The Digital Cowboy
Schiffman made 14 trips to China in 20 months. While a large number of people spoke English very well, few Taxi drivers do. One carries a handful of cards provided by the hotel, to show Taxi drivers the desired destination. The Huadu Hotel was not an American tourist hotel, but the staff was very kind, courteous and most spoke English. The room rate averaged about $35 per night. The rooms were nothing special, but all had high speed internet access, and cable television with about 89 channels, few of which made any sense to Schiffman.
Finding television in foreign countries uninteresting, Schiffman began carrying a guitar on his journeys as alternate entertainment for himself. Recognizing the likelihood of loss or damage, he built a small electric guitar from free spare parts, thus beginning his avocation as a Luthier. On one flight to China, the cabin crew was so reluctant to accept responsibility for stowing his instrument, they upgraded him to First Class so the guitar could be strapped to the empty seat next to him. Honestly, the case was worth more than the guitar it protected.
Shanghai’s international heritage is from the clipper ship tea-trade days. “All the tea in China” passed down the Nanjing river and onward to the US and especially Great Britain. To be “Shanghaied” was to be kidnapped from a US seaport and restrained or rendered unconscious until the ship was well on its way to trade cargos in Shanghai China. The voyage took weeks or months, even for the fastest clipper ships.
On a rare off-duty Saturday night, the guys took Schiffman “clubbing” in Beijing. Mr. Wu’s driver (right) chose the club, included himself in the party as he often did. Schiffman recalls a cover charge of about $20 for the group and a 2-drink minimum. Yes, those are Budweiser beer bottles, brewed in China, where it’s called “Budweis”. A live band “covered” Chinese pop music hits. To Schiffman all the songs sounded alike. November 2002