Woke up today thinking “What if live music was banned?”
Would it not be so typical if it all just stopped now? Now that I am starting to get it. Now that I am starting to get out there. Then I wondered, what would people do? Would the concept of speak easies come back, but with the music, rather than the alcohol being hidden away? How would people get together and jam out? Would they at all?
The whole phenomenon is such a human thing. Its everywhere. In all parts of the world. And have always been! In Ancient Egypt people were already throwing big parties with free flowing food and music. Girls singing and dancing. Would a ban in a city make something so natural to us, go away? No way. People would solve it. There’s always a way.
All characters are fictional, names are taken off the two people in this picture, I hope they dont mind.
This story is not yet finished, and I am changing things every now and then. Its a work in progress, trying to find the tone to it.
This story is based in Beijing because I live here, not because of its political climate.
This is just a story.
Jeff Norman and Sid Black were walking Monster Baby, their three legged streetdog, along Hou Hai lake. It was four thirty in the morning during one of the hottest weeks of summer, and the sun had already strarted to to brighten the sky. Monster Baby was their latest find during a drunken adventure in Beijing City.
These two nomad musicians has been drunk in quite a lot of cities together, but Beijing is the one that always offers something interesting to pick up on the way home. Never a girl, but more useful stuff like this dog who has survived surprisingly long on its own. Once it was a yellow Chinese constructors helmet, that now serves as a prop to a drinking game. Still they both agree that the one find that will, til the end of time for drunken adventures, be the greatest of all, even though Monster Baby is pretty cool. Is the Rickshaw.. Somehow, an unattended, unlocked rickshaw had ended up all alone outside of Temple of Heaven. To them, it was like a dream.
It all happend after they tried to make their own spacecakes, failing the measuring. Inspired by a unoriginal Punk band out in Shun Yi, who had treated them with potcookies once after a show at Fubar, they had decided that cookies are superiror to pipes and bongs. They ate the cookies in the Temple of Heaven park after the people had left, and the guards had entered. Like a couple of juveniles they were all dressed in black, having an evening of acting out childhood Ninja dreams. For about an hour and a half, they had a good time dancing around the guards without being noticed. Then they got ridiculously stoned and paranoid, starting to realize what they were actually doing. Worried about ending up in Chinese jail like poor Charlie had last year. Charlie had been framed by a cute girl who said she wanted to buy some weed. As a gentleman rather than a dealer, he had just hooked her up. Turned out she was working for the cops and ended up putting him in jail for 7 months. Shit luck for that guy who had just gotten fired and did this for the first time, with no intentions of ever doing it again. Best way to get out was to jumpthe wall. They followed it a few hundred metre, holping to find a tree or something to climb. Bushes or floral arrangements would push them out into the open every now and then. A wooden old piece of shit ladder was leaning against somekind of temporary shed. This was probably where the staff was sleeping, if they came here as migrant workers. Sid grabbed the left side, Norman the right. Still silent and undetected when they carried it away. Now their paranoia eased off a bit, and they could feel how this would all be over soon. Until the flashlight appeared 100 metres away.
– Shiiiiiieet, Norman whispered grinning.
There they were. Laying face down in the wet weird grass, that wasnt growing like a thick carpet as they do back home. Small chunks of weed looking plants had been placed by hand, a dm a part over the whole field in a pattern. There must be thousands of mini plants Norman thought. Impressed by how the pattern holds perfectly all the way. After studying the grass he studied the ladder, noticing that the bottom steps are missing from the ladder, and that the whole thing actually looks and feels more like a picturesque prop for a hipsters garden, rather than a proper tool. It seemed about as safe to climb, as a tower of flowerpots. Still this was their best shot to get out unless they wanna wait 4 more hours for the park to open at 5.30. They started pushing the ladder infront of them towards the wall and crawling after it. With 10 more metres to go, they picked up the ladder and quickly leaned it up against the red, half metre thick, beautiful wall. Sid went first because he is the smallest. But it was almost like he was flung up there by his friend, who to his own disapointment, failed an attempt at pulling himself up with upper body strenght only. This broken ladder was tricky to get up on, with no steps the first metre. As a man of 200 full centimeters, a ladder of 180, and a wall of 350, this should have been no challenge. Sid would have offered a hand if they werent both bleeding like crazy from the irregular glass shards sticking out of the cement, keeping other people from trespassing. Norman was still struggling to get his lower body up on this fucking wall when they were detected. Now they werent well hidden Ninjas with a mission anymore, but two clearly visbile idiots with no plan what so ever. They are pretty much fucked.
– Dude, we cant keep going. We gotta stop. I am bleeding like a mother fucker.
He would rinse his hand swith water, pour some Bai Jiu over them and tie them up with a pair of clean socks from the store, like a survivor. Perfect. However, Norman was stuck. The ladder would not even hold his weight even if it did have steps all the way down. The Bao An appeared next to Norman, shining his light up on Sid, asking if they ar aware that the gate is always open for people to get out, but not to come in. Then he shone his light right in Normans face and smiled at him through teeth that has seen better days. Relieved that wouldnt need to end up like Sid, Norman smiled back and asked if he could have a cigarette. He could.
They were lead out to the South gate and pointed in the direction of a store that would sell everything they needed for Sids hands. The walk home that was gonna be the least exciting thing all evening, is the adventure that brought them the rickshaw. It wasnt long until they found it hanging out on the middle of the road, cars going around it, all by itself. A blanket laying in the back… Its like someone already stole it, then dumped it. When they grabbed it seemed they were just helping out. “Yea yeah, were just gonna move this out of the for you guys…” WEhich was the plan from start, but that was before they realized they could just as easily bring it home. So they did.
Sid and Norman fucked around with that thing for weeks until it got too cold to be picking up any girls with it anymore. Not “picking up” as in “getting laid”, but literally, picking.them.up. Basically, what they did, was to offer free rides to pretty girls going from Saniltun to anywhere. Kind of pathetic, but kind of cool a the same time. This was just something they did, because they liked pretty girls and the summer nights in the Jing are almost made for rikshaw rides.
When a taxi is too stuffy and walking is too exhausting, the rickshaw offers a magical breezy ride where you can smoke cigarettes without the unsuccesful attempts at ashing through a window. And the small storage space under the seat is perfect for smaller instruments like bongos, shakers, flutes, ukeleles, tamaburines and triangles. Creating the possibility of turning the whole ride into something of a jam sesh on the road, which ofc is genius for picking up even more people. The dream has been that they would get their hands on yet another Rikshaw, maybe even a third, and those too would be packed with instruments. Resulting in this Rickshaw Music Caravan taking girls to places, taking whole groups of people to places, or just being the place itself. How amazing wouldnt that be, having a bunch of strangers and friends flowing through the city with music, beers and song. Just imagine it.
Now they had one and it was enough. This one Rikshaw did everything for them they needed it to do, which was to offer a soft seat to the pretty girls.
Each venue passing by outside what would have been a window if this vehicle was a car, provided an oppurtunity. Since the girls might just change their mind about going home, and wanna hit the dancefloor instead to some folk music leaking out on to the street. Could just as easily be SKA, Blues, Reggae, Hip Hop, Punk, Metal, Jazz… It didnt really matter because the quality held in most places. And when it comes to music, it doesnt really matter what, but how. To persuade the ladies into going in somwhere worked sometimes when you would offer to buy their entrance ticket; because those clueless tourist girls are not aware of the one little important fact – all the shows are free.
Making an exception for the boardgame stores, live music is like the foundation of this whole cities young community. Not just for the locals, but also for us, the immigrants. The expats. The laowais. The big noses.
Anytime Norman and Sid would pass a venue sending out the proper bass vibrations and a steady rhytm, they would suggest to the girls that they all go inside and check it out, because there is something about live music that has a beautiful effect on girl. Makes them all bubbly, dancy and excited. Not all venues had it down right, but some really made the magic happen. As a general fact; a girl listening to good music is always a few times prettier than what she is, when watching the news or reading her tweets. That disturbed or selfinobsorbed look fits nobody. However, music does something for their whole system, and it is an amazing thing.
– No more live music? Are you shitting me?!
Norman yanked the poster off the wall and held it infront of him like a made up adventurer in a childrens story, would a map. This cant be for real, this is some kind of sick joke he blurted out, voice breaking. Someone is pulling everybodies leg man…
– You really think every fucking venue in this whole damn city would waste their time and money on printing all these posters and creating these ridiculous piles of instruments?! Get your head out of your ass man. They are burning our equipment like the nazis did books! Its not a joke. Live music is dead.
– So we gotta start playing fucking board games now?
– Scrabble aint so bad is it? You could finally get to show off your skill in creating swearwords properly. You might even become like a Scrabble champion or something.
Sid always tried to make his best friend feel better, even though he wasnt feeling that great himself.
– I dont wanna believe it… No more jamming?
– No more.
– No more sing a longs at the Open Mic nights?
– What about KTV? Can we atleast still do that?
Norman was not handling these news at all. He wasnt getting it.
– No man, that was even worse! They said KTV was nothing but a clever way to hide trafficked girls and use them up before nobody even came looking for them.
– Yeah… Apparantly those tall buildings are connected under ground. So through dirty tunnels and shit, they would move the girls around between buildings, between floors, so that nobody could ever really know who was where. Even dead bodies were dumped in some parts of the tunnels. Businessmen would hire girls to keep them company, and those rich jerks cant handle their alcohol so it happened sometimes that they started beating them up.
– But arent their cameras in each room?
– Yeah theres plenty. But the managers would get good money for a lost tape. Good money to waste on their spoiled wives and stupid kids.
– Holy shit man.
– So I cant argue against closing down those gross KTV places… Girls from North Korea, Girls from rural China… The kids hanging out there were small money compared to what was really going on inside.
– But we aint like that! We dont do shit like that! We are good to girls! We love girls!
Norman kept kept shouting as if Sid had anything to do with the ban.
– We even buy their entrance tickets!! He added with a chuckle. Sid grinned widely at his friend in respons, appreciating the joke. They were good to eachother like that. One might go off about something, but it never takes long before he reels back it in and cracks a joke to stop the ranting or complaining. They have been friends for so long, that they have discussed it many times, that ranting gets nobody anywhere. It just makes people angry or angrier. And anger spreads like virus.
Their travelling around Buddhist countries has taught them a lot of things. To not take all emotions and thoughts seriously, like you should’nt news either, is one.