Hong Kong VIII

Hong Kong vignette no.1: The rising sun cast a marigold tint over the Central District as I leisurely strolled along Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. There were few people out at this hour. Joggers made use of the cooler temperature. As well, other sleep-deprived tourists snapped selfies as the neon signage flickered in conclusion to a long night. I paused, taking it all in. At a different time, I would not be afforded the solitude to appreciate the spectacular view I now faced. 

And then, a noise.

The faint sound of music approaching.

As it neared, I recognized the instrumentation and, of course, THE voice. An older woman paused around ten feet from me also to soak in the glorious view of her presumed hometown. On her iPhone, she loudly played Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All". I remained still as well, thinking about how small the world is and how this moment, however pedestrian, would remain near the top of my memories of Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong vignette no. 2: Later in the day, I stood near the entrance to the mid-levels escalator with the intent of taking a picture of this unique urban convenience. As I posited the perfect angle, the siren call of hell's gate opening—or something similar—rumbled. It was loud. It was shrill. It was a tiny, old Cantonese man perched atop the biggest hog I have ever seen in my life as it blasted Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone". The contrast both amused and fascinated me. 

He stopped at the light while everyone in the vicinity stared at him with curiosity and awe. I could tell he enjoyed it. I could tell he was a rock star in his own mind. He revved his motor a few times for the crowd and smiled before driving away. 

"That's how you live life," I thought to myself. 

Thirty-something Vignette no.8

It was a late flight in. She was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to get home and relax. Rushing past the other arrivals, she made her way to the taxi queue and entered the first one available. It would be a 10 minute ride to a warm shower, comfy robe and relative serenity before slumber. After offering her address, the plump, bespectacled driver initiated conversation by inquiring where she was travelling from.  

"My hometown, Winnipeg."

"Oh," he replied. "lots of rednecks in Winnipeg."  

Well this should be interesting, she thought. 

The driver continued, explaining his reasoning ("It's bigger than Regina") and then attempted to justify it further by claiming Little House on the Prairie was filmed there. She didn't quite get the correlation. 

"I'm pretty sure it wasn't." she stated in a firm tone barely cloaking her annoyance. 

"Oh yes, someone told me."

He, like so many others, had never actually visited Winnipeg but felt the need to get on his soap box about it. She desperately wanted to interject with facts but the cab driver seemed to enjoy listening to his own voice. Not being able to get a word in edgewise, she gave up and stared out the window in an effort to avoid the nonsense. Her focus shifted to something that had been troubling her. A recent confrontation with a "friend" that had exposed the futility of placing trust in someone that continuously demonstrated they didn't merit it. Always trying to find the good in everyone was her cross to bear. 

If someone needs to plead that they are a good person, they typically aren't. 

If they were, their character wouldn't be called into question in the first place. 

Deep in thought, she failed to notice that the cab driver was taking the long route to her home.

Thirty Something Vignette: no.6

It was a Sunday night. They sipped cabernet while music provided soundtrack softly in the background. The conversation flowed from such weighty topics as the terror attacks in Paris to the economic downturn and how local industry needed to diversify. There was one subject she wanted to broach … one that she desperately needed consensus for but could be perceived as controversial. She waited until the timing was just right (not-coincidentally aligning with the initial buzz of inebriation): 

"Do you think Drake is hot?" she asked her friend. 

"Pfft. Of course he's hot. What kind of question is that?"

She explained her confusion and the debate she had entered into a few days prior. She always considered herself to have impeccable taste and standards. The judgement against this was enlightening, but, alas, proved premature. 

"You know, I have an acquaintance that looks just like Drake." her friend stated. 

Thirty Something Vignette: no.5

"Do you think he's handsome?"


"Really?!?" the boyfriend's face wrinkled in disgust while remaining somehow oblivious to the fact that her apparently questionable taste in men may be reflective of him as well. 

"Swagger goes a long way." she replied. 

The boyfriend let out an audible gasp of judgement. "I can tell by his face that he is a crap guy. He's a player."

"I'm aware of that." she smirked. 

As the debate over whether Drake was hot or not continued, the music video detailing a booty-call gone sour played as soundtrack in the background of their lazy Sunday afternoon, defining this epoch of modern dating. 

Chicago Vignette no.5

After taking an architectural boat tour of Chicago: 

"I cannot believe how beautiful the architecture is here. Wow! Just like you said, Deb, everything feels larger-than-life. The entire city is a work of art."

After sharing some photos I'd taken of Chicago:

"Wow, Deb! I love your photography. You have an eye for capturing things in a way that others don't see. You're so artistic … I wish I had that talent."

After visiting The Art Institute of Chicago: 

"This was one of THE greatest days of my life, Deb. Wow! I can't believe I was in the presence of so many great, historic paintings. I think I'm going to come back tomorrow. This is way more interesting than looking at buildings all day. These are actual masterpieces. There's so much to explore. I went through every gallery … except for photography. That's not real art."



Chicago Vignette no.4

Early in the a.m., I headed north of my hotel to Oak Street Beach, an actual proper beach on the shores of Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago. All finely milled sand and ambient skyline views, it was a quiet, scenic spot at this hour to escape from one's thoughts or, as I had chosen, meditate further on their meaning while taking in the symphony of the streets. 

Chicago Vignette no.3

Chicago has a number of restaurants that, bizarrely, cater to those who seek rude service and like to be insulted by complete strangers. I discovered this inadvertently the last time I was in the city and found a nice (or so I assumed) 50s-style diner to have supper at. Dining solo, I was completely unaware that Ed Debevics' "theme" was to be complete jerks to their patrons and watched in horror as those around me were singled out to be mocked in front of the entire restaurant. Thankfully, my waiter took pity on me sitting by my lonesome and made a point to let me eat my cheeseburger in peace. Big tip. BIIIIIIIIG tip. 

So why did I return during this trip to the Windy City? Well, I did recall that my cheeseburger and malt were really, really tasty. And also, my friend hates crude behaviour, fast food served with poodle skirts, and places where young children run rampant. This would be payback for all of the strange men she's tried setting me up with over the years that I've known her. 

Thankfully, she was so excited to be in Chicago (and so attracted to our waiter, "Thumper") that she had a great time. The singing, the dancing, the throwing of napkins in our faces and insults about our home and native land, it was a night not to be forgotten. Especially since it was, as we discovered, Ed Debevics last. Their doors closed the following night. No joke. 

Chicago Vignette no.2

"Are you two sisters?"

The man approached us as we were taking selfies reflected in the mirrored surface of Cloud Gate. He was older, probably late 50s, of short stature, and had a jovial manner to him. We weren't concerned that he would rob us or accuse us of being crackheads, so we decided to amuse ourselves and entertain him. "No," I replied. "but we get that often."

Quite often, in fact. My best friend, travel partner and accomplice in crime could be my sibling: we are both tall, share the same body type (and, conveniently, clothing), have wavy bronde hair and wear glasses (she sports the cat-eye, while I go for the standard-issue designer black frames). Only in personality were we antipodean: my friend is a truly free-spirit with literally no fucks to give about anything, whereas I am much more reserved, shy and cautious. 

The man seemed to appreciate that we were receptive. I suspected that he visited the site every Sunday to converse with strangers, probably women. He seemed to have lines rehearsed like a theatre actor, anticipating our responses in advance and always coming up with appropriate witty retorts. I learned he was originally from India and now lived in Chicago, teaching Pharmacy at a local university. He was well-travelled and talked of his favourite – and least favourite – cities in the world. 

"Paris is overrated." he ranted. "The people of France are so rude and condescending. Everything there is expensive because they think they are the best in the world. Who are they to think that? I will never go back there."

He went on and on (and on) about his hatred for the country and its snooty citizens until finally taking a moment to catch his breath with the query "So tell me, what is your favourite place?" 

"France." I replied.

Chicago Vignette no.1

In retrospect, it may have been a bit later than we should have been out. At least in that part of town. However, I was consumed with other priorities during the day and the only time I could show my friend the windy city's architectural wonders was after dark. We made our way through the seemingly deserted streets where occupants seemed to exist solely in the shadows of night. Naïveté was our virtue. 

"Look over there!" I exclaimed, pointing at a rat scurrying across the sidewalk just in front of us. "There's your big city experience right there."

We walked another block to South State Street when a man on a bicycle bumped into us. Deliberately and with force. He then shouted obscenities and proceeded to accuse us of being on hard drugs. Crack, in particular. An audience of souls blithely waiting at a bus stop nearby continued to be transfixed by their smartphones, clearly avoiding any acknowledgement of the conflict brewing in their midst. Perhaps they had seen it all before...

"Well, this will be interesting" I thought to myself.

Sure enough.

The man, clearly looking to provoke anyone or anything, dismounted his bike and threw it violently to the ground in front of us. The wheels continued to spin as he then paced back-and-forth pounding on his chest with all the bravado he could muster. I knew my friend had taken wen-do but I had no self-defence training. I scanned the area for a storefront that might be open. Perhaps a bodybuilder or two would conveniently be shopping there at this hour.  

We continued to ignore him and the man lost interest as quickly as he started antagonizing us. "There's your big city experience right there" I thought to myself.