03 June 2008

Tracker Tales

  1. My father did not waste time inventing. What he recounted, you could count on being based on sufficient research to be worth his breath telling.

    Apparently, as an April Fool, a senior civil servant in the Hong Kong government was sent a telegram reading "All is known".

    Next day, no sign of the dude. He had skipped the colony.

    Dad's point was that we all have something to hide and our consciences will fill in the gaps.

  2. 1995 and I was quitting Hong Kong for the last time, heading for Seattle. Queuing at Kai Tak airport for customs, a no-nonsense looking guy with a jaw you dont mess with and a 1,000-yard stare pushed in front of me. I dont recall what I said; something weedy like "Hey, there IS a queue, you know."

    He didnt deign me a glance but rasped in surprisingly well-accented Cantonese,

    "Fuck your mother, ignorant devil ghost man. I enter the line where I like."
    When I praise his accent, I mean he hit at least 3 of the 9 tones.

    Down Wanchai, if you're talking tough about jumping a queue, you go for the stevedore slang,and you can leave off the final "hai" in the maternal intercourse bit: Dieuu lega lo mo. To jump line is to 'hit the point of the pin'. Don't ask me why.

    So off I flew to Seattle-sur-Mer and ended up on Bainbridge Island where Walt's of Lynwood Center was our grocer of choice.

    Must've been no more than a week, lining up to pay and I turn round and it's The Jaw. Same neanderthal expression, 1,000-yard stare. In street Canto',

    "Fuck yer mutha, red-headed devil man. Need to hit needle point here?"

    He looks at me but I've turned back and am exchanging pleasantries with Walt as he weighs the veggies and rings up the total."What did you say?"

    I return the Kai Tak favor and dont look round. "Nothing, mate" and walk out.

  3. Back in my London busking days there was a smartass no one liked but he was tough, read 'Soldier of Fortune' and consorted with unsavory types. A number of pub owners wouldnt have him drinking in their establishment. He played a bit of guitar and I let him borrow my battered Santos Beirao when the Muse took him. It was an uneasy relationship and I wasnt convinced by his lies about him having to stay one step ahead of "Them".

    The other day, taking a short cut up from Garitsa, there he was in a kafeneion, looking older and heavier but the same scam artist.

    He hadnt seen me so I got out my cigs and Herald Trib and came round behind him and sat down at his table. He looked up and then down and then up again as he recognised me. I nodded to him and folded my paper open at the op-ed. The waitress arrived and i made a big deal about flirting with her in Corfiot sing-song Greek about their pastries that werent on the menu but which I bet they kept for the locals. What did she recommend? And a hot capuccino, not the luke-warm variety favored by her countrymen.

    "How's it going Paul?" (eyes sweeping the Trib)

    Not too bad. Yerself?

    "Keeping out of trouble. (Flip the page) Jesus, Gordon Brown couldn't run a bath. Hillary? When's she going to throw the towel in, you reckon?"

    My pastry and coffee arrives and it's hot and flakey. I tell her that mama neednt have fired the oven afresh just for me. She giggles.

    I pay there and then and include an unnecessary €1 euro tip,

    "For the kid's computer games. Oy veh! Toys these days, yeah?"

    Over tipping can be a goof insult but say its for the children and face is retained.

    I drink my coffee and wrap the rest of the baklava in a napkin and rise to leave.

    "They only told me to find you," I say. "Mission accompli. Have a nice day."
    As I walk away the waitress shouts out thanks and Paul calls out
    "No, I'm not into that any more. I told them."
    I think that's what he said. I hope that's not what he said.

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