Thursday, August 14, 2008

The coolest thing ever…..

One night after Chinese class, one of the guys and I decided to go out for a beer. We couldn’t find anything mellow and low key near work since everything is either a high end restaurant or a hooker bar. So we decided to go to the local market and pick up some beers and shrimp chips (hey, that’s what you get here) and walked over to People’s Park to chill out like two winos.

My friend Joe (his name is not really Joe) is a really cool guy. He’s from all over the place but I think he calls the Seattle home because he’s spent the longest time living there. I think he mentioned he’s lived there for only a few years but it was the longest time he’s lived in one place as an adult. Prior to that he bounced around from city to city with his family and continued to do so during his undergrad and graduate work. He’s lived abroad a few places around the world for school and work and arrived in Shanghai about the same time I did. Joe has recently left China and is now in India and who knows from there.

This seems to be the “profile” of pretty much everyone I’ve met here. Another friend, Helena, mentioned that she’s lived in 7 cities in 4 countries in 8 years! To a guy that’s lived in Los Angeles for over 20 years this all sounds so exciting and cosmopolitan, however it also seems extremely exhausting.

I’m always in awe with the stories and things that they have to tell because they are so varied, exciting and very different from my own. This “lifestyle” epitomizes a key “life rule/ philosophy” that I hold. That is that you can “lengthen” and enrich one’s life by having as many varied experiences as possible since life is simply composed of a string of memories. Think about it, didn’t elementary school, junior high and even high school and college seem like an eternity filled with so many exciting memories? Yet most of us in our 30’s have now spent the same amount of time out of school. Do we have as many memories or does it all seem like on huge glob of work, happy hours and kids? You see, the more you experience, the longer life seems. One caveat though, they must be quality experiences.

Two tall boys down, the conversation gets deeper. We discuss the relevance of friends, family and work. What I discovered that although Joe is driven and has seen and experienced more places and things that I will ever know, he admits that he does not have any real close friends. He knows a ton of people all over the world but has never stayed long enough in one place to cultivate a true BFF. That was sad to me and was a huge “chink” in the armor of my “life rule”.

The family and friends that I have in LA are the ones that, in most respects, define me (us). I am a son, a bother and most uniquely, a friend. I say uniquely because being a friend is a choice. You see my role as son and brother were bestowed on me. I did not choose my parents or my brother or sister or my entire family for that matter. On the other hand all my friendships are all choices, a choice that was made by me and another person. That means that friendship has conditions and these conditions are ones we choose to live with and are what will eventually define me (us). We gravitate to people because we see something familiar, missing or fulfilling in our lives. Remember if you really want to know who you are, look at the friends you keep (and the cloths you wear….but I digress).

Anyway the point that I am trying to make in my patented long winded circuitous manner, is that the coolest thing ever happened that other day. I was on the construction site for one of our projects in Pudong, China and I get a phone call. It was one of my closest friends Steve. He’s calling from LA. He’s at Wahoo’s with the group of guys that I consider my best friends. They have all been drinking and discussing life. I guess there was a point in their discussion where they thought I would have some insight on some nonsensical issue they were discussing. The fact that I am 6000 miles away but still included in a conversation about nothing was the coolest feeling ever. In some small but deeply profound way, it gave me meaning. Cogito ergo sum…kind of….

It’s sad to know that Joe, although he’s seen and done a lot in his young life, won’t have someone calling him up and asking him if he watched some movie and what his insignificant opinions are about it.

The Myth is real…

I’ve been MIA from my blog for a few weeks now. I’ve recently discovered that the mythical “China Hours” do exist. You see, prior to coming to Shanghai, several of my peers mentioned that it was going to be Archi-torture working in China. I mean, Architects as a norm already work a minimum of a 60 hour work week. In China those kinds of hours are supposedly a walk in the park.

Well 10 months into living and working here, I thought I was working for the County of LA. Hell, it was easier than that. It seemed like I was on a 10 month vacation. As our company was trying to figure it out how to define ourselves in Asia there was nothing I could do but go to Moet Chandon Launch parties, fashion shows, Salvatore Ferragamo Anniversary parties and the like. It was a sweet life.

Then one day…BAM! China Hours! Our company gets its shit together and all of a sudden I find myself in some second tier city 2 hours out of Shanghai drinking bie jiu and eating some weird stuff with the Mayor and his cronies, sitting in meetings with Chinese government officials and yelling at the foreman on the job site in English while he looks at me with a blank stare.

One and a half months goes by without a day off and the only way I can swing it is by rupturing my Achilles tendon!

Oh the humanity….the myth is real….the next year is going to be…