Monday, July 12, 2004

Amazing Grace
This weekend I forsook Shenzhen in favor of exploring some areas of Hong Kong outside of the newsroom, my neighborhood bar, sushi-to-go shop and 7-Eleven. At various times and in various - mostly muddled and befuddled - states of mind, I found myself in several different areas, one of which, Jordan, sported the most diverse two blocks of businesses I've seen.
There was the "Happy Home for the Elderly" lodged a floor above the "Scorpion Pub" - where presumably the elderly can go to get stung or even happier. Nearby was the "New LIttle Flying Elephant Portugese Restaurant" which was nudging "Cleaning Cat Service". Many pubs abounded, but religion and culture were not forgotten for those seeking more clear-headed enlightenment. "Millienium Research Institute of Cantonese Opera" was neighbors with both the "Universal Buddhist Merciful Center" and the "Bible Auditorium of Seventh Day Adventists."
On a more secular level on Friday night, I found myself later at a hotel bar listening to a Filipino male-female duo butcher Yellow Submarine, My Way and To All the Girls I've Loved Before while a country music-loving Brit and I extolled the virtues of Kris Kristofferson. Turns out he has a pal who runs an English language AM station in Hong Kong and he thinks I'd be perfect to host an hour or two a week on country music, beginning with Kristofferson. Whether it was the beer talking, I'm not sure but I promised him I'd snag some Kris from a friend or two in the States and give it a shot. And if anyone else reading this has a copy of The Silver Tongued Devil and I, or any other Kristofferson material they want to burn and send me, and if you want to be immortalized on Hong Kong radio shoot me an e-mail at and I'll send you an address.
Things got a little weirder on Saturday night in an area called Wan Chai. It was immortalized in The World of Suzie Wong and while it's reportedly somewhat spiffier now than in 1960 when the movie with Richard Holden and Nancy Kwan was made, let's just say that an unscientific survey indicated that many of Suzie's granddaughters are carrying the red light.
I avoided the obvious clip joints and found a psuedo-Hard Rock cafe decorated with vintage photos and posters of Hendrix, Fabs, Elvis, Sex Pistols, Van Morrison et al where I was chatting with a 55-year-old British insurance executive I'll call B who spends a lot of time on business in Hong Kong about the Red Hot Chili Peppers over beers as we admired Virgin Airlines stewardesses on layover dancing wildly on top of the bar. We were joined at one point by a lovely Thai woman who introduced herself to me as "Grace", though my drinking partner seemed to already know her. Grace introduced herself as an "artist" was extremely friendly, articulate and seemed very taken with my attempts at recalling rudimentary Thai phrases I'd learned while living there for a year as a child.
I got up to take a bathroom break just as Grace's arm had begun grazing my thigh. B followed. Standing at the urinal he said there was something he thought I should know.
"Sure, what?"
"Grace isn't 'Grace'.'"
"Grace is, ah....let's just say that Grace is more a 'George,' " he said softly. "In Thailand they call them 'katoey's' or 'lady-boys.' He - or she - is actually quite well-known in this area. Here's another hint. Did you spot Grace's Adam's apple?"
I paused. "Oh. No."
I paused again. "Yes. I think I'll pass. Thanks for the advice."
We returned to our seats and I began avoiding Grace's grasp and by-now very direct gaze and swallowed my beer quickly.
"Oh, look at the time! The MTR stops running in what? Twenty minutes? Gotta run! Nice to meet you B. And you, too, Grace." Then I fled.

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