Archive for November, 2008

Enjoy. Always. With a Twist.

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

I’ve been a Coke fan (in preference over Pepsi) for many years now.  China’s the first place where I’ve experienced a truly new twist on its classic taste.

Today, in a simple Beijing restaurant next to Tiananmen Square (motto:  “What tank treads?”), I ordered a Hot Coke Ginger Lemon Drink.  I confirmed twice, thinking that I must misunderstand the menu, then absolutely had to order this most creative of drinks.

As promised, it was Coke, but served boiling hot, having had fine threads of ginger cooked in it along with a few slices of lemon.  Coke, ginger, and lemon are, I’m happy to report, three great tastes that taste great together.  It was truly the most creative preparation of Coca-Cola I’ve ever been served.  (Coke, for those of you keeping track, averages 200+ 8-oz. servings per American per year.  The American Dental Association should positively own stock.)

The concoction was served fresh, with the hot Coke still fizzing.  One must consume it within the first few minutes of its production lest its inherent fizzy-ness be lost in scalding heat.  The ginger added delicate treble notes to the Coke’s slothful, sticky alto;  the lemon added carefree highlights at the onset and retreat of the main melody.

I’m told by the waitress that it’s quite a common drink in China.  I suppose by “common” she means “you could spend six months here without ever hearing of it.”  She claims that it’s often had during colds as a way to clear the sinuses.  All Chinese school kids no doubt want to get sick, and often.

The folks at Coca-Cola Enterprises are probably delighted by this development, which hearkens back to the early days of Coke in the 1900’s when its traces of cocaine were billed as revitalizing to the health.

All it needs is a clever name, like those of most alcoholic drinks, where the name guarantees half the success.  How about something enigmatic and insider, conveying a chummy sense of knowing camaraderie whenever it rolls off the tongue, like “Moses Simpson Coronary?”

Coke.  Enjoy.  Always.  Now, piping hot with ginger and lemon.  At your local Beijing restaurant.  Ask for it by name.

Free Falling

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

I’m still undecided whether, in net, living in Shanghai is safer than, say, New York City.  Sure, there are plenty of random chemical smells.  Yes, my office in the outskirts of Shanghai is right next to a nuclear power plant (“The…. Siimmmmmpppsons…”).  But personal safety (vis-a-vis violent crime) is much better in Shanghai than in most major US cities.  There’s, after all, no allowance for widespread gun ownership.  And in general things just feel much safer.  You can walk most places at night without feeling in danger.  You’re much more likely to be hurt in Shanghai by the general disregard for health and human life than by violent crime.

Then again, once in a while you run into things that make you think twice.  I spoke to a coworker in Beijing last week who, while living in Park Plaza Hotel near Zhongguancun, entered an elevator that fell 17 stories when its cable snapped.  He stepped in, heard some elevator workers overhead, then suddenly experienced a loud snapping noise followed by 12 stories of free-fall.

This was no amusement park ride.  This was Life in Shanghai.

After falling 12 stories, the emergency brakes kicked in near the fifth floor.  The elevator slowed a bit from its blistering downward path, but not enough to prevent a hard impact at the bottom of the shaft.  He bounced off the floor hard, getting cuts on his scalp, lips, and face.  He then staggered out of the elevator, bleeding everywhere, and simply went up to the concierge.

“You should really get that elevator fixed.”

And he limped away.  For several days afterwards he took the stairs.  But he’s now back to normal.

This is probably the closest first-hand account of a near-death experience that I have ever personally run into.  I’m amazed and fascinated by the possibility of being confronted with only a few seconds of time to square one’s life away and prepare for instant death.  This coworker of mine took it remarkably well.

It of course doesn’t help that I’ve stayed at the very same hotel in Beijing.  Perhaps next time I stay there, I’ll be sure to ask for a room on the lowest floor possible.  Then again, maybe that’d be a mistake:  since the elevator’s emergency brakes took 12 stories of free-fall to kick in, it’d probably be wisest for me to ask for a room on the highest floor possible, thereby giving the brakes a bit more time to work their magic.