Last night, we went to this restaurant recommended by the conceierge, serving traditional Shanghai and Hongzou food which is supposed to be fabulous. Upon arrival, we were greeted by 5 (yep, 5) yellow clad greeters, all of whom said, "Good morning." Each of us selected some menu items, and when the head waiter was sent over, he informed us that we wouldn't like several of them, and thus, insisted we order something else. "You no like. You Westerner. It too different for you." Whatever. When I attempted to order a glass of wine, I was told wine was only available by the bottle. Fine. Am I allowed to have a fucking bottle? Indeed I am. Within 20 minutes, dinner was fabulous and hilarious, and we all stumbled over to see the acrobats. It was actually pretty entertaining, with lots of plate spinning and tiny girls who could do the unspeakable with thier bodies. Mother sat next to some people from Indianapolis, and afterwards, when asked about her chat with them, she replied, "They're the reason George Bush is going to win."
This morning, I can tell you, was one of the most incredible mornings of my life. Alex and I got up early, and were in the gym by 7. By 8:30, we were gloriously fed and in a cab on our way to some park. Mom and Dad's best friends, Dori and Greg, spent 3 weeks in Shanghai last year, and insisted we get to this park before 9. Apparently, all kinds of older Chinese people do tai chi and ballroom dancing and singing in the park every morning. I sounded interesting enough, so off we went. Immediately, we could tell this place was awesome. It's a huge square park, and there were 20 or so groups of people, all doing different things. One group was made up of 15 older women, all dancing in unison with fans, another group danced with swords. 70 people, arranged by height, sang all kinds of folk songs. Everyone seemed to have a little go cart with a tape player attached, knocking out the background music. We couldn't stop taking photos, as everything looked like it was right out of a PBS documentary.
Towards the far end of the park, there were maybe 50 couples, all doing ballroom dancing to a go-cart boom box. A huge crowd of locals surrounded them, and they were clearly the biggest group at the park. All of a sudden, as I stood taking pictures, an old little Chinese man comes up and motions for me to dance with him. "Oh no, I'm no good." Mom pushed me forward, and the next thing I know, I'm ballroom dancing with this guy, and a bunch of other couples. The locals find this hilarious, as does, needless to say, the rest of my family. The song was long, and our dance kicked ass. This guy, while having 3 teeth, was pretty good, and twirled and dipped me for what seemed like an eternity. It was adorable, and the entire time, I kept thinking, "I'm in mother-fucking Shanghai dancing with some old, toothless Fred Astaire in a public park at 9am."
The song ended, the crowd errupted into laughter and applause, my dance partner and I hugged and bowed to each other, and off I went. It was incredible, unexpected, and awesome.
We explored the rest of the park, watched some old people playing cards and spitting, and headed off to see some tea garden in another section of town. Not before, of course, dad bought himself a can of beer. You can all call me an alcoholic as much as you want, but Dick Spotswood downed a Tsing Tao before 10am, and I've got a picture of it. I bought a can of something called "Hey Song Sasparilla" which will travel the world with me and don my mantle when I get home.
The tea garden was interesting, really because our cab got pulled over and we had to deal with the fucking Commie police. The dude was a complete asshole and we took pictures this dreaded fuzz while giving him dirty looks. After lunch, mom, Alex and I went to the antique market and got all kinds of old crap. Because I am the greatest fag hag in the world, I bought Andy a 1930's opium pipe which may or may not get through customs. I didn't score any opium, but I think we can figure out a way to make it work. I also purchased a Chairman Mao poster, army bag, and musical lighter, while Alex got a fake Rolex for his best friend. All in all, a beyond successful day.
Tonight, it's dinner at some fancy place called "M on the Bund", and then 1930's jazz at the Peace Hotel, apparently famous for it's jazz. This is the one place I've picked to go to, so I hope it works out. You never know, though. The things you think will be awesome often suck, and then you show up at some public park at the break of dawn and end up dancing the morning away with a charming, toothless Asian man. Ah, travel...