shu and joe


Published on September 18, 2006

The construction workers wear leather dress shoes and suit jackets that are coated in dust and rubble by the end of the day. They tuck their graying white shirts into pleated trousers and wield pick axes like circus strong men. At noon, they fall asleep inside wheelbarrows, breathing in flecks of paint, hands over eyes to keep noisy Beijing out. Awake at 2, the day begins again. More pulling and drilling, pounding and hoisting. The world is continuously built here. It grows from a weed beneath the ground to a tower housing ten thousand. It resembles an obsession, a disorder never satisfied no matter how shiny the structure or how expansive the space within.

Strength is collected here. Sometimes it’s 10 men, but often just one or two. They do the work of a machine or of an ox. Bodies reduced to muscles, they remind me of stories I’ve heard about humans having superpowers when the situation necessitates. The man who lifts a 10 ton truck to remove an injured person beneath it or the runner who breaks the world record against all odds. These men break records all day, 15 hours a day. The man who soders through the night in complete darkness must be breaking some record. I see the sparks falling down from a telephone pole against the black and wonder what he’s thinking.

Filed under: Beijing

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