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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming:
"WOW, what a ride !!!"

Hong Kong @ 200kph

P.J. Read-circa 1962

I shouldn’t have gone to Hong Kong. The memories of thirty years ago are still strong enough to cause my sphincter to tighten at the smell of fried rice or at the sight of Jackie Chan. Unfortunately I am a weak man. An invitation to spend a week in the colony with my old rugby chum Firko and that irascible pal from Philly, McCook was too strong a lure. The fact that McCook’s platinum card was covering the junket added to my weakening.

I supposedly had fun on Cathay Pacific flight 121 from Sydney but my only memory of it is of chatting with Lucy Liu and getting a face full of mace for my trouble. Dear old Firko related to me later that I had no trousers on at the time and had been showing that darling little Hollywood starlet Lucy Liu my hernia scars while enroute to the first class latrine. (us Reads never use coach facilities). Apparently a stewardess was passing with a Gin and Tonic intended for a first class customer and I grabbed it and attempted to extradite it back to coach. Unfortunately I had forgotten that my trousers were at ankle height and I hit the deck like a Rugby player scoring a touchdown, not spilling a drop. Sadly, the mace prevented any further participation in first class activities and I spent the rest of the flight hog-tied in the baggage hold.

Luckily Firko knows some serious players in Hong Kong society and after some exorbitant graft to immigration officials I was rushed out the back door of the airport and into a waiting taxi. The mace had unfortunately had a detrimental effect on my plumbing and I managed to throw up over the driver’s head before I could wind the window down. Thankfully Firko had a pocket full of Hong Kong dollars that went towards the taxi wash and a shower for its little driver.

My big Aussie mate and I were good and ready for a drink by the time we got to the Harbour Plaza Hotel and our rendezvous with McCook. Unfortunately the humidity and the mace remnants were too much for me and I passed out as soon as I emerged from the taxi. After Firko threw another $1000 HKD at the doorman to help carry me in, we staggered into the Lobby Bar. The air conditioning and a splash of water quickly brought me around and with a quick scan of the room we spotted the shiny head of McCook sitting at the bar, sucking on a straw and reading what bizarrely appeared to be a Physicians Desk Reference. How odd, I thought. Even odder when I realized that he was drinking a nancy boy Cranberry juice fizzy thing called a Virgin Madras. What had happened to the “Prancing Pennsylvanian” party boy I had bailed out of the lock up on three consecutive nights in the Shijuku Kabukicho red light area of Tokyo just a year earlier? It seemed that he had changed. I would find out just how much, as we got deeper into our adventure.

Our Liaison, Maurice, shows us
the high points of the city
Photo by PJ Read

Firko ordered three tallboy 151 rum Dark and Stormy’s and discreetly passed McCook’s unsightly Virgin Madras back to the bartender as if he was passing a dog turd to a nun. McCook had a look of horror on his face as the rum infused ginger beer was placed in front of him. He quickly passed it to me with a “You look like you could use this more than me” look on his face. At the same time Firko gave the American one of his customary bear hugs and we moved from the bar to a nearby table. “Don’t tell me you’re still off the drink” I blurted as I remembered the five day Saki and Johnnie Walker binge of a year ago in Tokyo. My dear old GP chum Akira Watanabe had invited me to the Shinjuki district to party with the Yamaha boys. Knowing McCook was in Tokyo on business, I invited him to join us. A big regret on reflection. My only previous drinking experience with him had been a few draft Rolling Rocks in a godforsaken little tavern called the Ringside Bar in New Hope, Pennsylvania where he was as well behaved as a Catholic schoolboy in his Auntys living room. That night and the week that followed saw him sink to depths only that his chum Hollingsworth would ever have found. It was ugly. It was un-American.

However, I digress. This was a year later and McCook was still off the piss. What kind of big night out had he intended? Firko has a thirst for Queensland rum that cannot be quenched and I have my now well documented addiction to anything fermented. “McCook was in for a rough ride”, I thought to myself. After half an hour of almost civilized conversation washed down with a good half dozen heart starters, we decided that it was time to step up the program. Firko knew of a little expat pub up on Victoria Mountain that “has a Tequila selection second only to Hussongs in Ensenada”. A quick cab ride up the hill past the dot com mansions and we arrive at a little bar called Lux. The bar was full of expat suits called Simon and blonde Brit girlies named Prue. This was not my Hong Kong. Firko immediately found the only Asian babe in the place and before long he had his hand on her perfect little arse and his tounge in her mouth. McCook had struck up a conversation with a computer programmer from Duluth and was back on those Virgin Madras monstrosities. I staggered to the bar and put a bottle of Casa Noble Blue Agave tequila on McCook’s tab. The bottle lasted as long as a longneck does to a thirsty cowboy. By now things were a little obscure but I remember that Firko was wall banging his new Asian princess and McCook seemed to be on a computer geek roll with the nerd from Duluth. I needed out.

I staggered to the street and headed into the streets of Lang Kwai Fong, looking for a decent bar. Eventually I found a pub called Dublin Jacks and staggered to the bar and ordered a Bundaberg OP Dark and Stormy and an Absinthe chaser. The bar was full of Rugby types, bent nosed men built like Kodiak bears. I slammed the Absinthe and was heading for a quiet corner to gather my thoughts when a beautiful Eurasian smiled at me and beckoned me to her table. “I never did get to see your hernia scars”, she purred in a perfect American accent. It was the girl off the ‘plane. Apparently some sort of Hollywood starlet of note. I remember Firko telling me her name was Lucy Liu and, so armed with that knowledge I dropped my pants once again to show her the hernia damage she had asked for. The Kung Foo bouncers didn’t consider my battle scars de rigeur for their establishment and without an opportunity to finish my Dark and Stormy I was thrown head first into Cochrane Street. Suddenly, I was feeling very second hand.

I staggered along the street looking for some sign of familiarity when a car horn drew my attention to the road. It was Lucy behind the wheel of a black Maybach Excelero. She got out and pushed me towards the drivers seat while she hopped back into the left hand passenger side. “Drive” she said. I gunned the big V12 turbo into D’Aguilar Road and back towards the Lux Bar. Memories flooded of my youth and of seeing Stan Jones, father of my dear friend 1980 F1 World Champ Alan Jones, winning the 1956 Australian GP in a Maybach. This was better. I was pushing 200kph along the crowded party precinct when the Lux came into view. I hit the slammers and eased into a nice little spot out front of the bar. Without warning Lucy became delirious and proceeded to start punching me for no reason. I was trying to explain when the door opened and a hand reached in and dragged me out. It was McCook. Behind me Lucy had changed tack and was pleading with me that she was sorry and to get back in the car and here was McCook dragging me away. “Screw this” thought I.

I hit him. Bang, one punch, out cold. “That was for Hollingsworth” I shouted at the limp body laying in the middle of D’aguilar Road. All of the commotion had attracted Firko from within the Lux. “You dopey prick” was all I heard from the big fella before a Hong Kong Police Paddy wagon pulled up and I was arrested at gun point.

The next two days were a blur. The Tequila, Rum and Absinthe had done their job.

For all intended purposes the Hong Kong lockup was a damn sight better than my previous stay over after a rather lovely headbutt on a Royal Navy type back in ’79.

On the third morning I was released without charge thanks mainly to Firko’s pocket full of Hong Kong dollars. I was relieved to see a smiling Firko and a battle scarred but smiling McCook. The three of us piled into the waiting Maybach (It appears that Firko had later shown Lucy his hernia) and Lucy gunned the big German up Arsenel Street back towards Lang Kwai Fong. “I could go a cold Dark and Stormy”, laughed Firko as we headed away.


More from Nigel Hollingsworth and PJ Read


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