Xi’an is a city of fire. I’m incessantly smothered by it at every step, whether it’s heat rising from the city streets, chicken buses and porsches alike showering me with smoky exhaust and carbon monoxide, or the sun’s rays so conveniently hitting mirrors that deflect that energy on my poor skin. Xi’an’s architecture is the magnifying glass and we’re the ants. Fires burn in the city’s monasteries and temples, which isn’t helped but only exasperated by thousands of units of incense that share the flame and are then left to burn. I visit the street market in the Muslim quarter everyday for dinner. Here, I’m burned by over-gassed flames escaping their ovens or makeshift containers, standing too close out of gluttony to grills that are preparing my squid and lamb skewers, and being spattered with grease as my pork pancakes are deep fried. Not complaints, just observations. I love a place that makes you feel something.
A welcomed side-effect of all this is that I now belong to the Tan Club. It’s been a painful way to get here, but oh my god, now I understand America’s obsession with burned-to-a-crisp culture. People roll our carpets for me whereever I walk, albinos ask for my autograph, and I was even asked to star in a commercial for discounted barbeque chips! Things are turning around.