Monday, May 18, 2009

Gotham City in Hong Kong

Image of a porter carrying goods by hand trolley and exiting an alley in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Dear Gentle Reader,

The last month was an e-interregnum for your humble scribe. It is good to be back, but it may take me a while to get into the swing of things.

The pre-programmed posts, during the e-interregnum, kept saying that I lived in Gotham.

Today I'll take you on a quick stroll to a Gothamesque alley in my town to explain what I meant.

But, first, let me clear up some potential confusion. At least one reader thought that I was claiming to be Batman.

I am not Batman and do not claim to be Batman.

I cannot be Batman because I have seen him, and not in my mirror when shaving.

Batman's a neighbour.

Yes, I've seen the caped crusader.

It was nothing good, though. I saw him in an unfortunate, unanticipated bit of voyeurism, through the window of a neighbouring building.

I hadn't realized that Batman was a neighbour.

And Chinese.

And possessing a hefty paunch...

He was in his Batgear underoos.


And his batmask.


Doing the Bat Love Dance...

...I am still trying to unsear that image from my memory...

For a week afterwords, all I could say was "Bring out the batgimp, Robin" in a mental flashback mashup of both Pulp Fiction and the camp 1960s Batman and Robin TV series (the one with Adam West).

For those of you who need more proof that Batman was here, I enclose documentary evidence.

Image of the promotional poster for the 'The Dark Night', 2008, with Christian Bale as Batman.
And now, back from the Batcave to Gotham and its sister city, Hong Kong.

What makes Gotham City so memorable, to your humble scribe, is the omni-present, visceral contrast between glitziness and grittiness, between good and evil, and between sparkling steel glamour and wealth and stinking cesspits for the underclasses.

Which is just like Hong Kong.

This was why I kept saying, in my pre-programmed posts during the e-interregnum, that I lived in Gotham.

My building is an unlikely bit of glitziness meant, I think, to appeal to new Russian oil wealth.

When I exit the lobby of my building I pass under a behemoth glitzy, black, glass chandelier imported from Murano Island, the glass making mecca that is part of the Commune of Venice.

I pass by a gleaming, shining stainless steel sculpture and say hello, and goodbye, to the staff in their uniforms.

Then I walk outo into the Hong Kong heat and onto the street.

Half a block later I duck into an alley as a shortcut to take me to the next major street.

When I duck into that alley, I experience the transition from glitz to grit.

Ducking into that alley I dive into the Gothamesque seedy underbelly of Kowloon.

Normally, in Hong Kong, people walk abreast of each other in a jumbled skein of legs and arms and bags.

Image of the narrow start of the alley in Kowloon, Hong Kong, looking backwards after walking in it for 30 metres.People wouldn't walk abreast for long in this alley, even if there were only two people.

At least not without leaving their skin on the dirty, rough walls, because this alley starts off very thin.

The start of the alley is as wide as one seat, with two luxurious, padded, calf skin armrests, in first class on an airline. Or as wide as two seats plus one armrest in economy.

The alley widens after a bit and then gets darker as the buildings hedging it in become taller.

At the opposite end of the alley the light returns and the alley even becomes colourful.

Vendor stalls line either side of the far end of the alley, where the alley opens up onto a large street and pedestrian thoroughfare; the garish, gleaming, neon lit, tourist-oriented Nathan Road.

A busy thoroughfare like Nathan Road means significant foot traffic, which means potential sales in a market economy like Hong Kong.

Image of the alley at the far end where it opens onto Nathan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong and where the alley vendors sell their colourful wares.Here, beside the busy pedestrian thoroughfare, the alley is brightened up with imitation 'genuine' silk gowns and robes and 100% handmade oil portaits, racks of gew gaws and, handily, luggage to store all your new acquisitions.

All these items line the walls of the alley, in the day-time, and are for sale as vendors try to beat the cost of Hong Kong rent by renting out the outsides of buildings, rather than the insides with their pricier ceilings and protection from the elements...

The rest of the alley, though, the middle, is grey and greasy and grimy and Gothamesque.

Which is great, to your humble scribe, because there is no bright without dim, no sweet without sour, no fresh without rancid, nor no perfume without rank odour.

Image of the alley, proper, in Kowloon, Hong Kong, near my house.
Without contrast there can be no differention, and my alley provides enough contrast to enjoy the finer things that Hong Kong has to offer.

I am all about the beauty of differences, so I love these alleys of Hong Kong.

I consider them my entries into Gotham.

Of course, I also have to agree with a six year old friend of mine, whom I was accompanying on a trip to the ballet and then to the park, when she looked at me very seriously, with a screwed up face and upturned nose, and she told me that my alley smelled bad.

She gave me the queerest look when I told her that that was one of the reasons why I liked it so much.

Despite their smells, and maybe because of them, I love these allies.

Where the tourists pass by these alleys are ambushes for guerrilla retail commerce "You buy now? You buy now! Very good! Cheap, cheap!"...

Further back from the thronging tourists, these alleys are homes for feral cats, cockroach overlords, and lesser cricket and ant serfs.

Hong Kong alleys let life fester and bloom, commercial and natural.

Gritty and grimy and sparkly and new.

This is my town.

Hong Kong.

Come visit and I might just take you to the good bits.

But we'll try to avoid the aging Batlothario in the neighbouring building.



Sepiru Chris said...

Hello All,

I just finished reading and responding to comments for the last month that I have been errant.

I am bit knackered, so I shall visit later.

And I will organize pics of Pommes for those of you who are concerned once he returns from his wellness clinic.


Sepiru Chris said...

Wellness Clinic?

You wish, buddy.

Wait till I get out of here and access the rest of my webcam photo files... We'll see who gets the last laugh then, scribe.

Wellness clinic.


Triple-max catnip slam, buddy.

Hard time.

Stringing raquets for trust fund kids...

We'll be talking...



How do I get my own avatar, box head?

Dominic Rivron said...

Funny how different two places can be. If I go out and turn right along the unmetalled road by the stream (the road to this house), I pass four houses in quick succession and then nothing but walls, trees, fields, sheep and cows.

However, farming is not unsmelly, so interesting odours there certainly are.

Jenn Jilks said...

Holy fornication, Batman!

Barbara Martin said...

All very interesting, Chris, and welcome back.

Cloudia said...

"I am all about the beauty of differences, so I love these alleys of Hong Kong."

Ah, you are a Scribe after my own heart! It's like Waikiki and grimy Chinatown - my Oahu, my home, my grit and beauty!

And you are a favorite blogger. Welcome back and watch out for Pommes. He seems dark and determined! Aloha

Travis Erwin said...

thanks for the look at the bat cave.

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Dominic,

Your alternate world sounds pastoral and bucolic. Lovely.

Dear Jenn,

No comment...

Dear Barbara,

Thanks, Barbara.

Dear Cloudia,

Two peas in a pod. And, yeah, I'm not sure what has gotten into Pommes, besides the catnip. Hopefully he'll be fine once it, and the shakes, are out of his system...

Dear Travis,

More than welcome.