me in the piazza

I'm a writer, publishing both as SJ Rozan and, with Carlos Dews, as Sam Cabot. (I'm Sam, he's Cabot.) Here you can find links to my almost-daily blog posts, including the Saturday haiku I've been doing for years. BUT the blog itself has moved to my website. If you go on over there you can subscribe and you'll never miss a post. (Miss a post! A scary thought!) Also, I'll be teaching a writing workshop in Italy this summer -- come join us!
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Shanghai, part 3

May 10

So, continuing to be intrepid, Anne-Marie and I continued to explore yesterday, even though it was raining again when we set out. But only lightly, and after yesterday... Andy stayed home, things to do, but Nancy came with us in the morning, so we were again three. We went straight to the old Jewish quarter of Hongkew. Some of you probably know the book I just handed in, a Lydia Chin book to come out next spring, involves the Jewish ghetto in Shanghai during WWII. 20,000 European Jews escaped to Shanghai, the only city on the planet that would take Jews in as Hitler was trying to expell them from Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Poland. It wasn't for love of jews, but because of the strange historical accident that was Shanghai at the time; nevertheless, they came and they settled here and for ten years there was a European Jewish ghetto on the coast of China. Not much is left of the identifiably Jewish sites, but in the tiny lanes and alleyways life is lived in a similar way: still only cold water and often a shared toilet, or none at all -- the night-soil collectors still come around on their bikes, though the fields they used to take the buckets to are now gone and I think the stuff is disposed of in a treatment plant. I wanted to see these streets that I'd read about, see where my characters lived, where they walked and worried and fell in love. For me that part of the day was quite a thrill.

Then a shrimp and bokchoy lunch, Nancy went home with a big thank you for putting me up for 2 nights, and Anne-Marie and I headed over to the old French Concession. Tree-lined streets, wide sidewalks, big villas built for the French colonists, now housing a dozen families each. But the commercial strip is buzzing with small boutiques and a wonderful bookshop/reading room. We stumbled into a gallery, saw a show of an artist I'll keep an eye on. Then back to Anne-Marie's apt. for a complimentary buffet dinner for residents at the high-class restaurant at the top floor of the building. They do this once a month and I just happened to stumble into it. Once again, exceptional food, though this time western -- cheese sausage, Caesar salad. Since you'd have to be insane to eat uncooked vegetables west of here (think of that night soil) I chowed down. I spent the night with Anne-Marie's family (thanks, Edward, for giving up your room!) and then this morning they ran off to Beijing, leaving me the apt. until tomorrow.

I had breakfast and did some laundry -- do it while you can -- and then my friend Doreen came and took me outside Shanghai, to one of the old "water towns." These are cities built on canals, which Shanghai also used to have, but that was long ago. They're pretty touristy now, these towns, mostly Chinese getting away for the day, but this was a lovely place, even crowded. We took a boat ride on the canal, had tea, toured a temple or two, and saw a lovely large house-and-garden in the process of being restored. In old China, a "house" was different in concept to what we think of, or what they think of today. You built a wall, and inside had various buildings, pavilions, connected by walks and separated by gardens. The whole thing was the "house." Sometimes it had only two buildings, a front one and a back one with six feet of dirt between them, but that was the concept. This one was quite extensive and lovely, lots of different pavilions (including the "room for three daughters to do embroidering") and gardens.

Then back to Anne-Marie's, to find my dinner date, another friend, had cancelled on my. Oh well, I'm tired, there are leftovers in the fridge, and I'm flying to Xi'an in the morning.

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