A Day in the Life of Dashan
It is a crisp May morning and the bright Canadian sunlight streams in through Dashan’s bedroom window. As the Chairman Mao alarm clock strikes seven o’clock, the words to The East is Red blare out, and still retain the same impeccable tones that Dashan uttered on the day he recorded that song.
Dashan awakes and surveys his bedroom. Photographs of himself shaking hands with vice-presidents of various Chinese enterprises adorn the walls in between posters of the times he has dyed his hair blonde and played Matteo Ricci, Edgar Snow, Nazis in Tibet, and other great figures on CCTV. Without a moment’s hesitation, he leaps out of of bed and faces the mirror for his morning exercises.
“Ma, maaaa, maa, MA!” In pitch perfect Chinese, he repeats the four tones (the fifth neutral tone being beneath his contempt) again and again, safe in the knowledge that he hasn’t said a single one wrong. Then he takes one last look in the mirror, tells himself in Mandarin that he is the greatest, slips himself a wink, and heads off to the bathroom to brush his teeth with Darkie toothpaste.
Fifteen minutes later and Dashan, looking splendid in his authentic Republican-era gown, is in the dining room with a surly looking Dashan Junior. Breakfast conversations are always awkward affairs in the Rowswell household, and today is no exception. Dashan Junior tries his best to concentrate on his Captain Crunch cereal and ignore his father’s embarrasing attempts at small-talk.
“So…” begins Dashan, “You got English class at school today?”
Dashan Junior grunts in the affirmative.
“Well if you have, don’t forget your Dad’s trusty old Little Star Electronic Dictionary! Just the thing to push those grades up-up!” Dashan exclaims with a sunny grin.
Silently putting down his spoon, Dashan Junior gets up, makes his way across the table, and looks his dad firmly in the eye. Then, without a moment’s hesitation, he spits in his father’s eye and slaps him harshly across the face.
“I’ve told you a million times already – never talk to me ever again. Understand?” And with that, Dashan Junior grabs his bag and heads out the door.
Alone, a single droplet of his son’s green mucus dribbling down his still sore cheek, Dashan sighs and ponders what he will do with his life today. The piles of unsold Little Star electronic dictionaries stacked around the kitchen remind him that fame hasn’t brought total success to Toronto’s finest. Although he lives comfortably enough from the money earned from the few TV shows he occasionally travels to China for, the rest of his life is a dull and empty void. China proved impossible to live in after hitting the bigtime (he shudders while remembering a particular incident involving a Shenyang shopping centre, 50,000 socially inept university students, and the never-ending cry of “Can you use chopsticks yet?”), but Canada has not proven to be ideal either. So far, Mark’s fellow Canadians have been unappreciative of his efforts in learning standard Mandarin and representing the world’s largest Communist Party, and the empty months in between CCTV gigs have become drawn-out and mundane.
Yet Mark Rowswell never became the mighty Dashan with that kind of attitude. With a new determined strength of spirit, he stands up and heads out onto the sophisticated streets of Toronto in order to prove himself. Perhaps, he wonders, I might even be able to siphon some money off the Canadian government that was originally intended to be used in order to prevent Quebecois separatist movements. Again.
Dashan chooses not to head down to the Chinatown on Spadina Street. He realised long ago that the Happy Canada Lucky Dragon Restaurant was not interested in a white-skinned Chinese-speaking hospitality manager. While he ponders where to go, he stops at a cigarette kiosk and asks for a packet of Zhongnanhai.
“Never heard of them, we only sell Marlboros and Camels,” says the gruff guy behind the counter.
“Oh, yes, I forgot that they only sell them in China,” smiles Dashan. Then, rather desperately, he adds “That’s where I live you know! I’m a big star there!”
“That must be very nice for you,” sighs the cigarette seller.
“Anyway, must be going, zaijian! Ooops, I must have been in China for too long, I mean goodbye!” Dashan grins and skips away.
“Who was that?” asks another customer.
“It’s that fucking Mark Rowswell again,” spits the cigarette seller, “He’s been saying the same thing every day for the last three years.”
Pleased at his display at the cigarette kiosk, Dashan decides to follow his success at the food court in the basement of the Eaton Shopping Centre on Yonge Street. On his way, he spots a couple of Oriental appearance walking past, and nearly collapses in excitement when he sees the lady catching his eye and approaching him. Unfortunately, they only want to know the way to the CN Tower, and not ask for his autograph. Undeterred, Dashan heads on.
A fairly large crowd is gathered outside the Singapore Sam’s stall in the Eaton Centre Food Court. Using the skills he learned in Beijing, Dashan slips into the crowd and pushes his way to the way to the front. He spots a young teenager about to order beef noodles, and stops her before she can do so.
“Hey there!” shouts Dashan amiably to the bemused teenager, who looks like she is about to shout for the police. “I see you’re about to order the beef noodles! In China, they are known as niu rou mian, or rather: cow meat noodles. However, in China, the main meat is pork, although chick…”
“Please go away and don’t hurt me,” cries the girl, “You can take my money but just go!”
“…China has a history of 5000 years, and the language reflects that. Ru xiang sui su is a saying meaning when in Rome…”
“Please… please, leave me alone.”
“Hangzhou meanwhile is known for it’s beautiful West Lake, and Suzhou for it’s many…”
“THAT’S ENOUGH ROWSWELL! NOW GET OUT!”
The burly manager of Singapore Sam’s has finally spotted the disturbance Dashan has been causing, and emerges from behind the counter with a substantially large meat cleaver. As Dashan runs away, the manager picks up a pile of leaflets left behind, and throws them at Dashan’s head.
“AND TAKE YOUR ELECTRONIC DICTIONARY LEAFLETS WITH YOU!”
It has been an exhausting day. After the trials and tribulations of the cruel Canadian day, Dashan has returned to the comfort of his propaganda decorated bedroom, and weeps beneath his embroidered cushions of Tiananmen Square. Only here, beneath the cheap certificates proclaiming him to be one of the “Ten Most Friendliest Foreigners in Beijing Haidian District: 1991″, does he feel any of the respect so rightfully deserved to him. Don’t these people understand how well he speaks Mandarin? He didn’t run all the way to China and became a star so that he could be treated the same way as the bigger boys used to treat him at school! The fucking laowai bastards!
Dashan considers watching his favourite film Red Dawn again on DVD to cheer himself up, but is interrupted by the welcome sound of Mrs. Dashan returning home. At last: a friendly face. The Dashans darken the lights, slip off their clothes, and play a little romantic music. However, something is wrong…
Dashan whimpers disappointingly. “It’s no good honey, I just can’t…”
“What’s wrong cutie?” Asks Mrs Dashan in a sweet voice. “Do you need me to get out the hand pump and the CO2 cartridges again?”
Dashan shakes his head. “No. I need more than that. You know what I need.”
“NO! You promised me that last time would be the last time! It’s not normal Mark!”
“PLEASE baby, do it for me,” pleads Dashan.
With a sigh of defeat, Mrs Dashan grunts in agreement and reaches down to the special box kept beneath the Rowswell family bed. Five minutes later, Dashan – dressed in a monkey costume with a hole cut away around the ringpiece – is being fucked up the arse by Mrs Dashan with a seven inch strap-on dildo and a rubber mask of Hu Jintao. Nearby, Dashan’s personal recording of The East is Red blares out again from the Chairman Mao alarm clock.
Mark has never been so happy.