Tonight I went walking with my iPod, almost hoping for a boring night after some of the things that have happened to me.
sordid recap: going with N. to a liquor store then to his studio
apartment to watch "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and figuring out
a way to fend off his advances by going to the gay club and dancing...
reluctantly sharing my fro-yo with a creepy old man who sells hot tubs
and "pleasure spas"... breakfast with the emotionally flatlined Serbian
pedicab driver... getting invited to surfer church by earnest Christian
rockers at Amici Park... sneaking into a Marriott conference room with a
guy whose body was jam-packed full of drugs... looking at maps of
Moscow with homesick Vladimir... talking S. out of suicide on the boat
she lives on with her boyfriend....
But no. Actually, I was
invited onto another boat. By a 45-year-old dude named Robert. He had to
row us out on a dinghy to his boat, a former Canadian rum runner (it
transported liquor) from 1929 that he's restoring (it'd completely sunk
once, before he began restoring it). We went onto his boat, chilled in
his living-room area, he made us Bloody Marys, we shared a bag of
Doritos, and he told me stories from his "redneck" Indiana childhood.
Then he rowed me back, and I went home.
going out with some strange man to his boat--way out on the water on the
sketchy side of the bay, in the dark--was somewhat stupid. Possibly
very stupid. But he seemed harmless, and it turned out to be a fun,
interesting little adventure. This trait of mine may someday get me in
trouble, but it's boring to always say no to these things.
On the dinghy, rowing us out there, Robert jokingly said, "Didn't your parents ever tell you not to talk to strangers?"
said, "Yeah, but I didn't listen." I added, "It's boring if you always
follow that rule," and he agreed. He was somewhat of a kindred spirit in
that way, sort of a loner and a hippie.
So that (above) was the quick version. Here's the longer one...
went for a walk. Usually, I head for the convention center, the tourist
area. There were a ton of tourists out tonight because this mammoth
Carnival cruise ship had just docked, a monster, Titanic-looking thing
that seemed to take up the whole bay. That's over in the nice part of
the bayside. That's where preppy 30-something A. and S. had their small
yacht docked, near the big hotels and restaurants and tourist gift
shops. To get to that area, I head for the water and go left along the
But if I were to go right, toward the
airport--totally different scene. It's ill-lit. There are tons of
homeless people lurking in the shadows, sleeping on benches in the dark.
The boats there are small and ramshackle, but I like them--there's a
little boat named "Seeker" that I took a picture of once because I liked
the hopeful, philosophical-sounding name. (I was happy when I passed
one time and Seeker was gone--out seeking, I presumed.) There's no nice
dock with a locked gate, like you pass through to get to where you
simply step onto A. and S.'s million-dollar mini yacht. There's a tiny,
poorly lit dock and a cluster of dinghies--these little boats with
motors and oars that you take out to the ghetto boats that the real
characters live on. The boats are anchored somewhat near the
boardwalk--but are far enough out on the bay that you have to take a
dinghy to get to them.
I met Robert while walking along this
gritty part of the bayside. He said hello and asked where I was from,
and we found out that we're both writers--he says he's co-written (with a
ton of other co-authors) Clive Cussler books and has had
"Grandma-friendly" stories printed in Reader's Digest. His main job is
as a boat-engine mechanic. He lives on the 1929 Canadian rum runner that
he's restoring, pays $150 a month to live on it/dock in the bay.
Apparently his family's really rich back where they live in rural
Indiana (lots of judges in the family tree), and he's the black sheep,
living out here in solitude.
He was super tan (not a rich-person
tan, like the kind you get on a Caribbean vacation, but a working-class
tan, the baked-in brown you get from lots of hard work outside), tall
and skinny, prominent Adam's apple, frizzle of gray hair. Frayed straw
hat, Hawaiian-print shirt open to reveal his suntanned chest and a big
metal cross on a bootstrap (he told me the cord it was on was a
bootstrap). He seemed safe, nice but eccentric, almost goofy. He
tentatively invited me to see his boat, and I said okay; he was taken
aback that I agreed.
We walked down the little dock and got
into a dinghy. He fired up the motor as I held aloft this glowing
red-and-green flashlight that he says you're required to hold up as
you're going through the water (he told me to hold it "like the Statue
of Liberty"). We zoomed out onto the water.
It was *amazing*.
we were way out on the water. I was scared but exhilarated. It was so
flat and wide, like parts of the country I drove through on my way out
here, with gentle ripples on the inky-indigo water, and the tall
buildings of downtown all lit up, their red, white, and green
reflections wavy on the water's surface. It was beautiful, and I was
Suddenly the engine went quiet. He said,
"We ran out of gas, but that's okay--I have oars." With his work-strong,
sinewy brown arms, he rowed us even farther out, to his boat (his
"girl"). I was apprehensive as I looked back at the expanse of dark
water between us and the shore, remembering that I'd struggled a little
when I took the swimming test for my scuba-diving class a few months
I actually loved his boat. It was old and ramshackle, all
wooden inside, like a cabin, and smelled like my grandparents' musty
house or a basement. He removed a trap-door-looking panel in the floor
to show me the engine--it was antique, from a carnival ride in
Milwaukee. An upholstered bench attached to the wall that he was using
as a sort of makeshift couch was from "a Dumpster," he told me
sheepishly; the chartreuse chairs around the dining table were from the
Salvation Army. He'd laid down the Brazilian rosewood boards of the
floor, built the cabinets. There was a tea kettle shaped like a giraffe
by the stove, and he served me my Bloody Mary in a coffee mug with a
cherub on it. (He offered to make me eggs, but I was content with the
bag of Doritos he set out and the Bloody Mary. By "Bloody Mary," I mean a
little tomato juice and a whole lotta vodka and nothing else. I
accepted the cherub mug of Bloody Mary to be polite but took only a
thimble-sized sip from it before nonchalantly pushing it aside.) Inside,
there were windows all around us, the bamboo blinds pulled up so we
could see the lights of downtown on the water's surface.
told me long, boring (to me) stories about his childhood. I could see
the storyteller in him, could see how he'd be able to tell a story that
someone's grandma would read in Reader's Digest. Some of his stories
were bizarre... such as the one about his mean humpbacked third-grade
teacher who had him tested to see if he was a "retard," and how he was
so afraid he'd have to go down to the basement classroom where all the
"Mongoloids" were, with the toothless janitors who'd stare at you and
chew tobacco and spit. Most of his tales were just boring, though.
one point, he pulled out a book about old ships, and opened to a page
with a photo of what looked like the sunken remains of the Titanic. He
said, "That's where most of the boats as old as this one are--on the
bottom of the ocean." I looked at the photo of the sunken boat,
helplessly on its side and coated with blue-green dust at the bottom of
the sea, and looked around at Robert's little labor of love, still
afloat after so many decades (and having sunk once itself). What a
plucky, inspiring little vessel.
He did finally shut up about
Cousin Skip and ol' Buffy Howard and, I swear, a classmate called
"Poopypants" (I can't make this stuff up) long enough to ask about me.
Flirty things he said: "Would you ever consider dating an
old guy like me?" (I laughed it off and pretended I'd thought he was
joking.) He'd assumed I was about 20, and seemed genuinely surprised
that I was 30.
He asked about my job. I talked about the writing and
how I do stuff for/with a nightclub/live-music venue, and he said,
He asked what I'd been like in high school, whether
I'd been a cheerleader or anything like that, and I told him I've always
just been a writing geek, school newspaper and literary magazine and
not much else, and he said, "That turns me on." Yuck.
umpteenth boring story, Robert was standing near the open door to the
deck, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette, and I was sitting at the table
with my barely touched mug of Bloody Mary. I politely said it was time
for me to go. For one thing, I was done with the
quirky-adventure-of-the-night, feeling weary and drunk on atmosphere.
(Also, I was jonesing for a frappuccino and wanted to make it to
Starbucks before they closed. Seriously.)
He took a last long
drink from the vodka bottle (it looked like a cheap brand, not Grey
Goose or anything like that), then we got back into the dinghy and he
rowed us ashore. A little drunk, he sang Italian songs for me as he
rowed--pretending we were in a gondola in Venice. When we both mentioned
being low on dough, as he was still rowing the dinghy, he sang that
song that goes, "Even though we ain't got money, I'm so in love with
you, honey." I laughed, and he sheepishly said, "I'm flirting again."
He was shy about the flirting--he didn't lay a hand on me once, even in a friendly way.
the dinghy, he randomly shared that he's a "Bible-thumping Jesus freak"
but says he's not preachy; he said he's lost the metal cross around his
neck something like 10 times, "but it keeps coming back to me."
was bummed when he insisted on walking me home. I'd wanted to end the
adventure once we got me to the dock. But something amusing did happen
on the short walk back to Little Italy. We passed a man, 89 years old
(he later told us), in a motorized wheelchair, and Robert stopped and
said, "Hey man, I haven't seen you in forever!" The man, "Pops," was a
jazz pianist, and Robert is a jazz drummer, so that's how they knew each
other. What's sad is that Pops had recently been in an accident (he
fell onto a concrete surface) and injured his hand, so no more jazz
piano for him. Also, he was brittle and sore from the accident, but
Robert insisted on hugging him hard and shaking his hand, which was kind
of hard to watch, but Pops took it like a champ, with only minimal
wincing and moaning.
Robert walked me home, gave me his number,
said he really wants to see me again, maybe take me fishing. But good
lord, I am not some charity for lonely guys, you know? There is only so
much Christie to go around.
(Wee hours of 10/19):
few weeks ago I met A.and S., the young yuppie couple with the little
yacht. A. invited me onboard because S. doesn't have many girlfriends
(although I'd been worried at first that they were swingers or
something), both were wasted, they'd lost money in the stock market and
couldn't afford to live on their boat anymore after the end of the
month, S. kept talking about suicide. Well, tomorrow evening I'm going
on a sunset cruise with them.
Tonight, after Robert walked me
home, I wasn't ready to call it a night. I went walking again, because
apparently I'm a glutton for punishment. This time I went by the bay in
the other direction (the nice, touristed, well-lit direction). Well,
that happens to be the area near where A. and S.'s boat is docked. Sure
enough, as I walked past where their boat is docked, A. called out and
waved to me, inviting me onboard. He didn't seem to remember me at
first, but as he let me in the gate to the dock, I reminded him. I was
relieved that S. had apparently not killed herself, but I wasn't sure
she'd want to see me again. I didn't want to embarrass her. When he
said, "Honey, look who's here!" and she saw me walking behind him, she
did seem a little embarrassed and was apologetic. She had forgotten a
lot of what had happened that night. I stepped onto their boat
tentatively, but they both kept saying, "Come on, have a drink with us!"
And you know what? They're pretty cool.
They went on
about how that one night was an anomaly for them--they had just lost the
money, just found out they had to give up the yacht and their
chartered-tour business. They said they felt so bad about what went down
with me that night. S. gave me a big hug. They got me a beer (which I
only took a few sips from--or "three molecules," as A. observed). A. got
me one of S.'s coats when I seemed cold (they made me wear it
home--it's in my room now!). A. is hilarious--I was cracking up at just
about everything he said. They're both so nice, smart--S. is an
English/writing type, too, and a former spelling-bee champ--and they
were so cute together. They tell stories the way old couples tell them,
interrupting each other, finishing each other's sentences (they did this
while telling me the interesting story of how they met; A. was in the
black Ferrari he used to have--I get the feeling he's from a rich
family). They have their little private jokes, some of which they forget
to explain to a third person standing there. I actually said, "You guys
are so cute!"
When they're sober, they're charming, but not in a phony or suave way--almost goofy, but very likable and warm.
time, I could sort of tell through their drunken veneer that they were
nice people, and that they cared about each other. Tonight, that was
obvious. They've been together a year or two, I think, but they still
flirt with each other, are still very sweet to each other. I'm sorry
their romantic little lifestyle will be up in a month (they can no
longer afford to live on the boat), but it's heartwarming to see how
much they care about each other. I know they'll be okay because they
have each other.
So tomorrow there are four rich guys paying
them $1,200 for a sunset cruise (5-7 p.m.), and S. insisted I join them.
"You'll be a member of our crew!" she said, although I'm not sure
exactly what that means--I think it's just an excuse (in front of the
four paying guests) for having me along for free. Sweet!
left, they were worried about me walking home alone that late, so they
both walked me through the Vegas-like interior of the Hyatt nearby and
hailed me a cab. S. gave me $8 and told the cab driver, "Take good care
of our girl."
I got in and laughed, explaining to the driver
that my friends were a little over-protective. He and I started
chatting. He's in his early 30s, nicknamed Taps, from Zimbabwe. He's
here to go to college, where he studies neuroscience (he showed me one
of his textbooks). Although he was born in Zimbabwe, he speaks great
English (like Vladimir--he has the slang and idioms down; the only way
you know it's not his native language is the accent) and has lived in
Europe. He knew about Anthology and that it's primarily a jazz venue.
Very cool guy--when I said (about neuroscience; no pun intended at all),
"Man, I don't have the brain to study something like that," he said, "I
don't think it's a matter of how much brain you have, but how you use
it." Which, you know, was a pretty wise thing to say. He was big like a
football player, wearing a hipster-looking brown knit beret type of cap,
beautiful African accent.
I was surprised when he stopped the
cab outside where I live, turned off the engine, and chatted with me for
an additional 15 min. or so (it was the end of his shift and he wasn't
in a hurry), asking about me. He refused to let me pay him, then asked
if I would enter my e-mail address and phone number into his BlackBerry
(he also asked if I was on Facebook). I thought I was looking pretty
rough (it was 3 a.m., I was wearing Sarah's baggy fleece jacket), plus
he's a hot young muscular guy, surrounded by young college girls all
day. But he wanted my info. He seemed to enjoy talking with me and said
he hoped we could get coffee sometime and "share stories, unless it will
make some other guy mad" (his way of asking if I was taken, I guess).
I'm not interested in "dating" anyone here, but I wouldn't mind a nice
conversation again--and hey, a friend from Zimbabwe!
I need to
just not leave home. The late-night adventures (with A. & S., and
Taps) were more benign than the Robert thing, which in itself wasn't too
bad and definitely anecdote-worthy, but good lord, can't I just have
one boring night?!
10/19: Back from the sunset yacht
cruise with A., S., A.'s sweet little Jewish mama who's in town, and the
four rich folks. D.'s living room is a little tipsy-feeling to me after
being out on the water in a bobbing boat for two hours... I've sort of
got a boat hangover.
The cruise was fun! I arrived at 5 (wearing
a white shirt, per S.'s instructions, so I could pass off as a member
of their four-person "crew" of A., S., A.'s mom, and me). A. let me in
the gate, along with the rich folks (two married couples; it was one of
the guys' birthdays; the other guy owns a bunch of real-estate
companies). They were from Albuquerque and had brought their own cigars,
which the two guys smoked on the cruise. (I should have asked them if I
could have a cigar--"Let me chomp on one o' those!")
S. and A.'s mom with the cooking down below deck--fun! I can see how
people nerd out about cooking. It's sensual, working the food with your
hands, drizzling warm oils onto it, seasoning it. I didn't do anything
fancy--I chopped up bell peppers for the grill, drizzled stuff with
olive oil and lemon pepper, little things like that. I poured wine for
the guests. S. manned the grill up on the deck. (Her parents run a pizza
place, so she's a natural at the cooking stuff. A. drives the boat,
shares interesting boat/scenery facts, and socializes with the guests
while S. handles the food.)
The food was excellent, and I felt
proud for having helped. ("Yay, I helped out like a big girl!") On the
grill, we cooked the peppers, asparagus, shrimp (with lemon butter)...
then steak (filet and New York strip, marinated in A1 and Worcestershire
sauce in a big Ziploc bag) with scallops for the main course... corn on
the cob (also grilled)... and a rich chocolate-raspberry torte for the
guy's birthday. (The torte was the only thing we didn't make; it was
I liked S.'s laissez-faire style of
cooking--yeah, dump some olive oil on this, flick some lemon pepper at
that, whatever, it's all good. I guess she figured that all the
ingredients were good on their own, so how can you go wrong? I prefer
this to the cooking-as-science-project, recipe-based method.
was funny--A.'s mom is like a kooky character out of "Golden Girls,"
total busybody (but well-meaning), motormouth little old lady. She
spoiled the big birthday-torte surprise that had been planned for the
end of the cruise--she heard someone say it was the dude's birthday, and
she exclaimed, "Oh, we should sing 'Happy Birthday' to you!" A., from
behind the wheel, muttered, "Mom, we do that later, with the cake." So
his mom says (loudly, in her little New York accent): "Oh, that's right,
Mark! We have a cake for you!" Ugh, total forehead-slapping, "Doh!"
kind of moment.
We saw sea lions!! Up close, clumps of them,
their little blubbery bodies just piled on top of one another, on this
concrete platform out in the bay. And lots of sea birds... submarines...
a Chevron gas station (just for boats) right on the water... underneath
the bridge to Coronado, we saw little tiered hillside lights of Tijuana
in the distance... rich folks' huge yachts, sailboats that'd been in
the World Cup race. Plus, of course, the sunset (too bad it was a little
overcast tonight) and the downtown San Diego skyline all lit up at
night, glittering on the water's surface. At one point, a Navy plane
zoomed overhead very close to us, looking like something out of "Top
Gun." Very interesting little jaunt. We motored slowly around the bay,
but A. cut the engine off and we floated quietly during the main course.
It was chilly and breezy and romantic.
Tonight, after the
rich folks left, A. and S. insisted I stay and chill at the table on the
deck with them and A.'s mom. It was so warm and nice... it felt like
being with family. A.'s mom was sharing her "TMI" stories. She lives in
Virginia now but is in town staying at a health spa where they drink
wheatgrass and a lot of folks there have colonics. Yes, she talked about
colonics. And she revealed, at one point, that A. was conceived on a
They refused to let me walk home. We all piled into A.'s
SUV parked at the Hyatt, and they dropped me off on the way to take the
Jewish mama back to the health spa.
I believe their time on the boat
is up at the end of the month (business has been slow; the Sun. sunset
cruise was their first charter in about two months). I'm hoping they
figure out a way to keep up their beloved boat lifestyle for longer than
And yes, it was strange to be on the boat again and see
it in a completely different light--to see S. up on the deck, poking
with tongs at vegetables roasting on the grill, the sunset sky above
her, entertaining these paying guests... and to think back to that
night, when she had black mascara tears dripping down her face and put
on that red dress and talked about ending her life. It was uplifting to
realize that she'd gotten through it.
It also struck me that,
just a few nights earlier, I'd been sifting through coins in my wallet
to make sure I had enough for an 89-cent doughnut from 7-Eleven--then
here I was on this million-dollar yacht, floating around on the bay with
these wealthy folks smoking their cigars, dining on shrimp and steaks
and chocolate-raspberry torte with them. Ah, life.
It's a little after 8 a.m., I'm at work looking out the huge windows of
our loft-like office over Little Italy, and the city is obscured by
thick white fog. It feels very London--which is cool, in part because
today I'm wearing a skirt I bought in London a few years ago. I could
have worn my Dubrovnik earrings, too, and ooh la la, wouldn't I have
At work, we listen to Radio Paradise. It's playing Black Rebel Motorcycle Club right now. (Their song "All You Do Is Talk.")
I've worked here, it's played all of my favorites: Cat Power, PJ
Harvey, lots of new Radiohead, Tom Waits, lots of Death Cab for Cutie,
Bjork, obscure Tori Amos songs, hip stuff like the Pixies... the
Decemberists' "The Crane Wife Pt. 3"... Norwegian singer Ane Brun,
Shivaree, the Sundays.... and, occasionally, eclectic stuff---classic
rock, soul, even a wacky song from "The Muppet Show." We have it playing
all day long in our hip loft office here. Very pleasant work
Quick dude updates: Robert (the guy who rowed me on
a dinghy to his 1929 Canadian rum runner) called, inviting me fishing. I
was glad to have an excuse (this was Sun., the evening I went on the
sunset cruise with A. and S.). I don't want to be mean, but I hope he
doesn't call again.
Last night I was out walking when Taps (cab
driver/neuroscience student from Zimbabwe) texted me. We texted back and
forth for a while, and he had me cracking up right there in public. He
was studying for exams, and said he'd pay me to take some of them for
him... then he said we'd be sure to fool people, because we look so much
alike. I said, "Yeah, I think our plan is gonna work!" and he said, "U r
so funny!" Ah, Taps.
I got a shout-out on my
friend's Facebook profile (name-checked in a status update!) for sending
him a link to a Wikipedia article about this bizarre but sweet Japanese
folk tale that inspired the Decemberists' "The Crane Wife" album.
the gist of the "Crane Wife" tale: A man finds a wounded crane on his
doorstep, nurses it back to health, and releases it. Soon afterward, a
woman appears, and the man falls in love with her and marries her. The
woman creates silk at a loom to support her and her husband; she asks
that he never watch her at the loom. The silk is of such a fine quality
that it begins to make them rich. The man grows greedy and demands that
she create more and more. One day, his curiosity gets the better of him,
and he looks in on her to see what she's doing to make the silk so
fine. At the loom, he sees the crane, plucking feathers from her own
body to work into the silk. When she sees him, she flies away.
strikes me about the story is the crane/wife's selfless love for the
man. She takes from herself to make him happy, not complaining, not even
wanting him to know about the sacrifices she makes for him; she doesn't
want to trouble him with the burden or guilt from knowing what she does
for him. So much so that, when he finally sees how much of herself
she's been giving for him, she flees, unable to take putting this burden
on him. That's my take on it, anyway.
If you put the Crane Wife
on Maury Povich, audience members would tell her she should have kicked
her man to the curb. If you sent the Crane Wife into today's office
environment, her co-workers would tell her she should have taken credit
for how fine the silk was, should have gotten acknowledged and
compensated for giving so much of herself.... should have started her
own silk business without the man. But all of that misses the point. The
point, to me, is that it's a beautiful thing to love selflessly.
An eerie encounter with a homeless/schizophrenic man who wandered into
Borders last night wearing bright blue socks and no shoes--
sitting at a table in the crowded cafe section, reading book reviews.
The man, leathery tan skin and prematurely white hair in a ponytail,
took a seat in a nearby armchair and began muttering in an even,
hypnotic, Father Time-wise voice. He stared straight ahead and, I think
because there were shelves of fashion magazines to his left, one of his
utterings included, "Beauty's only skin-deep, man." Everyone else was
He began muttering observations about the people
around us. It was quiet in the cafe area, so we could all make out what
he was saying. He was dissing everyone, noting that they were ignoring
him. I was the only one looking up occasionally, to acknowledge him and
to tactfully observe him in fascination and empathy. We made eye contact
a few times, and I'd thought I was doing a good thing in not ignoring
But then he said, in his spooky, barely audible tone: "...
and she keeps looking at me like we have a commonality... Do you have a
Ph.D.? I don't think so." I guess he thought I was being condescending
or maybe even that I was being a sort of rubber-necker (I wasn't rudely
staring at him, though). He went on to quietly dis the fact that I was
reading a magazine and not a book (dude, it was literary reviews, not Us
Weekly!) and even my outfit (I'd bundled up for the cold night,
layering a sweater over another top, with a hoodie over that, and he
said it was "overkill"--this from a dude who strolls into Borders in
bright blue socks and no shoes).
It might not sound like much,
but it was unsettling. I guess I'd had this bleeding-heart/white
suburban girl idea that I was some friend of homeless people everywhere,
their patron saint or something. To be called out for my liberal
do-gooder nature, to realize that it can be more patronizing and
voyeuristic than I like to admit.... it bothered me.
night in the kitchen, I asked D. if I could take a quick shower (I ask
when he's home because you have to enter the master bedroom to get to
the bigger bathroom with the shower in it; there's only a half-bathroom
next to my room). As I was heading back there with my towels and soap
and shampoo bundled in my arms, he said it was always okay to let him
know when I need to be in there, to even wake him up if I had to. He
said, emphatically, "I want you to feel at home here." His goodness
10/23: While out walking by the bay last
night, two guys in their 40s or 50s passed me. I wasn't looking
particularly hot (corduroy pants, hoodie, nothing skanky... hardly any
make-up, hair gone wavy from the humidity), but one of them called out
as they passed: "I love you!" I laughed, and when I made eye contact
with him, he said, "I'm too old, but you're still cute."
This city is good for my self-esteem.
A thought-provoking book review ("Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China" by Leslie T. Chang):
Two things struck me:
Here's a long quotation from the review: "The factories are a world of
brutal 12-hour shifts and minimal leave, Spartan dormitories,
six-month-minimum commitments enforced by the withholding of the first
two months' salary, and monthly wages that often hover in the $100
range. Fines are assessed for talking on the job, and bathroom breaks
are allowed once every four hours.
Despite exploitation like this,
the supply of girls willing to trade the dead-end life of the village
for the cheating and discrimination of the factory appears limitless. As
one chapter title puts it, to die poor is a sin.
If the steely
motivation of these young women were only about securing a meager wage,
this bargain would not work. One after another, they tell the author
that their current jobs are merely temporary stopping places.
nearly all, the greater goal is self-improvement, which they pursue by
frequently jumping jobs, abandoning both friends and back pay as they
bluff their way into better and better work.
This self-improvement is
also facilitated by night school sessions, which may cost as much as a
month's salary and which the young women attend after a full shift,
somehow managing the feat of showing up in a fresh change of nonfactory
clothes. The change of dress is an important part of their
transformation into what they conceive of as a better class of people.
Many dream of jobs as managers of some kind or, best of all, as
Humbling and inspiring. When I'm walking
around with my iPod and a $4 frappuccino in my hand, wallowing in
self-pity after some minuscule slight at my cushy white-collar job... I
hope I can remember how hard daily life is for many people, and how
happy they'd be in my situation.
I'd almost given up on the idea
of one day getting a loan to go back to school for creative writing,
partly due to the financial state of the world (and me) now. (And partly
because I keep thinking that's precious or lofty or esoteric, that I
shouldn't invest that kind of time, money, and brainpower into a purely
artistic endeavor that doesn't save lives or directly help people in
some tangible way.) But if these girls can work that hard and save up to
better themselves, maybe I can, too.
2. "The women's road from
village to factory job is lined with manipulators and cheats, and the
schools, which busily copy one another's curriculums, in turn teach the
virtues of lying as a means of getting ahead. 'People who are too honest
in this society will lose out,' one instructor told the author."
to think that young women in China are being encouraged to be dishonest
(at these schools, at least). But it's true--sometimes if you're too
honest (or trusting, or nice), you will get taken.
But I believe
that you should still be as honest and nice (but maybe not trusting) as
possible. You might not get ahead in life, but you'll be a good person.
You'll be able to sleep at night. That's worth more than money or career