Everyone declares the weekend open by retreating into their respective comfort zones.
Hong Kong’s Democratic Party lawmakers have been agonizing over whether to accept the Chinese government’s generous offer of permission to cross the border and visit their own country with a trip to Shanghai. They tried to set conditions, but the wily Reds stayed silent while an extremely loud clock ticked on hotel and flight bookings. What a quandary: refuse to go, and everyone will mock your selfish, infantile intransigence; say yes, and you’re spineless, kowtowing wimps. Long in-depth discussions and debates ensued, dragging on late into the night (probably). Finally, an oh-so elegant solution is announced: two of the six will go – and not just any two, but the two most forgettable ones. Sin what’s-his-name, and the woman with the spectacles. The Communist Party is put firmly in its place.
Founding DP member Martin Lee – accompanied by former Chief Secretary Anson Chan – carries the fight for universal suffrage to the nation’s capital. Washington DC, that is. Psychologists believe that it is good for the elderly to reminisce about the glories of the past, as it reinforces mechanisms for coping with change. This is especially important for Lee, for whom the late 80s/early 90s never ended. He was in his element in that era, touring the Western world, reveling in the adulation of Commie-hating senators, and urging them to somehow force Beijing to grant Hong Kong universal suffrage. It must do him good to re-live those heady days, when it all seemed so important.
For some reason, the US never did get around to bullying China into giving Hong Kong democracy. The Commie-hating senators could always indulge themselves, however, in a safe and nostalgic dream of their own: treating an impoverished, bankrupt-in-every-way, handout-dependent, fossilized joke throwback regime in Cuba as if it were still loading up on Soviet nukes circa 1962. Now, in 2014, an embargo that should have been stuffed and put in a museum clings to life, and we proudly present: new high-tech, updated plots to poison Castro’s beard.
Closer to home, the neighbourhood withdraws into its own cozy and comfortable little milieu: whining about newcomers. Specifically, we ponder the possibility that the district has bad karma. It was a noted vice-hub in ancient colonial times, but that was relatively harmless fun. We are talking serious past sins, even evil. And I suspect it concerns collaboration with the enemy occupiers in 1941-45. My evidence is the latest in a long series of punishments to be visited upon the community, namely a restaurant called Bo-lo’gne.
Bologne is a tiny village in northeast France; Boulogne is a Channel port in northwestern France; Bologna is the Italian renaissance city known for its spaghetti sauce. This, however, is Japanese.
There are branches of Bo-lo’gne scattered around malls in town. They are bakery-cafes, specializing in what they call Danish bread. Thousands of fashionable and beautiful people line up to buy it, partly because it is made from 180 (or something) layers, giving it a sort of stringy appearance, but mostly because it is trendy. It looks like it is probably sweet and spongy, though fear of being fashionable forbids me to try it.
Apart from cloying trendiness, in which we have been smothered for some years now, the pain Bo-lo’gne is inflicting upon the neighbourhood is essentially aesthetic. Most restaurants hire professional photographers to take pictures of their dishes, with the intriguing result that every pretentious eatery in town has identical-looking fare in its publicity shots – all meticulously glossy and posed. And they stick them discreetly in menus and advertorials. This place, on the other hand, shows you exactly what the offerings look like up close in real life. Warts and all. And they are displaying the gruesome results on a large poster on a wall, forcing schoolchildren, the elderly and others to see it.
In most fine dining establishments’ soft-focus gastro-porn, spaghetti appears exquisitely coiffed and combed into elegant curls and waves. Here, it is an unruly mess with a wart sauce, dumped on the plate by the handful, juxtaposed perversely with toast and half a kiwi fruit.
This is just the start. The innocent passer-by next sees the mutant breaded pork cutlet, which has had what appears to be a furry animal’s extremely loose bowel movement poured over it (fancy places would say ‘drizzled’). The ‘curry sauce’, as the establishment calls it, is not shiny like molten gold, but not lustrous like silk – it has the patina of PVC.
It goes from unappetizing to illness-inducing, with a second barbaric miscegenation and massacre of Indian and Western cuisine of the sort only the deviant Japanese would attempt: the grey steak in ‘curry sauce’. Possibly served on a bed of toast – it’s hard to say.
Finally – and I hardly need to say it because you just know it’s coming, it’s just so inevitable by this stage – an ice-cream cone upside-down on a slice of folded-over toast. As nature intended.
I have no idea what we have done to deserve this in our midst. As for the people who are paying money to get these items and put them in their mouths, we can only tremble at the wrath of divine judgment.