I had some time spare yesterday amidst the stream of meetings and appointments, so went on a hot date with myself to a bookshop. Of course after drooling on Iain Banks’s latest novel I found myself in the cooking section, first in awe over a book devoted solely to Sichuan cooking. I’m going back to steal the recipes for Suan Cai Yu and Shui Zhu Niu Rou to see just how authentic it is, and maybe the Mapo Doufu that all the recipes I’ve tried have been … you get the idea, but mostly it’s just taunting that Chengdu is so far away.
Next was a book devoted solely to the best best best cooking utensil ever invented, the wok. I miss mine dearly but after discovering that Foshan is one of the few places where you can still buy a hand-beaten wok, I think I’ll be making a side trip there. So when I turned the page and saw such a familiar sight, the old red motorbike taxi with attached chicken cage and plenty of chickens, the yellow 粤 licence plate, I was overcome with homesickness for Guangzhou. Oh the food. This is one of the rare, special cities in the world. Canton is where you go to eat.
This is totally the coolest thing I have seen today, Blackheads MC Helsinki Victorian Goth Chopper wins Custom Bike Show 2006 Norrtälje. I know it’s high petrol-sniffing gear-freakery, but check out the action on the steering mechanism, and the rear wheel hub, and the golden flying eyeball headlamp and brass headset … and, well, I really do wish all that copper piping was backed up by a little coal-fired boiler. mmm steam bikers. I’m off to do some lines of powdered anthracite.
One of my favourite means of getting around Guangzhou since I first got over my terror of speeding death under a plastic helmet is motorbike taxis. Illegal, unregistered, cheap, friendly and always knowing the strangest and fastest shortcuts across town, I always found them more friendly than the vast majority of legal taxi drivers in their beat-up Volkswagen Vettas and would often end up talking with them and later thinking someone needs to remember their lives, especially as they are going to be outlawed by the end of this year in Guangzhou, meaning more hardworking people who are barely surviving will be unemployed.
It’s not too unsurprising to find one of them is blogging, nor is it surprising they come from Hunan, or more exactly, Changsha. 陈洪 Chen Hong is blogging at 长沙刁民 Changsha Rogue, and China Digital Times 中国数字时代 wrote about him today.
The Self-Narrative of a Motorcycle Driver – Chen Hong
A two-month old blog attracted more than 150,000 clicks and over 3,000 comments. Its daily visitors reached as many as 5,000. This is not a blog about sex or private lives. It’s about social problems, economic reforms and bureaucracy, and it’s written by a motorcycle taxi driver who never went to college, and whose business is illegal in China.
Chen Hong calls himself “Changshao Rogue” in his blog. Living in Changsha, Hunan Province, Chen was laid off ten years ago. He tried everything and ended up driving a motorcycle to make a living.
In one of his blog posts, “a self-narrative of a motorcycle driver,” he said:
For dozens of years all our labor and efforts only ended up helping a group of the social elite… And we end up as elements of disharmony in a “harmonious society”–the illegal motorcycle drivers. I don’t intentionally violate laws. I became a motorcycle driver because I was starving. Some said a harmonious society ensures the right of every member. But to those who lost their jobs and means to earn a living, what else can they do except drive a motorcycle?
Someone identifying themselves as “Guo Feng, a graduate student from People’s University” replied to this post:
I don’t agree with you. The country and the government are not obligated to take care of our generation for our whole lives. We once stood at the same starting point. Some get rich, some get left behind. We should responsibility for ourselves. Motorcycles are not supposed to be used to carry passengers. You put our lives in danger by riding a motorcycle to make money. The society can’t change itself. You must adapt to the society.
The two argued back and forth. Most blog readers stand on Chen’s side. Later on, Chen was even threatened for his post on social inequality.