Next Week – Hongkie Town’s 10th Anniversary

It may be a bit hard to believe, but December 4th will be the tenth anniversary of my first blog post. I will be marking that date with a major announcement.

Back in 2004, I was addicted to blogs especially other blogs written by people in Hong Kong, and wanted to contribute with my own. I decided that I was going to write about my almost-nightly adventures in Wanchai and hold nothing back (except real names). So I launched the blog on Blogger. My first post started off like this:

Friday night. Well, after midnight so Saturday morning. My ex calls me from Malaysia. She’s drunk. She says we should sign the papers and go through with the divorce. Since she seems to want it so badly, I say no. Kinda like George in Seinfeld, maybe finally I have hand. And a man without hand is nothing.

And then it went into details about the rest of my evening, most of which was spent at Fenwick’s. It took about one week for Hemlock to notice me and include me in his blogroll:

New! Depressing! Not suitable for kids! Man goes to Wanchai pick-up joints trying to get laid, only to trudge home alone in the early hours. Night after night. Presumably, he gets lucky sometimes but is too exhausted or tasteful to tell us.

After that the hits just kept on coming. (I got my revenge. Years later we were sitting in a bar and I told him that I loved his “We Deserve Better: Hong Kong Since 1997″ book and that I keep it in my bathroom.)

Back then, I thought I had to supply new content on a daily basis in order to attract an audience. Since I wasn’t having “adventures” every night, by my second post I was also writing about movies, music, gadgets, basically anything that came to mind.

In 2006 I received an invitation to start the “Spike” column at BC Magazine, something that continued for about four years. I enjoyed writing that column and I enjoyed being somewhat “famous” in Wanchai.

But also in 2006 i started to question the wisdom of being so public about my nocturnal activities. I knew all along that if the company I worked for at the time was to find out about my blog, I’d lose my job. And for awhile I was okay with that, but as the blog increased in popularity, so did the risk level. So at the end of June 2006 I deleted everything and started over. (I thought I’d backed up everything before I deleted it online, only to realize several years later that I was missing about 6 months’ worth of blog posts from 2006.)

In 2009, I left Warner Bros., I started PASM Workshop with friends, and I moved the blog from Blogger to WordPress and its current location. I ported everything (July 2006 onwards) from Blogger to here, so all of those posts can be found here. November 18, 2009 was the date that I went live on HongkieTown.com.

By then, my life had changed in many ways. I was no longer at Warner, the company I’d hoped to spend the rest of my career with (until they decided to out-source most of their IT) and I was no longer spending my nights in Wanchai; at this point I was living with the woman who is now my wife.

Obviously these days I don’t blog as often. The landscape has changed and somethings that in the past might have been posted here were instead posted to Facebook or Twitter. And others just never made it … when I look at all of the posts here via the WordPress admin panel, I see so many that are drafts that I finished but decided not to post and drafts that I just never got around to finishing.

I admit I’m in a bit of a funk at the moment. I haven’t shot anything significant since the HK Tattoo Convention back in August, I abandoned my Hong Kong Women With Tattoos project, and I haven’t touched the guitar in a couple of months. I’ve been busy putting something else together and I’ll have more details on that next week.

You Gotta Love the Hong Kong Public Hospital System

What’s the best thing about the public hospitals in Hong Kong? In true Hong Kong fashion, it’s the price. It seems as if anything you need to get done there costs just HK$100 (approximately US$13). And, yes, you can pay using your Octopus card. I wouldn’t be surprised if a heart transplant costs HK$100.

About three months ago I fell down on Nathan Road. Okay, I admit it, I had been drinking (I hardly ever drink alcohol any more and as a result when I do, my tolerance is way down and I keep forgetting that). I was crossing the street, I stepped up on the curb, turned my ankle and came crashing down on my elbow. I could wiggle my fingers and toes so I figured that nothing was damaged.

The pains didn’t go away so after two months, I went to the hospital. They took two sets of x-rays, I spoke with a doctor and they gave me four or five different kinds of pills. HK$100. I had a small fracture on the bone just above my ankle; no damage to my elbow visible in x-rays. They also gave me a follow-up appointment 3 weeks later with an orthopedic specialist.

That follow-up was today. The form tells you that if you’re 15 minutes late, you won’t be seen, so be on time. Nothing there about what if I’m on time and they take more than 15 minutes to get to me. I was on time, even a little bit early. After paying my HK$100 I was taken to a waiting area with 30 seats and at least 60 people waiting.

After 75 minutes, my number was called. The doctor looked at my ankle and touched it once. He said no operation needed. He offered me some pills for the almost constant (minor) pain I’m in but I told him that the ones they gave me last time did nothing. I asked if they had anything stronger. No. Morphine? No. Medical marijuana? No.

Then I said, but what about my elbow, that hurts more than my ankle. He looked at it. He touched it once. He pronounced me a victim of repetitive stress injury. “Tennis elbow.” But I fell on it. Tennis elbow – what’s your job? Computer crap. Tennis elbow.

Okay, so what can I do about it? They can give me a splint. You mean like the support bandage thingie I got from the drug store? No, something a little bit stronger. So he gives me a piece of paper and off I go to the occupational therapy section. After ten minutes there, they give me a piece of paper telling me to come back in 3 weeks. I say to them, all I need is a splint, I can’t get that today? No. I’m in pain, I can’t get something today? Come back in 3 weeks.

And that is one of the reasons that private doctors and private hospitals continue to flourish in Hong Kong.  If you want to get an appointment the same week or you want a doctor to spend more than a minute with you, you have to pay. The public hospital system is over-burdened and constantly challenged by over-worked staff – there are continual shortages of doctors and nurses both because of budget constraints and also the inexplicably controversial issue of bringing in medical staff from abroad.

My company does supply me with medical insurance. And if I go to one of the doctors or clinics on their list, it’s often free. But my experiences in these clinics has been no better than the service I get in the hospitals.

So sometimes I’ll go see my own doctor, most often a Scottish gentleman with an office in Clearwater Bay. He charges between $750 and $1,000 a visit (my insurance will reimburse me around $200) but he’ll spend half an hour with me. And if the pains haven’t improved in the next couple of weeks, I suppose I’ll be giving him a call.

Beijing Made Itself Look Pathetic

Every now and then the Big Lychee blog has some bit of writing with which I fully agree and which I couldn’t possible improve upon. This is one example.

If the Chinese government had some halfway decent public-relations advice, it would have allowed the three Hong Kong student activists tovisit Beijing on Saturday. It would have given them a meeting and photo-op with a barely medium-ranking official from a vaguely ‘relevant department’, arranged a brief tour of the Great Hall of the People, and seen them off at the airport with a pat on the head and goody bags full of T-shirts and panda bear refrigerator magnets. In other words, humour them as a busy but generous-spirited mature adult would any naïve kids.

But of course, no. The Chinese Communist Party could never get its head around something so subtle. In a world divided between abject shoe-shiners and enemies to
be crushed – and nothing else – Beijing had to make itself look childishly vindictive. By barring entry to its own citizens as if they were undesirable foreigners, the Chinese government also blatantly contradicted its own official line that Hongkongers belong to the motherland. (Asia Sentinel has a good piece on how the insistence that Party = Nation is alienating younger Hongkongers and Taiwanese.) And by acting scared of a clutch of geeky teenagers, Beijing made itself look pathetic and the scrawny bespectacled kids look strong.

 

Clockenflap’s Just 3 Weeks Away

clockenflap

Clockenflap is Hong Kong’s biggest annual music festival and it’s just three weeks away.  The dates are November 28th through the 30th. It all happens at the West Kowloon Cultural District.

This is just a partial listing of the bands scheduled to appear this year – The Flaming Lips (will they bring along Miley Cyrus?), Mogwai, Tenacious D, Kool & the Gang, Chvrches, Nitin Sawhney, the Lemonheads, Travis, Nightmares on Wax, the Raveonettes, LTJ Bukem, DJ Jazzy Jeff and a host of other international acts, as well as somewhere around 50 local Hong Kong bands, including Noughts and Exes, Shepherds the Weak, the Stray Katz.

They’ve also got a special “family area,” screenings of BAFTA short films, a cabaret tent, all sorts of food and merch options, interactive art installations and an official after party at the nearby W Hotel.

Tickets cost $510 (Friday only), $680 (Saturday or Sunday only) and $1,280 (all three days) in advance, slightly higher at the door. There are also “premium” tickets that get you things like a shorter line for entry and access to a lounge. You can buy tickets in advance here.

 

I’ve got a fractured ankle so I probably won’t be going but I am sure it will be a fantastic event.

CDs for Sale

I’ve been collecting CDs for 30 years and music for most of my life but now it’s time to start clearing things out. I’m selling off more than 2,600 CDs and I’m asking just HK$20 each for more than half of them. I’ve got almost any genre you can imagine (except for death metal and polka) – rock, jazz, folk, classical, soundtrack, comedy, blues, reggae, world, even a bit of local pop.

You can see the entire list here. Or you can send an email to hongkietown at gmail dot com for the most updated version.

Tawdry Gossip to Distract From Real Issues

The SCMP must be delighted to have a lurid news story to fill its headlines instead of the ongoing Occupy Hong Kong story. (And, yes, I’m equally as guilty.)

For those who aren’t aware of this story, a 29 year old British, Cambridge-educated employee of Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong has been accused of the murder of two prostitutes. He lives in Wanchai, in one of the newer buildings along Johnston Road. Police were called to his flat where they found the body of a woman with multiple stab wounds. Eight hours later they found the decomposed body of a second woman stuffed into a suitcase left out on the balcony. It’s the biggest crime of its type involving a white person in Hong Kong since the Milkshake Murder more than ten years ago.

The identities of the two women have not been disclosed yet but it would appear that they were both women from Southeast Asian countries who were in Hong Kong on tourist visas, meaning that they were likely working as hookers in the usual Wanchai discos.

This inevitably leads to sidebar stories about how rich expats working in investment banks in Hong Kong lead lives of excess and debauchery. Here’s an article from an idiot who seems to be claiming that it wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t exercise any self control because everything is too easily available in Hong Kong. “Leaving Hong Kong saved my life.” Oh, puh-lease.

This one is somewhat better. Over on Business Insider, it’s from someone named John LeFevre (sounds like an alias to me) writing as “GSElevator,” “things heard in the Goldman Sachs elevator do not stay in the Goldman Sachs elevator.”

I do know that investment banking is a culture of pervasive deviance, particularly in Asia,” he writes. “Hong Kong is a tropical island masquerading as a legitimate city.”

I especially enjoyed this bit. “Before moving to Asia, I highly doubt Rurik Jutting was ever called handsome by anyone other than his mom. He’s what we call a “Twelve” – the term used in Asia to describe an ugly white guy with a young, attractive, usually paid-for Asian girl. He’s a two and she’s a ten.” I never came across that term before!

The thing is that both of these articles treat sex workers like objects and not people. And while it’s probably true that the men are also guilty of this, one would expect that a writer/journalist observing from a distance might take a more enlightened view of what’s going on. 

Most of the women who do this kind of work are generally doing it to support their families; their options often being to earn a few hundred a month in their home country working in a McDonald’s or a few hundred a night (if they’re good) in Wanchai.  They are daughters/mothers/wives forced into this life by the poor economies of the third world countries they come from, made worse for women by the inequality of the sexes that is especially prevalent in poorer countries.

So what all of this means is blame Hong Kong, blame the women, blame everyone except the putz who killed two defenseless women. At least that’s my take on it.

Wait a few months for the trial. Lots more breathless headlines and lurid tales to follow, I’m sure.