Friday, April 1, 2016

北京麻雀 - Beijing - 3

4
A street close to CCTV
Beijing
2008

He could just see – but only just – the CCTV building through the trees on this narrow street. For the moment high winds had blown away the low clouds or high fog, and he could really see Beijing as it was. He imagined that the apartments that looked down on this were very small and tight, and that was the way that the people here wanted them. It was the resting place near the tower that they lived in when they wanted to be close to getting to work with a freshly drawn white face for the communicating masses, Though from above the rooftops were a very red shade, perhaps it was just aesthetic, but you never know when something has that touch of red that says that it is propagandistic as well. Because just a few blocks away at Huijalou Nanli 9 and up, there was a different shade, a rather duller shade of beige. So it probably meant that something was indeed going on.

At times people like Lang Lang wood visit them for giving a piece on the morning news show. In other words, people who had a great deal of money – but not to much – would live there when they had to be fresh and bright for whichever moment they needed to be on the screen. There was no reason to be there otherwise, and blue suited policemen made sure that anyone who was Chinese would be kept clear of the buildings, and anyone was not Chinese had to look like they were going to one of the small apartments.

He looked at the white apartments, built at least 30 years ago. It said something that they were repaired, because it meant that once upon a time these were the apartments of people who had meaning when first the movement towards capitalism begin. He saw Maple trees in the background behind the walls that were meant to obscure. This to, was from their beginning. People do not realize that when the Accident occurred, it had only been 10 years, and many people in the government were afraid – though they did not show it. He looked up at a bud that was nowhere close to blooming, as if it was hard in a knot, act the beginning of the Old Capital from Kawabata, across the China Sea in the East Capital. In fact it made in feel as if he were before the beginning of the book as if there was a chapter unnamed, unread, but of the same lilted quality as the real book was already beginning.

Dreamed past, and in his mind's eye it was early spring – and their work to lilies that were growing towards each other. As they would every spring that the authors mind could reach back and begin again anew. But he should not talk about the early days of Japan, for that would be forbidden by his new hosts. And that would not do.
Even though once upon a time he thought he would love a Japanese girl, the way his mother had told him that she once loved a Japanese man – until his father sent him a bride from the mainland. Because in Japan, a high rate official married a Japanese woman, anything else would not do.

Away with the past, needed to look at the present, and the present with all of its details firmly etched in the present memory, so has to be etched on the memory to be recalled in an instant, because this is a moment which would be recalled clearly, even though a view minutes before was consigned flames of woe. As Salieri might have put it in the fantasia on Mozart, which was only a loose interpretation of his life on film. He thought for a moment this was not completely right, but he ignored this moment of glimmering.

The next thing that he noticed was that the buildings were new, much newer then anything there North or East of here. Much of the buildings were newer than these, so it was important that these buildings were defined as older but cleaner then any other buildings. Because, most of the buildings were just knocked down and build a new, rather than taking the time to repair to pristine state. Only buildings like the national music school had attained this stature. What this made was an eerie feeling that crossed beyond old, and in to the land of sacred. Every leaf, every flower, everything that attained blossom, was manicured and pedicure in this way. Which meant that early in the morning a small hoard of attendance would retouch everything, and then disappear into the mists; leaving behind a pristine view to whoever might attend at looking at it.

The other apropos thing that is of note, is that every single window is shut, and is of high quality; unlike many which around the city are barely acceptable. Most windows are but a single pane of glass; but these were at least two panes of glass, and solid and rigid. Again it was an expression of solidity that told someone who knew that these were the houses of rich people. There were other details that pointed the same way; each one accumulating to a pinnacle that said that not only were they rich people, they worked for the government. Everything was in order here, and that meant that it was not contractors who built things; but government workers. There is a large difference between the erections that the two did. For a normal person, they would move into a large industrial building, which was farmed out to one of the various contractors; but government people moved in to government contracted establishments, and reaped the benefits that entailed. The government contractor buildings were rich in detail and concrete in their dependability. There was no oversight of the contractors, which is why many of them collapsed after a time. But government contractors were scrutinized much more closely. Which is why ordinary people did not have a chance to rent from them. Only buildings which were foreign investment were allowed to rent some of them, after of course the government had had their fill.

It almost might be a street in Europe, but the panorama suggested otherwise. The buildings were almost garish in their nature. Because of course this was the capital, and Chinese pride had something to do with that – though they were lower than most, they were still eight or so stories tall. In another city, there would be skyscrapers, much different then in the developed world; though London would argue with that; but here in Beijing there was a kind of opulence which could only be matched by Shanghai and Hong Kong. Such as the CCTV towers behind these. And that was not an accident; the people who lived in these buildings were directly ensconced in the television business. Either as stars, or people who would direct the action.

Which is why two blue police officers were coming up to him, in an almost giddy tone, and speaking very quickly about papers. But what surprised them is that he seemed to know Chinese, and in fact had papers which allowed him room to go anywhere that he wanted, except for secret regions, which neither of them could access. The police officers checked and rechecked to be sure, because they had never seen anyone that was a Westerner with this level of clearance. In fact he had gone these papers from his girlfriend, who warned him that he should have them ready, just in case.

This, above all else, confused the police officers – they would not expect so polite and Chinese reply from someone who was obviously not Chinese. It took them at least a minute to pull them selves together – but how could they have know what obviously was a trap? Then they looked around in every direction, because it seemed obvious to the two of them that police officers would come out of the woodwork to catch them. But that was not going to happen, because he was not there to catch to wound up little police officers, nor to turn them in. and right now he would rather they go on their business – which out of the corner of his eye would be to catch a man snatching whatever he could find in the pockets of whoever he found them on. And then there was a moment of glimmering.

In Chinese, he pointed at the man across the street, who might have looked like one of the people pushing a broom, only there was not any broom attached to him: “Excuse me you might want to look at that man, he seems to be carrying a great deal of someone else's baggage. If you know what I mean.” He again pointed at the vagabond, noting his filled pockets, and hoping that the two police officers would rouse them selves – and take him to jail, or at least question him – and thus get themselves out of his face. And though the two police officers were a little dense, they managed to decipher his meaning, and raised off to arise the Chinese gentleman. It was obvious that he had purloined a good deal of the trappings that other people had worked a great time to collect. Sometimes – though not as often as people would think - the were sometimes valuable. He had a better eye for this then the people he collected from – but only just barely, has one could see from the leftovers which careened out of his pockets. Out of the blue uniform that he wore their were trinkets. It was obvious that he was a hoarder, and would go back to his lair to sort things out. But what was he doing in this rather upscale set of apartments? 

Because someone was minding them for a much larger take out then this man could manage. Which meant that there was something else going on, but nearby. That would mean that the vagabond was a distraction, and their was a deeper plot then this. And then there was a moment of glimmering.

But did he want to get involved with whatever the major plot was? It was doubtful that he did, and more doubtful that he would plant the suggestion in the police officers minds. After all, more senior police officers would be on the lookout now, for all he knew. So he decided to watch what was happening, first of all to look for whether there were more senior police officers, because they would still have their eyes on him. Because after all, him pointing out the obvious would only heighten their suspicions on him. After all, he was a foreigner, and as such, was out of place in the milieu, and only the omnipresence of the vagabond had saved him from a great deal of storytelling.

So looking long the clean white buildings and walls, along the pristine edge work and lilies that beset the Trees that were towered over by the white buildings. He thought it was almost as if it was a pile of buildings with trees between them, though he knew that there were only a few blocks like this – because all else was high rises in the distance. One only had to go Jintai West Road – just a block away from here – to the wrapped up in the great metropolitan center that was Beijing. But then he realized this would all be done over again in two decades of time, because China would want things new again.
He waited, and sure enough, a rather normal looking men – who had internal security written all over him – came up beside him.

He asked – in English, with a British accent: “How do you know that that man was picking pockets?” It was an abrupt way of starting the conversation.

“It was obvious, if you know what to look for.” The position of the two combatants was that they were both looking at the pickpocket man and his two police officers, and only touched obliquely. This meant that the internal security man had a good look at him, but he did not have a good look at the internal security man. But then he knew that there was someone higher up than the two police officers – and he did not matter what he looked like. Either he would be taken in – at which point he would observe closely the men who he was placed in front of, or he would realize that there was no connection between himself and the vagabond. Either way, what this man looked like could be gleaned at any time.

But internal security men moved to the scene, he was only a little bit more attractive than the average Chinese man, and his face told anyone who looked that he was not a native Beijinger, but instead had held posts around the world. That meant that he was accumulating time to move up to the next open slot, rather than being tied down to a city center which he would live his entire life from. He was a man on a mission, and he was not going stop as a mid-level internal security man for very long.

There was a moment of glimmering, and he realized that there were two things going on – on the one hand there was the layout in the midst of the CCTV Tower, which was exactly as it was – but he knew from experience that the people he had imagined living in those buildings on the corner of Chaoyang North road and Jintai road were not the people that dream of. 

And what could be the point of this? How could he, on one hand, see something so clearly accept for the haze caused by the 
pollution flowing in from the north west – where a quarter at least of the coal that was mined in all of China was extracted to run the power systems of the northern plain, and what is more it was the lowest grade of coal producing the most soot for each erg of energy extracted – but maybe the haze was not what he thought it was. Maybe the haze was in his mind, and he was in fact dreaming of this.

And then he collapsed back in to a dreamless state, because his mind realize he was caught in a dream, and the moments of glimmering were actually warnings of this. It was a haunted space, where the dreams were chased by a terrible nothing, a nothing that was ravenous, for every time a sparkling of an illusion begin, the nothing just it down and ate it.