Monday, February 21, 2011

More than two weeks later, that’s the last of the entries from Hong Kong.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Proof (above) that I’m the only person to go into the Louis Vuitton store and make a purchase solely of books.

Since there is no shortage of affluent, ostentatious consumers in Hong Kong, we had to wait in line to be let in. We tried to tell the guard we were just there to see the art, but we were directed back behind the ropes, with the wealthy rest.

Finally inside, we saw the selected works by Murakami and Hirst. In the half hour we spent there, not one other shopper came to see the art. I indulged in the in-store bookshop, picking up art books for the coffee table I don’t have.

Then I left with a little brown bag, smiling as foolishly as all the other tourists on the street.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gold fish and sad turtles

On our way to the clothing market we walked past Gold Fish Street. Fish hung all over from wooden walls on the sidewalk in their plastic baggie homes. We pushed our noses up against the plastic and said hello to all our friends.

Under them were tanks, rocks, plants, and food. Everything needed to create an aqua world. With a step into a store we discovered the turtles, piled up on each other’s hubcap shells.

Four turtles snuggled into a small wood box, nowhere to move. One stuck his face into the corner, and pawed his feet at the wall’s edges, trying to escape. Grateful for own ability to exit, we left the store, hopeful to not return.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Art in its place

A wise man once said art should not be in museums, but truck stops. That’s where it’s needed, can find its purpose; preach not the congregation, but the crowd. The Hirst show at Hong Kong’s Gagosian was closed for the New Year, so I instead found my art in the retail space.

Billed as the world’s first ‘art mall,’ K11 has stands for sculptures, frames for paintings, and a second-story exhibition space. It also has Jil Stuart, Levi’s, FILA, and Clarks. Birds fly wings open over the entrance, the long lost Lego cousins of the Eaton Centre. Under it, a Mona Lisa made of toast. And tucked behind the final step of the escalator, a row of glass clouds to toss the eye past, become the bird in sky.

In a Starbucks designed by Goods Of Desire, more art. The specialty shop is half traditional Chinese teahouse, half contemporary coffee joint. The walls of the teahouse are trophy cases, containing classic Chinese kitsch.

Unobstructed by pockets of change is the art sketched on the street. So the clown of time watches me walk by, as does the tubby man letting go his balloon of joy. And way out in the New Territories, on the edge of urban sprawl: two naked nobodies, stripped down to nothing, holding hands, and full of love.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The old walls

Four old ladies sat on plastic seats next to the entrance gate. We’d found the right place. The walls of Kat Hing Wai were built during the Ming Dynasty back in the 1400’s. Inside is mostly new. As we leaned into the gate to see for ourselves the aging guards chanted Cantonese from their chairs.

We tossed coins into the hat and were permitted in. The walls that had held to British Invasion are now crumbling in the battle against time. The homes of some four hundred of the clan inside have all been renewed and replaced. We peaked inside their windows and saw black and whites of dead relatives and New Years gifts to the gods.

Peering in on their wet laundry and turned off TVs I inserted stories into their domestic lives. Cats skipped by as I conjured dramas to take place inside the family homes. A blue bicycle lay against the wall, a butcher’s knife in its basket. I picked it up and pointed it at Joyce, leaning in incase the residents could hear.

“Strangest. Tourist attraction. Ever.”

Monday, February 14, 2011

I’m a rules guy

Hong Kong is supposed to be the part of China without all the rules. But take a look at the signage: no urinating, spitting, playing, clamoring, climbing, dog poop, or music.

No, this is not a free for all.

Ten thousand Buddhas

That Friday I finally got my answer: the monks eat the fruit. These six months of visiting temples, I’d wondered what happened to the gifts at their feet. Did the fruit below the Buddha’s belly eventually rot, inviting flies around?

No, they eat past lunch in the afterlife, as good in their bellies as in the dead. Sometimes though, there’s too much for the temple’s residents to feast. That’s why, Joyce’s uncle told me, he slips his oranges in his pockets after they’ve served in ceremony, to be eaten back at home.

I ask my silly questions on the walk up the hill. We hadn’t known the stack of stairs would reach so high, got to the top out of breath. All up towards the monastery are the golden characters of stories from ancient times. At the summit ten thousand six inch Buddhas, glowed in the dark prayer room.

Felt the light happy on my face, and very, very small.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Park song, edition 11

An extra early check out provides time to explore. The gate to the Observatory is closed with a guard. No bother, make way across the street to Kowloon Park. Watch a man read happy on a bench.

The skyline pokes out behind shadow trees draped to the ground. The flamingoes scatter lazy pink feet across the pond. The silver spinning sculpture shines in the morning light. Sneakers turn corners in the maze of shrubs; then disappear into hiding places in the park.

Resist the urge to lay head on backpack and snooze into a rest. Point toe north east and skip underground.