MONDAY, DECEMBER 10TH, 2001
Off to Hong Kong today for one show with Bertie Higgins and really off to a good start. Got stressed out at the airport in Nashville before I ever left because of the weather and gave myself a migrane. Our flight was late leaving because of “weather” in Nashville and Atlanta. It was extremely turbulent all the way to Atlanta, which I absolutely LOVE. After 30 minutes of circling in Atlanta in TURBULENCE, I hit the ground running for the restroom. Was walking right in when a man comes out and says, “I don’t think you want to go in there. It’s the men’s room”. What does he know, anyway? Have a 3 hour layover in Atlanta and then a 5 ½ hour flight to San Francisco where I have a 2 ½ hour layover. Then it’s a 14 hour flight to Hong Kong arriving Wednesday morning, the 12th. And you “envy” me my job…Ha! I will remove my clothes and stand them in the corner of the room tonight for proper disposal later in the day!
Had a couple of hours in San Francisco to check email but the lounge was too far from the gate to make the trek. Hooked up to a pay phone at the gate area and after MANY false starts was able to get on-line. A little man from Singapore at the next pay phone was having the same problem, so I helped him log on. This from a woman who can’t even tape a movie on her VCR. Trust me, I can hot-wire a phone in less than 10 minutes when it means access to my email!
Singapore Airlines is great. They even called me up to the counter to tell me that both pieces of my luggage was on board before we took off. The food was excellent and of course, there were very few people on the plane. In 14 hours, you eat 2 meals, work, read a book, watch a movie and sleep.
When I landed in Hong Kong, I remembered why this is probably my favorite city in the entire world. I don’t know why I whined so much about coming on this trip. (maybe it was the 30 hours of traveling????). The hotel is beautiful – 5 star – right on the harbor. I had forgotten what a luxury it is to be able to unpack. The entire 2 weeks I was on the USO tour, we were never at one place long enough to even unpack the luggage. And the bathroom – it’s all marble and there’s a huge walk-in shower stall (and so far, the shower wand hasn’t flown off and whacked me in the head!) and real wash clothes and soap – Europe has no wash cloths and the soap is a liquid gel. And the bathroom has “COUNTER SPACE”. I can put out all those little bottles of anti-wrinkle, age defying creams that aren’t working for me!
When for a run along the harbor as soon as I got unpacked (it’s only 8 am in Hong Kong). Usually, I’m “allergic” to Hong Kong. We thought it was the carbon monoxide but after I experienced the same “heat rash” in Italy this summer, decided it must just be the heat and walking so much. So far, no rash, but I’m taking antihistimines just to be safe. It was 70 degrees at 6:30 am when I landed. Everyone is in long sleeves, sweaters and coats! I couldn’t believe it. I asked my friend Anders who lives here about this. He said, “It’s winter in Hong Kong. They think this is cold”. Told him I’m going shopping in my shorts and he assured me the locals will think I am “Wonder Woman”!
My email is up and running, so I’m going to get this out to everyone and then hit the streets with my 6 typewritten pages of Christmas “wishes” that I promised to pick up for everyone! Have to go to the airport tonight to pick up Bertie Higgins and his band.
I was whining that I had to be here for 5 days for only one show – now I’m wishing I could stay longer. Just wish my daughter could have come with me. She and I are power shoppers!
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13TH:
Yeah, totally “lost” Tuesday, December 11th and went straight to Wednesday, the 12th.
Up at 7 am this morning when Bertie called to see if I was awake!!!! Hotel has a great gym so I got in a workout and 2 hours of answering email before we headed for Stanley Market. Took everyone shopping for “bargains” plus it’s a great way to tour Hong Kong Island by bus! They have big double-decker buses and their drivers are unbelievable. We could use a few of these guys in the U.S. for tour bus drivers.
I found the copy watches at Stanley Market much cheaper than downtown but they did not have the colors I needed and they only accepted cash. Since there was no ATM nearby, had to blow those off.
Shopped all day, then had a production meeting regarding the show. There is a 14 piece group on before and after Bertie and it’s a very small stage. Should be interesting….
Off to the Night Market tonight to hopefully finish buying most of the items on my “pick this up for me while you’re in Hong Kong list”!
Shopping at the Night Market is a “shoppers paradise”…everything imaginable at really low prices – and you “bargain” for everything. I almost finished buying all the gifts I promised to pick up for other people. Just as we were leaving the market (it was only me and one of Bertie’s musicians), I spotted a guy selling copy watches! He kept looking over his shoulder and watching for the police. He offered me a really great price for 7 AND he had all the colors I needed. But, he only accepted cash! So, he walks with me and Randy (musician) to an ATM. I was going to take the money off my credit card but I have never used it for a cash advance and did not know my PIN number. Thought the machine was going to eat my card, but I got it back. It did allow me to take it out of my checking account.
Then, instead of walking back to the stand, he said we had to go to Mongkok to pick them up – which was several miles away. I did NOT like that idea but he grabbed a taxi. It was me, Randy, and two of them and the taxi driver. Randy had already said that there were two people following us – probably police ready to arrest all of us – them for selling illegal copy watches and me for buying! I freaked and decided they were going to take us somewhere and rob us. (Randy had his pocket picked just this morning — $100 and credit cards and he never knew when they hit him!). So, I made them stop the taxi and we got out. They kept trying to negotiate with us and told us we had to go have “tea”. They were afraid that they would leave to go get the watches and we would disappear. They wanted a “deposit” which I refused to give them. Finally, we agreed to go to a tea shop but I wouldn’t drink anything because I figured they were going to drug us. While one of the guys is supposedly gone to Mongkok to get the watches, the other guy orders some local delicacy (there were pictures of it all over the walls and newspaper articles written about it). They brought out some kind of black “goo” sort of like black jello and he proceeded to pour something that looked like maple syrup over it. Then he hands me a bowl of it. No way I was going to eat that stuff. I did smell it and it smelled horrible.
The guy came back with the copy watches and “sneaked” them across the table to me. I checked them out under the table and “sneaked” them into my bag; the money changed hands and it was a done deal. Whew. Never had that much trouble trying to purchase a copy watch before. As we were walking out, one of the guys points to a big black turtle and then the picture on the wall of the food he was trying to get me to eat. It was turtle! Yuck.
Just got back to the hotel and going to bed. Must go back to the Night Market tomorrow night to finish up, I think.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14TH
I had lunch with the son of one of my best friends who now lives in Austin. He has been in college in New Zealand and was taking a tour of this region before returning to Texas. It is unbelievable that we both come all the way to Hong Kong to finally see each other again.
Tonight there , was a party for the Corporate Execs for Watsons (our host – chain of retail stores), the sponsors, and the artists that will be performing tomorrow night. It was in the Peninsula Ballroom which is the most fabulous hotel on Kowloon in my opinion. The first time I ever came to Hong Kong, Pat Boone stayed at the Peninsula – of course we stayed across the street at another hotel. After the cocktail hour, we were entertained by Penthouse Experience (a great band from the UK) as well as several members of the audience. My friend – Anders – sang for us and he has an incredible voice. I knew he was a “star” many years ago in Hong Kong but in the 15 years I’ve known him, I’m never heard him sing. Soup was served and then there was a fabulous buffet – sushi, salad, fresh seafood of every kind. Most of the guys went back for seconds and thirds before one of my friends mentioned the “main course was yet to come”! You know what they say, you can take the boy/girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy/girl! Bertie got up and sang Casablanca and Key Largo before we departed.
Ralphie and I went back down to the Night Market to finish up the shopping that got cut short by the copy watch fiasco the night before. The copy watch stand wasn’t in the same place but we saw the guys in another place. They definitely remembered us!
I found out exactly what that stuff that looked like black jello with syrup poured over it is….coagulated turtle blood! The guy the night before had kept pointing to it and then pointing to his face and his hands. He didn’t speak English so were doing the old “guessing game” with him. Since he had horrible acne, we thought he meant that if you ate it, you either would or would not grow hair on your face! Actually, he was telling us that it is wonderful for your skin. Obviously he hasn’t been eating it for very long.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15TH
We get a newspaper in our rooms each morning titled, iMail Hong Kong. It’s interesting that our “war” does not take the front page every morning like it does at home. There is a small 2×2 inch photo on the front page stating, “Terroist’s lair found” – Page 13. But, the most interesting news was a large color photo of two Asian men – one dressed as Monica Lewinsky and one dressed as former President Clinton. The caption under the photo reads ”Odd Couple”
There was a chance to be who you wanted to be at the Legco Fun Day yesterday. Democrat Fred Li, left, fancied himself as sultry Monica Lewinsky while pro-democracy legislator Michael Mak was happy to go as former US president Bill Clinton – right down to his cigar. There were also Jiang Zemin and Tung Chee-hwa look-alikes.
I wish I had a scanner so I could attach this photo. “Bill” is holding a cigar in one hand and “Monica’s” dress in the other hand which clearly shows a “discoloration” on the fabric! Isn’t it wonderful to have our former President remembered in such a way??? This newspaper goes home with me….
Sound check was the typical “American” format with everything running about an hour late. It was the strangest stage set-up I have ever seen. Basically, it was a hotel ballroom with round tables and chairs crammed on every inch of floor space. In front of the stage, they had laid down “dance flooring” and the stage itself was at least 3 tiers. A huge lighted floor was at the very front of the stage about 2 feet off the floor. Then there was another tier which was probably only 6 feet wide and only about 6 inches above the first tier. Then there was another tier and was even more narrow. So instead of letting the groups set up to perform on the entire stage, everyone was crammed on the small second and third tiers. The “dance” band actually had 14 musicians to pack into that space. Bertie literally had 2 feet of space in which to move around. The audience got up and danced – not on the dance floor – but on the lighted part of the stage. So, when the artists were performing, no one in the audience could see them because of the dancers on stage! When I questioned the set-up, I was told that the President of the company only cared about two things: 1- that everyone drank a lot; 2- that everyone danced! He evidently left a happy man because they all drank a lot and the party lasted until 3:30 am this morning!
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16TH:
Grabbed a “couple” of hours sleep and then went out for one final “run” around the harbor. Met with my friend and the promoter on this gig and his wife for lunch then had our final planning meeting with Bertie. I’m off for one last cruise through the shops and then to the airport. Flight leave Hong Kong at 10 pm tonight via San Francisco. Fly all night from San Francisco to Atlanta and will be home by 9:00 am Monday morning after a 5 hour layover in SFO and 3 hour layover in Atlanta!