Tourism Hangzhou Strips
3. Grand Szigony As much as I have believed it to be true, I’m still struck by a light sensation of awe when I realize that I am finally what I am: that guy in bar who sits at the bar table alone, chainsmokes, drinks his beer in a bitterly meticulous fashion and scribbles on […]
3. Grand Szigony
As much as I have believed it to be true, I’m still struck by a light sensation of awe when I realize that I am finally what I am: that guy in bar who sits at the bar table alone, chainsmokes, drinks his beer in a bitterly meticulous fashion and scribbles on a napkin, who knows what. In fact, he fancies the idea of slowly turning black and white between two cuts of a film noir from the forties (sad jazz, mustache, the blackest suit jacket in existence), still has no idea what to put on that napkin, just like the people who are not paying attention to him. He (I) envision(s) a stain of lipstick on the napkin, burning the 70mm film in stunning dark grey. He imagines the word “IMAGINE” in the handwriting of his grandfather. He imagines not showing the audience what is on the napkin. Just let that one close-up show his face, as he folds it with his trembling, paper-like fingers and put it in the pocket of his coat-jacket, right above his heart.
He imagines leaving the napkin alone, and writing what matters simply on his face: that the reality is now not the hipster-bearded pretty boy playing his guitar under the TV in the corner, but Chet Baker crying on vinyl, that the lady sitting on the table behind him stops screaming, that the bartender won’t let him pay with credit card. He looks up to the Formula 1 timetable to make that disappear too. It doesn’t fit the scene and he hates car racing anyways. He begins to erase it line by line. There goes the British Grand Prix, The Paris Grand Prix, the one in Abu Dhabi.
He arrives at the last line of the first column and hesitates. Should the Budapest Grand Prix go? He wouldn’t mind but they spelled it out in Hungarian for some reason, and he tries, but can’t believe, here he is, one corner of the world, here he is hiding behind the bar table, here he is hiding in imaginary jazz, under imaginary mustaches, and yet, he is found, he just needed to look up. BUDAPEST MAGYAR NAGYDÍJ. Three words in his mother tongue have been hanging above him the entire time.
The last time he thought about Budapest was half an hour ago, on his way to the bar. He was crossing a dark alleyway that led to the Red Lake and he grew quite uncomfortable. He knew that in no way would he emerge from such a small, lightless street unharmed if he was in Budapest, especially in District 8, where stabbing and rape are commonplace even on larger streets. He remembers an imaginary sport one of his friends came up with: it’s called Szigony Run. You go to District 8, at one end of the infamous Szigony street, you take down all your clothes, you take a twenty-thousand forint bill on your forehead, then run all along the street while shouting: POKE HERE, POKE HERE. If you survive, you can keep the money.
I shift back to the present. I glance back on the F1 board and try to reconcile with the Hungarian words, with the structure of the expression with the accents. I make myself, I try, I force myself to picture the Budapest Grand Prix, this time with village idiots like us galloping naked with high currency above our eyes. Or better, race cars WHROOOMing through Szigony streets, chased by a hundred gypsies just as fast, knives in their hands. POKE HERE.
The colors shift back to the bar. The dirty hipster in the corner stopped playing, the woman stopped screaming, I hope she choked on something. I finish my beer and call the fuwuyuan, I want to pay and leave, go back to that alleyway again. The waiter comes, I tell him I want to pay with card. He says I can. I’m glad. I’m home.
2. Green things
This morning I saw a doggo with pink ears and ate a rather overpriced eel that had found its way onto my plate for reasons I spent an entire hour figuring out. I sat at my table with eyes half-opened, hair messed up, left hand in pocket, right in fork, chopsticks they did not give me. I had decided to take an easy hike up on the hills that rose right next to the hostel where I resided. I had the idea of greenness I hoped to encounter in my head, but when I looked down the only thing I saw was red, the sauce on the eel was red, I imagined what red and and green looked like if they were put next to each other.
At the hostel it was the red I saw better: red light more apparent than its green counterpart, roses with their blooms redder than their stems green, the pattern on my cousin’s Christmas socks, the commerciality of Father Christmas rosies then the faded green of Christ crucified on a Christmas tree. It is dangerous to mix your celebrations up: Christ will end up on a Christmas tree, life will replace death and vice versa, I go out and take my hike and the forest around me will lose its color, but the piles of bricks scattered around will be glowing red light nuclear waste. The eel will look rotten, the fish, the fish is Christ, the circle is closed backwards and we won’t even notice the snake that bites its own tail because the snake will not be green and rot along with the ground where at the corners of Buddhist temples lay piles of bricks, colorless, faint and slightly glowing.
I reach the top of one of the hills. The most spectacular thing about this place is that there is always a road that leads you somewhere. There is no dead end, somewhere, somewhat hidden in the scenery there is some narrow earth-road or walked-out path that leads down to the valley then up again. It’s the slowest roller-coaster ride I’ve ever taken part in.
11.06 am to Hangzhou
“The time is upon us” says the badger to the plastic bag then both of them sit in solemn silence before the screen of the window tilts, to the left. Running trees and tilted landscapes take their place and they too get chopped by the tilting of the window. The tilting of the window is the tilting of the train.
The badger. Is. A badger. Or perhaps a doggo, or perhaps a wolverine. Are there wolverines in China? Are there badgers? There are plastic bags, and the badger(?) was definitely talking to one of them, cut. Cut to Wes Bentley’s face before the new millennium made all the movies made in 1999 uncool. Wes Bentley now stares at a bowl of nightlock berries like it’s the end of the world. It is the end of the world for him.
The train fastens (past tense). The sign that tells the passengers the speed jumps from 278 km/h to 312 km/h. It stays there (present tense). The badgerlike beast and Wes Bentley’s muse are two minutes away, approximately. 321/60×2, ten kilometers, approximately.
The badger if it’s a badger (or any other beast) could not talk, not really. I put words into its mouth, and make them theirs, but the transition is imperfect. It’s not genuine, it knows it’s not genuine, but wants to be earnest without caring about itself, it’s a metaphor. Like that one graffito in my hometown, knowing it imperfections, making a point of them: I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH SPAC. A wall comes, a frame of a window comes, 312 kilometers come, every single hour.
I talk instead of the badger, the badger doesn’t talk. The kid sitting next to me on her mother’s lap does talk too. I tell myself the lie I usually reserve for job interviews: I speak and understand intermediate Chinese. The only thing I understand though is dao le ma, dao le me. No, not dao le. In this one aspect, kid, I’m better than you. 312 km/h, half an hour from the destination, 156 kilometres. The time is not yet upon us.
Upon us: your screams, the ghosts of badger we have not identified yet, the long black scar on your mother’s face, the soothing voice of the crew welcoming all passengers, the smell of the boiled egg that my seat’s previous owner had eaten before I took his place by proving that it was my seat. It is my seat but it is his egg, he had pleasantly left the shell on the tray before I pleasantly asked him to please take it away. It was a short conversation which on my side mostly consisted of repeating the phrase “la ji”. He took it away and left the seat, empty, and the smell, there. This time – that is upon us – I have to endure it.
Or I don’t. I can can go to the bathroom, take a walk, think. That’s about it for the purposes, with regards to the causes I just really need to pee. I walk down the aisle and step by step I feel my bladder filling up with sour light-yellow liquid with 312 km/h, when I reach the bathroom door, I don’t care about smells nor badgers anymore, I just want to get in, get done and get over with it. I open the door and I face a back, someone didn’t feel they needed to close the door behind them, your secondary fault is that you almost showed me my dick, your primary fault is giving me false hope.
The bathroom finally empties out, and I swarm in, empty myself never looking away from the mirror. My beard looks back at me. I laugh.
I wash my hands and as the dirty water pours out of the sink so do my words starting pouring out, free, unabashed, Hungarian, cleansing my tongue as the water cleanses (not) my hands.
“Oh my God what a pee this was, I loved that pee what a magnificent pee” I translate to myself “I’m actually so proud of this pee because it was just a so well-done pee that I cannot even express it, it’s already Friday so I can actually call this the pee of the week, actually, I think this pee was in line to win the Pee of the Month title, yeah, definitely, I bet this pee is gonna be among at least the top 10 pees of the month, what’s more, I’m almost sure it’s in the top 5, I’m so insanely proud of this pee because in a certain sense this pee made me a better person and yes I am telling this in Hungarian because this pee just felt like I need to say what I want to say and that’s really why I love this pee so much this pee felt so good, yes, oh my god it did.”
I laugh into the mirror and see my teeth have turned slightly less yellow after a week of vaping. At Hongqiao Station I spilled the rest of my vape juice in my bag. It means that my bag smells really good now, but also that I will need to buy a pack of cigarettes when I arrive at Hangzhou, which means that when I laugh at the mirror on my train ride back, my teeth are going to be slightly more yellow. Or perhaps I will not want to laugh at all, perhaps I won’t want to see my teeth.
I proceed to leave the bathroom. The door opens then it stops opening before it should, it moves with 0.0 km/h, it’s stuck, it’s done now, the time is upon us.
I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH SPAC