Sunday, December 19, 2010

Casual observations from behind a bar

It's funny the little things you notice that are different when making
drinks in Shanghai, the way some of the fruits are exactly the same as the stuff you have back in the states but yet not. For example, the apples are just not as sweet, the watermelon, while pink and vibrant in color is just dull tasting - almost lifeless. Or the imperceptible fact that the water is so polluted that rumor has it that if you brush your teeth with it your teeth will probably fall out due to the high amount of carcinogens and lead in the water which leaves everything to being made with bottled water and questionable ice cubes.
Then there are limes and lemons which are shadows almost of the citrus that we find in the States but this isn't a complaining article, it's just a thought. -a casual observation from someone who has been observing limes, lemons and other fruit related items his whole working life.
Then of course like anything else, there are the good things - fruits and flowers and smells I can't spell but will try anyway,  the Yao Mei berries, little red cherry looking bastards with the texture of the outside of a lychee but yet edible only available in Spring, the fragrant Guo Lai  flowers you can only find in Autumn who's heady smell is like a perfume that lays a heavy mist over the parks and lightens up my tea in the cold,  or roasted Chestnuts over a stone fire sold in street stalls in Winter - the stands and markets become something of an exercise in trust for me, a Lao Wei as I barely understand any Chinese but believe the smiling Wet Market hawkers when they tell me with wrinkled faces, crooked teeth and double happiness cigarette stained hands that yes, the carrots are only 3 Quai  for six, I believe them - because what choice do I have?
Other things pop up here, the fact that no matter where I go, or when I go there I always feel safe. Sure I have seen fights but not that many and none involving me. I've seen some traffic accidents but still I'm not involved. There is no graffiti, no gangs hanging out in corners and while I'm not naive enough to believe there is no crime I just don't see it ever and I'm someone who goes out looking for trouble, who gets black out drunk and walks down the street with thousands of RMB in his pocket without a care in the world down dark alleys and such looking for the sketchy clubs, chasing dragons under the moonlight as I dance with the devil and still I find it safe.
It's the people though that are the real difference, I'm not talking because they are different from me in appearance but in how they appreciate a drink, a meal and their time spent together. 
I'm fortunate to see from my perch behind the bar groups of friends or families or yes, lovers, who can sit at the bar or in one of the sofas at the lounge and really appreciate the time they spend together. That's something I admire in the Chinese that I don't find in myself - the willingness to take the time and hang out with  the people that are important in your life. I see groups of people sitting together for hours just enjoying each others company, sipping on new drinks I recommend, talking, making jokes with each other, texting, smoking and taking a step back, together. On the other hand, I'm like a Shark - always on the move, on to that next spot, meals only taking as long as it takes to cram food in my mouth and chew, drinks being absorbed almost immediately, no sense of pacing, no relaxation, just a constant search for something. Maybe it's a woman or another drink but I'm never still, always restless always going till I'm gone. 
With the new year around the corner maybe it's time we all take a second to stop, share our time with the ones we love, in the end, it's the only tip I've ever had that's been worth anything. 

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