Aloha from China! I am so close to being excited about covering the 2008 Summer Olympics for Popdose. Close but not quite there yet because (1) I have trouble showing excitement when people expect it from me, like at birthdays or during intercourse, and (2) Jeff Giles informed me yesterday that Pressing Needs won’t be paying for my travel expenses because (1) “air fare costs a lot more than the bandwidth needed to post your precious neo-soul MP3s,” and (2) “you can’t fly first-class to a country halfway around the world without telling me first and then ask for a reimbursement since (1) that’s completely unprofessional and inconsiderate, and (2) you didn’t even ask me to go with you, you arrogant son of a bitch!” Sorry, Jeff, but (1) I knew you’d bring my mother into this, and (2) I had already promised Aimiee she could go.

For those who don’t know, Aimiee is my girlfriend, who wishes I’d show more excitement on my birthday, during intercourse, and at executions. I’ve told her I’d be more excited if I could actually see the lethal injection, not just hear about it outside the prison gates once the deed is done, but I don’t think she believes me. She was angry when I drove to Florida in January with my lawyer/friend Dave-o for Wesley Snipes’s tax trial and didn’t invite her, but has she ever watched one of Wesley’s direct-to-video action films with me? No! But I haven’t watched any of them either, so I regret taking the argument down that dead end. But I did want to do something special for my sweetie, and I figured a trip to the Olympics would be a nice way of saying “I love you, and I thank you for putting up with all my nonsense, even the stuff you’ll never find out about unless you pry it from my cold, dead mouth.”

So here we are in Beijing, but now that I know I won’t be reimbursed by Pressing Needs or Jeff “Call Me Mao” Giles, Aimiee and I have checked out of the Holiday Inn and are currently sleeping on the street. We’ll miss the complimentary opium on the pillows, but living like a vagrant has its advantages; for one thing, I show more excitement during our public lovemaking than I ever have in the privacy of our own home, which makes Aimiee happy.

But unfortunately Beijing police have been cracking down on homelessness the past few weeks in preparation for the Olympics, shuffling vagrants off to relief centers on the outskirts of the city so that visiting diplomats won’t be bothered by real-life problems while they watch steroid-enhanced athletes perform superhuman feats. They could’ve brought back the tanks from that little Tiananmen Square misunderstanding and partied like it’s 1989 all over again (communism — how retro!), but I guess they wanted something more subtle this time. But here’s a thought: why not give steroids to the homeless? Dope ’em up enough and they can build new homes all by themselves. Problem solved. Or teach them that “home-free” has a nicer ring to it than “homeless.” China’s government is big on re-education, so this’ll be a fun project no matter what.

Yesterday Aimiee and I met a homeless man near the railroad tracks who’s evaded the Beijing police so far. His name is Xing, and he’s quite a character. Right off the bat he urinated in my soft drink, which was hysterical! The first time, that is. The second time, not so much. The third time: copyright infringement. (Sorry, Shasta. It really was an accident.) Xing led us through the city’s subway tunnels and down into an underground society full of other nomads like ourselves. Luckily Aimiee and I arrived on movie night, where the supersecret Sharon Stone Film Festival was in its ninth week.

Sharon’s not too popular in China these days; in May she said that the devastating earthquake earlier that month may have been caused by bad karma generated by China’s treatment of Tibet. But her numerous mole-people fans have already forgiven her and have chosen to show their support by celebrating her body of work, as well as the films she’s made, with a four-month festival that also showcases her TV work. That portion of Sharon’s career includes two episodes of Magnum, P.I. from 1984 in which she played twin sisters — one good, one evil — but it turned out they were the same person suffering from a split personality. In the end the good Sharon killed herself in order to defeat the evil Sharon, an act of mercy the actress’s enemies in China probably wouldn’t mind her re-creating for old times’ sake. But much like the whoopsy-daisy incident in Tiananmen Square 19 years ago, Sharon is misunderstood, a big bright shining star in a universe of overly cautious sound-bite bores who actually follow the instructions on their pill bottles.

After Aimiee and I watched Sharon battle Halle Berry in 2004’s Catwoman for the honor of Worst Career Move (Halle won, easily), we thanked Xing and his friends for their hospitality, popcorn, and Shasta, then headed above ground again and decided to cut our losses by taking a steamship back to America tomorrow morning. We’re not coming back empty-handed, though — Aimiee and I won a child!

There wasn’t a contest or anything, but it seems that any mother who gives birth to two children over there has to give the second to a tourist, and the visitors and convention bureau sure does make you feel like you won something, so that’s what we’re telling all our friends. We’ve named our new son Xing in honor of our defiant Chinese friend. She says her name is Zhen, but we’re sure he’ll get used to his new name and gender soon enough since (1) he comes from a rigid culture with strict laws that must be obeyed, and (2) America is the land of freedom and choice, though most of us would rather have someone tell us what to do and think instead of being forced to think and choose freely for ourselves. That’s why I’m going to tell Jeff and Pressing Needs to think about reimbursing me once Aimiee, li’l Xing, and I return to America, and then choose to direct-deposit the funds in my checking account. If they fail to comply, I’ll just have to do some re-educatin’ with the tank I’ve borrowed.

Cyndi Lauper, “Hole in My Heart (All the Way to China)” (from 2001’s Hits of 1988)

Red Rockers, “China” (from 2001’s Greatest Hits of the 80’s)

Tahiti 80, “Chinatown” (from the 2006 U.S. release of Fosbury)

Jerry Seinfeld, “Chinese People” (from 1998’s I’m Telling You for the Last Time)

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About the Author

Robert Cass

Robert Cass lives in Chicago. For Popdose he's written under the Sugar Water, Bootleg City, and Box Office Flashback banners and collaborated on the series 'Face Time with Jeff Giles and Mike Heyliger.

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