Tuesday, June 20, 2006

(I have a coupon for a complimentary) breakfast in my cardboard card key case.

As we are getting close to the hotel (or I assume we are getting close to the hotel), Allen tells me that this time of the evening he will park in back of the hotel. As he says this, he whips the car into a driveway and drives behind a large building which must be the hotel. As he is doing this, I remember the days of press junkets, flying to New York or L.A. to promote a record, being escorted by publicists, marketing strategists and managers to restaurants and boardrooms where the interested press would interview me, drinking at New York or Los Angeles chic dive bars at night where we might spot Dennis Leary, Matt Dillon, the super model of the moment. In those days, during the day, I was usually hung-over. I should miss those days but somehow I do not. As we are parking the car behind the hotel, I do not feel as if I could puke. In the old days, I did.

We get out of the Audi and walk into the back entrance of the hotel. As we walk to the front desk, I look around at the cavernous cathedral like lobby of what is touted as China’s first five star hotel. Later, Allen tells me the hotel has been in existence since 1996.

At the front desk, a clerk has a card key waiting for me in a packet with various coupons. The clerk asks to see my passport. At my apartment when I was packing, I had put it in the top pocket of my silver Delsey carry-on. I unzip the pocket, pull out the passport and hand it to the clerk. He writes down my passport number and hands it back.

As this is happening, another man appears out of nowhere. Allen introduces me to him. His English name is Blake. Blake will see me to my room. Before Allen departs, he tells me he will meet me at 9:30 am in front of the hotel’s coffee shop. I have a coupon for a complimentary breakfast in my cardboard card key case.

Blake points the way and we then start walking to the elevators. Blake is a bigger guy. He looks as if he is in his late 20s or early 30s. My room is 2607 which is on the 6th floor they tell me at the desk but I do not understand. Once we are in the elevator, I ask Blake if my room is on the 26th floor. He points to the numbers and tells me the hotel has only 22 floors. My room is on the 6th floor. I wonder if he thinks I am an idiot.

He escorts me to my room and shows me where everything is. This I can actually see for myself. Therefore, he does think that I am an idiot. He is a very kind person. He asks me if I might play at the hotel. I tell him that I hope to play. He smiles. He rubs my shoulder.

I tell him I am hungry. He tells me after I have a bath I could have some food. I tell him I would rather eat and then bathe afterward. He asks me if I know Chinese. I tell him no; he looks disappointed. I would assume that he knows that I would not know Chinese. He tells me there are KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonalds in the vicinity of the hotel. I ask if those are all of my choices. He says yes unless I would like Chinese. I tell him I would like Chinese. He smiles again. When he asked if I knew Chinese, he was asking if I knew Chinese food.

We walk back to the elevator and take it back down to the first floor. At the first floor, he leads me into the five star restaurant attached to the five star hotel. Along the wall on the other side of the entry to the restaurant is a long narrow cashier’s counter that looks very much like a check-in desk. They want to make everything go fast and flawless here at the Grand Pacific Hotel. Across from the long cashier’s counter is a lacquered Chinese fishing boat anchored in the middle of a koi pond. A small foot bridge connects the boat to the restaurant’s terra firma. In the fishing boat, a party of four are sitting eating a gourmet meal.

Blake asks the cashier if we can see a menu. On the elevator on the way down to the restaurant, I told him I would like to take my meal back to my room. The cashier tells Blake in Chinese there is no menu and points to the restaurant Carol Merrill style (The Price is Right or in China we could call it The Price is Rice). Lining the restaurant are various display cases of examples of the food served and chefs at food stations cooking food to order. I was stunned and in love. Miko is in love with America; I am in love with this Chinese happenstance in which I have found myself. I smile all the time it seems.

Although I know the time must be after 11 pm, the restaurant is somewhat crowded. All of the patrons are Chinese. However, this is the first place where I have gone where people do not stare at me like I am from Pluto. These people in the restaurant I suppose have traveled and have seen their fill of Caucasians. I am completely uninteresting to them.

Picking out what I want to eat is tough. Blake walks with me. He takes this very serious. He inspects everything. He wants me to be happy. I feel so full of myself. Who do I think I am anyway? Oh yeah, I’m the star ha haha! We walk past a large display case –much like the dairy section in a grocery store such as Homeland - of seafood in which the displayed food looks like it is - or is a cousin of - the sea urchin, the jellyfish, or the eel. We keep on walking.

I am wondering if they have heard of a good tuna steak in these parts. ‘Tube Steak Boogie’ by ZZ Top goes through my head followed, of course, by ‘Party on the Patio’ because in my head it is not Friday night in China; it is two for Tuesday on KMOD (the Rainbow Station).

We make our way around the restaurant. There are so many choices that I have hit overload. I think I saw someone making sushi. Did I see someone making sushi? Do I want sushi? Maybe I imagined sushi. We come to the dumpling stand. I tell Blake I think I would like dumplings. He asks me if I would like four or six. I tell him four. He looks at me like I am crazy.
“Do you want something else?” he asks.
“No,” I say
“You want just four?” he asks again somewhat disappointed in my sheer food wimpiness.
“Maybe I will have six after all.” This pleases him; he smiles.
One reason, I did not go nuts with the food, I assume I am not paying but if I am paying I do not want to have a huge bill to pay. After all, I am in a five star restaurant in a five star hotel. And, my belly does not need a five star Chinese meal before I go to bed.

I watch the chef as he puts the dumplings into a chef’s pan and adeptly shake them in that way that chefs do. This only takes a moment or two to lightly brown them. I am actually surprised by how fast this is done. He pulls them off of the fire and scoops them into a takeaway container. He then puts them in a bag and hands them to me.

At this point, I am not sure if Blake and I are leaving the restaurant or if I am to pay for the dumplings. We walk back along the length of the sea urchin and friends display cabinet. We stop at the cashiers’ station. Blake asks if I have cash which sounds like a cross between ‘cars’ and ‘cards.’ I know I give him a vacant stare before I come to life and say:
The cashier the whole time is writing and ringing up the bill. Blake turns to me and says “10 RMB.” I do think this is a deal. Dumplings, for the equivalent of $1.25 at a five star hotel, are good for me, okay! I hand him a 100 which he hands to the cashier. She counts the 90 RMB change back to me. I put it in my wallet. Blake and I exit the restaurant.

At the elevator, Blake tells me I am on my own and asks if I can find my room. I tell him yes, 6th floor, room 2607. He tells me I am right. He says he hopes he sees me in the morning. I tell him I hope I see him too. He stands there expectantly for a moment then turns and walks away. I get into the elevator and hit the button for the 6th floor. I am alone.

When I get to my room, I have trouble getting the door open. This is a problem I have with keys, key cards, lockers, whatever. When I was in Junior High at the start of every school year, the vice principal had to send someone with me to help me open my locker. I could never get it open on the first try or the second or actually until the vice-principal sent someone to open it for me.

Here, 25 or 30 years later, I stand in front of my door to my hotel room at a five star hotel and once again I feel the frustration of puberty. I look at the number on the door more than once to make sure I am at the right room on the right floor. I am. I try the key card a few more times. This is frustrating I feel like an idiot. I do it one more time and I see the green light. I try the knob. The door opens.

I put my takeaway on the bed and turn on the television. Since this is a five star hotel, the television is hidden in a sleek armoire instead of sitting naked on a chest of drawers or a desk. After channel surfing, I settle into a music video channel as I eat my dumplings which are excellent. I give them 5 stars.

For no reason, I think of Bowie’s ‘Sound and Vision.’ “Don’t you wonder sometimes about sound and vision?” I call the front desk and put in a wakeup call for 8:45 am.

The music videos veer from American angst ridden teen emo pop to Chinese non-angst sugar teen pop. Suddenly, a Chinese boy band, called the G Boys, captures my attention and - somewhat briefly - has a chance at capturing my heart. Although, I am sure, they are trying to emulate the Backstreet Boys, through - no fault of their own - they have captured – maybe through the use of white leisure suits emblazoned with Porter Wagoner style gauche sequined flowers – the spirit of teen pop from an earlier time, the golden years of teen pop, the early 1970s. I hope they remake “One Bad Apple” or “Down by the Lazy River.”

The video - which involves slapstick scenes in and out of limousines with mock overzealous fans and mock paparazzi – seems to be about the trappings of fame and success to my untrained Chinese-pop ears. Of course I am not sure if the G Boys are singing about being famous or if they are singing, dreaming of being famous. This I will ask my Chinese brethren.

As I am watching the videos, I go through the coupons in my card key case. I see I have one for the restaurant where I got my dumplings. If I would have looked before I leapt, I would have saved $1.25. After awhile, and after getting a glimpse at the G Boys pop genius, the videos become an endless parade of void, nothingness. I am getting tired. I have my interview in the morning at 9:30 am.

Interviews are no longer the daunting task they once were since a friend told me the secret which perhaps is not a secret but is something I have remembered. She said you are always able to tell right away if you are meant for a job or not and if the job is right for you. Since I now have that attitude, I am no longer nervous like I once was. I turn out the light and go to sleep. I go to sleep in my 5 star hotel room in Yuyao, China.


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