The Comeback, and How I Learned to Love the (fire)Bomb

2 02 2011

First and foremost, happy Chinese New Year, or the year of the auspicious rabbit. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen some action here on phillipinbeijing, and I blame that all on winter. It’s really been way too cold to go and have adventures worth writing about around the city. It’s been a quiet, low key existence here in Beijing, and I can’t say that I haven’t enjoyed it. I’ve watched a ridiculous number of movies, and have reacquainted myself with American television. I’ve made great friends with both the owners of the noodleshop downstairs, and my McDonald’s delivery man, as I’ve been traveling the path of least resistance in respect to the food to face process.

But my quiet, zen state of being was abruptly brought to an end by the coming of the Chinese New Year. I’ve never celebrated the holiday in China before, so the past two days have been quite traumatic for me in a way. My childhood experience with fireworks consisted of: dinky bottle rockets, sparklers, and giant blooming displays at 4th of July. In China, however, these notions of playful pyrotechnics are either discarded completely, or bastardized into a twisted barrage on all your senses. I promise if you check back later, I’ll include videos to each one of these sequences, but…

So I’m just chilling out in my sweatpants before work, gathering myself before the daily grind, when all of a sudden, I hear this BANG. It was far enough to gather that it came from outside…but close enough to cause the windows to shake and set off all the car alarms in the nearby vicinity. This bang is then proceeded by what sounds like rounds from a Gatling Gun, uninterrupted for a good two minutes. This sequence would continue throughout the day, starting at 7:30 in the morning and going as late as 1 the next morning. It felt like the city was being shellacked, and while you kind of got used to it after a while, there were still that one or two that would be way closer than you expected and really give you a good jarring.

But that’s what the Chinese love about fireworks. Loud, fucking loud, and lots of it. Phosphorous colors and swirly shapes mean nothing to them. They just want everyone in a 2 mile radius to hear all 40 of their 1 trillion decibel whizzbangs. And its everywhere, in every neighborhood, on every street corner, with no regulations dictating where and when. There’s a gas station where we live…and there were maybe three separate parties of pyros setting off fireworks not but 20 meters from the gas station. Madness, absolute chaos.

And so later in the afternoon, I took a plane down to Shanghai to spend the holiday with family (as both parents are here visiting for the time being). It seemed that there was some semblance of order when I arrived, in that it didn’t seem like Kosovo. But no, they were actually just waiting until midnight to create the largest clusterfuck of fireworks I have ever seen in my life. You know on the Fourth of July, where everyone gathers around in their lawn chairs and watches a nice little show that lasts about 30 minutes? This no joke lasted an hour. And it wasn’t just over the Charles River, or in the San Francisco Bay, this was THE ENTIRE CITY. It honestly looked like the place was on fire. If anyone ever tried to pull something like this in the States, that city would maybe be razed to the ground.

So after a while, the father and I leave our apartment vantage and head down to the streets to see what was going on. And as expected, it was crazy. All traffic was more or less stopped, as people set up boxes of 100 cylinder bottle rockets in the middle of the road. A group of drunk, off hour chefs were lighting some of those abrasive whizzbangs, and I guess a few slipped and came shooting right at me. I got pegged in the right calf, and it felt like getting hit by a rubber bullet. Luckily, only a slight bruise.

Tune in for upcoming episodes here in Shanghai, and come back for first hand video accounts to be uploaded once China and Youtube decide to cooperate.


if you skip to 2:21, you can see some good sparks right outside the window.


How Kenny Rogers Saved THANKSGIVING

29 11 2010

I love the holidays. There isn’t a thing I don’t love about the holidays. Thanksgiving just so happens to be my favorite of holidays, so much in fact, that it’s often referred to as YANGSgiving. Unfortunately, this is the first Thanksgiving I have ever spent away from home and the family. And as such, I was going to do everything within my power to have a proper one away from home, and there was really nothing that was going to stand in the way of me doing so. Not even the great nation of China. This is a story of trials and tribulations, of blood and sweat, and of heroes born from the most unlikely of places. This is the story…of Thanksgiving.

So there were a few very big obstacles China decided to throw in the path of our successful Thanksgiving experience. For starters, there were no days off allotted to us, as the government demands that every day be a day of thanks to modernity of the Middle Kingdom. So there had to be intensive prep work done to get dinner started in a timely manner. Secondly, the Chinese don’t particularly care for the turkey bird, as I’ve been told they are convinced that the turkey is only as large as it is because it has been genetically modified to feed all the fat Americans (no joke). This means I had to sprint to what arguably might have been the last market with turkeys left the night before because my butcher thought I just wanted a really large chicken.

The last of said obstacles was to be the hardest to overcome. There are many things that the everyday Chinese household still lacks: drying machines, dishwashers, a general conception of personal space, and ovens. For you see, the Chinese don’t eat freshly baked cookies or grandma’s casseroles, let alone whole 16 pound turkeys. There are a few who have had ovens installed, but in utilizing one of these rare ovens, I would have had to share my Thanksgiving with an English satellite friend, one who is nice enough, but has terrible friends. So what were we to do…? In comes my saint.

This is Kenny Rogers. You might know him as one of America’s most beloved country singers, the man behind 21 hit number one singles, and winner of the 1986 USA Today  “Favorite Singer of All-Time” award. What you might not know is that Kenny Rogers is also the father of an extremely successful chain of rotisserie chicken restaurants all across Asia. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Yes, that’s right. We somehow convinced Kenny Rogers Roasters to allows us to slow roast our turkey in their giant rotisserie oven. How? That sounds ridiculous? That’s because it is ridiculous. That’d be like me walking into a Boston Market and asking them if I could use their oven to roast my Peking duck. They’d be like, take your raw duck and get the hell out of here. BUT KENNY ROGERS IS GOOD PEOPLE. Oh and it came out fantastic. We managed all the other dressings quite well, but the turkey was beautifully done. All that you see below was done by your’s truly (except the beetcake, that was Roth).

Never give up on Thanksgiving, because Thanksgiving will never give up on you. Next time you’re in Beijing Kenny, hit me up, I owe you one. Until next time.

Finally Settled.

14 09 2010

Wow, a week without a single post. Contrary to what some have suggested…yes, I am still alive and my organs have not been harvested (knock on wood). It’s been a really hectic time here in Beijing, mostly because…


Yeah, finding an apartment is difficult in any metropolitan city, but here in China, there are certain elements that make the process that much more miserable.

1.)I guess first and foremost, we decided that we wanted a pretty legitimate China experience, so finding an apartment in the center of the Central Business District (where future roommate Ben Roth and I work) would certainly prove to be difficult. It’d be easy to shack up in a sterile, expat driven apartment complex, but there’s something to be said about playing cards with your shirtless fat neighbors outside at 1 in the morning that you can’t get in that environment.

2.) With that having been said, there’s no need to sacrifice some of the most basic of creature comforts. I hadn’t had a hot shower for an entire month until last night. The idea of living in a hutong was appealing at first, but then you realize that you’d have to cross the courtyard to use the communal bathroom at night, which during the winter, gets to be somewhere around 10 degrees.

3.) There is no rhyme or reason, or anything closely resembling better business practices, when it comes to real estate here. You want to charge me money just to show me a place? You want me to pay…a year’s rent upfront on the spot? Wait, you’re not giving me the apartment because we’re…from America? The ACLU would have a fucking riot with some of the stuff we’ve had to deal with.

But anyway, Ben and I finally found the apartment that I will be calling home now for a very very long time. Recently refurbished with brand new appliances. Arguably in the top 20 cleanest apartments I’ve seen here in China. It’s not but a 10 minute walk from work, and there are at least a dozen restaurants downstairs that feature all sorts of cuisines from all over China, and I gather that most of them stay open until a solid 3 in the morning. I’ll add pictures to the next post, as I’ve yet to officially move in all of my stuff yet.

But this is phillipinbeijing, so of course there’s going to be at least ONE picture. Behold, the world’s largest high definition television.

The next two weeks are going to be absolutely wild. Comrade Michael Horrell will be coming from Seoul to spend a few days here in Beijing, and then we’ll both be returning to Seoul where I’ll be for about five days. Afterwards, we hit Chinese National Holiday, where we’ll be taking a 3 days excursion to ________ in China (tba), then up to Tianjin for a United Nations climate conference, and then down to Shanghai to see family/good friend’s wedding. I give myself a 30% chance of survival. Until next time.



27 07 2010

Less than 24 hours from now, I’ll be on plane to Beijing, in what could possibly be the next two years of my life. Post collegiate life has been pretty fantastic thus far, but I’ve also been doing absolutely nothing. In light of the upcoming life upheaval, the past few weeks have been spent absorbing as much pure American goodness as I possibly could, which in the South mostly means eating fried meat with a side of vegetables cooked in meat.

I hope to use this as a way to keep a record of some of the more eventful things that happen. Why? Because China is a WEIRD PLACE. Like, a really WEIRD PLACE. But I hope its also a way to keep touch with more familiar things in life, so please frequent often and subscribe for convenience.

So from here

to here

Bring on the smog, the subways, and those little scorpions on sticks.