After several days of stellar weather, rain moved in and lashed the city today. Bea Long and I went on a walking tour of shikumen (stone gate houses) with a local celebrated artist and a group of fellow gringos, weaving our way through massive puddles, the rubble of razed houses, and clambered inside several dwellings. I like to think I am a tough cookie, that not much can shock or surprise me anymore. But this cookie is crumbling, the day’s events deflating me, in a kind of subcutaneous emotional beating that only true squalor can inflict on a mind accustomed to privacy, order, and softly scented dryer sheets. A figurative cyclone of wreckage in a metropolitan, man-made, functioning setting, this is no Act of God.