Sunday, December 19, 2010

Article 4 for metrowize

American or American’t

Welcome back to the stunning conclusion of our decadent night and early morning debauchery in China, where we’re profiling a city that can’t sleep because of the heat and won’t stop because it hasn’t been told how.

When you run into fake liquor at a nightclub, it’s a lot like running into fake boobs at a night club, you smile, you nod and take the ride if you have to, never mentioning the obvious except in whispers that creep out when you think no one is looking.

You can tell when something is fake in terms of booze by the smell - if it’s absolutely rank smelling it’s probably a good indication it’s fake, especially if you’re drinking Macallan which I was. The cool thing is the bottle looked exactly real, the color pitch perfect, the labeling undeniable but as an international bar consultant and professional I could just tell. I tasted it and it was a bad burn, kind of like a mix of rubbing alcohol and the liquefied version of old Cracked magazines, in other words an awful, terrible imitation of something that was supposed to be so much more.

Gold my field guide and head bartender took it upon himself to argue with the staff in increasingly loud Chinese for about 20 minutes, as I sat with the imitator and watched the crowds of people in the nightclub around me, I was the only foreigner or Laowei in the club, that is until my good friend John Jameson joined me from my hip flask and helped skewer the rest of my senses of perception. We abruptly left the night club in what some would describe as a dead run, nothing being fully explained to me but between Golds broken English  something about the Bartender trying to fight him over the fake stuff is all I could get out of it from his panting between cigarette after cigarette on our cab ride to our  spot where shit got real.

We ended up at a KTV called Mr. Smiley  with a bunch of Gold’s friends, which meant scantily clad Chinese girls and scary looking dudes with broken English. Karaoke TV or KTV’s are integral parts of the culture here and it makes sense - who doesn’t like to get completely hammered and sing with their friends to all their favorite songs? Basically it’s a club broken down into a different rooms where you book the room for a few hours or overnight as was the case of the group I joined up with and sing, drink bottles of booze and eat strange food like duck heads and brined pigs knuckles. Now I’m no Andrew Zimmerman so I skipped the delicacies and opted for the hard liquor and fruit tray option.

In Asia they really have their Karaoke act together, there are crazy flat panel buttons you hit to change songs, multiple light switches that change the vibe of the room and if you go to certain KTV’s you also can find some companionship if you so desire. Rawr!

The place we were at wasn’t a dirty KTV much to my chagrin but for about an hour I drank on a bottle of Absolut and listened to the most depressing songs I’ve ever heard. I’ve been to several KTV’s now and it’s always sad sounding songs, to be honest I can’t understand the language and they could be singing about rainbows, lollipops and puppy dogs but it all songs I heard sounds like Joy Division mixed with baby tears. At some point I got so depressed I got up and sang, American Boy by Kayne West and Estelle, which is quite honestly the best song to ever happen to a traveling American boy. That woke everyone up enough to get another bottle and by the time we stumbled out it was about 6 in the AM.

In the States maybe this would seem excessive, dark sunglasses on during an early morning Wednesday but here in China, with the new millionaires being made every moment it’s just run of the mill. I freely admit I was a little wobbly by this point but as an intrepid Metrowize intoxicologist I knew I couldn’t cave out to a little sunshine.
Never fear the dawn. We rallied and Gold and some of the fairer sex headed with us to a breakfast spot where I discovered my true love Xialong Bao.

I don’t know if this enchanting dumpling is a breakfast food or a all day food or just mana from heaven but if I could mainline it I would - it’s that good. What we had in that early morning light was a fold out table and 3 small stools on the side walk out front of a little stand with a little menu and two mean looking old ladies and a steamer. Xialong Bao (pronounced Shaolong Baow) is a dumpling with a meaty soup broth inside of it. It’s hot and delicious and if given the option between them or Megan Fox I’d have to disappoint our boys overseas.
Some how during my feeding frenzy I blurted out something about Bajiou, that evil Chinese rice wine that somehow erases memories as it creates new ones in a sorgum cloud of fire water drunken out of lillputian sized thimbles and eagerly gulped down like wine at a Greek symposium.
It’s something I mentioned in passing between bites not something I asked for.

Now, I didn’t want to drink the damn stuff, I didn’t want to order the damn stuff and I didn’t want to finish the damn bottle but someone asked me, Are you an American or an American’t as they poured off the first round. The girls laughed at me and pointed, Gold my head bartender laughed at me and pointed, it was up to me and my all red, white and blue liver to stand up to these communists , which I pointed out to my pong yo’s (i.e. friends) and so I drank. Round after spiteful round at that little stand in the middle of the busy coble stone ancient street I drank and I drank for America till there were 3 passed out girls, two red faced guys who I’m not sure where I met and one bewildered restaurant lady. I was drunk, I was drunk for America. It was my Glen Beck moment.

Somehow at 8 in the Am I hoped a cab and headed back to home, my broken Chinese being belted out over busted baijo breath, bits of Xialong Bao on my shirt, fire in my stomach and the creeping thought that this is what it takes to be an American bartender in Shanghai.

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