Monday, October 16, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Trivial Pursuits

I suppose it was a little over three years ago that my friend Jeff Dunlap moved back from Chicago to the Detroit area. When we (our college roommate, Jonathan, and I) asked him what he'd like to do when he came in, he answered simply, "Pub trivia."

I haven't been the same since.

The time was ripe. Over the months previous Andrea and I had wandered into a few places (thanks to Groupon) where we happened upon a trivia night while at my day job (I was at DTE Energy at the time), one of my co-workers shared his pub trivia exploits. I even tracked down a few places in Detroit to play a round with two of my favorite DTE co-workers.

I had played a little "Quiz Bowl" in college with Jeff, Jonathan, and a few other housemates. We named our team after Matt Lieberman. We called it "FOJWPP" (pronounced "Fodge-Whip") which, of course, stands for "Friends of Jewish Water Polo Players." We didn't fare too well, having our asses handed to us by a team called "Lamer than Last Year."

I don't remember if Jeff, Jonathan, Andrea and I won our first pub trivia game as a team but once we had a taste, we were game for more.

Or maybe it was just me.

I finally found something that I was halfway decent at.

Jeff was always good for finding the answer to something crazily obscure. Jonathan and Andrea could always provide good scientific answers (they both have biology and anatomy in their backgrounds) while Andrea is also terrific at brands and cooking (not to play into stereotypes). Meanwhile, I just know a lot of stupid shit that has never served any purpose before.

We found a game night that worked with Andrea's bowling schedule for the Fall and Spring and fell into a routine. It was a something of a big deal for me when I cleared out my calendar for every Tuesday night (no podcasting allowed) and committed to my first real team event that I'd ever been in. I take that back. I'd been on a bowling league before. This was the first team event where I could actually make a difference and not be a burden.

I know I went overboard with my newfound love. I became the jerk who would immediately write down the answer if I knew it and would often forget to even show the rest of my team what I'd written before I marched the answer slip up to the host. And, worse, I would second-guess my teammates, especially if they just had more of a gut feeling and didn't say, "I know this." Yet, I was fine going with my gut (which was often wrong).

Is it any wonder why things fell apart after two years of me being a bully?

I wanted to feel wanted and when it came to the second time we were in the regional finals, I felt like my teammates were being a little wishy-washy about who was going to attend. We could only have four people out of our usual seven or eight (Jonathan and Jeff's spouses joined the game as well as a friends of Jeff's and Jonathan's). I "gracefully" demurred to be part of the four that went to regionals in an effort to be fair. Yet, I was secretly hoping that this offer would be refused: "Oh, no, Mike. You need to be there, you're so great!" When that didn't come, I seethed. Then I became apoplectic. It was all part of my horrible passive-aggressive personality.

I wasn't graceful when I texted the group the day before the contest that I should be there and basically gave an ultimatum. Not cool, man. Not cool.

This posting was supposed to be about me looking for pub trivia here in Shanghai but, instead, it's turned into another round of facing my personality defects. Not cool, man. Not cool. Too much damned self-reflection and navel-gazing. That's not entertainment.

Suffice it to say, the Tuesday Night Trivia fell apart after that. Plus, there had been some dissent about the time and night that we would play. I admit, too, that the menu at our venue had become a little stale after two years.

I removed Trivia from my calendar and started scheduling interviews for Tuesday nights.

Before I left for China, one of my old trivia teammates sent me a link to an article about "Pub Quiz" places in Shanghai. It hadn't dawned on me in the slightest that this would be a something to even consider over here but then it seemed completely natural. A bunch of ex-pats getting together in a bar, drinking, and reminiscing via trivia? Yeah, that sounded about right.

I started looking at the places in the article -- most of the venues had closed or stopped doing trivia nights. I also wanted something local to my apartment so I wasn't taking the Metro an hour and a half across the Huangpu.

After posting on a Shanghai Ex-pat group on Facebook, I finally found a location just a few kilometers away from my place that does Monday night Pub Quiz, The White Horse. And, if you're gonna ride, ride the white pony.

I went there last week where a group of Canadians was supposed to adopt me. Alas, it was Canadian Thanksgiving so they weren't around. Fortunately, a nice chap named Lance came over (from the "Damned Yankees" team) and we teamed up. Between Lance's knowledge and some blind luck, we managed to win handily. I earned a free drink voucher and got to pick the following week's theme (Sci-Fi).

One of the strangest things about going to Pub Quiz last week was being in a place where almost everyone spoke English as their primary language.

This trip is definitely making me more empathetic to people who can't speak the language of a place (like me). There's this attitude in the U.S. of "If they come to the country, they better take the time to learn the damn language. English, motherfucker, do you speak it?!?"

Yes, I'll work to learn Mandarin but I can get around most of the time without it. Likewise, I'm sure a lot of U.S. immigrants would think or say the same thing. And, don't I know that English is an incredibly difficult language to use. Even just trying to find translations for English words and phrases in Mandarin lead me down rabbit holes of, "Oh, wait, that can be a homonym for this other word..." Just today I was thinking of how I'd ask for a receipt for something. Receipt is both a noun for the piece of paper and a the fact that something is being received. It's also a verb for marking a bill as paid. So, should I ask for a bill instead? But a bill usually implies that something hasn't been paid. And, again, one can bill someone or receive a bill.

This morning, too, I was trying to remember the word to tell the barista at Starbucks that my coffee was "to go." Or, in British vernacular, "take away". Just think about how many variations of those phrases you can think of. Are you talking about verbs or adjectives here?

BTW, you'd most likely want shōu jù (receipt) and dǎbāo (to go).

I'm off to The White Horse for that Sci-Fi trivia. #LLAP

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Crunchy Frog

The days are getting a little colder. Not too bad for a fat-ass like me. My layer of blubber keeps me warm even at the coldest depths of the ocean. However, riding around on my scooter, the wind cuts through me like an icy knife.

I asked Serena on Friday if she could order me a jacket and a new pair of jeans. After a lot of math (inches to centimeters, pounds to kilograms), she placed the order at T-Mall and it should be arriving today or tomorrow.

Before I came to Shanghai, I tried to do a lot of research. I've found that some of the things I "learned" are bullshit while others are holding fairly true. The people at the "Passport Health" place where I got vaccinated made me feel like there was disease lurking around every corner here. "Don't shower with your mouth open! Don't shave in the shower! Always wipe off your chopsticks before you use them because they don't clean them well!" You could say the same thing about any big city -- save for the chopsticks -- if you eat at a crappy restaurant you should expect crappy conditions. Even the tiniest hole-in-the-wall that I've been to here has been as clean as I'd expect from a big city greasy spoon (or greasy chopstick in this case). It's all good.

I was warned "Chinese people are very rude." I disagree with this broad generalization. There are things that Chinese people will say or ask that Americans tend to avoid. That brings me back to Serena ordering me pants. She told me that the jeans I wear are not very flattering at all and that they make me look fat. She has asked me a few times why I'm so fat and if I'm doing anything to lose weight. That's not something that you hear from relative strangers in the U.S. but I know she doesn't mean anything malicious. And, hey, I'm working on it so I don't feel that bad either. Moreover, I agree that the jeans I brought with me are awful. They're at least two inches too big in the waist and as much in length. I look like I'm swimming in them. The same goes for some of the shirts I brought. So, here's hoping these new jeans will be able to fit me.

About a year ago I ordered a leather jacket via eBay. It was a 3XL which should have fit me fine. When it arrived, I could barely fit my arm in one of the sleeves. Now I realize that this was a Chinese 3XL. In China I take at least a 7XL which is as big as the vendor for this new jacket carries. Again, I hope that this fits.

The other thing that Serena has asked me about a few times is why I don't have any children of my own. I tried explaining about how selfish I am and that I spend time and money on myself and am too involved in my own navel-gazing that I didn't feel mature enough to take care of a new life. I barely can give Andrea enough time, much less another human who would be wholly dependent on me.

When I look at the friends I grew up with (all those people I mentioned in my UK Journal posts), I don't see many kids. I don't know what it was about us but no one that I still talk to or occasionally hang out with is a parent: Jeff, Leon, Steve, Aimee. Most of my college housemates have two kids: Jonathan, Buck, Matt, and Matt. Yet, the Riverview group is childless.

Back in Southfield, the majority of my direct co-workers don't have any kids, though most of them are in their twenties. Yet, here in the Shanghai office, it seems like not having kids is the exception rather than the rule. It feels like most of my co-workers here are ten to twenty years younger, though it's hard for me to judge ages for white people so I'm rubbish at Asians.

On Saturday, the office had a big "family day." In fact, it felt like the whole area (the whole city?) had a family weekend. Some of the restaurants around me put up playground equipment and there were kids everywhere. I felt a little bad that I wasn't invited to the family day stuff at work but, after seeing pictures, I wouldn't have been comfortable since it was truly all about catering to the kids.

This experience is making me realize just how much more I need to reach out to guests that visit the Southfield office. Traveling can be a lonely affair. While I love the idea of going back to my apartment at the end of the day to watch movies, read, edit podcasts, and write, I also would like the occasional outing and seeing "the real Shanghai." Again, I don't know if it's a cultural thing or because everyone has their own lives and families, but there are times where I wish I had co-workers saying, "Hey, let's go out to so and so on Saturday..." Or, "Drinks after work tonight, are you coming?" Then, again, I think I'm okay without that. I imagine I missed that window and it was open when Jason and Laura were here.

I've talked to some people here and they're amazed that I don't have a "handler" from my office. An assigned friend, as it were. I told them that this would be perceived as weak in American business culture. Likewise, people are amazed that my co-workers aren't checking in more often with me, especially the mucky-mucks. Again, fine by me. I know enough of how to do the work assigned to me and try to help out with other things so I don't need constant contact. Just unconditional love.

Photo Dump

"Take me to Raccoon City..."

View on my ride home from work

Morning line for pork buns(?):

Enjoying some shade and reading:

Two of my co-workers at the local noodle shop where I had some "Crunchy Frog":

Friday, October 13, 2017

Shanghai Diary: A Little Too Ironic

The other morning one of my Shanghai co-workers came up to me and told me that she was listening to the news out of the United States.

"Oh, good," I thought, "Something stupid Trump has done again..."

No, instead. she was telling me about how expensive Szechuan sauce is in the US and that she heard that an ounce of it can go for $14K US. Then she assured me that Szechuan sauce is not nearly as expensive here in Shanghai and that I can get it for quite cheap.

It took a beat for this to register (sometimes it takes a second to work through the accent) and then I exclaimed, "Oh! Rick and Morty!."

She looked at me askance. Nodded. Laughed a little bit. And walked away.

Suffice it to say, I've found that some bits of irony, sarcasm, and pop culture references don't translate too well across cultures.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Shanghai Diary: 555

I had my first panic attack of the Shanghai trip on Monday and it was over such a stupid thing.

Here I was, feeling so empowered and self-confident about my ability to get around in Shanghai when I ran across the simple problem of buying lunch.

My office building has about a dozen or so little restaurants around it, most of them around the bases of the several tall buildings around here. Some of them seem to be apartments, others office buildings. At the base of my building is a 7-11, a Starbucks, a little market, and a few other places I've yet to visit.

I strutted into one of these restaurants, ready to sit down and enjoy some fine local cuisine.

"E Ren!" I proclaimed (one person) as I entered. The guy started speaking very quickly to me and I wasn't quite sure what he meant. It was only through hindsight that I learned that I'd walked into the equivalent of a "fast food" restaurant where people didn't get sat, they ordered and then sat down. Alas, the menu to which he pointed was purely in Chinese, nary a picture to be seen for me to point at.

"Uh," I stammered (I don't understand). Finally, I turned tail and fled. I started going around the entire building, looking at every restaurant. All of them seemed to be the same set-up. I had met my match. Why didn't I take a picture of the menu and use Google Translate to help me out? Good question. That's another thing I thought of later.

I went in to the little market and started picking up things to eat only to realize when I went to check out that the store is somewhat self-service and I didn't find anyone taking cash, just WeChat Pay or AliPay -- two things I have yet to master as I don't have a Chinese bank account or credit card. Again, another suggestion for my company is to have a few accounts like this set up where everything can be paid out of that, esp. for travelers coming here for shorter stints.

So, long story short, "555" or "wu wu wu" or "the sound one makes when crying".

The rest of this week I've been going out to lunch with coworkers -- one from the Southfield office, the others from the Shanghai office -- and though I feel a bit like a tag-along, I know my limits at the moment and will try again when I gain some more confidence and language skills.

What I think of every morning I get on my scooter:


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

UK Journal: The Journey Back


The circle is nearly complete.

Here in Heathrow I sit.

It looks like the Please Mind Your Head posse shall be together on our trek back to the good old USA.

Yesterday we went to Wimbledon where I again bought batteries and then Michelle and I went to Big Star records where I almost bought the Cameo picture disc or the Fireworks 12" or the Hong Kong Garden 45 or the B-52s First album or the Wildflower 12" by The Cult but I got Burning from the Inside by Bauhaus which I'll listen to on the plane.

Natasha can kiss my ass! She's been saying shit about me. [Probably all deserved].

Hey baby! I'm just gonna follow the Way Out signs to America.

Then we went to Piccadilly and hung out until High Tea. It was nice to get the posse in effect at the formal event [that explains the clothes in the last post].


I want to leave but I'm really going to miss Michelle and Jimmy and Kevin. I'll miss the rest of bit but those guys are really cool.

DAMNATION. I really hate Panda Cola. But I hate leaving these dues even more. And that's a lot, let me tell ya.

I miss my home.
I miss my friends.
I miss my Mom & Dad.
I miss my family.
I miss Beat Box.
I miss Black Shampoo.
I miss The Mack.
I want my MTV.
I miss my stereo.
I miss iced tea.
I miss the pool.
I miss my room.
I miss America.
Steve, Leon, Jeff, Aimee, Andy. I miss 'em all.
I miss Tony & McGraw. Hell, even having Mollie and Dave.

[On the plane]

It's 7 o'clock AM. Back home - I woke up at 10PM Eastern Time. I'll arrive hopefully at 8PM. What a nice day I'm gonna have (am having). I have a sore throat. Not cool.

I'm just waiting for today's feature presentation... Rain Man.

Doug Dalryple's address

On the way home:

England: 11:15
Home: 6:15

Home sweet Home sweet Home sweet Home, Home, Home.

I called Leon while I was at JFK. It was so good to hear from him. Then I charged it to Dean Stahl's phone [is it any wonder why I was so hated?]

Later I called Steve but he wasn't home. And, it looks like neither would be able to come over Friday night. Leon has a job: Pizza Boy.

I miss my pals so much! I want to see them all!

Aimee and Steve are supposed to go to Aimee's cabin. DAMNATION.

Looks like they're gonna miss the hearing of the virgin Car Wash soundtrack.

Back in the USA meanwhile...

Here is is, BAM, and you say God Damn! [Public Enemy reference]

I miss my parent. I miss 'em all. Here I come! MORE GOLD! [Orgy of the Dead reference]

Whew. I am so tired.

England - did you enjoy it?

Uhhh... Kinda.


Yeah, somewhat.


It was nice to get away.

It was good to go somewhere a million miles away.

It was nice to leave Riverview, the one thing I did not miss.

[Postscript -- Two additional notebook pages were shoved inside]

Well, a month ago today I was in England, probably on my way to High Tea.

In that month I've found that I really enjoyed and needed these little books in order to remember stupid little things. I've also discovered how much I enjoyed the company of the Please Mind Your Head posse and needed them while I was in England.

So far I've gotten letters from Kevin and Michelle. I believe everyone here thinks I was going out with Michelle while there. Don't I wish. I guess it only adds to the Legend of Mike. I have come to accept that people will always think of me by that name.

[I had a real problem being called Mike for a long damn time.]


A month ago today was my first day back in the country.

I didn't tell you - Friday night, Steve and I went to the Record Exchange where I got "The Cramps Gravest Hits" and Isaac Hayes's "Juicy Fruit Disco Freak." Then, that night, Steve and Aimee went to the Shelter.

Now I find that trough story alone, Michelle seems infatuated by Steve Chesney. Damn my life.

I sincerely hope to see her soon. I'm homing I could on Spring Break but I need someone to go with me.

[Here endeth the journal. More thoughts to come.]

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Nàgè Por Favor

There must be some kind of weird "language wiring" that happens to one's brain. I'm not dreaming in Mandarin (yet, here's hoping). However, when I grasp for words (which happens a lot), if I don't know the word in Mandarin I dip back not to English but to Spanish. This makes for some undoubtedly comic moments like when I was trying to remember the word for "and" (Hé) and kept falling back to the Spanish "y" which sounds like the Mandarin word for the number one.

Reminds me of that exchange from Casablanca:

Carl: To America!
Mr. Leuchtag: Liebchen - sweetness, what watch?
Mrs. Leuchtag: Ten watch.
Mr. Leuchtag: Such watch?
Carl: Hm. You will get along beautiful in America, mm-hmm.

I'm in the office today. I can't say it's the first time because I was here two weeks ago and even spent a little time at my desk but this is my first day really being in the office proper. The drive on my scooter was a tiny bit adventurous insofar as trying not to hit other people who were going slower or being hit by people going faster. And then there was dodging cars and pedestrians. But, I made it without any (known) close calls.

The area where I'm at has a lot of little shops and there were people lining up at a number of them. I almost want to queue up to see what's being sold to merit such a crowd. Or maybe I'll take a picture and send it to my new Shanghai friend, Serena, and ask her to translate. Did that poor lady ever realize what kind of Pandora's box she was opening when she offered to help me? I can't imagine she did.

There's also some stores on the first floor of my work's building. We're up on the 16th and 17th floors (I'm on the 17th).

I rolled in around 8:30 or so and found that I was one of the first people on the floor but a lot of people all rolled in after me. Now I feel like the elephant in the room. A few people have acknowledged me and one guy even gave me a piece of grapefruit for breakfast. A small but very nice gesture.

Every desk in the office has a plant and there are air purifiers everywhere I turn. The air and water purification market has to be huge here. I've started drinking the water straight from the tap, without using my "Life Straw" but Serena warns me that I should boil it first.

I've been struggling with the internet in the office a lot today. The speed is pretty slow, probably because of having to run everything through a VPN.

Hoping that maybe someone will take pity on me and ask if I want to chī wǔfàn (to eat lunch) with them.

I'm also wanting to go over to the White Horse Pub tonight and try some local trivia there. Again, might be a little lonely on my own but maybe I can try to make some friends while I'm here. Or, if not, maybe I can kick some butt in trivia (fingers crossed).

Every night starting at 9PM local time the emails start pouring in from the Southfield office and I'm supposed to start getting on conference calls. That limits my ability to go out and be social. However, I'm hoping the Southfield group will recognize the need for me to go out once in a while.

UK Journal: The Passenger


I am a passenger
And I ride and I ride
I ride through the city's backside
I see the stars come out of the sky
Yeah, they're bright in a hollow sky
You know it looks so good tonight

Today we went to Hampton Court, former residence of kings and queens of England until the mid-1700s. And, so far that's all I've done today. Tomorrow is Camden Market.

The ladder is long [PiL reference] but my notebook is not. I better have enough room to write for the next four days.

[Note from Michelle on the next page]


Pissed I am!!!

Damn. I had a dream I was in a castle and the king was sick and someone sent him a card and I had Jimi Hendrix on it and there were [indecipherable] on his face then I saw a card that I sent to the king and instead of my name it said Applesauce and Cocoweats [sic]. Then I asked my grandmother and she told me that my sister was nicknamed Applesauce.

10: 30 Michelle's house

That was brought to you by Michelle who was not completely drunk but very sober when she had that dream.

Tonight I went to the famed Tolworth Tower and sat around with Michelle and Rob and two other skaters. Michelle and Rob however, kept making out, making me feel very uncomfortable. Oh well, lust is lust, but the best lust is your own and not watching it in others.

See baby, there ain't any slaves anymore and no strong-arm punk is gonna take ya and make you stay where you don't wanna be. [Black Shampoo reference]

Then we went back to Michelle's where her mum was having a party so we went down and Michelle called her real mom then we went back and sat in front of her house and she talked for about an hour. That was nice. She's really nice.

My penpal called me but obviously I wasn't there. She's supposed to call tom-row [in parenthesis it says "cafe spelling", I miss the reference] but I hope it's by 10:20 because that's when I'm supposed to leave and pick up Michelle for Camden Market. I forgot what time and where we are supposed to meet for the Museum of the Moving Image which I really want to go to!

4:30 Waterloo Stn.

9:30 Waterloo Mon.
3:30 Waterloo Tues

August 6, 1989...

A number. Another summer. Get down to the sound of the funky drummer. [Public Enemy reference]

Oh my! Spent a bit too much today -- which I shall not say here in the event of parental guidance which would lead to parental tongue lashing. But, let's take an inventory:

2 Bootleg PiL tapes
1 Set of Earrings
1 Blues Brothers T-Shirt
1 Siouxsie 12"
1 Plastics 45
7 Siouxsie collectors item 45s -- very very rare

Michelle got some really cool clothes -- a maroon velvet coat with matching bow tie and two free Jewish Beanies [I didn't know the term "yarmulke" yet but I guess it's good that I recognized what they were at least], a sweater, a black velvet dress, she is so gorgeous.

Jimmy and Heather had quite the fun time as he was nearly unconscious he was so drunk. He was: Disoriented, Disillusioned, and made some illogical decisions, as Kevin put it. I found this out from them when we went to MOMI which was pretty cool as EF payed for it!

Then we went to Taco Bell - yum! - and now here I am at the house with an awful headache.

Postscript: Saw the movie of the MTV commercial - but forgot its name - you know the commercial, 8 years later, French colorized.

[I was talking about Un Chien Andalou which had be cut down to 60 seconds for an MTV spot. That's how I got my culture in those days.]

[Addresses of Kevin Meaders, Jim Gehrke, Michelle "Superstar" Maxwell, Kalina Morin -- not sure who that is and I don't recall seeing her name before this]

[Then a note from Michelle]

Mike - Check this out =

Bands: Descendants, CRAMPS, Velvet Underground, Ventures (Keith's Band)

Read: The Abortion - Richard Brautigan, Diary of Sylvia Plath or any poetry available by her, Huckleberry Finn - then tell me what it's all about

Movies - definitely Blue Velvet, Carnal Knowledge, Dead of Winter

[More notes from Michelle]

Diminished by Darlene [her mom's name]

The Inbreds - If you can't keep it in your pants, keep it in the family [a band from West Virginia

[A note from Michelle]


Well, Mike, ONE MORE NIGHT!! Today, (by the way hello) I cut my host brothers hair and I couldn't find the broom so I stuck it in the crack of the kitchen. Host mother came home and found it. Can you believe that? She looks in the CRACKS OF THE FLOOR!! What a freak.

I can tell you're running out of things to say to here because you're talking about how much it cost to get over here. Are you not proud of the fact that I haven't had to pay for a week and a half in the tube. You'll have to come to WVa and go shopping.

I hope
we find
as good
as bargains
as we did
Your pen is
A piece of shit
goodby -
I'm going to get
Heathered [our term for being shitfaced]

August the seventh,

Called my penfriend (the her Michelle was referring to). She seems pretty cool. I really regret not meeting her. Great balls of fire.

Here I am - waiting for the damned Tolworth Train -- the sucker better not be late because I'm supposed to meet my homeboys in Wimbledon in order to see License to Kill.

Michelle is spending her evening with Rob. Oh well.

Why is it that I am enamored by girls who are already going out with someone else? SHEET!

Started packing. What a great feeling!

Today we went to the National Theater - pretty cool - especially the Olivier theater. Then we went and saw Big Ben then Kevin, Jimmy and I went to Oxford Street where I found an HMV and Virgin store that both carried "Commercial Zone" by PiL but neither had it in stock. DAMNATION.

Fuck. Looks like I'm hurtin'. The Train appears to be canceled.

We went to Taco Bell (for the third day in a row) then we went t o the poster store where I bought a picture of John Lydon, Elvis & Nixon, Jack Nicholson, and an Easy Rider poster.

Then when I got back Mrs. Lee told me Michelle called and called her "abrupt." "Not a very polite girl, is she?" That's my best friend you're talking about, girl.

So I went down and called Linda & Michelle then we went to Michelle's house where she modeled her new clothes. She is so beautiful.

Then we found out that her host mum has to drive us on Wednesday Morning. Mrs. Lee was in quite the tizzy! [Guessing Wednesday is the day we go back to the airport].

Now here I am. I said yo, the bother don't say he's nice. He know's he's nice, you know what I'm sayin' [Public Enemy reference]

Tonight I made it to Wimbledon where I met my man Jimmy who was waiting for Kevin and Funky Cold Kelina but we headed on over to the movie which started 20 minutes before and on the way back we met with K&K combo and wend to the KFC for about two hours and just talked. [Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut. I had quite the extensive palate].

On our way back we got Michelle the British Rail Poster [it was a poster shaming people about not paying for taking the tube]. Jimmy ripped it off and I talked him into giving it to me.

I need my Bauhaus tape.


Here I am in front of Michelle's house. Shall I serenade? Naw, I'll just sit here and eat my delicious lunch. Mmmm Mmm Good.

I would be the fashionable one but it's a bit too hot for my coat but I'll put it on later. Green shirt, black pants, palmated [???] shoes, b/w sport coat and hopefully Michelle's maroon bowtie.

[Note from Kevin?]

Here's a little story I've got to tell about 2 homeboys trip to hell. Went to London to have a ball. Went to Paris, she's way too tall. Back in London I love the weather. Just keep me the hell away from Heather. Jimmy and Kevin knocking at your door. It's the 1990 Homeboy tour!

Friday, October 06, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Jaded Mandarin

Today was a bit of a rough day. I knew that I'd have a couple of these but was hoping to stave it off a bit.

After having constant companionship last week, I went through withdrawals this week being completely on my own without even my Shanghai co-workers to speak to as I've been on break for "Golden Week."

Sure, I've been speaking to my U.S. coworkers via conference calls, to Andrea via WeChat, and to other friends via Facebook, but there's something to be said for face-to-face conversation

I hope that next week will be a little easier as I'll be around my Shanghai co-workers. I'm not expecting instant companionship but maybe one or two of them will take pity on me and we can go out to lunch.

What makes it all a bit worse is what I've been doing when I'm not writing these Shanghai entries which is transcribing some old journals of that trip I took to the UK when I was 17. It's uncomfortable looking back, especially when I'm confronted with what a little shit I was.

What made today worse was that yesterday I did manage to have a some face-to-face interaction and conversation. While I was at China Mobile, trying to get a SIM Card and data package for my time here, a very nice local woman, Serena, took pity on me and helped me speak to the clerk.

Hell, when they asked for 100 RMB and told me that their credit card machine was down, Serena even paid the money because I was so short on cash! For her troubles, I took her out for some coffee. I'm sure it was a sight to see, this little Chinese lady riding behind this big gweilo on his scooter as we went to the coffee place across from my apartment (because I knew they took Visa).

We sat and talked for a good long time, she helped me with a few questions I had about Mandarin, and we probably shared more than strangers normally do but I think we both felt safe that we are from separate parts of the world.

Again, going back to my self-reflection (being alone is dangerous sometimes), I realized that I'm a country of only children. My people! I'm the only child of an only child as is nearly everyone around me.

Ironically, Serena is in Marketing and she even worked on the Hilton account for the Hawaiian branch. Suffice it to say, we had a lot to discuss. We talked stereotypes of Chinese and Americans. I know it's simple to say but people really are people wherever you go and a simple conversation can really help understand where people are coming from.

So, after having some conversation yesterday, I'm back to cold turkey today. Add to that the rain and that my scooter died (just a dead battery, it's charging up now) on the way to breakfast and that I'm still broke... It made for a depressing day. I get paid again today but the check won't hit until tonight. Until then, I'm relying on the few groceries I've bought so far and the places around here that I know take credit cards. I've submitted and re-submitted my first week expense report a half dozen times. The system doesn't know I'm in Shanghai so I keep missing when it thinks that something is $180 US rather than 180 RMB. Quite a big difference.

I hope things will get better soon.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

UK Journal: Free Nelson Mandela


Oh my!

Today I had quite a fun time. To start off, when we got out of the underground at Charring Cross some people were protesting apartheid in front of the South African embassy and they had a petition to sign to free Nelson Mandela...

And today's question to be asked by the intrepid Heather among the pygmies of London: "Who's he?"

Then I proceeded to call her fucking stupid and etc. which angered her to no end. [I'd hate to be called "etc" as well].

Then when Michelle and I asked the cops for direction... sorry, the bobbies, they proceeded to call Heather fucking stupid for signing the petition without knowing who he [Nelson Mandela] is.

Then we went into the National Gallery. Nice but hot inside. Some really good paintings but most were too... well... not to my taste. I got a great poster of the Execution of Lady Jane Grey [Paul Delaroche reference] and a few good post cards.

Then Michelle and I went to Tower Records instead of the Portrait Gallery where we found the Car Wash soundtrack! Aimee's dream is fulfilled.

Nothing else we did matters but I'll tell ya anyway: Found a magazine with Monty Python in it. Then we went back to some church where Heather proceeded to yell at me because three other idiots did not know who "that guy" is... "You mean Nelson Mandella?"

The protesters were being very vocal when we got there. It was great!!!

We then went to the Tate Gallery -- very cool -- a lot of modern art and a lot of it was good. Saw the Musical Interlude statue from Monty Python. The Kiss it is called.

Then Fran, Natasha, and I went to Pizza Hut where Natasha proceeded to start going on about the night in Paris.

Then we went to see How to Get Ahead in Advertising. I thought it was hilarious. Then, on the way back, Natasha wrote me a huge letter about how she thinks I'm some special guy - I don't know what to do about her. I mean, she's nice but really dorky. I don't want to sound mean but it's true.

I want a meaningless physical relationship. I don't feel in the mood for love. I want some good old carnal LUST.

[Natasha's Letter]

Aug 4, 1989


I am sometimes not 2 good with the spoken word, so I shall try 2 write out what I feel. This is difficult for me, and I feel stupid. I have felt upset that we have grown apart lately. The first week in England I felt like we were really close and good friends. I suppose I destroyed that in my stupidly getting drunk that night in Paris. I feel so bad about it. Getting drunk is the worse thing I have done in my life and it was a dumb thing 2 do... I just have some complicated problems at home that I a having trouble figuring out... still, it was dumb 2 drink. Believe me when I say drugs and alcohol are stupid. There is hardly a person more alive who isn't more against drugs than I am. I suppose you wouldn't know this, though - because you don't really know me completely. I am a nice person who made a stupid mistake... a human who makes mistakes and I wish we were closer. I like you a lot... I think I like you more than I've ever liked a guy. I care about you. I wish I was better at showing my feelings. I wish you could know the real me... When I am not having problems I am a very nice and caring person. I suppose it's like me to do something really dumb when I care about a person a lot. I hope you don't think I am a jerk, and I hope we can talk. I have wanted to talk to you for a long time and I still do... but I don't know whether you want to talk to me or not. I can't believe I'm writing this down. I kept telling myself I didn't care, but in my heart and soul I know I care about you a lot.


[And what did I do about that letter? I'm curious to find out as I don't remember. Knowing me, I blew it off completely because I'm a fucking asshole.]