Friday, February 16, 2018

Hong Kong By Phone part 2

Even when I meant to take pictures while I was out, I mostly forgot about my phone camera. I'm just not used to photographing train stations I use all the time and streets I've walked a million times. I'm going to have to force myself if I want to take more phone photographs. Phonographs? That's already taken. Telegraphs?

Lily and I had some free time on Saturday. She thought it would be a good idea to go to some of the parks I don't get out to very often. When you take your daily walks in the same place all the time, it gets tedious. Hong Kong has more than enough parks to keep it interesting. Most of them require spending time on the MTR.

We went to the Hung Hom Promenade in the morning. That's a neighborhood I rarely go to, and the small promenade has nice views of Kowloon Bay and the East Harbour rather than the usual Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui. There is some construction around one of the hotels right now, blocking a few paths to get to the promenade, but the promenade itself is unscathed.

Hung Hom Promenade, Whampoa

You can easily see the new cruise terminal at the old airport from the promenade. Something I discovered about my phone is that the pictures look terrible when you zoom.

Kai Tak Cruise Terminal

We took the MTR from Whampoa to Lok Fu, which is 6 or 7 stops. The green light shows where we are, between the second and third stop. The red lights show where the train goes. The white lights show the interchange to the Tsuen Wan line and the fastest way to get from Whampoa to Central. It's all very simple and informative. I don't know why people think it's confusing.

A great thing about the Kwun Tong line is that it's not nearly as crowded as some of the others. There would be a dozen heads in this picture if it were the Tsuen Wan, Tung Chung, West, East or Island lines.

MTR Kwun Tong green line

It's an easy walk from the Lok Fu station to the Kowloon Walled City Park, which doesn't look like this anymore.

Kowloon Walled City

From exit A, turn right and make a left on Junction Rd. That's where the street ends, so you can't miss it. Walk down Junction Rd for a few minutes until you see a playground. Either keep going until you see the entrance on the left or turn left at the playground – Tung Tau Tsuen Rd – to one of the entrances on the right.

The signs in the station tell you to take exit B to go to the Walled City Park. If you follow those signs, you'll go to the bus stop, which is fine if you want to take the bus. Walking out of the station from the bus stop is complicated if you don't know the area. Exit A is signed and simple.

Kowloon Walled City Park

The Walled City mostly looks like this now, which I think is a vast improvement.

Mountain View Pavilion, Kowloon Walled City Park

Two stops from Lok Fu is Diamond Hill. Right next to the station is the Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery. Both are open to the public, free and beautiful places to pretend you're not surrounded by a city of 7 million people.

Hall of Celestial Kings and Sakyamuni Buddha Hall, Chi Lin Nunnery

This is a working temple, so there are rules and restrictions, but Buddhists tend to be pretty forgiving. Unless you eat in front of one of the Buddha statues. They don't like that.

Lotus Pond Garden, Chi Lin Nunnery

Chi Lin and Nan Lian are a small bridge apart. The garden also has rules, mostly about not feeding the fish. They don't even want you to have a snack near the pond, which is understandable. I'm sure people feed the fish all kinds of poisonous crap.

Blue Pond, Nan Lian Garden

The Pavilion of Absolute Perfection has kind of an arrogant name, and is too gold for my tastes, but it looks nice in the middle of all that green.

Pavilion of Absolute Perfection, Nan Lian Garden

Lotus Pond, Nan Lian Garden

I think this might be the first video I've ever taken with this camera. Taking pictures with a phone is strange enough. Taking video phone videos is too science fiction for me.

Chinese Timber Architecture Gallery, Nan Lian Garden

Kwun Tong is close to the cruise terminal and a few quick stops from Diamond Hill. It's also an authentically Hong Kong neighborhood. When I took this picture, a few people stared at me and then stared at the street below the walkway, probably wondering what on earth I was looking at.

Kwun Tong, near Tung Yan St

We went back to Hung Hom for dinner. Food is everywhere in Hong Kong, but the Whampoa shopping area is ridiculous. If you ate at a different restaurant for every meal, it would take years to make your way through it all.

Taku St, near Hung Hom Pancakes

Above all the restaurants and shopping malls are thousands of apartments, instead of the usual office buildings and more shopping. The shopping malls are mostly underground.

Bulkeley St at Taku St

Some apartments are nicer than others.

Hung Hom Rd at Tak On St

We had dinner near one of the last phone booths in the city. There are probably others somewhere, but I can't think of any. Why would anyone use a phone booth in this day and age? For the Wi-Fi, of course.

Man Tai St, near a Wellcome

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Hong Kong By Phone part 1

My new phone has a camera, just like everyone else's phone. But I almost never use it as a camera. Taking pictures with my phone is still strange to me. Even when I see something I might want to photograph, it rarely occurs to me to use my phone.

On Friday, I was headed to Sheung Wan and for whatever reason, I realized I had a camera in my purse. Before taking the MTR, I went to the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade. It's a nice looking waterfront park, but they're redecorating for the New Year, so some of it is closed off and there are cones and tape everywhere.

West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade

The park borders the Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter off the west coast of Kowloon. The typhoon shelter is easily visible from the ICC, Kowloon Station, the Arch, the Cullinan and my apartment – which is in none of those astronomically expensive buildings. But I can see it in this picture.

Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter

Kowloon Station, Cullinan, Arch, ICC

You have to cross a busy street to get to the MTR from Nursery Park.

Western Harbour Crossing

Once inside, there might be a few people. Especially on a Friday. Or Saturday. Or Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

Kowloon Station

Two MTR stops later, I was in Sheung Wan. I was picking up some snacks. This is exactly the kind of street that has some of the best snacks in Hong Kong.

Wing Wo St, just off Des Voeux Rd Central

From Des Voeux Rd, you're going to pass the Grand Millennium Plaza to get to the MTR. At least if you're on that side of the station, exit E2 - I think. I was just passing through, and I remembered about my camera, and they always have one holiday display or another. I'm not really sure why anyone would go there otherwise.

Grand Millennium Plaza, Sheung Wan

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Hailey's Novel Diary – 2/6/18

Acting Like Adults comes out on Wednesday, with a full release of all formats on February 14. Everyone should buy a copy before the movie comes out and they change everything. Then, buy another copy to see all the differences. I would recommend buying multiple copies of each edition. Sometimes you lose a book or loan it out to a friend and they never give it back. Just to be safe, maybe buy a dozen or two. I've been out of work for a while.

Acting Like Adults is about a group of people in Los Angeles who follow their dreams and want to make it in the entertainment industry – movies, music, TV, theater. Most of the story is how they go about getting there. Some of the characters are more successful than others. Some have more experience. Some have less. People betray each other and their own principles. There is plenty of rivalry, competition and backstabbing. Relationships come and go. Friendships are made, strained, twisted and torn apart. All that good stuff.

Part of the story involves a Harvey Weinstein character. That's a coincidence. A coincidence with really great timing, but still a coincidence. I created the character right before the whole Weinstein thing exploded. He never crossed my mind when writing the character. I knew about some of the rumors, and wasn't at all surprised when everything came out, but I didn't know any details.

My Weinsteinish character is a movie producer who treats women deplorably. He could be based on any number of Hollywood power players over the years. Harry Cohn used to brag about bedding every ingénue on his payroll. Sexual harassment in corporate America is nothing new. He only seems like Weinstein now because of current events. Had this book come out a year earlier, people would think the character was based on someone else.

I think it's a pretty good book. Obviously, I'm not an impartial observer. When you create fictional characters, it's easy to form an attachment to them that the general public might not see. But I've read the book several times and there are still parts that make me laugh, a line or two that makes me feel nostalgic and a couple of scenes that piss me off. With movies, you can have a preview and see if the audience laughs and cries in all the right places. With books, you never know how the reader feels. I hope someone out there reads it the way I do.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Hailey's Novel Diary – 2/3/18

I have optioned my soon to be published international bestseller. That might be a little optimistic.

I have optioned my soon to be published reasonably well received novel. That also assumes too much.

I have optioned my soon to be published book. That is accurate. It is a book and it will be available soon.

The option part refers to the production company, Vast Entertainment. They have the option to put everything together to make a movie or not. The details are staggering, and require agents, lawyers and people with business degrees to hold meetings and conference calls before any legal documents are typed up and signed. From my end, it all seems far more complicated than it needs to be, but I'm sure it evolved from a century of lawsuits, misunderstandings, accusations, broken partnerships and a lot of hurt feelings.

The production company now has the option to buy the film rights. For the next six months, they can find a studio, producers, other production companies, power players with clout in the industry and/or miscellaneous financial backers to make a movie. Or they can turn around and sell the option to someone else. Or they can sit on it and do absolutely nothing. When their time is up, they can buy the rights, renew the option, renegotiate a completely different contract with me, or what happens most of the time, they can wash their hands of the whole thing. They would only renegotiate or renew if they were close to getting somewhere. Actually buying the film rights is a final step that would only happen if everything else falls into place. Buying the option simply lets them get all the right people together without worrying that someone else will buy the rights.

Somewhere along the line, they will decide what kind of movie this story should be, if they have not already done so. If they are looking at a feature, they will pitch it to studios, larger production companies and name producers. If they think it should be somewhere on TV, they will go to the networks and television producers/production companies.

A far more likely option, not to be confused with the book option, is that they will simply sell the option to someone else. This happens all the time. When you see a movie with three or more production companies in the opening credits, one of them probably bought the option from the original author and sold it to one of the other companies, who in turn might have sold it to another company or studio. Generally speaking, everyone in the actual filming of the movie/TV show only works for one production company or studio/network. Most movies today have multiple production companies attached because they need multiple financial backers, the producers/actors involved have vanity labels, and someone owns the book option that started everything.

In exchange for all that, I got a check. It was not an especially large check, but if any future movie ever enters principal photography, I get a much larger check. If a movie is released and makes a healthy profit, I get more checks based on a tiny percentage of net earnings.

People who know nothing about the motion picture industry have told me that this will make me rich. It will not. The only way this makes me a millionaire is if it gets developed and packaged and filmed and released and becomes one of the biggest box office hits of all time. That is unlikely. Most movies do not become the biggest box office hits of all time. In fact, almost all of them do not. This is not a story with planets exploding and computer animation creatures. It is about people without any power or influence trying to make their dreams come true. If it somehow became a hit, I would probably make more money from increased book sales than I ever would from the movie. My tiny piece of the pie is based on net earnings, which is nothing like the gross earnings that studios always brag about.

Before anyone can count all their piles of money, a movie actually has to be made first. That's pretty far down the road, if it even happens at all. Most options never get developed. Anyone who writes books to get rich is a fool anyway. And writing books hoping that they will become hit movies would be insane. That is like digging through garbage dumpsters to find a winning lottery ticket.

My motivation is to see what happens. The money is irrelevant. It's essentially free money. It is not entirely free since I can't sell the option to anyone else until it expires, but owning the rights is meaningless if you never sell the option. If everything progresses as everyone wants it to, I get more free money, but I mostly get to witness the process. I've seen how movies are made in front of the camera. I'd love to see what goes on before the cameras roll.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The 19th President of the United States

In an effort to live a normal life, I went out on a date. I don't know what I was thinking. Dating is the opposite of normal.

I met Rutherford at the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade. Rutherford is not really his name, obviously. How many Rutherford's have you met? I'm calling him that because he looks far too much like a younger, pre-Civil War Rutherford Hayes, which is absolutely nothing like older Rutherford Hayes. During the Civil War, all men were dared to grow giant beards. Hayes must have taken it as a personal challenge.

Lily and I were taking a walk along the promenade when young Rutherford approached us. When you're with Lily, you get used to strange men starting conversations. She's a looker and men always want to see more. She has a lot of experience with this and knows how to turn them down gently. What surprised both of us was that Rutherford was clearly interested in me. I have far less experience than Lily, but I know how to turn men down. Maybe 90% of men who have ever showed any interest in me did so while I had a boyfriend. I had no boyfriend when Rutherford came to talk to us, but I was wearing running clothes and my Winnipeg toque, and trying to recover my stamina after brain surgery. Dating was not on the agenda. So Lily took charge, as she is wont to do.

Lily got his phone number and encouraged me to call him. She thought he was cute enough for a one night stand, but knowing that I don't do that, she thought getting to know someone new could not hurt. He was American, so she reasoned that we would have something to talk about. Sometimes Lily underestimates how much Americans tend to hate each other. One comment about religion or politics and you have a sworn enemy. I was hesitant to call, for a variety of reasons, but I knew she would not let up until I did what she wanted. I called him and we agreed to go out to dinner.

Rutherford and I met up at Curry Leaf, an Indian restaurant in Jordan. No one ever picks anyone up in Hong Kong. It's not that kind of town. Everyone meets each other somewhere. In suburbia, you pick up your date and go into town. In a city of a few million people, you might live on opposite sides of wherever you are going. Meeting someplace just makes more sense. I would not want a first date to know where I live anyway.

Although Rutherford picked the restaurant, he immediately complained that it did not look authentic enough. It looked like a million Hong Kong restaurants to me, but he wanted it to look like we were in India.

“I've been to Chennai,” he announced. “I know how it's supposed to look.”

“Ok,” I replied. “But this is Hong Kong. Have you ever seen an American restaurant here that actually looks American? Why would an Indian restaurant actually look Indian?”

That must not have been what he wanted to hear. He seemed determined to complain.

The food morally offended him. Everything on the menu had Indian names, but nothing was authentically Indian as far as he was concerned. I have never been to India, so I don't know, but I am pretty sure that someone who spent a week in one city is not an expert. Predictably, nothing he ate that night was proper Indian food. I could not taste anything, so I have no idea if it was any good or not, but it looked good. Was it 100% authentic Indian? Probably not. If they want to make money in Hong Kong, it's probably closer to the British version of Indian with a healthy dose of Chinese Indian. No restaurant in China is 100% anything, except Chinese.

It might sound like the complaining was what broke the camel's back on this date, but I'm more than aware that everyone can have an off night. I don't really care if a restaurant in Hong Kong does not remind people of India, so I had no reason to argue or agree with him. He ruined the night when he insisted that I take off my hat.

The first time he saw me, on the promenade, I was wearing a toque. Lily and I were in exercise clothes and we were clearly walking around for exercise. On our date, I was wearing a different toque. With the hat on, you can't tell if I have short hair or if I put my hair up. He was curious, which is understandable, but would not take let it go for an answer. I did not want to get into the whole brain surgery thing on a first date. I think if I did that, it would dominate the evening. It took over my life for a long time and I am trying to take it back. A date should be one of those times when I can get away from it and think about something else. But by not explaining why I did not want to remove my hat, he got caught up in the mystery. Had he asked me a couple of times to take the hat off and then dropped it, we could have moved on. Instead, he quickly obsessed over my hair.

Here's a public service announcement to all men all over the world: Women generally do not like it when a man they met five minutes ago insists that she take off an article of clothing on command. No means no.

The only thing that got him off the subject was the arrival of our food. For appetizers, he got samosas and I got the dahi kebab, which he quickly pointed out cost twice as much. I always intended on paying for myself, but I thought it was tacky of him to quote the prices. He never pointed out that the rest of his meal was almost three times the price of mine. His bhuna ghosht was more than twice my aloo baingan masala. He also got some boondi raita on the side and an expensive fruit drink while I just had tea.

We both had bread that was essentially the same price, but he had a comment about my choice anyway.

“You should never order garlic naan on a date,” he told me. “No one wants to kiss a girl who just ate garlic.”

“Fortunately, that won't be an issue tonight,” I replied.

After dinner, he wanted to go to one of the pubs down the street. I told him I'm not a drinker, which is true, but I never pointed out that I was tired and ready to go home. He would have assumed it was because of him, when he was only half the reason. Had he suggested something else, I might have been open, but he had his heart set on overpriced drinks at some trendy bar. The restaurant was where we parted ways.

The next day, I got a text message. “Cant w8 2cu again no hats this time ok”

I was going to just ignore him, but instead, I sent my own message. “I'll make you a deal. We can have a second date if you wear a hat.”

That was a mistake. His next dozen unanswered messages went on and on about why I was completely unreasonable for not taking off my hat. Eventually, Lily sent him a message wondering out loud how many hats he could shove up his ass. He never replied.

I suppose I could have just told him why I was wearing the hat in the first place, but shouldn't that be up to me? Do I really need to explain to someone I do not even know why I'm wearing a hat? If your date will not take off her hat, is it really that important? Call me old fashioned, but I think you should get to know someone before you try to act so controlling.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Great Wall of China
34. Nineteen Weeks Later

Having no sense of smell has its ups and downs. The obvious positive is that I can't smell all the bad things anymore. Hong Kong is an aromatic city with cuisines from all over the world. You can sniff your way through Thailand and Vietnam near the Kowloon City Market, and North Africa and South Asia at Chungking Mansions. India is everywhere. Food stalls all over the city teach you about the different scents given off by different dead animals hanging from hooks. Chinese street food smells nothing like fancy Chinese restaurants, which smell nothing like corporate chains.

But surrounding all of the food are a million cars, buses and trucks in a crowded city where smog checks are more of a suggestion than absolute requirement. China stills burns coal like it's going out of style and the smog from Guangdong's industrial factories routinely makes its way south. Hong Kongers are slowly giving up cigarettes, but the majority of Mainland Chinese still smoke. When they come here to shop, they bring their Mainland habits with them, chief among them seem to be smoking and spitting.

The city of Hong Kong has been under construction for as long as I've been here. I'm sure it will continue long after I'm gone. Most people complain about construction when it causes traffic delays. No one wants to drive half a mile out of their way because of road blocks. But walking near construction is far worse. They do a pretty good job of keeping any falling debris from hitting the sidewalk with those green mesh tarps they put over buildings, but walking through dust and dirt is often unavoidable. If you're eating a slice from Paisano's and you see scaffolding and hard hats, turn around.

For too many foreigners, and a lot of locals, Hong Kong is a great place to get drunk. There are bars, pubs, dives and lounges all over the city. Lan Kwai Fong is probably the most popular neighborhood for expats. They are either attracted to the tightly packed blocks of bars, thousands of other expats or the fact that you can drink openly in public. That means nothing to most Europeans, but getting shitfaced – legally – in the middle of the street is a novelty to the crowds of Australians, Canadians, Indians and Americans that litter Hong Kong every weekend. Walking between the escalators and Wyndham Street is difficult on a Saturday night and rather pungent on Sunday morning. Most of the bars probably have toilets, but drunk people rarely think clearly.

Tsuen Wan was a former fishing village across the channel from Tsing Yi that is now a housing estate/shopping mall. When people moved in by the busload, attracted to the low prices, they apparently did not realize that a great deal of Hong Kong's sewage drains from Tsuen Wan into the harbor. Whether that is legal or not is up for debate, but Tsuen Wan Park and the waterfront smell like shit.

Castle Peak Power Station is the larger of two coal burning facilities that generate electricity in Hong Kong. It is on the western tip of the New Territories, away from most of the city, but still provides a large percentage of Hong Kong's smog. You can drive past the power plant on one of the roads that hug the coast, but it smells like burning metal, sulfur and, of course, coal.

I do not miss the raging stench that often comes with life in Hong Kong, but I miss brownies fresh out of the oven, an old book I haven't opened in a while, mint, rain, Flower Market Road, the ocean at Clear Water Bay, wood fires at Big Wave Bay, Maison Eric Kayser when they put out fresh bread, produce and herbs at the Tuen Mun farmers market and Graham Street wet market. I can still see, hear and feel it all, but something is missing when you can't taste the edibles or smell any of it.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Great Wall of China
33. Back On the Horse

I drove a car yesterday. That would not ordinarily be a noteworthy event, but it was the first time I got behind the wheel since Beijing. I didn't have any particular place to go. The point was simply to drive. I don't want to be afraid of cars. Several people wanted to go with me, but I felt it was important to go alone.

I don't own a car. I live in Hong Kong. We have excellent public transportation and five parking spaces for a million cars. It is faster to walk from Wan Chai to Admiralty than to drive. I borrowed a car from a friend. Why they have a car is beyond me.

Hong Kong might not be the best place in the world to drive, but there are a few relatively uncrowded roads if you head north. Hong Kong Island and Kowloon are nothing but traffic. Lantau is getting more crowded all the time. North of Tsuen Wan is pretty much your only option. Fortunately, that is an area five times larger than Hong Kong Island.

Castle Peak Road from Tsuen Wan to Tuen Mun hugs the East Bay, which is on the west coast, and passes under a popular bridge, a couple of tiny beaches and a pretty big one at Castle Peak Bay. You can't drive down the Castle Peak Bay Promenade, but it is a nice place for a walk.

From Tuen Mun, Lung Mun Road gets too industrial and is not the most scenic part of the city, but past the power plant, you are on the west coast as it becomes Lung Kwu Tan Road. Past Pak Nai and its famous sunsets – which I did not see since this was the middle of the day – I was on a tiny road that wound around Shenzhen Bay. There is no more coast at that point without going into Mainland China, where it gets far more crowded.

Fung Lok Wai is an enormous river/marshland/fish farm that looks like it is in the middle of nowhere. Unless you face north. Then you get skyline views of Shenzhen.

Heading east took me away from the water and up into the hills. At Fanling, it got too crowded, so I took the winding Sha Tau Kok Road toward Yantian on the east coast. Heading south on Bride's Pool Road, I went uphill on what could have been a canyon road in Southern California before heading downhill to Bride's Pool Waterfall. I could have easily spent the whole day at the river, but I was there to drive. After heading downhill some more, I was looking at the reservoir and Tolo Harbour. It gets crowded at Tai Po and it was getting too late for a drive to Clear Water Bay, so I headed back into civilization. Had I planned the trip ahead of time, I could have made a larger circle around most of the city, but I avoided the peninsula on purpose.

As I expected, there were no complications from the drive. Other than some light construction here and there. Hong Kong is a constant construction zone, so avoiding it is practically impossible. I have never had a problem with switching from proper driving on the right side of the road to the inferior British system of driving on the left. A lot of roads in Hong Kong are segregated and give you no choice. Sitting behind the steering wheel on the right side of the car is interesting, and I wondered if I would have any problems. I never have before, but my brain was never cut open before. The pedals are all the same, of course, but using both your left hand and left foot to shift is different. The balance is gone. The only part that tripped me up was the turn signal/windshield wipers. Since the steering wheel and gear shift were reversed, I wanted the turn signal to be reversed as well. It was not, so every time I wanted to turn, I flipped on the wiper blades.

I experienced no PTSD or panic attacks while driving. Maybe I was overly cautious at intersections, but that is not a bad idea in China. I might have held my breath whenever I saw someone run a red light. I might want to get over that. Nothing I ever say or do will change the selfish driving habits around here. I don't know when I will drive a car again, but it looks like I should be able to do it without any psychological trauma.

Trying to park, on the other hand, might drive me insane.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Boys in the Band All Play Hot Licks

I'm thinking about buying a drum set. That might not be great news for my roommates or neighbors, but my doctor agrees that it would be good therapy. The rhythm and coordination necessary to play the drums is great for synchronizing the hemispheres of the brain and generating neural connections. It is especially good for the frontal lobe. Playing drums lowers stress hormones and produces endorphins, which are great pain relievers. It is also similar to meditation in that it forces you to be here now.

I used to play the drums in another world. My grandfather was a jazz drummer and he always let me bang on his set whenever we went to visit. He also taught me everything I needed to know about polyrhythms, syncopation, rudiments and tuning the drum heads. As soon as I was tall enough to reach everything, he bought me my own set. He might have done it to annoy my parents, but whatever the motivation, it got me playing music beyond scales on the piano during vocal exercises. I played that drum set every day until it “accidentally” destroyed itself and had to be thrown away while I was out of the house. I played tenor drums in high school, but those belonged to the school, so they were never in any real danger.

I have not actually sat at a drum set in a long time, so it might take a while to get up to speed, but that might be perfect. My doctor does not want me to go full Neil Peart – as if that could ever happen. He would prefer something more mellow, like Ralph Cooper. The goal is to synchronize all the limbs, not to make as much noise as possible. My biggest concern is that my grandfather taught me to use traditional grip, but then I switched to matched grip when I played quads. I don't know which position, if either, will feel right anymore.

My second biggest concern is that the set might “accidentally” destroy itself when I am out of the apartment.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Get Smart

For Christmas, my roommate gave me a new phone. That would not normally be something I would even mention, but I have actively resisted “smart” phones. Lily has been trying to convert me to the newfangled technology for years. I always insisted that my 2009 Nokia did everything I needed a phone to do. I have never had any particular loyalty to Nokia, but it was a good phone. I dropped it more than a few times without complaint and it never had any problems with sudden Hong Kong rain showers. If I needed to use a computer, I had one at home. My phone could always get a signal to send and receive phone calls. Back in my day, that's what phones were for.

A few months ago, I was in a bit of a car accident. My passenger and I came out of it in a few pieces. Everything we had with us was lost, including my trusty cell phone. There is no way to know if it survived. It could be lying in the weeds somewhere or broken into a million pieces. Maybe it even found a new home with someone who picked it up and thought it was a Star Trek communicator.

Whatever the fate of the old phone, I needed a new one. As it turns out, no one around here sells 20 year old cell phones anymore. They have “retro” phones that look like old cell phones, but they have all the “smart” bells and whistles. I was open to not having any kind of phone at all. I used to live my life without being tethered 24/7. I'm sure I could do it again.

Lily went and got me a new phone anyway. It looks new, it feels new, and it does a million things that I will never use. The first thing I did with it was delete all the apps that wanted me to download/setup Facebook, WeChat, Twitter, Alibaba, Google+, Taobao, Instagram, Pinterest, Didi, Foursquare, WhatsApp, Linkedin and a million other things I'll never use. It has Skype, which I used to use a lot, but don't these new phones make that obsolete?

Now I can text like everyone else. My old phone could send text messages, but the numeric keyboard required redundant typing. “Good night” was 46666663066444444, and you had to wait for the letter to appear. If you typed too quickly, it would simply rotate through the options on that key – G, H, I, 4, G, H, I, 4. It could receive texts, but none of the smileys ever showed up.

Being able to hold text conversations does not impress me. I hate the way most people type like 5-year-olds when they text. I always read “ur” as “err”, and I really don't care wmam. Gaby Hoffmann's acronym crazy character in Sleepless in Seattle was supposed to be a joke, not a premonition.

The only thing I like about the new phone is the camera. I also lost my camera in the accident. It was a decent SLR, and I knew I would miss it more than the phone. The phone camera is not nearly as good, but it is convenient. I'll probably use the maps the next time I go somewhere new, but I certainly don't need them here.


Monday, January 8, 2018

The Great Wall of China
32. With a Little Friends For My Help

People always ask me if it is awkward to live with a couple. We have a three bedroom apartment and different work schedules, but it would be uncomfortable if we were not all friends. I would definitely be a third wheel with any other couple.

I generally prefer not to live alone. Technically, I had my own place when my previous boyfriend moved out, but Lily often stayed over and eventually moved in. I like having people around, and having brain surgery only reinforces that. Without Lily and Kevin, I don't know how I would have functioned, especially in those first few weeks.

When I got home from the hospital, I was supposed to avoid strenuous activity and take it easy. That might sound like a vacation, but things still need to get done. Laundry can't be ignored. Everyone has to eat and someone has to do the dishes. Apartments do not clean themselves. This isn't Japan.

BBB – before broken brain – I did most of the dishes in the house. I always did more cooking than anyone else, and I like to wash up as I go. When dinner is served, I want as few dirty dishes in the sink as possible. The fair trade was that Lily and Kevin mopped floors and dusted. I have not mopped a floor in years. We were all responsible for our own bathrooms and laundry, but no one ever objected if anyone added a few clothes to their load. Everyone pitched in whenever the clothes hanging out to dry were threatened by heavy wind or a typhoon.

ABB, they are doing everything – cooking, dishes, laundry, housecleaning, etc. Making meals for me has never been easier since nothing has any taste, but my laundry reached absurd levels. When you have pretty much any type of surgery, there is going to be some leakage in the beginning. The towels over my pillows had to be changed daily, as did the pillow cases and sheets for the first few days. By the second week, the pillow cases could stay a few days, but the towels were still changed daily to avoid any kind of infection. Loading and unloading a washing machine was too much for me, especially unloading a hot machine in the humidity, so Lily got to deal with all of that.

Lily was essentially my nurse. She still is, but I am more self-sufficient lately. I can cook a full meal, but not when the kitchen gets too hot. I also worry about using too much salt since I can no longer season to taste. The safest option is to use too little and everyone can add whatever they need at the table. After I dropped Kevin's favorite mug and watched it shatter in a thousand pieces, we all decided that I should take a break from dishes for a while. Since Kevin works all day, Lily gets to pick up the slack. Fortunately, I spent the first week in the hospital. Had I gone home immediately after the surgery, Lily would have been stuck bathing me, feeding me and dealing with my drug induced hallucinations. And she would have done it. She is a true friend.

Since Lily works nights, Kevin was my night nurse. He had the easier shift since I was mostly exhausted at the end of every day. His main job was making sure that nothing happened. The seizure issue was only a precaution. I never had any, but if you are going to have a seizure, you might want to have someone nearby.

Having friends is always important in life, but you really know who your friends are when the shit hits the fan. When you have your brain cut open, everyone around you reacts in their own way. When I was in the hospital and no one knew where I was, everyone was concerned. That's comforting to know. I think not having anyone care if you disappear would be the worst thing in the world.

When I got home, Lily and Kevin were with me every step of the way. Not only because we live together. They would have helped me out no matter what. Some friends came to visit and brought flowers and chocolate. That's kind of ironic since I can't smell or taste anything, but the effort is far more important than the result. And flowers look nice either way.

Some friends stayed away. Nobody loves you when you're down and out, but it is extremely important to keep in mind that not everyone deals with medical issues with a brave face. Some people did not want to see me bald and scarred. It was not that they did not care. They simply did not know how to react. Some people freeze in a crisis. Some people panic. That does not make them bad people. We all want to think that we would be the heroes who save the day in an emergency, but you never know until it happens. The fight or flight response is very strong. Sometimes flight is the best choice.

Most people try to say supportive things. “You'll get better in no time.” “The survival rate is whatever percent.” “Thoughts and prayers, etc.” They certainly mean well, and saying something amazingly profound is completely unnecessary. Some people say terrible things. “My uncle had that same surgery. He died.” “That's nothing. Once, I cut my finger opening a jar.” “You were supposed to take me to the airport.” Again, it is important to remember that everyone has their own way of dealing with things. Getting mad at someone who is injured is actually fairly normal, psychologically. It has something to do with an inability to communicate fear properly. Very few people would actually come out and say, “The way you look right now scares the hell out of me. I'm going to disappear for a while until you start to look normal.”

To date, I have lost a few friends. I have no idea if they are ever coming back, but if they do, I will welcome them with open arms. I can't blame them for not knowing how to react. I don't have the faintest idea how I would react if the situation were reversed. The people I was closest to before everything happened are still around. I don't know if I will ever be able to thank them enough.