After digging the last inch of my fingers out of the arms of my airplane seat (which will be the subject of a “prequel” to be posted at another time), making our way through the crowd at arrivals, and a cab ride that would have scared anyone but a native New Yorker like me, we got to our hotel in Hong Kong at about 7:00pm; still time to eat dinner and get to bed at a reasonable hour.
I shlepped along after my boss, who was pumped on scotch and coffee and always in a rush, and caught up to him at the check-in counter. It was a very nice hotel – 4 stars – in Ocean Centre in the Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood at the tip of Kowloon. But our rooms weren’t ready, and they wouldn’t be ready for a couple of hours. But they did check our luggage. How accommodating of them. I kept my carry-on bag with me because it held my meds and a convenient change of clothes.
Boss, being a raging alcoholic, was as happy as a clam. “Come on, let’s get us a couple of drinks!” Um, OK. The hotel bar was just around the corner, past the elevators. He grabs me by the arm, “No. Not there. This way,” and he points me back out the way we came in.
I had been traveling for well over 20 hours, getting up three hours before my flight from Denver, then changing planes in Seattle, for our incredibly long non-stop flight to Hong Kong. And it was hot in Hong Kong. Stifling hot. 80-something degrees after the sun was down, and humidity somewhere around 90 percent.
The bar was in the basement of the New World Centre, at the very tip of Kowloon, right on the water. Ahh, a breeze. Fifteen seconds to get a whiff of the breeze, and Boss couldn’t stand still any longer. We go inside, down to the basement level, into a screamingly loud place called Bar City. Seven different-themed bars in one big space, sectioned off as in a multiplex theater. Since Boss is from Denver, we go into the country bar. This should be interesting. I wonder how many people will be in a country-western bar on a weeknight in Hong Kong, and decide (since he was paying) to stick around rather than go back out and just grab a bench by the water.
Before we went in, we stopped in the men’s room — I needed to wash up, and I also changed my shirt – from a short-sleeved business shirt I wore on the plane, and which was now quite drenched with sweat to an orange Denver Bronco jersey – light mesh, air could circulate. I really didn’t give a crap what I looked like – I was clean and felt a little better. Boss gives me a look, shakes his head, then leads me into the country bar.
The entrance is at one end of the bar. Left and right are tables on the same level; down one or two steps was the bar level. The bar was curved, shaped like a big horseshoe. The bar was in the center, ringed by stools, and there were some more tall stools with tables around the inside of the ring the entry-level tables sat on. I sat on one of those inner-ring tables while boss ran to the bar — what, wait for a waiter? Are you kidding?
He got himself a double of Johnnie Walker Black and came back to the table. I looked at the little shit, and signaled a waiter, ordered a liter of the coldest beer he had on tap. “San Miguel?” he asks. “If that’s the coldest, fine.” San Miguel, I came to learn, is the national beer of The Philippines, and the most common one you’ll find in just about any bar in Hong Kong, where it is known as “San Ba pi jiao,” pi jiao being the Chinese word for beer: very easy to remember — it makes you “pee, Joe.” Simple.
The country music, I have to tell you, sounded like authentic country music you’d hear in a bar in Denver or Nashville or Reno or any of those other places I don’t visit country bars in. (Reykjavik, Recife? Same fuckin’ thing – I haven’t been to either one.) Anyway, my boss seemed to like it, and he was paying, so what did I care?
So, the boss is sitting there tapping his fingers on his knee, and I’m just sucking down the ol’ San Miguel. I must have been dehydrated, because I put down almost three full liter mugs before having to relieve myself. It was an epic piss, literally.
I get back from the bathroom, and there’s a tiny but well-stacked Filipina wearing a western outfit that looked more like a Halloween costume sitting on my bar-stool. “Hiii, big guy!” she says, looking up at me and flashing a big toothy smile. “Hey, you got pretty beeg number, don’t you?” I was wearing a Rulon Jones jersey – he wore number 75 for the Broncos. I’m preparing myself for a sales pitch, no doubt in my mind.
She continues, “I like guys with big numbers.” It came out sounding like nomm-burse. “But you know who I reeeeely like?”
“Um, no,” I said, playing along. “Who do you reeeeely like?” Expecting her to say something like “You!” and poke me in the gut, then ask me to buy her a drink.
“I like nomm-burr SEBEN, John Elway. He’s de BEST!!!” she says, and she twirls around and walks onto the stage as the all-Filipino band kicks off a country-sounding song called, “I Love You, No Shit.”
After that, I knew Hong Kong was going to be a fun place to hang on company-financed R&R&R.