Boston bombings bring fear back to the forefront

The last time I flew to Beijing from the U.S., I had to pass through a full-body scanner at an airport security checkpoint in Louisville, Kentucky. One of the people in front of me was an elderly man in a wheelchair.

When his turn came, two security officers helped him to his feet and guided him into the machine. “Can you stand on your own?” one of the officers asked.

“I think so,” the man said.

He kept his arms raised long enough for the machine to take an image of his body and then, with the help of the security officers, returned to his wheelchair. Continue reading

No gorilla in this mist

I’ve always been fascinated by skyscrapers. At 7, I remember watching King Kong scale the Empire State Building onscreen and wishing I could do the same. Years later, during a trip to New York City, I took an elevator to the top of the World Trade Center and marveled at the helicopters and small planes flying below.

When I visited Shanghai last month, I had to see the city from the top of one of its landmark skyscrapers. I picked the 88-story Jin Mao Tower, home of The Grand Hyatt Shanghai hotel and one of the tallest buildings in China. A sign at the ticket window for the observation deck said “visibility poor,” but I decided to take my chances and paid 150 yuan ($24) for a ride to the top.

It turned out to be the worst 150 yuan I’ve ever spent. Clouds completely obscured the view. With nothing to see, I put down my camera and stared into the mist, wishing King Kong was around to part the clouds.

Looking down into the lobby of the Jin Mao Tower. This turned out to be the best view of the day.

View from the observation deck, looking down into the lobby . This turned out to be the best view of the day.

The 88-story Jin Mao Tower is located next to the (left) Shanghai World Financial Center.

The 88-story Jin Mao Tower is located next to the Shanghai World Financial Center (left).

The only blue skies I saw that day were in the elevator.

The only blue skies I saw that day were in the elevator.

Visibility was less than 100 meters at the top.

Visibility was less than 100 meters at the top.