Thursday, June 29, 2006

The sky exploded with rain this evening. It sounded like a bomb going off, although I've never heard a bomb doing that in real life, and then a downpour the likes of which I haven't seen in two years in Beijing. It has actually rained every night for the past four nights. More sky seed or mother nature's own? I'll never know. The street is flooded now as I tinker away here in the bedroom and the sounds of car alarms and honking ring out sixteen floors below...

You can check the a new episode of The Goodnight Show featuring cool tunes by Dean Martin. Better than my first attempt, but still a long way to go. Would love to hear your comments about it if you feel so moved. I added this handy doodad here for your ease of click. Give it a listen!

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The next show is already in the works. Incidentally, all of us at The Goodnight Show are always looking for good blogs and poetry websites so, if you think yours is one of them and we'll take a look!

Miles to go before I sleep tonight... Keep clicking in and I'll treat you right.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Trying to squeeze a little more juice out of this lemon, before scooting off to school. It's all I can do to get to sleep at a decent hour, which for me is before midnight. I made it in time last night despite the thunderous rain and lightning.

Sitting in front of the computer these days is like sitting in front of a heater and that's where I've been spending too much time. The adaptor for this sucker gets mighty hot and the adaptor for the modem gets even hotter. I blame it on the Chinese power strip, which snaps crackles and pops every time I remove a plug. I try not to use this beast for too long at a stretch. A meltdown now would be disastrous. In the meanwhile, the rotating fan blowing on me dries the sweat while I smoke and poke around on the i-net with my little poetry paws.

I'm all OOOHs and AWWWs these days as almost everything I do seems to be working right somehow. Stretching it thin makes everything fly around at breakneck pace, but keeps me focused. Well, that's all for now. See you soon...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Performed last night at the Rain Bar with the Beijing Actor's Workshop and some other folks. You should be able to read about that show and listen to a bit of it at Subterranean Poets blog soon. Otherwise, staying up way past my bedtime. Grading papers, watching World Cup, and now blogging this.

It's awfully hot and humid these days in the city of the elevated ellipsis: Beijing. It's been raining frequently, though, as the behind-the-scenes people continue to seed the sky here with silver iodide. I think that's what it's called. Whatever it is, it makes it rain more often, and that's a welcome relief as long as my skin doesn't turn blue...

Beijing - Black-Eyed SusansIn many ways, Beijing is a beautiful place despite the Olympics-sized construction and usually horrid air quality. Spring and summer rife with bliss and blossom are beautiful seasons here and on a clear day the city sparkles. Flowers seem to be in constant bloom and, these days, there are always workers around the city doing some kind of landscaping. And it's not just during the day. The city is always spectacular at night, busy, swathed in neon, strings of red lanterns all under the shadow of the Drum Tower.

Beijing - Bus Ticket-TakerBut I like all the old things. What's left of them. The hutongs, the mahjong players, outdoor markets and old women dancing in the parks with their fans. Fashion and lifestyle in this city are so strange to me sometimes. For instance, I'll never understand why these socks are so popular, they're like sport nylons, pictured here from the bus on a Beijing ticket-taker's ankles or why men stand around with their shirts rolled up letting their bellies air. There are lots of other cool pictures in the usual place if you want to go check them out. Not only pictures of Beijing style, but also pictures of people at work. You don't need a license her to set up shop on any old street corner.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Team USA had all of their hopes dashed last night in the World Cup match against Ghana. I wasn't hurt. I'll be watching a few more matches when I get another late night minute, which is when the matches air here in the three dot capital...

I started a new gig this week. Still doing all the old things you've read about, but adding something new to the mix. Just what I needed in the already well-booked current event which is my life, something to keep me in front of the computer even longer. I'm not dead yet, but I'm learning that I can't muzzle pints like I used to, either. I need a longer recovery time. Anyway, back to this gig...

I'll be a PJ (Podcast Jockey) for The Goodnight Show over at MiPoRadio. My first show was posted this morning! Click over there and find out what it's about, if you don't already know. Rated P for poetry. Send me an e-mail and let me know what you think.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

As I mentioned recently, I've been getting into World Cup soccer. Last night, or rather early this morning, Angela and me made a little excursion in the wee hours to go and watch the Italy/USA match. As a couple with equal nationalistic representation in such a match, we had a competitive interest in the game and, gambling man that I am, had even made a bet on it.

We met left our apartment shortly after midnight, the weather was comfortable, and caught a taxi to Hou Hai. We had stayed home all day, sleeping and resting, in preparation for this night. It was amazing how clear the road was at that hour and we made good time. Seth and Marianna were waiting for us to join them at a bar we knew, one of the many in Hou Hai which really all look alike. Seth is from the states, like me, and Marianna is from Italy, like Angela. All four of us were quite interested in the game and had talked about it often in the days leading up to the contest.

It was about 12:30AM when we arrived. As Angela and me walked the streets around Hou Hai on our way to meet Seth and Marianna, we couldn't help but notice the number of TVs and wide-screens set-up both outside and in, all of them tuned in to World Cup soccer which, at that moment, was featuring the contest between Ghana and the Czech Republic. The sound of the game could be heard in the summer air around the lake and, in any direction, on rooftops and in front of cigarette shops and bars, the game was on. I had never seen such a concentration of sports mania away from a sports arena.

We had a couple of beers, watched Ghana win, and then caught another cab to Ritan Park. It was about 2AM. There was a World Cup festival in the park and we were going there, to the Temple of the Sun, to watch Italy vs. USA. There were two huge video screens, one showing the match with the Chinese broadcast and one showing the international broadcast. The screens were actually assembled on the altar at The Temple of the Sun. A few hundred people were gathered together, seated in white plastic chairs around white plastic tables drinking and talking. We saw many people we knew and waited eagerly for the match to begin at 3AM.

The first half of the game was quite exciting, ending in a 1-1 tie, with both teams losing a player due to red cards. Angela had bet me that the USA team would not even score and, as they had, I had won the first of our two bets: breakfast. By the time the second half began, around 4AM, the sky had begun to lighten. Team USA lost another player early on to a red card and played most of the second half short one man. Italy pressed, but couldn't punch the ball through and the tense game ended with no change in the score, which nullified our second bet, a cup of coffee, as there was no clear-cut winner.

Everyone left and we returned home by about 5:30AM, tired but pleased with the results of an exciting game.
Bow wow!

So far, this dog year I'm living through appears to be a good thing. I buying into it more and more each passing day. Possibly my best year ever! I mean to brag. It feels good. Seems like I'm indefinitely on the edge of something bigger. Getting married this summer in a foreign country carries a high excitement factor for the near future and almost blinds me to everything else. Almost. It would be great if I could devote all of my energy and thoughts to it, but earning a living, schlepping poems and whatever else happens in the meanwhile.

Good things occur with a regular regularity, documented here regularly for your unveiling pleasure. I don't even make you register! Whether you consider them as compelling as I do is not important. I will bring you into the loop on new developments as soon as its necessary.

When it's your year in China, you should try to wear something red or keep red things on your person at all times (I like that expression, but it's silly. On your person?). I try to wear something red every day, though, to keep the momentum. It's too bad that I'll have to wait another twelve years to have another one.

On to a completely unrelated topic...

Yo-yos are popular in China this season, at least, among the students at the school in which I teach. It's common to see a kid walking the dog or going around the world with the colorful spinning toys. A quick click around the internet reveals a number of other tricks. Are there really so many yo-yo tricks? It's not just a fad at my school, though. I've noticed many of them as I've moved about the city, also. Kids flicking them out in the supermarket or in a restaurant, the strange thin pendulous tongues of some kind of surreal frog. Are they as popular in other places right now as they are here?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Staying home from work today recovering from some food poisoning that kept me up most of the night. I'm weak, but I should be close to 100% tomorrow. In the meanwhile, I'm laying on the couch and watching more World Cup soccer than I have ever watched before.

Beijing Botanical Garden - Angela and Purple FlowersI spent Saturday afternoon at the Beijing Botanical Garden with Angela, about 40 minutes by bus from our apartment. Aside from the lush beauty and vast size of the park, there were a couple other sites within the park which we wanted to catch: The Reclining Buddha and The former residence of Cao Xueqin who wrote A Dream of Red Mansions, a quite lengthy Chinese novel which I had recently finished reading after struggling with the multi-volume set for months. Despite the length, I highly recommend this book if you're looking for something out-of-the-ordinary to read from the Eastern canon.

The weather was splendid and clear and we couldn't have asked for a better day for a stroll. The park was wonderfully clean, green and not overly crowded, especially for a Saturday with optimal conditions. We walked from one end of the park to the other, stopping in the center to visit the Reclining Buddha Temple, although it was unimpressive. We had just expected something larger.

Beijing Botanical Garden - Rainbow Over LakeWe were looking for a better vantage point to admire the view, but most of the routes to the top of a small hill in the center of the park were barred with large white "No Admittance" signs written in both Chinese and English. We finally found one hidden path and made our way to a small pavilion at the top. On our way down the hill, the sky darkened and a brief downpour started. We sought refuge under a tree and waited for the rain to subside, admiring the nice rainbows which had appeared. We ended our adventure by walking to the exit through the large rose garden. There were many other impressive sights within the park and you can look at additional pictures in the usual place. I think this has become my new favorite place in Beijing. What a wonderful day!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Leave the Kiosk after inhaling a spicy chicken sandwich and a soda, a little out-door eatery in Sanlitun which boasts the best fast food in Beijing. It certainly kicks any of those famous fast food joints which shall remain nameless. Walk past a group of Spaniards just sitting down to order and make my way past a guy who is always selling DVDs in front of Jazz-Ya, a little jazz club next to the Kiosk. The sounds of construction ever-present. I head down Bar Street on my way to The Bookworm for my usual Wednesday night affair.

podcast"Lady bar." Two tightly-attired and well made-up young ladies approach me. The phrase is part of the atmosphere. I pause, look them in the eyes, and turn up the street lined with chairs, tables and people. Bar after bar for one long city block, all of them with giant glass windows, neon lights and scantily-clad women on little stages singing Chinese pop hits. Groups of women dressed to impress stand around and chat, young boys invite passers-by inside for drink specials, vendors sell glow-in-the-dark pins and rings, others sell tobacco, ice-cream, DVDs or flowers. Traffic is an incessant crawl of tinted windows and cabs. People sit on the sidewalk and drink or talk. Construction workers on the other side of the street watch all of this. On Bar Street, the dens of iniquity aren't even disguised as beauty salons.

Relatively strong winds and a brief bit of rain over the past few days has made the air quality brilliantly clear. Beijing seems new and clean in the vivid light and blue sky. Walking home, we admired the stars, which are rarely visible from the hazed and dusty surface of the capital city.

Check out my new poem in Hamilton Stone Review. Less and less time to bring you up-to-speed during the week, but I think about you as often as possible. Who's coming here from Tajikistan!? Portugal!? I don't know, but it feels good...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

podcastIconEarly in the morning, the knife grinder appears on his bicycle. You always hear him, even from the sixteenth floor where I habitate. He parks himself, wrinkled and sunburned in dirty shorts, on the sidewalk between building 10 and building 9. He has a metal object in his hand which looks like a kind of black segmented snake. It makes a metallic, almost musical, clacking sound as he swings it gently back and forth. He makes this make its noise for a few minutes and then drops it into the front basket on his handlebars. He lights a cigarette and begins smoking, pacing slow circles near his bicycle and calling out to us. Eventually, someone comes and it's quiet for a while...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Wake earlier than usual, approaching 5AM, and marvel at how noisy some can be at this hour, laughter and Chinese rising from the street sixteen floors below. Try to return to dreams with no luck as the early morning traffic begins its crawl. Lay in bed as long as possible with only the breathing of the bedroom and grey shadows on the ceiling. This beginning of a three-day weekend after being destroyed to sleep by heat and Children's Day (my students demanded to play a game) exhaustion yesterday evening...

Moving the curtain aside after making coffee and returning to the computer. Operating less and less smoothly every day. Looking out into another morning beginning, more of classic white-out Beijing, Friday, with still unfolding hours to go and no necessity of work this afternoon to interrupt the day...

I will leave the apartment in a few hours. I will go shopping among imitation China outlets for clothes and DVDs. I will buy socks. I will find another cup of coffee. I will go out and meet people. I will meet Angela at 6PM. I will go dancing tonight...