Almost Famous.

March 30, 2009

By Elena Garcia

Garrett Live on Stage!It started out as a rough day, Garrett had a million things to do and I had a bum knee. Braving the cold alone Garrett went out and caught up on all the things he needed for his Shanghai Debut. Guitar strings, straps, food… you know, the essentials.

At about 8:30 Garrett and I headed to Beedees a small hole in the wall bar that allowed Garrett and his Canadian band mates to play live in front of an audience. Having met only a week or so before the big performance, Garrett was a little nervous about what would come.

Nevertheless we braved the Shanghai cold, hailed a cab and headed towards rock and roll stardom. Or at least we headed towards the traffic. What should have been a 15-minute cab ride soon turned into 30 minutes. And soon turned into Garrett freaking out because he was suppose to be on stage in minutes. It’s funny how when you are actually in a rush, you get the cab driver mindful of red lights and speed limits… typical. Mr. Taxi Man took his time in dropping us to our location, even missing the exit and having to turn around. (Usually when this happens, Taxi drivers turn off their meters and drive you the rest of the way since they are making your trip that much longer. But not this taxi cab driver… of course not him.)

As we speed along the freeway, in one sudden jerk Garrett and I fling forward as the driver plummets his brake petal. He had missed the exit and thought it more logical to stop on the freeway from 60 to 0… in hopes of getting over to it. Unfortunately it was way to late and his attempts to reverse were not being had by the other freeway occupants. So with an “EEP” and a grunt he continued for another kilometer until the next exit. There he turned around and headed towards our street.

Once we got to the street where Beedees was, he tried to drop us off about a block away from it. We told him the address one more time and told him straight ahead. This did not matter, he continued down the block about as quickly as the old lady trailing along with her food cart. We tried to explain to him that the address was 4-3-3… and we were only at 4-0-5… and to go straight but he insisted on looking at ever buildings number at the same pace as a fat crawling infant.

Finally, Garrett spotted the fluorescent red sign that shined “Beedees” we quickly told him to stop, paid him the over priced fare and got out.

There among the cute tree lined street stood a whole in the wall that happened to serve alcohol. Tiny, smoky and basically empty, Beedees is the kind of place I imagine beatniks and hippies enjoyed in the 70s. Orange walls, old LPs, expats and big coaches cluttered the tiny room. Garrett really enjoyed the venue, it was much more his scene then my usual glossy floor, sleek table kinda place.

Garrett only had a few moments to settle in before they began playing there 6 song set. They were only granted the time to play 6 songs, until the nights headlining band took the “stage.” Which I thought was funny, seeing how there really wasn’t a stage and people continuously walked past the band to get to the restroom located in the back. But they had the set up, sound, and mood lighting… very hippie sheik!

Garrett’s band and the other band were both quite good. Garrett’s band played covers of songs everyone could sing along to; while the other band played songs I had never heard.

As the night progressed, the tiny bar filled with smoke and soon my eyes began to twitch with the irritation of cigarette fumes and visions of not so cute dancers. (I want nothing more than to not be mean, but if I could just explain to you the outfits that were being worn you would understand the dissatisfaction of my vision… schoolgirl skirts, daisy dukes, and chunky thighs… do with that what you will.)

By the end of the night I was eager to leave, slightly disappointed that I had worn my new sparkly, silver knitted mini dress to this place. (It was a much more jeans and boots kinda place!) My dress now cries out for a severe Febreezing especially when you get a whiff of the cigarette smoke scent I acquired while I was there. It’s no Chanel 5! But Garrett did an amazing job (as always) and shined bright among his Canadian counterparts (but I’m biased)!

By Elena Garcia

Slit baby pantsBodily fluids… are probably one of the hardest things for me to talk about. They are gross and have no place being out in the open. Which is probably why people use private stalls in secluded restrooms, and why people are made to feel shamed if they pick their nose and why MOST people refrain from spitting everywhere.

But as you may predict the rules that I was once accustomed to no longer apply here in China.

People squat on the floor to pee, they make magnificent noises when they are hocking up a loogie, and they flick their boogers onto the shoes of passer bys.

At this point I’ve seen everything and heard everything. I’ve seen a woman clipping her fingernails on the metro, I’ve heard of babies squatting and taking a dump on the side of the road. (They have pants with slits that run along the crotch to allow kids to pee and poop anywhere, at any time. Talk about Skid Marks!) I’ve also heard that the mother of the above mentioned child used a tissue to pick up her child’s poop and then put that poop filled tissue in her purse. I’ve seen grown men pick their nose and examine the results. I’ve seen spit that requires medical attention but yet I have never seen anyone NOT cover their mouths when using a toothpick.

It is rude and disgusting, in Chinese culture, to use a toothpick openly. So if you require a toothpick you must cover your mouth while using it, so no one can see what you’re doing. But pooping, that’s okay!

The way it was explained to me by our tutor Grace is that everyone poops, everyone clips their nails but not everyone has food stuck in their teeth, thus making it gross to pick their teeth. Logic is different here too!

My co-worker tells me stories of finding footprints on toilet seats because so many people here are use to using Squatters that western toilets are not comfortable. So they stand on the western toilet and squat. Awesome.

I have refrained from using any public restrooms for quite a while now, having used public facilities only about a dozen times since moving here. I am absolutely terrified of the facilities here.

I am also quite sick of hearing people spit everywhere. The noises that are made by these people… it can’t be right. It’s so gross. You walk along the streets dodging tiny puddles of spit; it’s so incredibly unpleasant.

If people were less inclined to expose their bodily fluids and bad habits, I am sure I would enjoy China, just a tad more.

By Elena Garcia

Every morning I take a shuttle bus to work. It picks people up at the metro station and delivers us to the compound where we work. There are two different drivers that deliver us to our place of employment. One is an older man who wears a different baseball cap almost everyday (I think he’s bald underneath). Then the second one is a younger guy (maybe 40 something) whom until recently always wore a typical driving uniform: blazer, white gloves, and loafer shoes.

But for the last few days’ things have been different. This shuttle bus driver of which I just spoke had dumped his old uniform for some “younger, hipper” clothes. I say that pretty liberally because they were much hipper and younger in 1984 when Tom Cruise rocked them.

Mr. bus driver has started rocking a jean jacket with the collar popped, khaki pants and his typical loafers with no socks. He’s also started playing the radio through out the bus. But not just any radio, “China’s International Radio Station, playing all of the current world hits.” Which include Britney Spears’ Hit Baby One More Time, that Apple Bottom Jeans Song, and my personal favorite Pink’s “Let’s Get The Party Started!”

Obviously they are super current!

Needless to say I don’t know what’s up with Mr. bus driver man but he’s rockin the 1984!

By Elena Garcia

It’s official… I am sooo cool!


Much has occurred in the last weeks, which has made me appreciate Shanghai.

In San Francisco I had a certain standard of living in which I had become accustomed too. People knew me at my favorite stores, restaurants and nightlife locations. I was a force to be reckoned with! Since moving to Shanghai, I haven’t had the “fame” that I was accustomed too.

Until now. On Friday the 13th (figures =/), someone thought I was famous!! You heard me! ME! Famous!!

I was working late on Friday, to help with the run through for the Chinese National Spelling Bee, which my company was sponsoring. The host of the event is a pretty famous girl here in Shangahi (I’d never heard of her, but I don’t watch Chinese TV so… figures) who hosts some shows on CCTV here. A girl who was also helping in the set up approached the TV host and asked if she could take a photo with her. (Not surprising, seeing how this chick is apparently famous.) But much to my surprise after taking the photo with her, she asked me!! Watch out Paris, Elena is coming through!

I’m ready for my close up Mr. DeVil.

I nearly laughed in her face but I kept it together and posed for a few snap shots with my number one  (only) fan.

On top of my new claim to fame, Garrett and I have discovered some culinary masterpieces here in Shanghai and they are just steps from our house.

First there is Wagas and Bistrow by Wagas. Wagas is a small cafe that serves western food at incredibly reasonable prices and it’s DELICIOUS!!! For Dinner I got a HUGE bowl of chicken pesto pasta loaded with feta cheese and it comes with a small house salad for just 40RMB… that’s like 5 bucks!

Bistrow by Wagas is a little bit more expensive, but it’s worth it. Garrett and I had brunch there on a Saturday morning and it was sooo good. I had the best tuna I’ve ever eaten and Garrett had these amazing berry pancakes. (Well they looked amazing, and seeing how he didn’t share!! I assume they were.) And again, it wasn’t expensive at all; the total came to about 30 US dollars.

We also had dinner at Colobro, which was ALSO amazing. It’s a small delicatessen with such good food! The manager was uber friendly too; he told us about the restaurant and gave us vouchers for free things from the Deli next time we came.

Now I mention all these places because for while Garrett and I were going to the same three places; we had no other real options. I was beginning to really get tired of the same old same old. Plus the look and feel of these newly discovered culinary treasures is so much like home! Fantastic!

Now the final thing that has changed my life!!


I am producing a fashion show. YES ME!! I am telling girls they’re too fat (no, but I would love to be one of those snotty ladies with the dark framed glasses who totally could. But alas, I am too self-conscious to even begin to care about what other girls look like!), I am talking to fashion houses; I am putting soundtracks and music together for people to walk down a giant catwalk.

I am very excited.

It’s a charity event that is being put together by my work. And part of it has… a fashion show!! So obviously they asked me to help put it together. It’s very exciting and I have an amazing bright yellow Anna Sui dress that I will wear the day of the event. Because frankly, I don’t care how the models look… I just care how I look! =D

By Elena Garcia

Flower Market

Bambi may have had a Skunk named Flower but he had nothing compared the Flower Market Garrett and I went to!!

On Valentine’s Day Garrett thought it best (well, I told him what to think but he followed directions very well) to let me pick out my own flowers then to buy me the typical over priced roses most boyfriends give. So he took me to the Indoor Flower Market at Ding Xi Lu and Yanan Xi Lu here on the Puxi side of the river.

Although it wasn’t as bustling as I had anticipated, or as big (the cold weather had made an indoor flower market our only option) the market was like nothing I had seen before. Barrels, and barrels of flowers filled the aisles on the first floor. Hydrangeas (my favorite), tulips, multi-colored roses, daisies, house plants and some I wouldn’t know what to call because I had never seen them before, filled every store front. The smell was fantastic!! It’s the kind of smell you wish your laundry would smell like. Perfume companies probably travel from the far ends to try nothing more then to bottle the perfectly fresh scent of exotic Chinese flowers. But nothing could ever duplicate this smell, besides (of course) a warehouse filled with flowers.

Ohh and the colors… the colors were better than anything Crayola could have come up with. They would have made Dorothy and her techni-color world envious.

The second floor was a different story. This is where my grandmother would probably choose to shop. Millions upon millions of fake flowers! Silk, cotton, pink, orange, big, small, tall, short… you name it they had it, fake.

Leave it to China to even make the flowers fake.

I left with a bouquet of Hydrangeas (for less than 5 dollars) in white, purple, blue and green.  So outstanding!