Friday, August 20, 2004

Go Hot

Wandered into what looked like a café this afternoon. A tiny, dingy place on Jin Xian Lu, no customers at all. So deserted, I couldn't help but go in. Some kind of instinct to fill up empty spaces, I guess.

I tried to take a seat, but the old woman behind the counter immediately started shuffling toward some back room. Gesturing for me to follow her. I was too flustered and confused not to. If I had thought about it for even a moment, I probably would have left the café. Instead: Down a hallway.

The woman knocked on a door. My mind, utterly blank. Didn't even have it together enough to spin out bad scenes, which is what I usually do (you know, the “If this were a horror movie...” type). I literally had no idea, not one idea, what was going on, what I was doing there.

And then I did. Inside the back room, the last thing I expected: a bootleg wonderland. The handwritten sign on the wall read "DVD 10 RMB", about one dollar US each for what looked to me to be at least half the inventory of IMDB. I'd never seen anything like it. Dozens of people, too. Packed in tight, and all compiling massive lists of the movies they wanted. Handing their lists to three incredibly efficient women who disappeared briefly and then returned, hauling huge stacks of discs out of storage.

So the café, of course, was just a cover. And I was amazed. Dumbstruck.

I don't know why I'm telling you this. Maybe because it was so surreal. Like being in a dream... and it always seems to help to talk out loud about dreams that don't make sense.

Or maybe it's because it I feel... well, I guess I feel like, in a way, you're all being invited to a mysterious back room, too.

Those coordinates... and now the times that go with them... they're beckoning to some of you, aren't they?

So many emails I received this week said the same thing: When the axons go hot, you're going to be there. I think that's very brave. And I'm incredibly grateful.

I don't know what I would do if I weren't in China, if I were closer to one of the sites. I'd like to think that I would join you, that I would meet this thing head on. But that's easy to say from more than 5000 miles away.

You guys are the ones on the frontlines. So it's your call. Do you want to be there when the axons go hot?

I'll be at an Internet café on the 24th, waiting to find out.

P.S. Thanks for letting me know that the coordinates have wiggled a bit since they first went up, and for sending me your re-calculated list of locations, six decimal places and all. Kind of creepy how many of them turned out to be near my hometown (and your hometowns, too, from what I hear!)... still no axons on this side of the Pacific, though.