Here's Looking at You, Whitney

September 23rd, 2011
Location: My couch
Time: 8:56 pm

If you ever move to this city, I offer you this one piece of advice: beware of the DVD man.

My DVD people sit on the corner across the street from the Metro.  They share the space with an established food hawker’s stand and when it rains they set-up a red tent so that customers can browse without fear of getting wet.  Piles of DVDS are bound up in rubber bands and stacked upright in shallow plastic tubs with newer releases laid atop for easier access. My DVD man charges 4 kuai a disc, or 5 for 15.  

Four yuan per movie. Four.  That’s like 50 cents. 

That’s like giving away crack-cocaine for . . . fifty cents. 

I read somewhere that the average expat acquires 500 plus DVDs for every year they spend in this city. Reputable source? I don’t remember.  But judging by the collections I’ve seen, it’s probably true.

500 DVDS with the average movie being 90 minutes means 750 hours of TV viewing. That doesn’t even include television series, where each episode is around 40 minutes and there are 10 or so episodes on each disc.  That also doesn’t include the DVDs you swap with your friends or those that your roommate amasses. 

I’ve had DVDs sitting in my drawer that I bought months ago and still haven’t opened.  I’ve bought DVDs knowing that they will probably be awful, but hey, only fifty cents.  I have DVDs in Russian, German, Chinese, French, and Italian – some of which don’t have English subtitles.  I have DVDs with bobbing silhouettes walking across the screen.  I have DVDs with watermarks embossed in the lower right-hand corners displaying network affiliations.  I have DVDs with watermarks that crop up every so often with warnings of ownership and copyright infringement.  I have DVDS that say one thing on the title, but are a completely different movie once popped into the player. I have DVDs with only half a movie.  I have DVDs with audio that lags a second or two behind the action.  

I have a lot of DVDs.

But what I really have is a problem.

I find myself saying things like “make it work” and “ferosh” and using similes such as “she looks like a hooker who got lost in the forest and mated with a bear.” I mean, who talks like that? Crazies on Project Runway – that’s who.  And me now.  Apparently.

I blame the DVD man and his glossy DVD cases that cry out to me as I walk past. Dealer.
And I blame my friends and their DVD hoarding ways.  Enablers.

What this city needs is a good DVDA chapter.  The only real problem I foresee is that there won’t be anyone available to be a sponsor.  That, and I don’t think anyone will join.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Crack is whack, yo. Just say no.
Putuo at Night

Chinese Charades


August 30th, 2011
Location: Wagas, North Shaanxi
Time: 7:24 pm

I had an entire conversation yesterday that did not require a single word.

When people ask me how I like Shanghai I usually reply that I enjoy it, but would probably like it a whole lot more if I spoke the language – the language being, of course, Mandarin. Not to be confused with Shanghainese because that’s a whole other snarl of trouble, and grating on the nerves to boot.  But while I don’t speak that particular language I have honed the fine skill of an even more useful manner of discourse – body language.

That’s right Ursula, I have not underestimated its power in the least. 

Need some ground beef?  Here’s what you do:  You point to the slab of beef.  You point to the ground pork.  You create claws with your hands and make circular motions while growling in the back of your throat.  Butcher man points to the grinder and replicates your noise and body language.  Good to go. Half-pound of ground beef into the basket and you’re off.

I’ve actually been working on this skill for years.  I remember sitting in front of the full-length mirror in the hallway of my childhood home making various faces.  I have one distinct memory of tucking my hair up into a blue beret and enacting plays with different voices and facial expressions for each character.  I tucked my hair up because those characters I was doing?  Yeah, all dudes.

Nope, not an only child.  Just weird.

But that’s what you gotta do in this city. Not the pretend you’re a guy part, but be willing to make a fool or yourself and be prepared to be laughed at. A lot.  Because they will laugh at you.  Often. But guess what?  I got my ground beef, suckas. No pork burgers for me.  That crap only be good if sweet and sour precedes it.

But you want to know what body language and funny throat noises get you when you try to ask for another month of internet? 

Blank stares.

I guess I should consider signing up for Chinese Pod. Or something.  Whatever. 

Riding the Bus