By WATT EVA
GULOU (China Daily Show) – A nine-year veteran of Beijing’s famous hutong district, Gulou, has vowed never to leave the area again, after a shocking experience outside the Second Ring Road last weekend.
Jake Trenton (pictured, right) – who prefers to be known as Gao Fuhao – agreed to meet some former university friends touring China last Saturday evening, after Trenton had finished his regular kite-making workshop.
The 29-year-old has spent much of the last decade living in a converted Qing courtyard house while practicing tai chi, an experience funded partly by Trenton’s calligraphy sales and mostly by his wealthy Manhattanite parents.
“My buddies called and said they were in Sanlitun and had just bought a round of drinks,” Trenton told China Daily Show. “It was too late to warn them – I had to simply go.”
Sanlitun, an embassy district in north Beijing, is renowned for its excellent shopping, restaurants and bar scene. But it is also, according to Trenton and others, “the gateway to Hell itself” and “full of asshole foreigners.”
Nevertheless, Trenton obligingly rode his refurbished fixed-gear bicycle across town, arguing that the worst than could realistically go wrong was being jostled by a gaggle of 14-year-old drinkers, or possibly pestered by a beggar.
“Leaving my authentic, historically intact neighbourhood, with its colourful array of genuine Beijing folk and extremely real smell of shit is so hard to do. Almost impossible – I mean, why would you?” Trenton angrily mused. “But, if it was for a pair of really great university friends who’d traveled 3,000 miles just to see me, I was prepared to go and have a brew – a local microbrew, I mean.”
Trenton refused to be drawn on the details of what happened – other than divulging that the area was “absolutely full” of Americans and Europeans – but the experience has left him shaken and disillusioned.
Now the much-loved foreigner is telling friends he is also dismayed by what has become of his beloved Gulou neighbourhood in recent years.
Witnesses report that on several drunken occasions, Trenton has threatened to throw in the towel and move to Tongzhou, a bleak suburb that he claimed was one of the last remaining resources of ‘Real China’ in Beijing.
As for what he believes qualifies as decent Chinese nightlife, Trenton was giving little away yesterday.
“I go to authentic little niche joints, many of which don’t have ‘names’ or specific ‘addresses.’ But I refuse to tell you which ones, in case someone reads this article and decides to come down and ruin it,” Trenton said, his voice shaking with emotion.
“The last place I fell in love with got profiled by some foreign journalist and within a week, they’d fired the bossa nova DJ – a guy I happen to know and enormously respect – and replaced him with an Akon CD. I can’t let that happen again.”
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Profile of a hipster: Tate Wallace, 27
Favorite band: A tiny drum ’n’ bass prog-rock collective called The Amnesiacs. You’ve definitely never heard them.
Hates: Tourists who don’t speak Chinese.
Loves: Wealthy Chinese in need of consultancy; The Amnesiacs. I also love myself.
TV: Huh. I stopped watching TV after Cop Rock got cancelled.
Books: Mostly Chinese classics: The Tao. The Kama Sutra. And I should mention my own memoir, wryly titled Hutonghua: The Life and Language of Real China (available exclusively via my website).
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