Beijing is warming. Today I went to work in my new Zara heels (which had me cursing life by the end of the day, but nevermind) and a light jacket. I felt hot in the sun, strutting awkwardly along by the curb outside my apartment, hailing a cab.
We’ve moved to the burbs–and it’s gritty out here. It’s real, son–to quote Brett, or is it Chandler? I can’t recall which brother coined the phrase, though I think of Chandler more when I utter it. It seems more his.
It’s gritty, and glam, with no in-between–like China. Ok, that’s an overstatement. The apartment we live in is the in-between, middle-class pale pink rectangular monstrosities nestled between impoverished hutongs and millionaire turreted mansions.
We recently hosted a house party, and our guests’ comments when they finally found our door ranged from, “I thought this was an abandoned building!” to “I thought I was gonna get knifed coming out of the elevator.”
It is a bit grim in the elevators, to be sure, and I don’t know how the walls of the hallways get so begrimed–maybe there’s a secret gang of parkour fanatics leaving their dirty footprints on the walls…or kung fu practitioners.
When you get inside, though, it’s nice. It really is. Nice like an IKEA display, to be sure…but at least there are no Chinese babies rubbing their little butt-cheeks all over everything. In the real IKEA, there would be. So there’s that.
We headed east yesterday, the last day of our long weekend. Monday was tomb-sweeping day, and since we didn’t have any tombs to sweep, we had our house-warming party, and then yesterday we went exploring.
We wanted to get out of the city, and we succeeded, mostly. We rode through dusty suburbs full of high-rises bereft of inhabitants and barely finished, surrounded by crisscrossing cranes and fields of dry dirt.
One neighborhood had a block-colored cubist theme, making it seem like those math blocks I used as a grade-schooler, where one hundred was represented with a ten-by-ten grey sheet, and you multiplied with towers of colored squares. They were actually extremely cool and I wanted to live in them, until I remembered I don’t really want to invest in an expensive apartment in a barren wasteland east of Beijing.
We came to fields of cherry trees and well-kept hutongs in woods where old women kept sheep out of the road. We found a little town where we ate noodles for four quai, and sipped Yanjing in the almost-warm hazy sun. The breeze kept us from being really cozy.
We drove home in the fading sun and came into the city in time for rush hour traffic. We stopped off in a park and roamed around the lake, and watched some men engaged in some afternoon whip-cracking. We thought firecrackers were going off at first.
I made some more pizza with the leftover pizza dough in the fridge, topped with tomato sauce, capers, sliced mushrooms and onions, olives, and gouda cheese. Delicious, but we barely had time to gobble it down before heading back out to see Bob Dylan.
The show was mellow, and mild, and there wasn’t a lot of energy in the crowd–but I stood up and grooved in the aisle of the Workers’ Gymnasium to “Like a Rolling Stone,” and that was worth the 500 quai alone.