Christmas day, 2015

Well, as usual, my gnat-sized attention span has me running off in several directions at once.

Every morning I wake up intending to catch up on my China travelogue, but then I remember that I never finished New Zealand last year, and I  have other unfinished blog business to attend to, and then there’s Mary Grace’s and my Fairytale Lobby blog, and it’s my turn to post, and I’m late again…

But it’s December 25, and my friend Susanna has honored me by posting my story “Christmas Baby.” It’s the “good parts” version of how I spent December 17, 1961. Yes, I have taken poetic license in what I’ve left out; but what remains is pretty much the way I really do remember it.

Here’s a link to Susanna’s blog. You should read the rest of her posts. She writes beautifully. And if you ever get the opportunity to hear her tell stories, don’t miss it!



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Mobius trip



Gateway to the City of Shenzhen.

For me, the path from The Sublime to The Ridiculous resembles a mobius strip. You never end up anywhere, and even though you continue on a linear course, you cross your starting point again and again and again and again. It’s also sort of like the classic definition of insanity I learned at 12-step meetings.

Not even 40 years ago, Shenzhen was hardly even there. And now it’s a sprawling city of 10,000,000 people. This country that looks back and sees 5000 years of culture unbroken by conquest or colonization is spawning metropolises like it’s a pond in spring.

Sonia booked us into a little garden inn off one of the main drags. It’s one of her tried and true lodging options — clean, quiet, comfortable, wifi, and walkable to shops and restaurants. When she was there a couple of years ago, the side of the street we were on was as respectable as it appeared to be during daylight and in the dark; the other side, as soon as the sun went down, blossomed into a red-light district. That’s all changed now. The rent must have gone up. They’re making it boutique-y and commercial. Here’s one of the new eating establishments:


Twinkle Potato opened for business on the day we flew to Shanghai, and I regret that we didn’t get to eat there. I did peruse the menu. Stuffed baked potatoes. I never knew potatoes were big in China. Maybe 35 years ago, before Shenzhen was hardly anything, potatoes weren’t big there. Today, though, I gotta say, in China they have french fries down. Wherever we went I got fries that were as good as the coffee was awful. And the coffee was, uniformly and almost without exception, awful. But they have taken fries to a higher level. (Squirrel!) Pardon me. I digress. The item that fascinated me most on the menu of Twinkle Potato was the “Bean Potato.” Beans…like that lovely bean paste you find in the middle of some dumplings? Baked beans? Green beans? I may never know.

We were within walking distance of an attraction called Sea World. I was expecting a theme park. No. It’s a food court — open air, multi level — punctuated with occasional tourist shops. Our first night in Shenzhen, we met some friends of Sonia’s at Sea World for Tex-Mex. It was Taco Tuesday. They weren’t bad tacos. Sea World has some creative graphics, and I found some lovely word combos:

Last year when we were in New Zealand, some friends turned us on to an app called Atlas Obscura. It’s like Roadside America, only global. That’s how we ended up at Window of the World. It’s a theme park based on scale models of world famous feats of architecture. With the occasional gold-plated octopus and Byzantine wall depicting, among other monuments, the Statue of Liberty. Jack and I comprised 50% of the westerners we saw that day.

On the water side of Sea World, I found the part of ShIMG_3627enzhen I like the best — the “hardly even” part of “there” that was Shenzhen 35 years ago. It exists in the shadow of the construction of several 30-storey apartment buildings that are being touted in slogans such as this:


Those photos below — I understand that I can afford to be sentimental about the beauty of this floating trailer park. I don’t have to try to sleep and cook and raise a family in one of them. That’s Hong Kong floating on the horizon.

And finally — Another example of the way people rarely read, and if they do read it they studiously ignore the fine print:


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