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Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Night in a Zhanjiang Bar

I have not blogged in quite a while. Part of it is the immense duty I feel to you, gentle reader. The strict standards of "quality" that I attempt to hold myself to will not allow a simple collection of terse blurbs or unpolished drivel to be lazily blogged. I craft my posts with the care a vintner might craft a fine wine, if the vintner were to pluck the grapes with great delicacy and then brew them with tangible extracts of inadequacy. I don’t let anything short of solid gold nuggets drop into this here digital bowl, and I so I obviously couldn’t come back from Macau and vomit my thoughts haphazardly onto the web. My lord, what would the blogosphere think? So I’ll work on a good writeup and collection of pics for that, all the while painfully aware that the more time I let pass, the less vivid my memories become. Wait, what?

If the “bar” I visited tonight is any indication of what Zhanjiang bars are like in general, then it is clear to me that all of bars in this fine city have been modeled after the clubs in bad American action films. Intense over-sexing was squeezed into every inch of the place, with every laser-pointing discoball and bead curtain and balloon (yes, balloon) reminding you that this place was indeed shit hot. Not convinced? Well how about some rib-shattering, heart-murmuring bass from some of the most generic and uninspired (Michael Bay) club music ever created!? Ostentatious row upon product-placing row of brand-name liquor decorating the clubs in Bad Boys II (you know, right before the guy OD’s on “eXtasy”)? Fear not: every wall has been lined with bottles, countless bottles, a pillar of nameless vodka piled high like something out of a Dr. Seuss mescaline binge. A scantily clad young lady dancing provocatively in Swordfish? Well, this bar has four scantily clad women (and one decidedly metrosexual man, if I can be forgiven for using that word), dancing on poorly-positioned “stages” throughout the bar. The dancers provide mild amusement as you sip your Kingway (Guangdong province’s homegrown lager, from Shenzhen I think; it doesn’t quite have the watery pizzazz of good ‘ol TsingTao, but hey, buy six get two free!), eat your complimentary plate of fruit, and play with the dice, in backgammon-esque tumblers, found on every table. (Some kind of Chinese drinking game that I haven’t quite gotten the hang of yet, but it involves calling out pairs of numbers and bluffing your opponent on how many pairs you share between your dice and theirs.)

All the bartenders wore necktie-thick bandanas, and everyone’s hair was crazy tall spiky like rejected Japanese anime characters. In between loud music and louder music, there was a brief bit of karaoke/KTV from some kind of MC; I wasn’t sure who he was, actually, all I knew was that he had the biggest brownest hair in the bar and must have assumed some kind of coiffure-based alpha male position. He was pretty terrible at singing, but the good thing was that he had to take any and all drinks bought for him. One table (person) in particular kept buying him drinks and toasting him with a loud ganbei! (which means, literally, "dry glass!"), and his swagger and bravado slowly gave way to queasy off-balanced "singing," deep breaths into the mic before finally disappearing for good. And always the dancers appearing suddenly at the start of a new lightshow, doing the same repetitive dance moves over and over on their tiny little patch of stage. The small platforms for the dancers were placed in such a way that you could ignore them if you wished, but they were isolated just enough for fat white American businessmen, stumbling from some dark corner of the bar and at least five or six shots deep, to pause just long enough to give me, their estranged white brother, a solemn and reassuring pat on the shoulder before moving in to grope, ensnare, and otherwise disgust the dancers. He even grabbed a waitress – you know, the thin svelte porcelain waitress in the traditional red dress, slits on the side that run nearly to the waist – and it was painful to see this big meaty hand clenched with drunken lustful intensity around a petite and helpless wrist, the waitress scrambling to get away, clear the table, do her job while Businessman McFat pawed at other patrons, women or girls or anything without a dick to entertain him.

Thank you, fat white businessman, for continuing America’s legacy abroad.

The only thing that made the whole thing bearable was the company: Nicki and Steve, along with some of Nicki’s students, Kawaii (Japanese for beauty, I think) and Betty. Other than that, it was a loud and obnoxious cliché of a bar.

Oh well. I need to get to sleep.

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