As I sink deeper into my hermit-like faux-unemployment and entertain myself with the delusional quest to make flatbreads out of every conceivable noodle dough, I find myself somewhat at a loss for words here.
I mean, this is, in theory, a blog about Shanghai. An impractical guide to Shanghai but still, a blog about Shanghai.
Do you see any updates about Shanghai? Any at all? Even tangentially?
I think I’ve kind of run out of things to say about this city, even though I really haven’t said much at all. Not unless you count mops and murdered chickens and smog and chill. My repertoire, you see, is almost painfully limited, which is why I don’t make my living as a writer. The market for doomed street chickens is limited.
Recently, however, out of the blue, I was commissioned to write a feature-length article about Shanghai. You know, the kind of article that is intelligent and thoughtful and insightful enough to merit a substantial transfer of funds into your bank account. After two days of panic attacks and banging my head against every conceivable surface, I sat myself down and wrote it. The first dozen drafts were absolute shite. I realized I had way too much to say about this city but most of it emerged as an incoherent rant about pollution, grim city-scapes, dodging black cars on sidewalks and bleak alienation. That was not good. Especially since this was for a travel periodical.
The crazy thing is, I don’t hate Shanghai. I never did. And now that I’m underemployed, I actually kind of like it. And the more I thought about it while I was writing my article, the more I realized I really ought to branch out from my current set of themes here.
The problem with actually living and working in a city long term is that you develop a certain set of pathways that you tread heavily, ignoring pretty much everything else. It’s called a daily routine. Many people have one. Mine just happened to follow the route of animal executions, the crowded line 1 Metro, and the pleasant tree-lined roads of the French Concession where scooters and black cars feel free to take short cuts on the sidewalks, knee-capping pedestrians. From our 16th story flat, I had a daily uninterrupted view of acres and acres of grim, overcast, densely urban sprawl.
Earlier this week, I simply refused to leave the flat for two whole days. I just couldn’t bring myself to face it. I often feel that way.
Until my friend’s wedding last week, I hadn’t even seen the Bund in months (like, last February?). The Bund! The symbol of the city itself! And you know what?
Did you just hear that?
I just said that something in Shanghai was lovely.
*the sound of dozens of readers fainting from shock*
But it’s true!
When you’re standing out on the deck of a lovely boat, chugging up and down the river after sunset with an open bar supplying free flow bubbly, with a gaggle of good friends all consolidated in one place (and all quite happy due to it being a wedding and the bar being open), this city is remarkably inspiring.
With that in mind, I’ve decided I really have to get off my ass and steer myself away from my hermit-like well-trodden path and make use of my underemployment. I still have 3 walking tours to finish writing for that app company, which will need a fair amount of stomping around. Maybe this can help me to branch away from the chickens and mops into something more coherent and sane, something that actually (*ahem- cough cough*) is about Shanghai.
Now that I’ve dealt with the chickens, mops, grimness and alienation, and my vow to tread other routes through this fine city, I’d like to draw your attention to the second half of this post- the part that has been foreshadowed by that green Versatile Blogger badge up at the top.
I thought it terribly ironic that at just the point when I feel the least versatile (chickens! mops! grim!), I’m nominated twice for the intra-blogger honor.
Having been nominated, I’m now supposed to do one of two things, though I’m not sure which as each nomination was ever so slightly different. I gather that this is kind of the blog version of that telephone game you play as kids.
You start the chain by saying, “Hey, congrats! I just nominated you for the Versatile Blogger award because you’re really, um, versatile! Now, just list 7 things about yourself that you think show your versatility and then nominate three other bloggers that you think are worthy of such an honour!” and the last person at the end of the line gets a comment on their blog saying, “Hey, congrats! I just nominated you for the Versatile Blogger award because you’re virile! Now, just list 17 things about yourself that you think show your verbosity and nominate twenty other bloggers that you think have no sense of humour!”
The 7 things I was supposed to write about were:
- 7 quirky things about you
- 7 things no one knows about you
Unfortunately, I am not quirky. Weird, offensive and hermit-like, sure, but not quirky. Quirky implies a certain naive cuteness that I can’t even fake.
And as for the things people don’t know about me? Well, if others don’t know it then either I don’t want to share it or even I’m not really aware of it. I’m a pretty open book.
I’ve decided to just make up a list of random stuff that I can actually remember. I have a terrible memory, which is just as well as my brain would be awfully full by now given how many absolute life changes I’ve made over the years.
In no particular order, with a few swiped from a similar list request way back in my LiveJournal days (remember, I have a terrible memory so even just dredging up a few memories takes ages– this is why I’m a compulsive diarist), here are some, er, things about me. I’ve illustrated a few with photos, where applicable.
- I once taught the brother in law of Turkish President Abdullah Gül French for three weeks back in 2003 in Kayseri. I quit when he casually declared how fat and old I looked.
- As a kid, I used to be so terrified of fire that I used to run screaming out the door when my father lit our cast-iron wood stove. Unfortunately, this was the only source of heat in our house, deep in the forest, so I was pretty much running out that door on a daily basis, even with three feet of snow of the ground.
- My fingers are double jointed in ways that allow me to regularly horrify and disgust people.
- I was born on Friday the 13th AND I am left handed (both sinister and gauche).
- I was blond for nearly a year in my early 20s (a very spiky pixie cut with varying shades of platinum to odd yellow, depending on who did my touch-ups). Since my uniform at that time was tight black jeans and Docs, I was regularly getting approached by guys who inexplicably thought it would be cool to have a kooky lesbian side-kick. Seriously. Even Keone, the descendent-of-Hawaiian-royalty (turned surfer/banker) I met in London who decided I’d make a fine accessory for himself and his wife. They all lost interest when I grew my hair out and dyed it bright red. The fact that I had a boyfriend the whole time didn’t seem to shake their conviction that I had other preferences.
- In my late teens and early 20s, I was a fierce music groupie and somehow managed to worm my way quite deeply into the mid-’90s Irish music scene in a surprisingly naive and innocent way (it never ever occurred to me that groupies slept with musicians- I just liked music a lot). It probably sounds quite irrelevant now, but I managed to somehow find myself invited to all sorts of pub sessions with Glen Hansard of The Frames, Luka Bloom, Christy Moore’s entire extended family, Clannad, Sinead O’Connor, Brian Kennedy, everyone in Hothouse Flowers, and I was casually introduced to The Edge whilst strolling through St Stephen’s Green with Liam O Maonlai (of Hothouse Flowers). I also crashed at Liam’s house for a week when I was homeless in Dublin, and was the one who picked up the phone when Van Morrison called to chat. Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil invited me to go clubbing once too (clad only in a towel after a show, backstage at a theatre in Seattle when I was too young to get into clubs in the US)
- I own about 10 pairs of knee-high stripy socks in various states of disintegration. Kadikoy Sali Pazari in Istanbul used to be my source for them but they stopped selling them around 2005, so I had to stock up in Sophia, Bulgaria for a few years. Now I get them from a tiny little place on Shanxi Nan Lu, though they are meant to be thigh-high. They are knee-high for me. Yes, I am a monster.
And my random number of nominations for Virile Verbose Versatile Blogger du semaine are…. *drum roll*
- Sally the Unbrave Girl, who is occasionally brave
- Fiona, who doesn’t even live on Nanchang Lu anymore
- Jeannie the Nomadic Chick, who doesn’t even own a herd of yaks
- Kelly, who puts Chinese wives to shame in Hebei
- Mike, whose Fevered Mutterings make me happy
Um. I’m sure there are more who deserve this intangible award but it’s Saturday morning after a marathon 2 days of speaking exams in Hangzhou and my memory is worse than usual. Also, we’re out of coffee.
To claim your award, just drag and drop the green badge at the top and approximately replicate what I’ve done here.
Congratulations all! I bake a virtual cake in your honor!