Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hong Kong Diary Monday & Tuesday

 It’s been about two years since I was last in Hong Kong. Time was I  made it a point to go at least once a year. It was here where I got my career started working for a European company. This is where I felt what it was truly like to be independent. The first trip I ever took without any one – my family, relatives, or officemates – was here. On a business trip. That and living abroad for work is one of the best learning experiences of my life. I teaches you how to properly budget your money, how to relate to people of different cultures, how to put your best foot forward every day because you don’t want to be perceived as a weak link, and more.

So coming here is like an annual pilgrimage. Like Singapore, I am constantly amazed how Hong Kong is able to adapt to the changes. It’s like there’s always something new.

I came here on a three-day getaway from the stress of work that got somewhat unhealthy for me. This trip was a balm for a festering sore that needed healing.

As soon as I got out of the airport and headed towards the bus terminal, I said out loud, “I’m back!” Not in an Arnold Schwarzenegger type of voice but one of elation.

The A10 bus to (HK$48) to Pok Fu Lam in southern district of Hong Kong Island is more residential. I’m staying at the condo (The Belcher’s) of a very good friend of mine and it’s a swanky and elegant place community. He’s got two young kids and hanging out with them was fun. Yes, I love kids and work well with them. I briefly worked as an administrative assistant in a private school in Brooklyn and I guess that says two things – my love for kids and for working with them. That experience has served me in good stead when I teach in Ateneo and give lectures in other schools.

I met up with some old Chinese officemates who treated to me lunch in Stanley. Unfortunately, my digicam gave up on me so I wasn’t able to take too many photos (at least I have my iPad with me). Then Tuesday, an old classmate of mine from Ateneo invited me over for lunch. She was going to cook some pasta for me. She lives with her family in the Tai Po area which is the oldest settlement in the New Territories. I once lived out here and it was such a long commute from there to Kowloon Bay. 

These three reunions are easily the highlight of my three-day stay here (that I certainly wish is longer but work calls). Imagine that! Talking about work and family stuff! We all got old. Hahaha!

I also dropped by the beautiful 1881 Heritage at the end of Canton Road (that intersects with Salisbury Road) in Tsim Sha Tsui was a nifty visit for me. This wasn’t open to the public the last time I was here. This was the site of the former headquarters of the Hong Kong Marine Police that was restored to its Victorian elegance. As soon as I made my way in I said that this would be a perfect place for wedding shoots and true enough there were three couple having their pictorials done around the area. It was the daytime so I can only imagine what it’s like at night when the lights are on.

It’s the tailend of the annual Summer Sale. While going Ocean Centre near the disembarkation area for the luxury cruise liners, this bunch of tourists (either from Japan or Korea or even mainland China) entered and one man said rather out loud: “It’s time fo’ shoppeeng.” Imagine this: some 20+ people with their luggage on strollers unleashed on Ocean Centre like kids allowed to roam Toys ‘r Us.

So much for excitement. Well, I am not a crazy shopper. If I want to shop I am done in a jiffy. I am probably one of the most unfashionable as I prefer to dress simply. During UAAP games, you’re most likely to see me wear football shirts. Outside I prefer tennis shirts with collars. Jeans, khaki slacks, boat shoes, or cross trainers. That’s it. What I do when I am here is go to the side streets in TST and eat in the different Vietnamese, Mediterranean or Middle Eastern restaurants. Then I check out the many bookstores here from The Book Club, Page One, Dymocks etc. Page One is a fave. They have a new one here, The Eslite at Hysan Place.

I picked up Jack McCallum’s Dream Team and a marketing book.

If I look for sports stuff I usually do that in Singapore. But I did take note of many things:
Top sports jerseys (any sport/any team) I’ve seen in two days (in order):
1.    USA London Olympic Team – runaway the most number. Counted 38 people wearing LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris and Paul. 
2.    Real Madrid
3.    Miami Heat
4.    Chelsea
5.    Los Angeles Lakers
6.    Barcelona
7.    New York Knicks
8.    Manchester United
9.    Liverpool
10. New York Yankees

Odd jersey seen:
New Jersey Nets: Brook Lopez
Denver Broncos: Tim Tebow
An Englishman wearing a well-worn Manchester United with “Neville” in the back.
I am sure than by Thursday and Friday, Jeremy Lin jerseys will be all the rage as Lin will make an appearance here at K1 Mall in TST.

Hot topic in bars with expats: the opening weekend of the English Premier League.

Loose remarks:
“Doesn’t seem like Brendan Rodgers was the reason for the success at Swansea. Swansea won their opening while Liverpool stinks.” (OUCH).

“The Gunners will miss RvP.”

“Everton done do us proud, lads.”

Here in Hong Kong, it’s books, music, and a few clothes. For CDs and DVDs, you’ll usually find me in HMV or Hong Kong Records. I used to haunt those bargain and indie stories in Stanley (in Repulse Bay) and Tsim Sha Tsui. The latter has always been known for its stores of rising stars in the fashion scene. I went here because they sold vinyl records and bootleg CDs. I still have my bootlegs of Nirvana and Pearl Jam that I purchased back in 1993. But a word to the wise: always compare prices before buying. Tip: it is cheaper at Hong Kong Records although they have fewer selections than HMV.

My Hong Kong August soundtrack:
Bloc Party – Four
Hard-Fi – Killer Sounds
Incubus – HQ Live
Asia – XXX
Baroness – Yellow & Green
Metric – Synthetica
Deus – Following Sea
Morning Parade – Morning Parade
Elton John vs. Pnau – Good morning to the night
Sepultura - Kairos
The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten 

I’m quite happy that my kids have picked up on many of the things that I enjoy. Football and basketball was easy for them. My eldest roots for AC Milan while the youngest is an Arsenal fan. The Ateneo Blue Eagles and the Chicago Bulls are common faves. And they’ve turned up to be big music fans and have started their own collections. I got them a couple of CDs and DVDs. For my eldest who enjoys reading as well, I also got him Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. It has always been one of my favorites and a coming of age story. I think he’ll find it a marvelous read.


There's a Doraemon Exhibit at Ocean Centre with about 50 statues on display. It has become an attraction for tourists and locals alike. So when in Rome...

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