Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ghost, ghost, I know you live within me

The first warning that Gristle's friend gave us before we got to the ghost house was "just make sure that the ghost doesn't kill you right away."

"Wait, how do we make sure that the ghost doesn't kill us right away?"

"There's no way to be totally safe," he said. "I'm just letting you know that it could happen."

Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you what happened on the night of Saturday, November 28.

Gristle and several of his friends believe really seriously truly in ghosts, and on Saturday we were finally invited to take a trip with Gristle to 和平路七号 (No. 7 Heping Road), one of Guangzhou's most famous haunted sites, according to every Chinese person we've talked to about ghosts. (Quick test: Have you had serious conversations with more than six adults in the past two weeks about the possible existence of ghosts? If so, congratulations! You live in China.)

We had been hearing about no. 7 for a while now because Gristle has a barber-friend (a friend who's a barber -- maybe it's just because "barber" is one of the English words that Gristle knows, but he never fails to mention his friend's profession) who knows a guy (or who is himself the guy (this part of the story is never clear)) who saw a ghost in no. 7 once through his legs while he was bending over to wash himself. He was also drunk at the time. (That's why in my last ghost-related post I said that Gristle suggested looking through your legs while drunk if you want to see a ghost. If it worked once, it will work again, for that is the essence of Science.)

Gristle had been bugging us for a while to check on the ghost house, but we had to wait for it to rain (because ghosts like rain), and Gristle also wanted us to take our Yale-friends with us. I don't know about Gus, but I was always holding onto the Yale-friends' schedule as a blanket excuse for not going to see the ghost house, which I did not want to go to, nor would want to go to, even if I believed in ghosts. So when Gristle suggested (firmly, this time) that we go to the ghost house on Saturday, and when the Yale-friends said that they were busy on Saturday because they were going to a modern dance performance, and hey they reserved 8 tickets so that we could come too, and hey it would be a really fun way to spend a Saturday night, I was sure that that would be enough to get us out of ghost house arrest (if only that phrase made sense!). But actually, Gus sent Gristle a text message saying that the Yale-friends were busy and should we just cancel, Gristle responded, no, it's no problem, that he just wanted the Yale-friends to come because he was worried that we were going to be too scared if we went alone.

And that's how I ended up outside No. 7 Heping Road at 10 pm, on the night of Saturday, November 28, trying to find a ghost.

Before we left, Gristle told us not to tell the taxi driver to take us to 和平路七号, because the taxi driver would know that the place was haunted and would refuse to take us there. He also told us to wear red clothes and to bring a mirror, candles, and matches in order to attract the ghost.

("Ok, stop," our tutor SJ said at this point in the story when we were telling her about it later. "Candles and matches wouldn't attract ghosts. Ghosts are scared of light." OK, SJ. You're the expert. If you're a grown woman and you believe in ghosts, then I guess knowing what attracts them is better than not knowing what attracts them.

But SJ, let's not forget that Gristle has a barber-friend who knows a guy who saw a real ghost while drunkenly looking through his legs while cleaning himself by candlelight.)

But we brought everything we could (though both Gus and I declined to wear red clothes) and got ready to go. Taking a taxi was no problem, because taxi drivers make their money from taking people to the places that they want to go.

When we arrived at No. 7 Heping Road, we made a discovery, which is that No. 7 Heping Road is not an apartment building, or a house that we can enter -- it is a private home, owned by people we do not know. When we got there, Gristle pulled on the gate and saw that it was locked, and then suggested that we go around to the alley in the back and try to climb over the fence back there.

This is a private home which clearly has people inside. Gristle was suggesting that we go onto their property, and then break into their house, and then get drunk, light candles, put a mirror on the floor, and look through our legs to try and see a ghost.

I'd do a lot of things to see a ghost, but I wouldn't do that.

And so, at 10 pm, on the night of Saturday, November 28, in lieu of actually trying to find a ghost, I instead took a picture of Gristle in front of some innocent person's house.




And that's when the security guard arrived. He realized we were there once he saw the flash on my camera, so he came out of his post inside the gate of No. 7 to ask us what we were doing there. Gristle told him that we just wanted to 参观 (which is the verb you use for visiting a museum or a site of historical interest), and the man asked Gristle what the hell he wanted to 参观, and then we got intimidated. So we went across the street and Gristle used Gus's camera to zoom in as close as possible on the upstairs windows to take pictures which he said we could examine later for signs of ghosts.

And then we went to a bar and played a Chinese dice game. Gristle decided it would be more fun if the loser of each round had to either answer a 敏感问题 (sensitive question) or perform a 动作 (action).

So that's how I ended up playing Truth or Dare with Gus and four Chinese men, all still on the night of Saturday, November 28. Quick test: Have you played a game of Truth or Dare in which one of the "truths" someone had to answer was "Have you ever been anti-government?" If so, congratulations! You live in China.