I admit that my soul-less  body is suffering a few pangs of guilt today. I am doing absolutely nothing. I mean nothing. I ate breakfast at the hostel and, besides that, have sat in various places and read and surfed the web (at least those portions that aren’t blocked by the friendly government).

One event is worth writing about, though. I sat on the front steps chatting with my parents this morning. As we talked, a man pulled up on a motor bike with two large sacks of raw meat. He then proceeded to force said sacks through gaps in the gate of a restaurant across the alley. They dropped to the floor through the doors, he tossed a paper receipt in, got back on his motor bike and left.

God only knows how long they will sit there. And that, friends, is how we do dinner!

(I would like to inform my readers that I am making a conscious effort to proofread these posts. Any errors may be attributed to the tiny, Chicklet-size keyboard I am typing on. This caveat is an attempt to dissuade my editor who is currently sitting in his underpants on Gibson Ave. playing World of Warcraft.)

A few years ago, I was in Rome. I made the mistake of trying to see the forum and Colosseum on the day after I got off the plane. I get in late last night but, having slept on the plane (heavily sedated, of course) as well as at the hostel, I thought I was prepared for the day.

I was wrong.

Along with two Chileans, Cindy and Sergio, I hit Beijing. This is the May Day holiday which means approximately one billion Chinese are off work and are traveling. About half that number was at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City today. Of course, being a pushy Westerner, I plowed through the crowds and saw most of what I wanted to see. At some point, though, I gave in to the tide of people and was swept past the entrances of a few of the galleries. Oh well.

The entrance to the square was terrifying. It was an underground tunnel with security machines, police officers, and ten thousand squirming humans. All I could think about was the scene described by one of the characters in 28 Days Later of a crowded train station when someone, unknown, becomes infected. Of course, I immediately began mentally planning my escape route should a zombie appear.

It was quite amazing to stand in the entrance square face-to-face with a giant portrait of Chairman Mao. I am old enough (barely) to remember the democracy protests. I couldn’t help but think of the students who camped in the square.

Portrait of Mao overlooking Tiananmen Square

Portrait of Mao overlooking Tiananmen Square

The Forbidden City is massive. Beyond massive. Even the thousands of thousands of people who were there were dwarfed by the massive walls and temple complex. The one gallery that I did see was an exhibition on Chinese ceramics going back thousands of years. It sounds a bit dry but it was really quite amazing. I could do with a few Ming vases around my house.

Antique vase in Beijing Museum

Antique vase in Beijing Museum

After the Forbidden City, we grabbed lunch (I had dumplings, my two friends had the saddest plate of spaghetti I have ever seen) we toured a few parks including Jingshan Park which held a gorgeous Buddha. Lots of people were making offerings and prostrating themselves before it. It was quite a sight!

Golden Buddha statute

Beijing Golden Buddha in Jingshan Park

After that we went to Bahai Park. It was originally set aside for the Emperor but, of course, is now open to the public. Again, it was very crowded but there was a huge, gorgeous lake that we walked around. It was full of families on paddle boats. I mean…FULL. As a good lawyer, all I could think about was the personal liability issues when boats inevitably rammed into one another. I need to set up shop here.

So, after all that, I was barely able to crawl back to the hostel. One of my friends is headed to a night market. I’m taking my ass to bed.

As an aside, I think America has too many rules. On my way back from the cell phone store this evening, I passed a sidewalk where both a child and a dog were peeing in the gutter. That, my friends, is freedom.

Airplane window view from 35000 feet

A view from 35000 feet

As I sit in the first class lounge of American Airlines at O’Hare Airport a few things occur to me.

1) Who the hell is shopping in these airport stores. Now, don’t get me wrong, I can understand shopping at one of the 1000 or so Hudson News that I passed in the various terminals. I can understand a business man getting his shoes shined. Maybe, maybe I can understand stopping in for a quick neck or back massage. But who the hell comes to the airport and stops into Brooks Brothers to buy a suit? And who is buying jewelry from the jewelry store? These stores are opened in high-profile locations and staffed by numerous people. Does anyone shop there?!

2) Why am I no longer allowed to smoke on airplanes? Billions of people smoke on this planet. Hell, I pay to smoke. Out of Christian kindness I am willing to let other people breathe the smoke that I exhale and, again, paid good money for. The fascists that run the airline industry have decided otherwise. Not only that, though, they have also eliminated the smoking areas inside the airport. So, now I have to exit security and, when I am finished with my delicious, adult pleasure, suffer the indignity of going through the security line again. Of course, I made the sacrifice and, for the first time, went through the full-body X-ray machine. So, the one thing that is certain, is that the Chicago TSA has seen my genitals.

3) Those who know me know that my politics run to the radical side. I don’t like divisions in society. I’m not the 1%. That being said, I am enjoying the hell out of the first class lounge. I was greeted by two lovely ladies upon entering who verified my credentials (and keep the riffraff out). They pointed me towards the buffet full of delicious fresh fruit, sandwiches and various other noshes. I’ve helped myself several times. Of course, because we aren’t savages, there is a full bar of premium liquor, beers, and wines. I’m sipping on a lovely gin and tonic as I type. So, while I think a classless society is something we all should strive for, as long as I’m allowed in the first class lounge, I’m okay with it not being here just yet.

4) Why is there an endless loop of music from Glee playing?