Fudan University classmates, c. 2003. Note that from left to right no two people share a religion. “Bear” is Protestant; (from Albania) atheist; Daniel, Burundi, Catholic; Oeystein Vasset (Norway, Lutheran); Ashan Habib (Bangaladesh, Muslim); Bill Marcus (USA, Jewish); Nepal (Hindu).


This is our Paris; these are our 20s.

The Chinese are having an economic party and they’ve invited the world. Or, has the world just shown up: Africans and Albanians; North Koreans and Mexicans; Swedes, Cambodians, Canadians, and Tanzanians. And, of course, the Germans. Drinking vis Germans, shopping vis Germans. I’ve met people here from place I though only knew existed on a Risk board.

It’s not exactly the Round table at the Algonquin. But unlike America there is peace and prosperity.

We’ve taken to speaking their language among ourselves. We call our cell phones shoji, our troubles mafan, our streets lu.

When a Chinese asks me “Ni shi nar guo ren?” or “Where are you from?” in Mandarin I reply in Shanghainese “Ala za hainee!” We are Shanghainese – and I mean it – I AM the new face of Shanghai – and I am free, white and over 21. Or am I?

I am free of the isolationist fears of the United States and because my skin is white I am able to work in movies and classrooms. I can afford to go where I want, do what I want, and be the artist, the teacher the American economy won’t let me be. And I can learn and grow in a world economy of other like-minded thinkers – young at 45 and able, once again to be comfortably middle class. And if I’m poor, that’s ok too because in Communist China that’s no sin either.

We got Carrefour and Burger King; McDonald’s and Pizza Hut – you just gotta get the New York Times on line. There are no men in trench coats here but there’s nothing of substance on the t-v either. A mindless, healthy, wealthy planet – it’s like a Star Trek episode, or, Portland, Oregon.

America is the old world now. Fighting a war to keep up a lagging structure. Here you can truly be whatever you like.

  • 2002-2012, Shanghai