Sunday, November 3, 2019

Brand Spankin’ New Airport

I had to come.  I didn’t have to, but I knew I would need to sooner or later and I didn’t want to have to hear about it from other people and sift through their superlatives, imagining what it was really like.  I had my flight all picked out, departing for Shenzhen this morning from the same Beijing airport I’d already departed from two hundred times before.  And while I was fiddling around with departure times on the website I saw the new code listed: PKX for the brand-spankin’-new airport – Daxing. 

I’ve considered the arrival of this new airport for a while now.  I suppose most people in Beijing have, as well.  If I had surplus millions to play with, the south west of the city, near Langfang, in Hebei would have been a brilliant place to buy real estate, as all the area around here and the entire, erstwhile neglected southern part of the northern capital, will now inevitably change and develop quickly as a result.  The ride out to Beijing Capital Airport would only have been thirty-minutes while the trip to Daxing, according to the mapping app, would be a full hour and a half.  The only flight they had to Shenzhen on Air China, the airline I’m handcuffed to here in the mainland, was at 9:00AM.  Ahh, but it’s Sunday, I wouldn’t be in a rush, and I was curious, so decided to make the purchase. 

This morning, at 6:00AM when I keyed in “Beijing Daxing Airport” to the DiDi app, the destination itself didn’t populate, neither in English nor Chinese..  Oh dear.  I wondered if I hadn’t made a mistake and perhaps it wasn’t yet officially opened. I chose the “Beijing, Daxing Airport Customs Bureau Office, which appeared to be nearby, instead.  I asked the driver if he’d ever been.  “Nope.”  “Me neither.”  I replied.  A foggy morning, we drove south along the eastern Fourth Ring Road and then on to the city’s new, Airport Expressway. 

I’m sitting now in the Air China lounge over in the C section of this gigantic starfish.  My gate is a what appears to be a huge distance from here, in the A Concourse.  The airport itself is astoundingly large.  Everything smells like it’s from a showroom, with the plastic only off from a few hours back.   I feel as though I’m in the world’s biggest, newest, emptiest mall five floors of shops and tremendous, high ceilings, curved support beams and light streaming in from everywhere. I like everyone else, am pausing to take photos, every chance I get.  My iPhone can’t capture the enormity of it all, I realize, as I send photos off to my mom.  The lounge I’m in, is apparently a twenty-minute talk to the gate.  This is obviously not Air China’s home airport.  So, I’ll need to go now.  They’ve already started boarding.  Not sure when I’ll be back again to Daxing, but certainly, I now have some superlatives for others to sift through. 

Sunday, 11/03/19

To Enjoy That Story

I was up at 2:00AM.  I didn’t want to be “up.”  But when you’re up, you’re up.  I seem to live jet lagged.  I went to the bathroom and my stepson was in there with the door locked. Last stop before his evening’s rest.  Not unlike back in New York, I’m on a completely different shift from the others in the house.  At my desk, I scanned the New York Times, and I scanned the Washington Post and I scanned the Huffington Post and I took a look at  I’m not sure what I was looking for.  Closure, certainly.  That long-awaited article, that some final piece of evidence had finally come to light which was so unquestionably incriminating that the Republican senators, led by Lindsay Graham had all been forced to say: “I can no longer support the President.”  But it wasn’t meant to be.  To enjoy that story I’d need to return to sleep. 

It was still Friday afternoon, in the U.S.  Emails kept coming in and I had plenty of work to do, end of the month bills to pay.  In the building across the street, all the lights were out.  I wondered for a moment if anyone was looking over at me, on the thirty-first floor, typing away, in my boxers.  Boxers and a hoodie, as this room is chilly.  I’ve been told the aircon seconds as a heater and I’ve got it up full blast, but the air that is blowing out seems room temperature.  And the temperature, as I noted, is cold. 

Youzi!  A.k.a, pomelo.  Haven’t had that in a while.  The rest of the house is up by ten-thirty or so and when I get dressed go out to greet them, my daughter-in-law pulling apart a big pomelo with pink fruit inside.  Do they even sell pomelo, back at the super market in New Paltz?  The fruit was a perennial favorite of mine here.  I realize, starring at the tremendous fruit that it hasn’t even crossed my mind, when I’ve pushed the cart through the aisles at Tops.  She’d made a smoothie with bananas and blueberries and my stepson had a fresh pot of coffee and we all settled round the kitchen table to talk. 

A new project.  We’ve won the deal.  Wins are good.  We’ll work on this together and we review the proposal and precisely what it is we’ve committed to.  As suspected, many of the things we’d agreed to research, seem accessible there, on the Chinese web.  And as we research this project, I notice that one of the events we’re supposed to promote will take place in the Republic of the Congo.  Characteristically, as I suppose I shall always do until my terminal breath, I begin to daydream and wonder just how I might be able to attend this event, located as it is, in a place I have never been to and keenly wish to see. 

Saturday, 11/02/19

Guys in Workingmen’s Uniforms

Got in around 10:00PM to Beijing Capital Airport.  Had slept for two hours at least on the flight, sandwiched between two other men my size.  My daughter had a big paper she wanted me to look over.  And before I could finish ordering a DiDi I needed to join a call between Boston and Seoul.  “Dad!?  My paper!” She typed.  At home, I hadn’t seen my son and his wife for a month.  It wasn’t till late that I finally sent it off to her, and went to bed.

And I was very glad that I’d requested the morning meeting at Starbucks to be relocated to the one right outside our compound.  I couldn’t find a turquoise Qing Ju bike outside.  There was one here last night.  But I found one around the corner which shaved a minute or two off, and by 7:00AM I was early, the first one there.   The glass doors to the Meng Xiu mall remained locked at this hour and I had to watch as one and then another patron pushed on the locked doors in vain, for the next two hours.

Yes.  I wanted to sleep but I had one call and then another.  A scheduled call at 2:00PM, which I needed to get ready for and then I’d promised to speak with a visiting delegation at 4:30PM down town.  It was located at the YingKe center, where, eight or nine years ago, I used to manage an office full of people.  It, like so much of Beijing has had an extreme make-over, I realized as I rolled up for my talk.  We used to think Starbucks was pretty nifty, there in the ninety’s vintage mall.  In bad need of amphetamines, I noticed the Bluefish Café, there next to the wooden entrance to the We Work facility I was heading to.  Post-post-modern, with room for only six or seven people, Bluefish poured a fantastic shot of espresso. 

This meeting would have been a train-wreck if I was supposed to sit and listen to it.  I'd have been fast asleep.  But tasked with talking I rose to the occasion and walked this lovely group of visiting Brasileros through and my one-hour version of YiJing to Xi Jinping and though one could always do better, and draw things together more tightly, I’m pretty sure they enjoyed what I had to say.  They were smart, asked good questions and I left this remarkable WeWork facility, complete with its own swimming pool, with a pleasant afterglow from this talk I’d gave. 

Back home we discussed for about thirty seconds and plodded across the street to the “Shanxi Place.”  We ordered about six dishes, forgetting that the servings were old-school beifang portions with piles of food per-plate.  A folksy joint, someone is always talking loudly.  Tonight, there were three guys in workman’s uniforms, slurping Friday night beers with their meal.   No one minded their volume and I’m calloused enough to let it pass for atmosphere.  My daughter in law pointed out one of the loud utterances that I otherwise would have missed: “The dead pig doesn’t mind boiling water!” She took this to mean that “You’re already in trouble.  How could it get any worse?”  I was oddly sorry, to watch them stumble out and go. 

Friday, 11/01/19