Sunday, August 22, 2004


Every night I have an Olympics party. Live coverage starts at midnight, so I roll into my room with snacks and drinks (last night: saltines and milk-flavored Fanta (it's like a carbonated Calpico Water)), flip on the TV, turn up the AC, and fall asleep to China vs Korea men's doubles gold-medal table tennis.

I decided that my time here would be more productive if I picked up a book. PageOne at the Harbour Center ("Every book starts at PageOne") was the closest bookstore to Tsim Sha Tsui (jian sha ju in pinyin) that I could find. They have a great selection of books on China and Hong Kong, but none of them were on my current to-read list. The popular fiction section carried a limited selection of Haruki Murakami (no "Norwegian Wood"?!). Most of the Murakami books I have either read too recently, or didn't look interesting. The only two books that dind't fall into those categories were Jay Rubin's commentary on translating Murakami's work, and The Elephant Vanishes, a collection of Murakami short stories. Unfortunately for Rubin, his dreamy and florid style of writing is a great fit for translating Japanese but awful for expository writing, so the Rubin book was out.

But I just finished the childhood autobiography of CS Lewis, complicating the matter because it was so juicily full of thought-provoking material that I was compelled to browse through the Religion/Christianity section, where a book of CS Lewis essays grabbed my attention. Oh, what to do. Hong Kong is such an expensive place to buy things...

The decision was too hard. Both sides were evenly matched. I purchased the two books.

I've mentioned this before, but I'll reiterate that living in Hong Kong is particularly frustrating language-wise. Not only can I not be sure what language any one person speaks (only Cantonese? Cantonese and English? Mandarin?), but in addition, all the years that I have spent stockpiling characters has been rendered nearly useless! I can decipher the meaning of traditional characters decently, but when I read them out loud to a Cantonese speaker, the meaning is completely lost. Even a transaction as mundane as ordering something at a restaurant comes nerve-wrackingly close to completion, then falls apart at execution because I've been able to decipher the menus on the wall but I can't tell the waiter what I want without standing up and pointing. I've been relying a lot on the "I'll have what he's having" method. It produces above average results taste-wise, but the mental satisfaction is just not there.

Besides the two books, I bought some music. At the YMCA concert, I picked up Good Morning Gloria's goodmorningloria, and a business card for Panic, the record store for 89268 records. 89268 puts out CDs by local Hong Kong indie bands. Panic is a little one-room shop on the second floor of a Levi's shop on 西洋菜南街 (a hopping shopping street). They sell cheap T-shirts, magazines and CDs. The selection/saavy is not as great as Monitor Records', but I get the feeling that this is more of a community effort by some local kids without a profit motive. Anyhow, the store is very professional yet underground. I chatted up the girl at the register for a while in a mixture of broken English and bad Mandarin, and saw maybe half a dozen customers in ninety minutes. I ended up with an EP by inLove, another band that played at the YMCA, andthe Di Di Di LP by all-girl Beijing punk band Hang on the Box (挂在盒子上). Tonight there's a concert somewhere in Tsim Sha Tsui by a mainland band and local act OLIVER. The girl from Panic said she'd be there. I could get used to this scene.


At Aug 29, 2004, 8:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said:

are you still in hong kong? are you enjoying your stay/? i actually just got your comment, and yes, i've been back in taiwan for a few weeks now. its too bad though, i would certainly have enjoyed your company. something about eating alone in hong kong is horribly depressing, so i never actually ventured into any nice restaurants. which is too bad, becasue that may have been my last chance to eat good indian food. actually, i found a great place to buy bollywood dvds in the mens clothes market. you should check it out. also, have you read the new murakami yet? kafka on the shore... what a tease. they have it translated in chinese, but no english yet. of course, my chinese is horrible, so it wil be a few years before i tackle that. anyhow, just wanted to drop a note. my names james... from my new email is let me konw if you want a gmail invite, i have several. and... enjoy di di di, i certainly do,



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