A Starbuck’s is an oasis of quiet this morning, after yesterday’s extended rides on the excellent Metro system here. Indeed, it’s as if all the world’s subways have standardized on the London Tube-model maps with their clear colors and rounded geometry that reflect not much of reality but are blessedly simple to follow. The metro rides on the way to Foshan presented prime opportunities for people-watching. The ladies of Guangzhou are stylish in an idiosyncratic way. While the Chinese seem to harbor an odd affection for uniforms at work, mufti involves mixing pieces, a general tendency to sexiness that somehow skirts trashiness. The skirt will be short, the top, prim. And the shoes are amazing.
Foshan itself spoke to me of places that may have been familiar to my family long ago: communal houses with a balcony overlooking the central courtyard, dark wood, tile roofs, some “Chinese Gothic” ornamentation. It was a little sad, too, like a vase assembled from the shattered parts of several, with pieces missing. In a chronology of Ip Man in the museum, “1937-1945: He had a hard time.” I’d like to know the Mandarin phrase that translates to, “No kidding.” A lovely Buddhist shrine, located near the latrines, still had worshipers and fresh joss sticks in the sand.
The Lion Dance was astonishing, the two-person beasts creating living animals with joyful, cocky personalities as they lept to balance on pillars, tested a bridge before walking over it, looked at the imaginary water flowing under it, and lapped a drink of invisible water. When Shihan James, Sensei Ken and I went up to purchase commemorative scrolls from the lion, a (rather loud) murmur of amazement swept through the crowd. 3 foreigners! And one so massive!
The Wushu demo in the courtyard was mostly a classic example of a martial art transformed into acrobatics. the “swords” whipped about like thundersheets used in an orchestra, there wasn’t enough extension in the strikes or cuts to do much more than annoy, and transitions between movements were full of gaps. But there was one Sanchin-like form that was suddenly real, the gripping motions and extensions visibly powerful. One wonders if the true forms simply aren’t shown to visitors, or if they’re indeed not remembered. One certainly could not fault the fitness or acrobatic quality of the practitioners, but I think of Alfred, who used to practice Judo with us when I was in seventh grade. He had practiced Chinese Boxing, and his forms always looked, to my young perspective, usefully powerful – coming out of a kicking backflip into a fighting stance.
On a T-shirt: “With great love comes courage.”
Dinner last night at a favorite tepanyaki restaurant of Shihan Sonny’s was a great celebration. I can’t remember seeing so much delicious food – wave after wave of sushi, fish fried in butter, shrimp, coconut bannana flambe’. Saki, beer, tea. It was like a big, rowdy international family dinner. I went over to drink sake with a table of ladies from Guangzhou, who explained that Guangzhou is very traditional, and expressed concern that if they became too competent, no one would want to marry them. It is, unfortunately, a reasonable concern, even in this late age. One must decide what one wants, and be willing to duck under the wave, but continue to train. Otherwise, what do you have? And it is difficult but not entirely impossible to find a man who wants a partner rather than a…what? Reflection? Sigh. This makes me grateful for the men who are kind and respectful.