Sunday, August 30, 2015

Clear Water Bay

Kevin's boss is on his annual vacation out of town. That means we have the Clear Water Bay house for the duration.

When I first came to Hong Kong, staying at the big house was like taking a vacation at a 5-star resort. I lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment with no amenities and a view of the apartment across the alley. When Lily & Kevin moved into my tiny one bedroom apartment, that four bedroom, four bathroom house on the bay was a giant oasis away from our daily lives. It has a real kitchen with an oven – something very rare in Hong Kong – great views of the ocean and islands, and a relaxing swimming pool and hot tub.

A little over a year ago, we moved to a nice three bedroom apartment with a swimming pool, gym and decent views of the west harbor. But we still go to the big house when Kevin's boss is away. Our apartment swimming pool can be used by any of the 1,000 people who live in the complex. The swimming pool at the big house is private and on a very nice terrace overlooking the South China Sea. Plus, it has a hot tub.

Back when I was in my tiny one bedroom apartment, my favorite thing about the big house was the kitchen. Now that I have a kitchen of my own, I spend more time in the pool. When you can cook at home, it's no big deal to be able to cook somewhere else. A private swimming pool is always a big deal.

Lily & I were in France a few months ago. There was no swimming pool at that apartment, but we spent a few days at some old Scottish guy's house in Antibes. There was a great pool there and I went swimming a few times, but it was not entirely private. It wasn't a public pool with hundreds of people, but we were never alone in that house, and the house owner was a randy old goat. Getting some swimming time without him hanging around was difficult.

At the big house, it's just Lily, Kevin and me. That's about as private as it's going to get. I think I'll be doing a lot of swimming in the next few days.

This is our first summer at the big house without Ryan. Technically, he was in Fuzhou when we all stayed at the big house last year, but he came to Hong Kong for a few days, so this will be the first year without him. I don't want to keep pointing out that everything I'm doing is the first time without him, but that's probably going to happen for a while. We were a couple for a third of my life. Everything is going to be new now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Qixi Festival

Thursday was the Qixi Festival in China. That's the Chinese Valentine's Day. I don't usually pay any attention to that one. As far as I'm concerned, February 14th is Valentine's Day. I realize that I live in a part of the world that disagrees with me, but I think I'll always see it my way.

Nothing special happened on this Qixi. Mostly because it's a day I've never celebrated and partly because I don't have anyone to share it with anymore. It's kind of nice to have a practice day before the real Valentine's Day comes around in a few months. I don't care about Qixi and hopefully I'll be less inclined to break things by the time February rolls around.

Japan also has White Day. That's a month after the real Valentine's Day. I'm not sure why they need a sequel right after the first one, but fortunately, it hasn't caught on here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

My Macau theater debut was a rousing success. At least in the sense that no one made any serious mistakes, everyone seemed to have a good time and no one got hurt.

We did three shows on the weekend – Friday to Sunday. I was originally expecting a matinee on Sunday, but apparently that's not the way they do things on the Portuguese side. Even though each show sold out, there are no current plans to extend the run. We had the theater for those nights only. Someone else will be in that space the rest of the week.

Maybe that's the best way to guarantee that you always sell out. If you're only there for a few nights, most of the audience is bound to be friends and family of the performers and crew. The longer the run, the more you have to rely on the general public showing up. That's always harder.

From my point of view, I like the way we did things. There were few rehearsals, but everyone had other things to do. The actual performance itself took very little time out of our lives. The theater was big enough that it didn't feel like we were staging in someone's living room, but small enough that no one was crippled with stage freight. Working with an actor who freezes on stage is never fun. It was all casual enough to make Shakespeare less stressful, but serious enough to do his words justice.

My one complaint was that it was all in Macau. I have nothing against Macau, but I live in Hong Kong. Most of the people involved, and probably most of the audience, live in Hong Kong. Right now, we have about 4 typhoons or soon to be typhoons swimming around the Pacific Ocean. None of them are ever going to hit Hong Kong, but they do affect the waters between Hong Kong and Macau. It's a quick ferry ride, but it feels longer when the waters are raging. Maybe next time we can do it on calm weather days.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

After very little rehearsal time, I'm making my Macau debut tomorrow. Everyone seems to know what they're doing. The sets have been built and the costumes are all fitted. All of the blocking is complete and the cast know their parts. I don't have the biggest part in the play, but I would have liked a little more rehearsal time.

Most of the rehearsals were in Hong Kong, which was convenient not only for me, but also for almost everyone else. At least 90% of the people involved live in Hong Kong. Dress rehearsals and the actual production are in Macau.

Getting from Hong Kong to Macau is pretty easy. The only problem is what you do once you get there. Hong Kong has one of the best mass transportation systems in the world. Even if I did not live close enough to the ferry terminal to walk, I would be able to get there easily from anywhere in the city. Once in Macau, most of us rely on taxis. The buses go all over the place, but I have never been on a Macau bus that was not overcrowded, dirty and pungent. None of that gets any better in summer.

I'm not entirely nervous about tomorrow. I suppose I should be. I'm not really an actor. Most of my theater experience involves dancing and singing. If you wow them with your fancy footwork, most audiences will forgive a stiff line reading. With Shakespeare, there's nothing to lean on. Hardcore fans have the lines memorized before they even buy their ticket. If I'm dancing, I'm relatively certain that I know the choreography better than anyone in the audience. With Shakespeare, it's very possible to have people watching you who know your part better than you do.

At the same time, this is not London or New York. This is a small production in Macau that will never be mentioned in the New York Times. No one involved is diving in half assed, but this is essentially a hobby for most of us. We all have other jobs that pay the bills.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

In a Crowd On My Own

When I started this blog, I told myself that I would always be honest. Maybe I wouldn't talk about every little detail of every little thing, but whatever I did mention, I would do it without holding back. If I'm going to talk about something, I might as well expose the good, the bad and the ugly. But sometimes I simply don't want to talk about it.

When I went to Paris in April, I had Ryan's full support. He recognized that it was a unique opportunity and he wanted me to go. As soon as I was in Paris, he wanted me to leave. We talked on the phone and Skype every day, but he didn't like where I was and what I was doing. I reminded him that he had wanted me to go, but you can't really bring up things like facts during an argument. They only upset people. While Lily and her boyfriend talked and did things on the computer that are definitely not safe for work, Ryan and I argued.

One of Ryan's many complaints was that there was no way we were going to see each other in person while I was there. In Hong Kong, I can hop on a flight and see him in a few hours. We used to see each other about once a month when he moved to Fuzhou, but we were making an effort to see each other more just before April. While I was in Paris, it was going to be at least a full month before I would get on any plane to China.

About a week after I came back to Hong Kong, he came over for a brief visit. More often than not, I went to him. He usually only came here on holidays. But after taking a full month off of work, I really wasn't in the best position to get any more time off.

While he was here, we argued and broke up. Then we got back together again. That might have been just for the make-up sex. When you have not seen each other in about 8 weeks, a little physical activity is always a good thing, whether you're in fighting mode or not.

As soon as we got that out of our systems, we broke up again. He went back to Fuzhou and I went to work. We both knew there would be no make-up sex this time. It was the first time he ever went to Fuzhou and I was not on the phone with him that night. That was unusual. I didn't know when or if I would ever talk to him again.

A few weeks later, his mother told me that he moved back to Minnesota. I was almost shocked, but expected it at the same time. He always said that he was staying in China for me. About a year after we moved to Hong Kong, he wanted to go back and I wanted to stay. He never liked living in Hong Kong and only barely tolerated Fuzhou. In a way, it was flattering to know that he really was only in China for me. At the same time, that only caused more problems.

We had a few things working against us. As soon as he moved to Fuzhou, we were in a long distance relationship. Hong Kong and Fuzhou are not that far apart, but they are practically in different countries and require all of the hassles of airports and immigration control to get from one to the other.

I always made more money than Ryan. Too many men feel threatened by that sort of thing. In Hong Kong, we lived on my salary. In Fuzhou, he made enough to survive, but I paid for more of our trips than he ever could. The cost of living is low enough in Fuzhou that he could have saved money if he tried, but he never put in the effort.

Then there is sex. When he lived in Fuzhou, he was not getting any. Despite everything, I do not believe that he ever cheated on me. He was terrified of catching some horrible disease, so prostitutes and bar girls were out, and most of the healthy girls in the area were the type who would never give an underemployed foreigner the time of day. Had we been older, it might not have mattered. But we moved to Hong Kong when he was 20 years old. That's not an age where guys like to be celibate.

Everyone said that we were too young to live together when we got our first apartment, but it was living apart that finally ended our relationship.

Ryan and I met in high school. We were together long before Hong Kong, before I started traveling to so many great places, before I met Lily. We were together before my career started to go somewhere. We were together before I even had a career. We were together before we were old enough to drink alcohol or vote. In a lot of ways, we grew up together.

If I look at it philosophically, it was inevitable. Our personalities were maturing in different ways. I have career goals and a list of places I want to visit where I can explore the culture, meet new people and eat great food. His goals are to become a rock star and get drunk every night. When he lived in Fuzhou, he worked at a bar. That was never going to be great for anyone.

As Lily says, “Shit happens.” I try to see the silver lining and deal with whatever is happening in the most positive way I can figure out. She has an innate ability to cut through all the bullshit. This might be why we are such great friends. I am the yang to her yin.

The last time I broke up with a boyfriend, I was in high school. In retrospect, I don't think I took it very well. But I didn't really know how to take it. I was a teenager. By definition, I didn't know what was going on.

This time, I like to think I had more tools at my disposal. For example, in high school, I was a mediocre cook. Now, I can whip up mint brownies, double chocolate chip cookies, banana muffins, lemon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, cinnamon rolls with the same cream cheese frosting – if it works, use it – and all kinds of unhealthy things that require an extra jog or two around the island. Maybe that's not the best way to handle things, but when I found fresh mint for the first time in years, I was as happy as I could be. I don't know why it's so hard to get some of the most basic herbs here.

Aside from eating too much junk food, I work at Disneyland. More than a few people have had more than a few bad things to say about that company as an employer, but they have been good to me. Walking into the happiest place on Earth everyday – or at least the happiest place south of Japan – is a great way to boost your spirits. Say what you will about Mickey, but no one is depressed around that giant rodent.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Trippingly on the Tongue

I've been studying my script. It's not verbatim Shakespeare, but it stays pretty faithful to the original. The language is updated, which is probably a good idea since the audience is mostly Chinese. I have to assume that most people will have at least a working knowledge of common English, but I doubt everyone will be familiar with 16th century English.

The good news is that it's not completely modern. There is no, “Yo, what up, dawg?” It is simply easier to understand.

An example from Act I, Scene 2:

What you say is true. Since the little
wit that fools have was silenced, the foolishness
that wise men have makes a great show.