Monday, May 14, 2007

The Club

Travel has become a very big part of my life and I find myself alone (and far from home) most of the time. One of the most common “haunts” for me has become Hong Kong, where I am working to build a presence in Asia for my company. An interesting and wonderful thing happened during my visit here this week and I wanted to try to capture it. I have been to Hong Kong at least a dozen times and I know the city better than I do many parts of America. I love it here and if you’ve read any of what I’ve written, or listened to me for very long, you know that I have come to love the Chinese very much too. Still, this has been a city of work and my contacts here have been casual and professional. I feel as though I have finally moved past that and that I can now count a few of the residents of this island as real friends. I won’t name any names, as any association with me can’t be too good for anyone’s reputation, but I’ll try to describe what was an entirely wonderful evening.

There were four of us; two were ex-Pats that have lived in Hong Kong since 1980 (a Brit from Manchester, UK and a Sikh from the Punjab), one was born and raised in the colony and the fourth was your ignorant American Narrator. My British friend had gotten a membership into the HK Press Club twenty or more years ago and we met there for drinks. The Press Club is an old Colonial building (1911) and it reeks of character. There are still journalists who came to Asia to cover the Vietnam War that haunt the bar. We drank and began with conversations over the work we were doing…next steps and all that, when we began to settle into that wonderful state of being free to talk about things that mattered. We covered EVERTHING…politics, religion (eastern and western), spirituality, the state of humanity, books, movies, ourselves…

The intent was just a few drinks before we all went our merry way, but we became so engaged that we had soon decided to make a night of it and struck off for a good place to have dinner and greet the evening, ending up in Lan Kwai Fong. LKF is a particular favorite of ex-Pats in Hong Kong and the street is “alive” all day and all night! We had Thai and then moved one to one the dozen or so bars in the few blocks the district covers. We settled at “Insomnia”, which is a bar with no front and no door…it has the large sculpted stones columns of a castle with a low vaulted ceiling. The bar is open 24/7, so a closed front with windows or doors isn’t needed (they never close). The symbol of the place is a woman-bat kind of spirit (all very Goth). The feeling of walking right in off the street was novel. We continued our conversation and began to make the type of plans that friends do…hiking in the New Territories during my next visit, celebrations for when we launch our service, a ferry to Macau. Soon a band started playing on the street and people were dancing. I looked out from the bar and realized that the entire stretch was a solid mass of people (all having fun). I am pretty solitary for the most part, but I absolutely love a good “crowded” party and the whole scene reminded me of the time some friends and I spent an evening drinking on Duval Street in Key West. It was then that it hit me…these people were no longer just colleagues, but had become friends. I realized that I had real friends that shared a totally different life experience than anything I had known growing up. I also realized that this place, which was no more than an exotic backdrop to Charlie Chan movies for me when I was young, now seemed to fit like an old pair of jeans.

It was very late when I boarded the MTR train back to my hotel on Lantau Island…this has been a long trip and I am tired and I look forward to seeing home again, but I realize something else…I have begun to feel more than just happy when I am in HK, I have begun to feel content. While this is not yet home for me, I can easily see where I could make it my home and I know that a part of me will always be here.

Best! Norm.


At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Marlene said...

You write very well.


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