Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 1: Welcome to Shanghai!

I am totally in love with biz class flat reclining seats. O.M.G. heaven! But despite the nice new flat sleeping console in business class, this was a rough flight. The turbulence lasted longer than normal. This route usually is, because it flies against the gulfstream; but wow. But it’s strange what you can do when you are determined. I wasn’t going to be afraid so I concentrated on keeping my food either on my plate or in my mouth. Chewing carefully & enjoying every bite. After eating, I kept my seatbelt fastened, pull down my seat, close my eyes and found my happy place.

At Chinese immigration my smile changes my face & confuses the official since my passport pix is a mug shot so I try to re-enact the same look. Friends pick me up at the airport, we go thru dark highways. In China, side streets are dimly lit for energy conservation. But Shanghai dazzles like a glamour girl, until around 10pm when they turn off her lights! Seriously, they turn off the lights.

I didn’t realize how tired I was until I walk into my room and saw the bed. I dumped the luggage and ran back downstairs. My friends took time out to take me to dinner, I can’t deny their hospitality.

Shanghai is a fascinating city. It is bipolar in that it doesn't seem to know what to do with itself. It is even more cosmopolitan than Chicago. I ran into French, Caribbean, Portuguese, Italians--and that was just in the lobby of my hotel.

The city is split into two, Pudong and Puxi, the east and the west banks of the Huangpu River. Pudong is the bank with all the magnificent new architecture. The Pearl Tower rises over the bank like a giant finger for all the world to see, insouciant and brash.

Puxi's bank is lined with stately old mansions built by the first western settlers, all stodgy and brave, granite and crenellations. They were the old embassies of the west. They are now restaurants and bars. Go figure. My friend laughingly tells me that Shanghai clings to its conservative past as it reaches for its cellular phone!

It is the Lantern Festival, the 1st full moon of the Chinese Lunar year. There were fireworks by the river tonight, but you’d think that the country that invented fireworks would have had a bigger display. But the government had requested no fireworks. I was told that there were 20 deaths on Friday due to a fireworks incident.

We had dinner at a private club, I never figured out if it was a hotel or an apartment complex or what, it was very discreet. There is no sign or indication of where we’re going. We go to quiet elevators, enter a series of dark wood panel corridors and I’m glad I know my companions; otherwise, it could have been disconcerting, very James Bondish.

This is as good a photo as I could get considering I couldn’t tell if it was my camera that was blurry or me.

My friends have a special favorite table right by a large picture window that overlooks the Huangpu River and a view of the Pearl Tower and the Bund. I let them order, relying on their expertise, it is a gourmet Chinese meal, it was ok, I found it on the bland side. If this is the cream of Chinese culinary arts, give me random peasant food any day, with one exception. I was so stunned; I risked embarrassing my hosts by taking a picture.

That is julienned egg omelet, green sweet peppers and ham. But if you look closely, that IS a fish head and tail. That isn’t pasta underneath; that is boiled fish reconstituted into noodles(?). Boiling fish maintains it’s ‘fishiness’. I’m sure it’s healthy as can be, but the texture challenged even my cast iron constituency.

My friends are fun as we swing around the famous iconic vistas of Shanghai, the Pearl Tower, the Bund. I got really lucky, it’s cloudy, but no rain. I hope the video uploads to But it doesn’t come close to the breathtaking beauty I saw. It isn’t me singing as we arrive at the Bund, that’s my friend. All I could say was ‘gorgeous’.

We head back to my hotel when I start to get that fuzzy, grey vision. I see my friends, I hear their voices, but it’s like my head is wrapped in cotton; I need to get to bed.

When I get to my room, I jump on the bed, it’s what I do to ‘christen it’. I want to know its bounce factor; it’s perfect!

Warning: the water does have a noticeable yellow cast to it, don’t drink from the tap, use the bottled water, even to brush your teeth.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day: A True Love Story

I’d like to tell you a true love story many years ago, in a distant island, east of the South China Seas.

A 14yr old boy passed by a house and saw a pretty girl, he smiled at her, she gave him attitude. It was a hot day so he approached and asked for a glass of water. She gave it to him but wouldn’t be swayed.

Years later, the boy was sent away to school where he had a dream of being married to a veiled woman in a small chapel. It confused him because he was an Adventist and only Catholics women wore veils.

Then while watching a basketball game with his friends, a group of young women, blocked their view. They were one row down and were rooting for the other team. One of his friends teased one woman who was taller than normal and completely blocked his view. One of her friends read him the riot act.

Years later as he was talking to a friend outside of the college main building, he saw a woman step down the stairs of the front door. He was standing under a tree talking to his best friend. He turned to his friend and told him, “That’s the woman I’m marrying.”

He watched her get on a bus that went to a sister city about 14miles away.  One day there was a city festival in the city where the woman lived. So he went to the city. He saw the young woman, followed her around trying to attract her attention. It took him months of persistence. But on Jan. 2, 1964 they were secretly married in a side chapel presided by an archbishop because they needed special dispensation because of their differing religions. Her mother was the only witness, for his family opposed the union. It was just like in his dream.

It wasn’t until just several years ago, that they made the discovery that they had 1st met when he was 14years old and she was 12years old. She was the sharp tongued, loyal friend at the basketball game. The friend he was talking to when he first realized he would marry her, became the godfather of their first child.

Yesterday he asked to borrow my car because he was going to take my mom out to dinner and dancing on Valentine’s Day. They celebrated their 46th anniversary this year. It wasn’t always easy, but love endured.

On Saturday night his blood pressure shot up unexpectedly and I didn’t want him taking the long drive because I didn’t want him to have an TIA attack as he’s had just two weeks ago.

So today I dropped off the oldsters on their date and when Dad called to tell me they were going to be a little later than they thought and I asked with suspicion, “How much longer?” My head exploded.

When did I become my parent’s parent? Talk about the circle of life!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shooting Star ©

If I said I love you, would you run and hide?
Would you harbor dark thoughts of homicide?
Or would you linger and ponder,
Marinate in small wonder?
As you walk past my heart in mid-stride.