So somehow I've been on TV a lot lately here in Shanghai. A few months ago I wrapped up filming a tv show. Below are my impressions:
So here I am in Denqing, China a small city from what I understand, sourounded by mountains and lakes. Fish seems to be a huge staple of the diet with lots and lots of fish bones. I’m here for four days to shoot a documentary or a tv show or silent film or progaganda flick – I’m not sure which yet but we’ll know as the day progresses.
So in this filming thing I’ve been in I have a interpreter, Angela, who seems to be a very nice University Student with very good English. I met the directors last night, very poor English and the fixer, that’s the guy on the ground the coordinates between the locals and the crew who speaks a little English but told me he is the King of M2 and gave me a bag of betelnut – so at least that’s off to a good start.
I’m writing this from a hotel that has rooms as high as 300 RMB a night for deluxe and as low as 50 RMB for an hour in a city where I might be the only foreinger. It made walking through a market last night very interesting.
The air is still and grey here, I’m not sure if it’s the dirty haze of Shanghai or a natural fog and I’m just jaded, the weather is pleasant and air is sweet and perfumed by my favorite tree that seems to bloom only around this time of year. We arrived in a van last night and went to dinner at a small Chinese place with a meal that was a fear factor medley of fish heads, pigs tongue and surprisingly good churros for dessert. I met most of the crew there, we gam bai'ed the shit out of some tall boys of Tsing Tao and I amazed everyone with my left handed chop stick use. I have to say as an aside that learning how to use chopsticks as at a young age was one of the many gifts I can thank my parents for. If I wouldn’t have been able to do that as well as not speak Chinese this whole China affair would become a fiasco.
Such as it were though, my left handidness gave us interesting conversation but apparently it means I’m very clever. With that illusion firmly planted in my crews thoughts we finished dinner, did some more rounds of beer shots and took a stroll in some sort of international food expo they were holding in the middle of the town square.
There were big garish communist bloc style building highlighted around the edge in the wonderfully typical Chinese style with bright glowing neon that shown through the murky evening sky. On the ground there were close to a billion people it seemed walking through what looked like a State Fair, there were carousel rides with dragons replacing horses, bumber boats in what I can only imagine to be floating in nuclear run off, these weird bouncing trampoline things with babies strapped into them that might have been used for generators for the event. The ground was littered beneath our feet with strewn kebab and skewer sticks and napkins as we passed upon booth after booth of different and sometimes unusual food. All the represtentives of Chinese culture were out in force from all the many truly different and unique ethnictices of China. There were the muslim guys with lamb and smoke and dancing and other guys with huge cooper woks the size of a mall car frying stinky tofu in dark black oil. Every booth had music, some garish, some Beiber, as voices on loud speakers constantly streamed out a mess of words I couldn’t comprehend.
Then another shop selling Mexican style churros was near us and I had to stop and get a picture. The seller, recognizing that only a lao wei might know what it was offered me some for free and as the decadent glutton I am, accepted. The film crew took a photo of me eating it and then the frenzy started, more and more people started taking my photo. First five, then ten, twenty, one hundred, till it became a flash mob of papparazi, people posing with me or touching me. My handler and some police that had been attracted out hustled me into a van and drove me strangly enough to a Wal Mart where we could grab some supplies for the next days shoot. It was very surreal, Wal Mart in this small city that had only seen my like from the comforting glow of a TV or magazine and here I was in the epicenter of Americana.
Yet the Wal Mart was still strangely Chinese as it was achingly American – the familiar blue and white colors and yellow smiley face hovered uncomfortably over distinctly non American products, fish heads, dries shrimp, baijiu. Where were the guns, the tackle boxes the blue vested elderely greeters? Where was the hot dogs?
We left and bought some fruit in an outside stand before getting back in the van and heading through the misty black night to the warm comfort of the hotel were I parted ways with my crew and waited for sleep in a big bed, in a strange city in my strange life.