o c a t
. n e t
|Essays · Travelogs · Poetry · Comedy · Art · Digifilm||spring 2007|
Meet the Artist
Hong Kong, July 1996,
"Sorry I'm late," a harried but cute Edward says as he appears next to me.
"But you're here! And that's what counts!"
There were traffic problems on Pokfulam Road. We flee the heat; we're off to DeliFrance for grub. More talking, de-stressing for Edward, gradual getting-to-know for both of us.
"So you don't smoke," I say.
"Yes I do," he corrects, "Didn't you see that I was smoking at Club '97?"
"No, no I didn't even notice."
"What, are you saying that if you knew I smoked, you wouldn't have asked me out?"
"No -- not at all -- I just thought of it, since I saw someone behind you smoking, and I saw the 'No Smoking' sign next to you." When I return from getting silverware, I reassure him that the last two guys I've dated smoked. And I think to myself, man, white gay guys here must really be assholes to set up that kind of expectation in Chinese gay guys.
We head out to the Fringe Gallery, check out the photos, wait for a good while. It's 3:15. "Meet the Artist" was supposed to start at 3:00.
I ask the receptionist if the artist is coming. The artist, whom I only about 12% recognize from his self-portraits, is standing right next to her and hears me. She points him out, he introduces himself: Kary Ka-Che Kwok.
He and Edward and I so far are the only ones who've showed up. We go into the adjoining cafe, and he starts talking about his work, asks us our opinions. Here's my chance. I politely tell him of my reaction to "For the Rice Queen," ask if he's considered that that image is itself stereotyping. His response, though intelligent, is a little evasive, mainly saying that he just wanted to present these stereotypes to the larger community, to get them out in the open. He shows us lots more photos, from past exhibits, which he's carrying in two portfolios. Many show him in nearly-naked poses. They are art, though, mostly. Edward has never seen this kind of art before, and is a tiny bit taken aback. But he also finds them interesting.
Kary Ka-Che Kwok is very friendly, articulate, and sincere about his work. I find him pleasant and intellectually stimulating. Alright, yes, he's attractive too. As time goes on we're joined by a young Chinese woman acquaintance of Kary's, a fat old Cantonese-speaking man who, I can tell without knowing the language, is just sort of messing around with Kary. At one point, Kary quips something back in Cantonese, and Edward laughs. Finally, the old guy goes away. Several other acquaintances of the artist stop by and join us. Things get all friendly and chummy.
Kary asks all about both Edward and me, and even asks where we met. We're both shy and smiley, but Edward explains that we met only yesterday, at Club '97. "Oh, well, congratulations!" jokes Kary. It seems to me that Kary is 'hitting on' both Edward and me. Wacky. He gives us both his pager number and asks that we leave contact information in the guest sign-in book. I'm really, really hesitant to flirt back with Mr. Kwok, right there in front of Edward, and so I don't. In the book I just amend my earlier sign-in (which already included my mailing address) with a note saying that we met on the 20th.
Kary says, "It's Saturday night. What are you two doing tonight?" Edward has dinner plans with straight friends; I'm loathe to go out again, sort of 'behind Edward's back.' Besides, I'm a bit tired. We leave, Edward goes to his dinner, I go home.
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.