Those who’ve read my previous blog posts (all four of you) know that I often write in praise of Beijing. I have many good memories of the city and life there. But it was an acquired taste. In fact, for the first several years I disliked it intensely. In fact, one of the worst periods of life I’ve ever endured took place in Beijing, a few months after arriving.
I spent a week in Beijing which corresponded almost exactly with the most recent airpocalypse. PM2.5 levels held steady between 400-500 for seven straight days. This has been a regular occurrence for the last three winters. So it’s time to ask: how are we to understand Beijing’s poison fog? What insight can it bring?
On almost every sidewalk in Beijing you’ll find a strip of bricks, different from the others, stretching in a nearly unbroken line all around the city, from Sanlitun to Wudaokou. Probably you’ve never noticed them. They stretch the four sides of a city block, perpendicular lines meeting at the point where the sidewalk slopes down to touch the pavement. They even lead deep into the city’s metro stations. The bricks have specially molded raised ridges atop them and are often even a different color, which is ironic because they are clearly meant to be used by blind people.
I’ve hit up a few parties in Beijing recently. The Yen Fetish Party and Lantern Spooked for Halloween. 87FEI87 at Dada a week ago. Migas for the Detroit series last night. D Lounge the night before that. A few observations:
October in Beijing and my thoughts inevitably turn to The Western Hills, otherwise known as Xiangshan or just “the shan” (“the mountain”). For four years, 2009-2013, Xiangshan was one of the most important places in the world to me. We would mountain bike there every weekend. It is what kept me sane through difficult times. If I am to die in China, I’d like to be buried there. If there is a zombie apocalypse, that is where I will make my stand.
The “smell of freedom” will no longer be in the air at YY Bar after a visit from the LE a week ago Friday. It’s for real and it doesn’t look like the new policy will be changing anytime soon. That’s unfortunate. The good news is that the bar is still very much open for business and owner Kenny is still there chatting with regulars as he has done almost every night for the last 16 years at 125 Nanchang Lu. Kenny was, as usual, philosophical about things. “When I opened this bar 16 years ago, I knew this day would eventually come,” he told me last night as he sipped holiday-red rooibus tea from a tiny glass cup.