Me and Chairman Mao
  Forbidden fun.
By which, of course, I mean fun in the Forbidden City, not fun that is somehow not permitted. Although that would probably make a more interesting post, don't you think? And really, it could happen. Take yesterday, for example. Holly's dad and grandma are here, and after dinner I decided that, rather than cab back to our place with them, I would take a nice, brisk walk in order to try to work off the tiniest portion of the antipasto-lasagna-beer combination I had just finished gorging on during our aforementioned dinner.

After approximately one block of walking, I was approached by a fine, upstanding Chinese gentleman--referred to hereafter as "the pimp"--who wondered if I was interested in "pretty girl sex massage" for the bargain price of 300 yuan, or about 36 bucks. Being the gentleman that I am, I ignored the terribly unclear English--does he mean that I get a massage by a pretty member of the girl (AKA female) sex? Do I have to give the massage? Will the girls just be massaging each other? Was he actually saying "message" and expecting me to buy a tape or CD or something?--and kept walking on my merry way.

Naturally, "the pimp" decided to accompany me as I continued on said merry way, and before long "the pimp" had dropped his price down to just 200 yuan, which is roughly 24 dollars. As you might imagine, this confused me even more. Was he trying to rip me off with his first price, or does the lower price only get me an "okay-looking girl sex massage" or what? Enquiring minds want to know. Sadly, however, they will have to wait, since another foreigner came along and "the pimp" decided to ask this other foreigner about his level of interest in "pretty girl sex massage." Although he said 400 yuan to that guy, so go figure. I mean, did he look that much richer than me, or did I just look that much poorer? Or possibly I was so much better looking than the other guy that it was cheaper for me because it wouldn't be such a hardship for the nebulous "pretty girls." Being the China expert I so obviously am, I'm pretty sure it was the last one. I mean, seriously, how could it not be?

But where was I? Oh yes, the Forbidden City. (Admit it--you forgot, too.) Naturally, we took Holly's family to the Forbidden City, which marked the fourth time I've been there, which is sort of strange. I mean, think about whatever counts as THE tourist landmark in your city--the Space Needle, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, whatever--and count how many times you've been there. Two or three at the max, right? But I'm for sure going to the Forbidden City at least one more time, and possibly more than that, depending on how many of you who are still talking about coming actually show up at our Home of Tycoons-based doorstep. (Not that I'll mind taking you, of course, as I am a gracious and Christian soul.)

Besides, at this point, I'm a pretty good tour guide, so that's something. And as a bonus the Forbidden City is actually big enough that I still keep finding new things. For example, this last time I found what has to be the nicest bathroom in the Forbidden City: a four-star one. (Yes, they rank the bathrooms here in China, up to five stars.) (No, you don't want to know what a one star is like, although to approximate it you could, say, not clean your bathroom or flush the toilet for the next year.) (Also maybe throw some mud and dirt around, and definitely douse the place with your favorite "Raw Sewage" scented deodorizor.) (And get rid of the hot water.)(And anything to wash or wipe your hands with, too.) (Oh, and the toilet paper--no toilet paper, God forbid--you have to bring your own.) (Plus, after you use whatever you have in lieu of toilet paper--Kleenex, most likely--put it in the garbage can.) (Enjoy!)

So my point is that the bathroom was very nice, which--as you might gather--is always a pleasant surprise. Not only was it big and warm and clean, but it even had a smoking room in the center, just in case anyone felt the need to head to Flavor Country while touring the jaw-droppingly massive world heritage sight that is the Forbidden City. Yes, that's right: at the Forbidden City, you can get a tall nonfat almond latte--which I did, by the way--but you can't smoke a cigarette. Makes sense, I guess.

But speaking of coffee, I only actually found the bathroom because it was, handily enough, just behind the Starbucks. Which, as I have already said so you have hopefully already guessed, I went to. (If you haven't already guessed, what is wrong with you? Seriously--something is.) And, handily enough, my trip to Starbucks gave me something to do to amuse myself. That is, to come full circle, something FUN to do at the FORBIDDEN city. Yes, at long last--cheap sex and dirty bathrooms be damned, it's . . .

Forbidden Fun

(Side note: Remember when I mentioned that a common Beijing forcast is for SMOKE? That is, as opposed, to say, sunny or partly cloudy or some other normal weather forcast. This picture shows that forcast in action: thirty-five and smoky. Lovely.)
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