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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Stuff Gavin Newsom Missed in Shanghai

Posted By on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 12:01 AM

click to enlarge On his way to the live fish and crawdad market, 3 p.m. on a weekday...
  • On his way to the live fish and crawdad market, 3 p.m. on a weekday...
Earlier this week, your humble narrator found himself, coincidentally, in Shanghai at the same time as Mayor Gavin Newsom (no one confused the two of us). As someone who spends 99 percent of his time in San Francisco, being in the same city as the mayor is often something of a rarity.

Newsom's schedule in China appears to have been exactly what you'd think it would be -- smile, meet with business and government officials, and gawp at the shiny new buildings emerging from the haze enveloping the futuristic skyline that makes Shanghai resemble something out of Blade Runner -- but with a tip-top public transportation system. Perhaps the mayor got out and took a stroll, pedicab, or 3-yuan subway ride around town. If so, maybe he saw something odd and esoteric -- such as:

click to enlarge On his way to the live fish and crawdad market, 3 p.m. on a weekday...
  • On his way to the live fish and crawdad market, 3 p.m. on a weekday...
People tooling around in pajamas in public, at all hours: If you've visited a college campus of late, you may have noticed young people wandering about in public in SpongeBob fleece pants and flip-flops, the perfect accompaniment to uncombed hair and unwashed pits. If you're a curmudgeon-in-training, this may inspire a round of head-shaking; after all, it's not asking very much of people to put on clothing before leaving the house. And yet, in an odd municipal quirk, an appreciable number of Shanghai residents wander out in public dressed in pajama tops and bottoms -- at all hours of the day. And, even more counter-intuitively, this is more a holdover for old people than a mark of young people's metastasizing informality slouching into sloth. It's charming -- but hardly representative of a city on the go that builds 90-story skyscrapers resembling rocket ships or spotless new metro lines so user-friendly an unfrozen caveman could figure out how to get across town. So, you know, folks pushing that line to an outsider probably wouldn't want you to see this.

click to enlarge But, on the plus side, they do honk. A lot.
  • But, on the plus side, they do honk. A lot.
Herds of silent, electric mopeds -- who won't stop for you: Crossing the street in Shanghai is a matter of life and death. And its jaywalkers must be considered among the world's elite. There are laws regarding pedestrian-vehicle interactions: The law of the jungle. The biggest vehicles, buses and trucks, take priority. Cars -- especially taxis -- will also whiz through intersections against the light and make careening right turns on a red (the little green figure indicating pedestrians' right-of-way really seems to be trying to get you killed).

Once you've checked for buses and cars, you've got to keep in mind the stream of bicycles, municipal garbage collection tricycles, and pedaled flatbeds carrying hardware, produce, or anything else under the sun. And then you've got to factor in the battalions of moped riders -- of all ages -- cruising silently on electric bikes, often with a woman riding side-saddle on the back and a toddler or even an infant between the drivers' legs. It warrants mentioning, these mopeds often ride on the sidewalk, too. Again, not exactly the kind of thing you'd boastfully show off to a visiting mayor -- unless you think Newsom would be impressed by the sight of a family of four commuting on a scooter. Well, it is impressive.

click to enlarge And, really, who could disagree?
  • And, really, who could disagree?
Outrageous clothing: And we're not talking about the astoundingly short shorts and high-topped gladiator sandals all the women are wearing in the sweltering, humid weather. Much has been written about the examples of "Engrish" found in Shanghai and elsewhere (with a lot of it cleaned up prior to this year's Shanghai World Expo). It's in poor taste to belittle novice English speakers. And yet, it's hard not to notice a bevy of T-shirts reading "Calein Klvin," "I So Entangled In You Love?" "Dartmoth Foooball," and the above. If you marketed these very shirts -- poorly copying American sensibilities -- to Americans, at American prices, I think you'd make a killing. 

Hands off, Gav
  • Hands off, Gav
Matching couples: You may notice that the spouses in question

here are wearing identical clothing down to the shoes and socks. This

can be very useful if, er, you've ever had a problem regarding inappropriate

contact with someone else's significant other.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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