“Happy Eid!” I announce to Wild American friend Odell, as I collapse into the giraffe skin-upholstered easy chair opposite him in the corner of the IFC Mall branch of Pacific Coffee. He looks up from his organic henna and wild balsamic loganberry latte with a bemused look. It is a bit early in the morning for anything intellectual. I patiently explain that today is (or will be, if it starts at sundown) the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal – the celebration of Eid El Fitr – in the year of the Hijra 1431. “The end of Ramadan,” I add. He gets it, and breaks his own fast with a bite of a spongy chocolate cake known as a Lammington.
“Well I guess it’s a good thing those freaks in Florida aren’t gonna burn the Quran,” he admits. “The Muslims’d blow up our troops, kill innocent people everywhere, burn churches, then the Christians would fight back, kill taxi drivers, shoot up mosques, and Jeez, next thing you got a fuckin’ global race war.” I nod at this – given the time of day – extraordinarily erudite analysis.
“Still,” he goes on, “it woulda been, y’know… kinda interesting.” He looks round and lowers his voice. “Is it just me or is it really funny to watch those guys go totally apeshit on TV? Stamping on flags, burning whatever, beating their chests, tearing their beards, screeching like crazy – I mean just completely and totally freaking out over some dumb cartoon or something. I love it. I’m just laughing my ass off, sitting there and thinking ‘Get a freakin’ grip you dickheads’, y’know? Do they realize how impossible it is for the rest of the world to take them seriously? I mean, religion of peace?”
I know what he means, though it’s perhaps not everyone’s idea of entertainment. It’s intriguing: the collective insanity of a crowd of Hongkongers swamping McDonald’s for the limited-edition Snoopy doll combined with the frenzied bloodlust of a Rottweiler chewing a baby to shreds.
If it’s any consolation, I tell him, we could in theory be in for a righteous Mohammedan uprising right here in the streets of Central in Hong Kong later today when the faithful step onto the Mid-Levels Escalator and head up the hill for Friday prayers at the mosque on Shelly Street. Because just a little way up from Queens Road they will, if they glance to their right, see nothing less than a giant pig’s anus staring them right in the face. “If it could talk,” I suggest, “it would say ‘Salaam Alaikum’. Or maybe not.”
The porcine posterior has been attached to the wall of a building as part of an advertisement for something called the Red Bull Flugtag. Red Bull is one of those modern deities known as popular brands. By adopting a distinctive logo and sponsoring sporty, outdoor and downright scary events, it attracts gullible worshipers who make generous offerings by purchasing little bottles of highly overpriced sugary, caffeine-laden water. The liquid’s only possible use, other than as an expensive coffee substitute for the nocturnal trendy, is as a source of taurine for followers of the dietary perversion known as veganism. Though it has no effect on drinkers and presumably appears in the beverage because of its bovine-linked name, the substance is important for the maintenance of the chemical balance of our cells and is found mainly in meat and seafood.
As for the Flugtag, it appears to be a gathering where easily amused people with too little to do watch other people dress up in silly clothes with wings and jump into water. It has been held worldwide for years and, like all pointless fads, is marking its imminent demise by finally coming to Hong Kong.
“Yeah,” Odell says, “but I don’t think the Muslims here will give a damn. They never fuss about anything. They’ll just think ‘uh-huh, pig’s asshole, no biggy’ and that’s it.”
Then he thinks about it some more. “Hey, you know what though – there’s also a synagogue at the top of the Escalator!”