Postcard 5

Issue Number : v
Date : January 26, 1996
Period Covered : 12/15/95 - 12/27/95
Current Location: Hiroshima
Future Stops : Kyoto, London, New York

The older I get, the more I don’t like to fly. They say half
the fun is getting there. I definitely don’t believe that.
When I am on a plane, I just want to get to my destination on
time and in one piece. Flying doesn’t excite me anymore. I
don’t get the same rush as I did when I was a kid flying for
the first few times. Even flying on the Concorde, I found the
flight uneventful. The only exception is flying into Hong

HK’s Kai Tak airport is said to be the most difficult airport
to fly into. The approach pattern that the plane takes is
breathtaking. HK airport is right in the middle of the city
and the pilot has to navigate over the tops of skyscrapers and
tenement houses. The plane’s engine exhaust helps to dry the
laundry lines hanging outside the apartment buildings. I have
flown into HK once before and that was during daylight. This
time I took the evening flight from Tokyo and the landing alone
was worth the price of my ticket. The glowing neon signs,
sparkling skyscrapers and the moonlight reflecting off the
harbour welcomed our plane like runway lights. Looking out the
window, the scenery was whizzing by but it felt like we were
landing in slow motion. If you want to experience this, you
have to fly into HK before 1998. They are building a new
airport on the outskirts of town and the current airport will
be scrapped.

Most of the cheap accomodations in HK are located in Chungking
Mansions, a huge building filled with hostels, dormitories and
guesthouses. My guesthouse was decent but the rest of the
building was a slumlord’s wet dream. Chungking Mansions has
fifteen floors and is divided up into blocks. Each block is
serviced by two tiny elevators. The elevators held 4 people
and would only stop on either odd numbered or even numbered
floors. The elevators were excruciatingly slow and always
crowded. Waiting 10 minutes for enough space to get on the
elevator was not uncommon. I walked up and down most of the
time. Luckily, I was only on the 5th floor.

The only problem was that the stairwell was used as a garbage
bin by most of the hostels. They would dump all their garbage
on the floor of the staircase landing. Someone would bag this
garbage in the middle of the night but you had to walk by it
during the day. Needless to say the place was filthy and some
rodents were always scurrying around. In addition to the rats
upstairs, there were low life sleazebags hanging around
downstairs. They were black market money changers and touts
hired by the hostels to lure customers. They were constantly
badgering people. A nuisance but relatively harmless. I just
ignored them. Eventually they recognized me and didn’t bother
me anymore.

HK reminds me of NY and that’s probably why I like it there.
The food is excellent. bars and clubs stay open late and the
streets are always filled with people. I really enjoyed my
first visit to HK four years ago. This time, since I was there
for close to 2 weeks, I started to notice things I particulary
didn’t like about HK. It is a little too crowded for my
tastes. You are constantly being jostled, pushed and shoved.
Also, the HKers are very materialistic and pretentious.
Especially the yuppies/chuppies. Everyone wants to show off
their wealth in jewelry, cars and clothes. Mobile phones are
so common even grandmothers on the subway whip them out. I
even heard stories of people buying self activating beepers and
having phantom conversations with their mobile phones –
anything to make them seem more important.

The concept of face is very big in HK. The materialistic
people here seem to think that money buys them face. So they
pursue money with a passion. People here are obsessed with
making money. They work long hours and afterwards they gamble
to try and make more money. Now I like to gamble too but for
me it is a hobby. Watching the HK people gamble was very sad.
They didnot look like they are having fun. From the local
mahjong games, horsetracks, dog tracks to the casinos in Macau
– you can gamble 24 hours a day. I went to a casino in Macau
and there was not a single empty seat. People were lining up
to get their turn at the tables. I did not place a bet at all
that day because the whole scene disgusted me.

While I was at the casino I was waiting for a friend outside
the restroom. Someone brushed against me and I looked up to
say, “Excuse me.” As I was doing this I noticed that she was
very beautiful and nicely dressed. I looked up and she turned
around. Our eyes met. She smiled at me and I smiled back.
She started to walk away but we made lingering eye contact.
After a few seconds I looked over her way and she was still
looking back. She made a motion for me to come over and then
she shrugged. I finally realized what was happening, shook my
head to decline and had a laugh.

Random Thoughts
Welcome Magarita, Chandra, Momoko, Niels, Andrea & Stefan!
During my stay at Chungking, I met Tom. He is a fellow NYer
who is circling Asia for a few months. We decided to travel
into China together right after Christmas. More about our
adventures in the next postcard.
I am a Chinese film fan and saw 2 movies in HK. The audience
ruined the experience both times for me. Beepers and mobile
phones were going off and there was constant chatter throughout
the movie. Shushing them did not solve the problem and I
confronted one guy outside the theater about his talking. I
asked him who he was talking to since he was sitting by
himself. He had no answer so I told him to do me a favor next
time and shut up so other people can enjoy the movie. I am
convinced that Chinese people do not know how to watch a movie
because I encountered similar problems with a Chinese family in
a cinema in Tokyo.
My room at Chungking had no electrical outlets. They hard
wired everything directly into the junction box. I had to
perform surgery on the wiring so I could plug my computer and
modem in. Those Swiss Army knives are a real livesaver.
I also stayed at the Shangri-La for Xmas. They were nickle and
diming me for everything there. They were charging for local
and toll free calls. To use my modem I had to connect through
a data jack, which charged by the minute. All this was free at
Chungking. I guess they think if you can afford to stay here
you won’t mind the extra charges tacked on to your bill.
There is a street called Birdcage Alley in Kowloon that is
filled with pet bird vendors. The Chinese are big fans of
singing birds and believe they bring good luck. Bird owners
spoil their prized pets by buying live insects for them to eat.
They also feed them honey so their throats will be lubricated
and their songs will be sweeter.
Last week was the one year anniversary of the day that I
resigned. Eventhough I was only conscious until 8 PM that day,
I remember being so happy. ** Gary – I know you wanted to slap
me because I was beaming and smiling from ear to ear. Sorry, I
just couldn’t help it. ** Thanks again for everyone who took
care of me that night and brought me home. I was a mess so I
know it wasn’t fun. Hopefully, I can return the favor someday.
One year down and a few more to go.
If you have long hair, creme rinse is a godsend. Good stuff!
Typing these postcards on my keyboard, I feel like I’m Doogie
** Greg – I met this Filipino girl in HK that wants to become a
nun. Probably the most wholesome girl I have ever been out
with. What happened to your Steelers? **
** MAO – TVM for the mail. I will be updating the disclaimer
soon. **
** Tony – I have seen Bandits here in purple and bright green.
I still like the fire engine red. They may also be a 250 model
but I am not sure. Any update on skiing plans? Try for the
first 2 weeks of March or anytime after April Fool’s Day. **
** Megan – Did u give the photos to Sabine? She called my
house and left her phone number but no message. **
** Dave – How was Aztec Camera? Not a bad way to spend your
last night in Tokyo. I saw a book about nightlife in Tokyo.
All your favorite haunts are in there: Mistral, Bauhaus,
George’s, Charleston, Geronimo’s, Motown. **
** Tracy – Be careful in Taiwan. With China’s threats, I think
you deserve hazard pay if you go there. **
** Craig – How’s the ski house? You should be long snow this
winter. **
** Rob – I wasn’t able to hook up with Lee. She lives on a
hutong and those are so hard to find. Maybe next time, I will
be more organized and write her in advance. I took your advice
and went to Sha Tin. I won the quinella (30 USD) on the last
race. Beginner’s luck. **
** Mark – Who was the girl that worked for GS and quit to fix
bikes in CO? I will be living in CO for a few months and it
would be interesting to look her up. **
** Dennis – If you want to put me on the web as an exercise, go
for it. I will be in NY around the 2nd week in Feb. We’ll get
together to discuss ideas. Maybe we can get a sponsor. Are u
experiencing deja vu? We had this same discussion at Beach
Blanket Babylon. How’s the Apple? I’m still thinking of buying
one, but with the takeover rumours I am taking a wait and see
stance. 3 hours huh? I think you should call Webber. :-J **
** Niels – I will probably take you up on your Kenya
offer sometime in 97. I was just talking about you and your
parents the other day. I was on a hike and met a grad student
from Kenya. I will definitely be in London the week of the
5th. Email me with your hotel or work number. **
** Julia – I’m sorry to say that I won’t be in that part of the
world in April, but let me know how your trip goes. Check out
some of those deserted islands for me. I plan on hitting
Indonesia sometime in late 96. **

Quote of the Day
to have a big expensive car
drag my furs on the ground
and have a maid that I can tell
to bring me anything
everyone will look at me with envy and with greed
I’ll revel in their attention
and mountains
oh mountains of things
-T. Chapman

The views expressed in this postcard are solely my own. They
may not be politically correct and may even be exaggerated.
Names may be changed to protect the innocent or guilty parties.
I do not have a spell checker so typographical errors will be
common. Reproduction or rebroadcast without the expressed
written consent of Major League Baseball is strictly