Shanghai, China

Friday, September 13, 1929

Woke up at eleven-thirty and after sewing up the socks and shirt collar and writing letters to Washington and places, I went to see the Consul, too busy to eat. The office was closed so I walked up the Bund and finally to the AmExCo at two. No mail. Inquired about ships to Nagasaki and finally got a 3rd class ticket on the N.Y.K. express boat leaving Tuesday at nine. Price $18 Mexican (or Shanghai).

Peking is a place I should not miss and don’t want to, but it is several hundred miles from here, two days by train, and the fare is $59 second plus food etc. The price is OK, but I only have one more month before sailing for home and I want to spend it in Japan. I can not make good rail connections with Nanking without a good chance of missing my boat. They say Nanking is not so much at present, so a one-day trip there is hardly justified. Soochow is not far away, two hours by train, but according to reports it is nothing more than any other Chinese city. Thus rather than spend a day and a half chasing up there, I shall do better to concentrate on Shanghai and see all of interest here—do the job well. As to expenses, it would be as cheap to go as to remain.

Went through the ordeal of changing money today. Rate was $241 to $100 gold. $11.75 Mex to 10 yen. Thus the Shanghai dollar at that exchange (which is good) is 41¢g gold and the yen 48¢ gold. Through the rates of exchange I got at Hongkong the Shanghai dollar has been 54¢ gold. Don’t miss losing on exchange rates.

Got my five rolls of films from the photographs. Four were n.g. and practically all over-exposed. Last bunch were underexposed. The durned camera has no happy medium it seems. I have done everything and still can’t get a good clear picture. They seem out of focus in spite of all my care. Must have the thing examined. But this photographer did poor work and didn’t help matters at all. Feel like shooting the blighter.

I splurged to the extent of a package of Luckies and a bar of chocolate, first in months.

Went to the Gow’s at seven and we went down to Cayne’s for dinner. A Mr. Watkins was there. Fat and jolly. Has something to do with a branch fire station. We adjourned dinner at nine to see the fire drill. This company has the fastest time in the world, even over New York and London. Six seconds from the time the alarm rings till the first engine crossed the threshold. There are nine in all, including the ambulance. The switch that rings the bell also turns on the lights and opens the doors. Immediately the engines tear out and down the street. Trained? They rode around the block and stopped to have a little drill with the ladders. One they ran up 78 feet (goes up 90) and a man climbed up and pointed the hose nozzle around. A snappy outfit.

Finishing dinner and more drinks we sat around and talked, played with Elsbeth, danced, and Mrs. Gow told fortunes. Left at ten after an enjoyable evening. Mr. Watkins wanted me to do a couple of cafés with him for an hour, so we left for parts south in the French Concession. These were rather low-down dives. The first was the Charleston Café, where the girls were all bedecked in a variety of costumes of all descriptions. We each picked out a girl to dance with. Mine was the prize of the whole outfit: Russian, of course, but attractive and wearing a Hawaiian-like skirt of beads, bare stomach and back, and small breast things all full of beads. She sure could dance. The second dance she started to make hay while the sun shone and hung on to me like a hunk of glue and got the bad habit of squeezing my hand and hanging on to that member while I took her back to her table in the women’s row on the opposite side of the room. Watkins was also making hay. He had been there before and his favorite was necking a man sitting at the next table. But over his shoulder she was making eyes at Watkins who wasn’t doing so badly himself. The whole blamed affair was comical enough. All of these bally girls are good at that, bien sur, as it is their profession and means of getting bread. While they dance or neck they always flirt with somebody else with a thought toward the future.

We finished our drinks and moved to the Victoria Café across the street. This street is just one dive after another. The Victoria was worse than the Charleston and the music and girls were terrible. Had a deuce of a time even finding a suitable girl to dance with. Finally picked on one because she wore an old American colonial-style dress. This was also a dress party and of all the outlandish get-ups I have ever seen, these took the cake. The fat ones would wear the tight-fitting britches type while those more slender ones were draped in longer dresses. Again Watkins was up to his neck flirting with a half dozen at once. He sure got some shapely specimens to dance with. We sure got the old smiles, winks, and glad eye. Each girl danced with gets a percentage, so they all work hard to rate. Three dances for a dollar, 14¢ gold each. One elephant in white made goo-goo eyes at me the whole time, beamed as well as any freshman could, and nearly put herself to sleep winking. Shins all bandaged up as though some unfortunate had kicked her there to end the dance sooner. In the corner a U.S. sailor was having a pretty good petting party and a few others were around the room.

At two Watkins reluctantly drained his glass and we left. Still early but he had to get back home. Wants to take in a show and go café-ing again Monday night. I walked home for some fresh air. The café sections are lively. They close about four. But other parts are dead and deserted, only rickshaw coolies walking around looking for fares.

I beat the doors closed tonight. It is now very nearly 4:30 AM and at last I’m up to date on this diary. Durned little sleep I’ve had since leaving Saigon. I’m about due for some, but Shanghai moves at a fast pace and to enter into its life and spirit doesn’t help increase your hours of sleep. I’m fed up on drinking. Every time you turn around someone has a drink or two for you. Good thing I turn down 50% or I’d be tipsy all the time. Doubt if I’ve had two glasses of water since I arrived here.

Comments are closed.