The day started out quiet enough, thinking about the world with my friend
and lecturer from Exeter, before we head out.
Rob was still asleep when I met him at his hotel at the Royal Plaza and Mongkok on the morning of our second day on the trip.
So we sat, looking at the city outside his window, drinking coffee, talking about life and writing, his novel in progress and my Brooklyn Tides, with its conversation about global cities, such as Hong Kong, where trade, commerce and culture intersect, sometimes clashing. All cities must cope with encroaching social forces. This is what it is to be alive. The question is how do forces of creativity, free speech, and expression cope with encroaching tides? These are issues with which the Hong Kongers have contended for as long as anyone can remember.
Walking, we encounter streets full of people working in shops, metalworkers, parents, kids. Some women want to take selfies with us. People give directions. The subways work much better than anything one sees in NYC. Its seems to work. There is general amicable vibe, none of the travel rudeness one often encounters on the road.
We grabbed the line to the Peninsula Hotel, the old colonial hub of Hong Kong. My mother stayed there in 1961 when she came on her tour around the world.
Lets not hang out with the colonials, declares Rob as we walk out. You see signs for the banks, the colonial remains from a financial center built on the Opium War.
Making our way to the ferry, we pass people sitting in the street, talking, hanging out. Some ask us to pose in pics with them. Rob tells me about the Cantonese influence on San Francisco. The world is coming together in my mind, getting smaller and smaller. I guess this is part of travel, seeing where things you’ve always loved come from, expanding on a history of ideas.
We buy a couple of tickets for the Star Ferry for a fifteen-minute ride across Victoria’s Harbor. For ages, they cost two dollars a pop. And people rioted when they increased the price. But the ferry is still a deal. We walk to catch a ride on the Peak Tram, Asia’s first fernicular, up to the Victoria’s Peak, a mountain in the western half of Hong Kong Island.
The queue will take an hour. So Rob and I decide to walk our way up. A policeman says it will only take an hour. It probably takes us two. Up the green trail we stroll, past majestic trees, following the steps of the trail up, up, up. We stop for coffees, chat, sweat, telling stories, hatching plans, sharing recollections of past travels, when Rob visited Texas and so on and on, up the trail. We pass a tennis court, where Rob imagines the colonial rulers had the workers carry the materials up the same path we are walking. The Governor’s mansion is in the distance. We look down on the harbor below in some of the most expensive property in the world. We stroll past 1 Chatham Path, “a grand yet graceful colonial style residence.” Check the cost on that when you get back, suggests Rob.
The prices are obscene
The prices are obscene
As the day unfolds we hit the spa at Rob’s hotel, swimming and chatting about this and that.
Rob has been preparing for a class he’s going to teach called, Philosophies of Faith.
You have to include the Letter from the Birmingham jail, I note, recalling King’s testament to faith and civil disobedience.
Our conversation meanders to questions about existentialism and bad faith
“…the habit that people have of deceiving themselves into thinking that they do not have the freedom to make choices for fear of the potential consequences of making a choice.”
We all have choices, options for living and thinking.
“As far as men go, it is not what they are that interests me, but what they can become,” notes Jean-Paul Sartre, outlining his central philosophy.
Rob taks about Being and Nothingness and the example of the “waiter who
does his best to conform to everything that a waiter should be. For Sartre, the waiter's exaggerated behaviour is evidence that he is play-acting at being a waiter, an automaton whose essence is to be a waiter.”
Its all a bit of a performance out there.
So we talked and swam and explored, looking at the sun go down on Hong Kong.
|In Hong Kong they feel the same way about beer as I do.|