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Archive for January 27th, 2007

Shanghai’d

Posted by metaphorical on 27 January 2007

I’ve always been a diffident tourist. I love new places, but I hate being out of place. So I can sit my room for hours on end with a world of colors and tastes and languages just outside the hotel lobby doors. Having broadband in a hotel just makes it worse, of course, but I’ve always been like this. T spent one entire college summer in Berkeley without ever going to Candlestick Park, even though, back home, I had been going to Shea Stadium on my own for almost half a decade.

Yesterday I had an entire day to myself here in Shanghai, my first without appointments and work e-mailed from the office. I frittered the morning away, just as I might on a lazy Saturday morning back home. Finally, driven, not by adventurousness but the needs of my disfunctional metabolism, I left the room around 12:30.

The day before, while visiting the Sino-Italian Cooperation Program for Environmental Protection, I grabbed a booklet, “Shanghai/Tempo libero/Curiosita/Indirizzi utili.” The booklet is mostly in Italian, but not hard to decipher. There was a whole section on Italian restaurants, including a “MoCA Caffe”—‘MoCA’ being, I gathered, a now-universal abbreviation. The first Museum of Contemporary Art I ever went to was in Los Angeles, and it’s still one of my favorite museums anywhere—compact and beautiful, thought-provoking without exhausting.

The booklet gave the address as ‘231 Nan jing Road,’ essentially the street my hotel is on, and ‘People’s Park.’ “This is close enough to walk to?” I asked the conceirge. He looked dubious, more comfortable putting his guests into taxis than sending them into the city defenselessly. “Maybe 15 minutes,” he allowed. On a map, he put a dot right in the middle of a green patch.

People Park is a rare respite from Shanghai’s density, which is 50 percent greater than New York or Tokyo. There are few green patches on the city map, and if People’s Park were placed alongside the bottom of Central Park it would barely reach as far north as the Sheep Meadow. The green is a bit misleading too, with nearly as much concrete as grass. Still, it seems much beloved by the Shanghainese and deservedly so. A maze of walkways are lined by low trees with twisted trunks and branches. Bare in winter, they invite you to look through to the city’s skyline.

People’s Park

People’s Park

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