> me and adrienne rich on july 4
Lately if I have to go to IKEA I try to go at a time when it is not only not-completely-bonkers, but also when I have time to sit and drink a 5¥ coffee and read. They offer free refills on coffee, which is rare in my Shanghai experience. Recently I have with me Adrienne Rich’s book of poems, The Dream of a Common Language.
Today being my nation’s birthday, as well as IKEA’s sale on Absolut Vodka for Family Card members, I decide to make a trip. I pledge to use my pioneer spirit to brave the frontier of the Family Card sign-up desk, so I can take advantage of the discount.
I’d spent USA day so far painting, cooking, paying bills and attempting to make a screen print using a nylon short sock and an embroidery hoop. This sort of worked. Nylons are stretchier than a typical screen, and the holes act differently. Nonetheless this experimentation seemed a good celebration of the ol’ USA spirit.
I walk the several blocks through thick humid air and enter IKEA’s cool cavern. IKEA’s coolness and ample supply of chairs makes it a popular spot during Shanghai summers. I escalate up to the cafeteria. People begin to arrive for dinner hour, carrying trays of meatballs and fish, Norwegian flags standing jauntily in their crepes next to their glasses of fresh squeezed kiwi juice and plates of accessory hot dogs.
I choose the last clean table in the quiet spot in the tucked away corner of the dining hall, and sit down to read. The first poem I open to is:
“NOT SOMEWHERE ELSE, BUT HERE”
Soon a man sits at the adjoining table. I guess he also hopes for a quiet, clean spot to enjoy his coffee. He appears to be more of a worker type than a Shanghai billionaire type. He stares at my tattoo for awhile, and asks me something that I think might be “Is that permanent or did you just draw on your arm today?” I pantomime “It is a tattoo.”
I get up for a refill and return to our table. Soon he carefully gathers his assorted scraps of creamer packets into a pile, takes the pile into his hands and stands up. I say “zai jian“ (goodbye) and he gives me a strange look. Too familiar? I wonder. I realize a few minutes later that he was only going to get a refill as well. He comes back with a new pile of creamer packets and offers one to me. How did he know I couldn’t figure out where they were? We enjoy our coffees in silence.
Well, maybe I can follow the example they have posted under the glass counter top.
I do my best to guess at what each line asks, skip the demographic questions that are unguessable, and go over to the attendant to see if he’ll accept it. Instead he reaches into his cupboard and pulls out a form in English.
Family Card in hand, I tour the lower bowels of the store. On my third lap I find the cheap 10-pack of wash cloths I was looking for hidden in a bin of nicer wash cloths. I proceed to the food area to find my bargain bottle Absolut. I stop at Family Mart for some juice, and our favorite noodle hole-in-the-wall for take-out and head home. A day of small and varied victories comes to a close.
Happy USA Day!