News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Ch05 Soccer Match first draft (incomplete)


I was supposed to be preparing for graduate school, but Frankie finagled tickets for a soccer game. One of which I promptly snatched up from him. I needed a break. A celebration of some kind. I just needed to unwind to get in the right mood for studying. I didn’t want to rush. I wanted to take things one step at a time.

Besides, even though soccer sounds like harmless fun, it's also a great opportunity to get in touch with the authentic Chinese people and their culture: to understand the Tao of Chinese soccer fans, to deconstruct the impact of Sunzi's “Art of War” on Chinese sports, to check out the socialist solidarity of the players, referees, and fans.

I met Frankie at the Mickey Mao the night before the game to snag the tickets and give him his cash. Having made money off me scalping, guilt must have pricked his conscience. He decided to look out for my best interests. This was a new role for him. He hummed and hawed at first before he got into character, “Hey, Charlie. You know. I mean. Um… What’s Charlene gonna say when she finds out?”

“And how’s that going to happen?”

“I don’t know. It’s a small town. Loose lips sink limp dicks. You know, that kind of thing.”

I cringed, “C’mon man, we’re talking about my wife. Don’t you think that’s kind of crude?”

He rolled his eyes, “Like she’s going to hear it?”

“I don’t know. Just, just try to be nice will you? Jeez… Try another flavor. This week’s personality just isn’t working out. Doesn’t suit you somehow.” He’d permed his hair and was growing a big balloon of an Afro. He was in a full length Muslim Shalwar Kameez and one of those squashy collapsing African hats. He looked like an African politician trying to get out the populist vote.

“Hey, there aren’t any sub-Saharan’s in this place. I’m the first. Don’t I deserve credit for this?”

“But you’re not black or Muslim. Your folks immigrated to Los Angeles from Buddhist Sri Lanka.”

“Didn’t some of the local people ask you if you were Japanese when you first got here?”

“Yeah, I guess… But…”

“But nothing. The whole point of being here is that I can be anyone I want. A fresh start. I could even be you if I wanted to. So you better be nice to me.”


“Yeah, man. I could paint myself up as Bozo the Clown and tell them I belonged to some weird lost tribe of white people.”

“Yeah?” I was dubious.

“Sure, you know… Umm… Like the Ainu of Japan. They were Caucasian aborigines in Japan right? They’re extinct now. Went out like a candle in the 1970’s. You must have learned about them in one of your anthro classes. Even Canadian universities teach anthro right?”

“Don’t get started.”

“No, no. Check it out.” He started to get in to it, his arms shooting into a high pose, his voice that of a documentary narrator. “The hair represents the crescent moon on sacred nights; the rubber nose is the sacrosanct power of the harvest sun; the floppy overshoes grant me the power to walk over hallowed ground.” He looked at me normally now. I was on the verge of cracking up but he was deadly serious. “Dude, it’s like totally fun. So you mess with people a little bit. So whaaaat? Relax. Live a little. You’re so uptight. Such a straight white dude. Must be those long cold winters up in Canuckistan, man.”

“Leave Canada out of it. Besides, you know I’m live and let live. Just don’t get too weird on me.” I put my hands on my waist, “But some Nigerian’s going to come to town and punch you in the nose when he sees you. Nigerians are all over Hong Kong doing international trade. Real go-getters. They’re in Taiwan. Chengdu too. They’ll be here soon enough.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Nigerians are big. Well dressed and real polite too. But this,” and I pointed to his getup, “You’re pushing it.”

He waved me down, “Just enjoy the game bro. And get to your studies. I want to see you make it. Succeed.”

“You too my man.” I said. We shook hands heartily.

The next day, after Charlene was safely off to the office, I was off to the game. I was in a great mood.

I put on some of my most unfashionable, understated duds, as I always did when going to a game. I had on cheapo basketball sneakers -- the thin-soled kind that's hard on your feet but still popular with low-budget counter-culture types on college campuses today -- plus khaki slacks, an old T-shirt embossed with a Playboy bunny insignia and "Happy Rabbit Loves Everyone", and my ratty Twin Machine-Gun brand leather jacket which was cracked and frayed from wearing it on rainy days and failing to kneed it with oil. Either way I didn't want to attract attention in the stadium from some squad of beer guzzling, wolf whistling, rowdies. The Chinese version of the English yob. You never know what's going to happen when the home team gets upset and who the next target of convenience for the next hooting, self-affirming witch-hunt is going to be. Been there, seen that. Pumping fists, flailing arms, chanting, crazed eyes, wild stares, demonic grins. Scary stuff.

I walked over and looked into our mahogany dresser mirror. Hazel eyes, short auburn hair, a reddish pointy nose, a pinch of freckles, no facial hair. I decided against shaving and mussed up my hair a bit, wetting it down just enough to make it damp, and then pulled on a winter woolen cap. When I took the cap off, my hair would have that solid, helmet look. Using the wife's moose and aiming for that wiry out of control look was too much work.

I slouched.

I mused over how I'd walk once I got outside. Maybe the moon-trot: you straightened your legs completely and stamped the ground as you trotted to your destination. You looked, for all appearances, as if your limbs weren't quite long enough to reach the sidewalk. Or maybe the laborer's stagger: you hunched over and swung your arms wildly up and down while pounding the pavement in a rush. Or maybe the spineless waffle: you relaxed your upper body completely, rounding your shoulders and giving your back a curvature that knocked an inch or more from your height. Your arms hung by your side as you moved. Instead of a pimp-roll, this was a limp-roll. It was relaxing and non-invasive. Best suited for mingling and meandering. Yup that was the ticket.

You might think that just wearing local clothes and messing up my hair wouldn't make much difference. I'd still stick out like a sore thumb in the stadium. But actually, with fluent Chinese and a practiced confidence, you can persuade people of just about anything.

As I went out, I shut our flimsy screen door and turned over the bolt-lock twice on the burgundy designer sheet metal outer door. There were all sorts of clever thieves about.

Having locked up, I looked lovingly over the greenery on our extended balcony and then I ambled over to the elevator. It was already at my floor, the door gaping, but the elevator attendant wasn't inside. I took a look but he wasn't around.

I wanted to get a move on, but it was bad form to use the elevator yourself, to push the buttons with your own fingers.

It wasn't a class thing. The attendant was part of another government make-work project. Money and enterprise were everything these days. Working was positive. Regardless of the nature of the job. And there was a pervasive sympathy for anyone under the threat of losing their position. But who needed an attendant to push the elevator buttons when you had two hands?

I shouted, "Hey! Someone wants to take the elevator!"

Nothing happened, I shouted again. I was a rush dammit! The hell with local habits and customs. The hell with fitting in.

I barged into the elevator, and tripped as the floor level and elevator level were out of whack again. I fetched up on the chipped wicker chair the operator had installed for himself.

Catching my breath, I looked over the rest of his furniture. This was his office. At least it wasn't his home. There was a scratched desk complete with a reconstituted jam jar, a government issue thermos with a real cork stopper, a couple packs of Long Life monopoly cigarettes, and a tabloid magazine playing with fire and riding that fine line between commercial success and a gulag sentence. Just as the doors were beginning to jump and bump to a close, a hand jammed itself between the doors.

The doors opened again. It was our building's elevator operator. He's an old spry fellow, with a barrel chest, a buzz cut and a full outfit of fluffy Mao gear, with rubber flip-flops down below. Not only was he demonstrating solidarity with the old horror, but he wore these clothes as a warning, like the stripy yellow jacket of a wasp. He was also a practiced fibber full of vague stories of defeating the Japs and the Nationalists, thus earning his place at the national feed trough and getting this useless job in particular.

He rumbled sonorously, "Hey, this is my elevator." He meant it. As in, it was his, not ours, the rent-paying tenants. Smiling and looking me in the eye, "Don't touch those buttons. State property." Yeah, right.

He nodded to himself, hoping to inspire me to nod as well. I noticed he was back to wearing his lucky mood-watch. He’d given it up a while ago when he started taking the watch too seriously. It had set up a feedback loop with his emotions, which played havoc with his moods. At the moment, however, he was happy sucking on a toothpick in lieu of a cigarette. Both of which were pacifiers.

I was charmed by his chutzpah, his energy and gusto. But I was still in a rush, "Well I shouted for you, but nothing happened. Come on, old buddy, let's get this show on the road."

He put his hand over the floor buttons as if to keep them from harm's way. He turned a key to shut the elevator off. "Hold on there, sonny. You got a lighter?"

I groaned. He tried to suppress a smile. A polite sadist.

I did have a lighter. Never left home without one. But I didn't want to give him an excuse to fire up, fumigate our breathing space with raunchy Yunnan tobacco, and start yacking at me and further delay our departure for the first floor.

"No.” I lied. Pretending to rifle my pockets, I felt my lighter and moved on to jingle the change in my pocket. Fraudulently I said, "Sorry. No can do. I'm trying to give up the habit. Filthy stuff, tobacco."

He lowered the tilt of his head, the better to give me the evil eye. "Yeah, that explains the funny stuff you keep lighting up. There's only two sorts of stuff burning regularly up here on the rooftop. People barbequing and your wacky tobacky."

I ventured lamely, "Probably just burning some of the trash and leaves that collect on the roof."

"Inside your house?"

Then I remembered I wasn’t the only weed smoker in the building. Hardly. These mountains were polluted with users. "You've been snooping?” I asked confidently, “I thought your job was to run the elevator. Are you a snitch for the neighborhood committee?"

He gave me the evil eye, but the corners of his mouth drooped.

If people thought he was a snoop, they wouldn't talk to him any more. If I started a wicked rumor he couldn't be sure if folks in the building would ignore me because I was a dumb foreigner who didn't know anything or if they would believe every word I said because I was another Honest John of a foreigner who was too dumb to keep his mouth shut. The Cultural Revolution had demonstrated the danger of mixing dumbos and the truth: all hell could break loose.

I saw my opening, "OK then." I sniggered and then volleyed with: "First floor please!" And I stared at him hard, making my eyes large. He made a grouchy face, popped the key back into the slot, and away we went. He'd be polite to me from now on in. He wasn’t a bad guy anyway, just lonely sometimes.

Down on the street I grabbed some sourdough buns, some hot sauce and ginger slivers, plus some Moon Rabbit milk candies and that scrumptious Shanghai knock-off of Reese's peanut butter cups, not to mention a couple bottles of beer to gently wash it all down the gullet. I put my growing stash into my copious jacket pockets.

When I was done, and just about ready to grab a cab, I saw the neighborhood street person again. When he caught me looking at him, he stared. No hostility, just recognition, followed by shyness, and then a return to his monomania of prowling for cigarette butts. This time he was wearing green military pants with his grungy flipflops and faded Mao jacket. But when he moved now, he held his right hand out, his fingers extended, his palm aimed at the ground like those magnetic detectors people use looking for treasure buried in beaches. His hand was splayed. I cocked my head to get a better angle and realized that he was carrying it as if it was palsied. And his formerly normal walking pace was replaced with a 1-1-1-stop rhythm. 1-1-1-stop. 1-1-1-stop. This was how he got around now.

I was no stranger to superstition. He was developing a pantheon of taboos and inhibitions to improve his hunting of the ever more elusive cigarette butts; elusive because he'd found most of them by now and only a limited number were being flung from fingers to replenish the original yield. And so his superstition evolved to meet the challenge of changing conditions. No longer was he just crossing his fingers, he was moving onward and upward, evolving into a semi-paralytic. Soon he would reach climax and hardly be able to walk or move at all. Then the rubber truck would be called to take him to the loony bin, where it would take real magic to find any cigarette butts.

I turned back to the street and flagged down a cab to get to the stadium.

A screech caught my attention. I turned to see that yet another rural pedestrian (her knee stockings a dead giveaway), unused to the idea of two-way traffic and crosswalks, had jumped into the road like a springing deer and had almost been almost hit by a taxi. A shouting match ensued between the angry taxi driver and the frightened, embarrassedly defiant pedestrian, who kept her distance and then disappeared into the crowd on the other side of the road, interrupting traffic as she moved into the other lane, where she was met with honks and more jeering drivers.

I ignored the shouting match and hooted to the taxi driver, “Hey! Buddy! Can you take me to the soccer stadium?"

The driver looked over at me. He was still breathing rapidly and trying to keep his temper under control. He glared at me and then changed his mind. He sucked his teeth and said, "OK. Get in. Let's go."

As he got back in his vehicle he looked for the pedestrian, but she was long gone. He pulled his taxi up to the curb and I took a last turn around to see if street dude had struck gold. He was still in his stiff-legged gait, humping it the wrong way down the street. No cigarette butts in sight.

As I got in the taxi and parked my butt on the seat, the failing springs sank me nearly down to the level of my shoes. I looked on in mock horror as my knees came nearly up to my chest.

The driver thought I was looking for his pedestrian and started carrying on, “Fucking hayseed! That dumb bitch almost became roadkill. She might have damaged my car. A taxi's not cheap you know? I don't have any insurance. What would I do if my car was totaled? How would I support my family? How come these dimwits don't know how to cross a fucking street?"

I said," I'd like go to the soccer stadium, if you don't mind."

"Where?" barked the smoking driver through the bared teeth common to northern-accented Mandarin speakers.

"The soccer stadium."

"What for?" he laughed, scattering the spittle that collects at the edges of those bared teeth.

The car wasn't moving. Irritated I replied, “What difference does it make? For the soccer game. What else? Come on, let's get going. I don't want to be late."

"OK. Up to you." The beater began to move, the driver shifting gears at the lowest possible rpm to save gas. The whole chassis of the car shook terribly as a sympathetic vibration took hold. He didn't realize that his ultra low rpm gear-shifting would slowly warp the car's driveshaft and ruin it. There was music chirping through the car stereo. It was low but I could make it out: a Taiwanese sun-and-fun dirge, the type featuring a funeral organ, a three chord guitar rhythm, and a throaty female vocal with the powerful range required to hit the wailing notes of popular Japanese covers.

We passed a local park full of middle aged folks in track suits walking backwards to push the dharma wheel in reverse and collect retro chi. There were some oldsters looking like they were trying to shake off Parkinson's disease; no, scratch that, it was that tai chi warm-up for that looks like Holy Rollers getting the quakes as they let a/the Holy Spirit into their hearts.

The driver interrupted my day-dreaming to interject, "But the soccer game's on television. The scalpers can't even give away tickets."

As the car chugged down the street, I realized that I could stay at home, put my feet up, turn on the heater and roast my toes. I could enjoy myself with a beer, a clean toilet, a stocked fridge. It sounded great, but if I was at home, I wouldn't be able to suck in the stadium ambience, that friendly tippling and camaraderie of the home team crowd, the psychic lift my personal attendance and cheering would give the players. And this submersion in the partisan politics of sports is half of the game, isn't it? How can a livingroom TV compete?

My gaze out the car window fixed on something and my eyes came into focus on another taxi. This one was broken down. The angle of the front left wheel was splayed like a broken ankle with the foot pointing at an implausible angle. I leaned over the passenger seat to front and pointed across the road, asking the driver, "What happened to the car over there."

Squinting, the driver tried to be helpful and said, "Probably just defective. There's a lot of stolen cars on the roads. Shipped up from Hong Kong by speedboat into Guangzhou. You never know what you're buying."

But I scratched the afternoon growth on my chin and wondered if it wasn't just another new driver unfamiliar with his vehicle. Someone who didn't realize that purchasing a car was just the beginning of owning and operating a vehicle. Maintenance was required, such as lubing and changing the ball bearings on the axles. Otherwise the bearings gave out and the wheel came half off the strut.

The taxi driver prodded, "So you still want to go to the stadium?" Maybe he was hoping I would have a change of heart and opt for a cathouse on this chilly afternoon. Perhaps he hoped to negotiate a kickback when we arrived.

I took a moment to think about it. I sat back into the seat. Experimenting with how to be most comfortable, I ended up laying on it lengthwise. I chewed my lip and then decided, "Steady as she goes, captain. To the stadium."

"Have you been to the stadium before?"

"Of course"

"No. I mean, been to the stadium to watch a soccer came? Or something else, maybe?"

"No. I have to spend all of my time driving this taxi. I drive usually seven days a week and often 12 hours a day. I bet you white people don't work like this in America."

"Actually, a lot of people do, especially in industries that have seasonal highs and lows. I've done it. On a farm you usually harvest crops in the early fall and you're busier than hell. During the winter, there's nothing to do. I've worked 84 hours a week, just like you."

"Oh yeah?"

But I didn't want to discuss labor practices. "Anyway, you should check out the stadium sometime. For something to do."

"Yes. I suppose so."

The car suddenly veered to the left, there was an angry chorus of bicycle bells. The driver rushed to say, “Sorry about that. Another stolen manhole cover."

"Are they still stealing those things for scrap metal? Unbelievable."

"What do you mean? A lot of poor country people don't have jobs. The government is corrupt anyway. What's a few stolen manhole covers to the government boys. Most of the thieves leave a couple of plastic bottles in front so that you will know they've stolen the cover."

I relaxed some more into the seat, yawned and said, “I guess."

"The real problem with this town is the traffic." His voice had gone hoarse half way through that sentence. He started clearing his throat of a terrible luggee. After hacking and coughing like a cat with a fur ball in its throat, he expelled the whole awful mess, like a wad of chewing tobacco, out his open window. In China, the whole street was a spittoon. "Too many cars," he continued, "They should ban the bicycles from the main roads."

But it seemed to me that the real problem was driving skills. There was no concept of right-of-way. Driving down the street was a constant game of chicken. Just now, taking this right hand turn, the driver pretended not to see couple of pedestrians coming out into the street. I was looking right at them, while they were staring angrily him, the driver, trying to pierce his thick-skin with their psychic energy. By pretending not to see them, the driver didn't have to be polite and he could just ram right through.

But the stale air in the car was making me drowsy and dreamy. Maybe there was a leak in this beater that was letting in exhaust and carbon monoxide. I sure didn't want to fall asleep, so I rolled down my window a crack and started talking again. "Hey, do you know what the stadium reminds me of?"


"It's like something right out of the Roman Empire."

"Huh? I doubt it." But actually, he hadn't even thought about it. What would he know about ancient Rome? About as much as I knew about ancient China. He simply disliked having a local icon compared to something predating it in the West. On the other hand, if the icon was Chinese and came first, that was okay.

"No. Seriously. The Roman Empire was just another socialist state full of dissidents, slaves, make-work projects, fiat government, patriotism and imperialism."

"Imperialism? That's what the Western nations did to us."

I was in too good a mood to argue with him. "The Roman's probably had great food too. Almost as good as Chinese food." I was trying to be a smart ass, although this was lost on the driver. Which was all the better anyway when I realized that Chinese food probably was a lot better than Roman food.

"Did you know the Roman's killed Jesus?"

"Fucking imperialists." The driver growled. "They always kill the good guys."

His taxi was littered with Buddhist paraphernalia and Daoist mojo. Gold, crimson, black, and saffron statues of dark gods and happy Buddhas were stuck on the dashboard; fetishes dangled from his rear-view mirror, their tassels swinging as the car bumped down the road and jerked during gear shifts.

I wondered how to put what I wanted to say into perspective. "Yeah. That would be sort of like Mao Tze-dung putting a bullet in the back of Sun Yat-sen's neck. You know, killing the nation's founding father. The good guy"

"What do you mean?" he asked, his eyes staring at me suspiciously from the rear-view mirror.

"Sorry about that. I mean... It would be like Chiang Kai-shek putting a bullet in the back of his neck."


"Sure. You know. Bad guys killing good guys. Just like in the movies."


"Well, what I mean is that, Chinese Jesus's are still getting it in the neck here all the time. In the stadium I mean. They haul them out, read out their crimes, and put a bullet in them. No joke."

"You against capital punishment? Not us Chinese. When your time's up, it's up."

I wasn't sure what this meant. I wanted to talk about dissidents, he wanted to discuss the death penalty. Was this an evasion? But just in case he was serious I said, "That's sort of like what some Christians say in America. When your time's up, it's because you're wanted in heaven."

"Huh." I couldn't tell if he was suspicious, indifferent, bored, or wanted to drop the subject. Maybe I was crazy, high, or a snoop.

I abandoned the effort. We were soon at my destination and I paid the fare.

I looked up the bright and shiny white entrance to the stadium. I was impressed that the old gray dilapidated face, with its missing shards of plaster revealing exposed brick masonry, had been revamped and repainted. Now it looked much more like a going concern. The last time I'd been here, there were a handful of twenty-foot tall hardwood trees growing right out of the walls. Seeds had been blown up by the wind into seams in the concrete, germinated, and grown. And grown and grown. That was all history now. Socialism had been replaced by professionalism.

When I went inside, the ticket lady was still a troll, but a younger and prettier one in a proper uniform. She demanded money from me like a gangster and literally threw my ticket at me. But I was used to that. Progress was being made. One step at a time.

I was further impressed to find that they had installed an elevator. Formerly, you had to walk all the way up and down the bleachers, huffing and puffing and ready for the showers by the time you got to your seat. You watched the summer games all sticky and grimy. In the winter games, once you stopped sweating, you were still wet and clammy under your clothes and at risk for getting a chill. That was all history now too.

When the elevator doors opened, I saw the obligatory elevator operator hired for the public's convenience. As I got in with the overeager crowd, I felt elbows sticking in my kidneys, my shoes getting scuffed, my feet getting squashed. The operator was indifferent to the happy squirming commotion, the tipsy men exchanging sports lore, the muffled complaining of a toothsome girl who was accusing someone of anonymously pinching her bum, the male laughter which met her complaint. The operator was sound asleep on a cot that he had moved into the elevator. He was under a blanket and covered from head to toe. Only the outline of his body and snoring gave him away. Like many people in China who held two jobs, he had wisely selected one of the positions specifically for the opportunity to sleep on the job.

As the elevator went up, the air took on a strong fragrance of sausage and garlic. First I breathed shallowly and then I tried to hold my breath. But as the doors opened, the crowd pushed out and I gasped as I was lifted right off my feet for a couple of seconds by the rush. As my feet touched down again I breathed deep gouts of fresh air.

I checked my ticket and looked for the approximate area in which I was supposed to sit. This being China, the seat number was more like a suggestion. Outside of the VIP area, it was finder’s keepers free-for-all.

Looking out onto the soccer pitch, the teams were warming up. Players were kicking the ball to and fro, doing short sprints; the goalkeepers were stretching like yoga masters.

Today's soccer match was between the local boys and Hong Kong University. I didn't gamble, but if I did, I'd bet on the HK team. Now that I thought about it, I wanted to watch the poor suffering ex-colonials from HK, seduced by Western capitalist brainwashing into sucking-up to the evil boots of the British ex-tyranny, go on to kick the asses of the patriotic and chemically-pure home team.

The nosy neighbors at the apartment had made me irritable again. Or was it that I was antsy and spiteful at the prospect of going back to school. What if I made a mess of things? I tried not to think about it.

I found my appointed bleacher location and took a look around to see if there was anything better. Nah, this spot was fine actually. I took a look around before I sat down. It seemed pretty average crowd. I didn't come very often, but every time I did, you could tell that local people were increasingly prosperous and the standard of living was steadily rising.

For example, that woman over there: the one with the bongo lips, and the clam shaped mouth which is often symptomatic of childhood calcium deficiency. See the small teeth? Yup. Calcium. Anyway, she's got that pink watch, with the flesh wristband, blue jeans, and robin eggshell blue pumps. But the hairstyle is lagging behind the times right? She's got a coiffeur that reminds you of The Ramones. Still, on the positive side, she's got a bit of makeup which seems to work and isn't too obvious from a distance.

Or take that other one, that cutie over there on the right, with the broad forehead. She looks vaguely like a buffalo because of that hairstyle: long and parted directly down the middle, and then scraped down the side of her temples and looks like curtains. But she's Japanese clean and has delicate skin. A sweet young thing. Easy take home material.

And then there's that middle-aged woman up here on my right. She's tinted her hair a rust-purple. With the today's wind messing it up, it looks almost like a rug, though I'm sure it's actually natural. That thin sweater she's wearing, it's definitely made out of artificial ingredients and the geometric pattern enables it to substitute for a chessboard if need be. And she's wearing the popular long pointy shoes that fit on women's feet like canoes or kayaks. Perhaps she's a divorcee.

You probably think I'm mocking these good folks. I'm not. All around me, I see serious progress. The clothes are clean, pressed, adventurous, less tacky; the attitudes are more relaxed, confident, less xenophobic, willing to get down with foreigners.

And take a look at that one. That nervous energy, the thin pipe-cleaner limbs, the self-absorption and indifference to people around her. She's busy flipping through page after page of her newspaper. This is still a rare bird for these parts, though there's more in the pipeline I'm sure. The no-nonsense blue jeans, the unadorned black turtleneck, the black rimmed glasses without the flapping price tag. She's probably a lawyer or an information worker of some kind, maybe a reporter. Either way she's whole-hog middle class.

These other women are dressing to be noticed, to make an overt statement; they're looking for recognition and other forms of feedback. What a brilliant improvement over submerging oneself in the masses! But this other one lets her clothes do all the communicating for her. She's not interested in confirmation. Her elegance is more like a warning to those without both feet planted solidly in the middle-class. Do not disturb! Keep out! Shove off!

She was a bit older too. In her thirties. I was wondering if I could get up the nerve to introduce myself and talk to her, when suddenly felt this tap on my right shoulder blade.

“Are you reading that?” asked a Chinese woman of about 30, judging by the depth of the three lines circling her neck and the way the muscle rippled under the corners of her mouth. She was red-faced and her breath had the faint smell of alcohol. Make that fragrance. It was appealing. Alcohol and attractive women, as a combination, often are.

She was referring to the game schedule I was holding in my hand. It was in Chinese. I replied, “I was a minute ago. Just looking to see when the game's going to break up for half-time so I know when to..."

She cut me off. "You can read Chinese?"

I hesitated for a second over whether I should pretend to be Chinese. I decided that today I'd be a foreigner. I replied to her in the affirmative to which she said, "Can you speak Chinese?"

She was serious. "Yes, in fact, believe it or not, I'm speaking to you right now in Chinese." And I gave her a smile and deadpan eyes.

"You're fantastic! That's amazing. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it with my own two eyes. You must have Chinese blood in you. Your dark hair. That's it. Your mother is Chinese?"

"Actually, I'm pure Caucasian. If there is such a thing as a pure ethnic background, that is." I chortled semi-sincerely.

She frowned, moved down to my bench to get close to me. She was in a carmine satin jacket tastefully littered with the Chinese character for prosperity and curry-brown slacks. The lazy scuffing of her feet on the bleachers brought my attention to the patent leather shoes she was wearing. There was a minimum of leather to maximize the amount of skin revealed. The small heels gave her booty a delicate lift.

She approached and put her hand right on my face, moving my chin forcefully, back-and-forth, wagging it and giving me the appearance of expressing NO!

She pulled back from me again, looked me over, stared me in the eye and stated, "No, you're definitely Chinese somehow. That explains it. Foreigners can't speak Chinese very well. And they never master it. It's too difficult. It's a Chinese language." She shrugged, stating what she considered to be obvious, "It's for the Chinese."

I didn't know what to say. I was taken aback by her forcefulness. Sure, she'd been drinking. But maybe she was a lunatic? I'd heard such sentiments from other people before. I was more than familiar with the logic. But the fact that she was touching me in public was unusual. People went to jail for doing precisely this, the local police framing them on suspicion of prostitution or some other such nonsense charge.

"So, I'm curious. Who in your family is Chinese?"

I laughed the nervous chuckle off someone trying to advance an unpopular idea. "I'm quite serious. Actually, there is no Chinese blood in my veins."

This wasn't what she wanted to hear. Her face went redder than it already was. She got up in a huff and left. I groaned, realizing how much en masse admitted the situation. If I played my cards right, perhaps I could arranged an extramarital fling. Instead, yet again my pathological mania for honesty was getting in the way. The road to Chinese hell was being paved with my good intentions.

I knew fully well that once you start speaking Mandarin, even if you're dressed up to the nines in foreigner gear and have blue eyes and blond hair, people presume you have Chinese blood. It often takes a heroic effort to persuade people that you aren't at least part Chinese. At that point, protesting that you're not Chinese even somehow becomes unpatriotic. An affront to the Chinese people. They're offering membership in the Chinese clan. Why don't you want it? We're not good enough for you?

For trying to tell the truth you become a no good big-nose bastard. Recently my wife had been nagging, "Lie Charlie. It's easier." She'd wink and I'd feel guilty and foolish and be persuaded to move another inch towards her values, her family's values, the city's values, the region's values, the province's values, the national values. So much for my values.

Insert gay dude trying to pick you up...

I turned around to hear a slurred, "Yo, dude, wazzup?"

It was a thin, balding American-sounding guy with a peaked nose and a pizza face. He was dressed in the local Army fatigues. I hadn't seen this sort of thing before on a foreigner. I thought you might get arrested. Goes to show you how much more civilized and cosmopolitan things are getting to be. The only stuff missing from his brash outfit was the cap and epaulets. He even had chevrons and shit-kicker boots.

I replied, "So, how to do you do? I guess you're a soccer fan, eh?"

"Yeah, of course. There's not much other reason to come to these stands on a cold blustery day. Why don't you sit up here with me? The view's better. We can check out the game together. Exchange complaints. Whaddaya say?"

I stuffed my steamed buns and beer back into my jacket, got up and while I stepped up and over to the next level of bleachers, I asked "So, what's your name and where are you from?"

"What are you, a snoop?"

"Get real. I'm just here to watch the game. Don't be paranoid. That's the local's job."

He snickered but was chagrined, "Right, right. I was just messing with you, to see what you'd say." As I sat down, he took his eyes off my gaze and regrouped and said, "You know, people are always asking you where you're from, what your name is, what you do. It gets to be a pain in the ass. You get the urge to start telling people you're Bongo Nuts, from Buttfuck, US of A."

"Yeah, that's true. Sorry. I didn't mean to pry. But, I guess I'm still kind of curious. My name is Charles Ferguson. You may call me Charlie." I extended my hand.

"I MAY call you Charlie? What're you, Little Lord Fauntleroy?"

"Hey, cut it out!"

"May? What are you? A Brit?" He jerked back as if hit with a nasty smell. Narrowing his eyes he said, "You look American." Now he was indignant, as if I'd played him for a fool.

"American?" I looked down, "Jeez! Yeah, I'm an American! We're all Americans right? Now you sound just like the Chinese."

"Watch it! Them's fighting words." He'd raised his fists in a boxing stance, but he was smiling, just teasing. "So whaddaya do here Charlie. If I may pry."

"Nobody says, 'if I may pry'. It's either 'if I may' or...ah... 'I don't mean to pry.'" On saying this I felt better, but began to wonder if he hadn't deliberately botched the phrase to give me the chance to regain face. "Anyway, I'm Canadian. And I'm in between jobs. Used to be an English teacher, but now I'm starting grad school."

"Grad school, you're putting me on? You don't mean here in this dirt bag town, do you?"

"Umm, yeah, actually I do. I'm starting the Masters program in history just next week as a matter of fact."

"Well fuck me, man! That's too cool. We must be in the same ass program."

"No way! Right on! So what brings you here to the university?"

"A scholarship. What else would attract me to this jerk-water paradise? Freshwater schools don't exactly enjoy a great reputation on this planet."

It always bothered me when somebody started taking cheap shots at China and the Chinese. It wasn't their fault. Chinese chauvinism was expected, but it looked ugly on a foreigner. I know it must sound sort of hypocritical of me carrying on like this, but only if you think my shots are cheap shots too. I don't know, somehow when I'm critical it doesn't sound cheap at the time. Later, however… Either way, it's usually not fair no matter who does it. So even if I can't manage my own mouth, I can help others. You know. Be a good Samaritan. Do a good deed every day. Give back to society. And Chinese society has been very good to me -- my griping to the contrary -- when all is said and done. So I said, "That's not very nice, especially when they're giving you a scholarship, right?"

"Well you're a cheap whore. All it takes is a scholarship to zip up your mouth. Damn, dude, try working up some independence of spirit. Buy back your own soul. I can understand poor people selling out, but you aren't poor. Or if you are, no foreigner has to be impoverished in this country. Once you fall off the boat, as long as you've got a pulse, you've got it made."

I interrupted, "Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I know the deal, I've been talking and writing about this for a dog's age. Nothing new under the sun."

“You write? No shit? Fiction? Non-fiction?”

Being around him made me self-conscious. “Just a blog. Nothing special. Short stories and stuff. It's embarrassing. You'd hate it.”

“I should check it out. A writer in training wheels. I respect that.”

I didn't believe him. Everything he said was tainted with mockery. To change the subject I asked, "So what is it that you're going to study, anyway?" But I already knew it had to be interesting, unconventional, whatever it was. An antidote to the dreary moth-infested two years that otherwise potentially lay ahead.

"I believe you mean 'what is it that I'm going to research?' I'm not just sure yet. Probably something like anticolonialism."

"Anticolonialism? What's that?"

"When's the last time you were in school, dude? Don't bother answering that." He paused and sighed with resignation. He hesitated and decided to go through with what he was going to say, "I'm interested in a lot of the bullshit arguments opposing colonialism. Or, for example, just look at the problems that have arisen in the 20th century because of the popularity of political self-determination. Pundits and hacks are always going on about the importance of it, but it seems to me to cause more trouble than it's worth: civil wars, guerrilla insurgencies, nationalism and flag-waving patriotism. It's just another example of idealism and of what H.L. Mencken was talking about when he wrote about the US Civil War and said in passing that a moral victory is always a disaster."

"Wow!” I hesitated, fumbling for the right spoken word, not my forte, “That's a pretty weird take on things."

But I was interested. And becoming increasingly interested in him. He was a prick, but a sharp, bright, ruthless one. People who berated others, when they themselves couldn't or weren't interested in doing what the other did, were dime a dozen. Setting straw men alight took no bravery, just a lazy frame of mind and five minutes initiation to begin a lifetime of turning this trick. But he was happy to berate himself and his own country. Everything was a potential target. Whatever he was going to do would be exciting. And probably self-destructive. I wanted to be there, to watch.

He frowned and asked, "You ever heard of this guy?" He pulled a book out of his satchel. The cover said, The Antichrist. "You know this dude, right?"

I replied, "Yeah, of course. Everyone knows him. He's that 19th-century philosopher Nietsky."

"For the love of... It's pronounced Neechee. Not fuckin Nietsky. God, it's going to be a tough semester." He shook his head.

"Awe, come on. Don't give me such a hard time. I know this guy, I just don't know how to pronounce his name. I mean, it's not like my Chinese wife is going to tell me how to say it. And back at home, the only German prodigy that local folks would know would be...umm... Arnold Schwarzenegger?"

He started chuckling, "He's not even German. He's Austrian."

"Yeah…but…uh…he's ethnically German, just born in Austria, right? Let's split the difference and call it even."

"If you say so." He rolled his eyes. "Read this section okay. Nietsky put it better than I ever will."

"Quit it!"

"Read. Please?"

I find the arrogant habit of the theologian among all who regard themselves as "idealists"--among all who, by virtue of a higher point of departure, claim a right to rise above reality, and to look upon it with suspicion. . . The idealist, like the ecclesiastic, carries all sorts of lofty concepts in his hand (--and not only in his hand!); he launches them with benevolent contempt against "understanding," "the senses," "honor," "good living," "science"; he sees such things as beneath him, as pernicious and seductive forces, on which "the soul" soars as a pure thing-in-itself--as if humility, chastity, poverty, in a word, holiness, had not already done much more damage to life than all imaginable horrors and vices. . .

When I finished, I said, "Huh!" and looked at him wondering what he expected me to say.

"Idealism's a big problem dude. And not just in the academy. Look at war in the 20th century. I mean, if you're a weaker country and just lay down and take it when a stronger power comes along, most of these dumb ass wars would never take place. I mean, look at the French in the Second World War. They just bent over and took it in the kazoo for six years. You know, Vichy France? Paris remained intact. That was the way to do it."

"Yeah, but didn't they roundup the Jews and ship them off to concentrations camps and kill them?"

"And that wouldn't have happened if the Germans had blasted their way through?"

"Yeah but it would have given the Jews more time to escape."

"Escape to where? Nobody wanted them in those days."

"Okay, well, I don't know much about Europe." I shrugged.

"Then look at China. When the Japs came blasting through, Chiang Kai-shek wanted to just let them come into Shanghai and take what they wanted. He knew he couldn't stop them. He was right. But some of the more patriotic idealists and dreamy socialists got together and decided to make a last stand in Shanghai. The result was a lot of dead people and a lot of smashed real estate and they still lost Shanghai. An ancillary result of that was the Nanjing massacre. If they hadn't defended Shanghai, the Japs wouldn't have gone into Nanjing and started shooting civilians. The Japs took a real beating in Shanghai from snipers and so they killed every soldier they found in Nanjing, whether armed or in civilian attire."

"That's still a war crime! You can't just kill soldiers. You put 'em in a POW camp. When the war's over, you release them."

"Calm down! Calm down! It's not even your war. I hate it when foreigners become patriots of their adopted countries. Such patronizing. Such piety. The world needs to be saved from nuts like you." He rolled his eyes again and waved me down. "Stop for a minute! … Hey! There it is again. I keep smelling something organic and ripe. You farting or are you hiding food in your jacket?" He looked at me with confidence, a greedy smile forming on his lips. Daring me to be so weak and insecure as to deny him some grub. The slippery devil. It felt like being worked over by a hostess in a cathouse.

I said, "Oh yeah? Well I can't imagine anything I'd eat would be up to your uppity standards."

"Try me. C'mon. You can do it." He extended his left hand in front of me to distract me from his other hand which snatched my sourdough buns out from my jacket pocket.

"Son of a bitch! Give those back."

"Take a Prozac will ya! I'll pay my share, don't worry about it. You need to cut some weight anyway. What about drinks? What are we sucking back today?"

"You wish."

"I got to sing for my supper? Can do. Okay. As to your war-crime, of course it's a crime against humanity. But so are ultraviolet rays. So what do you suggest should be done? Should those dirt-bags at the United Nations pass a binding resolution condemning the sun and impose sanctions? You can spout all the rhetoric you want. But what difference will it make? What matters is what you're going to do about it. And ethics? That's a bit rich during wartime, don't you think? It's fine and dandy during peacetime to talk about the ethics of the battlefield or elsewhere. But the reality is that people do what they do when you give them weapons and hate. Or should I say, weapons and idealism, which is what the Axis powers were really about. Not to mention al Qaeda. War on Terror? It ought to be called War on Idealism."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

And then we were both cut off by an enourmous roar from the crowd.

"What happened?" I looked on to the soccer pitch and saw a goalkeeper pulling the ball out of the corner of his net. The Hong Kong quislings had scored against the local patriots. But the roar only subsided into a cacophony of howls, whistles, and boos. It kept going and a crazy disjointed wave began circling the stadium. It went around once, and then came back around in our direction again. Pizza face stood up and grabbed me by the collar, pulling me up to my feet.

"Oy!" I protested.

Then he looked at me very seriously and with the tone of warning said, "Charlie! Stand the fuck up or we're going to get thrown out of the bleachers by some group of maniacs."

The wave passed through us and we sat down again. I asked, "Hey, so what's your name anyway?"

"Bartholomew Matthew Spencer. When I was a kid, people called me Bart. As you can imagine that's not such a cool nickname anymore. Call me Matt or Matthew, as you like. Anyway, here," and he shoved my steamed buns back at me quickly. "Put this food back in your pockets, dude. Hide it."

"Huh?" But I did as I was told and began to have an inkling why. For out of the corner of my eye I saw a first pair of gray fluttering things go by. I thought they were pigeons scoping for French fries or other bleacher foodstuffs at first, but when I focused I realized it was actually two fluttering plastic bags with stuff inside. I followed their trajectory as they plummeted to the bottom of the stands to their appointed target: a gaggle of green-suited police. Some were still anxiously putting on their helmets; the chief upfront was yammering orders sharply to get his men to place their riot shields above them. A genuine phalanx.

Following the initiative shown by the first scofflaws, the rest of the crowd erupted. It was like half a food fight, the sort I'd witnessed in high school cafeterias. Everything became fair game as a weapon: bags of noodles, soup, buns, bean milk, chopsticks, and cartons, whatever. This raid, this artillery barrage of breakfasts and lunches launched by the great proletariat, came flying down the bleachers at the police below. The crowd shrieked and howled, people were really excited. It was Tiananmen in 1989 all over again. Like a positive version of the Cultural Revolution, a free-for-all by the downtrodden to stand authority on its ear.

All around us were jabbering men who'd been hitting the sauce, now smiling and gesticulating, pumped with liquid courage and having a great time getting revenge on the anonymous baddies who were the police. With excuse of losing a goal to the quislings, everyone could obliquely express their dissatisfaction with the political status quo. Each profited from the anonymity of being just another black-top in the crowd. Power to the people!

But that wasn't all there was to this. "So, have you seen this kind of thing before?" Knowing that, by virtue of his reaction, he must have.

"Yeah, of course. It's sort of de rigueur at games nowadays. The home team gets scored on and the protest food starts flying. I don't know. What do you expect from these monkeys?"

"Monkeys?" I was shocked. "Isn't that racist?"

"Racist? What do you mean? I don't believe in the concept of race. Sure, they're different colors of skin, but I don't see any difference in terms of intelligence. I thought you're Canadian? Surely you of all people, growing up in a country that prides itself on multiculturalism, should know that racism is bullshit."

"Yeah, but..."

"So if I call a white dude a monkey, would that NOT be racism? Is that it?" He frowned and looked away into the flying food, irritated. Just in time to see a plastic sports-drink bottle that was coming right for my noggin and snag it gracefully with one hand out of the chilly air.

"Jeez! Great catch. Thanks. That one would have hurt." And then I wondered out loud, "Do you think it was deliberately aimed at us?"

He was keeping an eye out now to rear as he marched me forward. "These mofos are spastic to beat the band." More racism, I thought.

He must have known what I was thinking because he picked up his explanation where he left off, "You know, I get the feeling that nine times out of ten, people who play the race card do so because they actually believe in congenital racial inequality. They get so worked up because they really believe there is a difference. Not me, pal. So, if we're going to be cool, ditch the race card. Besides, racism was never about race even to begin with. It was always about culture. Who's on top and who's below simply depends on the strength of the economy of that culture. That's pretty much what defines where you on are the totem pole, who you are in the food chain: doing the eating or being eaten."

"Yeah, I guess... I don't know. I mean..."

"We can talk about this shit later. C'mon."

Whether I agreed with him or not, I loved listening to someone else try to make sense out of the world. What a nutty perspective he had. And all those historical references. Attending a local university, I figured I could just fake my knowledge of Western history. The profs wouldn't know too much, I figured. And they'd be insecure about what they did know because they couldn't freely access information in the West.

"Charlie, haul that fat ass of yours. We've got to keep moving." I had sat down to listen but Matt pulled me to my feet again and we started to edge our way along the bleachers, "Look around you. We're still in the middle of the crowd that's tossing the food. If the cops change their mind and get feisty, they're gonna start shooting in our direction. If we're luck it's gas. If we're not, it's bullets. This country had 57,000 recorded mass protests last year. I don't feel like being confused for no string-pulling, rabble-rousing monkey and taking a bullet. I'm not going to be a fucking martyr for a cause that I don't believe in."

People heard us speaking English and turned to stare. Even people who didn't speak a lick of English recognized Matt's four-letter adjectives and his pejorative tone of voice. Some folks were friendly, others indifferent, some hostile, perhaps suspecting we were snoops or even provocateurs. A time like this made folks receptive to imaginative conspiracy scenarios.

A few wrong words and inappropriate body language and we might get lynched. The cops couldn't protect us now and neither could anyone else. We'd be like those poor Japanese tourists in Guatemala who were pulled out of a tour bus and strung up in a mountain village a couple of years ago. Some ambitious local sorcerer convinced people that Jap bodies were inhabited by evil spirits. Civilization is a thin veneer on society, etc... Truer words never spoken, baby.

I heard a squawk below, and, peering between the standing spectators, I was able to see a middle-aged female food vendor engaged in a tug-of-war with three men. They were taking her mantou buns and throwing them at the police. The crowd around her was cheering. Matthew said, "There you go. That's the real heart of this protest. Middle-aged adults who never had the chance to engage in vandalism as kids, are now getting their kicks and loving it."

"You mean, they never got it out of the system when they were younger?"

"That's the key to Cultural Revolution, if you ask me. Mao just pushed the button, but the machinery was already there, ready-made, primed and ready to go."

"Okay, but don't you think that there's something noble about this protest? I mean, it's good to see the police get their asses kicked sometimes, don't you think? They're famous for being brutal."

"That may be, but they're just schleppes doing their job. They got families and kids to feed, like everyone else. They take orders most of the time, not give them. Besides, if you don't protect private property, you ain't got nothing in this world. The basis of civilization is private property. It must be protected. Bad cops notwithstanding."

Not knowing what to say, not having any ideas on the subject, I tried to be clever and said, "But what about freedom of speech? That's surely the most important thing in our culture."

"Nope. Protecting private property comes first. Only with private property do you have free speech. Without property, you don't have rights. Rights have to be earned, fought for, negotiated. No one has an intrinsic right to rights. You need to read Thucydides."

I knew who this was but didn't dare ask which part of his book I was supposed to read. Interpreting my silence as ignorance, he turned and shouted, "The Melian Debate."

But he wasn't angry now. Perhaps having someone to talk to was softening his rancor at a world that surely ignored him most of the time.

He kept yanking on my arm, pulling me through the bleachers until we got several rows over where the population was thinner. Well and not so well-dressed couples had come over here to canoodle. They were in various stages of amorous adventure and needed greater space to stretch their legs to facilitate getting the petting action going. There was a layer of voyeurs in the bleachers immediately above; unlucky at love, they gaped. One took notes. Several of the citizenry were playing pocket pool. One gentleman, perhaps deranged, was harmlessly pulling on his pecker. It was just another Saturday afternoon in the boondocks.

As to Matt and me, we were just happy to have immediate access to an exit. An emergency escape.

We sat down. He ignored the continuing commotion and continued, "Greed is the best thing we human beings have going for us. It's steady, reliable, predictable. With private property and greed, the Greeks and Romans established the fabulous inequalities of wealth which were needed to fund their great civilizations. When Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire in 310 AD, it was all downhill till civilization finally bottomed out at the level playing field and imploded like paper mache in the rain. Once greed became verboten, the only thing left was fairness and equality. And with that, Christian mobs burned every library on the theory that books were unfair to the illiterate, killed every smarty on the theory that smart people were unfair to the dumb, and closed the public baths on the theory that being clean was unfair to the great unwashed."

Did he really believe that? He nodded to me, saying, "And that led directly to the Dark Ages, to Napoleon, the USSR, South African apartheid, Hitler and the Nazis, Pol Pot, North Korea, and Communist China. Fairness has an impressive history of death-dealing and destruction. As does pity. But that's another story for another time."


"Yeah." Having got this off his chest, he chilled out, got smiley and became aware of his appetite. "Hey, how about that food in your pockets? I've earned it haven't I? Thinking makes me hungry. Don't be so cheap."

That seemed to be his cornerstone strategy: making you feel petty and allowing you back into his good graces if you did him a good turn. The good turn he dictated to you, that is.

Greed. Quid pro quo. This really seemed to be his operating philosophy. He wasn't kidding.

But just as I was rifling my pockets, another roar went up. But it was quickly followed by silence. A thin reedy voice wavered across our part of the stadium. I couldn't make out what it was saying. He looked like a farmer, judging by the billowing crazy hair, the sandals, the Mao jacket and fluffy pants. It was only in the hinterlands, the really conservative areas, where people didn't really believe that Mao was finally gone, that his spirit or scion wouldn't suddenly reappear to start a whole new decade of dunce caps, airplanes, Gulags, and firing squads, that people still wore this stuff.

Farmers had become a cause celebre and they were always in the news. They were still suffering, the economy not having picked up in the remote areas (as opposed to the areas close to the cities, where some farmers were doing gangbusters). Transportation links hadn't been set up. In lieu of half an hour by superhighway, peasants might need four to eight hours of rural byway to travel the same distance. I suspected Matt would have said something along the lines of rural greed hadn't met up with city greed, shaken hands and got down to some mutually advantageous profiteering.

That was his shtick. He was consistently dramatic, trying to get your attention and push your buttons. He laid a trap and if you fell into it, weakened and vulnerable, he defied you to cross swords with him and pushed the point home when he could.

I recognized this in him like one drunk spotting another in a room. His shtick was my shtick. My choice of the word 'shtick' was a giveaway in itself. It was false, insincere, a trying-too-hard. It was an attempt to weaken Matt's strength through spin. It was my flair, my extravagant attempt to make up for my weakness, real or perceived. But this admission only strengthened me. Having opened the septic wound, it was now ready for cleaning. Would Matt do the same?

Seeing the farmer up at the top of the bleachers, next to the edge of the stadium, making a speech, was ominous. Everyone knew what this portended. A last stand.

I heard marching coming up from below and peered around the lip of the exit to see the phalanx of police hotfooting up the bleachers. But the farmer was prepared; they usually are. He pulled out a bottle, gasoline no doubt, and poured it on himself. Everyone was quiet. Just the sound of marching and the police chief exhorting his men, like a sports team coach, to seize the farmer.

For the rest of us, the crowd included, it was like witnessing a saint. A martyr. So quiet. Steadfast. So this was what it looked like. What it felt like.

He said nothing, then a last shouted burst of "China! Ten thousand years! Ten thousand years! Ten thousand years and no justice for the people of China." And then he pulled out a huge lighter. I couldn't see it clearly, but it must have been one of those Chairman Mao blowtorch models which plays "The Sun Sets in the West over China." He set his jacket alight, the wind in the upper bleachers rapidly transforming him into a human torch. A couple of women screamed, but the mood was respect. Quiet respect and the steadily approaching trump-trump-trump of police quickstepping up the bleachers.

It sounds morbid, but I wanted to watch so badly. I was transfixed. Gaping. Almost insensate. Yet tears were streaming down my face. It was 1989 all over again.

Matt yanked me harshly, and shouted, "Let's get the fuck out of here! I mean now goddamit!"

Unfinished - Copyright Biff Cappuccino

worker douses himself with gasoline, followed by spontaneous eruption of falungong people.

Get hauled off to jail.

Don't forget to have him discuss Philippine landslides, China and Wal-Mart. He pulls apart that book by Jan Wong (Iris Chang comes later. You post an essay which is just your blog rant),

Ask Frankie (change from 'Frank' to 'Frankie') to get you out by bringing ID. He gets beat up by cops who think he's black. He's actually a very dark Tamil Sri Lankan.

Copyright Biff Cappuccino

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