An American Dancing Fool In China
AT SEA, Part 3:
Right in the heart of free enterprise, right next to billion dollar companies
that own sweat shops all across Asia, we danced the electric slide with
giggling Chinese girls. And
it was in these clubs that I learned to love communism.
CULTURE, 05/24/02: CULTURAL EXCHANGE China
took Hong Kong back from British control a few years ago. I visited shortly
after the exchange. I'd never been to a communist country before, but
Hong Kong was definitely not what I expected. I should know better then
to make assumptions about a place I had never been. Yet, I'm a red-blooded
American, goddamnit, I'm suppose to hate communism and Hong Kong. But
I loved Hong Kong.
factories. I expected the straight faces of working stiffs. I expected
huge pictures of Mao. But what I got was the Asian version of Manhattan,
a relatively small island with more skyscrapers than Arizona and New Mexico
have combined. It was a bustling metropolis with a mixing pot of every
race and creed in the book.
One of my
friends, an economics major, told me that technically Hong Kong isn't
communist. He said that there's way too much money in Hong Kong and even
the Chinese, with their strong principles, wouldn't dare give up that
money and make it communist. So one would think once I got there, that
I would just forget about communism and revel in the epitome of free enterprise.
That was not the case. I was there when they were celebrating fifty years
of communism in China.
banners up all over promoting the celebration. I can't read Cantonese
but people told me that's what the banners said. So, there they were.
Banners hanging from skyscrapers. Banners next to the Coca-Cola signs
that wallpaper the city. Banners over the McDonalds'. Banners over the
street markets. Banners over the ATMs. All things that are not in the
Communist Manifesto. That is, I imagine they're not in there, I'm waiting
for it to come out on the books-on-tape series. There were even banners
over their dance clubs. Their dance clubs that stayed open all night and
peddled cheap booze like a drunken Irish vendor.
And it was
in these dance clubs that I learned to love communism. We partied all
night, dancing and drinking and celebrating 50 years of communism. Right
in the heart of free enterprise, right next to billion dollar companies
that own sweat shops all across Southeast Asia, we danced the electric
slide with giggling Chinese girls.
or no communism, Beijing or Hong Kong, it seems that most Chinese people
come from the same conservative stock. My American friends and I would
walk into these dance clubs that looked the same as any dance club in
the United States. There was a bar complete with bottles of booze, bartenders,
and cocktail waitresses. There were speakers with loud techno music blaring
and a DJ was in his booth, bobbing his head up and down with this headphones
on. There was a dance floor with colored lights spinning around it. There
were people. But there was no people out on the dance floor.
A few Long
Island Ice Teas in us, my friend Russ and me, shrugged at each other and
just went out and started dancing. Neither of us are good dancers. We
were those kids in high school still trying to learn the running man five
years too late. I really don't have the slightest idea how to dance. I
was just moving whatever body part I felt like moving at that time and
hoping that it would somehow coordinate to the music.
poor dancing skills, people from the bar started to gather around and
watch. And not watch like people watch the town drunk, not pointing and
laughing, but watching with genuine interest.
So we pulled
a couple girls out on the floor with us. There was some resistance at
first, but before you knew it, they were dancing too. And, wow, were they
bad. They just flailed body parts around like they were in the middle
of a mosh pit. But we didn't care, we just gave them some room and kept
more women joined in. Then the guys joined came out. At first I thought
they might be pissed at us for stealing their dates, but no, they just
wanted to dance. Chinese businessmen brought out extra Heinekens and gave
them to us and we toasted. I had bought a velvet leopard-print hat earlier
that day from a street vendor. I had been using it as a prop most the
night, rubbing it around on my head and spinning it on my finger. The
guys who brought us the drinks pointed to it and I let them borrow it.
You would have thought I had given them a foreign artifact the way they
looked at it and smiled. Little did they realize that they could buy one
down the street for about two dollars.
Now the dance
floor was full and Russ and I were the center. We did the running man,
they did the running man. Russ shuffled to the left, they shuffled to
the left. I did the 'lawn mower' and the 'windmill', they did the 'lawn
mower' and the 'windmill'. I freaked like Jay-Z, they freaked back. One
time I looked over at Russ and he had a girl on each side of him. He was
the fortune in the fortune cookie.
on all night. They couldn't speak English and we couldn't speak Cantonese,
but that was all right because we spoke the international language of
bad dancing. So you can say what you want to about communism and you can
talk all about how much fun you had at Mardi Gras or at a Fourth of July
party. But you haven't experience anything like celebrating 50 years of
Chinese Communism in Hong Kong. I'll be about seventy when they celebrate
100 years. I just hope at seventy, I can still do the electric slide.
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