I lived on Tian Yao Qiao Lu, hereby known as TYQL, for about eight years. I lived all that time in the same building, but two different apartments. In all that time I was drinking every day and steadily going insane. It was a right old laugh.
Both apartments were kind of the same. Former two-bedroom affairs with a tiny kitchen that get redesigned into one bedroom, one living room English teacher apartments. I got myself locked out of both on several occasions. Each time, I’d get the bao-an to call the locksmith and then I’d go to Lawsons and drink a couple of Suntory’s on the steps.
I thought my drinking had reached all kinds of low, but it was on TYQL that I discovered what being an alcoholic really meant. The Lawsons mulaohu would see me daily, sometimes for breakfast. One time, just to impress the old hags, I drank twelve Bacardi Breezers, all different colours.
Before I’d moved to TYQL I used to spend evenings out down Maoming Lu, Shanghai’s very first laowai bar street proper. It was fun for a while, but then Pete opened The Kiwi and that seemed more conveniently placed. If I wanted to talk to someone I’d go to The Kiwi, if I didn’t – which was most days – I just hung around near my house, walking the streets and dropping in and out of Lawsons to score beers. I graduated to going to Family Mart just to buy their whisky miniatures.
I was the only foreigner living in the building. There were two French guys living there for a while, but they moved out. There was also a Russian couple, but I don’t know if Russians are regarded as real foreigners – they’re still commies anyway.
The building was also home to quite a large number of commercial girls. I’d see them coming and going in the night. Two girls worked at one of the girlie bars on Tongren Lu. They spoke pretty decent English, I would chat with them as they were on their way to fleece laowais of their pocket money playing drinking games. There were some KTV girls. They could speak no English. And there were two posh hookers. They were well dressed and kind of aloof. I met one of them in the lift late one night. I was coming home with a drunk bird and the posh hooker had her john with her, a drunk farmer turned factory owner. She wasn’t so aloof after that.
Daily routines would usually include me leaving the house after showering and getting to the Lawsons on Xingeng Lu as quickly as I could without making eye contact with any foreigners that I might bump into. I would rarely meet any, so most days it was ok, but sometimes I might see one on his way to work or something, me looking disheveled. I would either stare straight at him with an inquiring look as if to ask him if he likes the job he’s doing or to look through him.
I’d get to Lawsons and buy a couple of large cans of Suntory. Walk down the rest of Xingeng Lu drinking and no fear of laowai’s prying eyes.
The rest of the journey would be Wanping Lu, Xietu Lu, turn right on Fenglin Lu, Ling Ling Lu and right to the end then turn back on Xietu Lu. All the time stopping off at various Lawsons or Family Marts to stock up on liquid refreshments. Come rain or shine, this is what I would do.
Other times I might head south down TYQL and go past Shanghai Stadium. Get to that big memorial park or go near Lian Hua Temple and all round there. I could go days without talking to anyone and that would be just fine.
I would do one of those ‘head up’ nods by way of saying hello to waidi boys, wink at girls wearing Qipu Lu couture, they’d giggle back. I’d have a reserved table at Saliya and the girls knew my order. The smiling Lawsons teenagers at the arse end of Mei Luo Cheng (not the sullen Lawsons hags on Xingeng Lu) would chant ‘Jacky Danny’ and pick one off the shelf.
The rain would rain, people would rush by under freshly bought umbrellas, taxis would try to take me somewhere.
And all the time I could hear ‘This is the Day’ playing in the background.
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