Arriving in Hong Kong as the sun is breaking is akin to witnessing the calm before a storm. The eerie stillness foretells of the rushing avalanche of bodies and traffic that is readying to overtake the streets. In our jet lag haze we try to relish the pink skies while they last.
From our Bishop Lei Hotel room on a high floor our panorama is flanked on the left by the bear claw IFC2 building and the lightning bolt China Bank. Because Dan and I have been here before, we are able to get our bearings amid the building cranes and even manage to drum up the enthusiasm needed to coax our numb legs into descending and ascending the city’s many slopes.
At Mosque Junction we take the escalator passed Jamia Mosque as tiny kittens stretch themselves against the stairway leading to the turquoise dome. Citizens also begin rousing their limbs for the workday as we head down the Blade Runner elevated sidewalk corridors and then into the futuristic subway station to Metro Causeway Bay. On Percival street we feast on noodle bowls jammed with smoked pork intestine, pork paste, pickled vegetables and soy milk to finally erase the sludge of plane cuisine from our guts. We poke around Lee Theatre Plaza, needing Muji socks and wishing all the fashion boutiques of the area carried earlier hours. We understand: some artists need their sleep.
We metro to Sheng Wan district to discover that all the dried seafood hawkers on Wing Lok street are much more business savvy. Dusty herbal squids and ginseng sold in glowing jars spill everywhere the eye can behold. We walk up and down Upper Lascar and Cats street and Ladder Street and Hollywood road until our minds can no longer process the marvels of curious and antiques and medicines. There are certain moments when you realize your heart is just too full.
The 37° Celsius heat has us beyond sweaty in our ever-escalating ventures of Hong Kong street life but we ascend the side street of Seymour and onto the gracious shade of Robinson. Revisiting this city, we love to discover that we could love to live here. All the hanging laundry and buzzing air conditioners and glossy skyscrapers. Women with fans and facemasks. Men rolling their oil-spattered tank tops to reveal full bellies.
Having a father who lives in the Caribbean has granted me the knowledge that swimming is your bodies’ best cure-all. It only took a few too many nights of a few too many tequilas in my youth to learn that fully emerging oneself in the navigable depths of bathing waters was enough to counter the unplummable depths of one’s misery. In our hotel’s infinity pool, every hour of screaming babies and hostile flight attendants disappears. The pool is populated by Russians who seem to be combating their prior evening’s vodka evils and one overly tanned man reading Bret Easton Ellis who hasn’t learned the trick.
After a number of rounds we meet with promoter friend Justin in the lobby before heading to Friend’s Club rooftop terrace for an interview with HKTCS public radio about twosomes. An early drunkenness takes hold by the time Paul, another friend we met last tour, arrives with his Mohawk proudly inching higher than our last visit. Together we taxi to North point for a hawker’s style seafood market dinner, determined that devouring the ocean’s creatures could do the same thing for our bodies internally as swimming had done externally. Artist friend Adrian Wong orders squid ink pasta and mantis prawns and fried pork knuckles and bowls of Harbin Beer.
In an alleyway Bar called 71, we swap stories about fighting with celebrities, public heartbreak, nights at the Playboy Mansion, surfaced bondage photos and drug smuggling arrests. Adrian Wong wins (loses?) the general ribaldry.
Despite our earlier attempts to purify our bodies, Dan gets food poisoning. One too many mantis prawns?
HONG KONG. August 4.
August 4th starts early with Dan in choking pain. We spend most of the day nursing our food and booze and travel and heat hangovers though we’d planned to go to the South Side of the island. We are prevented by convulsive illness.
Rockschool is located in the Red Light district: Romance and Cock Eye and Pussy Palaces. Madams lazily fanning themselves on lawn chairs in front of neon lit sex parlours. Filipino and Thai and Malay girls in sequin skirts and garter belts, chain smoke and giggle amongst themselves.
Sound check takes a while due in part to our unlimber limbs and unpracticed songs (Dan having come straight from a Wolf Parade tour), but mostly due to a sketchy sound system. Once I manage to rig the drum machine through some SVT cabs we are finally able to reach a volume proximal to thunder. Just the way we like it: hurtingly loud.
We dine on pho, slowly carefully painfully and then, finally able-bodied again, we walk through the winding city streets. Hong Kong is one of the only cities I have been to where it is brighter during the night than it is during the sun-drenched day. All signage screams in fluorescent and dusty little restaurants are suddenly pulsing with colour and fire. Street lamps are abuzz in bright yellow and taxis whirr down every alley with flashing lights.
We return to Rockschool in time to watch Priest: Rogue attack the stage with Jay Reatard-finesse. We clamour on stage and barrel through a canon shot set. The crowd is a blur, monstrous dancing and moshing fists. We sell out of CDs on our first show of the tour and are swarmed by new friends and new fans. It is messy and loud and we are exhausted by the assault we’ve just given them and the one they have returned on us. We are so fucking lucky.