Sunday, October 30, 2005

Happy Birthday Free Bird
Last Wednesday marked my 53rd turn around the sun and I was able to observe it in extreme fashion as is my wont. It began with dinner with a woman I'd met recently while researching a story on Playboy's (to me) inexplicably huge popularity as a fashion brand on the mainland where the magazine and all things Hef-flesh are banned.
She'd launched and was the editor of the Taiwan edition of Playboy in the `90s and has since gone on make her mark as a playwright, poet, novelist and social commentator for mostly Taiwan and Hong Kong publications. Very witty, erudite and I found myself thinking it's too bad she's married to a creative, wealthy Romanian banker and I'm living paycheck to paycheck as a ink-stained tabloid hack and committed to C.
After that she left for her posh flat I was off to Hong Kong's only biker bar in to attempt an interview with some of the Mad Dog MC biker club members. I managed to engage the club's vice-president, a Kentucky native who goes by ``Mingo`` when he's wearing his leathers and not working as an engineer for a printing company in some idle talk but balked at his insistence that he be able to read the story before it's printed. A big no-no in journalism as I know it. Even while at the Weekly World News I never let the talking mermaid found in the tuna can see what I wrote before it hit the supermarket stands...
I found Mingo somewhat pretentious -- much more so than the wealthy Chinese biker/dentist I'd interviewed at the HK Royal Yacht Club. Despite Mingo's badass posturing (``We've been burned by the media before and no one will ever, ever burn me or my brothers again!``) I kept thinking: ``Hey, you've got a Master's degree in engineering and work 9-5 in a suit -- Sonny Barger you ain't.''
Halloween weekend was spent back in Shenzhen where my old paper was hosting a spook `n' ghoul party at a hotel. C and I went with me hoping to connect with some old coworkers, but the only ones I found were a woman whose name I'd forgotten and two others who were still somewhat puzzled and a little hurt over a light-hearted commentary I'd written for The Standard about Shenzhen's inflated sense of civic pride and the paper's shameless efforts to pump it up even further.
I kept apologizing and explaining over many beers but despite many attempts at explaining ``irony'' and ``satire'' I finally left it with the ``It's not funny if I have to explain it.''
C does not hold her liquor well, drinks rarely but had uncharacteristically decided to get into the two-for-one vodka spirit of the night. After watching her ride the Absolut bus for a little too long, I managed to wrest her out to another venue where she stole a hard plastic severed hand and arm used as a Halloween prop and began repeatedly jabbing it in people's faces screaming ``whooooo!''
It was mildly funny the first time, not so much the 27th time when she almost put out a large Australian man's eye with a fake bloody digit. But between trying to convince her to unhand the arm I did manage to get in some dancing to a US, Australian and Filipino expat bar band (a rarity in Shenzhen) that included Mustang Sally and Free Bird in their mix.
Never thought I'd want to hear Free Bird again but something nostalgic and far from home hit me hard as the Filipino guitarist did his best Gary Rossington and I grabbed my lighter, flicked it and waved my burning freak flag high.
The singer -- an American about my age -- took note and cracked up briefly.
A good night.
The next day C and I sloughed off her hangover in a park with a small picnic and on the way back I noticed a roly-poly middle aged fellow dressed in immaculately pressed and clean blue flannel pajamas and polished brown dress shoes selling corn on the sidewalk.
``We need corn,`` I told C.
``No we don't. We still have four ears at home.''
``Yeah. But we don't have any that I've bought from a guy in pajamas and dress shoes on the sidewalk. I must have it just to say I've done it.''
``You're weird.''
``And a guy selling corn in pajamas and dress shoes isn't?''
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