Saturday, May 28, 2011

Travels with Gristle

It’s travel blog time with Jon, Andy, and Gristle! Join these three young men as they embark on a week-long road trip through California’s wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle. Starring Paul Giamatti as “Jon”, Tomas Haden Church as “Andy”, and Sandra Oh as “Gristle”.

In search of wine. In search of women. In search of themselves.

I. Wine:

May 1st — International Workers’ Day in China, Capitalism Ultimately More Successful Than Communism Day in the United States — is a national holiday over here, so Andy, Gristle, and I took a trip to Mount Luofu, a mountain brimming with sites of deep historic importance — why, just take a look at some of the great things Wikipedia says about it!

Mt. Luofu contains a “Boots-Losing House”, which is said to be the place where Ge Hong and his teacher Bo Jing used to discuss scriptures. One day, after talking until daybreak, two swallows flew toward them. However, they turned out to be a pair of boots instead of swallows, after being entangled. There is a stone tablet above the house. It is about five-chi long, half-chi wide and one-chi high. It lies against a huge stone like a bed and is completely in the shade.

Ah, the famous “Boots-Losing House”, with its unforgettable parable of the Taoist master Ge Hong whose deep wisdom failed to manifest itself on the day when he mistook a pair “entangled” boots for two living, breathing, flying birds.

We would also be remiss if we did not remind the reader that the stone, whose dimensions are given in a unit of measure more appropriate for ark building than for an encyclopedia, lies one hundred percent in the shade. No sun for that stone! If you thought that even one aṅgula of its 948 hastas (74 cubits by the Roman reckoning) so much as touched the sun’s rays during its diurnal chariot ride through he skies, then you would be dead wrong, mister!

Mount Luofu is famous for its 泡酒 (“infused alcohol”), a powerful traditional Chinese remedy. What is it infused with? Oh, the usual: herbs, spices, dozens of baby mouse carcasses.


In America, Yahoo! Answers is full of questions like Who has good babiesrus coupons.?; in China, Soso 问问 is full of questions like If I want to use snakes to make infused alcohol, what type of snake is best?

II. Women:

I am going back to the United States soon, and so this trip to Mount Luofu marked the start of my Guangdong farewell tour, which is really a Gristle farewell tour as well. After almost two years of love, laughter, and surprisingly frequent questions about whether African Americans speak English, I am going to have to leave Gristle in a few months.

Since Gristle and I had never been on a vacation together, this May 1st holiday was the perfect chance make some memories with this man before our time slips away completely, like the plot of the novel The Giver. In our last few months together, Gristle will teach me about the feeling of snow, the color red, the secret of his uncanny ability to find me wherever I am in Guangzhou, come up behind me, and start massaging my shoulders until I acknowledge his presence — in other words, the dying treasures of our small dystopian Guangzhou world.

It was also the perfect chance for Gristle, Andy, and I to sleep together. Gristle booked us a double room “to save money,” and when he texted me about this he said that we could push the beds together and all get in bed together “like I used to with Gus and David.”

(To put this in perspective, David once told me that sleeping in the same bed as Gristle involved experiences including but not limited to Gristle dry humping the bed when he thought everyone else was asleep.)

When we arrived at the hotel, Gristle was dismayed to find that our hotel room contained two beds of different heights. This was something of a setback. But, with the undaunted courage of a young Shoshone Indian women facing a vast continent full of virgin land ripe for the dry humping, Gristle at first valiantly pledged that the beds would be joined, height difference be damned. It was only after Andy and I explained the perils of The Crack to him that decided to let the beds remain separate after all.

“Well,” he said. “Andy, you should take the small bed. Jon and I are very comfortable together.”

“Now hold on just a minute,” I replied. “Let’s not rush into a decision here.”

“Oh, we can do whatever you like,” Gristle said. “But you and I are skinnier than Andy, and I wouldn’t want either of us to get cold.”

I swear he said this.

“We’ll discuss it later,” I said.

“We’ll discuss it later,” Gristle said.

The he added, “but I’m sure Andy will prefer to sleep alone.”

Later that night:

When Gristle, Andy, and I finished our evening stroll, we found ourselves once again back in our hotel room. It was time to decide who would sleep where. You know what I had on my mind? Wood.


The hallway of our hotel, made entirely of wood.



The ceiling and two walls of our hotel room, made entirely of wood.



Fire masks hanging on the wall of our hotel room which was made entirely of wood.

How will you know if it’s time to use the fire masks? Just ask the thermometer, mounted right in the middle of our wall made of wood.


Gristle, Andy, and I were soon distracted from the passive-aggressive psychological foreplay of choosing bed partners, however, when we turned on the TV and were immediately engrossed by National Tresaure: Book of Secrets, which, for those of you who haven’t seen it, feels like a movie that was written and shot in about 4 days on a budget of $28 billion.


“John Voight, come and look at this desk made entirely of wood!”

National Treasure: The Secretest Book in the Land! was presented with commercial interruption, which is to say with three minute chunks cut out of it. Either whoever was running the bootleg DVD player at the TV station neglected to pause the film while the commercials were playing, or Jerry Bruckheimer has grown so bored that he has started to play a game with himself: if I randomly remove large portions of my movies — paying no attention to the resulting incomplete scenes, broken lines of dialogue, and gross errors of continuity — will people still watch it?

The answer, in our case, is “yes.” I’m happy to report that, despite the aforementioned alterations, I still managed to grasp the film.

Gristle, Andy, and I slowly drifted off to sleep in a cloud of Nicholas Cage-induced dream-bees (I having managed to maneuver my way into bed with Andy, which is a great thing to be able to write, especially since it meant not sleeping with Gristle). We slept pretty well, too. For a time.

Until Gristle started to scream.

“Wah! Wah!”


“Do you see that? There was a woman in red standing right there!” He pointed to the foot of our bed.

“No, Gristle.”

“Wow,” he said, “a ghost, a real ghost.”

Andy and I didn’t respond.

“We had a ghost in our room.”

Did we though?”

“She was staring at you.”

He paused for a moment.

“Well now I’m too excited to go back to sleep.”


Gristle in our wood room; ghost not pictured.

III. Ourselves:

Gristle, Andy, and I went on this trip because Gristle and I thought that it would be the last time he and I would have a chance to travel together. Little did we know that it would be my last chance to travel with Andy. Last week, as I was writing this post, Andy learned of a health emergency at home. He has returned to America to be with his family.

I am now alone in Guangzhou, and I miss him a great deal. And I am glad that the three of us got a chance to spend a weekend together before we ended our year together.

Play us out, Gristle-wearing-a-hat cat:

Gristle in