Wednesday, October 19, 2022


The waitress remembered that last week I had called to find out whether I left one of my pipes there inadvertently. I thanked her for her concern and reassured her that I had found it after all. I'm probably the only customer who smokes a pipe, as well as the only white guy who speaks Cantonese, so it's easy to remember me even if I can not remember a pipe.
Which had fallen out of my pocket into the folds of clothes to be laundered on the armchair in my quarters where no one ever sits because it's filled to the brim with my clothes.
I regularly do my laundry; a man wants to smell reasonably clean.
Even if he usually reeks of pipes and tobacco.

You'll probably be pleased to know that I shave and shower daily.
Even if I don't intend to be seen or have conversation.

Seeing as on my days off I will often eat in Chinatown, and my Cantonese conversational abilities are frightfully limited, social exchanges are not elaborate or extensive. I much prefer Chinatown because the San Francisco Cantonese will overwhelmingly mask up, unlike every other ethnic or cultural group in the city, who all want to catch Covid, suffer horribly for days, and infect children, immunocompromised people, and their nearest and dearest.
Same as suburbanites and tourists.

[Bus today: Chinese with masks, non-Chinese no masks. Nearly started cursing in Cantonese.]

Tuesday and Wednesday are always chachanteng days, often the same two, in the same order. Precisely like in Hong Kong, which remarkably is also what the pipe that was briefly missing reminds me of. Hong Kong. Central District, Shek Kong Airfield, our factories in Kwun Tong. Mody Road. Route Twisk. Hanoi Road. Victoria Harbour. North Point.
North Point is where many Shanghainese exiles settled after fleeing the mainland, in "Little Shanghai". Where somewhere faintly in the background the music from movies and famous nightclubs would often be heard, to remind them of what had once been.


When we walked into the deserted bar this evening, I mentioned an old song to the owner, because something reminded me of it. She put on several tunes from the Shanghai movie industry in the thirties, after which there were more than a dozen numbers by Teresa Teng. Punctuated by the theme songs of the sequels to The Bund (上海灘 'seung hoi taan').

One beautiful aire by Chou Hsuen, (龍華的桃花 Lónghuá dī táohuā) always makes me think of the thousands of students and factory workers killed by our "friends" there in 1927, as well as the Japanese internment camp for Westerners during WWII). But the song actually refers to the temple fair, as well as, hinted, love affairs. One key line is "politically suspect": 龍華的桃花都回不了家 ("longhua's peach blossoms cannot return to their families").

Peach blossoms: youth, life, and a lovely future.
Vitality, romance. Spring. Innocence.

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