Monday, July 1, 2013

Things that Don't Fit #10: A Little More Pink

Little Pink is my bicycle, so named by my former studio assistant, Jam (see drawer 2.1) , the "little" being xiao 小, the sweet little adjective that turns dog into puppy (xiao gou), cat into kitten (xiao mao), friend into children (xiao pengyou) & endears your friends & colleagues by turning them into Xiao Xu & Xiao Mei.

A.K.A, by He-Whom-I'm-Trailing, as Mighty Pink, perhaps in honor of the courage and valour with which Little Pink takes on the daily snarl of Shanghai traffic.

Unbeknownst to us when we arrived in Shanghai, the nature of work life here was going thru a sea change. The old "iron rice bowl" days when your "work unit" or danwei 单位 paternalistically provided for most of your life needs, from housing to cheap meals to health care, and also made sure that you toed the Party line while producing only one child, were quietly fading away. But even so, we got a taste of the danwei's largesse at Spring Festival/Chinese New Year time, when H-W-I-T's work unit, the University, bestowed gifts on all its employees/workers. Over the years, there have been sacks of organic rice; bottles of olive oil of "meditareanean origin"; willow baskets filled with combinations of western sweets and eastern savories; once, a collection of tins containing 8 varieties of native mushrooms, and always, lots of vacuum packed pickled & otherwise preserved foods that we had no idea about. 

For our second Spring Festival, the University offered the pick of two from among a number of goods, including MP3 player (hey, this was 2006...) printer, bicycle, electric soy milk maker and some few other things way off my radar. After a year of brain-rattling taxis & bronchitis-enducing subway rides - I must have had no resistance whatsoever to local flora & fauna - never mind that I, in my terror over city driving styles, was still crossing streets using old ladies as human shields, I was ready for my own wheels. 

And, so lo & behold, with some help from the danwei (the Program's Chinese co-director had to obtain the license & plate as those were forbidden to foreigners...) & an excruciating long bike ride for Santa, (the revival from which required two very stiff shots of whiskey straight up immediately on arriving home at 2 in the afternoon on a Sunday...) it came to pass: on Xmas morning, under the droopy little potted pine that was our first SH Xmas tree, there was Little Pink.

That first year of bicycling was a glory. I truly loved it; it was like being one in a school of fish, all pedaling at the same relaxed pace, gliding in the relative silence of the city streets, a moving mass of stillness. As soon as a year or two later, I found myself puzzled that I never had that school of fish feeling anymore. Maybe I'd gotten jaded? But no, it finally dawned on me, that with 9 new metro lines & millions of new cars hitting the road, bike culture in SH had nearly disappeared.

Something like 1000 bicycles get stolen a day in SH. And there's a market where you can go buy them back. I lock mine with three different locking systems, two of which are actually built into the bike frame. Every time I walk away from Little Pink, I'm convinced that this is it, surely, this I'll come out & Little PINK will be gone. So every time, when I come out & LiTTLe PiNK Is STILL THERE it's like Xmas morning all over again.

(Of course, this post just about guarantees that any day now...)

I'll leave off but just this last little bit of recently spotted pink string. Control over the xiaomao's comings & goings? Protection against demons (who, notoriously, cannot negotiate zig-zag lines)? Or just a little zipline of beauty...

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