Sunday was windy, a bit overcast, and then the rains came. My evening in Beijing, my challenges getting home, Monday and some work, and deep thoughts before I head to my dream cycle....
Well, it is Monday night and I am beat. I spent most of today writing budgets for Shooting Star Media, Inc. magazines and right now ( midnight local time, about 9 am Chicago time), I am emailing with my ad production guru Alex Larsen, my ad traffic deity Mike Lukich and various publishers on a typical Monday. However, I am 6,000 miles away! This is what Jay Chiat was talking about with the virtual office in the 1980s!
I am hooked up via ethernet in the living room of my condo, which I share with a sports agent and a Reebok employee. I am only one up still as I took a nap, long, about four hours, after writing and editing for seven hours or so. But back to Sunday....
Sunday, down to the Main Press Centre
The taxi ride from the Omega Press conference, in an ancient Chinese restaurant in the center of Beijing, first ring as they call it, to the fourth ring, near the Olympic stadium, took about forty minutes and the taxi was $7 US. The driver was courteous, spoke no English and took my directions by me giving him a business card with Chinese directions to various facilities.
The MPC is the home away from home for the press. Written and electronic press are situated on the first floor, as is stores, various offices for sponsors, a dry cleaner, small super market, restaurant --home away from home. Water is free and Cokes, a sponsor are Five yuan or about a penny! The most popular place, in my mind, is the McCafe, where very bubbly Chinese girls make espresso and cappaccinos. Thank God for caffeine!
100 Yuan is about $7. You can eat and travel here quite cheaply. Beer in some locations is the equivalent of fifty US cents.
So, I spent the afternoon in MPC, writing with James OBrien, and falling asleep about every hour or so. About 7 pm, I just closed my eyes and gave up the ghost, sitting up in my chair, as James finished his blog and Pat Butcher finished his column for the Financial Times ( in my mind, God made this paper, it is the first thing I read each morning at home) and the British women who won the bike race on Sunday in absolutely pouring rain.
Security was normal, quick scan of bag, check of ID and that was it! I had friends who talked their way through security, they were agents, without identification, but this is early, my guess is that will stop very soon.
I had gone to the main press centre to check on friends and pick up the Media swag. We get a back pack full of things, like sunglasses, binoculars, an fm radio, a flashlight, a computer cover, an Olympic pin(huge trading in pins on streets of Beijing-an idea that Angel Martinez, former president of Reebok pushed back in 1984 and people thought he was stark raving nuts--Martinez felt that all companies should develop pins as branding and collectors items-he was right!), and a great and sturdy back pack. So as I pick up my swag, plus my computer bag, Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Butcher are deciding on which place to regale me with for dinner. They had had donkey the night before-read his blog about it (www.nyac.org), and we walk out
of the Press Centre into a bloody monsoon! Seriously, it was raining everything but musk oxen out of the sky! The roads were flooding and we were trying to figure out where to get rain jackets from.
Being one who lives by inspiration, I motioned to Sir O'Brien to follow me to the dry cleaners in the MPC, where we used hand gestures to take three dry cleaning wraps from the nice young people working there. I asked mine to be cut open, so I was fashioning a poncho. James just tied his at his waste for a more au coutour look. Butcher, on the other hand, put the rain on our parade by finding real rain jackets.
So, we head out, my ersatz rain jacket, my real rain jacket, 100 percent humidity, two bags and flood waters about to wash the entire road away. O'Brien and Butcher are chatting away as we search for a restaurant. Deciding that donkey was not the way to go tonight, we saw a light that said in English, under Chinese characters-Ming something. A nice young Chinese man, noticing that we were in some distress, asked if he could help. Mr. Butcher countered, " Is that a restaurant?" Noting the MIng's sign. Thank Mao it was or Mr. Butcher would have been dunked in a water puddle.
We were escorted into the back room, and up the stairs, drenched and dripping, by two lovely Chinese women. As we walked through the first floor, locals were dining on what we saw as typical Chinese food, plus there was a row of aquariums loaded with fish that were for eating, I noted, but looked like the ones my son Adam has in the seventy gallon tank now taking up my dining room. I noticed one particular forlorn common carp, hitting the top of the tank, looking for air, a bug, and noted that he would not be my dinner this rainy night, as I had grown attached to him on this never ending journey.
and now, a chicken head in my broccoli?
Up the stairs we go, water sopping, my shirt clinging to me and my consideration for Butcher and O'Brien was quickly deteriorating. However, when Mr. Butcher hand signaled to the our kind waitress that we wanted three beers please, immediately, she did not move. She was quite adamant to take our order.
This did not sit well with Mr. Butcher, who, as a world traveler and accustomed to travel in China, tried again, and again. Still our lovely waitress motioned to the menu, a book with pictures and English concepts such as, "butt braised vegetable", until she noted that a) we needed beer, b) we would order food, but after we had a cold beer, please.
The beer arrived, but this was after we were told 'NO Tsing-Tao'- a famous Chinese beer and Olympic sponsor. An aside, dear readers: Note that China has two official Olympic beers and when the LOC spokesperson was asked about this, he replied, " We are a big country." Now, back to our episode three: So, no Tsing Tao, but we are delivered another beer, Chinese, with Beijng 08 on it, tastes like a bad chihuaha-a little beer from Mexico. So we order another beer-this one, in large green bottles, is much nicer and does the job.
We order chicken and veggies (chicken head and all, which was quite the bad moment for Mr. O'Brien, who needed a moment of silence for the headless chicken). We also had beef and little potatoes, a squid and veggie plate and a plate of exotic veggies with a spicy sauce. I was taken by a radish that looks like a watermelon, taste like a radish cohabitating with a jalepeno pepper, and then put into a salty, spicy sauce.
Our dinner and conversation went on for several hours. Mr. Butcher always has some off color tale to tell and Mr. O'Brien was discussing British comedy on TV. Mr. Butcher bemoaned missing a decade of British TV while he lived in France. We suggested that he had a pretty good deal over there so stop the whining. This banter proceeded until about the middle of the China-US basketball game. Mr. Butcher was jumping up from the table, checking the TV and bantering with the waitresses.
Dinner cost, for three, with several beers, about $23. The owner was trying to whisk us out of his establishment as several beautiful Chinese waitresses waved to us and thanked us for coming to the restaurant.
Oh, on to curious names of places in Beijing. I did walk by Notting Hill Cafe, which was not a cafe at all, but a curiously new massage parlor-sign in English, with prices--on my way to the restaurant, as well as many tiny shops selling baked goods, drinks, antiques, etc. I did not venture into said massage parlor.
My taxi driver did figure out how to get me to Shinyi, but my development was not on any maps. As he drove me to the guard station at Chateau Regalia, I was not let in, by a stern, but nice young guard for about ten minutes. After an exhausting chat where we had to get the English speaking dispatcher on the phone to tell me, " Tell him you are a resident." I showed the officer my media credential, and he let me in.
Now, the community has very few lights and my driver was getting a) nervous , b) tired and lost, so a very nice security guard, jumped in the back seat and took us to my domacile for the next sixteen days.
When the rains came...
I got back to my room, my little home away from home, unpacked and plugged in my computer. Six hours of sleep, after a litte TV, BBC, nine Chinese channels. An observation on Chinese TV--their infomercials are much more entertaining, as the women are so positive! One I watched was a fitness shoe which helped stretch out the achilles due to women walking in high heels all of the time. Beauty is painful, but come on ladies, those high heels, you know, the black ones with the red post, were developed by sadists! Not tired yet, I watched some American who the Chinese station calls a US political columnist, speak each night on how this Olympics is the best ever and how unpopular President Bush is in US. Chinese commentator made point of saying how important President Bush felt visit was to China and how he was enjoying the Olympics.
Breakfast is from seven in the morning to nine in the morning. I arrive about 8:50 and get my plate of watermelon, some noodles, a small omelette and caffeine, that glorious drug, this time as a part of several cups of strong black coffee.
My walk in the neighborhood today was about an hour, and with the humidty down and temperature down from the rain last night, it was very tolerable. I did not see the sun though, as the clouds and smog covered the sky.
This area reminds me of Stepford Wives movie. The yards are immaculate, there are men hand picking weeds out of the the yards, there are women sweeping the leaves that fell from the night before on the red brick side walks. The main road, Regalia Boulevard is a washed out brick road and the sideroads are black asphalt. One sees many deliveries done on bikes, from a guy delivering letters to a young man balancing a box of vital water with a large water cooler while riding his bike.
The security guards are located on many street corners and at first they salute me, then they wave as I do. Most people are cautious, but quite friendly. I wear my Olympic pass on my walk and most are curious, and wave back to me as I wave. Security men ride by on bikes and wave as they tour the compound.
The rest of my Monday was uneventful. I made it to dinner about ten to nine after working all day, and sleeping away the early evening. I said hello to Maurice Greene, who was having a hard time staying up after nine pm. Maurice had done a superb TV bit with Donovan Bailey the other day and was doing his job as an IAAF spokesperson and adidas personality.
Note to readers. Please check out www.roadstobeijing.com, but note that many American personalities will be removed until after August 27 due to the USOC's lovely rule 41 on athlete images. It is a pain in the butt, the USOC owns those images, baby, during the Around the Rings time.
It is now 12.45 AM on Tuesday, August 12, and this publisher will say Good Night. My lids are drooping and Robert Mitchum (remember, Old heavy lids, greatest actor of his generation and a real bad boy) is channeling me. Time to sleep.
Oh, before I forget it. On my walk today, I was listening to, " So you wanna be a rock star, " by Cypress Hill, great song, great version, amazing performance by the gang, and a perfect parallel for athletes in understanging the Olympic experience. Also, you have got to get G Love , "My baby's got sauce.", just a fun song.
One more deep thought...
If you think you have trouble, the manager of the BBC delegation here is getting pulverized in British tabloids for having such a huge team in Beijing. For the record, NBC has 2900 people, and BBC brought about 427, check out the story: http://www.insidethegames.com/show-news.php?id=3131
Goodnight from China!