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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.