What a day! Despite my hacking cough which cleared a little by 10am, a little Pei Pa Koa changed my day as best as it could and I was on my way to Capital M to catch Fuchsia Dunlop tell a few tales and make a delicious defense on behalf of the sanctity of Chinese cuisine – clearing misconceptions with her knowledge of Chinese eating, cooking, and agricultural practices. For lunch, a few recipes were interpreted by Capital M’s kitchen from Fuchsia’s new beautiful book Every Grain of Rice.

The day demanded more accomplishments so I hiked out of Qianmen, into a “black cab” and stopped by the Time Out office for a couple hours of editing and writing. My cough started up again and a peep at the air quality index (AQI) app only fueled my fear and anger. At 6pm, no taxis were about, so I rode a bicycle rickshaw through the smoggy night air, fearing for my life as the driver cycled us into perilous intersections thick with rush-hour traffic. Still a smile creeped upward on my lips as he manoevered through the alley I once lived on then through a mesh-canopied corridor behind Sanlitun SOHO, in order to avoid the wrath of the neighborhood’s chengguan. So narrow was the corridor made of pipe scaffolding and construction mesh tarp, the rickshaw’s roof crashed along the wall, nearly collapsing on me. As the driver tried to avoid the wall, he nearly tipped over bicycles parked along the other side, which would have had a comical domino effect were the passage more narrow. This is the life that excites me and propels me towards more days of uncertainty – a maddening cycle I thrive best on.

Walking along the sidewalk, I’m nearly hit by a careless motor-scooterist, whom I yell at in English upon deaf ears. I weave my way to the front of the slow-walking pedestrians jaywalking with strength in numbers, adding to the chaos of cars gridlocked in the intersection.

I arrived at The Opposite House, a boutique hotel and an oasis of sorts in Sanlitun’s clashing sea of spirits. Sureño celebrates four years with a new chef Laia Pons. In my rundown condition, I expected to toast a couple glasses of bubbly then retire, but alas the celebration was an intimate dinner of six. I finally met the dining editor of The Beijinger and her husband / dining contributor. I’d only known them through their Instagram photo updates. Social media offers imaginative personas sometimes pleasantly demystified after meeting the actual person. Managing editor of City Weekend was also in town, a friend I’d met when I first moved to Beijing.

Our dinner was a sequence of Mediterranean fare. I was particularly addicted to the star anise seasoned potato crisps and the zuppa de melone, a chilled soup (like a gazpacho) of melon garnished with sliced parma ham and olive oil. However tempting the wood-roasted beef fillet sounded, my appetite opted for the grilled sea bass atop a mountain of spinach that chalked my teeth with tannins. Despite my limited appetite, I was a slave to the sweets and killed my baba al rum and a few petit fours. After a Negroni nightcap, I was finished!

I strutted through the grime-tarred alley Sanlitun Houjie, amidst a fiesta of foreigners and locals making the most of autumn’s tolerable temperatures. I rounded the corner of the popular (yet ever unappetising) fried chicken stall. A line always juts from its counter, nearly meeting the crowd flocking about the 15RMB mojito stand made with a blinding rum blend – so many places in Sanlitun serve vision-altering liquor and have led many a fool into the traffic. There are many reasons why Beijing traffic is a pain.

I want another day like today’s, but I really need to get well. Good night.

Like a comet blazing through calculated orbits, fiery, volatile, exploding with potential – one day the flames are hot and the next, a temperature unfathomably higher. There’s no telling which state it will arrive.
There is pleasure in knowing I will be conscious of knowing whichever state I am in, as I arrive… however I arrive.

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