The water was dirty green

The water was dirty green
but they all seemed to look across it.
On one side was the old European city,
the "Bund";
on the other side the new Chinese one
of glass, concrete, and steel,
a spectacle of lights at night.
But what did these "visitors" see,
these tourists of various denominations?
The travel associations wanted them to see,
as did the government,
right up to the Party level,
what a vibrant city Shanghai had become.
They wanted them to go home and rave ...
The home-grown tourists
from other cities and provinces
probably would.
They looked positively dazzled.
The others, the Europeans and Americans,
wore a variety of expressions:
the young, those who would be going to the clubs every night and sleeping most of the day, looked high on themselves;
they had climbed the social ladder of experience,
and back at home they would score big time with family and friends.
More mature individuals,
mostly university-educated adults,
wore the look of scientific objectivity:
They had stumbled upon a new experience.
something, in their minds, totally unique,
and back home it was their duty—
fresh from the laboratory of life—
to report upon it—
fairly, accurately, even succinctly,
"best practices" adhered to at all levels of reportage.
And there was an older group,
often big of belly,
that looked strained physically
and baffled, to be frank,
But at least their account would contain some humor.

But maybe most important these days,
all would experience their experience through
the electronic filter inserted between them
and the object of their attention.
None would be so simple or naive
to just stand and stare, take his or her pulse, wonder what it was all about, and feel anything at all in the moment.
Oh, too simple and a waste of all that money they had paid for their iThis or iThat!
"Be here now" had been replaced by "Be there later",
or capture and process some other time:
citizen journalist would experience the moment
at a later date
in the comfort of his or her own environment—
at the dinner table over coffee with a friend,
     ("You should have seen ...)
in the intimacy of the bedroom with a glass of wine,
     ("the looks on their faces ...")
in the wilderness of the bathroom brushing one's teeth late at night ...
     ("Was she impressed by my story?")
Travel in the modern age,
like the news,
could be anything you wanted it to be.
Green could be blue, red could be yellow,
"dirty" could even be "clean."
What more could a "traveler" want?
by Louis Martin