> 36 the long march home

36 the long march home

2008-05-06 - jjackunrau

I woke up early. As usual. Just in case my alarm decided not to go off my body (or is it my brain?) gets me ready to check it an hour beforehand. I made coffee and waited for Holly. We then waited for Xiao Meng to finish washing her face before leaving so I could say goodbye. I said the same kind of “Nice to’ve met you” sort of polite insincere thing you say to someone whose place you haven’t been living in for a month. There was too much of a lineup for he good baozi for me to feel comfortable waiting.

In the subway I bought my ticket (the little blue RFID poker chip) and hugged Holly goodbye. “See you soon,” I said, and it’s possible. Sooner than this was at least. 20 months? Easily doable. If I don’t go to Japan that could be spring. If I do go it’s on her way back to China and she does really want to visit. So yeah. Not so long at all.

I made the train to Shanghai in plenty of time, but not enough to make me wish I’d waited for baozi. I took a window seat and my seatmate was unconcerned (she and her blaring cell phone). On the ride I slept a little. Near Suzhou or Kunshan there was a rabbit strung up by its ears next to the tracks. Brownish with a bit of ginger colouring. So yeah, it still had its fur which is odd for a strung up Chinese rabbit. There were a couple of young men climbing over the wall to the tracks. Did they have anything to do with that rabbit? Wo buzhidao. Reminding me of it was a beggar in Shanghai who looked like a skinned rabbit. He was horribly burned, hairless, eyelids over black pool of eyeball, mottled skin, no lips, stumps of digits beckoning from his cardboard mat next to the church on Renmin Guangchang.

Coming out of the Shanghai train station to the Line 1 entrance was horrible in its own way. The two ticket machines were out of service and hundreds of people were stuck between the train station gate and the subway turnstiles with the only possible escape being through a couple of harried clerks behind plexiglass. I’m glad I wasn’t overly paranoid about pickpockets because then I could abandon myself to the crush of people. I was in no particular hurry but could use my elbows enough to maintain my relative position.

I rode to the People’s Square and sat for a few minutes before eating delicious ice cream in a waffle bowl. Then off through the unterwelt to the MagLev station which cost 50RMB but went 431kmh. Which was pretty awesome even if I was in a backwards facing car. It felt like being in a plane that just wouldn’t take off. Sort of sad really. Like it was held down by magnets instead of levitating on them. At the airport I checked in quickly (showing my hand luggage to the suspicious Air Canada woman), chugged my 1984 and proceeded to wait for the plane to arrive to take me back to Canada.

Planes are very sad machines. Or maybe the sadness is just in sitting in the middle so there’s no sense of distance. Not being able to see the ground you’re covering slip away, just sitting alone in a room with a bunch of chairs and video screens. From Shanghai we were on one of Austin’s planes which meant I spent a lot more time watching movies than I would have if it was on only one screen. But this way I could watch the movies I wanted to see (Michael Clayton, The Assassination fo Jesse James… and I’m not There) and stay awake so I’d be able to sleep on arrival in Winnipeg. There was a massive high school group on the plane filled with noisily happy sounding people. I sat next to a tiny, no not tiny, big fat infant. She was cute enough though. Didn’t scream too much.

And eventually we touched down safely with a few clouds on the mountains. I changed my HK dollars from three years ago into Canadian to supplement my cash on hand for the month. And yeah here I am back in Canada. Still a few hours till my flight to Peg City. I don’t know if I have any better a handle on China than I did when I left, but I do have a few more experiences and things I’ve seen. I think these notes will be useful as a good base for the book (which may be titled something like The Hangman’s Harmony), at least in combination with the other sources, the blog, the travel notebooks primarily but the chapter structure may go back to the Wittgenstein disc. A couple of months to finish it [Ha!]. That’s the plan at least.

I hope all this will be useful to someone. No, not useful. This is no practical document, merely a recording of stories that may not be entirely true or accurate. What else is there to say while I’m falling asleep on an airport chair?

baozi beggar holly maglev rabbit renmin guangchang scars shanghai subway suzhou the hangman train xiao meng