Monday, July 02, 2007

The end of Froog...

I just gave you a glimpse of the views across the Huangpu River from my friend L's Shanghai apartment.

Beware: Beauty can lure and distract you into a fatal inattention.

On Saturday night I was pretty exhausted, and not enjoying the nightclub we'd ended up in after dinner (I don't enjoy nightclubs in general; in fact, what passes for 'music' in them these days literally makes me physically ill); so I made my apologies and headed home alone just before midnight.

On the lightning introductory tour of the wondrous apartment that afternoon L had pointed out various of the balconies that seem to sprout everywhere around the edges of the three levels the pad occupies. I recalled her saying that the one outside her bedroom, on the uppermost 'loft' level, was the best of all. It was a relatively clear night, and a bloated, yellow full moon hovered over the sci-fi skyline of Pudong across the river. A great night to take some long exposure photographs, I thought - bracing my little Nikon Coolpix (I hadn't brought any of my real cameras, alas) on the rail of one of the balconies. The balcony on the top floor would probably be the best of the lot. And I didn't feel inhibited about going up there, since L had already taken me into her boudoir earlier - and she and her husband were likely to be out for another couple of hours or so yet.

So, up I went, to the 14th floor, or whatever it is. Into the bedroom. The view was indeed stunning. I opened the window to step outside to take a picture (not a sliding French window as on the balconies downstairs, but a hinged door-window).

The bottom of this glass door was raised 4 or 5 inches from the floor, so I thought to look down to check my footing on the other side. And guess what? No footing! No balcony! Just a 150ft freefall to the road below - and my leading foot reaching tentatively into space, towards that final plunge.

Thank heavens I wasn't more drunk (I was quite) or more tired (I was very) or more incautious (I have been mentally slapping myself around the face for my foolishness ever since). That was an unpleasantly close call.


Tulsa said...

yeah, when I was a kid and would watch futuristic or sci fi movies, I'd wonder how they came up with such crazy images.

Now I know they were just copying what they saw in Asia. Admittedly, back then it wasn't China's skyline, probably more Japan, but still, now I know.

coming around the 3rd Ring road on smoggy mornings, I'll see spiderwebs of highways stacked 3 or 4 bridges high, packed with cars, and trains whizzing by.... all along a skyline of man-made mountains - glass and concrete reaching for the sky.

very sci fi. or at least the jetsons.

Froog said...

Last time I was there, in November, there was an exhibition by a foreign artist being advertised with a poster that was a pastiche of a '50s sci-fi B-movie..... with a giant praying-mantis menacing that skyline (I think it's called - in English - the Oriental Pearl Tower, by the way). Great picture! Can't remember the artist's name now, though (although I have a dim recollection that he might have been Danish.... or Dutch... European, anyway), so there's very little chance I'll be able to find it on the Net.

Did you in fact read the whole post, Tulsa? Or did you just launch into a comment after the first few paragraphs? This is actually rather a scary story: I nearly killed myself this weekend. By accident. When I do it, I would like it to be a considered decision.

tulsa said...

dude, stepping into nothing? that is scary. I'm glad you pulled back in time.

since you are alive and well, and you've brought the subject up, I'll follow it with the what if scenario. what if you hadn't looked down? how confused would we all be? well, first, I wonder if I'd ever hear about it. I mean, would I just keep checking your blog to see if you'd returned? Eventually assuming you'd given up blogging? would I send you a text and not receive a response and think you were just busy or having an antisocial moment? and with Thursday night's distraction gone for 2 months, would I not visit Jianghu for a few months and therefore not have any regular spot where I could expect to see you regularly?

second, how would we ever know it was an accident? hmmm. well, maybe the camera in your hand would explain the situation. but, then again, it might not be so obvious to us in our grief.

Froog said...

After my experiences with the police here, I have my doubts as to whether they would have done anything to investigate the death of an unidentified foreigner. There would have been an enormous temptation for them to just tie me to a lump of concrete and toss me in the adjacent river.

Would my hosts have noted my disappearance, or worried about it? Perhaps not - I did in fact see remarkably little of them on this visit. Leaving my bag behind might have seemed an odd oversight, but perhaps nothing more sinister than that. Would they have connected my failure to say goodbye with the open bedroom window, the blood smear on the road below, the furtive-looking policemen loafing around outside the building??

The idea of stepping into oblivion is strangely appealing. I don't think I have the courage to jump to my death - particularly as I am a hopeless scaredy-cat about heights - but if I ever were to do so, I quite like the idea of doing it high up in the mountains somewhere, far from civilization, where my body might not be found for decades.... if at all.

earthling said...

on the sci-fi not that tulsa mentions, a few weeks ago I saw something on a blog I passed by, about australians travelling in Japan. They had posted pictures of these tiny "capsuls" that were rented as hotel beds or what ever you want to call them. A capsul, nothing bigger than a coffin, for a person to sleep in. That is not even humane, but I guess it's still better than not having a warm bed at all.

earthling said...

oh my god, I just read the post now, and got all dizzy thinking about it.
I know the feeling all too well, as I lived on the 20th floor when I was a teenager. I once sat in my window with my feet hanging on the outside and thought a bit and got scared and then came to my senses and carefully climbed back into reality. That was scary!!! So I know how you must have felt, but you must have been scared badly, as it was a surprise to you.
Be more careful.