Archive for September, 2006
Being in ‘the media,’ I often get invited to swanky Hong Kong parties in which I am horribly out of place. Tonight was such a night. Luckily, I had the company of my two colleagues — female writer, male designer — for the 25th birthday of Le Tire Bouchon, a French restaurant in HK’s snooty SoHo district. Ostensibly, the three of us were there for work-related reasons. Sensibly, we took the opportunity to gorge ourselves on salmon crackers, salmon dumplings, prawns, some pastry things that probably have a fancy French name, and wine. Entertainingly, it took approximately two mouthfuls of the spirit for our Chinese designer to become amusingly drunk. Us two gweilos had an interesting time trying to decipher what the designer meant when he referred to a “time area”.
The three of us — the two males woefully inappropriately attired: me with, as my female colleague described it, my ‘wallpaper shirt’; the designer with a ratty Nirvana T-shirt (the word ‘whores’ featured prominently on the back) — soon took refuge in a cosy corner, parking ourselves conveniently beside the nibbles, managing to avoid the attentions of our fellow socialites. (Note to non-HK readers: attend one of these parties and a photographer will snap you in between drinks; your photo will later be published in a trashy magazine, and you automatically qualify for socialite status.)
And then came the raffle draw. Now, with where I’m from, I’m used to meat-pack raffles for which you have to pay NZ50 cents a ticket. Here we received a free ticket on entrance and soon learned the top prize was a business class flight for two to Japan, return.
“I’m going to win that,” my fellow writer assured me.
“I’ll tell you what,” I suggested, “if you win, I’ll pay you more than retail price for the tickets.”
And then the bitch won. Her ticket number 18 — the luckiest number for the Chinese, I was reliably informed — bagged her the booty. Instead of being surprised when her number was called, she simply turned to me and said, matter-of-factly, “I told you I was going to win.”
It was the closest to true glory I had ever been. We resolved to not leave sober.
Later, someone high up in the restaurant’s hierachy kindly pointed out to my colleague that none of his regular customers — some of whom supped there every week — managed to take home a prize. Well, excuse me while I shed several tears for the plight of those wretched frequent consumers of fine French cuisine who missed out on a rare chance to haul their asses over to sushi-land for a lavish weekend. And just imagine the ignominy of losing out to a mere writer whose shadow has never — and now will never — darken the carpet of such an eminent establishment. Such a bad taste that would leave in the mouth.
Happier note: Check out this stop-motion animation music video set to the sounds of The Shins, created entirely by the hands of my imaginative and talented friend — and New Zealand’s next great music video director — Paul Neason.
Intriguing note: A 9/11 story with a difference. The curious and unreported adventures of Osama Bin Laden’s number one assailant who went on to become the head of security at the World Trade Centre — on September 10, 2001.
I’d forked out HK$60 for the palm-reading, but I couldn’t concentrate on what Mr. Fortune Teller (once “interviewed on TVB”!) was saying. My legs were too bloody itchy. Some invisible midget skin-nibblers near the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees forced me to break Mr. FT’s gentle grip every 13 seconds to scratch my epidermis clean off.
Not that he was saying anything interesting — or that I could fully comprehend his muttered broken English.
“Dead at 73.” (Not if these little fuckers biting my calves can help it.)
“Health troubles in your 50s.” (I can’t name a 60-year-old who hasn’t had health troubles in the past 10 years. Mind you, I don’t get around with many 60-year-olds.)
“Your business will do well, but you’ll have to work hard at it.” (Where did that gem of wisdom come from? Your ass?)
“Something like doctor… accountant… lawyer.” (No. No. No. Just because I’m white and in Hong Kong, doesn’t mean I’m doing something that’s actually going to make me money.)
Actually, though, he was a nice fellow, perhaps past his fortune-telling prime (a glossy brochure showed him in his glory days, resplendent in a crisp suit, perched at a desk in a modern office with a computer at his fingertips — by the time we got to him, he was doing business from behind a small wooden table in a dusty corner of a temple near the wishing trees), but jovial and easy-going. Indeed, he was quick to slash his initial $150 asking price on account of me and my girlfriend being ‘students’. Perhaps it was her influence. He did show a great interest in her palms, and even, towards the end of her reading, her foot. And I’m pretty sure I caught him getting a good read of her ass on her way out.
She was somewhat less sceptical than I was about the teller’s talents. “He only said good things, so it can’t hurt to believe him, right?”
And he was more entertaining than the two wishing trees. Both were fenced off for fear of falling branches, and to say they were non-descript would risk over-describing them. The major attraction, for instance, was so bland that, as we casually breezed by, I pointed to it and joked: “That must be it.” One of the handful of attendant incense sellers had to pull us back to it, managing to do some business in the process. She unloaded on us some sheets of red and yellow paper, rolled up like a script. We each bought two scripts. Under careful instruction, here’s what we did with them:
1. Wrote our names on each one.
2. On the first one, we each wrote down a general wish (although I think it was supposed to be related to bringing luck to our “family dwelling”).
3. On the second one, we each wrote down a wish relating to romance.
4. We then took three joss sticks and burned them at the altar beside the tree while half-genuflecting to the wishing gods.
5. Finally, we hung our scripts from hooks on a board. In times gone by, the scripts, with oranges attached on string as deadweights, were thrown over the tree branches . A few broken branches and bones put an end to that practice.
My two wishes were simple. The first was “To have a wholly sustainable ecological environment on planet Earth in which humans, flora and fauna can peacefully co-exist.” For the romance wish, I asked for “a partner who is compassionate, understanding, and good at cleaning.” I’m not holding out great hope for the first one.
Note: Congratulations; you have just made it through the first post on Hong Kong Ham, the weblog of a drifting rookie journalist. I look forward to the pleasure of your company for the unforseeable future.