I’m somewhat confident that you, dear reader, with a computer and access to the internet, are familiar with camera videos recorded live from non-intrusive attached devices. “GoPro” might ring a bell. Unprofessionally but quite effectively, our ‘smart’ phones are often used to video capture experiences and information. Here’s the point, the camera is usually steady until the action starts or something unexpected happens…the shark attacks, the skier falls, the skydiver gets tangled, the log falls off the approaching truck, the gunfire starts, the stripper falls off the pole into the ‘camera’s’ lap…The camera, still recording, captures the chaos randomly. It doesn’t close its eyes. It doesn’t say a prayer. It doesn’t hope that it doesn’t break. (That’s all of the stuff that we are doing behind the camera.) Every time I stepped out from the hotel in Shanghai, it felt like I was kayaking in class IV rapids…or slaloming on a Black Diamond trail…there was a full sensory onslaught that required concentration. This isn’t to be confused with fear. No, this is a relaxed attentiveness. Not knowing where anything was meant that I paid attention to everything. Not knowing what might be interesting meant that I found almost everything interesting. I had a beginner’s eye. So my blogs concerning Shanghai are the edited and consolidated single camera’s view when it was steady. I know this. I know that nothing happened on this trip that knocked me on my ass, literally or figuratively. For that I am grateful but not naïve.
There were alleyways everywhere, some wide enough to ride through, most cluttered enough that you needed to walk. I didn’t do either. I only peered momentarily down each one and then stuck to the main ways. In a city as densely populated as Shanghai, people made a home wherever they could. There was a grittiness to Shanghai that contrasted sharply with its glitziness. No surprise here. But it shouldn’t be left unmentioned.
I noted in a previous blog that my wife and I had walked the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall. What I’d forgotten to mention was the complete absence of street performers… musicians, magicians, gymnasts or statuesque posers that I’d come to expect in large city open shopping areas. Dublin, London, Lisbon, New Orleans, New York…to list but a few…all had a thriving street art community. I speculated to myself that these artists had all followed the birds to somewhere.
We’ve been back in the States for twelve days today. I’ve had dreams and closed eyed daytime memory flashes of Shanghai everyday. Nothing unsettling or ominous. They say that those who have gone into orbit around our tiny planet come back changed in ways that defy description and, yet, remain profound. In a very real sense, I feel that way now.