This weekend I did something I’ve wanted to do ever since I got to Shanghai this past July.
I took a subway line all the way to its final stop.
Now okay, I’ve sort of done that already while taking the train to PVG on my way out of Shanghai , but I would argue that going to an airport doesn’t quite count. Taking the Subway to an airport lacks the kind of purpose that a deliberate ‘end of the line’ subway ride demands, sort of like my JFK adventure flying to Russia this May, when, fresh from getting my nails done in Chinatown, I accidentally took the Local instead of the Express A Train and embarked on the most strenuous hour and a half of my life (you know that feeling when you board the Subway sort of wanting to pee and think that everything will be okay? That feeling blows. I started doing the bathroom dance somewhere around Bushwick and ended up pretty much sprinting to the AirTran bathroom). The obvious solution to my JFK train dilemma? Flying out of LaGuardia, even if it means being forced to take the M60 Bus. But I digress..
The New Pudong Industrial Area is unlike any part of Shanghai that I’ve visited so far. It is – above all – deathly silent. In fact, it really reminded me of that strip of Southern Connecticut right by Exit 42 of I-90, full of strip malls and hotels that house people for conferences. The streets are largely deserted, largely residential, and largely wide. As I walked the 1.5 kilometres to my destination – The Long Museum – I passed by only garden workers, trimming tree shrubs (with green leaves in December!), without hard hats, or any semblance of safety equipment. The lack of people was, alarming, but it was nothing compared to the emptiness of the Long Museum itself.
I had gotten the urge to visit the museum spontaneously, seeing an advertisement for an exhibit online and figuring ‘hey, I haven’t seen some culture in a while, so why not?’. I had also not embarked on a museum adventure in Shanghai since my trip to the Power Station of Art, where the day consisted largely of watches and taxidermied wolves. So, in an effort to escape the French Concession, I ventured across the river to Pudong. It was a new experience. The museum building was modern, beautiful, and… empty.
I passed by gallery after gallery, without seeing a soul. On the fourth floor, I finally saw another girl, but she was asleep on a bench in a corner and there were already a bit too many Babadook vibes for me to go over and check on her or try to wake her up. As my heels clicked on the marble floors and I passed room after room of propaganda posters marketed as art, it was honestly difficult to get inspired. Which leads me to another question, why was I alone in the Long Museum to begin with?
There’s only a certain kind of person you can invite to a museum with you. I recently (well, not too recently) read this Times article about the art of slowing down in a museum and this trip really brought me back to it. Museums are not for conversation, they’re for ruminating. In November, A and I spent hours perusing the Tretyakov, both marvelling at the unfinished beauty of some pieces and making fun of green-tinged Zombie Jesus or Orthodox saints who looked a tad too much like Liam Neeson. Back in New York, I remember weekends spent at the Met, spending hours in the Roman wing with classicists or that one time I got lost in the Gertrude Stein exhibit. At the Tretyakov in Russia, I had a reaIly powerful conversation about last year, about the next year, and about Shanghai, and I guess I wanted to recreate something about that moment in that corner of Industrial Pudong. Something told me I needed to venture into the Long Museum by myself, to spend an afternoon with a few priceless Ming vases.
I’ve been writing a little more this week than usual. I think I’ve had a lot on my mind. I was talking to T earlier this week, who said that when we want to write anything meaningful, it’s just a matter of getting 90% of the writing out of our head and onto the paper, no matter how shitty it may be. And I think I’ve had a more pressing entry in my head for a few weeks now, but in an effort to try to figure out how to express it, I’m sorting through this word vomit. I’ve had a lot on my mind since coming back from Russia. I think it’s just a matter of trying to figure out how to get everything into words.
I’ve really missed home this week, much more than I have in the past weeks. Perhaps it’s the holidays, seeing Instagrams of people back in the City, or reminiscing about Picklebacks at The Belfry (seriously, if there was a place in Shanghai where I could get a shot and a can for $5, I’d be there every night), but I’ve felt a restlessness and a yearning for the East Coast that I hadn’t before December. But writing helps.