Not all that long ago, he told me about the time he had fallen in love in Hong Kong; described reading novels together with his lover in bed; and about feeding each other mango pudding with a red lacquer spoon. When they could, he said, they would steal away to his room where they would spend afternoons making love after swimming. Then happily talking and long dinners.
To say that his story drew me in would only be an under-statement. For you will agree Dear Readers, that it is rare today to hear stories of a love affair. I mean, we hear all manner of complaints and about filing suit; we hear reports of all kinds-- relationship reports, the usual cost-benefit analysis reports; what I did over the weekend reports. But how often do people really talk about the delights of a love affair?
To speak of delight....
And, to listen in delight...it was like falling into a bd of rose petals-- and I could taste the mango pudding on my tongue.
I too fell in love in Hong Kong. In my case, though, it was Hong Kong itself that I fell in love with. And, it was for me, love at first sight.
Sitting in the back of a taxi from the airport, we headed toward Wanchai. It was back in the late 90s. The bridges and the water reminded me of San Francisco, but only even more beautiful. And the way the light was filtered through mist reminded me of the small misty valley where I grew up in LA. Mountains and water-- and sunlight veiled softly in mist. That was before I saw the harbor. When I got my first glimpse of that-- well, that was it. This was it.
Isn't true love not always like this, though?
Barthes describes this perception of perfection (of the Beloved) using the word "adorable!" The object of one's desire is loved in their entirety-- a state which no word can describe. And yet... for want of a better word, the philosopher calls this adorable! I call it perfection, which is only to say, I love you because I love you.
And just as I described here:
Perfection somehow fits perfectly in your hands. It is something you long to touch the moment your eyes rest upon it. And no matter how many times you see it, you always seem to find something new about it; something else to fall in love with. It never ceases to delight you, in fact.
And, in Happy Valley sometimes, waking up i the mornings there, I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. In the mornings, if ever there was a break in the traffic or the jackhammers, I would always hear the sweetest sounds of birds singing (escaped songbirds someone told me living in the trees)... there was the fresh food market and the flower sellers just like in Japan-- but better.
For me, though, Mui Wo was perhaps as close to perfection as it gets. The food (don't you hate people who can't talk about food?) the Bay; hiking up to the temple for lunch. Adonis loved it there and the little piggy toddled his way from dimsum restaurant to seafood place. We spent hours on the beach playing. For him, the trams, the subway, the train out to that famous pigeon restaurant up on the hill by China University, the Peak Walk, the star ferry, hovercraft to Macao....it was all his vision of perfection just like it was mine.
People often seem surprised when they hear about my feelings for Hong Kong. Several of the Readers of these Pages, in fact, have written to ask me, Why Hong Kong?
Even my tea teacher was surprised.
We were in her garden. It was May and the peonies were in bloom. Her famous, famous peonies. Brilliant magenta (in Japanese 牡丹色 peony color), each flower was larger than a small child's perfectly shaped little head. She had me holding the bamboo basket as she knelt down in an azure kimono to snip just one flower for the tokonoma.
"Yes, Hong Kong."
"But, it's all about money, isn't it? And Peony, you love art and music. Culture. What could you possibly see in Hong Kong?"
I had never thouht of it before. (Does anyone ever think of reasons why they are in love?) And so I just said, "Well, opposites attract, I suppose."
The other day, though, I realized something else about the city. Isn't Hong Kong, after all, the silk road city par excellance? A vibrant trade city-- just prior to the Handover, they said it had one of the freest economies on earth.
It's a funny thing about Hong Kong. Yes, like Japan, people are very brand-oriented. They like to show off-- fancy cars or designer clothes-- Hong Kong's infamous tai tais in head-to-toe Prada and Chanel. Vacationing in Japan. One could never keep track of the fashionable bar of the week. Hip restaurant of the month. And yet, I would not say that Hong Kong is about spending money. Nope. To me, Hong Kong was always about making money. Trade. Free trade. Trade without ideology. I also heard that a huge portion of the world's exports passed through its harbor.
Up the escalator in mid-levels, there is a beautiful synagogue. One of the oldest and most thriving Jewish communities in Asia was a part of Hong Kong's history. The Sassoons and the Kadoories-- you know. It is the stuff of fortune-amassing legend.
Vibrant neighborhoods which for the most part are mutually-tolerant--African, Indian, Expat ("We've been here 25 years and still don't know how to say goodbye in Cantonese...." they said on their last day before heading Home). Chungking mansions, Discovery Bay-- need I say more?
Old World cosmopolitanism that is never a melting pot so much as a huge bazaar with two-way trade serving as the main conduit between people. Like Leh, like Venice, like Ithaka,- Hong Kong too stands a city of dreams--positioned smack in the middle of pilgrims paths and trade routes that first crisscrossed mountains and then crossed oceans.
It is a city which is an end in itself.
And, it was for me, love at first sight.
See building a drone-proof City Upon a Hill here.