Thursday, April 2, 2009

BEIJING & WUHAN



Day 3

After sleeping quite well on the train I wake up at 6:30am, about an hour and a half before it arrives in Beijing. The scenery is bleak as we go by suburb after suburb which to me just look like shanty towns and ruins. Buildings are being torn down while people clearly still live in them, and the demolition workers break down the buildings around the last remaining apartments. The people live in these things until the very last minute.
Abe, Josh and I eat noodles in the dining cart which are plain noodles in a garlic, green onion broth and they are pretty enjoyable. Sandy drinks coffee and as soon as the caffeine hits her she starts going on about how inspiring it was to squat down and observe the "beads of pee trickle into the hole" in the bathroom. "They were perfect circles". She also wonders if her being able to remember her dreams recently have something to do with the lack of weed smoking shes been experiencing in China (she hasn't touched the stuff for 2 whole days!).
We arrive in Beijing and walk out into the busiest travel port I have ever been in. There are people as far as you can see trying to make it out of the station and we slowly move our way forward. I'll always remember looking back to a sea of Chinese faces, and seeing wigged out Damian appear in his tilted New Era, giant shades that make him look like Bone Crusher, and other assorted street wear wig-shit. A good visual.
We check into the hotel, shower, I find out no one has emailed me, and we go separate ways to find food. Josh and I get street food again. I get some beef on a stick that tastes a little rank, but follow it up with some squid on a stick with hot chillies all over it and although it burns its amazing! I get a bag of Mandarins, and we head to the Lama Temple. A very peaceful temple with giant 50 foot Buddhas carved out of single pieces of Sandalwood. Pretty spectacular. Sandy gives Dame the finger in one of the temple houses and later we convince her we are were asked to leave because a monk saw her do it, got offended, and told security to tell us we have to go. Abe has lent me one of his cameras (a lomo camera, apparently its a cool one) and I take a full roll of chinese babies.
We do some bullshit interview for Gibson China because they lent us the guitars we are playing for this tour (thank you! p.s they dont play in tune), and then head to some Imperial bell tower where I practice hustling down the prices of cameras I dont even want to buy and then leave the shop. We walk a main shopping street in old downtown Beijing, and I buy a stuffed piece of poo with a sad face on it. Sad poo.
Back in the hotel we nap and still no one has emailed me, and we walk 15 minutes down the road to soundcheck for the gig later. The club is a fairly large one, and feels like a gino rock bar that would be in Toronto. We eat the dinner we've been looking forward to for a few days and it doesn't disappoint. Beijing is the region to eat Roast Duck, and we destroy two plates of it in about 5 minutes. You wrap the duck in this chinese tortilla like thing, and dip it in duck sauce and it becomes the best thing you've eaten on tour since you had Texas Bbq last or some magical chicken tikka wrap you had in Ireland last summer. Once again, Abe comes through. The fat, skinny, and medium Canadians walk away fully satisfied (except Mike) and back at the hotel I sleep until half an hour before our set time. Arriving just in time to catch "the best punk band in China" (called "Demerit") finish their set (they rip), I drink a beer, chat shit to some white chick from Minneapolis and we hit the stage and dive into the worst out of tune F.U set I have ever heard! These guitars are awful. At least one of our strings is a full step out of tune the entire set, and when you have 3 guitars I'm not sure that sounds all that good. Clearly people don't care as Damian gets more naked with each song. When the band totally sucks it really pays off to have a front man running around the club without his clothes on. The show is pretty packed, and I Hate Summer gets the best response for the first time ever (China has good taste, its the best song in the set when we play it!). We close by bringing "the best punk band in china" up on stage with us to do Blitzkrieg Bop even though they played it earlier on during their own set.

After we're done I'm immediately approached by 2 bleached blonde artist girls from Norway who tell me how "great it is to hang out with a white person". They're art includes them going to chinese hospitals and getting x rays together (thats illegal) and somehow incorporating it into their work. It makes no sense, but they are nice enough and can hang. Most of us, some of the other band members, the Norwegian x ray models, and some jewish guy from new york who claims he is greek go to a tiny bar through the small old back streets of downtown Beijing. After a moment I realise we're surrounded by mostly americans and white people. The bar is awesome, but I didn't come to china to hang out with midwestern kids with mo hawks, or jewish dudes from new york who pretend they are greek. We leave, and I sleep (huge mistake) in the norwegians art space between puddles of cat urine (I'm allergic to cats). I can't leave out how they checked their facebook for hours completely nude. Like straight up Woodstock naked euro hippie shit. It was a strange sight to end the night to say the least.

I'd like to add here that in Chinese the word "Nigga" (spelled "Ne Ga") means "That". So everytime I order some street food, or point to something during a purchase I would be saying something like "Yeah.. Nigga... and Niggaaa...She-Shia (thank you)". Something you wouldn't do in say St Pauls in Bristol when ordering a beef patti, or in L.A at Rosco's Chicken N Waffles. China, pretty different. I constantly repeat "Nigga Nu Bee" which means "Thats Fuckin' Awesome" (direct translation however, means "That's Cow Pussy!") in every context possible, most of the times it makes no sense but is extremely fun.

Day 4
Breakfast is more beef buns which I eat too fast and throw up in the shower at the hotel. No, its not a hang over. I'm just really that gross.
We spend this day doing some typical Beijing tourist stuff. Tienanmen Square, and the Forbidden City. We try to see Mao's body (you can view his "actual dead body" in a museum) but it's already closed. Our entourage is split up and Sandy and I walk around for a couple of hours while she's gawked at by every dude that notices. I don't think they get a lot of portegese canadian trunk junk walking by in a half see-through white t shirt. I try to capture the Sandy (ob)session's with Abe's Lomo Cam but these guys are too quick with their peeping. We all meet up eventually and take a packed, suffocating subway ride to an even more suffocating, smogged out, post apocalyptic crysalids aera of Beijing that holds the Birds Nest Beijing Olympic stadium thing that I don't really care about. It's an interesting/ugly building, but the grey eerie fog (actually smog) and barren trees around us I think will be what I remember most about this part of the day. My eyes start to itch, and visibility is out of the question if you are trying to look at something in the not so far away distance. Disgusting.

We have dinner at a place that serves food from one of China's minority people's from the south west part of the country. The first thing we eat is Bee Larva. It's deep fried and really not bad. Kind of gritty, but we're just psyched to be eating Bee's ("NIGGA NU BEE!!!!"). Next comes some cold cured beef dish with mint leaves. Amazing and refreshing. That is followed up with a hot, spicy version of the same dish. Completely the opposite of the cool and refreshing vibes this one has chilies that stay with you and burn you for a good 5 minutes. The rest is your average rice and vegetables. Score another one for Abe taking us to eat something really interesting and knowing exactly where it comes from, and what to order. Today I realize how truly lucky we are to be traveling with him. We are spoiled as hell to have someone able to translate, order all our food for us, know where to go, what to do, and basically wipe our asses. Without him (we wouldnt be in china) it would be a whole different stressful game of trial and error, which we know all too well. And even though thats whats supposed to make traveling special, after being in so many places this year and fending for ourselves we're relieved to have someone with us in china who is so knowledgeable and helpful (he is also kind of ginger and admits he possesses red pubes. I think that means he is a sexual god here or something).

Another all night train will take us to Wuhan for the next gig. We get split up at the train station and narrowly avoid a huge nightmare of missing the train. Honest Abe comes through AGAIN!


day 5

A good night on the train. Better than the last one. Did I mention I've grown or at least attempting to grow a mustache. I feel it will help me blend in better here, I'm not sure why. It looks hideous, but I've drawn comparisons so far to Chris Lombardi's long lost teenage son so I guess I am doing ok so far.

Our cab ride into Wuhan takes about 45 minutes. We cruise along winding roads which take us slowly across a fair sized lake. The cab plays 50's influenced Chinese slow jams. Somehow, it fits perfect with the early morning fog drifting across the water. We pass old fisherman, and now and then a chinese row boat will appear and disappear in the fog. It feels like real China to me. Not a foreigner in sight. After a memorable and beautiful ride we pull up in one of the three regions of the city of Wuhan. The girls look prettier here, and if we thought everyone stared at us in Beijing its nothing compared to the obvious looks of wonder we get in Wuhan. Damian getting most of the the looks with his sea foam mishka shirt and monstrous size. People walk by me with delicious smelling noodles that I immediately must go find. Abe Josh Jonah and I find a small place to eat the famous Wuhan breakfast noodles. Mine are called Gan Mian noodles which are slightly undercooked almost spaghetti sized noodles with a peanut sauce and the simple garnish that seems to be on most the stuff here. Cilantro, green onions, chilli's. They are the best noodles I've ever eaten, and they cost me 50 cents! Josh's choice is so spicy it eventually turns the paper bowl completely clear and burns a hole through the bottom. Pretty intense.
Most of us take a bus through the never ending traffic to the west end of Wuhan to peep another temple, and some bridge. Abe explains how the driving in China is all about who is in front. Whoever is behind you doesn't matter. If you cut someone off, its their problem. This explains why every car seems to be fighting for their place. This traffic explanation describes the hustle and bustle of Chinese life to me perfectly. Living here it seems one must keep up with the fast forward drive of the people. Stalling or stopping is not an option and anyone that does will just be smashed in the back by someone else. The people keep the people moving, unless of course your organized life of chaos is abruptly shortened by an oncoming motor scooter (one benefits from fast reflex's here).

After the temple and tower we get more noodles. This time we watch as two teenagers prepare the freshest noodles we've ever had right in front of us. Rolling the doe, separating the noodles by a quick and skilled hand and tossing it into a boiling pot. They are really simple, and perfect!
Walking back to catch our bus Josh and I stop for a quick hair cut on the street, free of charge, by hair cutting students who swarm us as we sit down. Josh gets the biggest crowd as they chop at his curly jew locks screaming and laughing and taking photos. My teenage barber's hand is bleeding. Josh gets up looking like a jewish gino, and I somehow have managed to score a pretty bitchin' rat tail. So with my open shirt, golden chain, new mustache and rat tail I transform myself from Chris Lombardi's son to a lost cast member of Bully (a white trash kid from Florida). Satisfied with our new looks we get handed cigarettes (apparently other people think we look amazing too) as we walk through an out door chinese opera (ladies in weird make up singing high pitched songs obviously about florida and cigarettes) and dudes getting corns carved off their feet.

Wuhan is famous for its street food so after soundcheck we are brought to a street the locals call "Rape Alley". Tons of street vendors selling fried bread, fruits, meats on sticks, noodles, noodles in pancakes, noodles in dumplings, noodles in underwear and noodles in dvd's. Josh buys the full Seinfeld series for like 3 noodles, and we all rape each other with sticks of meat (later the food will reverse rape me in the form of diarrhea).
The show is a weird one. We were warned it would be. The club plays the F.U cd before our set and the crowd calmly and cooley stand fairly still the entire time we play making us feel somewhat (very) awkward. Damian becomes visibility stressed and screams song names at us when we run out of songs to play for the "encore". I can understand how frustrating it is as a front man to feel completely responsible for the vibe and reaction of the whole room. We fuck up the black flag cover, butcher Smells Like Teen Spirit (again.. everytime we play this we look at each other and laugh, trying to convince ourselves the joke is still funny. It's not.), and awkwardly walk off after closing with Dance Of Death. Also the mics don't really work for most of the set, but we brush it off like we do even when a show is amazing. After all we're jaded, grumpy, "over it", old people that don't care about shows and just like to travel and stuff our fat spoiled western faces with as much grub as possible, right?
More street food in rape alley after the show (more meat, breaded corn, salty spiced fish and tons of beer). The people here LOVE to eat. We realize its pretty much all we've been doing here and comment on how hard its going to be the next time we're on spadina in toronto getting a chinese meal. It's obviously never going to taste the same now that we've had the real thing.
I jump at the opportunity to go with 3 girls who are friends with Abe who invite me to go hang out and "smoke marijuana" at their house. Unlike the others, any opportunity to break the monotony of going back to a hotel room (this one rumored to having rats shitting in the bathrooms) and sitting on the Internet I will usually take no matter how tired I am or weird it may be (see: Naked Norwegians on Facebook). It's not some whack groupie shit, these friendly weirdos with tattoos on their throats just want to get really high. We smoke hash from a home made bong and it woorrrrrrrks. Before I left Jonah in rape alley I told him "I'm going to go get really high with these girls and probably freak the fuck out", and thats exactly what I did. I get high, paranoid, and my legs start to shake with anxiety while we all lie on a bed listening to Wu Tang (they have never heard of them, so I figure it's the perfect soundtrack). It might have had something to do with the tree bark they made me eat earlier which is "good for the heart" (it just makes it race like hell). I have my first (and second. and third) squat down bathroom experience of the tour as the spicey bbq diarreah bum-pee volcanically errupts hot lava down the sit down chinese toilet hole (which is also their shower). Eventually I calm down after being mothered back to life by the cutest tiny magical person whos name is "8". In my high state we exchange questions and answers about our different cultures, and in my head I decide I kind of want to marry "8". No one can understand anyone and it's the most I have laughed on the trip so far. I act out all my stories, and wait for "8" to attempt translating everything to the other two (this usually takes exactly the same length of time regardless of whether I have said one word or done 10 minutes of story telling and bad acting [see: goosebumps]). I say goodbye to my new friends and hope to see them again, and am back at the rat hole hotel earlier than I thought I would be. Sleep.

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