Mason Zhang and I in the alley last night with the laobaixing salt-of-the-earth, including the cook who proudly performed his version of ‘ABCDEFG’ for me last week. His friend—a taxi driver in his fifties, though by appearance I’d have guessed at least seventy, by his sunken face with a bulge under the right side of his lip—didn’t smile when he said he was pleased, nor did he do so when he sang. He took the old revolution songs seriously and lifted his left leg to motion a guitar while his foot tapped the beat. “Chairman Mao is like the golden sun we all face on this road to happiness.” He sang with the feeling of a true poet, though he wanted me to know he didn’t write the lyrics. Helps out the police—cause if he doesn’t word will get around fast that he can’t be trusted—and they want him to help train the traffic police. Well, we entertained his soliloquy and he was straitlaced happy, accommodating our input. He doesn’t usually drink beer but on this special occasion he’ll have at it, after a bottle of baijiu rice spirits. He and his twenty-one year old daughter were both born in the year of the horse, so they have similar temperaments, but he doesn’t understand her or her friends. He worries, and she has often cried listening to her father’s repetitive, outdated wisdom.
Bless them, the generations.
© 2011, Amaya Engleking