THAT LIT, LIT LIFE (with global characteristics) 6 (of 14)

Good morning. It’s a day for an air walk on that lit, lit sojourn. Coffee? Here’s the view above my tatami mat, one of Liu Zhen’s “Landscapes of the Mind,” a lacquer painting.

Liu Zhen is a talented, and unusual, young (b. 1970) Shanghai-based artist. Unusual for his patience in one so young. Working with lacquer takes time, and making each of his works reflects a discipline of process.

But let’s step out the front door. Hong Kong Island’s due south straight ahead.

And the roof of my rooftop squat is under the Lion Rock.

What do you mean that peak doesn’t look like a lion’s head? Okay, a meatball then, the “lion’s head” 獅子 頭 of Shanghainese restaurant menus?

But we’re going to air walk to my new space in the Creative Media Center (CMC) on the hilltop at City University of Hong Kong (a.k.a. CityU). I can just see it from my rooftop, that white, geometrically wacky building in the center.

Zoom in? A tad hazy but so are our skies these days.

Anyway, time to takeoff from the nest and go there. The CMC is a daring structure for our city of oblong clichés. Designed by Daniel Liebskind, the architect who did New York’s Freedom Tower. =

Check out his global characteristics. The man has a thing for complicated geometry.

The Run Run Shaw Creative Media Center – its proper name – is one of three new buildings in CityU’s expansion plan and opened officially in October last year.

Who is Run Run (Sir Run Run, please)? If you must ask you obviously haven’t kept up with your Hong Kong movie history – Mad Monkey Kung Fu, Shaolin Rescuers, Street Gangs of Hong Kong, etc., etc., and so forth.

Shaw Ren Leng 邵仁楞 (his birth name) established and runs a gigantic Chinese media empire. Donates billions to charities, universities and hospitals, which is why so many buildings in town sport his name. The newly rich in China today could learn a lesson in philanthropy from the man instead of all that laundering and over-conspicuous consuming they seem so fond of.


Things are a little more formal here, which can at times be rough on a lit, lit air traveler. Hence, “Professor.” Call me Chaos (and Generally Disarrayed).  What’s in a name, after all?

Desk mess.


Pardon me while I daydream and stare out the window.


# Musical Interlude #

Daydream” by Duke Ellington, performed by Johnny Hodges.

Well if it isn’t the cocktail hour already. How time flies. Come, my Muse awaits us on a rooftop across the harbor.

By way of introduction, a little back story on my Muse (isn’t there always a back story???). The first time I met her, she was lurking in the shadows on my bedroom wall in Tsimshatsui by the harbor. I was six and had no idea who she was. Despite a certain literary precociousness (I had memorized “Red Riding Hood” by around three, turning the pages at just the right point, and therefore appeared able to read, or so Mum says), “Muse” was not yet in my vocabulary. So I named her Prayer Lady. It was some time before I knew who she really was.

Ahh, finally, The Hennessy’s rooftop. Travel speeds up with a story. She’s not here yet.  Skies are very, very grey ahead, due north towards Kowloon.

Not much clearer round back. That green patch below is the Happy Valley Racecourse where you win a little, lose a little, and the Jockey Club reimburses its punters with generous donations to social welfare. Harmony. Balance. Bow, Grasshopper Green (a.k.a. granddaughter of the Kung Fu G-man).

Let’s take a table and get our wine, shall we, until she arrives?


Been here with other lit lits. They hang out on rooftops too, pretending to be birds. One younger writer, Jess Row, was at my rooftop squat just last year with a couple of other lit fliers. He used to live here and can write on just about anything intelligently, even the rules of punctuation. That’s when he’s not reviewing the latest Chinese novel in translation (which he’s read in Chinese as well of course). His first book, The Train to Lowu, really gets this city’s mirage-like quality. Jess probably had “Muse” in his vocabulary whilst rocking in the cradle.

Didn’t hear my Muse arrive, did you? But here she is, bag and all.


Love the Garuda-like bag (that’s why she’s MY Muse – no, she does NOT do house calls). And Nails! (Shades of “Duck Feces Green” in Canto-Muse-nese).


Move over Valley Girl, Sloane Ranger, Flapper Lady. None of you held a candle to her.

And just in case you think she’s a figment of too many grapes of wrath, let me assure you that creative nonfiction is real fakery. I dedicate my real fiction to her.

* * *

By the time this posts on September 27, East Coast time, a new book, STILL will be on the shelves at Foyles in London, one of the great bookstores of the world.


I was too busy taking this air stroll with you to fly over to London to join the launch. My contribution is “Winter Moon,” which is for Hoagy Carmichael, composer of the song of the same name. My fellow writer at CityU, another younger writer, Justin Hill, who also contributed to the book will be there. He’s had the distinction in this globally characterized lit, lit life of being banned in China (we should all be so lucky!)

* * *

 Join me next time for musings over luggage, “moral and national education” in Hong Kong and the she-said-he-said of Chinese territorial disputes (a.k.a. Much ado about a bunch of rocks surrounded by sea), as I prepare for the long haul to New York. Oh wait, there’s that Garuda again, flapping noisily at the window. His story next as well. Maybe.

Meanwhile here’s Andres Salaff’s animated version.

Zai jian 再見Ciao ciao.

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