Somewhere south of Longbai, 2004

April 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

I just remembered that I did make a running foray or two before my treadmill days. When I was living on Jinhui Rd., by the old French and German school, with a Korean-Chinese-American guy named Mike, I took a couple runs. The first one was a pretty disastrous, not because I was still smoking and out of shape (you can actually run long, slow distance pretty effectively as a smoker), but because I got totally lost.

I had a map of Shanghai and I was planning to explore the city by highlighting all the roads I’d run on the map. I traced out a route that snaked its way south of my apartment and set off. After a while I abandoned my planned route (or lost it) and started a “go straight for a while, then turn right for a little while, then turn right and circle back to the original road,” or some sort of plan like that.

After a while, I ran into some one story wholesale construction shops, then some more, then both sides of the street were lined with them and they all seemed just a front for a much larger market out back. It was as if I had run into a construction materials market without end: steel, wire, pipes, windows, aluminum, nuts, bolts, timber, grating, paint, lighting and on and on. I smiled as I was constantly greeted with more of the same (“How do they stay in business right next to each other?) and unusual (“What the fuck could that be for?”). Plus, I was sure it would end so I could run around it or retrace my steps, but the further I got the more the shops and blocks of shops started to look alike and the more amazed and worried I got.

My first worry was about a toilet and water. I stopped at one of the shops that had a refrigerator, bought a drink and asked about a toilet, feeling like I was in some sort of foreign country within China, doubly foreign. I was directed to a toilet, but never found it and peed against a cement wall (China rules still apply, I figured). Then I turned around and realized I was lost, the horizon-less, stoned-out-of-your-mind lost where you have no idea which way is ahead or back anymore. It made me feel dizzy, like I was in an airplane at high speed with no visibility and couldn’t tell if I was upside down or not. I wasn’t panicked because I could always ask directions and I had some money to take a taxi or bus, but I was still dazed by how quickly I had entered this construction market vortex. The buildings weren’t even that tall, still just one or two stories at most.

I was getting tired. I finally asked someone which way it was back to my neighborhood. I ran for a while in that direction and then asked again and seemed to get a different answer and let myself panic and curse China a bit, but kept going down the road they’d pointed my down. Soon after that, I ran into a trunk road that I recognized. I felt my feet under me again, having been pulled out of the vortex, took a right and rumbled home.

When I got home, I took a shower and fired up a smoke on the couch and wondered which roads to highlight on my map. I don’t think I ran again for quite a while, but I know just how far I got with the highlighting of that map.

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