Thing the first: On most street corners here, there are large glass display cases, and what one may find displayed are the front and certain interior pages of local newspapers, such that everyone might know what has happened and what is planned, insofar as that is at all possible here, which is not much, but still, something.
Thing the second: Beijing sidewalks are mainly tiled in off-white and brick red, but set in most of them is a line of yellow bricks with slight, raised welts of a sort. The lines run from intersection to intersection, and as they near each corner, the shape of the welts changes from subtle stretched ovoid to round and more pronounced. For a long time the purpose and meaning of these bricks and their protrusions were unclear to me, but now I have been told: they are there so that the blind might walk unassisted, feeling the welts with their feet; the bricks are painted yellow so that the rest of us might know, and cede the right of way at every opportunity.
Thing the third: Until recently I was not aware that I am a fan of bluegrass and/or old-time music, but now I know that I am. (Is the following a shill? I hope that it is not. I would never ever wish to be a shiller, except perhaps for my Mach 3 razor, because it razes my face so very well, but the following, well, the risk exists, but how else to tell you?) A young banjo-playing woman named Abigail Washburn came to Beijing to play and sing with her band, and one night my wife and I went with friends to a bar in which the waiters are obliged to wear overalls, but Ms. Washburn nonetheless sang and played with a certainty and pain that were impossible given her age and between-songs demeanor, and at times she sang lyrics she wrote in, or translated from, Chinese, which should have been absurd but somehow was not, not at all, and I have no idea why. The guitar player played with astonishing balance and cleanliness and sang harmonies that deepened every bit of heart and sorrow; the fiddle player fiddled with courage and speed and humor; the upright-bass player never erred and once set down her instrument to dance as one must; and upon request, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” was sung mightily, the only way it should ever be sung.
Thing the fourth: Dim sum, the translucent kind with large fresh shrimp. Mmmmmm. (And also: being a Cantonese dish, “dim sum” is naturally a Cantonese name; the Mandarin name, “dian xin,” transliterates as “touches [one’s] heart,” because when you are so hungry that you feel your heart trembling, you can eat some dim sum, and then your heart will be calm again.)
Thing the fifth: We do not live at the center of the city, but we live not far from it, which is to say that we live miles from anything that could be considered rural in any way. And yet, walking out the front gate of our apartment complex, and along perhaps a hundred yards to the east, you will see horse-drawn carts, and heaped in the carts are large quantities of fruit, and sitting on the sideboards are men and women who will sell you the fruit if you wish to buy it. I do not, as a rule, eat much fruit, and the men and women mainly ignore me as I walk or drive by, but the presence of the horses makes me happy. I realize that this is ridiculous and sentimental and I do not much care.