Thursday, March 10, 2011

BEIJING: A SHEEN FREE ZONE

"So here I am in Beijing! Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Blogger and other things are all blocked here. Thus, the marvelous Marji Borkow is helping me circumvent the Red Chinese by posting this blog for me! I've been here a week, and so far no one has heard of Charlie Sheen. Perhaps there's something to be said for censorship. One woman told me she only knew Lady Gaga and Mariah Carey; I am taking an informal video poll and hope to post on YouTube upon my return.

In the meantime I am feasting on an endless Chinese buffet. This morning there were puffy little white dumplings filled with pork or vegetables, fried lotus root with ham, steaming bowls of noodles with tomato and broccoli and a tiny little mushroom dumpling; there were platters of translucent rice noodles and bok choi, and pearlescent little leechees; cool sliced egg salad and cole slaw with carraway, platters of fresh fruit which included something that looked like kiwi only white, with a crisp, light flavor. On the western front there was bacon and poached egg, omelets and pancakes, french toast and waffles with maple syrup...lyonnaise potato, and apricot pastries, tiny little cinamon rolls sprinkled with coconut, and ... OK. I love food. I didn't eat all of this; but I tried.

My husband and I then stumbled out into this very modern city of 19million and headed straight for the decidedly unmodern Forbidden City--home of the last emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The first factoid our guide Thomas trotted out was that Bernardo Bertolucci had filmed THE LAST EMPEROR here! Amazingly, though I'd never been here before, it felt familiar. How extraordinary that Bertolucci had such "never before" access and had rendered this place so vividly onscreen. It unfolds like a rectangular flower, courtyards within courtyards, each with its own palaces for the emperor, his wife, and all 3000 concubines.The palaces have names like "Hall of Intensive Happiness" or "Hall of Gathered Elegance" and "Hall of Mental Cultivation," every noble impulse marked by an edifice; we couldn't help balancing out the feng shui by making up a few of our own: "Hall of Left Over Vegetables," "Hall of Strenuous Evacuation."

Later our guide told us his Chinese name was "Hoo," that it meant "Tiger" and that he had Tiger's blood; I tried but couldn't resist asking Hoo if he had heard of Charlie Sheen, even venturing that Mr. Sheen might be related by blood. No. Hoo has not heard of the now deposed TV star, and Beijing continues to be a Sheen free zone. Hoo then offered to take us to the GREAT WALL . I can't believe this is in my immediate future. More on that tomorrow. Tonight it's Peking Duck!"

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