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The first act shows a day in our town. I’ll show you how our town lies.

Mid-sunset, 02143. Post-fourth of July calm. Smoky air tastes of autumn and burnt hotdogs and hamburgers leftover from yesterday’s festivities. On one of the hottest days this summer, gnat clouds hover everywhere.

For a little city ten times the size of my own hometown, street activity is minimal. Cars line the one-way streets, but many are caked in pollen or dust. So incredibly still, except for the occasional streak of a car on a distant artery and the drip from the exhaust of the rusted truck parked in front of my apartment building.

I am not traveling the world and saving orphans or researching social unrest in excitingly unrestful cities, but with a huge Nikon hanging around my neck, I am inevitably a tourist. What kind of tourist would tour anytown, USA, I’d like to know? Regardless, peculiarity always seem to form in front of a camera lens, wherever it’s pointed.

Hanging sneakers Parking line

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.

I have returned to the cradle of the Purple Valley, also known as Williamstown, where everything, if open at all, closes by dinnertime or sunset, because we are primeval like that. Shanghai is so different from Beijing, which is so different from Williamstown. Since modern Shanghai is very much about extravagance and show, especially as the World Expo draws nearer, it’s interesting to see what these cliched photographs of the famous bund at night look like desaturated. Deprived of its neon, sheer geometry of a building is more obvious, although I am not sure whether the bund in black and white is any less of the flamboyant city Shanghai is becoming.

But I am too exhausted and jetlagged to draw coherent conclusions long enough to fill a post. So to divert attention, a link to a hilarious video:

I like English, because it is very, very nice.


You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees

Skylines, treelines, and horizons.

Again and Again, However We Know the Landscape of Love

There is a great discrepancy between the interior of the apartment where my paternal grandparents live and the neighborhood of skyrises surrounding their building. The washed-out building façades are scraped raw like skin to reveal hazardous cement cracks and streaks of dirty laundry water like human tears. A precariously heaped mountain of waste in front of our building has just crumbled under heavy rain—from ten floors above the neon plastic bags and the bright watermelon shells almost look pretty. When the sun comes out the damp heap will swarm with maggots and flies, but while it rains the weather is bearable and the breeze is steady and cool. The inner circuit of my grandparents’ neighborhood is a road forever stamped with spit, gum, and garbage thrown carelessly from rooms high above. Nothing looks cleaner than was a few years ago, although admittedly pristine would be a difficult look to achieve when the drooping sky casts everything in a dustier shade. I notice only a few differences: the new air conditioning machines sitting out on the ledges of every apartment window, still white from the department store and the small parade of fancy cars encircling each building in the neighborhood. The old preschool playground I can see to the left is exactly the same as it was eight years ago. The barbershop in front of the playground gates has lost its signature barbershop roll and still has not been painted to look a bit more welcoming for patrons, since its only regular customers are the elderly looking for a trim to affirm that their hair is still growing. The biggest difference is beyond the neighborhood gate, where the highway is congested by five in the morning, buses wait splattered with colorful advertisements for Olympics merchandise, taxis dart in and out seeking business, and motorcycles with horns replace the former school of rickety bicycles with bells. The constant rush of traffic, punctuated by angry horns and engines, never quiets. The city truly never sleeps. In all its smog and smoke, I have never seen a true sunrise and sunset to mirror our most instinctive pattern of sleeping and waking. Here is the face of urban China.

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.

About five hours ago I had four impacted wisdom teeth removed, a surgical process otherwise known as death. Yesterday night I googled every morbid website available for worst-case scenarios–“17-year-old dies after removal of four wisdom teeth.” One of the most comforting posts, typed up by user ANUSLOGAN, read “omgomgomg bleed you just drip blood and drink pools of blood ew gross.” Wikipedia lists “wisdom teeth” in about thirty languages before it even mentions impaction or extraction or the physiology of teeth and jaw. Getting my שן בינה out (foreign-looking characters to be read right to left), getting my зуби мудрості out.

I also learned after seeing the most recent Indiana Jones film with my parents that my mother feigns sleep whenever all non-diegetic elements suggest that a Mayan man with poisonous darts might spring out from behind a totem pole. And that Mayans were taught magical skillz by a number of divine aliens from Mars, and that Harrison Ford is 66 and spawned a mini-Indy. It must have been great fun to play the extras in the film: strip naked and run at senescent Harrison Ford while blissfully embodying an indigenous stereotype.

All the diplomas hanging in the dentist’s waiting room were crooked, and today before my surgery my obsessive-compulsive impulses drove me to begin furious adjustments. I noticed then that my orthodontist’s portrait made him look like an emaciated Ralph Fiennes on crack, or maybe just Tom Riddle in the transitional stage between puberty and Voldemort. Intravenous sedation is also known as SSotP (scariest shit on the planet), because I was out the moment Dr. Pubescent Voldemort pricked my arm.

Nothing beyond this is worth describing because torrents of blood did not gush from my empty sockets and I did not have hallucinations about carnivorous mushrooms. There was no shrieking of omgomgomg bleed you just drip blood and drink pools of blood ew gross. Everything that passes through my mouth tastes of gauze, including the tub of mashed potatoes I just inhaled.

Everyone should milk recuperation for all it’s worth. It is just too great, excluding the pain. I lazed on the couch watching every bad daytime series available. I watched a midget rip off his shirt, pronounce his love for a slutty woman, and denounce his former tall gay lover a la Jerry Springer. I watched kitties in trees being rescued on a local news channel. Then I watched Barney the big fucking friendly dinosaur, whose voice is infinitely lower than it was at the show’s inception.

And now for a non-sequitur, because I am unhealthily obsessed with finding magic in the mundane:

Picking periwinkles from the cracks.

I have conformed and bought a pair.


I start to blog. Because I need an outlet for pretentiousness and also because, although I know this is totally undermining the sole purpose of my summer program, I need English for my sanity.

So, I will type extensive posts about strong and uninformed opinions that no one will read and it will be cool. Maybe a sprinkling of eccentricity and inside jokes.

And some photographs: my dad recently surrendered his super-awesome-amazing-coolest-ever Nikon camera to me for an indefinite amount of time. I hold it in my trembling hands and have taken thousands of pictures, most of which are faux-artsy, of Williamstown, a town insanely boring at the moment, albeit always beautiful.