May weekends in Shanghai remind me of a song. That song is called “The Mmmm, Mmmm, Song?” by the Brad Robert’s Band:
Once, there was this guy who biked around Shanghai being oh so cool.
But when he finally came back, his perineum had turned from white into blue black.
He said that it was from when the bike seat had crunched it so hard.
Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
But in all seriousness, my bike seat is not very comfortable. After a weekend of twelve hours plus of solid biking (plus a daily bike commute), it seems like I should invest in a better seat. But BLUE STRONG is a junker bike. I know it; it knows it. The bike is rusted, bumpy, and clattering. I’m not fearful of it getting stolen or damaged, and that brings better peace of mind than a comfortable ride.
On Saturday, a long and rough game of bike polo dinged it up even more. I performed poorly, but A. and D. more than made up for it. There was a good showing again, and despite a little drizzle moments before playtime, the weather was great. Everyone played fast and hard. After a few crashes, my front mud guard is skewed, the basket is bent, and the rear wheel wobbles. The bike rolls on but isn’t in top form.
In a department store built into the basement of the sports stadium, J. and I found some high-grade kicking feathers for 5RMB(75¢) each, as well as a 3RMB bottle of black drawing ink. This saved a trip to the ink district near People’s Square, as well as a trip to the kicking feather district.
Vast green tarps cover a construction area near the apartment. Not pictured: near constant, daily jack hammering.
Detail shot of the tarp. Notice the nice rock details and wonderful turquoise/orange color scheme? Isn’t this a beautiful photo? Nah, I don’t think so either.
Watermelon season means watermelons being sold everywhere.
Sculptures celebrating the Chinese Albino Basketball League.
A failed goal.
Mini bike and mallets.
A casual spectator.
Time out for a Zamboni ice dump.
Old man near the court smashing things with a rock.
Sunset looking north from the apartment.
Out of all my weeks here, I still haven’t taken the time to sit on by the street and just watch people go by. On Sunday, J. and I went out in the morning to eat lunch, get coffee and watch people. We stationed ourselves at three intersections.
Duck from our meal at Sichuan Citizen. I highly recommend this restaurant for delicious Sichuan at reasonable prices in a cleaner, more stylish atmosphere than the average restaurant.
Mapo Tofu: spicy but not overloaded with peppercorns.
J. and the sticks.
Suitcase delivery boy picks his nose while balancing a load of suitcases.
Chairs and couch, via rickshaw.
Umbrella girl, fan man.
He doesn’t look handicapped to me.
The bride of Robocop, gas man.
Handicapped badass three-wheeler.
Gang of chaps.
Blue man group takes to the wires.
In the afternoon, we met up with A. and D. to ride bikes through the older neighborhoods of Shanghai. We were in search of culture, cheap delicious crabs, and crayfish. These old neighborhoods are a highlight of the city. Tight, dense alleys with people playing cards and dominos are shaded by a mess of chaotic wires and drying clothes. Old ladies hobble down the street. People buy produce, eat at stalls, shoo cats away, chat, yell, smoke, sit. It feels like a time warp to the China I never knew but always assumed.
After some meandering, we found the crabs. For 100RMB($14), we bought 11 crabs and a bowl of crayfish. The seafood was chopped up and fried in a delicious mixture of seasonings including onion, ginger, and chili. It took a while to prepare our large order. While waiting in the narrow and busy alley, we soaked in the atmosphere. The food was served up in plastic bags and styrofoam bowls. The vendor provided clear plastic gloves to keep our fingers clean. We took our treasure to the street and starting eating. The food was delicious, and we made quite a funny spectacle for the people walking by. A backhoe was jackhammering up a section of the street nearby. Food carts jockeyed for position. Kids played with a bike tire. A man with a cheshire smile and long thumbnails squatted down and talked to D. in Chinese about all the great places to order crab.
Old town alley.
Crabs and crayfish for sale.
The cooking area with seasonings.
Chicken pieces in dissection trays.
Old woman talking in Mandarin to J.
A.’s dirty eating gloves.
The family burden.
Stuffed toy, old homes.
Dense market street.
Welder on the street. Click image for a bigger version.
After more riding and some ice cream, it was time to head home. J. and I rode back on the darkened side streets. In a dusty alley, a man played an off-key vertical fiddle. People had gone inside for the night but left their doors open for the world to see in. The air smelled warm and fragrant. It was an unreal evening.