While I always figured myself to be the type of person who’d never-ever travel somewhere by bus, wearing an ID card around my neck, Life has a way of surprising you; and there I was, one day–one night, actually–in Shanghai, China, with a lanyard around my neck and an Orange Bus #2 ID attached to it.
It was our next to last night in China after a whirlwind trip to, in and around the country. We were in Shanghai and staying in some ritzy hotel (the trip was heavily subsidized by the Chinese government), and a bunch of us had decided to meet up for dinner and drinks at a restaurant in the Plaza 66 shopping area, a short walk from our hotel and retail area rich in high-end designer shops such as Chanel, Dior, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermès and more.
We opted to sit outside in the patio area (much better for people watching) and had the staff put a few tables together for our group. There we ate our dinner and had a drink or two. I remember sitting across the way from a massive, two-story, Tiffany-blue, lit storefront, thinking, “Wow! The China of today ain’t what it was in my youth.”
After our meal and paying our bill, we decided to walk around the Plaza 66 area, which was quite lively with people strolling about, going in and out of stores, and enjoying a meal or a drink. We’d decided to look for a bar or some place to have another drink and eventually decided upon a bar that had a live band playing American pop songs, which we could hear a bit from the street.
Our group was maybe eight or ten strong. Somewhere around that number. Maybe a bit bigger, though not any smaller. I know I had a drink in me, and I think some of my dinner companions had more than one in them. We were all in a jolly sort of mood. We’d traveled together for over a week, eaten many of our meals together, and this night out was one of the last times we’d be together as a group. The mood was festive.
We were also–not too surprisingly–some of the only American and white people around, though for us that “whiteness” showed up in so many different flavors of hair color, body shape, facial hair and more. We were a bit of a motley crowd, to say the least.
So, here we all are–our bellies full, our time traveling together making us feel bonded, a bit of alcohol lightening the mood and lifting inhibitions–when we start walking into the bar with the live music and American pop songs. And right as we are walking in — I mean right as we start walking in, like on cue — the band starts playing and the singer starts singing John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s one of those songs I have a hard time NOT singing when I hear it, and apparently our gang felt the same. I wasn’t intoxicated. Not by a long shot. I’d only had one drink an hour or so before, but the mood in our group was light; and I couldn’t help but to start belting out the words to the song as I sort of strolled-danced-walked into the bar, along with our entire group doing pretty much the same.
It was one of those moments! We all felt it!
We were a sight. We were also radiant! And glowing! I mean when does it ever happen in Shanghai that John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads song is accompanied by a bunch of Americans strolling into a bar, on cue? It was truly a moment!
As Life would have it, there was a large open table right in front of the band, so we continued singing the song as we got ourselves situated and ordered a round of drinks.
I have zero recollection of any other songs played that night, or what else we did or didn’t do that evening, but That Moment! OMgoodness! It was so fun, so perfect, so fabulous and so on point!
Earlier this evening, while grocery shopping, the same song was being pumped through the store and, once again, I found myself singing the lyrics out loud (quietly, not belting); this time, though, instead of thinking of the “misty taste of moonshine,” or how “life is old there, older than the trees.” I was remembering that super-fun moment in Shanghai. I’m figuring a few of the local patrons there that night may remember us years later, as well. Our arrival, timing, singing and mood was quite a surprise addition to the hired entertainment that night.
Bless you, John Denver.
Thank you to my Orange Bus #2 companions that night, as well!
Now, take me home, country roads.