The Gift of Lily

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe were having fun acting like tourists in Qingdao, but I never forgot the real reason for our visit; even as we bought cheesy souvenirs and took bad selfies, there was tension in my gut. I knew I was going to fuck this up. Continue reading

Nabucco at Seattle Opera

Struck down by an angry god. © Philip Newton

Struck down by an angry god.
© Philip Newton

“Zeus isn’t real,” my daughter confided one day when she was four.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Yesterday I told a lie on purpose and swore by Zeus.” Swearing by Zeus was fashionable among her older sister’s Percy Jackson-obsessed friends. “And I didn’t get hit by lightning. Zeus isn’t real,” she concluded.

Fortunately, in a story that sounds apocryphal, Giuseppe Verdi’s lightning test led to a different conclusion regarding divine power. Continue reading

The Kindness of Strangers

Qingdao man takes a break from blowing bubbles with his son to teach us how to fly a kite.

A Qingdao man takes a break from blowing bubbles with his son to teach us how to fly a kite.

We were walking from the Tsingtao Brewery to Taidong Shopping Street. Beer Street fizzled out after the giant neon rainbow arch anchored by beer bottle sculptures on either side of the road, and there was still no sign of Taidong shopping street. We stopped two young women to ask for directions. I showed them the street name in characters on my phone and they conversed in Chinese, studiously examining my phone before typing into theirs.

A pair of young men approached and joined in. One spoke fairly good English, but his manner was as oily as his skin, and neither XX nor I felt inclined to trust him when he said, “I am going there, follow me.” Continue reading

Qingdao Shopping: Atrium City and Taidong

The most impressive part of Atrium City is the entrance.

The entrance to Atrium City.

When you’re 10 years old, the most important part of traveling is buying souvenirs for your friends, so we spent our first afternoon in Qingdao shopping. I wasn’t quite ready for Chinese public transportation, so I played rich foreigner and asked the hotel to call a taxi to deliver us to Atrium City, an entire city block under cover of a fake night sky, populated with shops and restaurants whose facades replicated famous Qingdao landmarks. Ten yuan ($1.60) later, we left the cab and entered a magical grotto. I was as impressed as my 10-year-old by the soaring painted ceiling, fake trees and replica buddhas at the entrance. Continue reading