A few nights ago, I sat with my husband and listened to a fabulous Eagles concert ‘Live from the LA Forum’ on the TV. It was brilliant, actually far better than an album. I’m not sure one can say that about bands that often. And so many fab tunes to hum along to. Six guitarists on stage. Amazing. My husband is a guitarist, so can relate to the musical complexities, ‘Life in the fast lane‘ being one of them.
One of their last numbers in the encore was ‘Desperado‘. When I hear that, it brings back many memories. I’m immediately transported back to Wan Chai in Hong Kong in the 90s. Or Wan Sai as we’d fondly call it. If I ever took a taxi to Wan Chai to meet my husband, it could be a challenge. I would request Lockhart ‘Lou or Dou‘ (Road/Street), then tried Jaffe ‘Lou/Dou’ (Road/Street), ‘Mm goi‘ (thank you). Unsurprisingly the driver would never understand that or my ‘amaigo dai ha‘ (a building name). I knew expats who made some language faux pas. Mine being more unintelligible. And one by a Pastor during a prison visit at Shek Pik. But that’s their story to tell.
Taxi and Pinyin
So ‘nido‘ (here/stop/this) it had to be. As I resignedly prepared to navigate a bypass as a pedestrian. There would be lots of raised eyebrows, hissing ‘ai ya‘ (you’re annoying) and ‘faai di la‘ (hurry up) and get out of the taxi! And if you didn’t have change. ie. Hk$20. FIREWORKS!! Often from me. Hong Kong can make one a bit shouty! The best one at Pacific Place taxi rank. On that occasion I had an audience of giggling barista/s looking on from a coffee shop. I had a short fuse there, many times. And HK taxi car boots are always full of piping, buckets, you name it. Forget any luggage!
Apologies for my dodgey pinyin!
Back to Wan Chai. A busy business and factory outlet, market district by day. With the tram screeching through to Causeway Bay, busy local food outlets and amazing bargains in rice, clothes and tech. Along with Rosewood furniture businesses to be found trailing back towards Central. All accompanied by the heady aroma of Durian fruit. Once inhaled never forgotten!
By night, Wan Chai transformed into a hubbub of bars, noise, music, drinking, booze ups, sticky floors and mayhem. And what a mix of bars. From Pubs, Bars, Irish folk, Blues, to the more seedy girlie bars. Eugh! What was a feminist to do. I’ll be honest, if I ever had to go past these in the day time to get bromides done (yes, pre-email) for a Christian publication I was involved in producing. I’d wanted the means to rescue these women from this avenue, but never did! Yes, Hong Kong is/was a place of contradictions.
Mainly I’m reminded of the Monday Night gigs at Dusk till Dawn in, you guessed, Wan Chai. Often too tired and busy with little children. The ‘mama don’t goo‘ as I rushed to prepare to catch the *9pm ferry to Central, tugged hard at my heart. With our helper snuggling them into bed. Yes, I had a helper. You had to, living 1,000s of miles from family.
[*The only other passengers on a 9pm Monday night ferry into Central were builders and chicken wings! ‘Ladies and Gentleman – please do not eat on the lower deck‘. (Initially in Cantonese then translated for Western benefit.) But they did! And who could blame them. It was a bit breezy upstairs.]
With husbands/partners having to work 36 out of every 24 hours. Along with having to fumigate the apartment, every few weeks to expedite the exit of termites! Yes it was that demanding. Anyway, I honestly wanted to go to bed and sleep. I had to be up at 6am!
But Dusk Till Dawn was a friendly place. We were always made to feel very welcome. They had an amazing resident Filipino band. And I mean amazing. I don’t think they had a wealthy existence there, because of who they were. Isn’t prejudice a lovely thing, not! Don’t get me started on the imbalance of HK. I seriously struggled with it.
The gigs we played consisted of my husband, his guitars, his voice, a sequencer and my voice. We also played at The Wanch (particularly sticky floor) and Carnegies. I had a mixed relationship with Wan Chai. (And Lan Kwai Fong, but there were some nice restaurants there and it was a bit more relaxed.) I didn’t really like it, but I’d go because I wanted to be with my husband and sing, but the whole area made me feel a bit nauseous I’ll be honest. I liked a party, but not there. The air pollution levels didn’t help either.
So getting back to The Eagles. They’ll be tapping their nails on the bar by now!
The Eagles – Desperado
When I sang Desperado, seeing all the Western expat folk out on a Monday night (late) mostly out solo, made me sad. But I guess at least they had choices of somewhere to go. These thought also ran through my mind.
- Just arrived in HK
- A broken relationship
- A partner away on business
- A bad day at the office
- An alcohol problem
- Was I overthinking? Very possibly.
- None of the above
I don’t know. And I’m not suggesting they were the definition of Desperado either – ‘reckless criminal’.
I’m also not being judgey. At that time there was no social media or instant messaging. So it would have been letters written on paper or an occasional very expensive phone call home. To the UK it cost about £1.00 per minute!
I met so many people who didn’t and couldn’t cope with the transition to HK. One stranger I stopped to chat with planned to leave after just 6 weeks. They just couldn’t take it. And I myself wouldn’t have settled well without some dear people and their outreach. Well one dear person in particular, who put a massive effort in for a few of us newbies who were clearly struggling to adjust.
So, I sang Desperado to those in the bar/club. I guess that’s what happens when you’re singing in worship on a Sunday and then encouraged to ‘Go out to love and serve the Lord‘, then you are in the thick of it the following night. A dichotomy! The audience were probably silently thinking ‘what’s her problem and why does she keep looking at me’. Oh well, I cared. I’d been lonely there once. It was a city with quite a few lonely expats. And I should have invited some of them to church.
With the chosen closing melody complete, we’d then pack up, dash for a taxi, then ferry, then bus home, to let the sitter get home. I’d ring them from the bus then literally run to the apartment door, as the bus did it’s loop. And they’d dash out to catch it on the way back round. It was about 2am and we didn’t have cars where we lived! Hot chocolate, toast and bed. ‘Life in the fast lane! What a place of anomalies HK was. Well, for me it certainly seemed that way at the time.
Thanks for the memories Eagles! It’s been a great distraction during some bad pain days.
Thanks popping by. It’s good to get some writing done again.
Have a blessed day.
I hope to record this post as a podcast soon.
Here’s a link to my latest podcasts
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