Football!

Football!

Last weekend we went out and played football at Century Park, and it was just like the old days back on the schoolyard. Going long, running buttonhook patterns (you still think that will fake people out), listening in on the other team’s huddle (“I can go as far as the ball!”), one blitz per four downs, end zones that go on for infinity… as Cartman might say, “So sweet…”

Another game planned for next weekend. View more pictures here.

Green Card Square One

The Line

Above you can see the reason that it takes so long to get a green card or a visa to America. This is the line of people waiting to apply for one or the other outside the US Consulate in Shanghai this morning. This line is there every morning. The people just keep on coming.

As an American citizen, I do not have to wait on this line. And my wife is guaranteed eventual success in her bid for a US green card, unlike the majority of the people pictured above. However, because so many other people are married to Americans and waiting for green cards, there is a bureaucratic backup of approximately one year. Attention loved ones: this is a major reason I do not know when I will be returning to America. Please, for the love of God, stop asking me.

This morning I successfully filed the Petition on Behalf of an Alien Relative for Permanent Immigration to the US. The cost was $190 and many a red-tape hurdle. In fact, I should have filed it yesterday, but when I showed up to do so, I was presented with a brand new list of required documents, about half of which I did not have. So I had to come back today. And even though every document I’ve seen for the last year in my research, including the one handed to me yesterday, has said that the fee was $185, when I showed up today I was told that the fee had been raised. When I asked them if it had changed overnight, they said it had changed months ago. Why, then, was I given incorrect information just yesterday? “Oh, ” said the clerk, in a tone that suggested I should know better, “they never update those forms in Beijing.” It seems the Chinese method of bureaucracy is rubbing off on the American embassy. “Besides,” she continued, “it’s only five dollars.” I wanted to smack her.

We have a theory, one which is shared by many other applicants, that the US government purposefully makes it as difficult as possible to obtain a visa so that many people will be put off by the whole thing and just give up. By making would-be immigrants jump through hurdle after hurdle of red tape, getting these documents, filing these forms, paying those fees, they will weed out thousands of people who just aren’t persistent enough to keep up, and thereby lighten their own load of paperwork. It makes sense. But it doesn’t really work. In China, there is no possible way the US government could design a course strenuous enough to put people off. Not a people who have seen 50 years of mind-numbingly ridiculous bureaucracy become the standard form of government. And it clearly doesn’t work in Latin America, either.

One other funny note about today was the amount of chops the Consulate used on all my forms. I swear, with the amount of stamping, inking, sealing and signing that was going on, I thought I had accidentally ended up at the Ministry of Adoption.

Satisfaction!

The Stones in Shanghai
The Stones in Shanghai

The Stones concert Saturday night was totally awesome, just the absolute standard for what a rock and roll show is supposed to be. They came out with “Start Me Up” and went through dozens of classics, including “Can’t Always Get What You Want”, “Happy”, “Gimme Shelter” and so many others I’ve forgotten. They also threw in a few of their new songs, but usually kept those to the universally popular, like “Love is Strong”. They did “Wild Horses” with Cui Jian, the Godfather of Chinese Rock, who was on the first cover of Chinese Rolling Stone. And they did two encores, the first of which I forgot, and the second of which was “Satisfaction”. We had about 20 friends at the show, we were all sitting together and we rented a bus to take us to and from the concert! That bus turned out to be a great call, because after the show, most people were fighting for cabs in the rain, while we continued the party on the tour bus! Above photo by Charlie Xia.

The Blues are Back

My group, the Georgia Sam Blues Band, was back swinging it Wednesday night at a new club called Shuffle. It was the first time we had played since New Year’s Eve, and featured some new players. The core group remains Knut on drums, Nate on bass, and myself on guitar and singing. Eli used to be our lead guitarist but he moved to Beijing a few months ago, leaving us without a go-to guy during the solo spots. That post was filled by Giles, a keyboard man who can play like Stevie Wonder – he’s amazing. Unfortunately for us, he’s moving back to England next week. He joined us for the Shuffle jam and brought his friend Tony, who is a blazing guitarist. Since Tony will be sticking around indefinitely, we’re trying to recruit him to the cause.

Shuffle is a relatively new and undiscovered territory, down the street from the former Tang Hui pub, where Georgia Sam used to hold court every Wednesday night until it closed in November. The bar is big yet intimate, comfortable and low-key, and they have fantastic musical equipment and acoustics. But nobody knows about it. Last Saturday Nate and Knut were checking the place out and they said that, despite having a live band playing, there were barely five people in the bar. Hence the reason they agreed to give us a gig without even hearing us play. We got a few of our friends to come down and support us, and we all had a fun time rocking and dancing around all night. The manager asked us to come back every Wednesday. Could be a good time.