David Sedaris: Clearly, not hardcore enough for China
American comedy writer David Sedaris underscored his total wimpiness in a long-winded whine published in the Guardian last week about his experience visiting China, and in particular, Chengdu.
Spit, snot, poo, pee, and more phlegm are the main themes he tackles in the nearly 3,000-word tirade. Oh, and how the disgustingness was made all the worse by the fact that he and his partner spent the week prior to arriving in China in Japan—where, according to him, both the food and hygiene practices are far superior. Ooo, dis.
Initially yammering on about his traumatic childhood experience at a Chinese restaurant that led to his lifelong dislike of Chinese food, Sedaris finally meanders to his point: the loogies.
...[W]e flew from Narita to Beijing International, where the first thing one notices is what sounds like a milk steamer, the sort a cafe uses when making lattes and cappuccinos. "That's odd," you think. "There's a coffee bar on the elevator to the parking deck?" What you're hearing, that incessant guttural hiss, is the sound of one person, and then another, dredging up phlegm, seemingly from the depths of his or her soul. At first you look over, wondering, "Where are you going to put that?" A better question, you soon realise, is, "Where aren't you going to put it?"
I saw wads of phlegm glistening like freshly shucked oysters on staircases and escalators. I saw them frozen into slicks on the sidewalk and oozing down the sides of walls. It often seemed that if people weren't spitting, they were coughing without covering their mouths, or shooting wads of snot out of their noses. This was done by plugging one nostril and using the other as a blowhole."
It's like reading a China-newb's first blog post, but with more sophisticated writing and copyediting.
Sedaris's issue with China is not, of course, limited to bodily fluids. It's also the weird meat, the farm rooster that disappeared shortly before Sedaris and his group were served a hacked-up chicken on a plate, the eating of cats and dogs and, essentially, the questionable intelligence of anybody who lives in China, whether by default or by choice.
"We Chinese think it's best just to get it out," a woman told me over dinner one night. She said that, in her opinion, it's disgusting that a westerner would use a handkerchief and then put it back into his pocket.
"Well, it's not for sentimental reasons," I told her. "We don't hold on to our snot for ever. The handkerchief's mainly a sanitary consideration."
... [T]he man across from me beamed and reached for his chopsticks. "You know," he said, "this country might have its ups and downs but it is virtually impossible to get a bad meal here."
I didn't say anything.
Sedaris, who was invited to China in January to make an early appearance in this year's Bookworm International Literary Festival, of which he makes no mention in the article, also describes some of his interactions with Chengdu's local expat celebrities—in particular, at hotpot.
"I've taken the liberty of ordering us some tofu, some mushrooms and some duck tongues," said the western woman sitting across from me. "Do you trust me to keep ordering, or is there anything in particular you might like?"
I looked at her thinking, "You whore!" Catherine was English and had lived in China for close to 20 years.
" ... At least I can tell everyone that David Sedaris called me a whore in the Guardian. That's not a bad line," retorted the Catherine quoted in the piece.
Let's only hope that the angry Chinese Internet mobs who commented on the now-infamous CNNGo pidan report, in which a blogger called a preserved duck egg the "the stupidest motherf—ing thing I have ever put in my mouth" never see Sedaris's pièce de résistance ... or surely the Guardian will be issuing an apology for hurting the feelings of the Chinese people, and more lame China Daily wannabe diplomacy.