Beijing Swimming Pool: Breaking and Entering, 1985

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Beijing Streets, 1980s
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The Beijing International Club today, now a Haagen Dazs

In those days:

The Diplomatic Quarter was still a Forbidden Zone, elm lined streets holding embassies in repurposed 18th century mansions, the ambassadors in stately palaces, and at one corner the Diplomatic Housing, a cluster of 18 story beasts in which all the foreign embassy staff lived and few Chinese ever passed.

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The Flying Pigeon

Things get fuzzy from this point on.

We all made it to the pool and commenced to swimming. None of us were wearing bathing suits at the time, so it was strictly an underwear affair. We’d doffed our clothing along one shadowy bank of lawn chairs — shadowy in the sense that they were against a line of tall bushes that cut into the various spans and splashes of light we were using to navigate in the semi-darkness.

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What was bound to happen did happen.

At this time I’d made my way up the long long ladder to the top of the 10 meter dive platform, some 30 feet in the air. Over the summer I’d mastered a single flip dive, but the height had not entirely lost its capacity to thrill. At one a.m. the water looked as dark and hard as asphalt. Also, my sogging underwear was struggling to perform its intended duty, which was at this time to keep my privates covered. A spectacular dive down and the water’s subsequent greedy clutch would surely strip them to my ankles. I was up there thinking about the plunge and wondering if it would be worth the noise. I was alone.

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Beijing 1980s

Which were gone. My t-shirt was there, and my shoes. No pants.

Praying they’d fallen under the chair, I got down on my knees and groped around in the shadows. I found a pair of pants several deck chairs over but they weren’t mine, at least two sizes too small. I squeezed into them anyway.

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Beijing Today

They were gone.

Theft was rare in Beijing in those days, but never-the-less the bikes had been locked, and it was not uncommon for the guards and groundskeepers to move bicycles. (Every Flying Pigeon had a small wheel-lock device that prevented a thief from simply riding off, but you could pick up the back end and walk/wheel the beast around if need be.) The Chinese had hard rules about where to park things, which was sensible in a city of 20 million people and 50 million bicycles. But, you know, when breaking and entering at 1 am you don’t park your vehicles at the front door.

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just another frustrated teacher

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