That Jerk Jackie Chan

This blog entry about the events of Thursday, April 29, 2010 was originally posted on May 02, 2010.

DAY 10: “Jackie Chan,” Juju said during our morning coffee and news session at the Starbucks across the street.  “We don’t like him.”  She continued, saying how while he may be a comedic karate guy in the USA, he was known in China to be a jerk and a womanizer, with kids from different women that he sometimes didn’t claim to be his.  Plus, “His movies are all the same; cha cha cha [action sounds] and a little funny… but his kung fu is only so-so.  Jet Li… he does real kung fu.”

I was flipping through a China Daily while she flipped through an InStyle (Chinese edition), checking out the latest fashion and gossip of Chinese, Taiwanese and most importantly, American actors of film and TV.  “I love Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives.  Desperate Housewives is my favorite,” she said.  “I like [Eva Longoria].  She’s a little dark and she’s very sexy.”  She continued to flip through the rag.  “I like him,” she said pointing to another American actor.

“Oh, Tom Hanks,” I noticed. “I like him too.  Have you seen Forrest Gump?”  She wasn’t familiar with the English title of the movie.

“I see this movie where his mother tells him what to do,” she said.  “And he runs…”

“Yeah, that’s Forrest Gump.”  In the land of China, it was known as A Guan Zheng Zhuan.

Conversation about movies led to a morning visit to the video store, and by that I mean the store that looks like a t-shirt shop on the outside of a normal-looking retail strip, but is actually a pirated DVD store through a secret door.  It wasn’t such a huge secret; most locals knew about it, including Scott who would go every week to catch up on current movies from abroad — and all for about a buck seventy-five each.  Needless to say, I stocked up on some supplies.  “How much is a DVD in America?” Juju asked me.

“I don’t know, maybe ten dollars?”

“Oh, that’s so expensive!”  (This was just one bit of price comparisons between China and New York that blew her mind, like maid service costing $60 and dog walking costing $25 per session, instead of per month.  That blows my mind.)

We strolled around the neighborhood as morning turned into midday.  I got some skin ointment and Juju got some flowers for the house.  For lunch, we opted to ignore the fast food chain Zhen Kung Fu (which translates to “Real Kung Fu,” with Bruce Lee — not Jackie Chan — for its logo), and did as the local taxi drivers did (picture above) by going to one of the little eateries where you order the “standard” lunch plate of the day: chicken with noodles, rice, vegetables, a tea egg, a slice of tofu, and a cup of black skin chicken soup (with foot).  We walked through shopping malls and retail areas, where I noticed a lot of American (i.e. Best Buy) and international brands.  “Are there any Chinese stores?” I asked my host.

“[Not really.]  People in China only like clothes from other countries,” she answered.  Even though most items were made in China, another country’s style would add value.  If something is made in China, but the design is from Korea or Japan, people will pay twice as much.

This was just another example of China’s recent obsession with Western consumer culture.  While technically a Communist country, free enterprise is alive and well, particularly in Shanghai.  It is well known that China strives to be the next world power — and it will arguably be so — all sprouted from an obsession with the West.  I remember hearing a news segment years ago about China’s new modernization, and some “expert” said something like, “Here we have a people that was riding bicycles for decades that suddenly thought, ‘Hey, we want to drive cars now.’”  (This was good news for Scott, who worked in automotive parts manufacturing, and considered himself lucky to be one of the American automotive stragglers privileged to still be abroad.)

“I will take you to a real Chinese clothing market,” Juju told me as I browsed the blazers at Uniqlo.  She was not so obsessed with labels as many bourgeois Chinese, and wanted to bring me to where real Chinese people went shopping.

“Okay,” I said all Forrest Gump like.

QIU-QIU STAYED BACK AT THE HOUSE that afternoon when we drove to the local Shanghai Xingwang International Finery City, a bustling, multi-level clothing market and mall brimming with the working class Chinese people.  “It’s much cheaper,” Juju said pointing out the clothes.  “All straight from factory.”  We dropped off the car in the parking garage’s drop-off-service car wash (inside and out cleaned for just $1.50!), walked up the stairs and entered the madness.  Market stall after market stall sold t-shirts, dresses, underwear, accessories — everything you could put on your body in casual and formal fashion, including bootleg designer sunglasses behind a secret door. 

The upper floors weren’t as crazy — it was more like a Western shopping mall — but without the familiar store names (or just robot-inspired ones).  Some stores had automotive brands for their wares (Vespa, Jeep), while some simply had catchy phrases; one store’s name was “I like this place.”  (I like that place.)  Eventually I found a slick-looking white dinner jacket (which I had been in the market for for a while), for about $58.  The off-the-rack size was too tight so I had to wait for my size to come from the warehouse.  Damn all the pounds I’d gained from eating my way through the Philippines, Taiwan, and China thus far(!), but as any traveler knows, food is an integral part of cultural immersion.

“Are you hungry?” Juju asked me, pooped from shopping.

“I could always eat.”  It was turning into my catch phrase in these parts.

Juju got octopus from a street vendor while I did what I do at least once on every trip: try the local, location-targeted McDonald’s item: in this case the Gu Lao Rou  — like a McRib but with Chinese spices and oils instead of the same barbecue sauce used for Chicken McNuggets.  It tied me over until dinner together with Scott at the “Hot Pot Club,” a Chinese take on shabu-shabu where they went at least once a week, with Chinese vegetables, meats, and “special mushrooms” (that grow on bamboo), cooked yourself in a mild or spicy Sichuan pepper broth.  We washed it all down with Tsingtao beer, proud sponsor of the USA’s NBAWesternobsessionsayswhat? 

“JACKIE CHAN IS SINGING AT THE EXPO,” Juju told me, much to her chagrin.  Mostly known as an action star in America, he was quite the crooner in his home country, singing at the opening ceremony — although his singing was probably so-so too.  “My friends and people my age don’t like him, but the older people still like him.”  Friday night marked the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Expo, proudly hosted by Shanghai.  Like the World Cup, it was a huge deal to China and many other countries around the world — except for America.  (Sigh.)  Scott told me that the United States was a latecomer to register for the event, mostly fickle because of human rights arguments, but eventually decided to play.  While most Asian and European countries had pavilions that took years to build, with staffs in the hundreds, we joked that America probably just had a little convention booth table. 

“It’s probably just a desk with a white guy saying ‘Welcome to America,’” he joked.

The opening ceremony was across town, and mostly geared to dignitaries, celebrities, and government officials, leaving us to watch it on TV like most people.  While the opening banquet looked like an uptight, florescent-lit, corporately-planned business convention dinner, the ceremonial show was quite a spectacle with choirs representing African nations, and China’s wall of acrobats.  The grand finale was the most impressive syncronized fireworks display I’ve ever seen in the world, over the Huangpu River — which we saw mostly on TV as the after-smoke breezed behind the apartment hi-rise that was blocking what would have been our perfect view. 

China had prepared three years for the Expo — since Scott arrived in Shanghai — all for this one day, which made many locals relieved since there was construction everywhere for years.  But the expo was still taking its toll on our evening; there were no taxis, the train had already been shut down (at 10:30), and there would be nowhere to park to where we wanted to go clubbing in Puxi.  Instead, we walked, along with everyone else walking that couldn’t get a cab in Pudong, to the local Chinese music pub Max’s, owned by a local guy named Max, who also sang in the house band, “Max.” 

“This place actually has a Chinese cover band,” Scott told me.  Max (the band) played familiar tunes; Max (the guy) made me laugh as he sang “Ladies’ Night.”  They entertained us as we enjoyed beer and cocktails, with me sitting at a table with a lazy susan, wearing my white dinner jacket and sipping a martini, feeling a lot like Indiana Jones in the Shanghai 1935 scene of Temple of Doom.  (Indiana Jones nerds note: there was even a woman singing in a red dress at one point.) 

I guess wearing the white blazer could have put me in the Forrest Gump category too; I’ll take it as long as it’s not an association to that jerk Jackie Chan.  I mean, c’mon, his karate is only so-so.

Next entry: Race To Yellow Mountain

Previous entry: Strawberry Fields Forever, For The Day

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Comments for “That Jerk Jackie Chan”

  • Hope to have one or two more done (from the land of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), in time for the WHMMR (Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush).

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/02  at  02:53 AM

  • Okay, I’ve eaten a ton today, but that hot pot sounds and looks yummy!
    Did they have any issues with you taking video in the mall?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/02  at  06:40 AM

  • don’t be calling me from US Customs and Border Patrol with your contraband DVD’s…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/02  at  06:56 AM

  • While interesting, this entry was deficient in cute puppy pictures.  And although your jacket was white, instead of Indie I was picturing Bill Murray… “For a good time, make it Santori time.” Nice jacket choice.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/02  at  09:15 AM

  • Lip my stocking!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/02  at  05:00 PM

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This blog post is one of eighteen travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers And Other Asian Appetizers," which chronicled a trip to Shanghai and Huang Shan in China, as well as brief excursions to Manila, Taipei, and Seoul.

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