Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Rhythm of the City

by Anne
February 2011

I am not musical. I wish I was, but I got the LARSON genes for musical ability. I think I actually may be tone deaf. I can’t make my voice do what I want or sing the tone that I hear. Sometimes I think I am doing pretty well hitting the notes, but I can tell by the look and laughter from my dear family that I am not close. The good news, it doesn’t stop me from singing because someone needs to entertain them in the long elevator ride up to the 16th floor of our apartment in Shanghai, China. (It’s fun to sing in a metal elevator because the sound bounces off the walls and it sounds even louder.) My BFF once told me in 8th grade, “Anne, can’t you just TRY (to hit the notes and be in tune).” Ouch. Thank God our children got the GRIBBLE genes for music.

Yes, I took piano lessons for seven years, but never really understood it, purely mechanical for me, nothing natural about the musical process in my brain.

So, for me to attempt to make a musical analogy about the rhythm of the city of Shanghai is almost a joke, but for some reason there is no choice because it is just too true that Shanghai has a rhythm. (I apologize now for all my incorrect musical vocabulary and grammar.) I’ve heard that saying before, “rhythm of the city”, but I just pictured a lot of people walking on the sidewalk like in New York City or something. (I’ve never been to NYC, just FYI.) I never really understood what it meant, nor have I ever felt apart of a city’s rhythm. I don’t think Kirkland has a rhythm…well, maybe if you are a car, a lot of “stops” because of all the crosswalks. In sleepy Mercer Island, maybe lots of “rests” and crescendos up the biking hills.

Shanghai has rhythm. It has a constant beat. No, Shanghai is constantly rocking! It’s constantly breathing, moving, singing, living in music. Yes, it’s the largest city by population in the world and as one would imagine with this many people, things would seem to be continually happening. We are not all sleeping at the same time. Our beat never stops. It’s not a song that ever gets old and it’s never the same each hour or minute for that matter.

As I sit here in bed in my 16th floor apartment with my two cats snuggled up to me, cozy with the covers over my legs (Beans just sat ON TOP of Izzi. Izzi does not move and is squished under Beans. Too cute and odd.) I can single out and hear…cars, car horns, motorcycles, trucks, squeaky brakes, scooter horns, bike bells, more horns…all combined to make its own music. The thought that this could be “street noise” or a negative sound has never enter my mind. It’s not “street noise,” it’s the rhythm of the city. It’s Shanghai’s song.

When we enter the musical piece of the city, we enter by stepping onto the sidewalk – we add our feet to the “rhythm of the beat.” (Aren’t those the lyrics to a Go-Go’s song?) Once we start walking briskly down the sidewalk, we have entered the piece and now are a part of this fine choreographed song. I am happy to be a part of the fun. The cars speed and stop and honk and squeak. The men on their street bikes call out in sweet strong Mandarin to advertise what they are selling. Lady Gaga is pumping out the stolen DVD store and onto the sidewalk where we walk. The young man’s tunes from the stereo on his bike are adding to Shanghai’s musical piece. Men and women yell at each other. Children cry. More horns honk. Women cough under their masks. Men farmer blow their noses. More horns. More talking that sounds like yelling. We keep walking. Time to cross the street – just don’t stop your rhythm or you’ll mess up the song. If we keep our pace, the cars will make their judgment calls based on our rhythm and keep their beat – all will be fine - the piece will continue. Just don’t stop your beat in the street…

I had no idea that I would love being a part of a big city’s rhythm, but I absolutely do. It’s so exciting and fun. When there would be a nice day in Kirkland, I would announce, “Come on everyone – let’s get downtown – everyone will be there – let’s get some ice cream or jump on the rocks or eat dinner at Jalisco’s!” I didn’t want to miss out on the fun in the city.

What I love here in Shanghai is that you can’t miss out on the fun because it’s always out there. The song never stops and you can come and go and join in whenever you want to and every time it promises to be a funky tune or an exciting musical or a fine orchestral piece. It’s always different, but always the same – never ending rhythm which takes on a life of its own. Shanghai Rocks.

1 comment:

  1. I've always thought you wrote well while we were at ICP, but your writing style is really blossoming. Blogging is good for your writing - and probably good for your soul as well. I hope you keep this up and look back at your Teacher Anne's tips from ICP (very conversational) and look at this blog post (great introduction, your own sense of humor, repetition of theme and summary).

    To quote some domestic diva whose name I don't like to mention, "It's a Good Thing."