Saturday, April 05, 2008

The New China, post-Bush Beijing, gelato & breast implants

(Photos are of the customs hall of the Beijing airport and my fabulous -- ie cheap! -- Shenyang internet cafe)

Good grief! I actually taught a three-year-old to play solitaire while waiting for my plane at the San Francisco airport. The kid must be a genius. “What's your name, little boy?”

“Marcus.” Marcus what? Marcus Einstein?

Then our plane arrived and we boarded. Going to Beijing on Air China was amazing. It was like walking through a door at SFO, then quietly entertaining oneself for a low-key, pleasant 12 hours and then walking through another door into China. It was a very smooth and easy flight.

Plus we landed at the ultra-modern new Beijing Olympic airport. Guess what? The days of communes, comrades and communism are totally dead here in modern-day China. The days of bicycling proletariat and identical green Chairman Mao outfits are totally gone – and this new airport made JFK look totally shabby. It was all marble and chrome and boutiques.

I stopped into a Levis concession and asked if there was an internet cafĂ© anywhere. I was almost relieved when they said no. “Do you have wi-fi?” I asked the salesgirl at the Chanel boutique.

“No.” Whew. If she had said yes, then I would have known for sure that the East was truly Red and that the Chinese have truly taken over the world. I mean really. This airport is VERY post-GWB.

On my flight from SFO to PEK, three-fourths of the passengers were Caucasian. But on the flight from Beijing to Shenyang (in the north), there were 300 people on the plane and I was the only non-Chinese on board.

“How much does a room cost?” I asked at my hotel. The clerk just shrugged and shook her head. “Do you speak English? Does anyone else here speak English?” Nope. No one in a 20-story up-scale hotel in Shenyang spoke English. How much were they asking per night? Could I afford it? I pulled out some dollars and drew a question-mark on a piece of paper. The clerk pointed to five 20s and held up two fingers. "$100 for two nights?" I accepted -- like I had a choice. It was 11 pm in Shenyang, no one spoke English, the streets were dead, the shops were all closed and I had no idea where I was. So under the circumstances, $100 for two nights sounded great.

So far, Shenyang looks like post-GWB Los Angeles. But then frankly every city in the world looks like Los Angeles these days. Lots of freeways, lots of green exit signs, lots of sprawl and lots of high-rises in the downtown.

Seeing all these thin Chinese women makes me think of gelato. Why? Should I write about it now at 3 am Shenyang time, or should I try to get some sleep first? To heck with sleep. Let's talk about gelato!

On the plane from San Francisco, there were about 15 young girls traveling with their school to China for spring break. I was gonna say that these were pre-pubescent girls, but they were not. At age nine or ten, they were definitely starting to develop some curves. So. Puberty is coming at a younger and younger age to American girls.

"Why is that?"

It's the milk.

It's all those freaking bovine growth hormones. But then, sure, we all know this. Nothing new here. A ten-year-old American girl is already curvaceous -- while a 25-year-old Chinese woman is still a nymphet. We all get the picture. It's the milk.

"But Jane," you might ask, "can you prove it?" Yes I can. I have done scientific research!

This is my science experiment:

Step one: My daughter Ashley gets a job at Ciao Bella gelato in north Berkeley. It's the best gelato in the world. Have you tried their rum raisin? I rest my case! Plus it's totally creamy and it's made with milk rather than cream so you can eat more of it and not get fat.... But I digress.

Step two: As part of their job perks, the barristas at Ciao Bella get three free pints of gelato a week. Said barristas take advantage of this offer. And their bosoms actually start to enlarge. Hey, this is better than implants!

Step three: My daughter doesn't have a car so I drive her to work every day. And of course every day, while I'm there, I buy a scoop or two of gelato as well. Ah, the bourbon pecan, the Tahitian vanilla, the Schaffenberger chocolate.... But I digress.

And then guess what happens to ME? At age 65, MY bosoms start to grow! What! Not only that but -- how can I say this? -- I start to feel lustful? Way? No way! I'm somebody's freaking grandmother! This shouldn't be happening. Get out of town!

Suddenly I'm starting to have what can only be described as,er, wet dreams at night, and also day dreams about that sexy Army major I met back in Iraq who kept telling me about how his wife didn't understand him. I don't need this! No more gelato for me.

But, ladies, if any of you are thinking of running out and getting breast implants -- just don't. Those things are nasty. Just eat a scoop or two of Ciao Bella gelato instead. Of course you could just drink more milk in order to get all those bovine growth hormone results but eating gelato tastes better and is a lot more fun.

And if you are all ancient and decrepit like me, forget about hormone replacement therapy. Try gelato instead!

Anyway, it's 3 am in a city half-way across the globe from my home right now and I must be totally jet-lagged to be off riffing on breast implants, sexy majors and gelato... But there is one aspect of China left over from the bad old days of the Cultural Revolution that is keeping me up: My mattress is as hard as a rock.

PS: I woke up again at 5 am this morning, read a few more chapters from my latest Janet Evanovich novel and then went out to explore the city on foot. After walking for miles, I finally discovered that, yes, I probably was the only Caucasian in Shenyang. And I passed a Chinese wedding where there were good-luck lions, drummers, a whole bunch of people dressed in red satin and a beautiful bride and a handsome groom.

And then I found an INTERNET CAFE!!!!!