China Underground Revisited: New Zachary Mexico tale of life on the margins in "Kunming, 2004"

Travel | by David Perry
Posted: September 3rd, 2010 | Updated: June 19th, 2014 | Comments
Zachary Mexico, author of China Underground, a series of reports from the margins of the new (and not-so-new) China, is holed up somewhere in upstate New York, hard at work on a new book. We're not sure what to expect, but we're glad to have a new tale of life in the People's Republic from Mr. Mexico available online. Simply titled Kunming, 2004 and up on at the author's blog Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever, it's a straight-forward narrative about the odd twists and turns that life in China can throw one's way — and the way pervasive ambiguities and uncertainties can turn a pretty screwed-up situation into a really screwed-up situation... really fast. [pullquote]He asked if we could meet up. He sounded desperate. I said, okay, meet me at the teahouse outside the East Gate of Green Lake Park...[/pullquote] Mexico appears to draw directly on his experience running a bar in Kunming for this one, which hinges on a couple of events that are likely familiar to folks who have been in China for a while: an unwelcome request for a quick (and sizable) loan, and a bad traffic accident that none of the rubber-necking observers wants anything to do with beyond a curiosity-satisfying look-see, even if a man's life is in danger. Toss in a dash of seasoned expat super-prudence (or is it paranoia? or sheer panic? you'll have to judge for yourself...) and you've got a tale of a pleasant enough day in Kunming, the "City of Eternal Spring," that turns suddenly more than a little bit freaky. After the jump, a taste...
"As I passed Yuantong Temple, the wind blew in from the west and I caught the faint musty smell of the incense from inside. I thought about Ali. I ate at his restaurant a couple times a week. What would happen if I stopped going? Would he remember me? In front of the zoo, a class of middle school students in their blue uniforms ate candied crabapples on sticks. I bought a bottle of spring water, and stopped and leaned against the wall to drink it. A cute girl wearing a pair of tight jeans walked by and looked me in the eyes. My cell phone vibrated in my pocket. It was a number I didn't know. Some people are scared of flying. Some are scared of snakes. At the time, I was scared of phone calls from unknown numbers. Whenever I saw the number I didn't know blinking on my phone, I would feel a little pang of tightness in my stomach. I picked up the phone. There was a male voice on the other end. I asked who it was. He told me, but I didn't recognize the name. Liu something. The voice asked me where I was, and if I was at the bar. I told him, no, I was out for a walk. He asked if we could meet up. He sounded desperate. I said, okay, meet me at the teahouse outside the East Gate of Green Lake Park. He agreed and hung up."
Read the whole thing on interview... and consider this cautionary tale's lesson when it comes to answering unknown calls on your mobile....
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