Being that my account name is what it is, I don't write enough about the city where I've lived for the past 6 years. That changes today. I remember the first time I came to Shanghai I thought to myself, "One day I'm gonna live here!"
Then a decade-plus flew by - like literally flew by - I have no idea how people deal with getting older and seeing time just slip through their fingers like sand in an hourglass. I hadn't even been back to the city that I had promised myself once upon a time that I would move to. Then I found a way to get myself to Beijing to study for a year and I found myself one summer day just sitting in my apartment there with a bit of time on my hands and said, "Fuck it! Let's go to Shanghai!"
So we went to Shanghai for a week and it was glorious.
I wish I had the pictures from that time. I was a late convert to the iPhone so whatever I was taking pictures with at that time in 2011 is lost to the wind. No cloud storage account for me back then!
I decided it would be good to live in a few different places, so we stayed in an apartment near the Shanghai Circus. It's a great little classic circus show, similar to the old Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus that used to roll through my home town once a year.
I haven't seen the show in 8 years. Funny how you do so much when you're a tourist in a city, but when you actually live there you get stuck in the same old ruts just like you would in any city that you live in long term. Like, when I lived in New York, I never once went to the Empire State Building. Avoided it like the plague. But that is the way of travel. When you travel, you have free time. You are compelled to wake up and early do something because you feel that, if you don't, you have somehow wasted the day. It's a good motivational force. Maybe we should live our everyday lives like that. More urgency might help us to get more done throughout the day.
At that time in 2011, the area on Line 1 a kilometer or two north of the train station was a lot dirty. But you could feel the change in the air. There was a beautiful little new mall tucked in among the filth just near the circus. The hotel we stayed in was actually pretty decent, though the neighborhood it was in was decidedly not.
But there's something about the way China does business. It's almost as if gentrification is hard-coded into its hybrid capitalist-socialist system. It's a pervading force that acts on the city from within and radiates outward from its core. Give it time - years, decades even better - and things start to look different pretty quickly. For the better, yeah, from an economic GDP growth kind of perspective. Though there is always a bit of nostalgia about the past, especially in a city like Shanghai that grew up in its own history. You can see the wrinkle lines around the eyes of Shanghai caused by all the tumult that happened here in the first half of the twentieth century. In 1949, the city paused for a well-deserved 30-year nap and has been rushing headlong into the future as fast as it possibly can since 1978.
That's why it's nice sometimes to get up early in the morning with the sunrise. You can capture beautiful shots like I did at the beginning of this post. But more importantly, you can get that calm quiet before the day explodes with the hustle and bustle, that perpetual 60 decibel background noise, that only a city of 25 million people provides. (I swear there are more people than that that live here. That's just the official figure.)
In life, where there always seems to be more to do than there is time in the day to do it, that brief moment where the colors are just right, there's a hush over the bend in the Suzhou River that snakes by the front of my house, one of the tallest buildings in the world is empty, bathing in the purple-orange sunrise for all the city to see, beckoning to its hordes of worker bees to make their way to the city center to begin their day, when all of that lines up just right, it's nice to take a deep breath, hold it in for just the right amount of time to savor it, and