Maybe we were too arrogant. Maybe we should have seen it coming. Then again, we had seen everything the world and nature threw our way and we somehow brushed it aside or took it on and beat it- typhoons, riots, water rationing, the SARS crisis. But no one prepared any of us for any of all this that’s happening today.
The first Sunday when the peaceful protests in 2019 had taken a turn for the worst and become something more volatile, a friend and I were forced to have dinner at the Grand Hyatt Steakhouse and not go to where we had planned.
Traffic routes had suddenly been forced to change and cars couldn’t go through certain areas on Hong Kong side and I couldn’t get to Kowloon.
So, instead of a starter of an Italian Sausage followed by a plate of homemade Salted Sea Bass, I had to settle for some Cajun crab cakes and a Spring Chicken. My friend settled for a salad and a Sirloin Steak. We enjoyed a good bottle of red wine, toasted each other and figured “normal transmission would resume” the next day.
After all, this was Hong Kong and nothing bad ever happens here. Nothing. Even if it does, it’s nothing that cannot be made to go away.
This is how we were brought up and something along the lines of “How bad could it be?” and, how there will be an answer, so just let it be, let it be.
Of course, it all depended on the cards one was dealt. How, with whatever hand you were holding, you tried to make the best of it. If one thing failed, there was another and new opportunities were always knocking in what was a city too young to know and still to find its heart and soul and exactly where it was heading.
Maybe that was its magic- the unknown and being whatever one wanted it to be. It was
being on a magical mystery tour long before the Beatles and meeting our own cast of characters- all the nowhere people, the sexy Sadies, Eleanor Rigby, the Blue Meanies, the Dim Sums and Char Siu Baos.
Did we really know what our parents did for a living? Maybe- and we never asked. Maybe we didn’t want to know or if we knew too much, this might be more information than we needed to know.
So we went with the flow and formed bands and dated different girls and became writers for newspapers and basically just hung out never having to worry about anything because this was Hong Kong and there was always something happening here.
It’s what attracted so many movers and shakers and fakirs and sword swallowers and gypsies, tramps and thieves to this one time barren rock.
It was a magic rock, however, and it could be anything you wanted it to be. This is when the visionaries stepped in and went where angels feared to tread.
They showed us everything that could be achieved if one had an Idea no one else had. How this could be parlayed into a business and where there were always those willing to pay for these ideas.
If there were no ideas, there were smoke and mirrors and investors able to see how even nothing could be made to look like something.
This business “methodology” wasn’t exclusive to Hong Kong, but being the small city that it’s always been, swimming with sharks was given an Olympic size pool where invited in were self proclaimed celebrity chefs, entertainment gurus and those extremely good at selling themselves and whatever nuts they were squirrelling away before the sucker punch was finally delivered.
This is how Hong Kong operated as a startup and grew to be what it became through trial and error and incredible dumb luck. But as any gambler playing for high stakes knows, luck runs out and then it’s about getting back in the game.
The problem arises when there’s no game. This is where Hong Kong is today.
It’s about being able to find a seat and be part of a game when the entire menu has been exhausted, and opportunities are so thin on the ground many are falling through the cracks in the ice.
Is it all lost? Nothing ever is, but time is ticking into the future and Hong Kong needs to make up for the time it’s wasted thinking that in these hours of darkness Mother Mary will appear and talk to us. She might be busy right now as the world is in a bit of a mess.
Hong Kong? Hong Kong is back on its own. The guardian angels have left for the coast along with the sixteen vestal virgins.
All is not lost. Think of these days as an intermission and a time to regroup, find the right team who sees the best in worst case scenarios and own these, baby.