Saturday, October 21, 2006

Peking Dick

One cold February morning in 1972, I went to the “formal living room” of my parents house, turned on the television set of our provincial Mediterranean home entertainment center and saw what I considered to be the most momentous images in my life to date. Seeing the moon landing, the Kennedy assassination and funeral, the 1968 assassinations and Chicago democratic convention, the summer of love – none of them touched me the way what I saw on the screen. There were Pat and Dick Nixon, reaching out to a small girl in China, two worlds never meant to meet actually meeting yet still so very much apart.

Nixon was touching ground in a world he had bashed for the past two decades. This was far more bold and bizarre than the moon landing. And all that went through my head was, “What is that little girl thinking.” Over the next week, I would write a four act opera called Girl Citizen.

It was never performed except in my home with family and friends. And, a decade and a half later when I went to see John Adams Nixon in China, I was given pause mid-way through when I said to myself, wait, I’ve been here before. Oh, right, I wrote almost the same opera, but with different outcomes. Girl Citizen was the little girl in the photo who stood up against the imperialistic Nixons and ultimately re-educated Pat who threw out her make-up, Givenchy and J&B to don drab olive Maoist jackets and work on a farm in Yunan Province. Meanwhile Dick and Henry forged a deal with Mao to build a huge department store in what was then still called Peking. Though mine was based more on Macy’s, I guess the outcome with Wal-Mart China sort of fulfilled the prophecy, but perhaps Pat might have met a happier end had she pursued the farming in Yunan.

Ah, yes, Girl Citizen. And now Wal-Mart can make the claim, made in China, sold in China.

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