hong Kong born woman who lived in Mid-Levels. Though the calendar said ``autumn'' it was about 28 Celsius and the usual gazillion percent humidity. As such, I had dressed for comfort which meant clean khaki shorts snappily set off with a spiffy white cotton shirt.
Her eyes widened in horror when we met.
``You're ... you're. You're wearing SHORTS!''
Her tone implied that I had also accessorized my outfit with a freshly severed human head dangling from my neck.
``Shorts! In November! No one wears shorts in November. No one! It simply isn't done in Hong Kong.''
Suffice to say it was our last and only dinner.
In Shenzhen I could've been wearing a live badger loincloth and the only interest it would pique would be culinary. The city is rife with fashion felons who routinely shop in their pajamas at 3pm. Some also spit in elevators and the concept of ``orderly lines'' is completely alien.
Of course, there's also the traffic situation wherein zebra crossings and traffic lights are seen as amusing decorative props at best and even a mandrill on methamphetmines is licensed to drive provided enough palms are greased.
Another frequently rap against Shenzhen is that it's ``dangerous.'' That's not the Shenzhen I know -- daily traffic aside, the only brush with danger I've personally encountered was on one December afternoon on a bus when I was tapped on my shoulder by a passenger who, via sign language, pointed out a cowering scoundrel who had been fiddling with my backpack.
I confronted him in English and he protested his innocence in Chinese. My fellow passengers, however, joined in condemning him in an unexpected, unscripted show of civic solidarity. The ticket taker was alerted, who shouted to the driver who stopped the bus in mid-traffic, opened a door and screamed at the wannabe thief to hit the streets.
It warmed my heart. And they didn't even care that I was wearing shorts.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Wasted Words
Editing some of the stories by non-native English speaking reporters can be both a challenge and, well, occasionally entertaining if you're able to mentally remove yourself from the task. Often the effect is surrealistic, as if the reporter had snipped words at random, tossed them on a page and submitted the result as a "story.''
Submitted for your approval are several raw excerpts. The names have been omitted to protect the guilty.
Beijing-picked Chief Executive contender of high popularity can diffuse peoples political aspirations for full democracy, according to the Liberal Party chairman James Tien who was disillusioned with his low poll rating that withdrew from the top leader race two months brfore the Chief Executive election this July.

Chief executive Donald Tsang denied he had conflict of interest despite stepping in the application of New World Development to convert part of a car-park at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre for a second hand car exhibition centre during the Sars saga two years ago that raised speculations that it helped his brother employment with the group.

Don't be surprise if you bump into in nice suit with bow-tie Donald Tsang at a fast food shop in Central for lunch today.
If you have a little kid, Tsang may kiss him face on the cheeks or give her a big hug.
As the eldest son of late senior Tsang Wan, a former rank and file at the Central Police Station, Tsang will kickoff his meet-the-people campaign trail by visiting the former police station of heritage, symoblising his humble story.
If you are an early bird out for work or to school in the Abedreen, you may be amazed with the tipped contender for the bid greeting you with his usual board smile and shaking hands with passersby at bus terminus or in the streets in the Abedreen.

Speeding and low visibility may cause a collusion between a catamaran and a cargo ship at Tsing Yi which sent 97 catamaran crews and passengers to five hospitals in Thursday morning.
At 8.10 am, there was a collusion between the catamaran taking nine crews and 156 passengers and a mainland-registered coastal vessel Zhong Hang 908.
The collusion was occurred at the junction of Ma Wan Fairway and Kap Shui Mun Fairway which is the waters away from MOBIL Oil Depot at the southwest corner of Tsing Yi Island.
Within a hour after the collusion, police launches took off about 18 passengers off the catamaran and sent them to Princess Margaret Hospital.
``People sitting at the front rows suffered the worst hit because there is a big space. Most were fallen down from their seats and colluded to elsewhere at the moment when the ship was stopped unexpectedly,'' a unhurt male catamaran passenger told reporter.
``There were big chaos. Those did not fasten their seat belts and facing nothing in front of their seats suffered the most serious injuries,'' another unhurt male passenger Lai told reporters.
Lai used his mobile handset to take a photograph showing a white cavity pillar in the catamaran was damaged which was apparently caused by collusion of a human head to the pillar.
``We felt a sudden reduction of the ship speed which was so abnormal. I then heard horns made by the ship and saw a black shadow colluding to our vessel. Luckily, I was just fell down from my seat,'' another passenger said.

another case, a ``model agency'' approached a careless complainant and induced him with many flatteries to pay HK$20,000 out of his credit cards to make album to persuade its clients giving bontiful catwalk jobs to the careless complainant. But the careless complainant soon found his earning was too little to cover his cost of beauty make-up, bathing costumes and his album.

He said the pair of rats could be expanded to 800 pairs in 12 months if people did not take immediate actions.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Feats Don't Fail Her Now
It took a Hong Kong resident to show me a side of Shenzhen this weekend that I'd never fully explored.
A Kiwi (New Zealand) coworker, Rob, makes regular, short visits to a SZ district I mostly try to avoid called Lohou. It's SZ's oldest commercial area, the site of an always-overcrowded, frenetic train and bus center and features scads of low-price pirate DVDs, computers, softwear, clothing, accessories, jewelry and CDs - as well as oddities like a small store that sells only live crabs and remote control cars, planes and boats. I dislike it due to the crush and pressure of desperate folks shoving fake Rolexs etc in my face and shouting: "You buy me watch! Makee nice massagie! Sexy DCV! " There's also the omnipresent fear of muggings and pickpockets, though I've never had that hassle.
Rob is hooked, though, on a Lohu massage place - it's legit, no "specials" - and a woman he's tried fitfully to wow and woo for many months and we both had Friday off with no particular place to go in a hurry.
He'd made a 2pm appt. at the parlor which is on the 4th or 5th floor of a ''Smoking's fine! Puff away and throw your butts in that pile of petro-chemical-based clothing, please!" commercial firetrap with hundreds of cramped small businesses; the kind of place that leads to headlines like "Ex-Boulder resident, 967 Chinese dead in Shenzhen inferno.''
I decided to join him and we hooked up at the Hong Kong/Lohou border to get the flesh pressed. The massage joints here, whether legit or not, follow the same basic template. You use sign language or rudimentary language skills to designate a time - 3 hours in our case - and, if you're a regular like Rob, the number of your massuse - #80 is his lucky number. I took pot luck and wound up with #12 after getting a locker key and having three or four small, young male attendants and the odd customer intently watch the foreigners undress, shower, towel off and be forcibly "helped" into plastic sandals and undersized cheap cotton shorts and robes.
Inside we lay on two of three rather small massage tables that were draped in towels awaiting Nos. 80 and 12.
The next three hours were mostly bliss, I gotta say. No. 12 spoke no English and my Chinese was limited to "ahhhh....mmmm....yessss" and "AUGGGH jeebusfrickingchrist! NOOOO!" when she hit a sciatic nerve with too much pressure. No. 80 (real name Ah-lahn or something like it) used her feet, literally, on Rob. It was truly amazing to watch her with her hands, and occasionally upper arms, gripping the bars above his table and treading, kneading and occasionally almost dancing with varying degrees of force about his back. Almost an acrobatic display that had Rob nearly licking her toes when he turned over.
No. 12 also displayed some unusual skills involving what one might call an "ear job." I never realized how many, er, nerves might be connected to one's ears and just how much one could enjoy having a stranger sticking a digit into the canals or simply brushing the edges and lobes. Yowzah!
"They trained for four years at a massage school in Shanghai," Rob reported between unsuccessful attempts to have No. 80 "go a little lower and slower with those toes, wontcha?"
As No. 12 feathered my ears I drifted asleep in a warm slow motion fade-to-black while thinking how my stateside pals would love to spend a Friday afternoon like this for the equivalent of $20, including tip. I awoke suddenly to No 12 giggling and snorting in an awkward impression of apparently me, as No. 80 and Rob joined in. I'd been snoring - and rather loudly at that.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Dark End of the Street
Former foreign-barbarian-coworker Jeff was unceremoniously forced from his long-time "polishing" post at the Shenzhen Daily almost two months ago after a long-running dispute regarding the terms of his contract.
He'd asked for some modest changes well in advance, the powers that be (mostly third-in-command, Xenophobic Commie Stooge Paul S.) ignored him and expected him to re-enlist without question. So Jeff walked after telling Paul off. At least that's Jeff's side of the story. I kind of hesitate to ask around at the Daily lately because I learned that Paul also recently took offense to a, well, let's say 'light hearted' reference I'd made to my former employer (the offending phrase was ''Unofficial motto: 'If it's news, it's news to us!'") in a Standard column and used it as an example in an (all-Chinese) staff re-education style meeting on why "foreigners cannot be trusted." I was just thrilled that he cared enough to read me.
Which is all by way of saying why C and I finally got together to pay a tea, beer and sympathy call with still-jobless Jeff and his girlfriend on Saturday. He's doing all right, or makes a brave front for a guy whose visa is about to expire and is waiting for free-lance work from Australia to pay off. Jeff's apartment is also C's old stomping grounds and she and I found ourselves looking for a place nearby to eat after bidding him adieu.
The neighborhood had changed since our last visit, nearly 6 months ago. It's still known as "Mistress Village" due to an enclave of single mainland women with Hong Kong sugar daddies who put them up there, but I noticed that there were fewer Hong Kong-style eateries that catered to the cross-border players.
"They might have to give it a new name," said C. "I've heard many of the mistresses have moved out."
"Where have they gone?"
"Some have gone back to their home villages to get married. A lot are too old now and are trying to find jobs. Maybe a few might have married their boyfriends. But people say there aren't enough mistresses any more with Hong Kong boyfriends who like to eat here. Less mistresses and bad feng shui. The corner businesses cannot stay open long."
One of our old favorites, a barbecue oyster shack (mid-block) was still thriving, though we noticed a lack of Cantonese male (Hong Kong) hubbub and more gender equal Mandarin -- possibly more evidence of a changing Shenzhen demographic trend due to mistress flight.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?
A portion of an e-mail from a Chinese friend in Shenzhen with an Amerasian 13-year-old daughter. He'd asked me to recommend a book or two for her.
<----->wrote: Date: Tue, 5 Jul 2005 10:42:11 -0700 (PDT)
From: <>
Hi Justin:
I went to HK this morning for the toy show in convention center. At lunch time I go to the central library , trying to find some English books for L----. Last time you told me to get the "catcher in the hay". I can not find it yet.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Independence Day
What follows is an exchange between an English teaching pal of mine named Patrick in Shenzhen who sent a mass e-mail today, the 4th of July, and my reply.
Patrick M wrote:
Dear Everyone,
Forgive me this - my first-ever - lame mass email. I just wanted say
HELLO and HAPPY 4th of JULY to all of my American friends -- and other
miscellaneous persons whose addresses have somehow found their way
onto my contact list. Instead of eating any substantially tasty
backyard food tonight, I'll probably eat at KFC. Instead of blowing
things up, I'm making a trillion copies on our aging copy machine here
at the school. Instead of hanging with friends and family in Wilson
Park, I'll be drinking strange Tibetan beer at this strange Tibetan
bar we've found. I hope all of you are doing something fun - if not
necessarily celebrating all that is the USA. Being away from home for
so long always gives one a certain kind of detached perspective, and I
can say that I miss the USA just as much as I'm glad I'm not living
there and having to deal with all of the embarrassment, BS, and gas
prices that have made headlines for the past year.
...but that being said, I'm going to be landing in St. Louis (via
Chicago) in just about 10 days, and I couldn't be more excited.
"Home" sounds so amazingly good to me right now. I'll be home, in
Granite City, on July 14th, and will be kicing around my parents' and
various friends' homes for about 5 weeks. ..This isn't news to most
of you, but if it is, I hope I get to - at the very least - talk to
you on the phone and do some catching up. On August 25, I'll get back
on a plane and come back to Shenzhen, but I'm saying GOODBYE for ever
and ever and ever and ever to being a Fake English Teacher. I'm
enrolling in Shenzhen University's intensive Chinese language course
in September, and have phony dreams of achieving fluency in Mandarin
by this time next year. Today's holiday is, for me, about celebrating
my impending indepenence from this craptastic institution that I've
sorta "worked" for for the past 10 months.
I do hope all of you have a great 4th, and I hope you are all having
fun doing whatever it is that you're doing. Drink some budweiser,
crank some Toby Keith, drive your kids to soccer practice in your SUV,
eat some fast food -- you know, all that stuff Americans like to do.
Look forward to seeing you all soon,

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
The Hong Kong kids are shooting fireworks below
Hey, baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey, baby, it's the Fourth of July

--Apologies to Dave Alvin
Dear Patrick,
Nice missive and a Happy Independence Day to you, also. Thank you This is my second 4th in China away from the nurturing bosom of the Motherland, though not my first away.
The worst was in Tongduchon, Korea 2nd Infantry Division Camp Casey 1975 when I was assigned to ride guard duty on a garbage truck to make sure the Korean garbage guys didn't rip anything off. (A month before they'd driven a US Army Jeep into the truck, covered it with garbage and were only discovered when the tie-down for the Jeep's radio antenna worked loose and sprang up out of the trash pile as they were at the camp's gate waiting to get out...) I was so pissed at having to guard garbage on the 4th of July that I bought 12 cans of Olympia beer, split it with the garbage men and looked the other way as they more or less looted mess halls along their route of "spare" steaks, vegetables, potatoes, soft drinks and large containers of fresh milk.
Last year I in Shenzhen I did score an invite to a barbeque held by Catherine's American boss. I was able to find fireworks at a corner store that the owner had left over from Chinese New Year. You might try the same trick if you get this in time. Gotta work today, but I'm wearing my American flag shirt much to the disgust and bemusement of some of my alien commie socialistic coworkers.
Hoist a Bud or a PBR for me and I'll do the same for you after work.
I had an overpriced mega-cheeseburger at a newly opened Ruby Tuesday today (recalling a line from The Simpsons 'I'm so hungry I could eat at Arbys!') and played some Bruce (Independence Day), Elvis (American Trilogy), Jimi (Star Spangled Banner), Simon and Garfunkle (America) and Dave Alvin (Fourth of July) before leaving for work. I'm feeling Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Hotter Than July
Not that we weren't warned. On Friday I'd noticed an all-Chinese language sign (save a website address for pasted on the Lucky Number elevators and lobby walls and asked C what it said.
"Oh," she said in the same matter-of-fact voice she uses for news like we owe $240 to the gas company for 5 months of unpaid bills we haven't seen because the landlady's key to our mailbox is lost and she won't give us a new one, "It says we won't have any power from 6am until 9pm on Saturday."
"It doesn't say."
Most of mainland China has been struggling under power shortages this summer due to strained coal supplies and high temperatures (that is, when floods aren't drowning hundreds of school children and other unfortunates) and rolling black and brownouts have been in effect. I chalked it up to one apartment's sacrifice; either that or just "routine maintenance" that would keep us without air conditioning, refrigeration, lights and home entertainment for 15 hours on a weekend.
"We'll be in hell here," I said, imagining going just 15 minutes without AC in the 90-degree/90% humidity with no Neil Young to listen to or bootleg Simpsons DVDs to watch. "We're going to have to stock up on candles and a flashlight or two."
She shrugged and agreed, though she seemed mostly to be taking a cue from her visiting mother. Stoic is the word. Her mother - a former Red Guard who went several years without schooling and supervised parental care while she helped heap mob abuse on intellectuals and teachers before being sent to feed pigs in a rural province - seems to take the long view in such matters.
A trip to two nearby grocery stores gained us exactly two candles and no flashlights. The whole flashlight concept, in fact, seemed to be either a quaint mystery or a work in progess - though one shopkeeper rustled up a handful of blue and red glow-sticks that I declined. And Styrofoam coolers and ice blocks for the impending fridge meltdown? (Gales of wild incredulous, derisive laughter followed...)
I awoke at 6:20am Saturday bathed in sweat. I fumbled for the AC control, which wasn't working and - shaking away a dream that had had me comfortably trapped in a Colorado snowbank - slowly I realized that a very long, hot day and evening lay ahead.
At about 8:30, after stuffing what I could into the rapidly warming freezer compartment and tossing the rest of our perishables I heard screams, wails and emphatic thumps outside the oven that was becoming our apartment.
C's mother sat unmoving, reading a Chinese old folks magazine, something like Modern Maturity: The Retired Party Cadre Edition and C perked up only slightly.
"Someone's in trouble," I said, wiping my brow in a fruitless effort. It was like trying to stop off a full-on garden hose with a feather. "It sounds like the elevator is stuck." Indeed though the power warning had assured us that the elevator power would be spared, that wasn't the case.
Cries of the trapped doomed and damned echoed from several floors below ours. That horrorific soundtrack continued for another 25 minutes or so as C and her mother pretended to be absorbed in studiously peeling fruit and I hit in the shower under a stream of tepid water.
Finally the elevator groaned loudly into action and after drying off I declared that we'd better evacuate ourselves before having to hoof it down 17 floors and back again.
C's mother elected to stay behind but we hit the streets with no plan except to find as much air conditioning and light as possible for the next 12 hours or so.
Not easy initially as most malls in Shenzhen don't open until 10:30 am, though after an expensive - and blissfully air conditioned - cab ride we found doors open at one with Shenzhen's only ice rink. Neither one of us skate, but I had a brainstorm.
"Here's 500 yuan," I said. "You shop. I'll stand next to the ice and search for the the next Michelle Kwan."
Which I did for almost 90 minutes until she returned with a plea to help narrow down her selections.
How many outfits can one person watch another try on while feigning intense interest for longer than 20-minutes? I'm the king, I think - nearly 3 hours, not counting food court time ("Happy Bread!") especially when the alternative is more sidewalk time.
By then the clock had crawled into near-mid afternoon and we'd exhausted one mall's possibilities.
"Do you want to go to Book City?" she asked, mentioning Shenzhen's largest banal bookstore. It's State Owned, which means the English language selections amount to language primers, dictionaries and poorly translated pirate versions of Hillary Clinton's biography and truncated editions of Moby Dick, Mark Twain and Jane Austen. Still it offered some brief relief, while - bingo! - a new movieplex showing a melancholy Chinese language flick, Shanghai Dreams gave us another 2 or so hours off the clock.
"Too bad about the boyfriend raping her and then getting shot," I opined as we left. "But at least the weather was cool in that movie. Loved the rain scenes. Can we watch it again?"
No such luck. We were short of funds and it was nearing dinnertime. With much trepedation we returned to the Lucky Number where the elevators were still working and entered an apartment that felt like a blast furnace.
Inside C's mother sat unruffled and sweatless, with steaming plates of rice, stir fried vegetables, pork bits and scrambled eggs she'd managed liberate from the by-now room temperature freezer and cook despite the threat of shutdown from the overdue gas bill.
Not exactly the cooling chef salad, ice tea and gazpacho I'd dreamed of but not bad. Later, as I continued to sweat pints onto the soggy New Yorker I was trying to read by candlelight and counting the seconds until 9pm, I noticed she was still quiet and seemingly content reading her magazine while C - hot, but not exactly bothered - chatted on and off with her.
After all, I mused, what's a few hours without power when one has grown up feeding intellectuals to the pigs? One must take the long view after a Long March.

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