Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Have You Got Any?

Well, sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t but when it does you can’t help but smile.  It’s a dumb, knavish, bought-for-a-bargain smile, but it’s genuine. Spend the next fourteen hours in economy or business?  I got a note last night that looked, at first glance, like it was confirming an upgrade.  But upon closer look all it said was that it was still pending.  I asked the guy when I checked in this morning if it had come through and he typed a way for a while.  I gazed off and imagined him saying “yes” and then “no.”  I saw the seat assignment before he confirmed.  ‘3K’ on a jumbo liner?  That can only mean one thing. 

So I’m up here in the front now, capturing a few thoughts before they shut it all down.  This will happen shortly.  United is no longer showing films of their erstwhile CEO Mr. Smisenick.  He used to get crazy airtime.  Now it is all about the crew and the selfies they took with the US Olympic team who presumably flew United, down to Rio.  Everyone looks rather presentable, despite the aw-shucks quality of the photos.  Editorial burden, folksie perfection.

Watched Bill make the case for his wife tonight.  To be fair I was busy and forwarded past his meander through their early years.  In fact, it was fun.  Until it wasn’t. Given where the stakes are I wanted to see him say something remarkable and inspiring.  He had a few moments that I caught.  I was reminded of his ability with down-home truisms when he contrasted a challenge to managing a two-car parade.  The framing of the two “Hillary’s” from this convention and from the other was helpful, powerful, and he worked it to a crescendo.  But somehow he then seemed tired when he should have risen to a conclusive pitch.  Instead he uttered “thank you” and “good night”, before much of anything climaxed.  I’m sure he has many well-branded parameters in his mind that reign him in, from following his emotions.  Or perhaps those were his emotions. 

The lady behind me has indicated that her seat belt is broken.  The last person must have pulled it from where it was stuck in the seat to the point where the metal bent.  A Chinese ground crew staff is on the scene.  The flight attendant, with what I’d guess was a Texas accent, asked the ground crew guy, over and over:  “Have you got any pliers?  If I had a pair of pliers I could fix that.  Pliers.  Pliers? Have you got any?” “No.  I don’t.  I don’t know what you mean.”  I pondered.  I wasn’t quite sure how to say “pliers” in the moment.  I could look it up, but I didn’t think to at the time. (A credit to my limp intellectualism, I did in the end: 钳子,‘qianzi’,  I knew that.  But isn't that the same as 'scissors'?) Eventually they gave up on the seat belt and the pliers and moved her to another seat. 

Off we go.

All Rather Real

I had an email to deal with first thing in the morning.  It would take up a lot of time and mean digging back over many old emails.  Precisely what I did not want to be doing this morning.  Amidst this I feverishly reviewed the news, procrastinating.  Just one more article. 

But the articles were all making me feel more downhearted.  Looks more and more like Russian intelligence was deliberately working against the Democrats, deliberately supporting Donald Trump.  As has happened more than once in this campaign the story line was so predictable and thin as to seem beneath a second rate Hollywood script.  But this provocation was all rather real. 

And I continued on to read about the disarray before the convention I spied another story that suggested that Trump had enjoyed a bounce after his convention and was running side by side Hillary in national polls.  Could this be?  This struck me as especially unfathomable.  And terrifying.  Like many, I need to believe that Trump could simply never be elected. 

I assembled my email and watched the news stream in from the convention. The thought of ‘boos’ throughout the evening from frustrated Bernie supporters was enervating.  And neither Al Franken, nor Paul Simon was doing much to settle things.  But Michelle: thank you.  Wasn’t she wonderful?  She truly was a ‘bridge over a gurgling chasm, managing to channel Simon and quite a bit more.  Steely, gentile, courageous, articulate and centered like some north pole lode stone, she skewered Trump in a way I haven’t seen anyone do, without even mentioning his name, and in a way that remarkably seemed to befuddle even Don.  I haven’t seen any tweets swiping at her, as if to suggest that even he knows she’s unassailable.  Or that even he has to acknowledge the depth of her critique.

Definitive Adjectival Trio

How many quotes survive from my freshman year introduction to a Western Philosophy course?  I can call upon “I Think Therefore I Am,” and imagine Descartes with his candle.  Spinoza followed.  He was hard. I have nothing like a quote I can reach for.  I just remember re-reading paragraphs over and over.  Leibniz and his monads made more sense, sort of.  But Hobbes?  Yes.  Who could forget “The Leviathan,” or at least four words of it.  Perhaps because it was originally written in English, unlike any of the other thinkers, that the words “nasty, brutish and short” ring out as such a definitive adjectival trio, in describing the state of nature.

Automobiles can be a pressure cooker.  We don’t always bother to pull over, when we argue in a car.  But there is a significant element of danger to arguing while driving and sometimes its best to just pause.  And if its really heated, well it may just be best to step out of the vehicle and take a deep breath, rather than say something you’ll regret.  And this all makes sense, unless someone has explicitly warned you that getting out of the car would be dangerous.  Such a warning might and should absolutely deter one.

I was following the election news when my eye caught a blurb and link to an article about a woman in China who was attacked after storming out of a car in an argument with her hubby.

As one almost invariably does, these days, I clicked the link.  Soon I am watching cars crawl through a jungle adventure land on a surveillance camera.  One car stops.  A woman steps out and moves around to the driver’s side.  We know this will not have a happy ending.  Moments later a jungle beast lunges for her and in a second, makes off with her as if she were a rag doll.   The husband and mother jump out quickly, before they think.  In the end it is the mother who will die and the first woman, miraculously, unimaginably live. 

Watching how quickly the attack takes place somehow I thought of Hobbes.  In the attack caught on film, the strike is so swift and so overwhelming that her humanity, and posture of control are swept away and she seems suddenly, mouse-like, besides this pitiless cat, this enormous tiger.  There is no deliberation, to time to plead, no justice, no negotiation, simply a swat and a decision, almost certainly “nasty, brutish and short.”   

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I Am Caught Up

I am caught up.  Finally.  At least as it concerns this blog.  If you are looking at the entry titles you can scroll back to the one posted on July 1, entitled “Tinny Prepubescent Barking.”  In the time since then, I have not been able to post until a few days ago.  Six or seven entries and accompanying photos were all stored on a computer I lost connection with on July 2.   So I wrote new entries on a different computer, and continued to snap photos away on my iPhone.  But I didn’t want to post as it would interrupt the flow and there would be no way to properly reintroduce all the missing posts.  So I wrote and snapped and waited. 

I’ve never waited a period this long before and catching up on some twenty-five different entries, is a considerable investment of time.  Precious time.  They’re all up now and this is the entry for today, the day it will be posted.  Phew.  My old computer is off to the left, working once gain, displayed on a separate screen.  Nothing proved irretrievable, besides the computers’ display.

I got a tinny, adult barking today on the phone, which I would usually ignore and this time paused.  I’ve been burned before on this.  Yes.  It is China Unicom reminding me to pay for the fixed line service.  Generally I wouldn’t care as it’s used so infrequently.  But this is also tied to our internet service.  That’s not funny.  If it goes off on Monday morning, when I’m sitting down to work, it will be a very unproductive day.  I will shout. 

My wife reminded me of where the Unicom office was.  Settlement would require me to travel over a few miles to their office where I could top off the bill on a machine that accepted cash.  I had no idea what the charge would be.  My friend who drove me kept asking why I didn’t just pay a year in advance and be done with it.  Good question.  Indeed the charge was only one hundred and fifty yuan.  I dropped in a hundred and left the fifty as a buffer for the next time. 

Now, on to catching up with everything else in my life. 

Guanxi Repellent

It’s good to be back in one’s own kitchen.  I had the temptation yesterday to go get more fast food, a burrito perhaps, from our local place perhaps, and bring it home.  But I haven’t eaten in my own kitchen in weeks.  I haven’t cooked my own meal in all this time.  So I skipped the burrito joint and headed for the super market.  

And it isn’t so much that the food you cook is better, often it is and sometimes it isn’t, but somehow we know how much to eat when we’re at home.  We’ve got reasonably healthy snacks laid out for consumption, healthy fruit drinks for breakfast that fill you up but don’t weigh you down, vitamins, and salads and if there’s too much to eat, it’s fodder for tomorrow’s lunch.  I really labored to eat healthily in Shanghai, always finishing dishes there was no need to do in.

I shuffled off for a third attempt today to get my computer fixed since the screen went dead two weeks back.  The gent down in Shanghai at the Mac Store had done me a great service by simply hooking up the existing computer to a separate screen.  Ta-da.  As suspected, the computer’s fine.  I just needed a new screen.  He’d quoted me about 4000 RMB to install a new one, which is just about as much as a new computer.  However a new screen to connect with a cable would be peanuts. 

I held out faith in my local store.  They’d restored this computer for me once in the past.  They were not the haughty buzz cut boys of the Mac store in Avignon, nor the hidebound proceduralists of the Mac Store in Shanghai, this was an entrepreneurial shop, ready to roll up their sleeves and solve problems.  This is China, where everything is made any way, the best place therefore to get something fixed.

The first girl I spoke with said, quickly and flatly there was nothing they could do.  I pressed.  “How do you know?  You haven’t even tried any diagnostics yet?”  Where’s that guy I dealt with last time.  The guy that liked a challenge.  Her colleague confirmed that they didn’t touch any problems that involved hardware.  “So, don’t you have some third party companies that do?  You must get people in here all the time with hardware issues.”  They gave me banal, general neighborhoods to go look in, nothing of substance.  No.  They didn’t know where I could buy a new, generic display, either.  How un-Chinese, I thought.  Someone else in the ecosystem could be benefiting from your hand off just now.  The boss must have sprayed them with guanxi repellent.

Later, fishing the remains from my flooded basement I realized that I actually still had a separate display.  I could not find the special Mac AVI adapter.  But I photographed the male chord so I could scoop one up tonight, when I head to San Li Tun to meet friends for dinner.  Rough, certainly, dangerous to rely on for sure, but I’m gonna get this lap top working again.  I’ve seen it done before.

Staring At The Mess

Got home to a flooded basement.  Our home may be the only one in the compound that has a basement.  It isn’t big enough for much of anything besides some storage.  But we put a lot of the musical equipment down there as to a rough-hewed five-foot ceilinged jam-room.

The summer is when it rains in Beijing.  And this is our first time living here, in the summer. My landlord wrote me asking about the basement, and combined with the reports I’d heard about flooding I flew up assuming the worst.  There were two inches of water in the basement.  Everything down there that had been on the ground is ruined. 

Staring at the mess was daunting.  I really didn’t want to spend my evening moving wet cardboard boxes.  Box by box, basket after basket, I schlepped all the stuff up from the wading pool, into our kitchen area.  I had visions of mopping out that could wait for another day. 

I will try to remember the time when the water table was only a few feet below the surface like this, later in the year when everything is parched and it’s dusty wherever you gaze.  But for now, the forecast suggests more rain.  It’s as muggy here as it was in Shanghai.

It Takes A Plane

I’ve heard there’s been flooding.  I’ve seen pictures of water rushing out of pipe drains in the subway, and cars floating out in parking lots.  It never rains in Beijing, except for when it does and then the city can’t handle it.  Some urban issues are more significant than others. Flooding has a bad historical resonance.  Emperors that couldn’t control flooding were at risk of forfeiting the mandate of heaven.  Yu the Great set the bar way up high in 2200 B.C., controlling the waters.  So I’m sure there is a chain of fire-breathing just now, with central government authorities and city government authorities kicking down to the next level, who in-turn make their kicking known and so on. 

Yesterday I heard horror stories of colleagues returning from Wuhan to Beijing who were forced to spend the night in Henan.  I purposefully delayed my departure to let the rain pass and the floodwaters recede.  Arriving at the airport this morning I was glad to learn that the plane, at least, was here.  This is the key metric, which suggests a reasonable probability of an on-time departure.  It takes a plane. 

So I’m typing at a Starbucks, finishing up the same Starbucks chicken salad and kiwi juice lunch I always have.  To my right, a triple espresso, filled with ice, which I am now starting to imbibe.  Boarding starts in eight minutes or so and I haven’t gone anywhere near security, but tardiness will allow me to waltz through the quick line.  In the U.S. it would be “tough-luck” as everyone would likely game the system the same way and someone with a crew cut would put an end to it.

Up in Beijing, the house will be empty.  My wife and kids are all over in the U.S.  I am rather concerned that there will be no electricity, as it can just run down.  There may be no gas or no water or no internet, as these things can run down the same way.  There may be water in the basement.  I’ve never lived here and the landlord has already written me asking if there was any damage.  Presumably he’s lived through it before.  All will be revealed soon.  


Ri-set-uh-luh.  Shanghainese for “Hot-to-death.”  What is thirty-eight degrees in Fahrenheit?  Couldn’t tell you but I’m sure it’s up there past ninety degrees.  (It is, in fact, 100.2 degrees, which packs a different punch for me, than “thirty-eight.”)  It feels like it, though there is a breeze and on the balance I’m not doing much outside, except going from one air-conditioned environment to another.  In the back of a cab just now heading over to see if I can get my Mac fixed.  I have low expectations.  My Macbook Pro is way out of warranty.  Loyal readers know this isn’t my first such attempt.

But there is some critical information on that block of aluminum and my life has been a compromise without it.  Most importantly I can’t get a bunch of older blog posts and photos so my posting cadence is all screwed up.  I continue to write every day, but I can’t post until I can get the old entries and photos so as to keep all in order.  There is nothing wrong with the computer itself, from what I can tell.  Just the screen won’t fire up, which ends up being rather central, therein. 

I’ve been stumbling along with a loaned laptop from my wife who was generous enough to part with hers.  More fully evolved than me, her life is more properly governed by her smart phone. 

I made it to the Apple store on Huaihai Road and innocently waltzed up the Steve Jobs, translucent spiral staircase and asked the first kid in a blue tee shirt I could find who wasn’t talking to someone: “how long I’d need before I could see someone about my laptop?” “Don’t worry, we can speak English.” He replied to which I noted, in Chinese: “I’m sure we could.  So how much time’s it gonna take?”  “Two plus hours.” He confirmed, in Chinese.

He suggested I go to another store, which I assumed was an independent Mac distributor that could help me out.  He graciously pointed out where the store was, one subway stop up the #1 line.  And, even though it was 100.2 degrees and that any real immediate fix was unlikely, I decided to plod ahead. 

What I wound up in was another official Mac store.  Shanghai seems to be able to sport multiple such places, within one subway stop’s distance.  But fortunately, the line here is shorter and I am killing a mere thirty minutes, before they have a look at my poor Mac.  If they served drinks and snacks at this Genius Bar I might stay a while, whether they could fix anything or not.  It is some fairly remarkable people watching, and the tunes aren’t bad either.   The WiFi is a nuisance though as it auto-rejects my VPN, so were grounded on that score.  Six minutes to go . . .

You Nailed It!

Shouldn’t I?  I do.  I feel sorry for Trump’s wife.  What’s her name?  I wanted to write Ivana but I knew that was a few wives back.  (The New York Post had a late eighties headline when they were divorced:  “Ivana Better Deal!” that incorrectly steers my recall.)  The front page of the Wall St. Journal is still cached on my computer.  It’s Melania:  Melania Trump.  Amidst the shambolic convention that her husband is hosting, or renting, she took the stage, and by all real-time accounts she was a measure of humanity, and immigrant humility amidst an otherwise  inflammatory war-hoop.

Say what you will about the candidate, it’s gotta be a bummer slot for just about any wife.  I can recall being repulsed by Mitt Romney but still feeling an empathic surge for his wife, when she stood up and did what she had to. Ditto for Laura Bush. And I’ve lived twenty years somewhere else.  God help you if you need to stand up and sway an entire nation in a non-native tongue.  And she did what she had to.  She didn’t drop the ball.   She humanized her husband. 

Her husband wrote “The Art of the Deal” which propelled his career.  The gent who ghosted it has now come out to say how sorry he is for his authorship of so much mendacious and, of late, influential nonsense.  Donald of course maintains that he wrote it.  “It’s my book.”  And with his double-speak default means of communicating with himself and the world, no one is the least bit surprised, that Donald didn’t write it, while he maintains that he did. 

Melania offered that she had worked hard on the speech and she almost certainly practiced the delivery over and over.  But that’s different from writing.  And in this day and age we’re all empowered to fact check things in real-time:  Someone between jobs, who should be hired by the New York Times, had a hunch that he’d heard part of Melania’s speech before.  He had.  And, alas, notable portions of her heartfelt tale were lifted directly from Michelle Obama’s convention speech from a few years back. 

Trump’s campaign isn’t well managed.  Someone had told her it was “all-systems-go” and she found out the hard way that it wasn’t.   Someone will be fired.  And the Grand-Old-Meat Eaters won’t care or hold it against her husband.  But what a colossally deflating moment it must have been for her after she collapsed in her dressing room, savoring the twenty-fifth high-five moment, with texts flying in, to say:  “You nailed it Melania!  You nailed it!” . . . to learn that you’d been humiliated, used unprofessionally and are now, forever double-branded as a plagiarist who most assuredly did not author her own plagiarism.

A Thousand Lilliputian Threads

One thing led to another and I had clicked on a Danish biopic on Dexter Gordon.  Always handsome, as statuesque he as he was articulate in a slow baritone like fashion when he was a young man.  I couldn’t say if it was junk, though I suppose it was junk that weighed him down like a thousand Lilliputian threads when one catches up with him ten, fifteen years later in the clips from the eighties.  His utterances are still sensible, thoughtful, but the time it takes to complete a thought becomes unendurably long and all one can do is feel sorry for the giant. 

I can recall reading liner notes from One Flight Up, recorded in Paris in 1964, where he praises European players in general and notes the lightening fast Danish bassist Neils Henning Orsted Pederson (NHOP) in particular.   Cut to Neils-Henning and he is also young and shiny and then old and grizzled.  (You gotta be Dorian Grey to escape that one.)  But during his clip, which I assumed he’d talk about his time playing with Dex, he instead shares something very interesting about how the band leader who taught him and others a lot about discipline was Lucky Thompson, who always seemed like such an earnest voice, fated with such an unlucky trajectory. 

I went to a friend’s home for dinner last night.  How lucky to have friends to join up with.  I get so sick of all the many local, family style joints around here.  I got out of the cab and figured I’d go to some market and grab a bottle of wine to bring with me.  I was in the French concession so I reckoned there’d be something acceptable.  Up Ruijin Lu, down Jiangguo Lu . . . but by now I was late.  There was a super market that looked, shall we say, a bit Chinese.  I plodded and found the “wine” section and confirmed that it would absolutely not do. 

I caved and called. “Hey, where do you guys buy your wine?  I don’t want to come empty handed.”  This led to a suggestion of a place that was too far and a suggestion that I forget the whole idea.  That hadn’t been my purpose.  But perhaps I’d just throw in the towel.  Is that a florist?  That might work.  No.  It’s a laundry.   “OK.  OK.”  “Yeah, we have a bottle here already.”  “OK, am I going left or . . . hey wait. I’ll call you back.”

I passed a sliver of a place with three young guys drinking wine.  There on the wall were some boutique-like looking bottles arrayed, not for pour, but for sale.  I was looking for a rose from Provence.  They had a rose from Provence.   I’d been relieved of the responsibilities for any libations, but that wasn’t the point.  Some alignment of civility was now assuaged, as I strode out of this tiny shop, with my bottle in a rough, reused, blue cloth bag.

Day of Rest

I’m glad to review the news today and see that fortunately nothing has thus far transpired to mirror the remarkable, successive, near-miss tragedies of the last two mornings.  I am mindful that the day has a long way to go. 

I’m not used to being in this busy neighborhood on Sunday.  It is hardly rural France, where everything was closed, after a certain hour of the day.   We struggled the Sunday before last to find anywhere to eat. Even Paris where the French had once turned the Notre Dame cathedral into a “Temple of Reason” like some Cultural Revolution farce, the idea of a “day of rest”, for religious reasons or otherwise, was observed and respected there in Paris.

I, for one, have to work.  Looking out, some buildings are closed.  In the building I'm working in, some exits are locked as there is no one staffed on manning the egress.   People are not at work in many buildings and places like Starbucks have obviously decided not to bother stocking salads and sandwiches, as they aren’t expecting anyone to come by and eat them. 

But Shanghai, is Shanghai and even on Sunday its over crowded.  The streets are full, traffic remains intense, and there are no shortage of establishments, eateries or otherwise, that are open for business. Perhaps not unlike New York, Sunday is a day to shop, but not necessarily to rest.  

It suddenly looks like rain outside.  The clouds moved in so swiftly.  I haven’t thought to bring my umbrella over with me here to eat.  But I did bring it to where I’m working.  And that door isn't very far. The rain too is never far away here and I have become calloused once gain to expect rain every day.  Conditioned to avoid another dash home in a deluge or downpour wait-out, when I need to be home, working.

Once Again

For the second day in a row I’ve been shocked, by the news.  Once again I read the news before class and set out to teach all morning till noon.  And once again my students informed at the break me that there has been big news while we were meeting:  A coup in Turkey.  Once again I contemplate the implications of a very near miss. 

The day before I’d killed six hours in the Kemal Ataturk Airport.  The lounge there is splendid and it was so lovely for the second summer in a row after our proper visit to recharge, ever so slightly on Istanbul.  Outside I could make out faint minarets in the distance, the free Turkish meze, the free Turkish white wine, the free Turkish delight.  A bit reluctantly, I flew out on time that night and landed in Shanghai without incident.  Had I left a day later my flight would almost certainly have been cancelled and I’d have gotten very sick of free olives.

It was a remarkable turn around watching in the videos as the army asserted itself only to back down in defeat.  Who were the commanders who thought they could navigate such a thing? Were these orders or cajoling that made the rank and file guys think they could pull it off?  Noting the bitterness of it all, as soldiers were punched and herded into waiting areas, sulking in defeat.  The videos hardly looked like the Turkey I remembered.  I couldn’t help but watch the ones showing all the stranded travelers, as well.

Once again, I am feeling lucky to be alive and cautious of what’s to come.  I find I’m dreading tomorrow’s news cycle. What’s next?  I’m sitting here at “my” table on the second floor of the Wang Bao He hair crab restaurant across the street from the university.  Please don’t target my local crab place.  They all seem to remember me here at this officially recognized restaurant of traditional Shanghai chow.   Hairy crab on my cabbage, crab filled xiaolongbao it’s all very rich and I am most assuredly still jetlagged.   But at least I’m not encumbered by all this terrible news that following me around.                                                  


Wretched.  I checked email on a break from teaching.  A friend, who’d written just this morning wrote again and asked now, if I was “OK.”  I wrote something back, breezily, suggesting I was characteristically busy suggesting I’d have time to answer his note soon.  “Just busy, that’s all.”  He wrote me back to draw my attention to what had just happened in Nice.  He wasn’t sure if I was still in France. 

Last night I had sat down and written about how all the fears of floods and strikes and terror attacks . . . were overblown.  No attacks while I was there.  I remember feeling faintly ill at ease writing that.  My family had yet to leave.  And fortunately they did leave safely a few hours later.  And a few hours after that, in a city near where we had just all been swimming and dining, a mile’s worth of revelers ridden over by zealot fanatic behind the wheel of a truck.

Nothing gun control, or bomb sniffing dogs nor police trained and armed as soldiers could do to stop this, then.  I think of the traffic cop who pulled me over last week, or of the young soldiers I saw near the café I frequented, the machine gun toting guards at the Charles De Gaulle airport.  None of them could have stopped a truck.  They weren’t equipped to stop such a thing.  What other blunt, protean means will they think up for mass killing?  How long before a fanatic finally gets the chance to use something much more powerful?

I’m glad my family is safe.  I’m glad we missed this.  But it does increasingly feel like nowhere is safe.  Somehow I know that when something big happens here, not if, but when, we will have an even more terrible overreaction than the one that the U.S. is guilty of.  Poor France is really being battered now. 

Without Incident Last Night

Walking up Beijing Road back in Shanghai, once again.  It’s thick and muggy out.  I’d been in France for two weeks in at least three different climates: the southeast, the south west and in the capital and it was never “muggy” this July.  Nor were there any floods, nor any strikes or attacks.  There was one evening we arrived at the Eiffel Tower to find it closed.  “Dad, you said it would be open!”  We found out later that some post Euro-cup soccer defeat had engendered a boisterous crowd, which shut down the monument.

But tonight it’s muggy.  I’ve just flown from Paris to Istanbul and then on to Shanghai.  Istanbul airport and Turkish Air had recently been attacked as well.  I’d thought about that, while I was there, sampling a half a dozen different olives, in the Star Alliance lounge.  But me and all the other people passed through without incident last night. 

And tonight I’m tired and as usual, all alone here in Shanghai.  I have a lot to do tomorrow and a lot to get ready before then.  But I tried to listen to wind in my mind as I walked over to this familiar restaurant this evening.  After three meals of Turkish Airlines food, which was pretty good, mind you, I am now ready for a bit of Shanghai food.

I tried to enjoy the odd juxtaposition of night in Paris, with a night looking out at Istanbul with a muggy night of Shanghai alleyways.  None of them are mine.  But this is the one, undeniably, that is closest to home.  The drunken yelling in this place, the boss berating one of the staff, asking her to count off the three ways she was wrong, my old traditional urge to yell out something smart and knowing it is always smarter far, to stay silent.  Well adjusted, back along the Huang Pu.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

"And You've Seen The . . . "

There’s time for one-last-thing.  I will depart before the wife and kids as I need to be back in Shanghai.  They will have twenty hours or so without me to craft their own agenda for the city.  Today I depart around 3:30PM, so I should be OK with a cab at 1:00PM and I’ve already a good idea of what to do for the last morning. 

“Hurry up, eat your baguette.  One pastry each!  Yes, it’s cold out.  Put something else on.”  I promise a cab over if we can find one, but after that I need an ATM or we’ll never get one back.  We are en route to Sainte-Chapelle, which is walk-able but time is tight.  I probably should just keep quiet but I can’t help but get all Monty Hall about selling this.  “You guys have seen Chartres, and you’ve seen the rose window in Notre Dame, but if there is one hall of stained glass that might be able to top them, it’s at what lies behind door-number-three, at the place we’re heading this morning.”

For the third time in two days we are caught in the rain, in line.  Clearly I’m not adapting to the Parisian summer.  But it’s a short line and soon were inside the Palais de Justice and over at the front door of the great edifice.  As appropriate, I will make a confession.  For a brief second I thought the first floor was all we were going to see.  “Hey, where’s the tall room?”  Soon, I spotted the steps up and calmed down.  Having mastered my own fears I could now exploit those of others.  “Wow, this is really nice dad,” somewhat flat, admiring the gift shop.  “Yeah.  I guess its time to go.  Oh wait, one other thing.  Come with me.” 

And this is what I live for.  Up the steps and into the main hall, you could see their breath taken from them.  “Oh My God,” most assuredly not rendered as “OMG.”  They pointed out and I agreed that the effect might be more dramatic than any other church we’ve seen because it’s so concentrated and inescapable.  The blue wallpaper of the ceiling like a starry night and the glass that is dark and imperceptible outside is alight, demanding attention for each of the parables rendered.   Sit down for a while, and stare.  The winter before last I had seen the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal.  It struck me as utterly distinct and of-its-soil, with its cold blue light everywhere behind the altar.  Standing inside Saint Chapelle I am reminded that this vision is clearly a seminal inspiration. 

Later we take a carefree stroll across the Pont au Changes, looking for bank.  My kids are mesmerized by all the book sellers there along the Quai de Megiserrie.  "You mean all these have stuff for sale?"  There could be no better day to ask me to buy them something than on this last morning and they walk off with Parisian pencil cases.  The stall keeper points us back over the Pont au Changes, and soon enough I have cash and a cab and we're on our way back to our apartment, up stream.