By Al Schwartz | Beacon far-flung reporter and Bass Lake Poet Laureate
Whither be thee, oh Great Beijing,
Jewel of the East
Lost in a cloud of toxic smog
Unapproachable factory of myth
Bound to glory on shoes of magic
With a side of General Tso and broccoli?
Horseback never felt so right
Nor bicycle chain so lubed
As in your gentle genuflect
I was a bit concerned when Jackson Frolic, editor of the Bass Lake Beacon, suggested this assignment.
“Bejing?” I queried. “In China?”
“If you can find it,” came his curt reply.
My mission, if I decided to accept it, was to go to Beijing and do a little background check on the company that wants to build a factory in Bass Lake. Well not in Bass Lake. Next to it. It would be silly to build anything in Bass Lake, except maybe a fish garage.
The factory, a 450,000 square foot behemoth, will produce those little gaskets in the business end of bottle caps. It will also employ upwards of 327 people. That’s practically the whole town. Well part of it, anyway.
So off I went. I’d heard Beijing was in China. But where? And which direction to go? I consulted my world atlas and discovered a possible land route through Canada to Alaska then across some islands to eastern Russia where I would turn south through Mongolia and into China.
I got as far as Beijing Bait & Tackle where my plans were thwarted. I had stopped in to glean a few useful Chinese phrases but when I told the man at the counter my program he laughed and said he did not have enough bait for my particular fishing expedition.
“You can’t drive to Beijing,” he said. “Why not just buy some bee moths and stay here. I’ll tell all about Beijing.”
So that’s what I did. We went out in his boat and we talked and fished for nearly 30 minutes. I caught a bass and three bluegill. He caught six muskie, 12 bluegill, five largemouth bass and a dogfish, which he insisted on calling a bowfin.
We cooked up the fish at his house with his family and he showed me slides of his trip to Nearbytown. A fascinating man.
I didn’t make it to Beijing. But I sure learned a slow boat full of things about China.
Oh, and that bottle cap factory? It’s still just a gleam in some grim-jawed industrialist’s Chinese eye.