Saturday, February 06, 2010

decent day but weird, weird night

I was originally intending on a different, more curse-filled title for this post, to reflect the shock in my state of mind. However, after sleeping on it I ultimately decided otherwise.

Nonetheless, if you venture through the entirety of this post you may agree.

Day - This was saturday morning, and it was a decent but lazy one. My friend, who had been hosting me for this trip, had finally come back from a 2 week stint of business travel. There was much to catch up about.

I went to gym, he went to boxing training.

Afterward, he wanted to go to the gym for an additional cardio/regular workout; I wanted to go explore the city some more. Unfortunately, it was thus it seemed like it would be a good day to go to the art galleries (mostly indoors & all).

I had heard things about the area on the Sinosplice ( blog.

Got disoriented on leaving the subway station, followed my inner sense of direction and ended up going on a big loop; passing through the throngs of people already in line or attempting travel for Chinese New Year. For whatever reason, I ended up taking a street that hadn't been finished under regular construction and was as such basically a muddy puddle.

I endded up going back to where I started - studied the map further and had a further go of it...finally made it to the art area (moganshan lu).

Enjoyed it immensely - there were lots of post-modern exhibits, featuring mostly mainland China artists. I also visited a special display that prominently showed some art from Korean & Japanese artists, among others.

As I ventured further in, I found both larger display areas with sculptures in addition to paintings.

What was especially cool was that in many of the galleries, the artists themselves were there - I have not often had the opportunity to converse directly with artists (especially painters & sculptors) about the work that they have done while I am in the middle of viewing it. It is very interesting to hear their stories & interpretations toward what they have painted & how the artwork even came to exist.

Anyway, the art generally featured interpretations of modern Chinese society today, juxtaposing new and old, the traditional and imported in a variety of styles and settings.

One that really struck me was a ginormous but very crude (in quality) sculpture of Mao...everything was rough, and the proportions made him look more as a bloated, overweight giant rather than the super-heroic larger than life traditional statues so often out there.

Ended up picking up a few framed photographs and some postcards; maybe made some new friends too.

Was a little embarrassed overhearing some other visitors trying to haggle way too hard over the price of some artwork.

My opinion on this considers that:

1. The gallery itself must charge a sizable rent (considering Artists' budgets)
2.  The artist needs to eat
3.  The artist needs to sleep
4. The artists are mostly not rich to start with
5. These are originals, not mass-produced crap that should be aggressively haggled over.

Anyway...after that, my plan had been to have some dinner and then make my way to any bar that had live music.

Ultimately, that never happened.

(I was on my own this evening as my friend had to take a client out and said he likely was going to have to go to the "dark side"...I did not want to join - I had been there and done that enough during my previous China work engagements...)

So I found a pretty modest-looking Sichuan-style restaurant. Went in. It was so busy that I shared a table with another person who had arrived there already. She left pretty quickly.

Soon after, a pair of younger Chinese guys came in, and the only space was a the table where I briefly had been the sole occupant.

So they joined me. We didn't really acknowledge each other, as is often the custom when sharing space in tight quarters.

But then they ordered a bottle of Baijiu, and I could not help but grinning - it was clear that a night of drinking was in store.

I guess my grin broke the ice and we started chatting. I stuck to my beer and they stuck to their baijiu, but we were soon cheering every 2 minutes or so (you can't just drink/sip on your own, you need to clink glasses & include the others).

Turns out that they both worked in the same advertising company, making logos (among other things) for a host of local businesses. They had been at work due to the ramp-up to the chinese holiday (everyone works through the weekend before and some how the "extra" days saved apply towards the future holiday...) We ended up talking about work, government (Yet another time this trip that I heard "I love China but not the government"), business, education, culture, tradition, holidays...a fine cultural exchange, all in all, backed up with the fool-proof drunken logic that since we happened to sit at the same table that we were fated to have this discussion and as such are all brothers (Cheers!).

So how did things fall off the tracks?

Well, another person approached and asked to have a drink with us - I didn't want to be a jerk, so I said "sure". But then this dude just kind of kept staying at our table...and staying...and then randomly bursting into screaming at the top of his lungs "FUCK you CHEATING SHIT BITCH!", while looking back at the table he came from.

So things got a little weird after that. This guy was from Japan, and didn't speak much Chinese. So the conversation got split up. Then one of the other people at our table didn't really want to talk to the Japanese guy at all (taking some bullshit nationalistic stance that he'd never talk to anyone from "little Japan")..

('Little Japan' is a derogatory term towards Japan, though I still don't get exactly what it is supposed to mean)

Then Japanese guy tells me about the time he spent in the states. Then he gets all worked up that his grandfather who fought in WWII is still alive. And that the USA bombed Nagasaki & Hiroshima.

And then we all drink.

And then the bai jiu's effects start to hit second Chinese guy at the table, and he almost falls over. But he's still gamely trying to engage the Japanese guy in conversation, but due to limited English skills and severe intoxication, is having difficulty being understood by anyone.

Then the "I'm not talking to Japanese" guy strikes up conversation with the group of notherners at the next table (3 girls, one dude, good odds, right?) and so they are now best friends and sharing food and clinking glasses. Then some how the circle expands to include everyone.

All the other restaurant patrons are not there, except for one single guy who's just kind of watching it all.

And then the Japanese guy screams and curses to his girlfriend to join us. I ask nicely as this could (maybe) shut the Japanese guy up. So the girl comes over. She's Russian.

We have a toast to the new "mini-UN" drinking party that has formed.

Eventually the Chinese people in the group start leaving one by one; I trade contact info with the Chinese advertising guys but it is unlikely we'll ever see each other again.

I know that I should leave but listening to the Russian lady's story is the aural equivalent of watching a train wreck...I'm hypnotized.

Apparently she's been in China for 15 years, recently was living with a Nigerian guy, who suddenly disappeared around Christmas time. No one knows where or why. (Possibly deported...and no one has any idea what this dude had been doing for a job). Before he left, he had introduced this Japanese guy, his friend from some way. So after Nigerian guy is gone, sometime during January, the Japanese guy and the Russian girl started hooking up. And now they're kind of a thing. Aside for the dysfunctional-ness of it all. Oh yeah, did I mention that Russian girl had been carrying Nigerian dude's baby but then lost it at some point after he left?

Japanese guy had been in town studying for a while, but then just stayed & stayed - his visa is well expired. Apparently there's some Korean girl that he's affiliated with; not sure if they got married and she used him for his visa, or what.

Anyway, continued to hear their stories, then talked about China & Shanghai for a bit, and then it was super-clearly time for me to go.

So I did.

Just way too much information to take in on one night. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that people will open up such intimate details of their lives to a stranger like has happened before and probably will happen again. I guess I should know better and get out before it gets too weird.

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