9 months later
i watched a typhoon walk towards me, smiling, with a djarum in its mouth. the weather here in hong kong is a cocky bastard, a humidity with sweaty arm pits, a rain that moves like a prize fighter, like a wrestler, pulling at your ankles, holstering you upside down. it was a mistake to wear my new shoes to work.
for a year, perhaps, if this cubicle doesn't get to me sooner. i'm an architecture assistant, worker number 272, on floor 22, of number 213 queen's road east street. and i work overtime. and the best part about work is the leaving, the closing of the elevator doors, squeezing between the metal security gate into a closed-up fish market, where families sit outside just to sit outside.or maybe because their apartments are cramped, and they got no place else to go.
i ran into wing on the subway yesterday. i missed my train to causeway bay so i caught the later one, turned several wrong corners towards several wrong exits, paused to look at a map to get my bearings, made a complete 180, rushed to a random escalator and suddenly i hear "BRUCE!!!!!"
wing is getting off the escalator as i am getting on, so we chat in the middle a crowd rushing in and out.
duuude. i just had dinner with mom, chiu chao (spelling?) food. dude i ate so much, a lot of taro, but you know you gotta have the taro. taro everywhere in hong kong.
i was an airplane pilot once, and i used to have iggy pop's "passenger" on repeat in my cockpit. one day i flew through an elephant shaped cloud and got a cherub's harp lodged into my propeller. i had to evacuate immediately so i tucked myself into a rubber duck hidden in the cargo bay and leapt off the plane, spinning at the speed of sound, singing but nothing coming out of my mouth. only when i plunged into the south china sea could i hear my own voice catch up with me, audible underwater, a bedtime song dancing through the teeth of a shark about to swallow me whole.
so i was feeling lonely, and i spent some extra hours at work to keep busy. a work friend scolds me:
"hurry up and learn Cantonese, man!"
i tell him i'm trying, and point to a piece of metal on a table.
"how do you say that in chinese?"
"we call that 'luie' (aluminum.) it should be easy for you to remember, we pronounce it the same say we pronounce 'girl' ... 'luie' (girl!)"
"mm, perfect, because they can both be so cool sometimes. "
"no. girls aren't cool. they're quite warm."
do you still want a cockroach tattoo? because today i saw a giant cockroach. an saw it too, and she got scared. brian played it cool.
so wonderful that you and my aunt fell in love. i only got to spend a night and a day with her in new york, so you probably know her better than i do by now!
new york felt like a kiss on the cheek at every street corner, man, it was love, sometimes strutting around feeling cocky sometimes walking at half-steps, feeling so small in face of it all. hearing about my aunt brings me back there, her living room, so warm and lush, the street she works on, snow white in the springtime, but a sly smell of pizza and honey roasted nuts.
that button room, maybe that's how i imagine your future home, and by then you're old, and tired of photographs, and you just keep buttons on you walls, and each button a story, a person you fell in love with on a subway ride somewhere, an eight year old who told you a secret in a garden while eating popcorn.
my architecture job here in hong kong is a fistfight, no gloves, just bare knuckles, and a lot of black eyes. a fleet of 100+ sailors, each divided into their own ship, tackling its own monster project, a stadium for the 2008 olympics, a mixed use neighborhood that will replace a historical district of central hong kong, a high-tech college in the country side of china. me, i'm in a small ship, just the 3 of us, so i get to do a lot of different things. like design a façade of louvers for a sports club by lunch, layout plans for a fine dining restaurant by dinner, and figure out where escalators go in a shopping mall during overtime… it's like learning the tango, the breakdance, and the shuffle at the time, three records playing at full volume all around you, and you're not wearing any pants.
but hey, it’s fucking fun.
the other day i walked into a small corner take-out restaurant and wondered if faye wong would pop up and sing hotel california. maybe i watch too many movies. head in the clouds, i'm gonna get hit by a car one day, i think.
today it was "sunflowers," set in inner mongolia, in what could be the biggest sunflower field in the world. after the film i sat down with the director and a few other audience members in a library and we talked about music and road trips
these days… i've been wondering about my future a lot, pick-pocketing my childhood for clues about what to do, two of my favorite people at work are a pair of pilipino architects i eat fried chicken and nuts with it every other week, they are in their forties, former punk rockers now domesticated and corporate. one likes to talk about pilipino poetry (the balagtasan), and his 8-year old who is writing a war novel. the other likes to talk about toy cars, and his father-in-law, who's in a hospital in the Philippines. i tell them that i like poems too, and that (trying to over-compensate for my age) i think death is a bit like going home, for the deceased, and the people who loved her.
they just nod, like they've heard it all before, and continue eating, one of them wonders out loud about the guitar, and mentions that he never had a talent for it. i think, i feel the same way about architecture, about writing. i take another bite and wonder about that city on the horizon, blinking at me, just a nap away, and about that record shop, just around the corner.
missed opportunities, the last trip i regret not taking was a flight to Vietnam last October to see my friend Lisa from Orange County, she was in town for a medical mission and invited me to come along with her, visit towns around Saigon, I said, yes, at first, but balked when I found out I was broke.
the first trip i regret not taking was a flight to Paris, Spring semester, Junior year. It was for a funeral, my mom and all her sisters (two from Torrance, two from NY, one already in Paris) and brothers (one Swiss, one Parisian) and extended family (almost all continents) went. I didn't because I had midterms.
when i drop out of something i absolutely feel like doing, i hear Jimmy in the back of my head whisper, "you'll regret it." the next morning, i see his face in the mirror, he's shaking his head: "i told you."
i'm adding Harbin to the list.
i hope your life feels like you've survived a 5-lane car wreck on the 405 freeway, shattered glass, twisted metal, and oil picking up the shine of the sun all along the tarnished concrete, and somewhere in the distance, you can hear a car radio rock an ibrahim ferrer song.
glad to hear that you're journeying to europe soon. i hope you get lost out there, and end up in some gas station in the countryside, drinking coffee out of styrofoam cup, you don't know where you are, but you're having a nice conversation with some stranger. one of those chance friendships that make this life worth living. just two people, in the middle of nowhere, both coming from somewhere far away, and going someplace else entirely.
and wear aviator sunglasses. you'll thank me later.
so i was watching a video today about toyo ito, and he was talking about how the space he is sometimes most interested in is the void between two words, and i thought, yes, mmm, i like that.