I spent the past weekend back in Dazhalan and Xianyukou, the two ancient neighborhoods whose daily life – and destruction – form the setting and plot of The Last Days of Old Beijing. Remarkably, the district government and its affiliated development company invited a team of 25 Urban Land Institute planners and architects to advise on how to regenerate what to this point has been a failed project. The team included the man behind the rebirth of London’s Covent Garden, the woman who oversaw Singapore’s Changi Terminal 3, and the former mayor of Pittsburgh who steered the construction of our beautiful river trails and ballpark.
Half of my former home is now a chain hotel, and the residents evicted. Much of Dazhalan remains intact, while immediately to its east the formerly vibrant hutong neighborhood of Xianyukou is a field of rubble. Still, I left the capital optimistic about its rebirth, provided the developer chooses to rebuild a community, instead of an anodyne destination.
Get it on! On October 18 I’ll be in Los Angeles to sit in on the Adam Carolla Show, parrying with the Ace Man and praising Bald Bryan for his moving memoir of living with a brain tumor. (The great T.C. Boyle blurbed the book, and his praise is not wrong.) I hope Adam can explain how general contractors come up with their price estimates. I also hope he lets me see his cars, and asks me about Matt Lauer. “Matt is Matt.”
On November 6, I’ll speak at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club, showing slides across twenty years of coming to know China from living in places most correspondents and tourists miss. Tickets are available here.
On October 12 I’ll show slides from the Chinese hinterlands across twenty years at the Asia Society NY (tickets here), in conversation with the New Yorker‘s Jiayang Fan. This is a talk starting from naivete, discussing how we think of and approach China based on our own starting points and eras. I began at zero! If a schmuck like me can figure this place out . . .
September 15: The University of California-Berkeley, Doe Library, 4pm
September 24: The Berlin Marathon, Germany 9:30am
October 10: The University of Pittsburgh’s William Pitt Union, 1pm
October 10: Penguin Bookshop, Sewickley, Pennsylvania, 7pm
October 12: The Asia Society, New York City (with the New Yorker‘s Jiayang Fan), 6:30pm
October 17: USC, US-China Institute, 4pm
October 18: The Adam Carolla Show, Los Angeles
November 6: The Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, 6pm
November 15: Columbia University, 4pm
November 15: The China Institute, New York City, 6:30pm
November 16: National Committee on US-China Relations, breakfast
The reviews-before-the-reviews are coming in, and I’m relieved the readers got the humor, and the tone of “humility gained through immersion.” Here’s Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus. “Many delightful and appalling adventures” would have made a great cover quote.