ABCs of Beijing

Close Encounters With Beijing Modernity

The Essence of the Thing

by Heathen

feathers. was it feathers on top? or feather-like twigs?
purple cloth wrapped tight for regular sweat control (a daily tool)
toothpicks forming four interlocking circles
secured in position to poke
bouncy dough
in tin kilns
where china isn’t china any more
and is actually chabuduo tajikistan or kazakstan or just some beyond-desert-beyond-mountain place where humans eat bread and need to make it pretty first
yes, i know the holes are made to cook the naan
but practicality aside
this is a tool of the type i keep closest to my heart
oh the uighur bread beautification tool (UBBT)
as its designated safekeeper
i tucked it in my leather bag
but my bags are always smaller than their contents
and it was the same bukaopu bag from which a fresh gift of whisky from my boss smashed
on my doorstep before my whisky-starved flatmate
dat bag
so the tool fell out
that’s what happened.

Read more

Ten years later and I still can’t pronounce palimpsest

by Color

I just turned 33 years old and I find myself in severe nesting mode. I am full of energy, ideas and anxieties about building my new California home - a place for living, working, creating, loving, all in equal measures.

A while back I visited my parents’ home and lugged back a large dark blue tupperware container filled with the ephemera of my childhood - mostly teenage notes, cards and letters from friends, pictures from my travels, random ticket stubs. Today, in a fit of organization, I opened that tupperware to try to find these super cute pink sticky notes that my little sister gave me to write reminders on. 

I didn’t find those sticky notes but I did come across a stack of notebooks of all sizes, all half-filled with notes, journal entries, reminders, doodles. I plucked out a black Moleskin, and flipped to the last page, where I always tend to jot down quotes and things I don’t want to forget. I found the following list:

Read more

My Bikram Meltdown

by Color

We meet at Pluto’s for lunch, the same salad chain we used to hit up in college twelve years ago. Only this time, instead of in a sleepy cow-town, it is in posh Palo Alto. He is the reason I became vegetarian at 18. He introduced me to carob, pesto, Apple, long drives on the California coast. Now at 30, he looks the same: lean animated face, even row of white teeth, crinkly eyes that smile gently. He glows – with California heath, with success, with clean hard work. He is handsome — this time my judgment is free of the blush of first love.

I don’t remember how we pass the three hours. I remember the feelings: warmth, easiness, intensity, confusion. He asks me question after question, greedy to know more. I have not felt such focus on my words, the unfettered support and interest, in a long time. Why does he want to know so much about me? How do I get in a word about him?

I want to stay and I want to leave. What did I order? Did I even finish my salad? Normally I devour them.  Where did we sit? Was the restaurant busy, loud? Who paid for the meal? 

I remember the sound of blood and air pounding in my head. I remember my face growing hot. I remember smiling too much, becoming too animated. 

Read more

The Case of the Missing Blue Pull Cart

by Zebra


Any foreign expat who has lived in Beijing for some time knows that nothing is really for certain. Just when you think you’ll get a 90-day, multiple-entry tourist visa into China like you might have gotten three months ago, you might get a sticker on your passport that reads 30-days, single-entry instead. When the air quality index lingers at emergency levels above 300 (just long enough for you to seriously contemplate leaving Beijing), it might suddenly dip to below 50 again – equivalent to the fresh, crisp air of Canada or Hawaii. And just when you finally commit to buying a new mattress for your overgrown Western body, you’ll find out you have to move again because your landlord has just sold his apartment to someone else.

Read more

Sex-Ed, Beijing-Style


Photo credit: 青简

by Cat

This is a story of me. This is also a story of Beijing. 

“Open your legs, slut.”

She was kneeling in front of him, eyes lowered, hands behind her back. Immediately she moved her legs further apart, feeling the cold air cutting into her crotch.

“Do you know what this is for?”

She looked up and saw a coil of rope dangling from his hand. It smelled like freshly-cut wood and rosin.

“Yes, Xiansheng. It’s for tying me up.” Her voice trailed off as she spoke. Then she heard the thud of something dropping on the floor behind her.

“Go get it.”

She didn’t get up. She instinctually knew she wasn’t supposed to. Instead she turned around; on all fours, she crawled toward the rope, her hips swinging lightly in her tight floral dress. She picked up the rope with her mouth, and then she returned to him as fast as she can, PROUD.

“I told you to open your legs, slut.”

He slapped her. She felt his hand land on her cheek, so effortlessly and yet with so much authority. It sent a thrill down from her face through her stomach and then to the little pink knot throbbing in between her legs.
She couldn’t help it any longer. She moaned.

That was me.

How did I become her?

Read more

What I Learned About Happiness From Some Old Dude in the Park


by Bunny

It’s early afternoon, and I’ve found the perfect perch in my local park. This spot allows me to people watch, but is shaded enough to shield me from public view. It’s seclusion in plain sight, an act I have perfected through the years as a China-loving but attention-loathing expat in Beijing.

A few minutes into my badminton and baby gazing, a wrinkly yet nimble man in a white hat, white cotton undershirt and belted khaki shorts enters my periphery and begins an exercise ritual. He pounds his arms and legs with loose fists in well-practiced but imprecise thumps and looks out on the same view I’ve been enjoying.

Read more

San Francisco, CA: China’s Link to’s Fetish Porn Sets


by Color

Stupid nice. That was how a friend described this past Saturday in San Francisco. With the skies a heartbreak blue and the sun, light and austere, I didn’t want to be stuck indoors. But I had already booked a tour of the historic San Francisco Armory in the Mission, a four-story building built in 1912 that is now known as a porn studio run by

Since 1976, when the US National Guard left the building, it has sat empty. In 2006 bought it for $14.5 million to house the production of their popular fetish sex videos.

Read more

My sister needed one drop for her aerial silks routine in the talent show.

This diaper drop is the only one possible given the limited ceiling height (I don’t agree, but she’s not comfortable with my other suggestions).
This drop involves clumsy wraps to get into and out of.

So, time to play after the students go home.

WTF Olympic Dream Part 2: Is Figure Skating the Gayest, Most Sexist Sport Ever?

by Tasting

Why is every woman and girl figure skater sporting mini skirts, plunging necklines and bare backs? Does skin help you stick to their air (like how skin helps you grip the pole) so that you can stay up there just long enough for that extra half rotation in your triple axel? Why did America so quickly assume Tonya Harding was guilty of assault on Nancy Kerrigan? Why did Johnny Weir not perform in Stars on Ice after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics? Why did Yuna Kim beat Mao Asada?

Read more