Coming back from vacation is tough for everyone. I spent two glorious weeks in the arms of my first mistress, gorging on handmade pasta, avoiding eye contact on the subway, and generally indulging in the urban unemployed debauchery that New York does so well. It has been three years; just long enough for the city’s tarnish to take on an appropriately weathered and vintage appeal, for the smells to be nostalgic instead of arresting, for the cab rides to be exhilarating instead of life threatening. I get asked all the time if I miss it. And of course, I do, how can you not?
I returned to Shanghai last week, refreshed, recharged, and yet resigned. Shanghai is a city with infinite appeal, a neon-flashing juxtaposition of the old and new, a veritable playground for the senses. But it’s not New York.
Sunday finds me walking through People’s Park, where I take this picture: A swarm of old-timers, shooting the shit, just playing some cards in the park. There’s an erhu warbling in the distance, overlaid with the clicking of mah-jongg tiles and the thread of a hundred conversations. The guy in the red jacket is talking trash and backseat playing the entire time I watch; I find him endlessly amusing, but I can tell he’s pissing off everyone at the entire table. I can’t help but smile to myself—it may not be dominoes and they may not need to hide their beers in brown paper bags, but it’s good to see some things are just universal, and just like that, I feel a little better about where I am.