China Chinwag [non-confluential Tianjin travelogue, part 5]


[380 clicks an hour, serious speed, every 20min, crazy]

What more? Bicylish looking vehicles speeding by in the dark outside without its riders cycling. The Infected One looks at the slim plastic body which is part of the lower half of these bikes’ frames and wonders if they are powered petrochemicaly or what. “Electric bicycles” Mr. Motivado chimes in “lots of people ride them around here. You reload them during the nighttime. Gets you from A to B a lot faster”. And so they do, whizzing past their mechanical colleagues at what the Infected One thinks of as dangerous speeds. A lot of them, lots, in the night, under the bright neon lights zebraing across their faces. The cyclicsts get their own separate lane all the way on the right. Now that it is rush-hour they look like real winners, by-passing three and four cars within a second. Also, there are multitudes of jaywalkers, except that it does not seem to be “jaywalking” when damn near everybody does it.
The Infected One looks at the tumult, sure that an accident is bound to happen any second but it doesn’t, no horn&squeak&thud. He reconsiders: everybody has to be way more attentive, like vectors of disease were threatening from every angle, given these very different fundamentals of vehicular circulation. One must be ready at all times. He can already feel himself to become afflicted by this condition also.
“Man these guys on their bikes without light, out in the streets, I don’t understand them. They must be nursing some death-wish or something” Mr. Motivado says as we make our way across an over-pass. Here too there are certain people who take it a little too far, either because they do not have much of a choice or because they want to find out what will happen, what it might be like to get crushed by a lorry or clipped by a speeding sports car. They have missed their exit, Mr. Motivado has only been in this new city for a couple of weeks.

Navigating the streets, both of them now out in the unknown, the Infected One feels as though he has been reduced to the size of a cell and injected into an extremely active, bioluminescent petri dish. It is an invigorating feeling, he has become part of the condition that is surrounding him.
A little later they are driving through quieter streets of Tianjin, cruising, the buildings around them steeped in Sepia light. Some of them are faux Colonial affairs, meaning you can tell by the materials and exterior that they are brand new but the style of construction looks as though the damn colonialists had returned from their graves and dictated their wills. The high columns, the porticos, the excessive ornamentation, that kind of thing. Then on into other neighborhoods, often looking up at these super-massive apartment blocks that seem capable of accommodating tens of thousands of people in a single block or garden. These gargantuan building blocks seems to be the true measure of the size of the population, most of Chines humanity packed together into these vertical anchovy cans.
Finally the Infected One and Mr. Motivado arrive at the latter’s “Garden”, the gated complex in which his building block is located. It’s done really nice: lots of plants the names of which I am unfortunately not familiar with, curving walkways, ponds and even little artificial streamlets that together almost manage to evoke the feeling that some snippet of nature has found its way into the big city.
They take the elevator up to the 12th floor and as they enter Mr. M unceremoniously proclaims “This is Home” and the Infected One, hearing these words, feels some impossibly confused resonance as his heart and brains attempt to connect with that last word “home”, wondering where that could be, guessing Lucerne but not entirely sure.  It occurs to the Infected One that his friend Mr. M. has done just the right thing: to install himself boldly in a new place, make it his own and then state “This is Home”, both a conscious decision and also matter of the heart. He wishes he could do the same thing but considers the possibility that he is infected with too many different corners of the world or, on the contrary, has a definite home, which he is unwilling to recognize because it might or might not feel as though he were clipping his own wings, as though he might be cured from whatever it is that he would like to define him. Home? Home!
The next day Mr. M still has some business at the office so he drops the Infected One off at the local mall. It is a matter of space and time now: where can we two particles meet again without getting lost in the chaotic flow? The solution of course is Starbucks, the place where stars according to the fairy-tale are supposed to fall from the sky and give the long-haired Princess her riches but instead, somewhat disappointing, one only gets an overpriced coffee of this or that exaggerated variety. The Infected One falls hard on Latte Macchiatos, which he finds smoothly enjoyable yet capable of blunting the often overwhelming urge to sleep.  When the Infected One begins sleeping, takes a nap or goes into a hypnagogic slumber, he usually would prefer to sleep forever and be done with the irritations of the world. This doesn’t at all mean he wants to die, it means he would like to sleep forever, perhaps even waking up or going into slumber at sporadic intervals. Is what it means. Because dreams snatch up the world and model it into something entertaining, fantastic and even more confusing than it already is. What could be more desirable?
So this first day the Infected One spends in Shopping centers and malls, which feels just very appropriate and not mainstreamy, commercial at all. This feeling of his could be self-protective or it could be an early realization that domestic consumption is an intrinsic part of the success which is China and which by participating in it he can now also pretend to be a part of. The Infected One’s inner life is a tempest of confusion and thus he feels at ease in the frenetic frenzy sometimes euphemistically called “shopping”. Not the act of consumption per se, all the turbulence it calls forth when performed in the thousands and tenthousands and megamillions. Supertankers and cargo planes and multi-click-long train compositions snaking across vast planes, all coordinated by his friend Mr. Motivado, the logistics man who is not responsible for consumption but distribution.


About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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2 Responses to China Chinwag [non-confluential Tianjin travelogue, part 5]

  1. michelle says:

    the value of mutuality between the I.O and Mr.M delight me and may you know that your subtle hints of highly amusing context have entertained my morning consumption of, once again, overpriced coffee.
    will satisfy my curiosity of the next travelogue later on- post “performance delivery”, the thing that counts every now and then ( I admit with great resistance ) 😉
    michelle m

  2. tmabona says:

    HI M

    Thanks again 😉 Yes, those were very mutual times…. except for the 7’000 times Mr.M had to translate for I.O. hmmmm, I only went half-way through with writing up this china travelogue, I might just have to put in some more work.
    as for the coffee addiction, I am a victim too, they would probably have to raise the price through the roof for any of us to stop…never mind the scarily quickened heartbeat….
    Yeah, “performance delivery” is not always all that fun but at least, generally speaking, white-collar is more fun than blue-collar wage slavery…:) As soon as I make millions I’ll probably install a frequent-reader-programme where after X-many posts you get these&those coffee goodies or something….

    Cheerios, T

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