Thursday, July 10, 2014

Big Wave Biotch

        I moved to Hong Kong to perform.  I play in a hyper-swanky club every evening, the piano is nice and the room is cool. Thus being said, I literally have all day to do whatever I want to do.  Really, that is the amazing thing about taking these types of ‘house band’ style gigs - sure you play the same place for an extended time, and you start to miss playing with different bands every day, but at the same time you do not have to hustle, life is easy, and you get to take the daytime hours to work, study, play, or any combination of those things.  I could have a nine to five job here in HK also if I wanted, then I would really be raking in the dough!!

The first week I was here was mostly focused on getting the gig going smoothly, I am working with a singer named Nash Reed. She is cool and we are going to have a blast here, but now in the second week I have a little more time to be going on some adventures.  I am the kind of person that likes to go out and do stuff.  I have started feeling more like my mom and my uncle lately (they are the big ‘do-ers’ in my family…).

After wandering around Hong Kong Island for a day and also wandering around Kowloon for a day I decided to plan my first goal oriented excursion.

I heard there was a surfing beach on HK Island called Big Wave Bay.  This is the perfect kind of thing I feel like I am looking for right now, all of my surfing experience has been in the cold ocean waters of Westport W.A. and Vancouver B.C. and the blistering weather in Hong Kong makes a cool dip and surf sound real appealing.  Just for the record, I love surfing but I am horrible at it.  I have so much fun doing it but surfing is a work in progress for me.  By no means do I need anyone EVER watch me flounder around in the ocean trying to get on the surf board or trying to drop in on some sweet waves.   I do argue that I get a better work out ‘not surfing’ than any of the heavy surfer guys do actually riding the waves… its a much more difficult work out not to drown after totally eating shit than to stand on the board and cruise.

I left at about 11 am and took the subway all the way to the end of the line.  I could have got off a few stations earlier and taken a ‘mini bus’ (#9) right to Big Wave Bay but I had the whole day and decided that it wouldn’t hurt to walk, it is only about two miles.  

Using my iPhone GPS to guide me, I started on my route.  Right away I found the most massive cemetery I have ever seen.  There must be thousands and thousands of bodies buried there.  It was chinese style, so all of the tombstones had a picture of the deceased on them along with a few words in chinese and a place for flowers and incense.  Also at the entryway to each row of tombs was a sort of raised fire pit, maybe for the burning of fake money offerings..?  Just an educated guess but I am not an expert here.  The tombstones were massive, and so were the hills that the cemetery was built upon.  I counted over five hundred stairs and then stopped caring.  It was pretty insane to see all the graves so I marveled at the scene for a while.  It really was a massive feat of effort to create this graveyard, and as amazing as it was I could not help but think how it was a massive waste of space!

I continued walking my route - the road I wanted to be on cut right through the graveyard so I started walking along it… one mile later, STILL IN THE GRAVEYARD.  At this point I cannot believe how freaking big this crazy place is.  I found several buildings that looked like apartments, but as I grew closer I realized they were storage for cremated remains.  Probably a cheaper option that an overly excessive tombstone with a marble picnic table next to it, etc, etc.  I mean... do people really come and hang out at loved ones graves or is that just a thing you see in movies?  If they actually DO do it, how many of them are willing to climb up the massive hillside to do it?  On this Tuesday afternoon in a graveyard of at least ten thousand graves I was the only person there besides a large crew of upkeep workers.  (no grass by the way, all cement).

Finally I escape the cemetery and start to see some amazing views of the coast.  The path I am on leads right directly through a massive park (green area on the google map) where it looks like I can easily get down to Big Wave Bay.  So there I was, sweating profusely from every part of my body, my clothes all totally soaked, jumping at all the sounds of jungle creatures stirring very close to the path.  It was a grand old time!  I saw some nasty looking spiders and some sort of weird mammal rat thing.  Another mile of walking and I am getting closer, which is good because I am dying.  I am now hiking down the other side of this giant hill that started at the cemetery when suddenly I turn a corner and…

Barbed wire fences.  Guards in uniform with weapons.  Cantonese inmates.  No Trespassing signs.  ‘It is illegal to free prisoners’ signs.  What the fuck.  MY PATH ENDED AT THE FRONT GATE OF THE HONG KONG PRISON.  That was definitely not marked on the map - and prisons should not be surprises, especially in parks!  Well shit.  One of the guards started to yell something at me, I motioned that I was lost and he just kept making the ‘you can’t come in here’ signal with his arms… like me, with my board shorts, sandals, sunglasses, beach hat and backpack full of sunscreen actually wanted to go INTO a prison in Hong Kong.  Forget that, pissed off, hot and running out of water I turned around and hiked back up to the cemetery.  

As I was arriving back to the cemetery I saw a woman jogging (Wow, really intense to jog in 95 degree weather, 80% humidity).  Insert weird ‘I am a traveller and explore all day, mostly alone, and crave for anyones attention’ conversation.  

I shouted a little to loudly, “Hey, what are you doing?”

She looked up as she was approaching and in broken english said “Exercising.”

“Oh.” I replied.  Insert awkward five second silence.  She is looking at me like she is waiting for a zoo animal to perform a trick.  “My name is Mack, I am lost.  I just got up from the jail.”  I extend my sloppy, sweaty hand like a goofy, 6’2 215lb American.  “I want to go surfing.”  
My guide

She shook my hand and looked totally confused.  Maybe because I just said I got back from the jail, or because she was trying to understand what the word surfing meant.  Once I stuck my hands out to my sides and surfed the air she relaxed a little bit.  I wanted to say “Hang ten bra!” but kept it in.  Anyways she helped me to the path where a tiny, mailbox size wood sign read “BIG WAVE BAY —> 2KM”.  It was pretty hidden so I did not feel to lame in my navigating skills.  

I was ready to finish with my daily adventure at this point but decided what the hell, I have been hiking around for a few hours to find this place I might as well go see it since it is only 2 more kilometers.  So once again I climb up and over a ridge. 

Coming down on Big Wave Bay was amazing for three reasons.  The view was incredible.  Secondly, there were a lot of people on surfboards floating very close to the shore, with basically no break whatsoever.  Finally it was the first time in my entire life I have seen what is called a shark net.  As the name implies a shark net is a massive fishing net floating out around the whole bay to catch or deter sharks from entering the recreational area.  Wow.  I have never seen anything like that before!  I have a fascination with sharks so I thought it was pretty interesting.  I did some research, the Hong Kong waters are teeming with wildlife which definitely includes many types of sharks, and after three shark attacks in 1995 in a three week period the country(?) set up all of these shark nets at all of the public beaches.  If it has a lifeguard tower and changing rooms, it has a shark net.  Since the mid nineties there have been no recorded incidents as far as I can tell from a quick google search.  

The water was pleasant, not too gross and sweaty like the ocean water in Thailand and definitely not too cold like at home.  The surfing looked pretty lame so I asked 
a couple of the locals and they said that the only big waves happen when there is a typhoon happening down in the Philippines.  Well, not like I really need any big waves myself… but a curious mind wants to know why Big Wave Beach is filled with twelve year olds riding foot high swells to the beach!  At this point I was running out of time, I had been out for several hours and had to get back to get ready for the evening performance so the surfing will have to wait for next time!  

I walked up from the beach and found the bus stop - after about five minutes the mini bus came (#9) and picked me and some others up and deposited us directly at the subway station.  So easy!  Next time I will probably take the mini bus directly to the beach.  All for $10HKD!  

Cheers, extra pics below!

I thought this was an apartment building!
but the whole building was filled with these!
Some of the graveyard up on the hill
A picture of part of the graveyard.  It wrapped around these hill sides!
Truly massive!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Back Over the Pacific

Four days ago I moved to Hong Kong.  My friend, and in a sense mentor (I’ll explain), Scot Ranney set me up running the band at a fancy club here.  Scot is a fantastic pianist, and has really changed my life in quite a huge way.  When I was getting into playing the piano seriously was when I started getting interested in jazz and Scot Ranney has run the biggest jazz piano education website on the internet.  It was a place I could go and ask questions, seek out things to learn, and get advice from not only Scot, but many accomplished pianists from around the world…. wait for it…. FOR FREE!  His website is and I recommend anyone who is interested in jazz to check it out, not only pianists.  Right now I am sipping down an espresso in my room, this ones for you Scot, thanks a million for not only the referral but for all the musicians you are inspiring and lives you are changing through music.

Jet lag is a bitch.  I know on this blog I have complained about this before, but I really hate it.  I do not mean to sound whiney or sissy or anything, but I absolutely hate messing with my sleep.  I already have a hard time achieving a full nights rest, changing sides of the world just makes things dreadful.

I have to catch an 8 a.m. plane from Seattle to San Francisco.  For some, not a problem, but for any musician out there this mere fact alone is enough reason for me to be jet lagged and super tired.  I go to bed at two in the morning, at least, every night.  Therefor, even if I was merely flying to San Francisco on an 8 am flight I would be incredibly messed up from arriving at the airport at 6, leaving my home at 5, and going to bed at 2, or 1 if I was feeling extra relaxed (never happens, always stressed out about sleep loss). 

After my flight to San Francisco, I am supposed to have a four hour layover, then get on a fourteen hour airplane flight to Hong Kong.  


There is a massive car accident on Highway 18 in Seattle the morning of my flight.  Instead of forty minutes to arrive at Seatac, it takes me three hours riding in a packed SUV driving at 8 mph on the freeways.  I arrive at the airport at 10 a.m.  Flight missed.  Oh shit, this has never happened to me before.  Went to the desk where we stood in line for an hour, then finally talked to a United representative (most ghetto airline in America) who told us we were basically screwed, then gave us some false hope after realizing how much baggage we had.  Then, as luck would have it the plane to SF after ours was two hours late leaving, so we were booked onto that flight.  

Saying goodbye to people you love, not knowing when you will see them again always really hits me hard.  I am a pretty empathetic guy, so these flights are never one hundred percent excitement for me, not to mention I am 6’2, 215 lb. flying coach.  It’s not that big, but it is big enough to make it an extra hassle for me.

Two hours later we step off the plane in San Francisco to immediately board our flight to Hong Kong - only enough time to use the toilet in between.  
Sit down, buckle up and begin 14 hours of waiting.  I never sleep on planes.  United is by far the most ghetto airline I have ever flown a crossed the pacific ocean with - always opt for Korean Air in my own opinion.  

Finally with an awful temper and a soar backside I arrived in HK with all of my stuff : It was imperative to send a van for transfer for me because of all the musical equipment I needed to bring, and unfortunately that detail was overlooked even though it was spoken about many times.  A sleek black BMW pulls up to the curb in the 85 degree, 65% humidity middle of the night.  In this tiny BMW they are going to try to fit 5 luggage bags, a bass, and two keyboards.  Waiting for a larger vehicle is not an option, so I jump in the back seat and am covered in instruments and gear.  Somehow with the trunk open, all the long gear on my lap and bags everywhere, all the doors were shut and I was off.  This is crazy, these professional drivers really know the capacity of their cars.

An hour later I arrived in my room, which is great actually, but even though it is midnight I can’t sleep.  HK is fifteen hours ahead of pacific standard time, so adjusting to the new time is a slow process.  It has been four days now since I have arrived, and I finally slept 8 hours, from midnight until 8 am. The first few days I was so exhausted I could hardly do anything, and the intense heat and humidity does not help, but slowly and surely I am coming around.  Other than dealing with the exhaustion, the first few days of being here was spent preparing for work and running errands to take care of things that I need, HK ID card, clothes, suits, toiletries, etc.  Scot has been really great showing us around and giving the hook up on where to do and find things.  Went to a jam session at a club called Peel Fresco last night and met a bunch of cats!  Fun times!  The singer I am going to be working with, Nash Reed, is great and the music is all jazz this time around so I am looking at some good times getting back into the piano after a strange hiatus of playing keyboards and organ for a few years!

Anyways, rock on.  Tonight is the first performance and tomorrow is the first adventure. Excited to be living in HK.

Oh, and just a teaser for a future blog post… Sunday is unofficially called ‘Pilipino Day’ after a certain, strange (for me!) phenomena
that happens in Hong Kong.  More to come on this soon.

Peace Out.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sunny Side of the Street

Just wanted to post a recording of a recent old jazz tune I recorded for fun.  Check it out!

I am currently back in the USA for the holidays - heading back to China afterwards!

Happy New Year :)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

An interesting coffee experience...

With my recent purchase of a new apple laptop I have returned to the modern world.  I have spent the last few days exploring the wonders of the icloud, and how my phone, tablet and laptop all work together.  Awesome.

Over the past few months I have been working on many different projects, a few music things in the works (secret projects!  to be announced soon!!) and focusing on learning Mandarin.  I have a great time learning the language - learning a new language is a great way to get your brain in shape.  It has been a long time since I have 'felt' myself learning, but with language, you can see your progress so easily!  I know a thousand Chinese words (although I often mix them up and say the wrong things...) and am currently starting to read and write.  I have this idea that a person does not really ever learn grammar until they start learning their second language... wow, grammar really is a huge pain in the ass, and a difficult thing to learn!  Not to mention Mandarin grammar is fairly easy!  Learning French must be a total pain.  Anyways I speak at the level of a three or four year old, and I am gonna keep on going!  It has been a life goal of mine to really learn another language so that helps motivate me... but I never in my whole life ever thought that I would learn to speak Chinese!

Today an interesting thing happened to me, I thought it was worth noting here.  

I went to have lunch with my friend Henning (professional mixologist from Germany) and afterwards we stopped off to get a coffee.  A daily trip to get a coffee has seriously been possibly the number one thing that has improved my Chinese, I always talk the poor baristas ears off.  They of course must think I am just some crazy guy, I come and order a coffee and while they make it I tell them (a total stranger most times) what I have been doing today, and what I think about the weather and Beijing.  Then they ask me a few questions that I can understand so we chat back and forth until inevitably they say something that I have absolutely no comprehension of.  Then I say "听不懂" (I don't understand) and laugh.  After this, maybe they try to explain what they said to me a different way, but really most times I am not able to learn expressions that easily except from my lovely teachers. 

I do take pity on these poor people having to deal with me, so if I recognize someone that I have talked to before, I try to say something a little more interesting or different than the typical day chit chat.  Seriously, sometimes it is hard to figure out what to say to people, I want to improve the language so I need to use new words but most people always chat about the same things... weather, work, feeling tired, etc.  So my new goal is to move conversations to the next level, and inquire for more information.  When someone tells me now they are tired and want to go home, I am trying to ask "Why are you so tired?" but sometimes I feel a little socially awkward knowing that most likely they will unleash a barrage of Mandarin at me that my poor blast shields cannot withstand, and I will be left dumbfounded.  When people do not understand they get a very specific look, as if gazing or staring at something far away, but really their mind is going through all of its files looking for recognizable words.  I have seen this look thousands of times, and I have myself gave it many times.  I need to name it....

Anyways this was a conversation I had getting my coffee at this new cafe we tried.  Note, it was all in Mandarin.

"Hi!  I would like an Americano and a Cappuccino.  How is your day going?"

"What?"  insert awkward pause, and smile.

"I want an Americano and a Cappuccino."

"Ok, for here or take away?"

"For here, thanks."

"Do you want a hot or cold Americano?"

"Hot, always hot.  I am from Seattle, we always drink hot coffee.  Do not add sugar or milk either, because real coffee is black."

"Oh, you are from Seattle - have you seen the movie "Love in Beijing, found in Seattle"?"  (Or something along those lines...)

"No I have not seen it, but I have heard about it.  Is it good?"

"It is good.  Take your girlfriend to see it."

"I do not have a girlfriend."


Uhh... insert awkward pause, "No why!"  This was in english, people here understand this saying, it is considered Chinglish.  We both laugh.

Then my barista hands me two cups.

"Ok here you go"

I look in the cups, "These cups are empty!" I reply.

"Yes they are, you go make the coffee."


"You make the coffee, over there."

At this point I feel like I am not understanding correctly.

"I go over there, and I make my own coffee."

"Yes, she will help you."  He points to a cute girl who is beaming near a large espresso machine and a million different contraptions for creating different types of bean juice.  



"I am giving you money for coffee... but I have to make it myself?"

"Yes, that is why people come here."


I have made a few coffee's in my life (the official way) because I had a girlfriend who was a barista, she showed me the basic ropes, but I pretended like I did not know how to do it so that I could practice Chinese.  The language was too specialized though, so I couldn't really understand what she was telling me, and we mostly used body language to communicate. 

Then I sat down and drank a great Americano, made by an American in Beijing!  

And I am still astounded at the business idea... I give you money, you give me an empty cup, and tell me to go make my own coffee.  This place was at capacity!  You can make a business out of anything I swear it.... 



P.S. Here is a pick of the band!  Someone had an iPhone and shot this, then we found it!

Friday, June 7, 2013

A different perspective:

Hi, this is Janice, Mack’s mom. Here are my thoughts and memories of visiting Mack in Beijing for two weeks.


I can’t believe how BIG it is.

I can’t believe how Flat it is.

All of these words make up my memories of China. I had no idea what it would be like to go to China, so my imagination got the better of me.   My fears, before my trip, – that caused me to wake up in the middle of the night, were:
  1. Getting lost, not being able to get back to Mack’s apt or find him if we were separated.
  2. Not being able to cross the street (valid fear, I traveled to Bangkok many years ago and could not cross any of the streets).
  3. Eating something weird that would make me sick for the duration of the trip.
  4. The last fear was that I might unintentionally do something wrong and I would get picked up and questioned by the police or the military.
I’m happy to say that my fears were unfounded (except crossing the street, but I’ll get to that later).
Mack lives in the center of Beijing, close to everything –well, as close as you can in a city that huge! He was such a good sport to host his Uncle and myself for 2 weeks. We made him get up every morning at 9am so we could start touring.

The first evening we (my brother Jim came with me to China) discovered that Mack speaks Mandarin! Not just a couple of words, but many words…he holds conversations with people! As soon as we heard Mack speak, we relaxed; he could get us where ever we wanted to go. And he could order for us too!

Jim and I loved the subway, we wanted to ride it everywhere. Once you figure out the line and the stop, it was pretty easy to get around. During the Olympics they redid the directions on the subway so not only areEnglish maps but the recorded voice says the stops in English as well as Spanish. Mack loves the taxi’s and ½ the time we would ride in a taxi and ½ the time the subway. Jim and I hated the taxi because they would never pick us up and it was so humiliating being rejected. Almost like they personally knew something about us that they didn’t want us in their cab. So, when Jim and I started out and about by ourselves (about the 3rdevening) we never took a cab! Only walked and rode the subway.
The first night we could only turn right…couldn’t go anywhere that didn’t have an overpass. No overpass, no crossing the street. The traffic was horrible, many vehicles going super fast and never stopping, and just about 6 lanes of traffic in each direction! To cross the street you moved in a large mass. Cars would never stop for you but would slowly maneuver around you. I hated it and almost had a heart attack several times. So, on that first night we turned right only – didn’t cross the street. The next night we had to cross the street. We waited for awhile, a woman came up near us and started across. I grabbed Jim and we walked next to her. Of course, we were ½ way across (crossed 6 lanes of traffic) and she got a phone call. She stopped at the small traffic barrier between lanes and answered her call. We stood there for 10 min with traffic rushing in both directions in front and behind us. The barrier was about 18 inches wide. Finally a man came up and we walked on his coat tails to get to the other side. He knew what we were doing and smiled at us as he walked away! Whew…and it never got better!
We visited all major tourist areas and they are exactly like every picture you have ever seen…except for the thousands of people. I will just mention a couple of places:
Tiananmen Square: has the mausoleum with Mao’s body in it. Every day from 8am to 11am they raise Mao’s body up from the ? (where ever his body is) and put it on display for the thousands of Chinese tourists to visit. We did not go see it, didn’t really want to. One thing did happen that is worth mentioning. We were walking in the square with Mack’s two friends (who are also his Chinese teachers). I was talking with Hanna – all of a sudden she grabbed my arm and pulled me quickly to the side. I looked behind me and about 3 feet away were the military marching – goose step. Apparently they were yelling for Hanna and I to get out of the way…"Get out of the way, we will not stop, get out of the way" . It was so noisy that neither of us heard it until they almost ran us over. Hanna told me that they would have just ran us over and trampled on us!!! Eeeeeee, ok.
We saw the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and many other historical places. We went to every park available to see. There were so many people at every place we visited. There were not many foreigners, but Chinese tourists visiting Beijing from the countryside. I have one picture out of 500 that is people free.
There is such a juxtaposition (how come I can’t use that word in my "words with friends" game?) between the old Beijing and the new modern Beijing. Everywhere we visited was the old, historical Beijing within the new, modern Beijing. I can’t even describe the feeling of walking through the Forbidden City and day dreaming about the history. But then, I would bump into someone doing the same thing. That took some getting used to. When I was traveling in Peru and went to Machu Pichu, I spent a lot of time sitting, staring and daydreaming about what might have happened there. I thought I was going to do the same thing in China…but no, didn’t happen at all. I DIDN’T GET TO DAY DREAM AT ALL! Instead, I spent a lot of time smiling at all the Chinese who were taking my picture (thousands of pictures are on the internet somewhere of me, Mack and Jim), saying hello and posing with their families in pictures. I was a ROCK STAR! J
One day we took the Bullet Train to Shanghai, a five-hour trip and spent 3 days there. I think every architect in the world dreams of building a giant building in Shanghai. We saw the craziest buildings in Shanghai and they are starting in Beijing now too. The train averaged 189mph but it went up to 210 too. Smoothest ride ever.
In Shanghai we went into a snow bar…a bar that was many degrees below 0 and had a shot of vodka. We had to put North Face jackets on to go into the bar. Funny. There was snow and ice on top of the bar.
The food was great. Only ate one weird thing, which was Duck’s head. I thought I was ordering duck wings but it was the head split down the middle. It was quite an adventure, and I ate 2 until Mack told me what it was. Then I saw the eyeball staring at me…just couldn’t eat anymore. I ate tripe, which surprised me at how delicious it was. Everything was family style and you could only use chopsticks. About the 4th day I mastered them without dumping food in my lap or on my chest.
We managed to go to the Olympic Park where the Beijing Olympics were held. So windy we almost blew over. It was fun seeing the Birds Nest and the Swimming Cube. We walked the entire park.
We also went to the Great Wall. Tons of people, very steep walking and very odd sized steps. For some reason I thought the wall would be fairly level walking…maybe from pictures that I have seen. We went to the most visited section and it had handrails so you wouldn’t fall down the steep slopes. We also took some kind of tram up to the wall (it was exactly like riding in the helicopter ride at carnivals) which was hilarious. Mack said they don’t really stop, you have to jump in. Yes, we did and it was funny. Loved the Great Wall – I could almost day dream there…
The people in China made it such a wonderful trip. Nothing but kindness was shown to us (except by the taxi drivers that wouldn’t pick us up). Mack has made some great friends and it was so much fun to visit him.
Next year it will be a new place, right Mack?


Friday, May 3, 2013

The Great Philosopher, Confusion.

Confucious says "Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself"
His evil twin Confusion says "Never yourself choose, or impose, or impose upon others detest, things that you."   

Recently I purchased some musical equipment from my guy at and had it shipped to me in China.  Turns out this was quite a hassle in itself... people cannot ship music gear out of the USA without the purchaser changing their address on their credit/bank account to be the destination of the shipment.  I know it does not make sense, but fraud departments now days are so worried about scams that a loyal American customer cannot even call to order gear while touring without having to jump through a million flaming hula hoops.  After convincing the Americans to ship the gear to us, (two weeks after we were charged and officially purchased the equipment) our gear is now in customs in Beijing.

I receive a call from FedEx.  A woman with very little English asked me for my e-mail address, since I am expecting a package from FedEx, I gave her my e-mail address.  Ten minutes later I receive an e-mail, it is copied and pasted below.


1 passport copy
2 please fill the accessory personal letter, another is your air way bill
3 do the personal entry need about 6-7 working days


Weird, okay, great.  I already know where this is going.  I open the attachment to find the following letter.
Please examine closely.

My thoughts on this letter follow:

"Personal effects Explain Letter"

More than the bad choice of words, I was bothered that they did not capitalize the second word..

"Dear Capital Airport Customs:
My Parcel Tracking#______________ Parcels of items for personal use, without any commercial purpose."

What?  Am I writing a freaking love letter?  Dear Capital Airport Customs: I have missed you every day since we last parted, and you tried to screw me out of a million dollars... but it is okay because I am really a forgiving person...

The second part seems straight forward enough, so I fill in my tracking number.  Moving on,

"1.  Statement:"

What?  Am I supposed to write something here?  Or are you telling me 'The following are statements?'

"Package itself does not contain the relevant state regulations to limit or prohibit the import of products"

After living in Asia for an extended period of time, I can kind of make out the meaning of this.  What they meant to say was "Your package exceeds the state regulations on imported products".  That is a nice statement, they told me there were going to be statements coming up!

"Can provide proof of purchase invoice (if not available please state why):"

What?  Are they stating that I can provide proof of purchase?  Are they asking me to provide proof of purchase?  The second portion makes me feel that they need proof of purchase... but since this is under the 'statement' section I hope what they actually mean is "You are now able to purchase invoices provided in a can".

"2. Detail Information:"

Straight forward enough!

"3. Additional instruction:"

I guess I can provide additional instructions for the guys going through my box of very expensive musical gear.  I am sure to write "Break it and I will break you!" but I am also tempted to write "All fake, very cheap" except Sweetwater provided the receipts inside the box.  Damn.

"4.  I already know of Customs Announcement No. 43 of 2010 declared value on personal items can not be more than 1000 CNY limit, I guarantee to avoid similar incidents happen again."

No I did not already know, I do not know how I would know, and I am not sure that I even believe that right now.  1000 CNY is about $150USD, is that really the price limit on something you can have shipped to China? "I guarantee to avoid similar incidents happen again." What?  Are they apologizing for me?  If so, I am not sorry!  However, I definitely guarantee that I will never ever ship anything to China ever again.

"First, individuals mailed items, customs import duties imposed by law, but apply import duties at 50CNY below shall be exempted from"  

Uhhh...  I think what they are saying is anything that has been shipped that is under 50 CNY ($8) is exempt from duty..?  What do you think?

"Second, individuals sent from or sent to Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan regions, items, limit of 800 CNY: sent from or sent to other countries and regions, items, limit of 1,000 CNY."

Ok, so Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao although 'part of' China get even more screwed.  That makes me feel better.

This is my favorite:

"Third, personal mail import and export goods beyond the prescribed limits, should be procedures for returned goods or the provisions of the customs formalities.  However, only one item within parcels and indivisible, although beyond the prescribed limit, the Customs examination indeed personal use, in accordance with the provisions of personal items for customs clearance."





"5.  Base on China Customs'No. 147 decree:  Because I will not be available at customs site during inspection, I appoint Fedex employee to assist customs officer with inspection process."

I definitely do not know China Customs'No. 147 decree, but hot dang!  They must have underlined that portion of the letter because somebody who speaks o.k. English proof read it!  It is good writing, real potential there, and they underlined it because they did not want anybody to accidentally miss the best part of the letter!

"6.  I am willing to bear the customs in accordance with the relevant provisions of the tax levy, about RMB____________.  (total amount of tax based on the final scene customs instructions.)"

This part scares me.  Do I fill out how much I am willing to pay?  Or do I leave that blank?  How do I know how much to pay?  Shouldn't the company have filled that portion in before sending this to me?  The rest of the letter is obvious, but if I sign this and do not fill in #6, somebody gets to fill it in for me and I have to pay however much they say!!  AAAGGGGGHHHH!   Feeling CRAZY!  They are holding $3000US of music gear ransom at the airport

FedEx is a global company, there should be no reason that any portion of their company has some sort of crazy letter such as this!  No instructions other than to fill out and return.  Wow, I am really disappointed.  When I think that I actually paid them several hundred dollars for this confusion it makes me want to jump off my sixth floor balcony!


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Man in the moon


 Today the weather in Beijing is great.  The air is clear, there is no pollution, and it is in the mid to upper 70's Fahrenheit   It is a great day, and it seemed to appear out of the blue after a very cold, very intense, windy winter.  One week I was wearing my heavy North Face parka, and a few days later I am wishing that I had brought a pair of shorts!
My blog writing view
    As I write I am sitting in what is called "Central Park".  Really, it is a sort of expat community, nice apartments surround a little grass mound (the park) and a row of cafe's and restaurants that offer any type of food you can imagine are bustling.  It seems the majority of people living here are brought over by companies, often with their young children.  As a matter of fact, I could be anywhere in the entire world right now.  There are three kids speaking french playing in the rocks in front of me, a Korean family to my left teaching their two daughters how to ride bikes with training wheels.  A mother and her young son from a country in Africa are sitting on the hill, and her toddler son is speaking Mandarin with a playmate.
Busy walk to the subway..
    Then there is me.  I have been dreading writing up a new bio for a few weeks, and I need to write something short and sweet and forego all the bullshit that is usually involved in a musician bio.  I want to write something like this:

I am a musician.  I like music, and many things about music, but mostly the piano.  Right now I play keyboards, and organ.  I like to travel to different places and play what I like to play, which can be anything depending on who I am playing with.  I have a strong affinity for jazz and blues, and I am also kind of picky about those things, so sometimes I enjoy playing other types of music better.  I have spent the majority of my life doing many musical things, and I will continue to do musical things.  If you want a large list of musical things I have done and plan to do, please fill out an application and submit it with a three hundred dollar processing fee.

    Maybe I just replace the I's with Mack and the ams with is, add a few s' here and there, and maybe name drop a few names.... oh it seems so stupid.
    All of a sudden an old man wearing a janitor type uniform is sitting next to me, smoking a cigarette.  His shoes are almost totally destroyed, and his skin has seen a lot of weather.  He has a garbage bag, and a pair of what appear to be very long chopsticks.  He is blatantly staring at my computer screen, even as I write this exact sentence.  "Nihao, jintian tianqi hen hao"  Hi, today the weather is nice!  He says something back to me that I cannot understand and he grins a toothless grin as he takes another puff of his most likely fake Marlboro cigarette.  Then he waves, and goes back to work.  From what I can tell, this man's job is to walk around the park all day long, and pick up little pieces of gravel that have gotten from the path into the grass, and return them to their proper place, among all their stony friends.
    A strange feeling washes over me.  How different our two lives are.  I wonder what his life has been like.  How long has he worked at this job?  Does he have a family?  Where does he live?  Most likely quite far from our current location downtown Beijing.  Does he feel like he is contributing to his society, or does he feel like he is toiling away with such a useless task for hours a day?
    Now my mind is wandering.  How different our two lives seem, but at the same time how similar.  Here we both are.  He is taking a smoke break, I am writing a seemingly pointless blog.  A brief moment, each of us relaxing in our own way.  Neither of us really able to understand each other, but through body language we shared a very interesting, brief, conversation.  Put into words it would be something like this.

"How are you?"
"Good, nice weather today"
"Yea, writing on your computer I see"
"Yea, enjoying your cigarette?"
"Yea, back to work now"

I just realized that I am postponing writing this bio for another day.  That is all.