Maybe Crazy

        Wow. Like many things, I'm a bit foggy on the details. I remember that I was having a dream, but I have no idea what it was about. But, I'm pretty sure that I screamed something along the lines of "well, hello Jim!" loud enough in the middle of the night to wake myself up, think that I'd probably woke several other people int he room, and decide that I should lay there and fall back asleep to avoid embarrassment. I guess my mind goes a little wacky after finally getting comfortable, warm sleep...
        A sweet day through and through. I even biked like a Beijinger, renting an old clunker from the hostel. I held my own, although I did have to stop daydreaming and start pedaling after some 60+-year-old passed me.
        Finally calling my little lady (am I becoming a Texan?) and family brightened the day. I consider myself pretty damn independent, but everybody likes saying hi to those they love. Even if overexposure to some does start to drive one a bit crazy:)
        The sights I see! Tiananmen Square is cooler than you'd think a large block of concrete could possibly be, complete with the large and somewhat goofy-looking picture of Chairman Mao watching it all from the gate. I don't get to see the man himself: the mausoleum's only open a few days a week. But, I do get a guard to ask to see my camera after he suspects, correctly, that I'd taken a picture of him. Thanks, Kodak: the playback mode defaults to 3 generic photos; you have to press an extra, nonobvious button to actually review pictures you've taken. My shittily-snapped photos are saved:)
        The area officially called the Former Palace colloquially the Forbidden City and formerly the Imperial Palace is, well, regal. This is by no means a low-maintenance operation: everything is recently repainted, closed for repair, or looking none too fresh with the years. I like the bright blue and green shades used in much of the elaborate painting and plan to convince Amanda we should use them for the exterior of our house. I am definitely not above telling prospective buyers that we copied the colors from Beijing's Imperial Palace:)
        Ci Xi seems like she was one interesting lady. From what I can gather, she basically rose from peasant to emperor's concubine to empress and was none too eager to let her son or anybody else rule. Sounds like a combination of beauty, brains, and blatant ambition that everybody loved to hate:)
        Silk Alley was hilarious. The felt globes I bought on the side of the road this morning with "The North Face" and "Gore-Tex" don't hold a counterfeit flashlight to what I found here. My favorite was the "Sony Walkman" shaped like an ipod nano. In the world of real, licensed products, this is not a piece of merchandise that even exists. Someone in some counterfeit factory, probably in China, dreamed up this combination of branding from one company with design of another. And I heard some European guys snag some 2-gigabyte versions for 30 euros each (~$50 I think, stupid dollar and its downward spiral). Of course the quality is absolute shit, but a neat concept anyways...
        I had a blast bargaining for faux Rolexes. It's at least half an hour of heated back-and-forth with this young lady. Of course, she started by quoting me a ridiculously high price, I think it was 650 yuan (~$95), and I countered at the opposite end of the spectrum. She won in that I ended up deciding these were ideal gifts for 6 people instead of the one I'd originally planned. I won in that I got a price I was happy with: 420 yuan total for 6 watches (~$10 each). But, to her credit, I only got away with knocking off those last few dozen yuan because an old lady standing next to her who I hadn't even known was party to the negotiation intervened by holding out her hand for my money to seal the deal.
        I ended the night eating some seafood and drinking more than some beer. A step outside makes me decide that it's too damn cold to bike to the train station and buy my ticket for tomorrow night, so I drink some more beer while trying to fuck with the Great Firewall to a very limited degree of success (I think was the address of a potentially useful, not blocked site) and then tuck myself in to a nice toasty bed that isn't the floor of a train. Hopefully, I won't have another wacky outburst tonight!

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