Wednesday, April 28, 2010


My occasional drinking buddy Big Chris is quitting town somewhat precipitately, hoping to find 'greener pastures' down in Guangdong. He was supposed to have been getting on a train this morning.

He left behind him his double bass (not a very portable item, a double bass) - slightly foxed, but free to a good home. He'd made the decision to leave at very short notice, and was more than a bit manic with packing and so on these past few days; he didn't have the time to spare to do anything about finding a foster home for his orphan bass. So, I volunteered to help.

Sometimes, I come to regret my Samaritanly tendencies.

I don't know where Chris's most recent apartment is. And for the past four or five days he has been mostly too busy even to answer the phone or respond to text messages. This has made trying to hook him up with people that might want his bass..... well, difficult.

Adding to these communication difficulties has been the steadily deteriorating service I've been getting from China Unicom in recent weeks. If I have an even slightly less-than-optimum signal strength (and Unicom's signal is never all that strong anywhere), I seem to get the volume reduced to barely audible and/or impenetrable background hiss & crackle and/or a one-way connection only (I can hear my caller fine, or they can hear me, but not both - how the heck does that happen??). That has made it very frustrating trying to contact musician friends who might have had leads for people who might have wanted to take on a double bass.

And to make matters even worse.... my first inspiration for a likely bass-adopter was Tianxiao, the mercurial boss at the Jianghu music bar. I thought - if he felt he had room to store the thing - that it might come in handy for the Tuesday night jazz jams there. Since TX's English is about as good as my Chinese, I thought I'd enlist the help of The Weeble as a go-between to explain the situation to him. Unfortunately, The Weeble is not the most amenable of collaborators in such a venture since - a) he uses an i-Phone, and they are notoriously unreliable with text messages at times; and b) he's a translator, and is thus asleep for large parts of the day when the rest of the world is conventionally awake. Even more unfortunately, the mobile phone number TX has been putting out on his business cards for the past three years appears to be a dud; or, at any rate, he never answers it. So, there I am, trying to reach a man with no phone, via a friend who doesn't answer text messages, in order to liaise with another friend who is likewise 99% incommunicado. It gets to be more than a little galling, I can tell you. [Yes, sorry, TX - you missed out on a free double bass for the bar there. What's up with your phone??]

Anyway, having wasted most of the weekend on that wild goose chase, I then found myself facing rather extreme time pressure - with only 24 hours left to arrange for the pick-up of the dratted bass. Alas, Beijingers, especially expat Beijingers, especially expat Beijinger musos, seem not to be very conversant with the concept of time pressure: I got a number of exasperatingly woolly "Oh, I'll think about it; I might call him in a day or two"-type answers. Hellloooo - which part of "He's leaving in 48 hours" did you not get?

I even offered to take possession of the instrument myself for a few days, until someone else could pick it up (although Chris still hadn't told me where he was living; and I have been unusually busy at work the last two days).

Thank heavens, that proved not to be necessary, after all (although it might have impressed my neighbours, who, I fret, view me with a slight snobbish disdain - I live in a Chinese classical musicians' danwei): my guitarist friend Dan stepped forward at the 11th hour to claim the bass, and was able to collect it himself yesterday morning.

The whole business had by then, though, consumed far too much of my time and my peace of mind over the previous five days. I won't be taking on any more 'good deeds' like that for a while.

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