Breakup Songs: Bai Bai, Sh’Hai

Posted on October 1, 2012

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Shanghai, I’m breaking up with you.

There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s been a beautiful 2+ years. You’re beautiful. I’m beautiful. We’re all beautiful. But maybe we’re too beautiful for each other. This city is about 50 times the size of my home village country, but it’s still not big enough for the both of us. Does that sound lame? Maybe. Ok, you’re crying now. Please don’t cry. Surely you saw this coming? No…? Oh, you want reasons. Fair enough. I’ll give you reasons.

1. “Shanghai, baby, we want different things in life.”

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You take up my time
Like some cheap magazine
When I could’ve been learning something
Oh well you know what I mean
– Pulp, “Like a Friend”

Baby, all your Ladies’ Nights and your not-so-dive bars. Your RMB100 All-(the fake poison alcohol)-U-Can-Drinks. Your fresh-faced international school kids roaming Nanjing Xi Lu in packs and being posh at Bar Rouge and Zeal with mummy & daddy’s credit card. All the Friday Night Puke on the streets, washed away only by Saturday Night Puke. The parties, the Parties and the PARTIEZ. I mean I love you and all that, but I’m… getting old. I want to read a fucking book on the porch, ok? Your DEEJAY ZCLUB TONIGHT BORN TO DANZ is really harshing my class. Sorry.

You’re super hot, but I’m just super old.

(Thank you, Jarvis, for saying it like it is. I’m sorry your awesomeness had to be spliced with clips of Gwyneth Paltrow. Ugh.)

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2. “I mean, we could go on, but I just don’t know where we’re going, you know?”

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I’ve been drifting
On this wave so long
I don’t know if it’s already
Crashed on the shore
– Beck, “Volcano”

Shanghai, you move so fast and you change so quickly that I get motion sickness just being in the same room as you. I find a restaurant or little bar or shop that I adore, and the next day it’s gone. I walk down streets I’ve walked down a million times, and there’s all this new shit where there used to be perfectly good old shit. I’m sure we all need a 586th Starbucks next to us, too bad for that super sweet cafe owner who worked her ass off and tried to make her own way, I mean, law of the jungle, survival of the fittest, right? And those cranes… and the construction… and the hammering and sawing and drilling and the migrant workers with sweat-stained faces and shirts rolled up over their bellies.

Shanghai, sometimes you lose me. I walk on your streets, but I’m no longer sure of where I’m going.

(Gorgeous fan vid for Beck, by the way. Well done, Krista Camus.)

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3. “Look, stop bawling. It’s not like you were always nice to me, you know.”

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I read your letters
I never answered
You send me puzzles
I’ll never build them
Ross Fish, “Puzzles”

Jeezes, man, it’s not like you were always there for me, you know. What’s up with that? I told you all the things you could do differently, but no. No. It’s not even the usual things that bother me, like the rabid and rapid spitting and peeing and the kids with a slit down their pants and their parents making them take a shit in the middle of the pavement. The little restaurants that fling their waste out their doors and onto the path of any oncoming human being. The public toilets, oh good god, your toilets. The women squatting by the roadside washing their hair in a basin. The morning queue of people holding chamberpots to rinse out at the public water taps.

Baby, that’s all ok. Really. It’s part of you, it’s part of something I love about you. But some things are Not Ok.

  • Staff of Certain “Western” Establishments – if you beam at the white-skinned people and then can’t be bothered to even look at me when you take my order, I will Fucking Flay You Alive.
  • Assholes who stare at me when I’m out with my male Western buddies. Stop staring and just eat your dessert. I know what you’re thinking, you miserable little turds.
  • Red Taxi Company, whatever the hell you’re called – isn’t time you close down?
  • Shanghai Metro, maybe realise that 9.30pm is too early to close a goddamned train line? Or even 11pm?
  • Stupid vapid painted vases with trophy white banker boys and too much makeup and fake Herve Leger dresses, do not push me aside at the bar. Wait your turn. DO NOT reach over my shoulder with your red-painted talons and wave at the bartender. Oh sorry, I really didn’t mean to step on your shoe! I was actually trying to break your foot.

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4. “Shanghai, sweetheart, I love you but I’m just not IN love with you anymore.”

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There was blood
There was gore…
There was some ugly shit in store
I headed for the door
Moonface, “Headed for the door”

Oh babe, we gotta quit while the going’s still good, right? I know this hurts to hear, but I just don’t feel the same about you anymore. I used to traipse so eagerly down your leafy streets, sun on my face, enamoured of your every little detail – the ubiquitous underwear flapping on the lines, the jian bao and jiaozi fried in re-re-re-used oil, the multi-national passers-by, the strange little “Adult Health” sex shops full of dusty dildos. The nightlife, the “cheaaaap!” shopping, the Smart Shanghai recommended restaurants. But something about you, or me, has changed. The colours have faded, the glow has dimmed. Something feels different now, and sweetheart, I don’t think I can make it work any longer.

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5. “Babe you deserve sooooo much better…”

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I never meant for you to get hurt
And how I tried, oh how I tried
I could never give you just what you deserved
Another man would surely learn
– The Horrors, “Who Can Say”

Shanghai darling, there will be another one for you. In fact, many ones. As of last year there were 210,000 foreign lovers in you, Shanghai. I don’t think I would make that big a difference. And there will surely be more to come. More English teachers, PR people, budding entrepreneurs. Your City Shops and Wagas will never be empty, babe. There will be others dying to spend 35kuai on a cappucino and bitch about how the the waitress doesn’t speak English. There will be others eagerly squeezing into Shelter, only to recoil in horror that they’re doing a 60kuai cover for some shitty drum-and-bass. There will be all those happy to pay twice or triple what locals will pay to rent an apartment deep in the middle of Lao Wai town, as long as they don’t actually have to live next to the local Chinese, for Chrissakes.

Babe-Hai, you’ll do just fine. Next year you’ll have new sequins and feather boas and towering skyscrapers built in record time by an army of harrassed migrant labourers.

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6. “We can still be friends, right?”

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Guess I just want to be alone
And I guess I just need to be amazed
Save me a place
I’ll come running if you love me today
– Fleetwood Mac, “Save Me A Place”

Yes, honey, I still want to be those kind of friends. Yes? Great. I knew you’d understand. I don’t want to be with you anymore, but I still want to rake in all that gorgeous loot in your Tao Bao boot. I still want to get my hands on those two sweet, sweet elong and ctrip deals of yours. I still want to dip the occasional toe into your glorious 2-for-1 Monday burger holes. And baby – I don’t want to be indelicate, but your kuaidi brings a new meaning to coming quickly. So let’s do like Haibo, ok? I call, you pick up within 5 minutes, come over, and don’t charge me. (What is wrong with you, Dazhong?)

Take care, honey. I promise to write you soon.

XOXOXOXO