The Music Box

February 7, 2011

There is nothing comparable in the history of the world to the cultural gap between the young and old in China today.

Tonight Qian Yu, one of my very attractive neighbors, sent me a message and invited me to KTV (karaoke). When a beautiful girl asks you to do something, you (I) usually do it. So I flagged down a taxi and showed the driver the address to The Music Box. Upon arrival I found room 119, opened the door, and saw something very strange. A bit odd. I saw Qian Yu’s parents (they were in town visiting for the Chinese New Year). Mother and Father sitting down, arms folded in silent observation of all this “new stuff.” They were out of place: shiny marble floors, dancing strobe lights, blaring speakers, erotic music videos, and now me, an outsider.

I greeted them. They grinned. I sat next to Qian Yu. They smiled.

Qian Yu sang a song. She’s a good singer. Not knowing the words, I watched onscreen as a fresh-faced Japanese love story unfolded. We clapped. Qian Yu smiled.

After I successfully deflected their attempts to hand me the microphone, on the grounds of ignorance, Qian Yu gracefully walked over and handpicked a song for her mother to sing. This song was a bit rigid, it came from another place, a different time. The luster was gone. Again without knowing the words, I watched the video unfold. It featured Chinese children waving Chinese flags, snapshots of Chairmen Mao and historic sites like The Great Wall. Mother knew every word. It was more propaganda than art (granted Qian Yu’s Japanese love story was more emotion than art, but that’s beside the point).

Mother finished. We clapped. Mother smiled.

They persisted so I went to pick a song. I searched the English menu. Qian Yu so graciously piped in and suggested Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” so I went with that. I knew what I thought of their videos; now I wondered what they thought of mine. Lady Gaga is a crass and capricious individual. She’s very different from the banality of patriotism. I was certain that when the words “I want your psycho, your vertical stick” came out of my mouth, Alpha-Centauri would explode, rendering our world moot. The only thing salvaging imminent apocalypse this time was the blessed confusion of Babel . . . thank God.

I finished. They clapped. I smiled.

After Qian Yu sang another song she playfully said it was hot so she took off her long over coat which revealed a black halter-top of sorts featuring swan feathers with hot pink tights hugging her legs running into magenta colored high-heel shoes (for the record it actually didn’t look as ridiculous as it sounds). Upon revealing her dainty shoulders, I watched her mom’s confused and nervous gaze at her singing daughter’s skin. She really didn’t know what to think of it all. The skin. The colors. The feathers. The shoes. Was this her daughter? Mom was wearing a dull colored wool overcoat with plain black pants awkwardly squeezing against the top of her boxy shaped black shoes. Daughter’s hair was long flowing and vibrant mother’s hair was wiry short and grey. The Music Box kept humming. We kept smiling and clapping.

You’ll be glad to know that I finished the evening off with a little evangelism and a lot more confusion. I selected Kanye West’s video “Jesus Walks.”