This week I read a long article on Aljazeera America about the Rat Tribe of Beijing, and I was utterly intrigued. The Rat Tribe is made up of close to a million Beijingers who reside underground in a vast network of abandon air-raid bunkers that were constructed in the late 60’s during Mao’s reign as protection against Soviet air raids. Rent is high in Beijing, and some of the residents live in the bunkers due to poverty, and some do so as a deliberate strategy to save money and build a better future for themselves. There is a surprisingly high level of optimism and entrepreneurial spirit amongst the residents, and the dormitory-like “pods” create supportive, tight-knit communities that look out for each other. I’m not trying to romanticize poverty or argue that the living conditions are at all healthy, but I have always been interested in how people make and create homes in adverse environments, and this was fascinating to me. The residents decorate with bright colors and kitschy posters, photos of their children and grandchildren, and makeshift curtains. Many of them remark on how quiet and peaceful it is away from the noise of the above-ground. They seem to be more or less okay, or at least accepting of their circumstances, and there is a remarkable lack of shame and judgment. Something about the Rat Tribe pinged my heart, the same as the people who live underground in the sewer drains in Las Vegas did years ago when I was researching them for a poem. I relate to the feeling of being an underdog in a very deep way, and the idea of an entire tribe of us living in semi-secret underground enclaves makes me feel strangely at peace.
I’m a little adrenaline-y at the moment because there was a huge screaming fight on my street early this morning between two women who were going at it hard over some allegedly stolen goods. Mr. Typist and I heard screaming outside of our window, and at first I chalked it up to the usual short-lived flare-up amongst the homeless in the park, but it kept escalating in volume and scale. I called 911, and Mr. Typist ran outside to meet the police and give a witness statement. I preferred he not throw himself into middle of it, but throw he did, and he came back with quite the tale of toplessness, pummeling, accusations and scattered goods from an overturned shopping cart. By the time he gave his statement and left, there were three cop cars on the scene. We don’t know if anyone got arrested or not. The incident has been the topic of discussion in the Typist household this morning. I hope the two ladies are okay and that they get things together in their lives. When you find yourself simultaneously topless and in a street fight in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, perhaps it’s time to reflect upon your life choices and consider making some changes.
Speaking of fights, I am both honored and a little bit nervous: I got selected to be a Workplace Violence Prevention Facilitator at my job! They put an announcement out a few months ago that they were looking for employees willing to train in Workplace Violence Prevention and travel to various campuses to teach workshops. I applied immediately, although I didn’t think I was particularly well-qualified and straight out said so on my application form. But my boss must have given me some huge, glowing recommendation because I got notice on Friday that I was selected. When I went to register for the training, I noticed that the last two days of the three-day training is “Physical Techniques.” I was quite surprised. I thought it was going to be all verbal de-escalation, negotiation, and the soft psychology stuff. But apparently I am actually going to be teaching physical self-defense! It’s a good thing my gym is re-opening on Monday. I need to stay in fighting shape for fending off the baddies.
In keeping with the theme of fights, be they for a better life, stolen goods or self-defense, enjoy this rousing fight anthem from Sister Sin: