In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: This is really the only direction you can go in Hong Kong, a direction hinted at by skyscrapers and aspired to by the Hong Kong stock exchange. By "we," I mean my father, myself, and our guide—my step-grandmother-to-be—who somehow possesses both our combined age and our combined speed. Trudging up the stairs behind her, my father and I are already panting.
This is really the only direction you can go in Hong Kong, a direction hinted at by skyscrapers and aspired to by the Hong Kong stock exchange. By "we," I mean my father, myself, and our guide—my step-grandmother-to-be—who somehow possesses both our combined age and our combined speed.
Trudging up the stairs behind her, my father and I are already panting. We stop and laugh—really only an excuse to catch our breath—but by the top of the stairs, we're bent and sagging, our hands on our knees. And there, at the end of the street, she's waving at us to hurry up—almost as if to fan away whatever remains of our quaint Californian version of walking.
When we catch up with her, she says—in what seems like an especially Chinese blend of ridicule and public affection—that we walk too slow. If an American city at night is film noir, then Hong Kong is just a camera blur.
The residents of Kowloon speed around with the same look on their faces, as if they're irked at their bodies for not being cars.
You feel that if you stood still, the city would just rotate past you—as if you have no other choice but motion. Hong Kong accelerates as though located on another, faster-spinning Earth. Anyone who has been there knows that time and space can flick off their objectivity and instead pulse and jump, symphonic rather than metronomic.
In Hong Kong, the world stretches time until time—along with space and language—goes elastic. It's like a Chinese painting, in which conflicting perspectives soak through the landscape like radiation. A McDonald's sits next to a vegetable cart tended by a woman who looks about five hundred years old.
The all-Chinese police band plays bagpipes and marches in kilts for the Saint Patrick's Day parade. Street markets are the opposite of flowers: In Hong Kong, all times are contiguous.
All times are simultaneous.
This essay is an attempt to describe a city that is itself already a description—Hong Kong is a description of time. This essay is also an experiment in time travel—an artifact of memory from July Hong Kong is now the same city but a different place.
Prosperity—once the city's one-word gloss—is slowly becoming synonymous with Shanghai. But they have a right to be. I don't have any idea where we're going and just follow my father, an immigrant from Taiwan whose Mandarin, I realize, makes him only a third less lost than I am.
He's following our guide, who, like Hong Kong itself, is all energy and no conversation. The touristy lookout could be the only spot where Hong Kong can be made comprehensible. Suddenly our guide stops.City Lights is a landmark independent bookstore and publisher that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics.
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