Thursday, September 08, 2005

N 39 50.950' E116 24.444'

Just as a dog returneth to his own vomit, so will a fool to his folly.
(Proverbs 26:11 KJV)

Welcome to the China Open, 2005.
Insanity ensues.

I know you love to hear my travel adventures- Getting a laugh out of another’s misfortune is the American Way, as Pete would say…
This trip started good- I got an upgrade from Jax to EWR.
Nice. Guy next to me never said a word, I stayed buried in my crossword for the first 20 minutes and my nose in a Clive Cussler novel the rest of the time.
I only had 35 minutes in Newark so no breakfast a Gallagers.
I got a quick bite at one of the snack joints in the airport and boarded the 777-200.
It is one big-assed plane.

I got a bulkhead on the aisle- Lots of legroom. Hoo ha.

Guess who was two seats in front of me in Biz Class?
One of the people I loathe most in this world- Dan Rather.
On assignment for 60 Minutes.
(Irony- On Thursday Night I had the dubious pleasure of watching 60 Minutes II to see a piece on deepwater diving off NJ. DR is the host of 60M II and his smarmy commentary during the Hurricane Katrina piece was irritating to say the least.)
Now- here he is, two rows in front of me.
It was difficult to suppress the urge to go and urinate in his Cornflakes-
But, in the interests of National Security I was able to keep my composure.
More on him later.

OK- So- good seat. The plane was pretty empty.
I was on the aisle on the left side of the plane; config was 3-3-3 in this part of the plane. At the last minute a Chinese national took the window seat. We had the seat between us empty. Really nice- since last time it was crowded on the flight and there was someone in the middle seat, and all three of us were miserable.
Empty middle seat-good.
Movie choices, bad. Here I am less than a day later and I can't remember what I watched.
(Must have been bad.)
So.. I watched a flick, had "dinner", a nice very tender piece of beef, and then took and Ambien and slept for 5 hours. (hoo ha!)
I woke up with 4 hours to go, read some more of Dirk Pitt's adventure in the South American rainforest, had a bite to eat and got ready to land.
All in all, the flight was uneventful-
Customs and immigration was another story. As we walked through the terminal, I wound up behind Danny Boy, so as we entered the immigration screening room ("Please stay behind the yellow line, or the nice young man with the automatic weapon will shoot you") I chose a different line than Mr. Rather. His line didn't move fast enough, so he shuffled over behind me. Lovely.
I got my book out and tried to ignore him.
People in line around us tried to engage him-
"Hi, ho ya doin? Love your show. Why are here in China? Working on a story?"
He was polite but declined to say he was there.
"They really don't like us to talk about the stories we are working on, I hope you understand-"
(They? I thought you were the Big Boss, Danny. WTF is with the mysterious “They”?)
Well- Since he changed lanes, now MY lane wouldn't move. Asshole.
Doesn't he know Coopers Bank Postulate? "If you change lines in the bank because the teller that is servicing your line is slow, you will cause BOTH line to move slowly?
Finally a guy in uniform got our attention and had us move down several lanes to one side- the sign above it read "Chinese Nationals", but since the guy directing us had a gun, I'll follow him rather than the sign.
There were 3 people in front of us, nationality unknown. As the guy behind the desk processed them there seemed to be problems with all of them- We watched as they were led off one by one to some secondary questioning.
Danny Boy taps me on the shoulder.
"You following all that?" he asked.
"Yeah. Not looking good." I said.
"Well- if you don't make it, I'm heading for another line." he said.
"Me too." said his camera guy and audio guy, standing behind him.
The cookie pusher behind the desk finally called me forward and I handed him my entry card and passport. He looked at me, looked at the pic and the "Why the hell are you coming to this hell hole?" card, stamped my passport with red ink and I was on my way-
I never looked back at Dan. FTMF.

I got my bags after a minimal wait, most of the wait was a passport control, then headed through the Nothing to Declare line- the guy took my declaration card, looked at my bags and waved me through without ever looking at me.
My ride, Nakanishi Ieyasu, was late, so as I stood in the Meet & Greet I was inundated with offers for a taxi- I started to practice my Withering Stare. You need the patented Withering Stare for when you walk through the markets and are deluged with the ubiquitous "CD DVD ROLEX" hawkers.
They get the Stare when they grab my arm or shoulder- Otherwise I pretty much ignore them-
Nakanishi finally showed up and we were off to Long Tou, the accommodations he had booked for me... Long Tou is kind of like a Little Tokyo... It seems like 90% of the residents here are Japanese. All the instructions and signs are in Kanji (as opposed to Pinyin) and all the people in the market and the restaurants speak Japanese...

This only presents a minor problem... In Beijing, places close to “American” style hotels (Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, etc) have a lot of services with Engrish-speaking people in mind, like menus, signs, etc. Taxi driver that speak Engrish tend to congregate there, and they have other little things like menus that are printed in Engrish, or at least picture menus...
Not so over here in Japaneseland.
No Internet connections here in Long Tou either. I have to take my laptop over to the (no kidding) King Wing Hot Spring Hotel to get on-line.
And another thing... This is a winner... AT&T changed their access code since the last time I was here... I’ve been trying to dial 10811 to get a LD operator because I haven’t been able to purchase an IDD card yet)... but there is no response. You’d think they’d put on a recording to tell you they changed the number...
(The new number is 108888, should you need it... heh)

I went shopping last night... Man I love going to a grocery store that smells like an outhouse... I stick with pre-packaged and/or frozen stuff… I did get a couple tomatoes and oranges, but as I looked in the “deli” case the number of flies buzzing around inside the case had me worried, so I skipped the “prepared food”. (Prepared by Chef Sal - Salmonella to his friends).
I got some frozen dumplings and other cookables like ramen-type noodle soups, since my room has a “full” kitchen, so we will see if the 12 dollars I spent on five bags of groceries was worth the money spent.
I got lots of drinkables too... several kinds of tea, a couple bottles of diet soda, water, some other goodies too... I managed to avoid cookies and other sweets. We’ll see how that works out.

All manner of fun at the Beijing Tennis Center… Since I don’t comment on actual work stuff, you will have to ask about it directly of you have a need to know, but suffice to say we are living in Interesting Times, if you know what I mean...

Well... I started with 7 Clive Cussler novels... I’ve read one and a half in 2 days...I need to slow down... I’ll be out of reading material before the tournament starts at this rate.
The good news is that I still have 20 or so NY Times Sunday Crossword puzzles left…
Good times...good times...

Onward through the fog...As long as I keep moving they won’t find me...


TBG out-

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