Nestled three doors down from my new apartment is the Hot Dog Bar Store (we call it hot dog bar shop for short, though yes, we know it’s inaccurate). Part Western-grocery store selling expired chocolate chips and vanilla soymilk, part actual hot dog shop, vending what is likely to be rat meat for shamefully low prices, and part neighborhood bar, with dimly lit couches, an array of Western thrillers, and a TV playing Independence Day on repeat, it’s become one of my favorite places to spend evenings in on my street. A large component of the ‘joy’ of living in this new neighborhood has been experiencing the ‘real’ China. Now what exactly does that entail?
- Stores that sell 5 kuai slippers with bright red bows.
- Two restaurants dedicated entirely to selling 粥 (Rice porridge) that never quite get my order right (I distinctly remember saying Shrimp & Corn last time, only to be given something that had olives & spinach, but it was still pretty amazing)
- Locksmiths that can make two copies of my house keys for less than a dollar, for the next time I get locked in.
- No less than three fruit stalls selling tiny oranges that you can eat whole.
- Counting the blocks until I see a fellow white person each morning (it ranges from 1 to 5)
But back to HDBS. Tonight, I huddled in the warmth of its second floor, picking up up the guitar for the first time in over six years, as I struggled to remember the chords I once knew, resolving existential crises with T over moderately-priced Czech beers (is there any other kind?) and soft bluegrass.
The past few weeks, my apartment, though nice as it has been, has been far too quiet. Each night as I get home and make dinner (for now, consisting entirely of granola, grains, and things fried in coconut oil), I throw on a podcast or some acoustic guitar music in the background, in an effort to stave off the deafening silence. Because I don’t have a TV (a fact that I really like), the lack of white noise in my apartment has been eerie. And so, as I continue singing along (quite off-key) to bands like Wild Child on my laptop, I think back to how nice it would be to actually pick up the guitar myself. I had given up on it years ago, prompted by my piano teacher’s remarks on callouses ruining my hands for piano, but now that I’m in Shanghai and I’ve let go of my limitations (and terrifying piano teachers with razor-sharp manicured nails), why not?
Here is the part where I had planned to write something about the Russian Avos, but I think I am a little too tired. Existential crises can wait for another day.