A day or so in lives

I’m just now home from a day’s passing. Before taking the 3A bus home, I sat a teapot’s length at a small pub on Oxford Street in Zhuhai, reading in my Oxford edition of Richard Ellmann’s biography about James Joyce drinking and reading in a small Italian pub in Paris as Ulysses was published. Two of my dearest friends (O Daley O Fred) are presently or just recently in Oxford proper and I want them to read this and call me so we may yak incessantly.

I ate dinner in Little Saigon, at a table on the side of a second-story bridge over Oxford Street, in Zhuhai, China. I had a sour beef soup that was complemented by mint rather than sweet, spice or salt. I ate, watching from my perch as the only other white person in the neighborhood attempted to keep a small crowd of Chinese teenagers in thrall.

Before then and after my first encounter with Oxford Street, I walked a few stretches of residential back road and side street, observing a few thanked details of what is the miracle of other people’s lives. It was remarkable and I have nothing to say about it. I was brought, at windings, to a paradisiacal and underpopulated public park. I sat at a low stone table and saw something marvelous and surprising in each of the five directions around me. Teal apartments sprouting from a billowing silver-green treetop. A raw and sinuous tree that reached at an angle, becoming parallel to the ground, like an arm with three elbows. Two children in a little park whose slide was a stone elephant. An inexplicable rock. A bright distant tree framed by two near ones, darkly, that could have passed, given harsher perspective, for an orange dandelion puff. I sat also by a fountain, sketching with my left hand a tree whose growth pattern seemed entirely novel.

I got in a fair share of floral prose.

On a bus, I wrote: “Not knowing the language around me makes it so easy for every handsome person’s words to be crisp and clever, every one yelling into a phone righteous in anger.”

Standing on a rock over the sea, I wrote: “When reality looks like sea, its nuances and forms the rippling of infinite interacting uniquities springing into impossible momentary selfhoods. Continuously, All a pool of form springing newly forth, whole and divisible, I want to be of the surf – the outstretched frothings that finger up the sand, splutter on rock, vacation in tidepools, and return with new forms for home.”

At peace in another park, remembering the revelation I had in Decorah last summer that the ground is actually a ceiling holding me suspended over an enormous vastness that is not even properly below as it is just utterly out, I wrote: “A piper on the dizi [a dizi is a Chinese instrument that reminds me of wooden flutes] playing chipper airs that remind me of Chinas and Irelands both I’ve never been to. Water beyond flowers and rocks and there’s one man rowing, taut sinew overcoming a chaos of waves. I lie back, undreaming in sharp grass. A poke and tuft of gold shrub are all that I see hanging with me over the vast grey belowround.”

All day long I was rapt in my gold hue shirt.


I have not written in a couple weeks, so you should know that Hong Kong was as peaceful and recharging and full of natural beauty as you wouldn’t expect a trip to Hong Kong to be. Sam and Tim and I swam in the ocean, we laid on beaches and watched birds of prey at either mating or play.

The next week became Chinese movie week. I watched five Chinese films in as many days and two of them (Chen Kaige’s “Farewell, My Concubine” and Zhang Yimou’s “Ju Dou”) I liked as much as anything I’ve seen in a long time. Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” and Tsai Ming-Liang’s “What Time Is It There?” were also quite good. “A Chinese Ghost Story” was not. All of them suffered the arbitrary wrath of poor subtitling.

Last weekend was a happy jumble. I arranged my schedule so as not to work on Friday. Thursday night was unexpectedly spent enjoying things I have historically avoided. I danced to 80s pop at length with Rhian, Kate, Jess, and Sam, came home, and watched internet videos of police chases and motorcycle gangs and Arnold Schwarzenegger and a skateboarder on crutches with Tim, Hugh, Ben, and Chue. Off as I had it, I somehow can’t remember a single thing that happened on Friday. Neither can the friends who are in my apartment right now. On Saturday, Sam and I went for a meandering bikeride and delta-side picnic of kippers and crackers before biking home to grade papers. I biked home and vegged out with Hugh all evening. On Sunday, I went to Guangzhou with my friend Bobby for his birthday. We spent the evening in a Middle Eastern neighborhood, eating a Turkish feast and smoking
large hookahs outdoors.

This week has been screenless week (e-mails and blogs aside). I have spent my time on reading and drawing and remembering how to sit without doing anything at all. Given the four day weekend that begins tomorrow night, Tim and I will be traveling to Yangshuo.

Wish us luck.


2 Responses to “A day or so in lives”

  1. greendouglas Says:

    Thanks for another great post. Recommendation: Read the novel _36 Arguments for the Existence of God_. If you’re interested in questions divine, agnostic, atheist, and Jewish, you’ll enjoy it. Author? Rebecca Neuberger Goldstein. Let your brother know about it too.

  2. Barry-Ong The Huy Says:

    Thank you eating at “Little Saigon” Vietnam Saigon is the place I was born. I left when I was seven to England during the Vietnam war. I live in Hong Kong and have retire living in Zhuhai doing my painting as I am an artist painting most of my life.
    When you in town you can always call me @1323 225 7890 for the next Pho, maybe is the lime fish sauce I put in to make it sour……did you like it…..? Facebook Ong The Huy

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