Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Scary

Sometimes the juxtaposition of things here makes me wonder just exactly what I'm doing.

Last night was a perfect example: I went to a good performance of King Lear by the British TNT Theater. It was a compelling performance but Lear was played by an American actor who had clearly played Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof." So the tragic ending was tempered somewhat by my sense that the guy was going to thrust out his arms and burst into "Tradition!" at any moment. Not reverent, I realize. I did wonder if the Bard ever imagined, in his vast and sweeping imagination, that immortal phrases like "ripeness is all" or a hand smelling "of mortality" would resonate in an unheated Beijing theater in November, in 2012.

And then in the cab ride on the way home I had a creepy cab driver who kept trying to put his hand on my knee, which was frightening both because he had to reach into the back seat and take his eyes off the road, and because it was 11 at night and I was alone in the cab. I don't think "Keep your hands up front" was any kind of English he understood. I was about ten seconds away from bolting out into traffic. When I paid him on the end, he offered his hand to shake. I took it, not wanting to be rude, and he tried to kiss it. At this point I was home, so I bolted inside, shut my apartment door, and poured myself a stiff scotch.

Today, I burnt some toast in the apartment. As the rooms filled with smoke, I realized there was no working smoke detector. Opening windows to air it out meant more of a balancing of atmospheres, because the PMI 2.5 was at 200, or "unhealthy."

Most of the time I feel very safe in China. Some of the time, though, I would like things to be just a little bit easier.

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