Thursday, August 27, 2009

What They was Doin' While We was in Karate Class

Here we go. It's been a while. As usual I have to leave the country in order to update my blog. Although this time it looks like I'll be able to keep it up for a minute. Right now I'm in Hong Kong in a room scarcely bigger than my mattress about to knock out and first thing in the morning I'm on my way to Shanghai. Here's the deal. I have been saving since senior year in high school to go on some big trip or something (read open bar in Beijing, work in Thailand etc. etc.). My life of leisure over these past months (years?) has become embarrassing and the point finally came when I had to be out. Fortunately around this time I met a woman who, just as I was growing fond of her, moved to West Africa and joined the Peace Corps. I'm skipping lots of details because I'm sleepy but ultimately, and thanks to a few Russian visa fixers in San Francisco, I decided to buy two plane tickets: One from SF to Hong Kong at the end of August and the second from Paris to Togo at the end end of November and make my way by train/bus overland thru western China, the Stans, Iran, Syria and Europe from point A to B. I have no itinerary whatsoever and only a vague list of restaurants to guide me.

Last night I arrived in Hong Kong and decided to stay in a hostel in a part of town I had never stayed in before. Hong Kong itself is booming. I heard from some locals that when the economy tanked the Hong Kongers took all of their money out of the international market and invested it back into Hong Kong. As a result there is construction everywhere and a smile on the faces of all the business types on the metro. Other than that not much seems to have changed. Mandarin seems more prevalent than ever and for the first time my Chinese was more helpful than my English. Also, there is some sort of ad campaign for footcare products in full swing so the subway stations are full of posters of beautiful women and bright eyed men with what look like crippling calauses and blisters. Before leaving on my journey everyone kept asking me what my favorite place in the world was and Hong Kong might be it. It is a crowded, towering and diverse city with a clean and convenient public transportation system and an unbelievably charming ferry. It has a massive, young, attractive, and vibrant English speaking population and some of the best food in the world. It's unfortunate that the entire population might soon be wiped out. You see whereas some hippies may look to nuclear proliferation with apocalyptic terror, in terms of earth shattering catastrophes I only really fear one thing, hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer (and sanitizing wipes, and disinfectant sprays etc.) are turning the human race into antibody-free lambs waiting around for one really bad case of the sniffles that will kill us all. When this happens, mark my words, the Hong Kongers will be the first to go. Here there is hand sanitizer in most stores and restaurants and in every metro stop. Face masks are distributed on street corners as loudspeakers warn you to cover your mouth and avoid anyone who may seem sick. I came to Hong Kong with my usual terrible cough and getting over a bad cold to boot so most people here eye me like I might at any moment stab them and they are considering whether to turn me into the police. If the hand sanitizer thing weren't enough, everything that a person might touch is accompanied by a small notice telling how often it is sanitized. The key pad to get into my building informs passerbys that it is sanitized every two hours, my entire elevator is sanitized every six and the elevator where I ate diner just says "sanitized constantly."

Anyway I digress, after checking in my bags I headed out to get my bearings. To be honest the Valium and on board bloody marys have rendered my memories a little hazy and my notes illegible. I do know that I ventured forth to find the spiciest thing I can eat, in order to clear my head and stuffed up ears, and was promptly menaced by a cross eyed mad man-vagrant dressed in tattered jeans and an "I am a master shotgunner in San Francisco" T-shirt. Eventually I found a noodle house and consumed a bowl of painfully spicy pork noodles. I assume I made my way back to the hostel because when I awoke it was one o'clock in the afternoon and I was safe and sound in my hostel-bed snug in my pj's. At least I thought it was the afternoon until I left my room and found the hostel attendants stretched out of the floor surrounded by pork bones in the pitch blackness. It turns out it was one AM so I went back to bed and watched Chinese infomercials for weight loss tea (odd) and bust enhancing bras (bangin) until the Dim Sum shops opened and I set forth for my first meal of the day. Again I'm skipping a lot but I ate the best Dim Sum of my life for about two hours, bought a map and wondered aimlessly in the 90 plus degree heat for most of my day until five o'clock when I had a meeting with an Asian travel magazine. The meeting went much better than expected and I left commissioned to write three articles on travel in Tashkent, Bishkek and Tehran. To reward myself I went out of my way to the North Point metro stop and walked to the Java cooked food market where I treated myself to a feast of spicy Sechzhuan shrimp, pork lung* braised in Chinese wine and ginseng and about fifty ounces of beer. Then it was back on the metro and to my waiting bed where I am now in a room that can barely contain my smile.

I'm not exactly sure where this blog is going but it should get better as the places I go to get weirder and I get more frightened and confused,


* A quick rant/theory on eating offal: I've discovered that when eating internal organs it is best to refrain from eating more of any one organ than your body already has naturally. When dining and I approach the equivalent of one whole liver or two kidneys I always find myself overcome with a sort of long lasting funny feeling. Not physically sick per se but more like I've been caught doing something naughty. Its as if my body is confused as to whether it is enjoying a meal or receiving a transplant.