Sunday, August 15, 2010

Attack Dogs, Cover Bands, and a Reason to Avoid "Short Cuts"

Edit - Not sure why everyone is thinking that this is fiction, but it is not.  This was a story that happened when I was living in China, Spring 2007

I had taken to doing my drinking at the Holiday Inn.  Unlike Bar Street, with its Christmas-style decorations, music play-lists of which half were Chinese Pop and half were the most obnoxious of American Rap, the Holiday Inn was a place apart, a taxi ride away, and it boasted an impressive cover band made up of two beautiful Filipino singers.  There were typically a few expats at the bar, sipping Remy Martin and flirting comfortably with both the singers and the half-dozen or so working girls who would stake out their respective territories.  It was easy for a newcomer to mistake the girls as normal bar patrons (friendly ones), until one would notice that they were always in the same place every night.  It was unclear if there was a professional alliance that they would follow, each responsible for a certain area of the bar, or if the geography was hard-fought battleground, with the more ruthless earning her position as the industry's representative at the pool tables, while a less aggressive younger sister might be relegated to plying her trade among the back section closest to the singers.

In any case, it was a nice change from the noise and chaos of the more central party areas in Zhuhai, China, and you were almost assured of not getting food poisoning there.  The music was quite good actually, both female vocalists had excellent voices, and the guitar player would go on impressive solo riffs now and again, even on American songs who's original did not call for them.

One particular night, capacity for objective thought impaired by an unknown quantity of San Miguel beer and the short skirts of the Filipino singers, I considered my available cash.  I could reward myself for a week well-done with a massage at the upstairs parlor, or I could be driven safely home by a waiting taxi.  This would ensure that I not become the latest drunken expat mugged and beaten in an abandoned alley as I staggered home.

Fifteen minutes later, I was being rubbed down by an exotic beauty in a short skirt.  As I had paid for a 30 minute session, I used the time to rifle through my 15 word lexicon of Cantonese to determine if I knew how to say either "happy" or "ending," or any similar variation.  I did not, and I grumbled bitterly that classrooms never teach you anything "practical."  I was loathe to use any hand gestures to indicate what was required here, so I just thanked her for her time, and wandered into the dark Zhuhai night.  It was probably 3am.

I considered my options, and concluded that they were quite limited.  Home was approximately three miles away.  As the car drives, I would need to follow the main road straight to the coast, and then turn right (south), to get to my apartment.  At least three miles.  Still half-stupid from strong drink, I decided on blazing a new path, taking side streets and alleys in a diagonal fashion, cutting off what I expected would be significant amounts of time.  I had forgotten that unknown short cuts are never short cuts.

The city was mostly quiet, save for small groups of men huddled around dice games on porches and stairways, surrounded by bottles of cheap liquor.  Usually the conversation would stop as I walked by, continuing only after I had passed.  I pulled the hoody up over my head to avoid the instant recognition as a foreigner, but it took away my peripheral vision, and probably drew even more attention to myself.  I pulled it back down as I entered yet another dark alley, and was immediately conscious of a dozen dark and silent shapes streaking towards me.

Dogs defending their territory in the U.S. will usually bark ferociously, warning the intruder back and away from the geography that they consider "theirs."  This pack had apparently decided that my intrusion was too significant  to forgive, and launched a surprise attack where no mercy or mere "lesson" would suffice.  The utter silence of the mangy dogs was far more terrifying than a snarl or loud bark would have been.  I turned to face them, roaring English obscenities which surely meant nothing to them.  Surprised by my aggression, the lead dogs faltered, turned back a few steps, and then remembered that they held a huge advantage in numbers.  They immediately turned back to attack, rushing towards me.  Not ten feet away, a loud command was yelled from somewhere in the darkness of the alley that they had come from, and they immediately halted their onslaught, retreating back the way they came.

I realized that I had been holding my breath, and let it out in a violent expulsion of air.  Turning quickly, I walked on.

An hour later, I was realizing that my short cut was not one, and I was turned around in the maze of dilapidated buildings.  Somewhere up ahead of me, I heard a loud and mournful baying, like some massive hound of the baskervilles.  "More dogs," I thought sadly.  Not trusting my ability to find my way back, I continued on towards the sound.  Sitting on a stoop, a middle-aged man howled at the moon.  He looked at me, and I looked at him, and he turned back to the sky to resume his wailing.  I took a deep breath.  It was time to get home.

Eventually, I found a major street, which I recognized as one a good mile further south than I should have been, and followed it to my apartment.  It was 5am when I walked in the door and collapsed on my unmade bed.


linda said...

you should clarify if this is fiction or not :) i'm wondering if you are the happy ending type. i will share with you my insights later if you are!

great piece.

Venom said...

See, I am not the only one with a mind that occasionally swims in the gutter (Linda).
Strength in numbers.

So anyways, what I get from this story is advice to spend my money on taxis instead of whores in China. Point taken.

p.s. Am I the only one who hates word verification?

Stephanie Ann said...

While I have many questions in my mind, the one at the forefront is: Did you ever learn the words for "happy ending" to make sure another event like this was at least worth it?

Anonymous said...

Soooo much Win in this story! You should've sat and howled with the old man instead of pretending that wasn't how you were feeling... Anywho, ruefully posting stories about failed happy endings in foreign countries is a sure sign that the universe is forcing you into celibacy--fight back, kid!

Trouble.Thinks said...

No happy ending?!!!!!!! WHAAAAAAAAT????????????? haha... That was awesome, hot damn you write well! Write some more. Now. Gimme gimme!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ah, drunken walks home always lead to adventure. And language classes should definitely teach more practical vocab - as if anyone need to know how to ask for a watermelon?
Lady M