I took a walk

It was the first New Years Eve I spent at home in three years. I was making my way home from the other side of the city—it was about late afternoon. I decided to take the ferry– one of the few stable details in this shape-shifting city. During the ride, the sunset was saluted by a cacophony of fake shutter sounds as people raised their phones in cult-like unison.

Getting off the ferry, I was injected into a flow of humanity. It was as if some underground civilisation suddenly decided to join us at the surface. As it turns out, everyone had the bright idea of arriving a few hours earlier to get good spots for the fireworks display; the operative word there being everyone, meaning that they’d have gotten the same spot if everyone decided to come later. As it were, these people would have to spend the next five hours just… standing. At least it wasn’t summer.

One would be hard pressed to find a more fitting metaphor for Hong Kong. Everyone, everywhere (or at least, the parents of everyone) is possessed by a Nietzchean urge towards raising the next ubermenschen. In other words, everyone is finding ways of getting ahead since the natal care unit. One stellar example is a tongue operation some parents are putting their kids through so they will have a better accent in English. By removing a tendon connecting the tongue to the base of the jaw, said tongue would be ‘free’ to fulfil its full phonetic potential, resulting in a more convincing ‘th’ sound in English. I wonder if they’ve th-ought th-ings th-rough th-oroughly.

Tutorial classes, piano/violin lessons that shorten the lifespans of all involved, cram schools (which are different from the first item) etc. In the heat of the race we forget that the world is relative, and more often than not find ourselves lost in one throbbing mass of humanity, pushing forwards in search of a raison d’etre.

 

I gave up on land transport, and decided to walk home. On Nathan Road (one of the main roads in Hong Kong– most of the older and more important roads have names reminiscent of pomp, governors and Ceylon tea. Much like the self-styled elite in many former colonies.) On the way, I walked past a rabble of people surrounding a stage, on which teenagers (about my age) were doing half-hearted dance steps in time to an equally half-hearted chant of ‘yuud! yi! saam! sei!’ They were obviously rehearsing for tonight’s show. Unfortunately, Hong Kong doesn’t allow the luxury of preparation, and their performance was subjected to the harsh limelight of the world like a pre-mature birth. A fellow performer tried to salvage some dignity by beat-boxing, but his efforts died against the jagged edge of a dispersing crowd.

Walking along, one is reminded of the earlier protests that took place on these very streets. Faded posters with sketches of umbrellas and slogans– arresting details in a dream you can’t quite remember– were now plastered over with posters of concerts and ‘massage parlours’ (wink wink). Momentarily, it seemed that the schisms of a few weeks ago were plastered over. Such were the healing powers of a festival.

Then again, maybe not. In an act of unintentional symbolism, an old man in a wheelchair stood up and pissed on a wall plastered with protest posters. In the adjacent street, a group of yellow-clad protestor were amassing, which prompted a similar congregation of policemen. The standoff formed two islands, which people flowed through like water. What the two groups didn’t realise was that the real division lay between those who cared, and those who did not. In that sense, they were on the same side.

But there is hope. I was supposed to meet my friends later that night, but was running late. By the time I got onto the metro, it seemed likely that I’d enter 2015 in a dark underground tunnel. Everyone in the carriage was checking their phone, and there was a collective sigh when 23:59 ticked by and we were still in a tunnel under the harbour.

But then someone said. ‘Oh fuck it, next year then!’ and started a countdown. People joined in, smiling and murmuring, united in this unlikely collection as we hurtled into the receding darkness.

duinostalgia

I wish I
could go back
to that forgotten

patch of forest
we remember so
well where we’d

sneak away at
night to spin
threads of naïve

lyrics over broken
guitar strings and
shit wine our

eyes
burning fireflies flittering
with the world

in them like
the cackling fire
made from stolen

grocery store cardboard
and still-wet twigs
small but so bright

 

just a memory of a very special place

Food for thought

I like to think of myself as a foodie. Not in the ‘Oh my God have you heard about the new menu at Alinea? It’s like so (emphasis mine) innovative?’ kind of way. While I do enjoy procrastinating on various food-related websites ranging from watching a ‘Chinese chef kills crab’ video to Rene Redzepi plating a strangely appealing aged carrot at Noma, at the end of the day I just love eating and cooking.

 

It’s the comfort of knowing that if I sauté mushrooms on high heat, they will stay moist. The certainty that comes from knowing 180 degrees, 10 minutes is the magic combination for crunchy-yet-creamy-on-the-inside peanut butter cookies in our rickety, uneven-heating oven. In a world where most things seem to be in flux, these little morsels of certainty are what I cling to.

 

Combined with my tendency to get bored with places really quickly, which translates into lots of travelling, I fall into the ‘oooh what’s local’ caveat a lot of the time. Yes, I romanticize whatever seems local— that tingle of self-serving pride when I manage to find a ‘local joint’ that sold thirst quenching mango lassi does, I admit, reify a romanticized image of Indians’ daily cuisine. But I like to think that sometimes, I do manage to transcend the hipster obsession with the palatable ‘genuine’ and venture out into territory where my digestive system punishes me for.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually not squeamish with food. I’ve never really understood people who cringe at the way restaurants in Hong Kong display their live seafood so the customer can choose which unlucky fish/lobster/phallic looking geoduck is going to end up on their plate. It’s ‘vulgar’, apparently. How can getting to know the thing you’re eating be ‘vulgar’? I’ve had more than one friend recoil at the glorious display of stewed inner organs and intestine lining in street-food stalls in Hong Kong— while it may seem unappealing, surely it’s a more honest way of dealing with your food.

 

But I digress. My point is, growing up, I’ve had my fair share of ‘weird’ food, such as opening the fridge to find a bowl of squirming silk worm pupae, which just so happens to be one of my mother’s favourite dishes. I guess this influenced me to have one rule when it comes to trying out food— try everything, and always try it twice before deciding whether you like it or not.

I also have another belief—the good stuff is always on the street. If it’s fried in opaque looking oil, doused in questionable sauce and contain mystery meat, it’s usually pretty damn good. These beliefs, naturally, have led to many hours in the toilet in what can only be described as a transcendental experience. But it’s worth it.

 

You see, it’s not only about the food. It’s about the people you meet and the things that happen to you when you’re the weird Asian guy in the room who paid double because he’s too stupid to count the local currency. The nice waiter who offers to let you try different types of biscuits for free, the inebriated Croatians who take you in as one of their own and randomly name you Ivek (which, for the record, bears no relation to my actual name); the chef who gives you a bit extra when you tell him to split one portion in two so you and your friend can each have a bit more.

Sometimes, however, the quest to seek out what locals eat on a daily basis can result in disillusionment; in the process showing just how similar we are in our differences. More often than not, when I am fortunate enough to be crashing at a friend’s place, they will take me out specifically to try out the local specialities, which includes, of course, weird yet umami-packed street food. However, whenever they go out with their friends, with me tagging along, we usually end up in Mc D’s, the local Chinese, or some form of Italian restaurant with a cringeworthy name such as Ristorante Venezia. Local joints just aren’t da thing.

 

Looking back, the same thing applies to us in Hong Kong as well, to a certain extent. When we’re bringing people around, or if it’s a special occasion, we might end up in local joints. But more often than not it’ll be Mc Ds, a Japanese place, Korean BBQ, or some variation of café de Paris. It seems that everybody, at the end of the day, worships the strange. If we’re going by how often local people frequent a particular establishment, the neighbourhood hangover place with its oil-soaked chips will probably beat any ‘traditional’ establishment.

 

Why is this? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the way we are, always wanting to be what we cannot be. My obsession, among other similar things, with learning how to make pasta come una nonna puts me firmly in the guilty camp. Maybe it’s time for all of us to put back the ‘local’ in ‘local joints’. Until then, when I’m travelling next time and feel the urge to ‘eat like a local’, I will feel no compunction in seeking out the guidance of the warm yellow light, like that of the desklamp in your grandfather’s study, emanating from those ubiquitous golden arches—  the symbol of a truly global local establishment.

 

rose ritual II

 

took surgical tongs
to a dried
rose aged dull 

 

purple heavy in
swan song lullaby
petal by petal

ice-frost fragile
tender yes no
yes no yes

no

‘can’t you tell
you can’t kill
what’s already dead’

Day 5 of National Poetry Month’s April Challenge. A poem a day is actually getting quite hard! Hope you’re enjoying it.

ritual I

 

its shell
on an altar
absent priests chant

a northern incantation
in harmony with
the wind(’)s howl

white dandelions
erect
around its pedestal

a stamp-sized
butterfly
yellow empty

the northern wind
catches its wafer
wings fluttering

a mighty
crescendo
to life

 

The Blobbing Fish.

Day 2 of the National Poetry Month April Challenge (a poem a day). Please support by sharing, and even better, do the challenge yourself.

 

 

poster I

 

ENJOY

The small
things in life
like the relief of
a good piss golden like
the sand on which you stand
marvelling at the sun out at 7pm

 

So I’m trying to do the April challenge for poetry month- a poem a day. Hopefully some good stuff will come out. Show your support by sharing and following 🙂 

 

The Blobbing FIsh.

 

 

daddy’s coat

daddys coat used
to be a
treasure trove

of secrets
that he’d show
me bit by

bit the sweet
shoved in
the top pocket

the Gameboy
to make me
shut up

daddy was never
one for
affection

hugs were a
foreign notion
his coat flung

onto my bed
as he yelled and
mommy screamed

I’d hang it
so they
had somewhere

to sit after
their stupid
loud bouts

my father’s coat
grew bigger
as his shoulders

slacked and him
older when I
left we didn’t

hug my father
is not one
for affection

always stoic talking
about serious ‘Futures’
but last winter

when he was
coming back
from work

he dropped a
pot plant
as he was

crossing the road
from my window
I saw

my father stoop
and scoop the
little plant up

into his coat
pocket amidst the
honking and come

back to our flat
‘help me out’
he said

we re-pot the
plant and he
flung his

oversized coat
onto my bed
as I hung it up

I could have
sworn
it was warm

The Blobbing Fish.