Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mud, blood and beer

“So what keeps you in China?” asked M, a 20something American (Erie, Pennsylvania) coworker, university certified Sinophile (and unlike me who after 5 years still can’t count reliably to 10) who is also wicked fluent in Chinese spoken and written.

I hadn’t been complaining, He was just curious. It was about 2am in a cut-rate drinks bar called Smuggler’s in Sanlitun, a largely expat, though not exclusively so, shopping, eats and adult beverages area in Beijing.

“Hmmm,” I mused, “Employment in a business that’s going down the tubes in the US. US creditors. The IRS. My Shenzhen girlfriend til she … never-mind-don’t-wanna-talk-about-it and…uh, knowing all sorts of cool, and sometimes off the rails mad batshit foreigners and Chinese. And nights like tonight. Better than movies.”

Smuggler’s is barebones with large wooden tables, benches, garage sale chairs and frequently reeking, vomit stained clogged toilets in the men’s room. It’s got a loose British theme, decorated as it is with large reproduction posters of random UK sporting events – “Football match, Swinesbury Tottenspur v Earl on Higglesbottom at Lord Marlsborough IV Greenswiddle Pitch, Shepherd’s Bush” – circa 1930something, old London subway maps, and the odd art school student painting of someone who might be either Keith Richards or just a mental patient’s self portrait.

Late weekend nights it’s often packed with a healthy mix of mostly Euro-trash and yup-scale Chinese, and that night had been especially fruitful for “chaos- and hilarity-ensued” alcohol-fueled incidents.

There were four tables in our area amd the fun began at one kitty-corner and comfortably out of bottle swinging range where eight burly male Chinese (non-orthodox) Muslims were celebrating a birthday party with many, many beers.

All seemed jovial, according to my friend who was randomly translating their loud, occasionally ribald male bonding jokes until seemingly out of nowhere one guy grabbed an empty Tsingtao bottle by the neck, swung it across the table and hammered it firmly into the chrome dome of another celebrant.

Yes, there was blood. A lot of it. And though the bottle didn’t break, some beer glasses fell and shattered on the scuffed, muddy floor as the partygoers began trying to wildly restrain the assailant while others began pressing napkins to the stunned victim’s forehead in a largely vain attempt to stop the blood spouting into the spilled beer and broken glass on the floor.

“Eww, nice one,” I commented as we watched the scrawny small Smuggler’s waiters (no bouncers, they) struggle to maintain order as the injured guy began slurring that he didn’t need to go to a hospital for what appeared to be an at least 25+ stitches gash.

We never figured out what sparked the sudden assault and no cops arrived as half the birthday celebrants began hustling the bottle swinger out, followed by another group propping up and pulling his staggering victim behind him.
Waiters began mopping and sweeping within five minutes it was as if nothing had transpired.

Twenty or 30 minutes later, two stylishly dressed and groomed men, one late 20s German and the other perhaps mid30s North American sat at the table next to us, locked eyes passionately and began talking excitedly in English, fingers fluttering just on the edge of bitch slapping. It was like tense foreplay, hard to tell if they wanted to suddenly kiss wildly, beat the bejeebus outta each other, or both.

“Kinky stuff,” my pal observed drolly. An Outkast tune on the sound system was cranked too loud to hear what they were discussing until the North American rose to shove and topple his Germanic Boytoy back-on-floor, ass-up in his chair.

Boytoy upped himself slowly, slipped briefly on his spilled beer, righted himself and confronted his swain with “I vill hit you hard!” before shoving back. A shove and half-assed punching match began between cries of “I love you! I hate you! You are my leader! I respect you but I vill hit you very hard!”

Damn, I thought. Where’s an HBO series scouting crew when we need one? Their table tipped over, chairs too, more broken beer glasses until I finally went to another room full of glottal drunken Euro accents and collared a Chinese waiter to come establish order.

He wasn’t too successful as the amateur Passion Play Lite kept playing. “I never said that!” “Oh yah, you did!”

Finally I roared in my best Colorado barroom bellow: “Take it outside!”

They did, but not before Boytoy rose on his toes to yell at his retreating partner: “You are, you are … (pause, draw breath to propel heatseeking Mach 12 in-your-face, whop-ass missile insult) SO STUPID! VERY STUPID!”

“You know,” I told M as we rehashed the havoc. “If I was back in Boulder at this hour, I’d probably either be bored in a Denny’s or asleep worrying about paying the cable bill. This is live, international and it’s free.”

4 comments:

Peter said...

Sure beats my boring evenings at home by miles.

Matthew said...

I rarely witnessed anything like that in the bars in Shenzhen (guess I went to the wrong bars). I have seen some drunken amusement at restaurants though.

Certainly is better than living in the US and trying to survive in the dying publishing industry.

EdgyJuneCleaver said...

At first I wanted to say: "Dude you totally made that sh*t up!" and then I realized who I'm typing at because stuff like finds you because you put such a great voice to it.

Nick T said...

Yo, just found your blog and I'm gonna comment spam your old entries.

Yeah, Smuggler's is about that! I've had more than my share of nights like that here. Thank god I've never been the participant. But I've had beer bottles aimed real close to me, and taken care of plenty of bleeding strangers in SLT.