Posted by Pete DeMola on 28. May 2010
BEIJING, MAY 28 - Sure, most of us are enthused that those summertime climes are finally upon us after an unusually long and grueling winter -- the weather always seems to click into place precisely on May Day like celestial clockwork from the emperors -- but anyone who knows me is acutely aware that I hate the months between May and October and won't stop complaining about it until well after National Day
I detest it like a cancer.
Sure, Beijing has its unique benefits that come with the sunshine -- men with their guts hanging out, outdoor beer gardens, girls with skimpy clothing, watermelon, live music festivals, girls with skimpy clothing -- but this country's summers in which the mercury routinely hovers at 40 degrees lead me to wonder why I took up residence in this urban hellhole to begin with.
With that said, as I enter my fifth full summer in the Middle Kingdom, here the are nine things I hate about summer.
It's too expensive to run continually and is either too strong or non-existent. I don't know about you guys, but I'm not a big fan (no pun intended) of positioning myself next to a large machine that alternatively blows chemical-scented freon or unknown particle particulates into my face and lungs that have been sucked in from the coal factory next door. I'll stick with the cigarettes, thank you very much. And because it's almost always on permanently, the power inevitably gets shut off during the night, leaving you to swelter like a piece of rotten meat until the next morning when the utilities office reopens.
Everything stinks like an open sewer when it's hot out -- especially in this urban jungle that lacks a substantial amount of green cover and where concrete is de rigeur and proliferates like the plague. Strolling outside, we're faced with the reek of discarded bio-solids in the streets, waves of odors leaking from public bathrooms, mystery aromas... and even you. Yes, you. Well foreigners at least. You Asians are off the hook because you have fewer of the apocrine glands that cause underarm body odor. But we white and black people have them. And all of you smell really, really fucking bad. Especially on the subway. Except for me.
Unemployed Foreign Teachers
Hooray! You have yet another three-or-four month vacation after a few weeks spent babysitting students. Great news! You've managed to obtain a lifestyle that only most of us could dream of. But do us all a favor and stop complaining about how bored you are with all of your free time, because most of us don't want to hear it. Go touch bases with some backpackers and find yourselves.
We've all seen these asphalt warriors at one point traipsing through our fair city, Lonely Planet guidebooks firmly in hand and backs bent under the load of their 50-kilogram oversize sacks packed with the bounty collected during their tours of the Southeast Asian tour circuit: indigenous musical instruments, tapestries, tea sets and the inevitable Maomorabilia. Good for you! But don't approach me for casual conversation while I'm trying to enjoy myself at a live show or a bar, because I don't care about your vision quest, taking a year to "find yourself" or trying to discover the "real China." Your "really crazy night" story about that wild time you had in Khao San with a teenage hooker named "Pussy Galore" is of absolutely zero interest to me. And please get out of my neighborhood -- this is my home and I'm not a tourist attraction. And your scent of stale marijuana smoke, patchouli oil and body odor is making my head spin.
Live Rock Shows
Hundreds of people packed tightly into small rooms with no windows and little ventilation. Not more needs to be said, really. But I still go to them and suffer.
The Wudaokou Street Vendor & Student Circus
Upon exiting the Wudaokou Metro, you're greeted with a scene of sheer chaos: a cavalcade of street vendors, beggars and bumbling students stretching into the smog-choked Western horizon. And it reaches a boiling point during the summer. Since I initially touched down in the neighborhood in Summer '06, I've watched that intersection and its inhabitants spread like an STD, making pedestrian traffic virtually impossible. People stop abruptly in front of you to look at things, you stop. A bicycle tries to squeak through. Three students, arms linked, form a roadblock across the sidewalk. Old beggars and dirty little street urchins with dripping noses tug at your clothing. Chengfu Lu traffic gridlocks and the sidewalk sizzles. Everyone is an impediment. And they all have piles of useless bullshit that they want to sell you, from the ballcap-wearing Tibetans with their knock-off silver bracelets and dream catchers to everyone else with wares ranging from coruscating mobile phone accessories to live animals.
I'm not one to judge anyone based on their fashion sensibilities or their desire to keep their skin tone a translucent, ghostly shade of porcelain. I find it attractive, actually. But should you choose to use an umbrella to shield yourself from that radiating cancer orb overhead, be cautious. Since almost all of you females are shorter than me, your dainty umbrellas with their lethal metal spikes have nearly blinded me several times as you coquettishly prance through the streets, aloof at the people around you. Advice: Please collapse your umbrellas while entering buildings, walking through large crowds of other pedestrians and going around corners. Also, please don't use umbrellas. Use sunscreen like the rest of us. Our eyes will thank you for it... and so will your lovers.
We all love our families -- after all, backpackers, they are funding your vision quests -- but the people we love almost always decide to torture us by visiting almost exactly when the summer has reached its zenith. And you better believe they want to see all of Beijing's concrete splendors: the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall are among the worst offenders. After tackling all of the above (and more) in two days with my parents in July 2007, I retreated back to my (air-conditioned) apartment, where I collapsed on the floor -- dehydrated and roasted crispier than a Peking Duck -- and asked my then-girlfriend to nurse me back to health with a steady application of aloe vera, cold water and fornication. Which brings to me to my last point...
Hot, sweaty, drunken, crazy animal sex is the premier summertime activity. We all know what that's like (no, most of you male losers probably don't, actually). But I'll tell you: spending a lazy afternoon acting like wild savages in the sack is the life. On repeat. And then when you've had enough -- panting like two pups in heat -- you take a shower, go out for dinner and a few drinks and then return home to fuck some more until both of you are rubbed raw and sore. But when you're single, alone and sick and fucking tired of the three-ring circus that is the Beijing dating game, then, well, you're just shit out of luck. While Maggie's is just around the corner, it just ain't the same. But hey, at least they sell hot dogs -- the quintessential American summertime treat.
Thanks to Flickr user swisscan for the photo.
What do you hate about summer? Let us know below.
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