Sunday, April 30, 2006

Today, I gave the students in Class 5 and Class 9 the comic strips with the dialogue whited out. One of the strips was Peanuts characters - Sally, Charlie Brown, Schroeder, Lucy and Linus - standing in a line. In the original comic, they are saying what excuses they will give the person who they are in line to see, a principal or teacher. Linus is first in line he has no word balloon. Ye Hui Jin (no English name given) wrote two unintelligible word balloons and then for Schroeder she wrote “I must be a tragic hero,” followed by Lucy saying “The god will bless me.” Ann took the easy way out – the first word balloon says ‘Four,’ the second says ‘Three,’ the third says ‘Two,’ the fourth says ‘I want a peanut.’

One of the other whited out strips I gave them was Drabble which I had forgotten about him and his ‘miracle drivel, optical sewer’ until I started subscribing to the Shanghai Daily. This particular comic has Drabble eating donuts with his family at the donut shop. On the table you see the donut box full of donuts. In the original comic strip, Drabble in the middle pane gets up and shouts how much he loves donuts, which embarrasses everyone. His wife says something to him unfunny and unmemorable in the last pane. Well my little Zhang Ming Hui wrote Drabble saying “Maybe it’s very delicious,” in the first pane. In the second pane Drabble says “OH MY GOD IT’S TOO SWEET!” In the last pane Drabble’s wife - who is holding a small carton of milk says “Here’s the milk” which Drabble responds with “Thank you.”

Using the same comic strip, Kevin has Drabble saying “I’ll be a famous inventor.” Standing, proclaiming in the next pane “Ladies and Gentlemen! The man who stands before you will be a famous inventor buy his invention.” In the last pane his wife asks “So, what’s your invention?” Drabble responds with “I don’t know I haven’t invented it.”

From the same comic strip, the first one that really caught my eye has Drabble saying “These cookies are very delicious,” (Never mind that he is eating donuts). In the next panel “I have decided to be a baker. I believe I can,” In the last pane, and I thought Gu Xiaodong showed a touch of genius by putting these words into Drabble’s wife’s mouth “Are you sure? You never go to the kitchen.”

With the afternoon off, after trying not to take a short nap, I wander to downtown Songjiang to look for supplies for the cruise down the Yangtze River. Today is actually hot. I need a stronger deodorant. I picked the wrong country to find a stronger deodorant.

I stop at the Leinhua Market which is small grocer at the edge of downtown. I look for coffee. All they have is instant. All any grocery store seems to have here is instant. Yesterday, I spotted a French Press at Lotus. I had it in my hand ready to buy it until I realized, after looking in what should have been the coffee aisle, ground coffee is not easily attainable here. They did have one can of Mocha ground coffee but it was 75 yuan for a small canister. I am not paying close to $10 for a canister of coffee. For the time being, I will stick with tea.

After being told the cruise might be a bit on the roughing it side, I have decided to buy a bag. The Delsey carry-on I bought before I left NYC, I am afraid it will get swiped. I am not super attached to it but it is part of a set which is still not that big of a deal but I thought this would give me an excuse to buy a kitschy cool Chinese bag. Store after store, I look at shoulder bags, book bags, backpacks with no luck. At a place I will christen the Hello Kitty Emporium, a clerk tries to help me find a bag. This clerk happens to know a smidgeon of English. My gaze has accidentally settled on some hot pink ‘hello kitty’ backpacks.
She sees where my gaze has settled (which is a shopping fatality in China) and says “These are most beautiful. You not think so?”
I actually don’t really like them I tell her.
“You no like?”
“Well, I think it is more for a girl,” I tell her.
“Oh, yes, I think so.Yes.”
I then see an army green canvas bag that has an abundance of pockets with no obnoxious lettering such as “Sport 101” or “Nikee” or “Addiass.” The price was less than $10. She took it to the counter for me. I took out my cash card. She shook her head no. I would have to go get cash.

I left the Hello Kitty Emporium and started walking toward my bank. Along the way, I stopped at a few shops. I looked in the window of the Pepsi athletic-gear store but I did not see any bags. I saw a lot of red and Pepsi blue in the display window. The other day I did see some silver tennis shoes there that I thought I might buy but I still cannot decide how I feel emotionally about Pepsi tennis shoes. Oh well, I continued my walk through this section of Songjiang which is an outdoor mall. It is at least the length of a city block if not longer.

a few weekends ago. a few weekends ago. a few weekends ago.(Oops, needle was skipping) A few weekends ago, Maureen and I sat in a coffee shop and we people watched. We saw a car drive by and we looked at each other. Is this not supposed to be a pedestrian area? We then saw a taxi whiz by. Again, we looked at each other – puzzled, dismayed. And then of course, a city bus went by. We have decided: In China, if the surface is paved, any vehicle is welcome to happily roll across said surface.

Finally, I spot a hipster shop, I stop in. Imagine a Chinese Urban Outfitters half the size of Armani Exchange. The clothes in the window look enticing. There is something almost Nolita about their ramshackle trendiness. I walk in to find some t-shirts with owls, dragons, trees stitched on them. They look as if they could be at the Young Designers Market in Nolita in NYC. I have finally found a clothes store that has some semi-cool threads. (Did I just write ‘threads’?) I find some shirts that I like but none in my size. As I am about to leave the store, a voice tells me to go to the back of the store where the jeans are, even though I have plenty of jeans at this point.

Up on the wall on a shelf I see it by itself waiting for me, my bag. It is a canvas backpack that has that unassuming look which finds often have. Easily, I could have passed by it. I have the clerk get it down with her merchandise fetching pole and I check it out. It is 148 kuai ($18.50). It is a Diesel bag which is not my favorite brand but I do like some of their things and I do like this bag. I take it to the counter. I give them my cash card which they accept and I sling my new Yangtze River Cruise bag over my shoulder and head out the door.

I must be smiling because more people tell me hello than ever. On my way back to my apartment I wave and smile, kiss children, whatever; I have my new bag. I am ready to take a river cruise down the Yangtze.

Jaywalking has become the hot topic here in Shanghai. If this was America, Crossfire or Nightline would do a piece on it. Jo (the manly ancient female Australian who buys raisin bread and gives it to me because she forgets that she gave me her toaster), Maureen (Birdflu of course), and Jennifer and I sat in Maureen’s apartment and chatted last night. Jo gives a section of the Pudong Police Department, English instruction. The topic of Jaywalking came up. The police department views it as a serious offense and the people should be detained – 7 to 9 days is reasonable to them. She said the policemen refer to the jaywalkers as suspects which gets Jo in an uproar. I could not stop laughing.

Of course, I am laughing now but I am a bit frightened I could get hauled in at some point. The policemen target anyone who veers off the crosswalk. You could be crossing at a light but if you veer off the crosswalk, you could still be fined or arrested. The ridiculousness of this is perversely humorous to me. I have to think of this in historical terms if the States had adopted this law in the 1850s. John Wilkes Boothe on his way to shoot Lincoln, jaywalks to enter the theater. Police ticket him. He goes Confederate on them. Does not make his rendezvous point. Lincoln does not get assassinated and since he does not get assassinated he does not make Mt. Rushmore. The Manson Family jaywalk from their car to the hardware store when they are buying rope and knives. Susan Adkins goes helter skelter on the traffic cop.

I just creeped myself out because when I just typed that a shadow fell across my laptop (I think back of the prosecutor’s watch stopping during the trial when Manson looked at him). I did not see what was causing the shadow. With the way the light is cast, the shadow would be coming from the balcony. I then realized the men working late (11.15 PM) on the building in my backyard are casting shadows. That’s not the Manson Family, that’s just Chinese construction workers.


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