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|Essays · Travelogs · Poetry · Comedy · Art · Digifilm||spring 2007|
How to Get to Me
Hong Kong, July 1996,
"So how do you find Hong Kong?" asked Gerri, on the overseas phone call from Manila for which he was paying.
"It's easy--the plane takes you straight there," I said, and then, after a beat, explained that it was a stupid joke.
Gerri: Filipino friend of a DC Filipino friend. He's based in Hong Kong. He & his lover were the only humans here with whom I was acquainted on arrival.
How do you find David?
It's easy. Take an aeroplane to Hong Kong. Get off. Get your things. Take a cab to some mid-priced hotel, stay a couple of nights, order sirloin steak from room service. On your second night, leave your hotel at about 2:30 a.m. to try to find a bite to eat. Notice a woman in a long, flowing, sheer black garment. She is walking the street. Be unsure why.
Next day, take the MRT (subway) to Causeway Bay station. There are ten million different exits at every MRT station, so listen carefully:
Roam around a while and eat at McDonald's. Notice that they don't have QuarterPounders there. Order a Big Mac, all the while wondering what it is you're doing that's causing your cashier apparent discomfort. Maybe it's because you're looking her in the eye? Is that rude in this Territory? Make a mental note to look it up in the "Etiquette" section of your Lonely Planet guide. Wonder if you're eating British Beef. Briefly amuse yourself with the thought, "Mad Cow Disease....Hey, if I was a cow, I'd be mad too!"
Then go to the escalator next to the three mannequins with shocking lime green hair and clothing and ascend to the next floor. One more floor up, and you're at ground level. Leave the building. Look around for awhile in a futile try to get your bearings. Head toward the busiest intersection in sight. Pass by the many shops of mushrooms, herbs and dried seafood that stink in ways your frantically working nosebuds can't keep track of. At the same time, feel the cooling relief from subtropical summer heat as gallons of fresh-pumped air-conditioned air cascade upon your body from the open "fourth wall" of every streetside shop. "Whaddaya gonna do--air-condition the whole town?" asks your father as you forget to shut the front door coming in from playing outside one sweltering afternoon.
"Hey, it's how people do it in Hong Kong, and it works!" you reply, twenty or thirty or forty years later.
Pass Wing Lung bank. Imagine a winged lung. Take the giant outdoor escalator-over-the-street thing. Don't forget to get a look at "Fun Fun World," which must surely be a fun place. Pass by a backlit street poster of a young Chinese man wearing a striped, tight-fitting pullover and looking like a sexy, pouting Asian Gilligan.
Here is the stretch where you will be offered many leaflets covered in Chinese characters that are completely incomprehensible to you. Gleefully accept them all, especially from those hawkers who don't really try to hand you one since you're an obvious gweilo [Cantonese for "farang"] and can safely be presumed unable to read Chinese. Take even duplicates of leaflets given to you by other shy hawkers whom you've met just 20 feet ago. Pretend to read each one earnestly, and make sure the hawkers see you--you may succeed in confusing them, and confusion is the beginning of wisdom.
Walk on past the leafleteer stretch to the middle-aged homeless man with the filthy, beat-up bare feet. Take notice of the young, attractive Chinese man near him, who is on crutches, is missing half of one foot, and seems rather out of it. Wonder why he is homeless; wish you could take him under your wing, offer him riches, restore his vitality. Do this, and you will undoubtedly get to me.
If you're of my ilk with regards to the appreciation of male Asian beauty, do not fail to notice the many shirtless men walking around, the sight of which will make you wish to offer them your own shirt: to some, as a gesture of kindness, admiration, perhaps as a beginning; to others, as an attempt to cover up their bulbousness or age-rattled skinniness.
When you get to the big Hong Kong Matsuzakaya store, turn left, to where you can see the "Vogue Alley" shopping area in the distance. Just a few paces past the corner, along the boarded up facade, and you'll come to the entrance of 27 Paterson Street. You'll see a dumpy, fattish older Chinese man selling newspapers and snacks. He will be saying something apparently to you, in Cantonese, but then you'll realize that he's talking to a nearby vendor. Please buy a South China Morning Post for me.
Take the fast elevator (the one that stops on only odd-numbered floors) to the top (17th) floor, turn right and right. Down the hall to the left you will see a huge, ornate, Chinese sliding metal door. Use the biggest key to unlock this door. Then use the middle-size key to unlock the conventional wooden door behind it. Go down to the end of the inner hall, to room 3. That's my room. Use the smallest key to unlock that door. Turn on the air-conditioner switch, and then come and sit down at my notebook computer and begin writing this e-log.
David SaiaDavid Saia traveled extensively in Southeast Asia in 1995-96. These travelogs were originally sent out via email to a select group of friends and acquaintances. The collected travelogs, now in manuscript form, are awaiting print publication.