Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Asia Journal, Pt 2

DAY 2 – Friday – Hong Kong

Theme Song – “Veni Vidi Vici,” Black Lips
“I came, I saw/ I conquered all/All ya’ll”

Why? Because we aced our meetings. All the samples of the designs are beautiful. This happened despite Paddy tagging along. Paddy is my new boss. He spends most of his time in everyone’s business looking for excuses to meet with his superiors and brownnose them. I still haven’t figured out what he’s doing here halfway around the world, besides devising ways to take credit for our work.

We skate through the meetings and head back to the hotel at the end of the day. I take a short nap and then get ready for dinner. Tommy is our dinner host tonight. Tommy is a burly young Taiwanese guy who runs a trading company. He favors mob-boss pinstriped suits and Gucci loafers. He looks kinda thuggy, but he’s really just a big softie. He just got married and had a baby. He has pictures: his new daughter is tiny with a load of thick black hair and she looks just like Dad: she is adorable. Everyone in our circle in Hong Kong seems to have childrearing on their mind; if they aren’t expecting, they are new moms or dads. If they are new moms and dads, they are armed with pictures in their wallets and movies on their cellphones. With the One Child Policy still in effect in China, if you are a new parent, you are at a singular point in your life; these young parents all glow with hope and pride; it is heartening to see such intense faith in their kids’ future.

We eat at a nice Vietnamese restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong, a party district frequented by expats. Ordering is always a bit of trauma, because Chinese hospitality demands that there always should be more than enough, so it is absolutely certain that everyone has eaten their fill. Everyone gorges and regrets it later, but the food is delicious so it’s hard to complain.

After dinner, my sourcing team and I escape the suits and go to a bar around the corner. Danny, our ex-market rep, comes along as an honorary member of the team, even though he’s been transferred. It’s a promotion, but he is complaining about how he misses us -- the design manager on his new team is nasty. I concur with Danny’s assessment: I know this guy, and I always thought he was an arrogant prat. Apparently, everyone else in the office thinks so, too. There is a lot of bullshit flung around in the design community about designers being the new rockstars (look at Karim Rashid’s myspace page for an illustration of how NOT to pull this off), and this prat buys it all, expecting constant adulation for feeble work. He once told me he preferred not to design; he’d rather have his underlings do it all for him. At least rockstars have to have chops or they cease to be stars.

Hopefully, after three bottles of wine shared amongst friends, Danny has escaped the daily grind for a while. We have a lot of laughs, and drunk dial a couple of coworkers back home, just to jerk their chains: when you’re sitting in frigid Minneapolis, hearing the chardonnay is chilled and it’s a balmy 70 degrees in Hong Kong is a sick joke.

DAY 3 – Saturday – Hong Kong

Theme Song – Roky Erickson and the Aliens “Click Your Fingers Applauding the Play”

Another day of meetings aced. I think Paddy is finally convinced that we actually are as good as they say we are. Hopefully, this means he’ll leave us alone to do our thing with less of his ‘assistance’. I get back to the hotel at about 4 and can’t sleep, so I dink around in the New World Store. I heart the New World Store; it’s more or less a grocery store with a weird amalgam of housewares, toiletries, Asian kitsch and office supplies. It is both familiar and fairly weird to my American eyes: it’s a mall store with garish sale posters and easy-clean surfaces, but it stocks stuff like durian, a tropical fruit that’s considered a delicacy but smells something like sewage. There is also stuff like this:

Angry Caucasian Dude Snacks and Cat Fiber Marshmallows (which is what we thought they were until we realized they were actually “calcium plus fiber marshmallows”, thanks to some iffy typography) The marshmallows are surprisingly good.

We go to dinner with fun colleagues at a swank Japanese place. They always order up cold sake when we do this, which comes in a lethal dispenser loaded with ice. It is always hard to gauge your sake intake, especially given that etiquette demands that you never fill your own cup: somebody is always filling it up when you’re not looking.

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