the best is yet to come

Chocolate, Chess, and the Elmhurst

This weekend I saw a side to Shanghai I hadn’t seen before. It was raw, crumbling, boarded-up, and really quite visceral.

Saturday was one of those perfect afternoons where things just seem to go right (except the weather, nothing ever goes right with the weather in Shanghai, but that’s part of the city’s charm). I woke up early, took just enough Claritin to go on my morning jog through my neighborhood without (noticeably) hacking a lung, did a few vinyasas, and set out on an adventure.

Shanghai Antique Market – It’s really heartbreaking that the Antique Market will be razed to the ground in a few weeks. Walking through the cramped stalls selling everything from Putin Playing cards (not antiques), tibetan singing bowls (maybe antiques), to old gramophones (definitely antiques), was so markedly different from the Prada and Burberry stories of Jingan that I walk by every day on my morning commute. Although the shopkeepers still sell white lies and haggle, this feels like a much more real part of the city.

Shanghai Cricket Market – When I heard that Shanghai had a cricket market, I immediately had two thoughts. 1. Crickets are probably delicious. 2. Is this where little kids buy crickets to keep as pets, like that adorable cricket that never talked in Mulan? No. It is not like that. It is not like that at all. In China, people have many hobbies. One of these hobbies involves late nights, beer, and old Chinese men staging cricket fights. Grown men buy (carefully, oh so carefully) selected crickets, prod the little bastards until they start raring at each other, and watch them fight it out (presumably) to the death. Though we didn’t see any actual fighting (that must be reserved for late-night entertaining), the selection process itself was fascinating. It involved ‘tickling’ the crickets with bamboo reeds, more looks exchanged than words, and a surprising number of magnifying glasses.



I had a nightmare about the Elmhurst, chocolate, and Chess last night.

I woke up at 6am, terrified, and disoriented. The thought of me, back in my Elmhurst queen bed, tucked into the left side and propped up by three pillows like I always used to sleep (because the asshole cat would take up the other half of the bed) was terrifying. Isn’t it silly which completely inane things get these awful reactions from us? But something about the dream, about being back home struck me. It made me afraid that I never left and nothing had changed. As I graduated and left everyone behind, I kept wondering what would be the worse, leaving or watching all of your friends leave. I don’t think I could have stayed in New Haven for another year (the fact that I escaped halfway across the world is probably a sign of my restlessness). By the last few months, especially after February, I felt suffocated in the Elmhurst. Seeing the dark brown sheets and the green walls was too much. I really hope the girls who live there now repainted it. I really hated that green.

The past few nights, I’ve been having some trouble sleeping. It must be because my bed in Shanghai is not that comfortable (weirdly shaped IKEA mattress pads be damned). The mattress is just a little too hard. The pillows are a little too firm, and so I’m having a lot of trouble staying asleep. The last time something like this happened was back when I was struggling to finish my thesis. Unable to sleep, I would go on these 4am bike rides up Science Hill, to Albertus Magnus College, and through the silent, half-deserted streets of New Haven. I don’t remember how many times I saw the sunrise from my bedroom window, but this feels somewhat similar. I feel restless, so I wake up at 5-6am, hours before my alarm clock goes off. I lie in bed, turning, my neck cramping from the stiff pillow. I’m not getting enough sleep

The problem with not sleeping enough at night is I’ve been known to fall asleep in.. creative places. I never nap (voluntarily), but can fall asleep pretty much anywhere, at any time: watching Nicholas Cage films (how does Ghost Rider 2 end? I’ll never know..), half-way through my morning face-washing routine, even at my own going-away party (to the sweet, crooning sounds of Lil’ Jon). As the sweltering days turn to (slightly) less sweltering days, I’m really hoping that my sleeping will improve.

0 thoughts on “Chocolate, Chess, and the Elmhurst”

  • The Tibetan singing bowls sound cool. I wouldn’t attend any animal fight but if you were going to go see the cricket fights I might light-heartedly recommend that you make sure you get a good seat. I can’t imagine you’ll be able to see much at all on the second row!

    And you never said how chocolate and chess featured in your nightmare. It does leave us guessing… and quite puzzled.

    • The resonance of the Tibetan singing bowl was quite wonderful and incredibly soothing.

      Ahh yes.. I always feel like talking about dreams tends to be weird or uncomfotable. I know I brought it on myself because i brought the subject up, but the visceral reaction to having the nightmares and the fact that the whole thing took care around my room back in New Haven was the most striking part. I’ll leave the rest a mystery. 🙂

  • I have been struggling with sleeping as you have. I have also recently moved in with a new roommate and I’m not sure if its the mattress or the temperature, but I have likewise been searching for that perfect nightmareless sleep.

    • I always find that being in a new bed makes it much harder for me to fall asleep until I feel more comfortable with the new place, so the move may have something to do with it (and the thought of a new roommate coming to shank you before you find out whether they’re really a sociopath or not is always alarming). For me, it’s my lack of exercise from last week. I’ve been suffering from a cold and not being able to get out of bed in the morning and go running has been throwing off my sleep cycle.

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