Sunday, April 10, 2005

 
It's a Wild Weekend
C was out of town for the weekend on business and my options were:
1. Go to Shenzhen where her non-English speaking mother whom I've yet to meet and who is under the illusion that we do not cohabit has recently decamped for an unspecified amount of time.
2. Stay in Hong Kong left to my own devices.
I'll take 'Hong Kong' for 500, Alex!
Friday night began with a boy's night out, courtesy of a new Yank expat pal, Spike with whom I recently bonded due to similar ages, ex-marital fallout (we both have two ex's, Asian and Jewish) and fanatical musical tastes. We also blog, his is at http://laowai.blogspot.com/. Other than that, I am not from New York, have not jammed with Mike Bloomfield or driven Bruce Springsteen in a taxi nor do I live in incredibly well-appointed Hong Kong digs with two large, cool 'n' frisky dawgs, a live-in Filipina housekeeper and possess a video and music collection that would make the National Library of Congress gag with envy. I also don't work for an international entertainment conglomerate. But he's never helped haul charred wreckage out of Jewel's childhood bedroom in Homer, Alaska in 3-degree weather, either. But who would want to?
I digress...forgive me.
Spike and I and another Yank expat with entertainment conglomerate employment began slowly and darkly with delivery pizza and an unauthorized viewing of Sin City. I say unauthorized because it's not due for release here until June, pirate DVDs are scarce in HK and Spike downloaded it from some super secret crypto ranger Internet mystery cavern o' digital delights for our viewing pleasure. After that it was off to Wan Chai where, like picking from some demented menu we tried to decide on a country-specific nightclub. Did we want Indonesian? Phillipines? Thai? Native Chinese? We eventually settled on Filipina fare where we paired off with three more or less compatible companions for an evening of drinking, occasional quasi-dirty dancing and some low key tom-foolery.
My Saturday plans had included a 6pm meet & greet with an expat Brit I've yet to meet but who obviously has good taste in blogs, as he'd read SZ Zen and e-mailed me to introduce himself. Unfortunately, I'd screwed up his phone number and attempts to reach him were fruitless, and more so after my cell phone battery went south.
I'd also made a date for lunch and possibly a matinee movie with a Hong Kong woman who splits time between here and Canada, where she also holds a passport. She's a strange case. With an unlikely name, I'll just call her S and let you decide the rest.
We've since had one dinner and a couple or so lunches and S does most of the talking. She's 45 (looks younger) divorced, one 20-year-old child in college, apparently independently wealthy and extremely vain, neurotic, somewhat shallow, somewhat puritanical, quite judgemental and very lonely.
She jets between Vancouver and Hong Kong regularly and lives on the 23rd floor of a furnished service apartment in Central - a posh, bustling area that reeks of cash and privilege. Her money seems to come from her mother, real estate holdings, her occasional accounting work (she claims to have worked for fashion designer Vera Wang) and an Japanese ex.
I met her while drinking alone on my birthday at a bar favored by HK liberals, artists, gays, lesbians, beats, and the local "radical activist lawmaker" (as the papers refer to him) nicknamed "Long Hair". She embodies the notion of liberal chic - supporting all the right democracy causes, but treats the underpaid help at her apartment with almost dismissive disdain.
I find her a bit fascinating, not in a romantic or sexual way - even a general reference to sex in conversation has her diving for cover - but simply as a quirky character study.
Her favorite movies are the Tolkien adaptations, a 1990something remake of Anna Karenina and Phantom of the Opera. Like most of the rest of the airport bookstore crowd and much of Hong Kong, she's also currently fascinated with The Da Vinci Code and can't understand why I have el zippo desire to read it. And her interest in that has taken to another, earlier quasi-historical conspiracy-theory mishmash book involving the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail and from that she's decided she wants to "know more about the Bible and King Arthur."
"Well, they're both largely fictional," I said. "And King Arthur isn't in the Bible, as you probably know. But did you ever see Monty Python and the Holy Grail or Life of Brian? That might be a better place to start. More entertaining, at least."
The quip was mostly lost on her but after lunch when we scanned the movie listings, she couldn't decide between The Days of Noah, made by two Hong Kong evangelicals about close encounters of the supernatural kind during a search for Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat or Howl's Moving Castle, an anime adapation of a new wave fairy tale by British author Diana Wynne Jones, directed by famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyasaki.
Alex, I'll also take 'Howl" for 500, please. Just the thought of trying to undo the damage of what is yet another rehash of the 'Is Noah's ark, isn't it on Mt. Ararat?' psuedo-science flick gave me the heebiejeebies. But I've found that living in Hong Kong is often like living 20 or more years ago in the US. (Did you know, for instance, that it's recently been found advisable here that women over 30 should have an annual mammogram and pap smears are recommended for females over 40? Or that some developed societies have minimum wage laws? That too much salt can raise your blood pressure? Along with the Noah's Ark hoohah, these are just a smattering of "startling" discoveries just beginning to make inroads in "Asia's World City.")
Howl's Moving Castle was quite the contrast to Sin City and not an unwelcome one. Though it's comparing apples and meatloaf, it was effortlessly more original and elegantly animated.
But what really startled me was what I noticed S doing midway into the flick.
In the darkness of the theater, she kept her eyes steadliy fixated on the screen while her hands moved quickly, firmly, tightly and restlessly between her blue jean-clad thighs. If this was a Penthouse Forum letter, I'd throw in additional details along with how I reached over and my proud Love Trout jumped out and ... but, hey, there's nothing more to say.
I was somewhat unnerved and she just kept doing it, while occasionally quickly and tightly crossing and uncrossing her legs with her hands still between them as if she was alone, not in three-quarters filled afternoon theater showing of a family flick.
I was embarrassed, yes, but what does one do? Hey, uh, S, the restrooom is back there? Do movies about ramshackle wizard castles with spindly legs really turn you on that much? Finally she stopped, shivered a little and stopped, though the shiver-quiver could've been the air conditioning. She never made a sound and her eyes never left the screen. We left the theater as we entered it.
A trifle weirded out - especially given her near-Victorian social mores - I made an excuse for not having a drink and dinner and headed back home, thinking maybe SZ might've been a better bet. Not as interesting, but a little more stable and that's not always a bad thing.

PS Maybe I was right in my decision to stay. Turns out one of my favorite SZ shopping areas was also the scene of a massive anti-Japanese protest cum riot this weekend by brain-dead Chinese youth upset over new, little-used Japanese schoolbooks which many Chinese say whitewash Japan's occupation of China during the 1930s and early 1940s. Critics are angered that one of the books refers to the killing of more than 250,000 civilians by Japanese troops in Nanjing in 1937 as an "incident", rather than the "massacre" it is known as elsewhere. Protest signs in Shenzhen read, among other things: "Don't Alter History!"
Of course, the fact that the Chinese government itself officially refers to the 1989 Tiananmen Square "incident," omits all textbook references to it, and devotes only one or two textbook lines to the Cultural Revolution isn't 'altering history' or a 'white wash...' It's just, uh, selective editing. Yeah. That's the ticket.
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