This Day, Again

For the past few years I’ve been seeing the 10th anniversary of 9/11 coming, wondering what it would be like when it arrived. Now here it is – and doesn’t it feel terrible?

Anything that happened less than 10 years ago can seem recent, but when you hit a decade you have to admit that, somewhere in there, a new era has dawned. In the past, I’ve referred to 9/11 as the most significant single event to happen in my lifetime, and I still believe that. But it has been eclipsed by all of the terrible events that have come since, in its name, with it as an excuse. The declaration of an ideological war that has created more enemies in the Muslim world that the West ever had previously, the massive and ongoing loss of lives. The implosion of the American financial system, the Great Recession.

It does feel as though we’ve been hiding out over here in China as the West eviscerates itself – there has been a certain blissful distance in this, and some guilt as well. I never know how to mark the more ordinary anniversaries of 9/11, let alone the passage of 10 years. RP and I talked about that day again; where we were; what it has meant for New York and New Yorkers; what has happened since for New Yorkers, the country, each of us personally. I don’t feel a decade older.

How do you mark the day?


Despite all of this, you will be glad to hear that the bad spirit following us around seems to have departed. Thanks to all of you for your excellent suggestions on how to get rid of it! Now that it has gone, what’s left is the sense of being done with Kunming – so done. Beyond done. Let’s-get-on-a-plane-tomorrow done.

As an illustration: if you follow the Chinese human interest news, you may have read that China is becoming more culturally liberal, with such hallmarks of alternative youth culture as multi-day music festivals springing up around the country. RP and I have always been curious about what these music festivals might be like, wondering if these were the places where real Chinese youth culture and coolness could be seen – and, as luck would have it, the first such giant music festival in Kunming was held over the past couple days. Today we went to the last of it, all prepared to have a good time, and particularly prepared to see Cui Jian, the headlining act and most famous rock musician in Chinese history.

Well…Cui Jian was pretty good. The rest of it was sort of disastrous.

It was actually a great venue, a beautiful night, and a hilarious crowd for people-watching (old ladies bopping around – check. Wannabe Kunming hipsters – check. A healthy sampling of goofy Kunming foreigners attempting to dance with the cops – double check.)

But China just doesn’t know how to do this kind of thing. The music was mostly terrible (because no self-respecting Chinese band stays in Kunming for very long). The whole festival venue was submerged in corporate advertising of a kind I have never seen before: giant screens showing ads on a loop for Mercedes-Benz and Budweiser while the bands played in front of them, occasionally cutting off the bands’ sounds systems so that the ads could play with sound for a few minutes. The crowds stood there, mesmerized, watching the screens.

When Cui Jian finally came on at people cheered and hollered – he’s a big deal. It’s kind of like seeing Bruce Springsteen play, if America hadn’t produced another rock star since.

But the overwhelming feeling that came over me was that it’s time to go. Kunming and I are done with each other. I’m like that random guy still hanging out on the college campus a couple years after graduation – not cool.

Fortunately, my ticket is purchased – I’m on a plane to Beijing on Wednesday afternoon, to begin almost two weeks of a very happy tour guiding opportunity: my mom is coming to visit! She’s playing ambassador for my family, an emissary from Manhattan, here to check up on China and what on earth I’ve been up to for the past couple years. I’m totally thrilled.

And after that – the open road, as it were. Taiwan, Xinjiang. The great beyond.

Don’t you worry (weren’t you worried?!) – I’ll be keeping you all regularly updated with tales and photos. First up (tomorrow) pictures from our awesome trip to Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shaxi. Stay tuned.

13 thoughts on “This Day, Again

  1. Cui Jian is definitely not the most famous rock musician in Chinese history. The most famous one has to be either Beyond, a band in the 90s that based in Hong Kong, or Tang Dynasty, another band from the 90s. Sadly, we don’t have good rock musician in China nowadays.

    • Ah, well I regard bands from Hong Kong as an entirely different matter, splittist American that I am. 😉

      Agreed that the rock scene in China is not so hot these days. I keep hoping that I’m just so out of touch that I don’t hear about the cool stuff…I’d gladly be proven wrong in exchange for some good music.

    • I think it’s just that I did what I came to Kunming to do, and I’m ready to move on to something else. I’ll always have a place in my heart for that easy-going city.

    • I’m always torn about Beijing – there’s so much there of interest, but it so jangles my nerves and blackens my lungs to spend time there that I end up feeling negative about it. I think it was easier to love it a decade ago, when it was still cheap. 🙂

  2. Having spent years – since ’85 – working and visiting China, at times full time, other times (like now) sporadically, my question would be – contrary to Teresa’s – what took so long?

    Questions I have: how do you manage this blog from Kunming? Do you use an anonymous proxy? I can’t access my blog or any social media when I’m in China.

    Enjoy Xinjiang… it was one of my top ten trips ever (and I am well-traveled!). That was in 1994 and I’m afraid to know how it may have changed.

    • I’ll let you know about Xinjiang! Very excited for that.

      As for how I manage the blog from China: WordPress is sometimes blocked and sometimes not…and weirdly, sometimes an in-between state (right now, it’s unblocked to read the blog but blocked to log in and manage it).

      Either way, the answer is VPN software that I purchased from Witopia. Very useful.

  3. Cui Jian! That’s a name I haven’t heard in a while. I’m looking forward to seeing your Tiger Leaping Gorge photos. I was there in 1989 when the only access was a narrow, rocky footpath. I suspect it has changed a bit since then.

  4. Ask to Bush What´s happend on Sept,11th and he’ll say: I don’t know!
    Lier! He and the gang of his govermment knows who is responsible for this awful event.

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