bouche reacted to edger in New Project for Chris Robinson
Some sweet sounding pedal steel in this new outfit called the Green Leaf Rustlers "purveyors of cosmic Cali country music" https://www.jambase.com/article/green-leaf-rustlers-announce-inaugural-tour
I guess their inaugural tour is going on while Neal Casal and Adam MacDougall are busy with Circles Around the Sun who also have a couple gigs this month and are making a new album. https://www.circlesaroundthesun.com/
While I hope CRB (Chris Robinson Brotherhood) remains a strong vibrant core to any and all offshoots I just love anything these boys are a part of, and if the tentacles spread through side-projects I am all for that.
bouche reacted to CyberHippie in Dark Solstice Mix
Bump - It's that time of the year again...
Happy Solstice Everyone!
I present you with another nonsensical and inappropriate musical journey through groovy beats. You know what to do...
Enjoy and pass it on
bouche reacted to guitarberman in Mustashat 2017-12-26 available for download/stream
My recording of the Tues December 26 Mustashat show at Heartwood Hall, in Owen Sound, is available for download/stream:
bouche reacted to CyberHippie in Dark Solstice Mix
It's that time of year again, in keeping with traditions and because I know some folks here are interested, I bring you another Dark Solstice mix.
Dark Solstice Mix 2015 ~ The Funk Awakens
The usual blend of nonsensical ecclectic and groovy tunes. Listener Discretion Required...
Happy Solstice Everyone!
bouche reacted to Davey Boy 2.0 in An evening to honour the life of Bradm
bloody hell what a perfect night to honour our friend... -15°C with a windchill (in which I don't believe btw) of - 25. He would make his way in this weather. He would still take the bus. He would still show up early.
quite amazing really in a lot of ways
bouche reacted to Velvet in Horrible news for our community: RIP BradM
My ticket story from today. To be honest, I can't actually remember if bradm was at the show or not, I'm just assuming he was. And I think there's a good chance I was right.
In the early evening of December 7th, 2013 I sat on my couch debating whether or not to go see Kevin Breit at Gigspace. One of my favourite musicians had made the drive from Toronto-ish to Ottawa to play a one-off (more accurately, they were playing two shows back-to-back on the same evening) with Carleton University drum instructor (and improvising maniac) Jesse Stewart and Ottawa-based music producer and bass player Phil Bova, and it was all I could do to get my lazy butt off the couch and drive to the small venue/music school for the second show of the night.
And when I arrived of course I found my good friend Bradm in the front row. I can’t say for sure, but I’d guess he had been there since long before the first show started, setting up his microphones to record the concert(s). Y’see, Bradm’s thing was to take his high-quality microphones and recording system to shows big and small and record them from start-to-finish, meticulously taking notes of song titles in between rockin’ out on the spot to the show in question.
I say he recorded shows “big and small” but his big focus was on the smaller shows, and over the years Bradm accumulated an incredible sonic library chronicling Ottawa’s independent music scene. Three or four nights a week, regardless of the weather, Bradm would tuck in his concert t-shirt, lace up his Converse sneakers and don his blue winter jacket (again, regardless of the weather), grab his trusty backpack loaded up with recording gear, flashlights, batteries, pens and notebook, and usually a handful of burned CDs to hand out to friends (like yours truly), and take the bus to some local venue (never, ever have I seen him shell out for a taxi) like Maverick’s, Irene’s. Cafe Dekcuf, The Rainbow, or in this case Gigspace to record a show, and he always (always) showed up early.
I mean, the guy was an inspiration. Here I had been parked on my couch merely a short, comfy drive from the show and I barely made it out. Bradm would have been waiting at his bus stop way out in the west end since the tail end of rush hour, the winter sun already long since set, and he would have had a long, lonely bus ride home at the end of the night too and there was no question that he would be there. He was always there. The guy did this all the time.
And he was a really great friend too. There’s no question that Bradm was a quirky soul, but there was something about him that I liked through and through, and he seemed to like me too. We saw countless shows together, he recorded pretty much every live show I’ve played with since we met, he was the first to arrive at every party I’ve hosted since I’ve known him, we travelled to shows together an awful lot and even went to Europe together, just the two of us. Heck, Bradm was the guy who introduced me to m’lady.
So there he was, in the front row recording the Kevin Breit show. When we chatted at the end of the night he no doubt went on excitedly about the show we just saw. No matter how many thousands (yes, thousands) of small, indie shows Bradm would see in his lifetime he never lost the youthful, exuberant excitement that left me so many years ago. The guy just loved music, he loved musicians (and most people), and he loved, loved, loved to record shows.
And as we chatted that night none of us could know that had only a few more years left in him. I had no idea that I would lose my good friend before either of us hit fifty. It’s funny, I remember very clearly the moment I met Bradm. He was sitting in a booth with some friends of mine at a Downtime show at a long-gone bar in Ottawa called The Bayou when I introduced myself, and we had been good friends ever since.
But the weird bit is, I can’t for the life of me remember the last time I saw him. It’s not that it had been a long time or anything; quite the opposite. I saw him all the time, virtually every time I went to a local show and a bunch more besides. But I don’t recall the last time we saw each other, and I fear I never will. And so, whenever I go out I still expect to see him there, I still expect to find Bradm stand up when I arrive to give me a hug and offer me a seat at his front table (which I often declined. Due to the proximity of the microphones there was no talking aloud allowed when you sat with Bradm at a show).
But I won’t see him again, and that’s really a shame.
I looked at his page on archive.org and this show is not among the 850+ recordings that Bradm uploaded. And the most likely reason it isn’t there is because Bradm would never upload a band’s music with the express consent of everyone involved - the dude had ethics - and if I know one thing about Kevin Breit, I know he wouldn’t necessarily be quick to respond to Bradm’s inevitable email requesting permission to upload one of his concerts.
To sample some of his work, I urge you to visit archive.org and search “bradm”.
bouche reacted to Davey Boy 2.0 in How dinosaurs may have sounded - Yoko Ono lowered 3 octaves
...sounded during their final moments before extinction, I reckon.
bouche reacted to TheGoodRev in Espanola this weekend in St Catharines; Toronto; Ottawa; Hamilton.
Long time y'all. Espanola is my side project, it was always more country than Huron, but these days it is every bit as loud and rocking as that band was. I've been slowly working on a solo record for way too long, and rather than keep songs in the can for the eventual full length I kinda just decided to put out a few songs at a time. Here are the first two:
Here are my dates:
Thu Nov 30 - St. Catharines - Warehouse
Fri Dec 1 - Toronto - Monarch Tavern
Sat Dec 2 - Ottawa - Dominion Tavern
Sun Dec 3 - Hamilton - This Ain’t Hollywood
I'm bringing a sweet backing band which is comprised of:
Sam Cash - guitar; Anna Ruddick - bass; Dan Edmonds - keys; Cam Giroux - drums.
Would be lovely to see some old familiar faces! Hope everybody is well.
bouche reacted to Velvet in Chinalog (in honour of Bradm)
It was our last morning at the Dongling Resort and we went to the restaurant for breakfast for the first time. I was wary; when we had eaten dinner there before I noticed a few breakfast-ish items on the menu - “crispy egg” and that sort of thing - so I was very pleased to see that they actually had a wholly different breakfast menu.
I had been looking for a chance to crack open the jar of peanut butter I had brought with me so I eagerly ordered toast with butter, along with a coffee and a chicken and mushroom omelet. It was pretty pricey at Y50 but I wanted to fill up. Heather ordered a breakfast combo, French toast, bacon and egg and a cappuccino. As per usual, all of our items arrived one at a time. First came my tiny, little coffee, a small teacup half-filled with bitter, day old-tasting java. I knocked it back in two sour bites. Next came my toast, three full slices which, when peanut-buttered was a meal unto itself.
Next came Heather’s cappuccino, quickly followed by her French toast, which was just deep-fried bread with honey, no egg whatsoever. After some time my omelet arrived, which was large and in no way could be called an omelet. Rather, it was a mountain of chicken, mushrooms and scrambled egg and it was absolutely delicious; the best plate of food I’ve had on the whole trip.
We waited and waited for the rest of Heather’s breakfast to arrive until we decided her bacon and egg had been forgotten. We mentioned it to someone, apologies were made and in seconds her food was delivered.
After breakfast we both endured some prodigious packing and checked out.
It was not surprising that Chim was the cabbie that arrived to deliver us to the bus depot; clearly she’s the goto taxi driver for the hotel. When we arrived at the bus station we hadn’t even gotten out of her Volkswagen Santana when a lady started beckoning us to her bus. “Guilin, Guilin!” she shouted, pointing us towards the nearest bus.
“Um, yeah,” we said, shrugging our shoulders at how easy this was turning out to be and taking the two seats directly behind the driver. In no time we were off.
The bus stopped several times along the way to seek out more passengers, which made sense. When we had pulled out of the station Heather and I were two of only four passengers. Before we left town the bus was almost full.
I noticed several curious things during the ninety-minute trip to Guilin. First, there was a very nice, obviously new bicycle path running alongside the highway almost all the way to Guilin, and I only saw two bicycles on it during the whole trip. I also saw about a hundred motorcycles and scooters and one car that was just flying down the bike path. I’m guessing that the path will eventually get more use; I saw lots and lots of signs promoting cycling and sport as a way to help realize “the Chinese Dream”. The propaganda machine is clearly rolling in the direction of sustainable transportation.
Speaking of that, the vast majority of the scooters are electric-powered, easily 90% or more. This goes along with everything else I’ve noticed in China: everywhere I look it seems like the country is truly striving to be environmentally conscious, which frankly goes against everything I was ever led to believe. I’m guessing that they are trying to make up for past mistakes. Plus they probably are getting sick of providing free health care to the millions of people that get sick from polluted air.
I also noticed that it’s not unusual for vehicles of all sizes to drive on the wrong side of the road, and most traffic lights along the way were not working at all. And while this should lead to deadly traffic bedlam, I only saw three traffic accidents on the short journey.
When we hit the city limits I saw that the passengers were being let off the bus the same way they were let on; wherever they wanted to go. I asked if we could get dropped at the train station and the bus stopped in the middle of a busy street. We disembarked and walked in the direction we were pointed, soon arriving at our destination.
We thought it best to take care of our ongoing transportation straight away and luckily the girl at the counter (who was baffled by everything we tried to say) found a fellow employee with moderate English skills that could help us. We had suspected quite rightly that there was no direct rail access to Macau but after about fifteen minutes of back-and-forth we purchased tickets to Zhuhai, where we supposedly will find free busses running into Macau. Given that Macau is a gambling mecca it makes sense to me that they would do all they could to make it as easy as possible for people to get there, including offering free shuttle busses from the end of the rail line.
Tickets in hand, we hopped a cab to our hotel. It was the first time we actually saw a taxi meter in operation, and it turns out the cabs are dirt-cheap when they are being run legitimately. The fifteen minute ride (due to traffic) cost just $3.
Our hotel was curiously named the Zen Tea House. When we entered the lobby we were immediately ushered back outside so we could exchange our shoes for slippers. The pair I was given comically covered just the ends of my toes, completely insufficient for my double-wide feet. The proprietor noticed and gave me another pair, “For you we have these special slippers,” he said, and they fit like a glove.
As we walked in the door the second time the first words we heard was, “Would you like a beer?”
“Yes!” I said, a little too fast and much too loudly. There is actually a sign on the wall that says, “Free Beer.” I’ve seen my share of free beer signs in this life of mine but there’s always a catch, as in “Free Beer (tomorrow).”
This time there was no catch. We sipped our frosty ales as we were checked in and soon we were shown “the best room in the hotel,” room 501, on the top floor with the adjoining rooftop deck that we seemed to have all to ourselves. The room was very clean, modern, sparse, and hip. And all this for $40 a night.
Just as the sun began to set we lit out for a walkabout. We crossed a few bridges and found a pedestrian street which was packed with people. It’s just amazing how populous China is; even getting a tiny taste gives one the sense of what it means to have over a billion people in the country.
Halfway down the street I turned to see Heather surrounded by a half-dozen young girls asking her a million questions in halting English. “Where you came from?” “Where you go now?” “Can we eat dinner with you?” Thankfully she answered the last question in the negatory and after a few obligatory photos with us we left them and continued our wandering.
Up and down the strip we went, finally settling on a small outdoor restaurant stand for dinner where the food was cheap, oily, and really tasty. So cheap in fact that when Heather realized that she ordered the wrong thing she just went back and ordered again, the price of two meals was still a bargain.
Our table in the alley was across from one of the many, many restaurants that has large fish in tanks outside. Twice we watched as customers selected their dinner from amongst the swimmers, the lady netted out the critter, weighed it and gave it a quick, percussive smack on the pavement before walking in the restaurant and handing the fresh kill to the chef.
I’m glad nobody ordered the veal.
Something I find endlessly entertaining is reading all the poorly/randomly translated English t-shirts that people are wearing (Chinglish, as one tour operator described it). To be fair, I remember being sixteen years old and buying a shirt at the Biway just because I thought the Chinese characters on it looked cool. It probably said something like ‘True Ice Cream Dragon’ or something equally absurd. Anyway, as we hit the small night market I saw my favourite t-shirt of them all, though this one was neither misspelled nor a series of oddly juxtaposed words. Walking with her parents I saw a very cute little girl, maybe around four years old wearing a pink shirt. Printed on the front in Osh Kosh B’gosh-type comic sans font were the words, “Dead Kennedys”. Take a second to picture it. I so, so wish I had my camera at the ready.
Our destination was Shan Lake with the famous Sun and Moon pagodas, each one about eight storeys tall and lit up gorgeously under the full moon. We slowly circled the entire lake, joining the throngs of tourists that stopped for picture after picture of the twin towers from every possible angle, and every shot was gold.
We finally came full circle and happened upon a park with a crowd watching a presentation on a large stage. We joined them and caught the tail end of nine police officers demonstrating karate-like takedown techniques in front of a crowd that clapped and clapped.
Fairly spent, we slowly walked back to our hotel as a never-ending string of scooters, cars and people zipped by. They say New York is the city that never sleeps. Well, those New Yorkers should really get a load of the Chinese in their own habitat. Nothing seems to ever close, and the crowds never seem to dissipate. It’s really quite incredible.
Also incredible is how they light up the karst mountains that ring the city at night. The brightly lit bulbous mounds are a stunning sight to see, especially when shrouded in the Monet-type mist of pollution (or is it potential rain?).
I never though China would be this beautiful.
bouche reacted to Velvet in Chinalog (in honour of Bradm)
I wanna tell you, people sure do smoke around here. Well, the men do anyway, to a shocking degree. I’ve seen women smoking as well, but the percentage of women to men partaking is miniscule.
Walking through the streets I decided to see how many of the next forty men I saw were smoking, and I counted eight. I did it again and strangely I got the exact same number, eight out of forty, that’s 20% of the men I saw that were actively smoking at the time. Who knows how many lit up after they walked by.
And no wonder! It’s a chicken-or-the-egg thing, but every store has a display case full of cigarettes directly out front, with wildly varying prices, starting at about a buck a pack and going up to twenty dollars per pack. It makes me wonder if people who smoke the cheap brands occasionally splurge and buy the pricier brands, unlike in North America where people tend to stay loyal to their flavour.
Finally, the way the men smoke is also significantly different than the way people smoke in the West. Here in China men tend to hold the cigarette directly in the centre of their mouth pointing straight out, and they often smoke without using their hands, just holding the cigarette with their lips. It looks extra absurd.
(People spit a lot too. I’ve seen signs everywhere that indicating no-spitting policies; in the metro, in the hotel lobbies, in elevators…I hear men hocking and spitting all the time. I assume it’s relating to all the smoking.)
Anyway, we awoke in our zen room and went down for our breakfast, included in the $40/night room rate. We got to choose between Chinese and Western breakfast. We both chose the latter, which consisted of an egg, a small serving of beans and corn, two pieces of…ham?, a fruit bowl, a piece of broccoli, two fat slices of toast and unlimited coffee. It was all quite glorious (except the broccoli of course).
After breakfast we went straight to the nearest recreational area (of many), Seven Stars Park. We shelled out Y70 each for entry (though nobody ever checked our tickets) and balked at the extra Y28 fee to explore the cave.
When we started into the park we found it fairly empty and quite lovely, exploring the many paths that intertwined around one of the twin karst mountains. We constantly came to crossroads in the paths, and finding the map we were given to be utterly unreadable we selected our course randomly. It mattered not, as we had no agenda and no plan except to spend as much of the day as we could in the park.
Soon we came to a vast interlocking brick pathway littered with families out enjoying the beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. Then we started seeing booths selling food, toys and souvenirs, and signs pointing us towards one attraction or another. We found a temple, a rock climbing area, a large field ringed with statues of cartoon characters, a penny arcade where we dropped a few yuan into some obviously-rigged claw games, a path littered with wild monkeys (and huge crowds feeding them), and finally circled around to the zoo.
Despite a large photo of a panda outside the zoo we discovered that there were not in fact any pandas (or red pandas) in the zoo, so we opted not to shell out the $13 per person fee to enter. After a few more laps around (part of) the huge, huge park we got out of there, walking on tired feet back to our hotel.
We decided that the time was ripe for our first foot massages of the trip. I had been saying that I was going to go for one almost every day, but somehow it had yet to come up. The lady at the hotel desk suggested a nearby spot, where we were handed a menu offering about twenty different types of foot treatments, each one aimed at improving your life in any number of ways, and all of them priced at about fifteen cents per minute.
Which is dirt cheap.
Somehow we both selected the shortest ones, at forty minutes each. We sat next to each other and dunked our feet in buckets of hot water that had been treated with a dissolving powder. We were told to turn around and we were happily surprised to discover that our treatments started with a good 10-15 minute back massage, which felt fantastic.
When I pulled my feet out of the bucket to get started the guy went to work getting rid of all the dead skin on my feet, using a myriad of tools and utensils and going at me with an almost comic fervour that had debris flying all around. I swear, the guy should have been wearing safety goggles and a hazmat suit. Easiest weight loss program ever.
I guess I should point out to those that don’t know me: I have very unusual feet. As a matter of fact, a drawing of my left foot is the title page of the physical pathology section in the international medical encyclopedia from the year 2000. I have a hereditary condition called Hallux Vagus (the most extreme case in my family).
Imagine this: as we are forming in the womb our feet begin to grow much the same as our fingers, though there is a tendon that pulls them together at the first knuckle and another that pulls them together at the second, so eventually we have short toes with limited movement instead of long, agile fingers. Someone with Hallux Vagus is missing part of the first tendon, so our big toes try to grow outward, like opposable thumbs. The second tendon, however, pulls the big toes back in, leaving a bumpy angle on the side of each foot. The end result is I have extra, extra wide feet.
Add to that a bit of surgery I had at age twelve that stopped the big toe on my right foot from growing any longer and yeah, I got weird feet. Twenty years ago I never would have endured the embarrassment of a foot massage. Heck, back then I was so weirded out about my feet that I never went barefoot, not even on the beach, and I never wore sandals. Ever since I dated a girl in medical illustration school who explained what I had (and drew my foot for that textbook) I’ve actually become almost proud of my unique leg-enders.
Anyway, when he finally started in on the actual foot massage he went in strong. Equal parts pleasure and pain, he brought me to the brink of screaming in agony and at times left me almost drooling with unrestrained joy.
Along the way he pulled out his phone and had it translate a few questions. It’s amazing how accurate the thing can be, and yet how it can get things so very, very wrong. At one point he asked if they would make much money offering their foot service in Canada and I spoke into the machine, “People would pay more money for this service than you are charging, but I think you would be less busy overall.”
The translation came out something like this: “The groceries in your lung do not reciprocate with the octopus element, surely.”
As I type this I am wearing a t-shirt that I purchased in Yangshuo. On it is the phrase, “Knowledge likes pants invisible but very important.” After hearing the babel app translations I am no longer mystified as to how these obvious mistranslations can happen.
Speaking of poor translations, throughout the park were many signs in Chinese and English, and without exception the English translations were odd, cumbersome, and strange. It’s the same everywhere we’ve been, and these are official government signs. It boggles the mind to think that a country this large and powerful can’t find one fully bilingual person to proof read the official sign translations. Seriously, how can that be?
Back to the massage, I can report that I’ve had dozens of reflexology sessions back in Canada (though at the hands of only two practitioners), and the session I experienced in China was wholly different than any I’ve had before. As my massage was ending the fellow spoke into his babel app, which asked me if I would like “to make the foot very uncomfortable for ten yuan extra.”
“Sure!” we both said. Turns out it meant ‘cupping’, a technique where a glass cup is heated by fire and applied to the soles of the feet, creating suction. After about a dozen quick shwoop-pops he heated up a bamboo piece and left it suctioned onto the middle of each of my soles. After leaving these to sit for about five minutes or so he pulled them off and looked inside.
“Do you have full of moisture?” his phone asked me.
“Huh?” I replied. “The machine must have gotten your question wrong, try again.”
He did. This time it was no question. “Your body is full of moisture, sir,” it stated, as the man turned the bamboo cup upside down and a trickle of water (I hope) poured out. Heather’s bamboo cups were empty.
No wonder the moon messes me up so much. I’m an ocean.
When we walked out of there I was so, so relaxed, I just can’t explain it. We stopped into our hotel to chill out for a while and I asked the lady at the desk if we could buy a couple of beers.
“But the beer is free sir,” she said, pointing at the Free Beer sign. “I’ll get you each one.”
Are you kidding? Does the Free Beer sign really mean free beer? After I finished mine I asked for another. Yep, it really means free beer. I was astounded and excited.
As dusk approached we headed out to the same market area that we had visited the night before. Heather made a concession and suggested we try the Burger King (my favourite fast food) but I shocked her by stating that I’d rather find something local. We aimed towards the place we ate the night before but along the way we got distracted by a small booth that was advertising Chinese hamburgers.
They were actually called Xi’an meat clip buns. The chef took out a fatty slab of pork, minced it with a cleaver, cut in half a flat bun that looked like an English muffin but wasn’t and stuffed it with the meat, adding cilantro (for Heather but not for me, thanks. I’m one of those), added some spicy sauce and charged us about $1.50 each. We sat at a nearby table and devoured them. They were as delicious as they were greasy, and they were plenty of both.
On we walked, I bought a copy of Mao’s Little Red book in the market for about $4 and a shirt in a discount store with a bit of Chinglish on it for a friend, and I stopped for a cheap deep-fried chicken burger. Heather looked into a ton of stores and found a few gifts for family, but mostly we just wandered and soaked in the atmosphere.
Amid the crowds strolling the pedestrian street with their purchases was a beautiful golden retriever walking along beside his master and the dog was carrying a shopping bag in his mouth. We turned and watched them until they were out of sight; it was hilarious. I can’t help but think that the guy initially taught his pet to do that just for times when he asked for a doggie bag in a restaurant. That’s why I would do do it.
By 9pm I was tired and a bit bored. We decided to call it a night and walked back to the hotel. When we got there my feet were killing me. I came so close to going back for another reflexology session but decided to wait until morning.
As we entered the lobby of our hotel the proprietor jumped up, “Do you want a beer, they’re free!” My gawd, I love this place. I took the beer and headed to the elevator. As the doors opened the man shouted behind me, “If you want more just come on back down and help yourself!”
Ah, to be a younger man. There was a time when I would have left this guy questioning his policy.
bouche reacted to Velvet in Chinalog (in honour of Bradm)
When we first arrived at the Yangshuo train terminal (which is actually more than thirty kilometres away from Yangshuo) we hopped in with a cab driver named Mo to get to our hotel. Along the way he pointed out this and that, eventually offering to show us all around the area for a full day for Y400. We told him we hadn’t made any plans yet, but I did take his card.
And after four days in Yangshuo we decided that the best (only?) way to see the main sites in the area would be to do exactly what Mo suggested. Frankly, our hotel lady suggested the same thing, though she said she would arrange it for Y450 for the day.
The extra $10 notwithstanding, I liked Mo and I liked that he spoke pretty good English. And Mo, if you are somehow reading this, I swear I tore apart everything I had trying to find your business card. But I couldn’t find it, so we ended up with the same cabbie that took us to and from the Impression light show the previous night, Chim (or was in Ching? Maybe Cheen?).
We were ready and waiting at 9am, Chim (I’m gonna go with Chim) arrived a short time later in her small, blue four-door Volkswagen Santana. We briefly discussed our itinerary, buckled in and off we went.
As we were cruising through town headed towards our first destination I became acutely aware of three things: 1) I needed coffee. 2) I was pretty darn hungry, having eaten only mock-Pringles and mock-Oreos for my mock-dinner the night before, and 3) we were on the road that I knew would go by West Street, where all the Western food chains were. I asked if we could stop in and Chim said “sure”.
We bypassed the Starbucks (their coffee isn’t as good as it is back home and it’s very, very expensive. Like, we’re talking $5 for a small coffee expensive), instead opting for the McDonald’s next door. We each got a coffee and I ordered myself a sausage McMuffin and a chicken McMuffin. Okay, I ordered them both as meals to save a few yuan and I got a couple of free hash browns out of the deal.
So, here’s the thing with me and sausage McMuffins: I thought I loved them for years and years before I finally admitted to myself (enough times) that I don’t actually like them very much at all. Really, it was the fact that they were only available before 10am that got me. I am seldom up and out of the house before 10am so on the rare occasion that I was and I saw a McDonald’s I would generally pull in and order myself a sausage McMuffin*.
Okay, I’d usually order three.
And of course, after eating three greasy meat sandwiches without any condiments I would always feel a little ill. And while I admitted this to myself every single time it wasn’t until I started admitting it out loud to Heather that I finally realized that I don’t really like sausage McMuffins. And yet I’d still stop in for one when I got the chance, but at least I cut it down to just one at a time. I still didn’t like them, but the tummyache wouldn’t be as bad.
And you know what finally got me to stop ordering them? When McDonald’s started offering breakfast anytime. Sausage McMuffins are no longer a limited commodity so they no longer hold any allure to me.
I really should see a psychologist.
Anyway, the reason I ordered one on this day (or so I’m telling myself) was because they were only serving breakfast and I don’t eat eggs that come from McDonald’s (a guy’s gotta have standards, right?). I can report that it was better than back home, if only because the cheese was cheesier.
The chicken McMuffin on the other hand was a disappointment. I only remember seeing such a thing on a McDonald’s menu once before (in Romania, though I didn’t get one then) and I assumed it was a junior chicken patty served on an english muffin.
It was actually chopped-up bits of real chicken, with some…was it cole slaw?…in place of McChicken sauce. Though it was much real-er food than I expected I didn’t like it as much as I think I would have liked the McChicken patty, but it was still pretty okay. I’d like to say that the hash browns were the same as they are in North America but I’m not sure, as I haven’t had McDonald’s hash browns in probably thirty years or more. But really, the important thing was the coffee which, while sub-par, hit the spot bang-on.
I suppose it’s a bit ironic then that the first stop of our day tour was at a tea plantation. Chim drove us up a mountain and led us through a building to the back deck where endless mountains lined with tea plants (trees?) spread as far as the haze would allow us to see. We gaped and gazed and took a thousand pictures, which was good practise for the rest of our day, which would also include a lot of gazing and picture-taking.
After about ten minutes someone brought us two glasses (yes, glasses) of tea, one green and one regular. I’m not much of a tea drinker but the regular one was all right I guess, but nothing to write home about (despite all this typing). The green tea tasted like warm water. And both of them caused me to get leaves in my mouth every time I took a sip. They should invent a cup (or a glass) with a screen near the bottom to filter out the leaves. Way easier than a teabag, especially when there isn’t a teabag.
Cruising through the hilly terrain on our way to the next, unspoken destination Chim pulled off at a few viewing spots so we could do a little gazing and picture-taking. I tell you, these karst pokey-outey mountains are just so remarkably picturesque (and gaziesque); I could just stare at them forever. The mist that looks suspiciously like smog doesn’t hurt the old eyes either. Okay, sometimes it does kind of sting one’s eyes, but it sure helps the whole place look pretty magical.
(Chim told us the mist meant rain was coming soon. Yeah right. If that’s true then it has been threatening rain every day since we arrived in China, and we haven’t seen a drop of rain.)
Our next stop was some mountain that purported to offer nice views from the top. We weren’t deterred one bit by the one thousand steps we would have to climb for the view, but we were deterred many bits by the Y60 per person fee to do so. After climbing up the mountain in Xing Ping a day earlier there was no way we were interested in dropping $25 to do it again. Plus with the pending rain (yeah, right) the view probably wouldn’t have been that great anyways. We told Chim we weren’t interested and got back in the car for the next journey.
Which ended up being another unspoken stop on the tour, at a place called Shangri La. No, not the real Shangri La. This was one of those pioneer villages, set up to depict traditional life a long time ago, when things were traditional. At least that’s what it looked like from a distance.
Bailing on the mountain trek saved us an hour or so, which I suppose is what inspired Chim to walk us around the perimeter of Shangri La. It was pleasant, with lots of nice scenery, and it easily ate up that hour we had gained.
Next we drove to a bridge that was surrounded by bamboo boats, much like the one we rode the previous day in Xing Ping. The bridge was nice enough, but again we surprised Chim when we told her we weren’t interested in a boat tour. I lingered trying to get a shot of the bridge without any people on it while Heather stopped to buy herself the cutest bamboo hat ever.
Next up was another bridge but this one is actually quite famous. It might be called Dragon Bridge, I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that it is over six hundred years old. Okay, I’m not completely sure about that either, it might have been four hundred years old. Anyways, it was certainly very ancient and it is quite a sight besides, and amazingly enough we almost managed to get pictures of it with nobody up there.
I say “almost” because there was a guy sitting near the top of the bridge the whole time we were there, and he was endlessly playing with his phone and picking his nose. It was so frustrating. There were two different wedding shoots taking place at the bridge when we were there and at one point one of the professional photographers asked the dude to move. He iLooked up from his snot and phone and immediately obliged, moving from the top of one side of the bridge to the top of the other side, spoiling an entirely different half of the photo opportunities.
As we crossed the bridge to leave I sarcastically explained to Heather that the guy must just love having his picture taken, so as I walked by him I stuck my camera in his face and clicked off about ten pictures, turning backwards to do so as I strolled by. He looked up as I took the first shot and casually went back to his business, completely oblivious and/or not caring about my intended transgression at all.
I should just let stuff like that go. I don’t know the dude’s story. Maybe he was texting his ancestors who built the bridge in the first place, how do I know?
Let’s see, what was next on the agenda? Oh, I think it was Moon Hill, which is a mountain with a crescent-shaped hole in it. Again it was a big climb, but at only Y10 per person it felt like a steal, so up we went. This was probably the highlight of the day, and while I found Moon Hill much more picturesque from a distance it was great to arrive at the top and have the whole place to ourselves (except two old ladies that were trying desperately to sell me some water, Coke, beer, or postcards. How many times can a guy say, “I’m sorry, no thanks”?). Just as we started coming back down we ran into another couple coming up, then another, and then a tour of British girls. I hope the two old ladies did brisk business after we left.
As the day wore on we learned lots of things from Chim. I found out that the circular concrete planters we often saw were indeed graves (Chim seemed spooked out that I even asked…Chinese tend to be very death-averse) and I discovered that the character I kept seeing that looks like the letter J with wings - /J\ - means what I thought it did: small. “Shua” is how it’s pronounced. I already knew da and chung, meaning medium (or middle or centre) and large and it occurred to me that the reason I didn’t know the character for “small” was because I had learned the other two from ordering pizza when I spent a summer in Taiwan twenty years ago, and I never, ever order small pizzas.
I should say that we learned most of these things in a very curious way. Y’see, Chim doesn’t speak hardly any English at all, and outside of ordering pizza my Mandarin is almost non-existent, but she has this babel app on her phone (that’s what I call it) where she can speak into it and a voice will instantly spit out the translation. Alternatively, we could speak English into her phone and it would translate into Mandarin for her. Pretty astounding, pretty handy, and pretty common too. We’ve seen it several times since we arrived; it’s a real game changer and yet another reason why I’m glad neither of us has a cell phone.
(As inconvenient and frustrating as it can sometimes be, one of the big reasons I travel is to find barriers and overcome them. When travelling, even the most mundane tasks can often turn into crazy, challenging adventures, and if it gets too easy that will go away. Don’t get me wrong, I take things pretty easy, just not too easy.)
Our last stop of the day was the one I was looking forward to the most: Silver Cave. I’m a fan of caves in the first place, and the picture in the brochure of Silver Cave was so colourful, unique and engaging that I really wanted to check it out. I was concerned that I was going to be more taken with the photographer’s skills than the cave itself, a worry I often point out to Heather when she comments that a hotel looks nice online (“Is it a great hotel or just a great picture?” I always wonder), but if you don’t go you won’t know.
Now I know.
I’ve been in quite a few caves in my day so I know they are chilly, usually about 65 degrees or so, so I changed into a long shirt before going in (I was already wearing jeans, which I had regretted a few times already during the hot, sweaty day). We got our tickets and English earsets and stepped into the cavern.
And I soon found out that any idiot with a camera could easily best the pics in the brochure, and the reason why is because the cave is lit with coloured lights. It makes every picture look like gold. Heather and I marvelled after the first few shots, “Why doesn’t every cave do this?”
We soon discovered why. Though picturesque as all-get-out the coloured lights actually make it hard to really appreciate the natural beauty of a cave, partially because of uneven, eye-tricking lighting and partly because the candy-colours are so distracting. We took tons of excellent shots, but had a hard time enjoying what was otherwise one of the more interesting and beautiful caves either of us has seen.
There were two other mitigating factors: The place was packed with people, we’re talking wall-to-wall packed. There are just so many people in China…it’s really hard to fathom. It was a massive, slow-moving throng and when the cave would bottleneck it would literally be as densely packed as the Toronto subway during rush hour. Seriously.
And all those people are probably what led to the other problem, which really dampened our pleasure (pun intended, as they all are). Instead of being a cool 65 degrees in there it was swelteringly muggy. Halfway through the two kilometre trek we were both drenched in sweat and clamouring for the cave to end. And here I was dressed up for the North Pole. After enjoying a pretty tiring day already, amazing as the cave was we couldn’t get out of there soon enough.
(Another likely reason that it didn’t cool down in the cave is because after entering we only went up instead of down. When we exited the cave we were actually two or three storeys higher up than where we had started.)
When we emerged, the hot air outside felt like a cool refreshing breeze. We made our way back to Chim’s car and rode back to Yangshuo with all the windows down. Though we were both half-starved and in bad need of a shower I couldn’t resist asking Chim to pull over for one last photo op, as the nearly-full moon rose big and yellow behind the unreal mountain range. Of course cameras in the hands of amateurs can never make such pictures match reality but you can rest assured, it was a remarkable sight.
Back at the hotel the shower felt like a million bucks and dinner tasted like gold.
It’s hard to believe the entire day of driving around cost the same amount of money as our two tickets to that lame, seventy-minute light show the night before.
But like I say, if you don’t go, you won’t know.
*Remember, that’s a sausage McMuffin without egg. My gawd, back in the days before the sausage McMuffin hit the value menu it was almost impossible to get one without an egg patty on it no matter how many times you told the dude at the counter that you wanted “a sausage McMuffin WITHOUT egg. I don’t want any egg whatsoever. Please, please don’t bring me a sandwich with egg on it.”
bouche reacted to Velvet in Chinalog (in honour of Bradm)
Well, we certainly made up for our slow day.
Heather was up for the sunrise, I slept in until past 8am. We found each other and got on the road a little before ten o’clock.
Walking down the dirt road leaving our hotel I spotted something unusual in the woods. It looked like three or four cases of Halls cough drops, but Chinese, still in the plastic. I looked a little further and noticed two large piles of refuse, one was more of the Halls, the other was all packs of gum. All of it was new, in the boxes the stores display them in, and all of it dumped just a dozen feet off the road in the woods. Weird.
When we reached the paved road we crossed the street to the gas station and kept our eyes open for buses. We were hoping to get to Xing Ping, but to do so we had to match the Chinese characters the guy at the hotel wrote down for us to the Chinese characters on the bus. It took maybe ten minutes but we found one and flagged him down. Y10 and thirty minutes later we were there.
Our main reason for going to Xing Ping was to take a river tour on a bamboo raft. The rafts aren’t actually bamboo, they are made of plastic PVC tubing, but the plastic is moulded to look like thick sticks of bamboo. So modern-traditional, these Chinese.
We hadn’t eaten yet, nor did we eat supper the night before so we stopped for coffees and omelettes, and followed that up with a pot of milk/coffee/tea, a blended concoction that tastes a lot like tea. Because of the larger tour boats the smaller bamboo boats don’t take tourists between 11am and 1pm so we killed some time perusing the shops and deciding whether or not to climb the nearby mountain, which is one of the big reasons to come to the town.
By the time we decided to climb the mountain after all it was about 1pm - no need to kill any more time - but we carried on with the climbing plan anyway. I ducked into a shop that sold beautiful wood carvings; they were expensive but I was pretty sure I wanted to come back before we left town and get myself a serious, lifelong souvenir. Before leaving the friendly fellow who ran the shop we asked him where we might find the path leading up the mountain.
“Go this way ,” he said, pointing, “until you see all the sheep and then turn left.”
That was weird. We had wandered much of the town by this point and we hadn’t seen any herds of sheep. Moreover, neither of us had seen a single sheep on the whole trip thus far. In a flash of recognition I asked him, “Do you mean the boats?”
“Yes, yes,” he replied, “where there are many sheeps and boats, that is where you will find the path.” Oooohhhh. And so it was that we found the steps leading up up up, which were accompanied by many poorly-translated signs warning us (and everyone else) not to even consider climbing the staircase as it was clearly much too dangerous.
And up we went.
It took a good forty minutes or so to get to the top, but get to the top we did (after passing several more warning signs and lots and lots of litter). At the peak we found a little pagoda, a handful of other tourists, and a pretty stellar view. We met a couple of Canadians up there (first ones this trip) and chatted with them a bit before heading back down again. The journey back was much less sweaty but even more treacherous; we had to take many of the high, rocky steps sideways.
For the last month or two the sole of my left sneaker had been coming loose. By the time we left for China it was half off but holding up pretty well. About three-quarters of the way down the mountain it gave way big time, the sole peeled almost entirely away from the shoe and was left just barely clinging to the tip of my toe.
It was like I was wearing one big flip-flop; I guess I was wearing a flip. I took it really easy the rest of the way down and made it to street level with my soul hanging by a thread. We found a store and looked up the word “glue” in Heather’s phrasebook. We were surprised that the word was actually in the book and even more surprised that the lady had glue for sale, at only $1 a tube. And it worked.
Happily retrod, we headed to the water where - after much haggling - we booked an hour-long bamboo raft tour with another couple. They were Chinese and didn’t speak any English but they proved to be a whole lot of help.
First, the lady we booked with escorted the four of us to the waterside and pointed us to a ferry. “What?!? No!” we said, pointing to the smaller bamboo boats that lined the water’s edge. The other couple smiled and pointed to the other side of the river, assuring us that all was good. Ahh, we would be bambooing from the opposite shore of the river.
It took a while, but the ferry finally got moving and deposited us on the other side. However just before it departed our booker lady got off the boat and walked away. Ummm…I thought, pointing this out to Heather. Again, the other couple indicated we had nothing to worry about, pointing to another lady sitting on the ferry that was clearly our new point-man.
On the other side of the water we sat and waited. Heather and I had no idea what we were waiting for, but we were starting to worry. Y’see, we had already prebooked the Impression light/water show in Yangshuo for the night’s entertainment, and we had to be back at our hotel at 6:45 to catch our ride to the show, otherwise we would have to eat the eighty bucks we spent on tickets. And here it was nearing 4pm and we were not yet on a boat.
We debated whether or not to bail on the boat trip and try to get our money back but we reasoned that with nearly three hours left we would certainly make it back to our hotel in time to get to the show.
Soon a little shuttle vehicle showed up - basically a motorcycle with bench seating for a half-dozen people in the back - and we hopped in. And waited. Ten minutes later a driver appeared out of nowhere and off we went.
But to our surprise we didn’t go down a road. Rather, we traversed an amazing little interlocking brick path through the woods, branches screeching off the roof and the sides of our motorcycle/bus the whole way. The ride was so, so much fun! After a pretty long time we ended up on a stony beach, and after a bit more waiting finally, along came our boat. The other couple insisted we take the front bench and we obliged. In a moment the captain dipped his long-tail propeller into the water and off we went.
We were surrounded by karst mountains on all sides, it looked positively Seussian. After about twenty minutes of magical puttering along the river the driver inexplicably pulled up to a little village and dropped his anchor on the dock. It was inexplicable to us, anyway, but obviously not to our companions, who quickly hopped ashore. We joined them and found ourselves walking among a small village that was clearly very, very old, but had no reservations about throwing up brand-new houses among the ancient ones.
We took a few pictures and circled the village for ten minutes or so, and when we got back to the boat of course our driver was nowhere to be seen. It was starting to feel like we were cutting things pretty close, but we were still very much in awe of the scenery hulking over us. Eventually the driver arrived and handed us each a piece of odd, very bland fruit that looked a bit like a white orange. It tasted like nothing, and then he handed us more.
Back on the boat we moved on for a few minutes before the captain abruptly turned us around and gunned it. We went back the way we came and kept right on going, and soon enough we arrived back at Xing Ping, precisely where we had initially boarded the ferry. As we got off the boat I asked our very helpful companions for the time and found out it was almost 6pm.
Heather and I power-walked back to the bus station, cruising by a thousand restaurants that we would have loved to stop at and that woodworkers shop where I had been hoping to haggle a beautiful carving down to $200. When we got to the depot we found our bus ready to pull out but we both had to use the bathroom so badly we were willing to miss the bus (and eat our show tickets) for a bathroom break.
We didn’t though, the bus was miraculously still there when we returned from the facilities, and in no time it pulled out with us on board.
The bus dropped us at the bottom of our dirt road at 6:34pm and we raced up the steep hill towards our hotel. Thank goodness the glue was holding up on my sneaker or we never would have made it. And not only did we make it, we nailed it, stepping in the hotel office at 6:45 on the button.
We even beat the driver, which gave us enough time to slip up to our room and quickly change clothes.
When the car arrived our driver kept up our pace, racing through the streets and depositing us at the big show. She power-walked us to a small desk and told us to wait five minutes, our tickets would come, pointed to where we should meet her after the show and then she ran off.
Impressions is the big thing to do here in Yangshuo, and despite all our effort to get there on time neither Heather nor I were at all convinced it was going to be our sort of thing. It certainly is a lot of people’s thing though; we were both shocked at how many people were coursing through the turnstiles.
We got our tickets and were pointed the way in, which took us through a security line that was labelled in English: Explosion Prevention Line. The crowd was being ushered into little holding areas before being corralled through the metal detectors. I remember being amazed at the orderliness of the Chinese; everyone lined up in the most perfect lines within the holding pen without being told. It was quite a sight.
When we found our seats I was further astounded. I had expected a thousand, maybe fifteen hundred people in the audience, but there were at least 6,000 people there. I guess it makes sense; the show has a cast of six hundred after all. I was also astounded by the setting. The bleachers faced the most picture-perfect cove you could possibly imagine, ringed by massive, towering mountains that rose up out of the water like fingers, all of them lit up like a classic Chinese rice-paper ink painting.
The show itself was broken up into seven chapters that chronicled the history of China, performed by an enormous cast who used the water as their stage. In addition to the illuminated mountains there was fire, spotlights, brightly lit floats and electrified costumes. Of course it was all in Chinese and impossible to follow and though the show started quite well, with two hundred kids waving torches in front of a hundred rafts sporting flaming bonfires, it was really fairly lame overall. Considering each show brings in a quarter of a million dollars in ticket sales by my estimation (and they present two shows a night), you’d think the choreography would be a bit tighter.
But the reason this show will forever stand out in my memory is the crowd. Never in my life have I seen a more disrespectful group. Not a word of a lie, there was a thousand loud, nonstop conversations going on in the stands all around us - if anyone was whispering I didn’t here it - so much so I turned around to everybody in particular and yelled, “It’s absolutely absurd how much people are just talking and talking and talking,” widely gesturing with my arms.
But that wasn’t it. Aside from all the chatter and the absolutely insane amount of cellphoning going on, with fifteen minutes left in the show hundreds upon hundreds of people got up to leave. Taking this as a cue, moments later entire sections stood up en masse to leave. Of course this was just when dozens of actors were coming through the audience, leaving the exits blocked, so everyone just stood in the aisles, not caring a bit about the few thousand of us left trying to watch the show. And of course the leavers were talking louder than ever, probably about how great the show was. For them the night was over and to hell with anyone else.
And it must happen all the time, because the house lights went up when there were still a few minutes left in the show. Heather and I looked at each other in wonder…Is it over or not?
I’ve never seen anything like it. Honestly, it was an embarrassment for the country. If the Chinese treat their own artists and their fellow citizens with that level of blatant disrespect I don’t want any part of it. You won’t catch me going to another show here, no way.
I wanted to punch them all.
But I punched no one.
Outside we stopped at a store and bought some snacks in lieu of dinner (again) and met our taxi right where she said she’d be. In no time at all we were back in our rooms resting up for what was looking like an even bigger day to come.