Tuesday, April 7, 2009
CHANG SHA / SHANGHAI
Before leaving to catch our train from Wuhan to Chang Sha, we pass a Chinese Albino playing music on the street and eat pork, beef and rice out of bamboo bowls at the mall by the hotel. It's another type of chinese minority food (indigenous people of china make up 2% of the country's population, they have a different style of cooking and speak their own language similar to native americans/canadians where we come from). It's really good, and the wall hangings are really cool too. We get iced creamy but not ice cream deserts in a cup. Sandy describes hers has having a 'slight hue of chocolate'. She claims she picked up this lingo from working at the food network, but I think it's just language from the grade 10 fine art class time warp she lives in. Jonah runs off to find a bathroom and isn't seen for 20 minutes.
I buy a bottle of love pills with customizable secret messages inside for my salmonella spreading chicken feet girl back home. It's her birthday today.
A few hours on the train brings us to the "smallest" city we'll be visiting on the trip, Chang Sha. It's a huge busy city of 8 million that doesn't feel small at all. Also, its in Hunan country. We do push ups, and spit in each others mouths preparing ourselves for what later will be our finest and spiciest meal in China.
We arrive at the show 15 minutes late, and the promoter is a psycho and tells us we are 3 hours late and how he almost canceled the show. The first band hasnt even set up to play yet, and none of it make sense. We just look at him blankly and wait for him to finish then go sit at the bar and drink rice beer awaiting the opener to start. They turn out to be a very young group of kids playing what they might consider screamo music. It's pretty much the best band I have seen in like 2 years and for the first time in a long time I watch the full set. The singer looks a bit like he's doing karaoke and sings with his eyes as wide open as possible. They head bang while the 5 kids in the front row reach up and touch their hair. They end their set by all screaming "FUUUUUUUCKED UP!". I guess thats our cue. We congratulate them on a mind blowing performance, and plug into the amps we've never heard of. Spirits are high and we play one of the funnest sets we've done in a long time. Completely the opposite to the other china shows. The young "small town" crowd goes completely nuts the entire time, holding on to the front of the stage head banging, and even kissing my guitar. Damian chases little people around the club like a giant crazy white professional wrestler of an uncle at their birthday party. They fear for their lives.
After the gig we walk the crowded downtown streets with our guitars for 15 minutes until we're shown (by more american weirdo dudes) to a supposedly good restaurant. I'm secretly in a pissy mood as I don't like that we are being shown to a resturant by americans from the mid west. I don't trust them at all and in my bitchy state anticipate a terrible let down of a meal. I couldn't have been more wrong. We start off with dumplings from the street brought into the restaurant by one of the white boys. Pork dumplings with a dark dipping sauce. Best dumplings ever. I would have been satisfied with eating just these, but on comes our dinner which is over 10 dishes all filled with the famous chillis and spices of the region. Cray fish which are a bit small and at first is hard to eat, but super flavourful. A boiling pot of frog and giant slices of ginger which Josh seems to become obsessed with. I see him put a frog down his pants, and rub it a bit when no one is looking. The flavours here are different than the other parts of China. Not as bland. More lemon grass, and generally seems like a little more effort has been put into it all.
The best Hunan Beef ever. Stinky fermented Tofu which tastes and smells like manure on a farm. One of the mid west kids brings in 'the spiciest chicken wings we will ever eat' from a street vendor. We dig in, he's right. The next 10 minutes is spent sucking and biting on our lips like we've popped some really spicy ecstasy. It's killer. Damian eats the last one which sends him over board. He tries walking it off around the empty restaurant with the most sincere worry in his eyes and sweat pouring off his bald spice spotted head. This is our most exciting meal so far. Mike The Vegetarian Adventurer, who has perked up finally after 5 days of barely saying a word, sticks to green beans and rice. He won't even try the stinky tofu for fun. I put a piece in my guitar case to throw at him at the next gig. Josh and I smoke a couple local chinese cigarettes (no chillis in it) as it seems like the appropriate thing to do after the hot, sweaty, impregnating, Hunan lip swelling experience.
Back at the hotel we sleep it off.
I shave my mustache off today. I'd rather have my regular 12 year old chubby lesbian appearance than the teenaged vice douchebag vibe I had goin on. Jonah, my mustache mate, is stuck with his on for one more day. Damian compares his look to Victor from Young and The Restless. That is COOL. Stick with the stache, Jonah.
We eat at the train station before leaving for Shanghai. I eat some canned tomato based noodle soup dish that tastes like chef boyardee with a little bit of perfume in it. It's gross. I drink warmed almond milk tea, and we load up on snacks and water for our 8 hour train ride. I notice in the market out of the corner of my eye a shelf of pre-packaged meats. I notice the pre packaged paws immediately with the picture of a dog in the top corner. Yep, we finally found it. Dog. Cut up paws, just like.. for when you're feeling like a snack and shit. It's weird, and sad to look at. I take a picture as the lady yells at me to stop (the photo ended up not turning out). I look back and she is laughing at me. I point to the package and ask "Do you like this?", she just keeps laughing and I walk out. Weird. This little market turns out to be cruelty alley as not even two seconds later I come across a little snot nosed psycho child from the fiery hells of Asia strangling a cute little duck who is tied up with his head poking out of a bag. He bangs the ducks face off the cement and I take a picture of him doing his thing as he looks up at me laughing like a demon with green snot dangling from his nose. I yell at him for a bit about how I'd like to strangle him, and how he should 'wipe his fucking nose' and what a little cunt he is. He continues to torture the duck, and poke it in the eye laughing. I walk away wondering if the duck we ate in Beijing a few days ago was also tormented by Satan. It sure as hell tasted amazing.
A long train ride of trying to understand Uker, people playing really loud terrible music on their phones, and a lady playing some asian flute for over 2 hours with the actual sheet music in front of her and we are back in Shanghai. It starts to thunderstorm, and we check into our hotel being warned not to go to the gig too early as the club can get very packed and we might end up just standing on the street in the rain. We arrive at the gig 5 minutes before we are suppose to play and they weren't kidding. A cool small sized club called Logo is overflowing onto the street with a vast mixture of people from all over the world. After a sweaty walk through the club to put our guitars by the 'stage' I hear over 5 different languages. Europeans, Australians, Chinese, Americans. I dump my guitar and go directly to the street where you can breath. The set is unbearably hot, but amazing. Random people that clearly have no idea who we are spray each other with beer and dance like fools. The P.a barely works, but no one cares. I even take off my shirt as at this point as any concern of looking/feeling like a douche bag has been left back in Canada (see: mustache & rat rail section). After the show we eat food with Abe, Dan and a guy by the name of Zach Mexico who is in town for the Shanghai Literary Festival supporting his new book "China: Underground". Everyone thinks he is high on speed except me (we never found out), and he turns out to be a pretty entertaining guy as well as letting us know about a panel discussion the next day with one of the writers of The Wire. My next goal: Find bootleg copies of the Wire, load Lomo Camera, become full on fan boy and get said dvd's signed by Bill Zorsi.
A breakfast of China's version of Japan's Shabu Shabu. Raw meat and vegetables are served, and you throw them in a boiling pot of water. In China they call it Hot Pot cooking. It's really good. Everything is dipped in a peanut sauce you make yourself with peanut dip, chillis and cilantro. Dan gives me a bootleg of The Wire Season 5.
We check into a new hotel in downtown Shanghai. Jonah and Damian fly back to Toronto after we eat to tend to pressing responsibilities at home (pregnant wives & english girlfriends visiting Canada). Josh, Sandy, Captain Courageous, and myself have chosen to stay a few extra days to explore the city.
Josh and I pay the 10$ entry fee for The Wire discussion and it's much like the panel talks you'd see in the bonus features of the dvd's. Bill Zorzi is a grumpy, real life dick, and he either hilariously answers each question or chooses to brush them off when they aren't to his liking. We sit there sipping complimentary wine and coffee in the top floor of a ritzy Shanghai hotel listening to one of the writers of the best tv show of all time speak the day after our tour has ended. We can't really believe our luck. Bill Zorzi jokingly mentions the chinese bootlegs of The Wire series twice in reference to how they take food off his table, and I sit there squirming, knowing full well I will be the only one out of these aspiring writers and journalists at the literary festival to approach him for an autograph. I sheepishly take out the dvd's from the inside of my jacket like some shady ebay memorabilia whore and ask him to sign it. He hesitates and mumbles something about 'having a moral problem with it', and how the marker is 'a bit big'. He signs it, and we're out. Omar lives, baby. East side B More, Nega Nu Bee!!!!
We eat Udon food with our Shanghai friends (reggie and nicky!) and then watch english football at a bar. City wins, and Liverpool loses their game 5-0.
I'll mention here that before coming to China we warned each other to be cool, not to fuck around, we don't know the rules, etc etc. Which basically means Mike told me specifically a few times that I must behave. Turns out you can pretty much do anything you want in China as long as its not waving a Tibetan flag in Tiananmen Square or something. Nicky and Reggie light up spliffs in every bar we go to (even sports bar chains) to Sandys delight, wonder, and ingrained teenage pothead paranoia ("Maybe we should go in the corner and do this").
"China..... More free than Canada." - Josh.