Tangled yarns from London's passers-through

010 : Matt Diehl at Logo Bar, Xujiahui
Born in 1968 in Evanston, USA, Matt Diehl currently works as writer/author. Why Shanghai? A strong hit of the future, today. He digs the following Shanghai bits: the enormous, weird flower sculpture in Gubei; the fact that you can take a boat to Tokyo from the Bund; how people have somehow confused pajamas with formal wear; everyone is incredibly nice and courteous, despite the Western media image of bureaucracy, bureaucracy, bureaucracy; the coolest Shanghai streetwear designer approved of his shoes; how green tea and Chivas is the most popular drink in Shanghai nightclubs (“Can’t wait for that to hit Los Angeles. It’s what I call a ‘Marilyn Monroe cocktail’ - i.e., it’s both an upper (from the caffeine) and downer (the alcohol), but with a spritz of trendy antioxidant power.”) He is, however, a bit miffed by Nothing. [As per Hitotoki dictates, here are Matt's favourite Shanghai supping spots instead: Thai House for Thai take-out; Tian Jia for crab and toro; Crystal Jade in the Xintiandi mall for dim sum; Din Tai Fung ("Soup dumplings, soup dumplings, soup dumplings...everything else was amazing, too."); Enoteca for wine and cheese.] For more info on Matt Diehl you should send an email or visit his MySpace page.

image: P Lee

“How could these seemingly disparate worlds co-exist? Wouldn't they come together and explode like anti-matter?”

As a Shanghai newbie (not “niu bi”[1], which my trip turned out to be – see “cow’s bollocks” for a close translation), I was dazzled by the ride into the city from the airport. Having never been to Asia, I was not prepared for the sheer, undiluted futurism of the Shanghai skyline; while locals may be over it, its shamelessness and commitment to progress stunned my retinas.

After a quick, post-airport drop-off, I was rushed by my entourage to a restaurant in the back of an office building. Despite the odd location, it was a clean, minimalist, humming place; the beautiful quirk was that it only served delicious tuna sashimi and a tofu broth with vegetables[2] – not what I expected for my first meal on the Chinese mainland. At dinner, I met brilliant, amazing people who were as creative as the visionaries that first drew me to move to New York City, an auspicious sign. Then, fully stuffed on tuna belly, we walked down the street to Logo[3].

The second I walked in, my mind reeled. Not because it was the greatest bar in the world (Logo itself was familiar: dark, dank, smoky), or because the greatest music was playing (electronic music floated in the air like the haze of smoke), or because I met the love of my life (who knows? maybe I did…), but because it was so authentic and familiar, and clashed so brilliantly with my ride in from the airport. It was full of writers, artists, fashion illustrators, DJs and dancers – in other words, it was like the bars that drew me to move to NYC. (See a pattern here?)

How could this scene co-exist with the man-made sci-fi skyline I’d seen just hours earlier? How could these seemingly disparate worlds co-exist? Wouldn’t they come together and explode like anti-matter?

Within a couple of hours, I realized that on the one hand, Shanghai spoke in the lingua franca of young, creative urban bohemia. The people I was meeting had the energy, will and inspiration of those that initially made NYC exciting, which it no longer is (cf. “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” LCD Soundsystem). But even though this was all familiar, there was a movement and aesthetic that couldn’t have happened everywhere else; in this short time, I viscerally experienced the paradigm shift that hysterical headlines in the Western media about the “New Asia” couldn’t capture.

I knew this was largely an expat experience, and not the quote-unquote “real China”. But I felt that the “real China” infused the whole experience – it wouldn’t have been the same anywhere else. It was clear that the real China experience isn’t something that can be forced or diluted; it will find you, and that night in Shanghai, it was finding me in its own special way…

referenced works

  1. Niu bi” (literally, “cow’s vagina”) is a Chinese slang expression that takes on different meanings depending on the context. It can mean ‘very cool’, ‘badass’, or ‘cool’ in the approving, incredulous sense, or can be used to describe someone being pompous or boastful.

  2. Tian Jia is a small restaurant chain in Shanghai that specializes in crab and toro (the fatty belly portion of the bluefin tuna).

  3. Logo is a small bar in Shanghai, located on the fringes of the former French Concession, near Xujiahui.

location information

  • Name: Logo Bar
  • Address: 13 Xingfu Lu
  • Time of story: Late NIght
  • Latitude: 31.224353
  • Longitude: 121.475916
  • Map: Google Maps



Art Space Tokyo

Interested in sponsoring Hitotoki? Contact us at sponsors@hitotoki.

Write for Us!

We’re looking for short narratives describing pivotal moments of elation, confusion, absurdity, love or grief — or anything in between — inseparably tied to a specific place in Shanghai.

submission form


Subscribe to our RSS Feed

Or receive updates by email

Addresses only used for the occational hitotoki mailing. Otherwise shoved behind the pitch black toilet in Boonna Cafe II.

A list of all available RSS feeds is on the about page