We arrived at Chicago- Midway airport at about 4 pm Central Time on Sunday. The weather was great, some traces of snow, but a clear sky with the temperature in the 30’s. We rented 2 cars because the other members would leave early this coming Thursday, leaving me behind for a few hours so the systems has support, instead of having us together on the air at the same time and unable to address any problems if it arises; a good precaution to Murphy’s law. We drove for about 45 minutes to Monee, a small town south of Chicago, going through neighborhoods with extremely large houses, the Chicago suburbs seen beyond the highway, the road littered with diners, strip malls and car lots; the street busy with dusk commuters, perhaps hurrying home to see the football game between the Denver Broncos and the Chicago bears. I followed the team the another car, driving through side roads, avoiding the main highway, the night coming fast until we were travelling away from the city with large patches of dark seemingly empty land, a lot of large houses in expensive looking neighborhoods, along empty parks, reaching the town near a strip mall, finally finding the Hampton Inn, set behind the mall with lots of places to eat.
After checking in, we shared a car and drove to Apple bees; the restaurant was crowded, the football game in full swing, people watching the restaurant’s many television screen, the patrons cheering the local team who were ahead. I ordered Cajun steak and shrimps, cooked medium well and Heineken beer, talking about football, suddenly load cheers then disappointment, the Denver Broncos evened the score and the game went into overtime, an amazing turn of events in the last minutes of the match, a testament to the ability of Denver’s quarterback Tim Tebow. I had read about Tebow a day earlier, a player who seemed gifted from all reports but shrouded in some controversy; an unorthodox player said my friend, with an ability to deliver, playing his own game against the wishes of the team’s coaching staff, always a good story – the lone brilliant protagonist, following his own gut and leading the team. In overtime, the Denver Broncos beat Chicago, the crowd in the restaurant leaving dejected, amazed at the reversal of fortune; I finished my excellent dinner, more knowledgeable about American football, driving back to the hotel and watching television for most of the night.
I finished reading the chapter in the book ‘Tide Players’ by Jianying Zha, watching a show on China from CNBC, what a coincidence, both discussing slightly similar themes, Tiananmen square, modern China and so on, the book focusing on the Chinese players while the television show on America’s challenges ahead. Both dwelled on the seeming disinterest of the Chinese youth on political events, forgetting the disaster of Tiananmen Square, preferring to live prosperous lives and avoid challenging the government, happily becoming consumers, allowing the Communist government to lead the country towards becoming the greatest economy on earth. Coincidentally, 60 minutes was interviewing Barack Obama, the president eloquently talking about his plans, while earlier I read account of the Republican party, a new front runner in the game, confirmed after the recent debates, a few weeks before the Iowa primary, politics coming into limelight as the presidential election looms in the months ahead.
‘Tide Players’ is an excellent book, about ‘the movers and shakers of a rising China’, portraits of entrepreneurs and intellectuals; it seemed to me that this representative section are more insightful and sensible than their American counterparts, soon I recall the CNBC segment which showed the youths of China looking for work and trying out new things, while the youth of America is shown lining up in Best Buy in the early morning, waiting in the cold for the opening of Black Friday sale, to rush in and buy the latest gizmos on discount, a surprising contrast to different societies, both giants in the East and West. Interestingly, I have just finished reading George Orwell’s ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’, thinking that the stories of poverty that portray the lower depths that the modern countries try to avoid, China lifting 400 million people out of poverty and into the middle class, while America struggles to maintain theirs, Orwell’s book a frightening (but entertaining reminder) of the consequence of inequality and the life of squalor if a society does not take care of its own. Travelling down the Chicago suburbs, looking at the immense houses outlined in the descending dusk, one wonders how many of those houses are in foreclosure, or watching the people in the street, wondering who is unemployed, thanking God of one’s momentary fortune, realizing that the coming debate in the role of government will be the deciding factor in the coming elections.