Lucky’s Blog from China
Celtics Mascot Lucky is overseas performing at events for NBA China, and he'll be checking in with us over the next two weeks letting us in on his latest adventures.
Day 7, 8 and 9
After having a few days to myself I figured it's time to report what I've been up to. It's Friday evening here in Shanghai and the past few days have been very similar to what a normal day would be like for me if I were back in the States.
Since I didn't have any performances scheduled, I've filled my days with training in the fitness center at my hotel. My training included stationary bike-riding to get warmed up, stretching, weight training, basketball shoot-around, trick shots, and finally, more stretching. I've finished my days by doing laps in the pool and before relaxing in the hot tub. I know what you're thinking...sounds more like vacation than work. What can I say? Being 'Lucky' does have it's advantages at times.
Anyway, most of my training sessions are based around 'dunk practice', but after doing seven dunk performances in two days at the event in Shenyang, I feel I've earned a few days free from slam-dunking. I can assure you my wrists and forearms are thanking me for that decision ;-). I can guarantee you; they don't feel like they are on vacation - ouch.
Since a person can't fill their entire day with working out, I decided to do a little shopping to kill some time. I bought some really cool stuff for my family, although the majority of the gifts are for my son, and a few things for me to remember my trip by. I found a few more restaurants that I really enjoyed and filled any extra free time by reading.
All in all, the past three days have been perfect! Three days off gave me the opportunity to rest my body from dunking, but more importantly, it gave me some time to reflect on my performances last weekend and this trip in general.
I know that having this opportunity to travel the world doing what I love is truly a blessing. I feel so grateful to my family, friends, coaches, mentors and colleagues who have supported me and helped me attain my goals in life. Honestly, I can't say I dreamed of being the first un-masked mascot in the NBA, but I can say I've set my sights on, what many believed to be, unattainable goals (my dreams) throughout my life.
With that being said, I'd like to say to all the children, and adults too, who may read this: Don't give up on your fulfilling your goals in life and never let go of your dreams! With hard work, dedication and a positive outlook on life, anything is possible. I'm living proof that dreams do come true!
I better get to sleep now, I have three performances tomorrow.
Day 6 - Things to See in Shanghai
Today was so much fun! My tour guide picked me up at 9:30 a.m. and we were off to see Shanghai. Our first stop was at the Bund, which is a waterfront walkway along the Pudong River, which separates new Shanghai, the east part, from old Shanghai known as the west side. While we walked along the Bund (on the West side) I attracted a very large crowd... probably because I was up to my usual tricks; while most people walk along the Bund, I flipped along the Bund ;-) I stopped to take photos with individuals, couples and a few groups. One of the attractions along the Bund, aside from the beautiful skyline and a flipping leprechaun, is a 40-50 ft. statue of Shanghai's first Mayor named Chenyi, with which I had to get my photo.
After taking in the sites of the Bund on the west side of Shanghai, we were headed to the East side of the river. I noticed a couple men docking what looked like a passenger boat for tours, but it was anything but that. I couldn't see an entrance leading to the boat so I set out to get a closer look. There was a large cement wall separating the area the boat was docked from the Bund walkway.
My guide explained that the men worked for the government and their job was to keep the river clean. Then I noticed one of the men scooping trash out of the river as waves from the boats pushed trash and debris toward the rivers edge. I figured this my chance to make a difference in China. I jumped over the cement wall and was greeted by the two workers. My guide shouted to the men from beyond the cement wall explaining who I was and where I was from. Through my guide I ask the men if I could board their boat, they agreed. After showing me their boat (the equivalent to US garbage trucks, except on water) I picked up one of the men's garbage scoops, a long bamboo stick will a makeshift net on the end, and began scooping trash and debris from the water. The men laughed and one of them went to work along side of me. One of the men had me sign something for him and then I was on my way.
After leaving the Bund I visited the Oriental Pearl TV tower, a building that acts as the symbol of Shanghai, much like the Empire State building symbolizes New York City. The tower is the third largest TV tower in the world. My guide and I took a tour of the tower and the view was exhilarating from inside the tower, high above the city. I took some pictures of the fourth tallest building in the world and world's tallest hotel building, called Jin Mau. Jin Mau means "Golden finance". Our tour of the tower was brief as we had many sites to see and we were already approaching lunch time.
Next I was off to the Old City Town. The Old City Town is a festive place that houses shops, restaurants and is the site of a beautiful pond called the Lotus Pond with a garden-like feel to it. I took many pictures of the Pond, the beautiful Chinese architecture at Old City Town including a silly picture of me peering through the window of a famous steamed dumpling restaurant called the Hairy Crab. We could have easily spent hours at the Old City Town browsing through all the shops, but we had more of Shanghai to see so we were off to Nanjing Walking St. Nanjing Walking St. is to Shangahai what Broadway is to New York. At night the street is brilliantly lit by many signs and packed with people.
As the afternoon wore on we made a few other stops so I could get some photos. First we stopped at the People's Square (similar to the Boston Common), Shanghai Museum and City Hall. All in all, the day was so much fun and I was able to get many great photos of everything I described above. Now that evening was approaching it was time to head back to the hotel. Check back tomorrow to see what's next on my 'To Do' list.
Day 5 - Everyday Life in Shanghai
Day 5 in China was a very relaxing day for me. I am in Shanghai now and I had enjoyed spending time alone today, without all the photographers, cameras and reporters. Don't misunderstand, I've really enjoyed the red-carpet treatment, but I wanted today to be different. I woke this morning and decided to explore Shanghai by myself… without my interpreter or driver. Today was the first time I explored China without my Lucky suit on. Just me, Damon, in ordinary street clothes.
I picked up a tour map from the concierge and made my way into the streets of Shanghai. I walked aimlessly with excitement to see what the day had in store for me. My first stop would be a restaurant or cafe. Although the hotel has an incredible breakfast buffet, I wanted to venture out for my morning meal. Much to my delight I came upon The Rendezvous, a little American-themed cafe. The breakfast was just as I hoped it would be; eggs over medium, bacon, home fries, toast, a glass of OJ and a cup of coffee. The menu resembled that of any diner in Boston without any Chinese food. I knew this would be a cafe I'd be back to. I love the Chinese food here, but after 30 years of American food I wasn't ready to give it up just yet.
After breakfast I continued on my way, still with no planned direction. Seeing how the Chinese carry on their business was very enlightening. The city was much like I expected, just like any other big city in the world, bustling with businessmen and businesswomen, street vendors, less fortunate folks begging for money, men selling 'Rolex' watches for $20 US dollars, and plenty of traffic. The biggest difference was in the number of bicycles and mopeds that blend in with traffic. Also, the Chinese use carts to carry things like fruit, lumber, or pails of water that they get from hydrants on the street corners. I was amazed by some of the heavy loads that were pulled around. After walking for a couple hours, the Shanghai heat and humidity began to wear me down, so I set off for my hotel.
After returning to the hotel I spent some time by the pool reading a book. The rest of the day didn't include too much excitement as I just ate lunch, worked out and spent some time in the courtyard at night taking in an incredible view of Shanghai from the hotel.
Tomorrow my tour guide will take me around town to see the attractions of Shanghai, as Lucky of course, so check back to see what else Shanghai has to offer.
Day 4 - Traveling with the Knicks City Dancers
My fourth day in China, Monday, was a travel day. I was scheduled to fly to Shanghai with the NY Knicks dance team... actually, only six girls from the team (Christie, Jessica, Sara, Alexis, Jamila and Tranice). We all left our hotel at 6:40 a.m., arriving at the airport by 7 a.m. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 8:40 a.m. for what was supposed to be a quick trip to Shanghai from Shenyang, but we were in for a surprise. When we arrived at our gate we noticed our flight had been delayed. The Knicks Dancers and I sat at our gate with the other passengers waiting to board our flight, as people do all the time when traveling, thinking nothing of the delay. While we waited we talked, some read magazines or books, listened to music and browsed the shops in the airport -- your typical day at the airport. Eventually one of the girls even played an episode of the Cosby Show on her laptop to pass the time.
At roughly 9:30 a.m., one hour after our flight was scheduled to leave, two of the girls questioned why everyone, except us, had left the gate our plane was departing from. Yep, a once-full waiting area was now occupied by only the seven of us. Oh dear. Obviously, it seemed as though something wasn't right. The monitor displaying the flight number and city we were flying to matched our tickets and a 'delayed flight' message was still flashing, but I decided to check it out with the attendant at our gate. The attendant spoke as much English as I speak Mandarin...only the basics. After trying to understand one another for a few minutes, the attendant was able to get someone on the phone that spoke English. I was told there was a mechanical problem with the plane and they didn't know how long the wait would be. I said OK and asked if there were any other flights going to Shanghai that we could switch to. The woman said she could get us on a flight at 3:20 pm. I asked if there was anything earlier than that, expecting her to say no, but she said I'll call you right back. After a few minutes the woman rang us back and said she could get us on a flight at 12:20 pm. The girls and I decided to take that flight as it was now past 10 am and 3 hours of waiting was growing tiresome. The woman on the phone gave the attendant instructions to bring me to her counter to take care of the arrangements to get us on our new flight. I gathered the girls' passports and luggage tickets and was off to change our flight...we avoided having to go through the long security line coming back to the gate by only one of us going so I went alone.
I was now standing at a counter with a manager surrounded by much confusion and chaos as all the other passengers that were once at the gate I just came from were now scattered around the same counter as I, and growing impatient. By this time it was 11 am. I felt bad for the airline employees that were trying to redirect everyone, but at the same time I was happy that, for whatever reason, I was being attended to before the others...or so it seemed. After waiting at the counter for 20 minutes I began to think this was going to be a very long day! Representatives of the airline were now showing signs of complete frustration. Just then, I saw the dance team being escorted over to me. I was curious why the girls were being brought to me considering the idea of them staying in the terminal, at the gate, was to avoid going back through the security check point. That's when an airline representative explained that we were going to fly a different airline and we had to go pick our luggage up at baggage claim and take it to the other airline's check-in station. We weren't very happy about this, but the idea of getting on any plane in less than an hour was worth it.
Just then, I saw one of the NBA representatives and our emcee for the event in Shenyang checking in to catch their flight back to Beijing; where NBA China's headquarters are located. I ran over to them and asked if they could help us out. They were able to confirm all the details we had been given so the girls and I were escorted to our luggage; we gathered it up, proceeded to the other airline and checked our luggage in. After checking our luggage we were told we had to pay an additional fee of 1,070 RMB or approximately $125 for overweight luggage. Now we were getting as frustrated as the other passengers I noticed at the first counter I was waiting at. We felt we shouldn't have to pay an extra fee considering we went to gather our luggage ourselves and already paid an overweight luggage fee to the other airline. After trying to reason with the first airline to transfer the money we paid them for our luggage to the other airline, they finally reimbursed our money but wouldn't transfer it to the other airline. However, the other airline was charging us three times as much for the luggage. I did my best to negotiate with the airline to accept the same fee as the other airline, but they wouldn't budge. The girls and I figured we had no choice but to pay so that's what we were going to do when we encountered another twist to this mess. The first airline we were scheduled to fly on came over and told us the initial flight we were scheduled for was back up and running. They said the flight will leave at 12:30 and they would reimburse our overweight luggage fee if we would fly with them. ARE YOU KIDING ME??! LOL...
We had 20 minutes to make it back to the gate we started at and our luggage was still with the second airline! I said, "After all this, we'll take your flight if you can guarantee that our luggage will arrive in Shanghai without us having to wait for it", figuring it would never make it to the plane. Otherwise, we're all set. They guaranteed it so we were off to our gate.
After all this, we were headed back to the gate we had waited at for three hours to catch our plane. After gathering all our luggage, me having to negotiate to get our money back from the first airline and trying to reason with the second airline not too gouge us on the luggage fee, we were back to where we started over 4 hours earlier: our original flight at the original gate. We all just laughed and figured there was an upside to all this, we got our money back for the overweight luggage. =) Well, I guess it was worth it...
I'm happy to say the girls and I, and our overweight luggage, arrived safe and sound in Shanghai. Phew... what a morning. ;-)
On the move,
Day 3 - Final day in Shenyang; closing ceremonies
Hey Celtics fans, Lucky here with some great news... I finished my last day of performing in Shenyang and I delivered three of my best performances ever! I suppose the anxiety and excitement of performing in China had tapered off and I was more relaxed for my final day of performances in Shenyang, not to mention I was well rested after having a couple days under my belt and a belly full of delicious breakfast food.
The day started off with another delicious breakfast mix of American and Chinese foods. You may wonder what a Chinese breakfast includes? The menu isn't too surprising... egg noodles, lo mien, dumplings (steamed or fried) a pastry mix with soy milk to dip it in (sweet or salty soy - depending on your preference), sushi, fruit, boiled egg, fried egg, scrambled egg, cabbage, pork sausage, hard boiled eggs, stir fried chicken, fried potato... and some other stuff that didn't have my name on it, if you catch my drift. As for the American food; just picture your local diner that everyone goes to on Sunday morning that offers bacon, eggs, pancakes, french toast, ham, toast, fruit, yogurt and cereal. Keep in mind I was eating at a Five Star hotel so the choices seemed endless. Most Chinese restaurants don't offer all the American favorites for breakfast, but I was surprised to see a few familiar items at one Chinese restaurant I ate at one morning.
After breakfast I prepared myself for my first show. The show was only 12 minutes long and full of crowd interaction. I started off with my normal entrance including streamers being shot everywhere. I immediately worked in a couple dunks and transitioned into a half-court shot contest. There are many courts set up at this event, similar to NBA Jam Van in the USA, and this particular court allowed the fans to be up close and personal, which is why I thought interactive half court shots would work. I chose a handful of fans to take the shots, but nobody made one. Finally I stepped up and kept my streak alive by draining my shot. OK, I didn't make the first one but I drained the second. After making my shot I signed roughly 100 autographs and posed for some picturse as I worked my way to my van.
The second show was so much fun. I started out with two dunks, a 360 and a flip dunk and quickly prepared the crowd for Dress and Dribble. Dress & dribble was a huge success. As the D&D race was going on I managed to pull a Chinese security guard onto the court after swapping my hat with his. The fans laughed hysterically and the guard was such a good sport. You'd be amazed at what they let your bud Lucky get away with over here... let's just say I keep a full supply of FREE Celtics memorabilia to give away. Works like a charm ;-)
After the dress & dribble race was over I told the fans I was looking for someone to help fill my shoes and the Chinese guard looked like a good fit. At this point, the guard was at center court wearing my vest and hat while I wore his. I asked the security guard to follow my lead to see if he could fill in as Lucky. I proceeded to do a back flip and the guard's mouth nearly hit the ground. The crowd cheered the guard on to flip, but the guard had a different idea as he launched a half court shot and nearly made it. I had the guard follow me to the basket, I picked up the basketball he used to shoot and did a trick shot after telling the guard this was his last chance to trade his guard suit for the Lucky vest, but he was content to stay in his guard outfit. I hadn't planned using the guard in my show, but it's those moments that set performances over the top. I was pleased to finish with a flurry of flips before my exit, knowing the show was a hit.
My last performance of the day was part of the closing ceremonies and I was scheduled to do a 7-minute dunk fest, and a dunk fest it was! I did six dunks and a tumbling pass to finish. I made all six dunks including the under the leg dunk, 360, inverted reverse, flip dunk, Statue of Lucky and a long distance dunk over 10 people with their arms stretched to the sky. When I hit the last dunk I was on top of the world!! I had done it. I completed seven shows in two days and ended with a bang. I was so happy and relieved that I got through the first weekend.
Tomorrow morning I fly to Shanghai with the NY Knicks dancers. Check back to see if our trip was eventful...
My first full day of performances in China is officially in the books... and what a FULL day it was. I did four performances today and I'm so exhausted, but I had such a great time entertaining Chinese basketball fans that it was worth the effort.
My first performance was 20 minutes long. I opened the performance with some tumbling and then played dress and dribble with some unsuspecting fans. I then made a half court shot and finished with a fan favorite: some dunks. Because of the language barrier, I wasn't too sure what to expexct. Back home I am always the voice behind Lucky, but here I have to wait for everything I say to be translated. Although it is very different here, the shows ran like a well-oiled machine. The emcee for my performances is well-known here in China, and his presence alone creates a stir. The fans were full of energy, which helped me get through the show considering it was 90+ degrees and the event was outdoors.
My second performance was similar to the first and ran even smoother since I knew what to expect. I nailed my dunks and a Chinese fan hit a halfÊcourt shot, which sent the fans into a frenzy! I used my confetti cannons during the second show also, which was also a big hit.
Immediately after the second show (3 p.m.) I was rushed into a van that was waiting to take me to another location for a performance at a Jr. NBA China demonstration. This event was a complete surprise to me and the children attending the event. At this event there were 11 stations set up for children to practice their basic basketball skills, test their strength and undergo a health evaluation. It was my job to motivate them and have fun with the children and parents, and I didn't disappoint. =) I lead the children through 11 demonstations including jump roping, sit-ups, vertical jump, push-ups, shuttle run, shoot-around challenge, lay-ups, ballhandling, free throws, passing and defensive footwork.
After the demonstration I signed autographs for all the children before being rushed back to another NBA China event to perform my fourth and final show at 4:55 p.m. Fans, at this point I was EXHAUSTED, but I pushed through and completed a successful fourth performance.
After a long day of performing I did an interview for "NBA, Made in China". It was so cool! I answered questions like, "Why do you wear so much green?", "How do you like your first trip to China?", "Why do you sign #17 with your name?", "What do you think of NBA China" and a few more, but you get the idea.
Once I returned to the hotel around 6 p.m., I was sooo hungry and excited for some local Chinese food and it was delicious!
Time for this leprechaun to sign off and get some shut eye. Talk to you soon.
Day 1 - Shenyang Palace
Hello Celtics fans, this is your favorite New England mascot here... Lucky the Leprechaun! After spending a few months resting up after a long season, I'm happy to report that I'm back in action. I'm writing to you from Shenyang, China. I've been asked to perform at several events for NBA China and I thought it would be fun to document my trip for those of you who have never been 'lucky' enough to see the sites of China first-hand.
After a LONG 30+ hours of travel, I settled in to my hotel in Shenyang at about 2 a.m. I was exhausted from the long trip and thought I'd fall a sleep the second I got to my room, but I found myself having a difficult time sleeping. I finally fell asleep around 4 a.m. and was up a little before 8 a.m. I thought I would sleep for 20 hours, but the excitement of being in China for my first time had me up early and ready to give China a taste of your pal Lucky.
Since I wasn't scheduled to perform my first day in China, I decided to take in some of the sites of Shenyang. My decision of what o do on my first day was easy: I was going to visit the birthplace of the Qing Dynasty, called The Palace, so that's just what I did. Shenyang Palace is located in northern Shenyang, which is about 15 minutes north of my hotel. Celtics fans, this is one of the most spectacular historical sites I've ever visited! The Palace consists of over 100 buildings and 300 rooms situated on an area of 60,000 square meters, which is impressive considering it was built nearly 400 years ago. The architecture of the buildings is beautiful and the layout is as spectacular as you would imagine an Emperor's palace to be. Throughout my tour of the Palace grounds, I was somewhat of a 'sight' for many of the Chinese tourists. I was asked to pose for pictures with many people, in the most polite manner, so of course I did ;-) I knew I would probably turn some heads while in China, but flipping through the coutyard of the Emperor's quarters, Dazhengdian Hall, certainly made me stick out...LOL! You'd be proud! Yours truly is probably the first leprechaun to ever flip through the grounds of the Palace where audiences once gathered for imperial ceremonies. I was a big hit after that little stunt...hehehe.
After leaving the Palace, I made my way through the marketplace. It was quite an experience shopping in a marketplace with Chinese tourists and locals. I had a great time mingling and interacting with the Chinese people even though we couldn't understand what each other were saying. Somehow we found a way to communicate through silly gestures, head nods, smiles and frowns. After making a couple purchases I was 'lucky' enough to get an invitation for a personal tour of this unique little picture store. Upon entering the shop I was greeted with the best cup of tea I ever tasted... the offerng of tea and candy is typical in this area. After having some tea I was taken on a tour of this little shop full of pictures, no two being the same. These pictures were incredible, one-of-a-kind works of art. At first glance, the pictures looked like typical paintings of nature, but once you got a closer look you quickly realized the 'paintings' were hand-sculpted and made out of various types of feathers. The only thing I can compare these pictures to is the brilliant work of the famous painter Thomas Kincaide. I wasn't allowed to take any photos of the pictures or the shop where they were all hand made so you'll have to trust me when I say I've never seen anything like them.
As I left the marketplace I stumbled upon a quaint little coffe shop where I decided to relax over a cup of joe. I suppose the 'Luck o' the Irish' is truly with me because coffee shops are extremely rare in China considering coffee is certainly not the drink of choice.
I've included pictures of all the above mentioned activities that I think you'll enjoy and will certainly give you a better perspective of what it's like over here... especially for a leprechaun.
Tomorrow is my first day of performances, three to be exact, so I'm off to bed to rest up for my big day. Check back soon to get complete updates and view pictures of some of the wonderful site's of China and my performances over the next two weeks.