Saturday, September 13, 2003

Strange days, indeed, mama. It's Sunday a.m. as I write this. Just dined in the "Western Hawaiian Style Restaurant" on the 42nd floor of this high rise newspaper cum hotel. The sign announcing that it is a Western Hawaiian Style Restaurant sits on an oversized white foam carriage, bringing more an American dinner theater production of "Oklahoma" to mind than anything Hawaiian.
I chose the Chinese buffet breakfast and leisurely consumed fried goldfish (not the crackers), sticky rice balls with mushrooms and onions wrapped in a leaf, bacon, rice noodles and warm Tang and coffee. Don't know what today will bring yet, but yesterday had some surprises.
I went with Mr. Tan to what will presumably become my new "flat" while I am here. It's a 5-10 minute walk from the newspaper and in a neighborhood that includes a small corner store (much like the Chicken Store from my teaching stint, but sadly lacking a chickent), two supermarkets, a 7-Eleven, many restaurants of all calibers and - directly across from the apt. is a complex that contains a tea house and a massage parlor.
"As you see, all your needs can be met," Mr. Tan said, leering just a little as he pointed out the massage parlor.
The apartment itself was something of a let down. I was reminded of friends who've struggled to find decent housing in NYC. The hot water heater, microwave and fridge were not working. No western style toilet. I was assured by Mr. Tan and the real estate agent and apartment manager (mostly in Chinese) that all these problems would be remedied. It was pointed out several times that the apartment is a lucky number. It's on the 17th floor. (1+7=8, eight being a "lucky number") and is apartment #44 (similarly, 8). It also is the only one with a door decorated with a cartoon character of a red and gold and blue cartoon horse.
It's basically one living room with the bedroom in the center. A small kitchen contains a two burner gas rings for a stove and exhaust and gas pipes that go out the windows, making it impossible to fully close the kitchen windows.
The bedroom is a fully visible self contained "room" between the living room and kitchen. surrounded by plexiglass, giving the appearance of some kind
sex club exhibition room. It has AC (working, mercifully) while the rest of the room doesn't. THere is one couch, a glass coffee table and cable TV (also working, but largely useless at the moment for my needs).
As Mr. Tan, the real estate agent and the mgr. babbled about my complaints concerning the faults of the place, and Mr. Tan went on at length stressing the advantages of location, location, location as well as the lucky numbers and the problems in finding anything else on short notice, I looked out the window at the bustling urban vista below and the sky scrapers on the horizon and the tea house and massage parlor across the street and I thought of Jack Nicholson in "Chinatown."
"Forget it, Jake. This is Chinatown."
Indeed. The whole country is Chinatown. Just roll with it.
I start work Monday a.m. and will presumably move in Monday evening to warm water, a working fridge and microwave.

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