New Orleans

bush vacation

I appologize for any copyright infringement, but I found this photo sadly amusing. I have decided Mr. Bush is an idiot and believe the United States is less safe to today as a result of his foreign policy and foreign policy failures. After realizing compassionate conservatism was a farce and the size of federal government spending was at historical highs, I voted for a democratic presidential candidate for the first time ever in 2004.

I was in the UK following the hurricane and during the flooding. The international press made us look completely disfunctional and rightly questioned how, after spending billions of dollars to protect American citizens, a hurricane we knew was coming for > 6 days caused such suffering. The BBC was also interested to know why everyone wading through the water was black.

This is a bit dated but still funny, too.

Beijing’s Turkey Surprise

China is full of surprises. Most of them are painful and come at inconvenient times. But today is bliss. I have secured a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 American bourbon whiskey, which I believe to be genuine. I have lived in China for 15 months and, despite exhaustive searches, today is the first day I have ever seen a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 for sale in mainland China. I had a drink (two, actually) to celebrate.

turkeyFor those of you that know me, you understand my euphoria. I love American bourbon. I like beer. There is a certain relaxing quality in a smoky scotch or a good tequila (bad scotch and bad tequila are the reverse of relaxing). Top quality gin is passable in a pinch. But I love bourbon. I am probably a bourbon snob – I haven’t been able to drink Jim Beam for > 10 years, Jack Daniels only in a pinch and usually on a plane. My choices: Wild Turkey 101 (80 proof is crap – not drinkable), Bookers, and Pappy Van Winkle Family reserve at Christmas (worship the wife). I make room for Old Grand Dad at Caribbean bars with no Wild Turkey, and Ancient (Ancient) Age in Ohio with my Grandmother-In-Law – I love all women who drink bourbon, regardless of age.

The Duty Free areas in Seoul and Hong Kong both sell the turkey spirit. This weekend I discovered that Edinburgh and Frankfurt airports do not sell Wild Turkey 101. Civilized cities? I think not.

My Chinese friends – or more precisely my friends that live in China – will attest to my two greatest complaints about Communist China – no American bourbon and no American football. China will not be a threat to American economic dominance until I can sit at home and watch the Chicago Bears live on television while drinking good American bourbon – albeit at 1 AM on a Monday morning.

The bourbon, surprisingly, was found at this small shop across the street from my apartment. The street is an 8 lane highway, so it is a 15 minute walk across the pedestrian overpass. My eyes trained for Wild Turkey 101, I caught a glimpse of a familiar bottle from the street out of the corner of my eye, 25 feet away. The shop was very Chinese – mostly cigarettes with 4 men smoking in front. The prize was on an upper shelf – I had to stand on my tip-toes to grab it, so I am certain none of the staff could reach the bottle and suggestive that no Chinese buy Wild Turkey from this shop. I looked twice, grabbed a bottle securely and looked again. Bingo!

There were actually two (visible) bottles in the store. I considered nabbing both and the more I consider it the more I think that would have been the appropriate course of action. The price was fair – US$20 for a US fifth (700 ml for the metrically inclined). That equates to 160 RMB – including the Coke I paid yi bei lio shi san kuai. I had to ask three times to understand 163 – her lio didn’t sound like lio, so a co-worker had to state it more explicitly.

Durchi cz SAAD dressing

I am exploring my new neighborhood in China and ventured to Jenny Lou’s. This is a small chain of small grocery stores that cater to Westerners – lots of foreign food – canned goods, bottled goods, boxed goods, frozen goods. I found a renewable source of Cheez-Its and another China first – Strawberry Pop Tarts with icing (only the non-icing version was available in Shanghai – what’s the point, really). A branch of a popular Italian / Pizza chain is next door – who knew? Jenny’s failed me in the bourbon quest though I looked through the liquor department just in case. I raided the nearby cigarette shop following this episode.

Within 30 seconds of entering Jenny Lou’s for the first time, I was accosted by a staff member brandishing a torn piece of paper.

She said to me ‘blablablablablabla.’ I said to her: ‘Shenme’ (what)? She shoved the paper in my face and said ‘blablablablablabla.’ I said to her: ‘Shenme’ (what)? She grabed my hand and dragged me to aisle 5 and confronted me with 2 other Chinese women who immediately asked me ‘blablablablablabla?’ I said to them: ‘Shenme’ (what)?

As the only westerner in the store at the moment, I was the chosen one.

At that point the conversation broke down to grunts and pointing. Apparently they needed help finding ‘saad dressing’ of the type ‘durchi cz’. I initially interpreted as salad dressing of the brand durchi cz – there are many European brands in China, so it seemed plausible.

Alas, I could not find durchi cz saad dressing.

Not to be deterred, one of the women pulled out her mobile phone, started dialing, and said to me ‘blablablablablabla.’ I interpreted as ‘you can’t speak Chinese so I am calling my boss.’

I asked her ‘ni shi ayi, ma (are you the maid)? She said ‘dui’ (yes). Progress.

Once connected, I was passed the phone. I was speaking to another Chinese woman, but this time in English. Her boss had asked her to secure Blue Cheese Salad Dressing. Durchi cz is a type of cheese, not a brand.

That was understandable, so I hung up.

Bad decision.

There was no blue cheese salad dressing but I could not remember the Chinese words for blue, for cheese, or for salad, and I am confident I never knew the word for dressing. After a heated exchange of ‘mei you …..’ ‘blablablablablabla’ ‘wo bu zhe dao’ ‘blablablablablabla.’

I walked from the dressing aisle to the cheese aisle in hope of a break through. There seemed to be immediate progress – there were 3 types of blue cheese, immediately identified by the three Chinese women.

Loud discussion ensued.

My skepticism kicked in when the ayi attempted to purchase what appeared to be a lifetime supply of Danish blue cheese. Unable to communicate that this was only one ingredient of the requested durchi cz saad dressing, I broke into grunts and in Chinese shouted ‘1st this and 2nd this.’

Silence. Followed by more shouting and a rush back to the saad dressing aisle.

At that point I was searching for an exit strategy. Optimistic there was at least minimal comprehension, I picked up what I hope was a creamy vegetable dressing and suggested assertively in Chinese ‘this and that’ while pointing to the enormous hunk of cheese. I then said excuse me and rushed for the Pop Tarts.

The women thanked me profusely.

I hope the man eating yogurt and vegetable saad dressing with crumbled durchi cz tonight has a sense of humor.