Beijing flashback: Eddie O on burgers, Browns, camels and quizzes

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Eddie O was a bar scene regular during his stint in our fair city from 2006 to 2008. Not only that, he co-founded BRAWL Beijing–The Bourbon, Rye and Whisk(e)y League of Beijing–and regaled us with tales of the various tipples we tried at a time when pickings were much slimmer in our fair city. Eddie still retains links to Beijing via a weekly quiz he writes for the Tuanjiehu English Association, where he served as a volunteer while living in Beijing. He just sent out his 400th quiz, which represents nearly four years of brainteasers. I asked him a few questions about his life and times in Beijing.

Which three bars in Beijing do you miss the most and why?

Cheers [formerly in Tongli Studio]. They always saved me a corner bar seat on Friday nights, I got to know and like [owner] Leo, they kept my private supply of Wild Turkey on hand, and they would always play my requests for one more Celine Dion song to cheer you up Mr. Boyce. You love your fellow Canadians so much.

Browns [in Sanlitun South]. But only during its first four months. My terrible Mandarin didn’t matter there. They would also have Wild Turkey on hand and the staff tried hard at first to make it fun even if I never did dance on the bar. (Too big an insurance risk.) Don’t know why they were always pushing that cold German motor oil in a green bottle. [That would be Jagermeister.]

Maggie’s. The place with the hot dog stand outside. Enough said.

What’s your best bar memory from Beijing?

That in my entire series of drunken bar adventures in Beijing I never once had to get in a bar fight. Given my motor mouth I think that’s an admirable record.

Remember that time when the former Italian restaurant Capone’s in The Place refused your many requests to make a burger and finally acquiesced when you arrived with your own bun?

Although Capone’s at first was a good place to start a night of serous drinking, after the episode when I had to bring my own bun to get a decent hamburger and they charged me 150 yuan for what should have been a freebie they might as well have closed the place right away instead of losing money for the next seven months. An odd location and owners who just didn’t get it.

One of your goals when returning to Iowa was to get hold of a large domesticated animal — I believe you mentioned a camel — as a pet. How did that work out?

Almost a complete failure. We bought a house in a small suburb of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and there just ain’t no place to house a camel. In the backyard there are deer each morning and sometimes in the winter I put out shelled corn for them but that doesn’t hold a candle to having a camel. Haven’t given up on this one just yet as I would be one of the most sought after guys in Iowa during the Christmas season if I owned one.

What motivates you to keep doing the weekly quiz even though you left Beijing years ago?

I keep doing the weekly quiz because folks at the Tuan Jie Hue English Corner keep using same and I learn a little about useless bits of trivia when I plagiarize the questions each week. I miss my friends in China and hope that someday I can return. Folks here in the U.S. just don’t realize what a wonderful place China is or at least was for me in the short time I was there. Hope I stay sane enough to make it to quiz number 1250 in which case I would be 80 or so.

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