1) Good job, enjoy the palace
2) Watch out, Chinese landlords are evil and will fuck you
And the feelings I have in my own heart about the compound revolve around these two topics, more or less. I wanted a compound for a variety of reasons, listed below:
1) I had lost three very good writing jobs in April, due in part to bad luck, and mostly to stupidity on my part. That was a major blow, especially for one of the jobs, freelancer for the Economist, because I had spent a lot of blood and treasure to get there. It was a crowning moment for me to publish this story, and then this one. And to lose that was very painful. I have always struggled reading other China writing, because the jealous hater in me feels like I should be writing on those platforms, about those topics. And to get close, and then have it snatched away – through foolishness on my part – was painful.
I also was under fire from the local government, for the stories I had written, and I was afraid – very afraid – that the local police would “do something” to me …
So basically I was in a bad place, with income taken away, confidence punctured, and haterism rearing its head once again. At the time I did what I usually do when I self-destruct or face obstacles. I took stock of every possible option available to me, and chased them down the road of feasibility. There were a few:
1) run away to the US, and re-boot my life there. Perhaps as a weed trimmer, perhaps as a cook in MPLS, perhaps as a wandering hippy chasing festivals and selling dumplings. As attractive as some of these options seemed in my dreams, none of them were going to take me anywhere but “away” and running … although cathartic, doesn’t help.
2) Run away to Thailand, and set up shop somewhere in the north, with my friend Dustin et al, and try and re-boot my life there as a hostelier or something. Maybe write. But probably go broke and beg for mercy
3) Run away to Dali, and live in a sunkissed Bai hut, writing and letting my children play in the crowded cobblestone pathways of China’s favorite hideaway for the rich and cultured. That one still grabs me from time to time, and I have never really ruled it out.
But what I have always wanted was a studio, a workplace, a home, a compound – some place that gave me security, and removed all excuses for not writing the books and novels and stories I have been storing up inside for a while.
So that’s what I pursued.
The practicalities at the time were way beyond my abilities. When I found the spot, and rented it out, I had about 6k rmb to my name. I didn’t really know how I was going to pull it off, but I had 6 months to figure it out (rent on my home at the time ran out in Oct). Not a week after I paid six months rent, I got a job that paid 30k. Initial renovations paid for. Also, for someone like me that lives according to very very short term plans, the fact that money fell into my lap, first in June with the 30k contract, and then in Sept. with another 20k, and then again in Oct with another 40k, confirmed for me that I was doing the right thing. That the gods were with me.
So I forged ahead and built the place.
Now, I am waiting for someone to snatch it away, or for my own foolishness to eradicate my creation. But awareness is a bit of the battle, so I am staying vigilant, making money, trying to cultivate relations with the landlord so she doesn’t throw me out, and also making full use of the space as it is now.
I feel that this is the right move, and that it will produce for me.