Sunday October 7, 2007
Today was the Formula One car race. F1 cars are those multi-multi million dollar go-carts with exposed wheels, lots of noise and go up to 200 miles an hour. They race in 20 countries in a circuit, and today it's Shanghai. Lucky us...
The track is an hour and a half away and the track and buildings are used only one day a year, today. Naturally we don't expect too much from the facilities.
Eventually the vans arrive at some ultra-modern stadium buildings.
Tens of thousands of people have converged there, but we are whisked into smaller vans and into super high-speed elevators to the ninth floor Paddock Club. Slick and high-tech security scanners determine which way the insanely attractive staff will lead us. How many times can I say super modern, slick, high tech? Can I say jaw dropping?
We are seated at round tables--it's lunchtime, even though we've just barely finished breakfast. The magnums of Mumm's start popping. There are three tables in the Tiger party--27 of us, at $4,000 a pop (including the Mumm's.) The room both overlooks and is surrounded by the track and the pits. Large screen TV's all around, so we don't miss so much as a shift. A cold lobster appetizer is served. Maine, not Caribbean. Lulu scores seconds.
Next we are escorted down onto the track itself, to see the cars, the pits and the swarm of car service crews. Anybody getting excited?
Hundreds of clean-cut young people take the field cheerleaders, swordsmen, kung fu, tai chi guys--to perform in the small gap of time before the race starts. Oh, and some hold aloft two--one gold, one silver--1000-foot Mylar dragons.
Closer to race time, we are served a warm, cheesy pasta with artichoke chunks...and a bit more wine. Just a bit.
The cars start their warm-up laps, the screaming of the motors only multiplies the thrills. Part of our individual loot bags include ear-plugs. Nothing is left to chance.
We are served rare filet mignons and New Zealand lamb chops, and a bit more wine. Not a dim sim to be had. Only my dumpling cares.
We watch the cars scorch around the irregular track.
Now, we don't generally travel first class, and except for the occasional wedding, we don't get invited to many Triple-A parties. Today positively takes the cake.
(Oh, and we get some of that too, for dessert.)
This was elegant, classy and Triple A. Definitely not Nascar, more like Ascot.
Of course we all know that China is this poor, communist oppressed dictatorship famous mostly for the cheap and shoddy crap sold around the world, mostly at Wall-Mart.
NOT in our reality
This is the most surprising, unexpected experience ever. China does things big, China does things fabulous, at least for us tourists.
Tonight the magic vans took us to a German Octoberfest beer garden. Beer, schnitzel, sauerbraten, sausages, kraut and a live band. Not a Chinese band but a Filipino band...with a sax, a guitar and a singer with an over-the-top voice. Belting out, guess what?
American oldies, of course. Hello Dolly, Country Roads, New York, New York, Rock Around the Clock. Even Bad Moon Rising. Lots of dancing--Boppin' Bobby was pretty much the center of attention on a postage-stamp dance floor. Lulu was out there too...even I took a spin.
Now I ask, why are all Tiger's parties so successful? I see some hands raised. Yes? You say money? Yes, that's a reason. But there are others.
Get a load of this...Lulu noticed an elder Chinese man in the group, someone we had not yet met. Sitting next to Tiger's mom--Mama Li--who attends all the evening festivities. So who is this guy?
It seems Tiger travels with a Feng Shui master. He decides who gets in which van, who sits at what table, what dishes are served and in what order. He probably also picked the songs.
Nothing is left to chance.