Monday, September 30, 2019

Supposed to Be Perfect

It’s hazy today.  It’s a pleasant Autumn day, not too hot, not too cold.  If you look straight up, you can see blue-ish skies but if you look horizontal things look hazy.  There is an unmistakable rendering of particulate matter in the air that obscures vision and blocks out any view completely beyond a few kilometers.  I know there are mountains on three sides of this great city, but none are within view this afternoon. 

This isn’t wretched day by Beijing standards.  I don’t know what the PM2.5 count, the Air Quality Index (AQI) is today . . . (ahh, but I do, and it’s 155, which is according to the U.S. Embassy web site that independently monitors AQI, it's “unhealthy.”) but it’s not as bad as it certainly can get.  It’s not the wretched, winter thickness descends sometimes and blocks site completely beyond ten meters in front of you.  So, on the balance, there is nothing aberrant to complain about.  Except for the fact that tomorrow is supposed to be perfect.  And the forecast, is actually suggesting the air is going to be worse. 

The day George W. Bush was inaugurated after the results of a contested election, it poured rain.  Fitting, in some people’s eyes, it was however, not widely looked at as a portent of nature.  It was a rainy day when Trump was inaugurated and though it was somber, for sure, no one was expecting that Donald would necessarily be able to control the weather.  China, however is different. 

The CCP has ordered up flawless day for past events and miraculously, secured them.  I can’t remember if it was last years’ National Day or the one before that, but they often tend to get the day they want, after shutting down factories and seeding the clouds.  Tomorrow’s a big one.  Tomorrow should be flawless.  Somewhere in Beijing there is a person with the supremely stressful mandate of delivering a flawless day tomorrow.  God help that person.  A day like this or worse would, to traditional, superstitious Chinese, to the eight hundred million Chinese who have yet to become middle class Chinese, be seen as a portent of nature.  Once you manage to control nature successfully a first time, and reap benefits from it, the expectation is that you can control nature every time.  Some large number of people, one assumes, still believe in the Mandate of Heaven.

One suspects that there will be many, many young people, down in the Hong Kong S.A.R. tonight, and tomorrow who will also be, beyond control.  We checked today and domestic media, China Daily, People’s Daily, Baidu search, none of them were reporting anything of the extraordinary clashes in that took place in Hong Kong yesterday.  It’s risky to insist upon perfection.  Some things are always beyond one’s control.

Monday, 09/30/19

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Would Anyone Dare?

I’d thought to have a look around yesterday in Hong Kong.  It all seemed quite normal.  Though when I got to the airport, the same airport that had been ‘occupied’ last month, there was much tighter security than I’d ever remembered.  One wasn’t allowed to enter the station without a ticket and an ID card.   There is a new extra passport check on the way into security.  But mostly it just felt quiet.

I was traveling Air China but made my base the Singapore Airport lounge.  The food, the drink was ok, free.  Enjoying the last hours of uninterrupted internet I toggled back and forth between the impeachment story unfolding back home and the protest that was forecasted and was indeed transpiring, in the places I had just been, here in HK.  The hook positioned way up passed the barb on both stories I couldn’t get enough of either. 

It’s quiet, hazy back in Beijing.  They’ll have to do a lot of cloud seeding if they intend to have crystal clear skies as is required for the National Day, first-thing Tuesday.  Nice gent from Hebei speeded me over here last night after I arrived. I thought to talk about Hong Kong with him, but it was too late.  I just consumed more news on my phone and considered this protest that I had missed by a few hours back in the SAR.

Biked around Wang Jing this morning listening to Coleman Hawkins, dodging motor bikes, cars and car doors.  There were many water trucks out wetting down the street.  That must be as an antidote to dust and soot but I don't think I've ever seen so many darting around in one day.  As I type I can see them down below my window on the Jing Cheng Express way, as well.  They’ve shut every factory for miles, asking people to make a sacrificial contribution, rather than issuing an order.  It would be interesting to see what a map of compliers and non-compliers would be.  Would anyone dare?  I spoke with my step son and his wife today about all this news I’ve been glued to.  They hadn’t been locked in, the way I was.  Not really wanting to start any work today.  But I guess I’ll commence with it now.  But you know, first I'll check the news again. 

Sunday, 09/29/19

Saturday, September 28, 2019

These Black Garments

Spent a Saturday with my old friend Hong Kong.  I woke in Lama at a friend’s house.  There was a very old lady sharing the first-floor area with me.  A slow-moving she-dog of one hundred or more human years sat watch on the stoop.  We hadn’t exactly established a rapport last night before bed.  I wasn’t sure if she would be barking aloud again at five in the morning when I made my way to the bathroom, but she remained quiet, seemingly convinced that if I’d been allowed to spend the night, I must be of minimal concern. 

Lama reminded me of the many trips I took out here twelve years ago when I was just forty and had daughters who were in strollers rather than in college.  That must have been the restaurant we dined in.  That must have been the path we took to climb up and over the hill.  I’d asked my chum who I was staying with and he confirmed that there was a scheduled and indeed a pre-sanctioned protest today to be held in Victoria Park, over in Causeway Bay.   Sporting the last clean tee-shirt and short sleeve button down I had in my bag, I was told immediately that these black garments would inadvertently associate me with the protestors and I should be careful about getting sprayed with incriminating blue water from the cannons. 

Unexpectedly uncomfortable with a rash down in the groin I wasn’t enjoying the long walk from Pier 4 in Central over to the MTR.  Down underneath the Alexander House I noticed a first group of young protestors dressed in black.  Each young face I thought about as a potential agitator, a potential victim of those thugs in white from Yuen Long.  And I suppose I thought back to all the times Hong Kong seemed fairly trite and safe and commercial and not especially concerned with anything save commerce, and continued to mediate on what a manufactured, surface level façade that had been.    I texted my stepson to say I was on my way to try to find a protest.  He reminded me that it wasn’t such a wise thing to type in wechat.

Causeway Bay is where I used to have an office and it is also home to some of the most remarkable sushi one can have outside of Japan.  The saba, kohada and aji all taste like they do in Tokyo.  I’ve never tasted that taste anywhere else in the world, save perhaps, South Korea.  Sushi Hiro is still there up on the tenth floor of the Henry House and I took a seat at the counter, ignored the menu and just asked the tall gent in the white hat if he had the dishes I was looking for, one after the other.   No buri but he suggested, and I greatly enjoyed the sama.

On then to Victoria Park.  There, is where the kids in black will be gathering.  Perhaps some men in white as well.  I walk along and remember what it was like to live here and visit a computer gear store in this mall and Ikea over in that building.   The park itself is only sparely populated.  No one is mingling about.  I imagine one guy is looking at me.  A spook from the mainland perhaps here to photo me and my black shirt in the park?  But no, he’s not interested in me.  There is nothing of any real interest here.  I may as well, head over to my afternoon meeting at Mong Kok.  If anything will happen here it will be later on this evening and I'll be on my way home. 

Saturday 9/28/19