Posts Tagged ‘Old Shanghai

03
Sep
10

Buying back old Expo tickets

He stood there holding a small styrofoam board with a bored expression that was only rivaled by the young boy next to him selling ice-cream with his shirt rolled up to his chest.

Apparently, this man was in the business of buying back old mobile phones and transportation cards, amongst other things I’m sure, to recycle and make a bit of profit on the side.

“How come you are buying back old Expo tickets.” I asked, “You selling them online or try to get back into the Expo grounds?” I joked.

The man lazily looked me up and down, “What’s it to you?”

I shrugged. “I have a spare Expo ticket in my pocket to sell, maybe we can talk business. I’m just curious what you do with it, that’s all.”

He eyed my camera suspiciously. “This and that.”

I asked to take a quick snapshot, he pondered for a moment and acquiesced. As I framed my shot, he suddenly swung the sign board right into my lens.

He then proceeded to do a little dance, swimming the sign board all over the place just so it was impossible to photograph it.

“What you doing, man?” I asked in bewilderment. If you don’t want me to shoot, just say so, I huffed.

Ok, ok, he guffawed. As I tried one more time, he began his old antics again. This time, swinging the sign like a pendalum, cackling at his own wit.

Afterwhich, he pointed west and drawled, “There are a bunch more people like me buying back Expo tickets down the road, why don’t you photograph them?” With that, he continued cackling.

Exasperated, I spun on my foot and left. What a joker.

August 2010

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23
Aug
10

Before Dinner Time, You Could …

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

…  sing a song.

… run an errand.

… play one last round of carom.

… run around with a stick of celery.

… trim your hair.

And just like that, the weekend was over.

August 2010

* Simply refresh page if slideshow fails to come on. Ta-da!

27
Jul
10

A day of rest

He was sitting alone, surrounded by concrete sand and mud, reading a newspaper on top of a tiny table. Behind him was his home, a large blue storage container which served as temporary accommodations for workers on that construction site.

I greeted him good day. “No work today, sir?” I asked, motioning my camera for permission.

He smiled, his crow’s feet pressed together to form a startling handsome face. I was so struck, not just by his genial disposition but by how perfectly framed his face was by his beard and hair, colored evenly with grey, black and white.

For a moment, I knelt there, mesmerized by his features while he stared back, not so much at me but past my shoulder at something else. I repeated myself, asking if he was enjoying his day off.

Suddenly, a voice boomed out from the side. “Today’s Sunday! We’re not working. What are you doing here anyway?” A large and portly middle-aged man, in nothing but a pair of bright red briefs, was in mid stride to the container when he spotted me. Standing firm with his legs apart and hands on hips, he waited for an explanation while I tried very hard to look anywhere but his underwear.

I didn’t recall what I stammered in response, only the image of the smiling old man who quietly acknowledged my departure.

July 2010

20
Apr
10

“Speak softly, but carry a big can of paint.”

Wandering along the graffiti street on Moganshan Lu, I counted 4 wedding shoots, 3 model shoots, 2 motor bikers (preening and then roaring down the street) and 1 street artist.

His name is Tommy, an American responsible for a few masterpieces along the Moganshan Wall. I caught him just as he was finishing this giant blue … creature, fine-tuning shades and strokes, vibrancy and clarity.

The paint had barely dried when a pair of teenage girls wandered over to pose by it, flashing the ever ubiquitous V-sign next to pouting glossy lips.

Standing with his gear: a paint mask, step ladder, a wheelie bag filled with incriminating cans of sprays and a variety of nozzles, Tommy looked quite pleased with his deed for the day.

“We don’t do this to be famous,” he said at some point. 

It reminded me of what Banksy once said, “Speak softly, but carry a big can of paint.”

When he left, I stood at the same spot, capturing the flow of traffic past the wall. Some stared, most were oblivious. They’re too used to the color on that street. But isn’t that the beauty of it all.

“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody draw(s) whatever they liked. Where every street was awash(ed) with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet. “ –  Banksy (Wall and Piece)

April 2010

18
Apr
10

The taxi rest stop

You could say that it’s one of the most colorful public toilets in Shanghai. That is if you can spot it amidst a long trail of graffiti winding along the curve of the road.

Located along Moganshan Lu (莫干山) by Shanghai’s art district, there is always a car or two pulled over on the side.  A man will emerge in mid-zip before climbing into his car.

It’s a popular spot for taxi drivers, even if the toilet shed may seem obscure to the careless passerby.

That afternoon, I found one of Shanghai’s latest fleet of Expo taxis, the Volkswagen Touran, parked by curb. Mr Xu was naturally puzzled to find me waiting for him when he emerged. Mid-zip, of course.

Tuns out, he has been driving this taxi for a few weeks and was proud of his new vehicle. “They pick drivers with the least complaints and the longest driving record,” he boasted.

On my first ride in the Touran, I learned that business was indeed much better than when he was driving his old Volkswagen Santana.

“Initially, nobody flagged me down. They didn’t realize I was actually a taxi!” he said, “But customers feel more secure in this car, and now everyone wants to ride in it!”

As I alighted to a cheery farewell and reminder to check all my belongings, I thought to myself that if the city had more new taxis, it would lift the spirits and inevitably improve the overall service of Shanghai’s taxi drivers.

Just then another taxi honked deafeningly as it swerved past me on a pedestrian crossing.

Maybe not.

13
Apr
10

The Love of Kite-flying Part Two

It was a most random yet lovely sight. Spread out over a large field, with tall incinerators serving as a backdrop and passing ships along the Huangpu River (黄浦江) blaring horns in the near distance, a smattering of retired and middle-aged men were flying kites with very interesting paraphernalia.

Chatting with them, I discovered that a core group flew kites every day in the field, barring rain or the absence of wind. They also belong to a special club focused on kite-flying and would even conduct demonstations for their former work units (单位).

They also gathered at sunrise on the Bund to fly their kites until about 8am. “Before the crowds and cars become distracting, ” one man said. “You don’t want your kite crashing on someone’s head, or worse, on a moving car!” Another sniggered, “Or ruin your kite.”

The “leader” of the pack, they teased, was Mr (or Master) Li. Incredibly dapper in a red sweater and a smart tie, he showed me his favored eagle kite. I watched him lay it on the ground and gradually swing the contraption in a circular fashion until the eagle was high enough to soar unencumbered. No forced yanking. Only graceful light steps forward and back to maneuver in accordance to the winds and your own fancy.

It takes a certain skill to fly these kinds of eagle kites, Mr Li boasted and the rest nodded in agreement. You don’t see many people flying these kinds of kites in public parks or the city centers they lack the space.. and skill.

“You could train non-stop for 3 months and you might maybe master the basics,” he said while inspecting his prized paper aves.

Each gentleman has several models to practice, and most craft the kites themselves with patient precision and after many rounds of testing. Many of the men had several stashed in their nifty kit boxes affixed to the back or the front of their bicycles.

After a half hour, three men heaved up from their foldable chairs and packed up their tea and gear.

As they wheeled their bicycles across the field, they waved and yelled, “See you all tomorrow!” and added, ” Depending on the weather!.” Hopping on, they bicycled off in a neat row.

Taken by 2523 Yangshupu Lu (扬树浦路), right by the shipdocks

April 2010

31
Mar
10

We are but a shirtless belly away

We flung outselves into Spring’s embrace a few days ago under sun-soaked rays, light breezes and an explosion of blooming flowers.

Other signs make it hard to forget that May is but round the corner.

“SHANGHAI EXPO IS COMING!”
“SEE THE HAIBAO VIDEO!”
“Extra security! Speed up the demolition! New roads! Confused cabbies! Visitors from out of town all in the same month. HAVE YOU BOUGHT YOUR TICKETS TO THE EXPO YET?”

Just in case you weren’t aware that the Shanghai Expo is happening. We’re all at the edge of our seats here.

Then, the spring months will pass and before we all know it, summer will be here.

Cue the moans. The hot, the sticky and the smelly.

Cue. The invasion of the shirtless bellies.

You wouldn’t know where to look.

August 2009




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