Shanghai Snippets

One of Tianzifang’s many alleyways

“Happy birthday to you, happy bir — ,” and as if someone had flicked a switch, we were plunged into darkness. Illuminating her cherubic face in the glow of a flashlight, the owner of the tiny bar, Amay, smiled mischievously, and said, “I’ll handle this.” Sliding behind one of the sofas, she slipped out the backdoor. From a door window we could see Amay’s head gently nodding as an animated discussion quickly ensued from the other side. After a minute, the lights popped back on, and Ray Charles once again filled the room. “Apologies, the granny above the…

Leaders, Individuals and the Media, the responsibility is shared

Poetry Conference, Yanbian, China

Regretting the choice of thermal underwear, a bead of nervous sweat trickled down my spine. I eyed the local minister of propaganda. Minus an upraised eyebrow, an imagined challenge perhaps, he was void of expression. To his left was the organizer, a party member and a poet. Various local officials populated the front of the U-shaped table formation. Flanking both sides were the invited writers and poets, the majority of whom were also party members. I was not. Minus a few, all were Chinese. I was one of the few. As the ‘senior’ writer, I would speak first.

— New…

A Ghostly Tale Rooted in Tragic Reality

Wukang Mansion, Huaihai Road

Wooden floor boards creaked beneath his shifting feet, as a friend mumbled, “Not sure how to describe it, but there’s a presence in the baby’s room.” Intentionally vague or not, I was ushered through a door, his hand firmly at my back. “Please, go in, and let us, uh, know, if you feel, uh, something.”

Hesitantly stumbling forward, I found myself in a room awash in blue light. Dust particles twinkled in and out of existence. Below large french bay windows, was an antique bed, complete with candlewick coverlet and a wrought iron…

Cricket Face-Off, Artist Unknown

Minus an occasional twitch of a dangling antennae, one would suspect the nocturnal creatures were in a state of dormancy. While in fact, head, thorax, and abdomen armored, spring-loaded on muscled hind legs, ready to launch forward, the tiny brown gladiators mentally prepared to battle in Shanghai’s underground cricket arenas!

With summer’s exit, autumn thoughts come into season, as a fighting cricket reaches the zenith of their one-hundred day existence. Far from the entrances of Xizang Road’s Wanshang Bird and Flower Market, where lighting is at its lowest, secreted from overly curious eyes of law enforcement, the illegal underworld of…

Our Immediate Future Rested on a Five-Dollar E-Thermometer

“Hold still, please.” Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) — No Country for Old Men (2007)

Eyes staring up at the battery-operated thermometer, hovering a mere centimeter from a furrowed brow, I held my breath. Sweaty palms pressed against the airplane’s cool, metal armrests, my grip tightening. With trepidation I recalled the Cohen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men and the protagonist’s gruesome modus operandi for silencing his prey. Placing a pneumatic cattle gun against the unwitting victim’s forehead, its button was pressed, sending a 1-inch stainless steel bolt into their cranium. At times a question based on the flip of a coin would decide their future. Replacing ‘heads or tails’ with a digital reading, the…

Shanghai’s West Bund, the masses ‘freed’ from quarantine

One of the American peoples’ greatest strengths is the attitude towards independence on oneself and individualism. Unfortunately, at times like this, I wonder if it may also be one of our greatest weaknesses. “I’m going to live life like I always do.” Not good. “I’m not going to panic.” Better. “Ain’t my problem.” Back to bad. “I’m not going to panic, but I’ll take precautions.” Great.

Thumbing your nose at something you may not understand, or feel doesn’t impact you directly is your right, your prerogative. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the responsible thing to do. “No one’s…

Kevin Smith

An American half-pat “half foreign, half domestic” writer living in Shanghai, China, who tries to say how it is with a side of whimsical to keep it light.

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