Monday, January 21, 2008

As usual the naughty boys sat in the back.

My last class for the term was a week ago, Tuesday to be exact. I had one class in the morning. The week before,(I teach each class once a week.) I told the class we could have a party. I had visions of cooking a cornucopia of baked goods in my new toaster oven. This did not happen.

Instead, I stopped at the store and got Oreos, white rabbits, frosted wafers and bizarre rice cakes in a bag marked Roughage Party. The party took place from 7:45 am to 8:25 am. In my rock and roll days, this would have been an after after after party and would have, without a doubt, included some serious substance abuse, or actually would have been fueled by some all night serious substance abuse. Thank the lord those days are over. People ask me if I miss those days and I say without pause – NO! I like having my afternoon tea, my walks in the park, my functioning brain.

However, to try to make it somewhat rocking, I did wear my new silver Christian Dior stretch slacks. Actually, this did not add much rock and roll to the festivities but I did feel festive anyway. I felt so ooh la la Dior.

Jerry, who I think is one of the more adorable students, handed out the Oreos to the 40 plus kids. After he handed a few to everyone, he had a row of Oreos left. He informed me that no one probably wanted these and so he would have them. Of course, I just smiled and told him he could have them.

As usual, the naughty boys sat in the back. One of the naughty boys told me that his parents had yelled at him all night the night before because of his bad marks. I tried not to laugh but I did anyway. Jane, one of my favorite teachers, has told me a few times that I am a very popular teacher with the students, the naughty boys like me especially which gave me a bit of a perverse thrill when she told me this.
As the students studied for their final exams, during the party, I tried to explain The Magic Red Monkey Television Show to them which will be put together by the afterschool club I am forming - The 21st Century Unalterable Mind Expanding Television Club. I failed. My roughage party did not convince them. Give me 3D vision and the California Blues.

I told them I know that there are a lot of very talented students in the class. Jerry is actually a published photographer. He has been snapping photos since he was like eight years old. How do you explain a kitschy show that might make continual references to Doris Day, Milton Berle, Ed Asner and Seals and Crofts? How do I explain this? How do you say its okay to an answering machine?

Now, I have a month off before classes start again after the Chinese New Year. We will go from the year of the pig to the year of the mouse.

The cold wet weather has been more than a little depressing to say the least. I try not to let the constant rain and cold get me down. I drink a lot of tea. This morning, I decided I really needed to have a proper teapot, one made of bone china. This gave me a fun little errand this morning.

I went to the house-wares store where, in the recent past, I have bought plates, glasses, candles, vases, silverware. There, I found a teapot which I think will work out nicely. It is one of those fat little white teapots that I imagine Alice using during that crazy Wonderland period, or maybe I am thinking of Iggy, or maybe the Lizard King had teapot like this. Alice at that time just drank Budweiser and Jim Beam. GB just shot up. Me and GB, we ain't ever gonna confess.

Yesterday, the rain rained and rained and rained all day. Today, it is just cold, not rainy. The sky is dark. The mood is grey today.

Nevertheless, last night, in the evening, the rain let up for an hour or so. At that point, I decided I needed to get out and tromp around in the wet, cold evening. That is when I first went in serious search of the bone china teapot. As I walked, I thought of Atomic Rooster and then as I walked farther I forgot that I thought of Atomic Rooster at all. I had no further thoughts of Atomic Rooster. Atomic Rooster only now figures into my thoughts sporadically. Death Walks Behind You, especially if you happen to be a rooster on the streets of Shanghai.

However, as I walked, I had one of those literary moments, which may be the best way to describe it. There was nothing truly exciting happening, no one being murdered, stalked, butchered or anything like that but I did feel as if I was a character walking around in a book, in some sprawling novel. Maybe I was the character that the murderer or thief or main hooligan sees and spares; I don’t know. I did, however, feel as if I had been transported in some indescribable way.

Nevertheless, this happened when I ducked into an alley and found myself in a neighborhood of winding lanes and old Chinese houses that have stood there for probably over 100 years which in Shanghai these days is quite a feat since neighborhoods are disappearing daily, hourly.

The chill and dampness of the evening suddenly did not bother me. I strolled around. Some of the doors and gates were open which enabled me to see right into these homes, into these lives. Mostly, I spied old ladies washing up - dishes, laundry and such.

Nonetheless, briefly, I felt as if I was stepping into someone else’s skin. This was more than not belonging; I was certainly out of place, but there was something remote and intangible about how I felt as I walked. Maybe it was just the sudden collision with the past that made me feel that way. In as much, there was something comforting about having that feeling of remoteness, the unexplainable feeling of being a stranger in a strange land, always that feeling of being a stranger in a strange land but this time amplified.

Today, as I mentioned earlier, was not a wet day. Today was a cold, dry day. This afternoon, I walked to the Buddhist Temple gift shop and bought incense. By now, they know me when I drop in. The shop is wide with a glass counter that makes a fat U around the shop. The only wall that does not have a glass counter is the wall that hosts the entrance. Today, when I walked in, several ladies were there in their blue smocks that make them look more like chemists than Buddhist gift shop sales clerks.

They always smile at me and make one sided Chinese small talk which I enjoy but do not understand. I handed a woman 6 rmb and she handed me 6 packages of incense. When I go there, I like to stock up. Sometimes, I stay a few minutes and look at the meditation pads and the Buddhists CDs.

When I walked back to my apartment, the guards at the gate motioned for me to come into the guard house. One of the guards – there were two of them – walked out of the guard house and went on about his business. The other guard started looking through the electric bills and phone bills that arrive at the guardhouse which the guards disperse to the tenants of the apartment complexes. There is more than just one complex that the guards guard. This guard was not successful in finding my bill. The bill that I thought might be mine, he responded by shaking his head no. This is not that big of a problem but it is a problem. Little things like getting my bills and paying my bills are much more of a bother than they should be.

Finally, he called for the guard who wandered away to come back. He came back and looked through the pile and handed me a couple of bills that I am really not sure if they are mine or not because the address printed on them is not the same address that is on my lease. This seems a bit suspect. Later I will go and take my old bills to show them which might shed some light on the whole bill mystery. Ah, this is a romantic life indeed.


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