It's not the new things
But the fact of change that irks,
Loss of what once was.
A gloomy reflection on the state of Beijing today. People keep asking me of late if I like it here and if I plan to stay much longer, and I find my answer is a more and more emphatic NO. I suppose it doesn't help that I spend so much of my time walking down Jiugulou Dajie (once a narrow, ramshackle hutong, but now a five-lane highway), Dianmenwai Dajie (once a bustling shopping street, but now one huge construction site), and Nanluoguxiang (once a quiet little hutong, but now a gaudy riot of tourist tack). This city started turning to shit big time about a year or two before the Olympics. And it started getting expensive too. [Actually, contrary to that opening line in the haiku, it is the 'new things' I resent; modernization in Beijing has almost always been a retrograde step.]
I had feared the loss of my favourite bar might be the final straw for me. But, in fact, it appears that it - we - have been saved. JK, creator of Beijing's homeliest pub, 12 Square Metres, and one of my best buddies for the past three years or so, is leaving for Oz today. It had been starting to seem dangerously likely that the bar might close, or undergo radical changes under new management. Fortunately, at the eleventh hour, a young American couple, Mike and Lauren, stepped forward to take over the running of the place, and it seems they will keep everything pretty much as it is (a few changes here and there to the music playlist and the pricing wouldn't be entirely amiss!). But it won't be quite the same without grumpy old JK curmudging away behind the bar. We'll miss you, big guy.