#14 螃蟹!

The famous crabs of Yangcheng Lake

It is crab season in Suzhou now—the famous “hairy crabs” from Yangcheng Lake. People come from pretty far away to eat these. This Sunday, some friends were nice enough to invite me to join them in a crab extravaganza.

The star of the show was, of course, the baby: Xu Liman, or 徐黎曼. Her mother works at the China Institute, where I used to teach; perhaps you can tell her father is a mathematician, since they gave her the English (well, German, well, Western) name “Riemann” (which is “黎曼” in Chinese). I congratulated them on not choosing “Lobachevski” (which, if you are interested—and you are—is 鲁巴切夫斯基).

I must admit that eating these things is a lot of work. I have heard that one actually loses calories eating raw celery, because it is mostly water and digesting it takes more energy than it provides. This may, in fact, be nonsense. But I could see how one could lose weight consuming Yangcheng crabs, given how much effort they require. But they are, indeed, tasty, and it was a very pleasant day all around. Above you see the “before” picture; here is the “after”:

To be fair, this is really the “before” picture.

I live in the old city, on a street that used to be called “bar street.” Most of the bars moved out, and have relocated to another area called LiGongDi; most of the bars that are left are, um, a bit, um, sketchy. Many of the women who work there greet me in the most animated fashion, and really seem to want to get to know me. Walking home I am often greeted with enthusiastic “Hello!”s in English. I remain slightly suspicious that they are dying to know about the metaphysical deduction in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason—I could be wrong. But mostly my neighborhood is jade shops, some tea shops, and hookers.  

It takes awhile to get to where I teach and, mercifully, my department chair arranged it so I don’t have to do it very often. There are two ways: one is shorter, but involves a brutally crowded bus.

It is not quite this bad.

The other way takes longer, but I can stop at Starbuck’s between the first bus and the second bus and it is not crowded: hell, compared to the other route, it is serene.

The excitement this Friday was discovered just as I arrived to teach, when I was told that classes were cancelled. I could have stayed home if I’d known, but the obvious thing to do at that point was to go eat. And when in Suzhou, clearly one thinks of feta, kalamata olives, and souvlaki, right?

And, finally, for no reason at all, here is a picture of my daughter Emma with a troublemaker I know, Art, in Washington Square Park (NYC). I met Art in graduate school and we have been good friends since; I have many amusing stories about him, most of which I cannot share here. He despises the current US President as much as I do.