Hong Kong is remarkable in every sense of the word. It's a beautiful mash-up of Oriental
tradition, high-speed technology and raw capitalism. One part of the city stumbles home at five
a.m. from the nightclubs of Lan Kwai Fong as the other rises for morning Tai Chi exercises. The
lush hillsides are coated with cement in some areas to stop landslides during the rainy season,
and I remember when I first moved there, in the fall of my sophomore year of high school, I
thought it looked like the Jurassic Park ride in Universal Studios. The whole city was an
awesome theme park for the tween-me.
By spring of that year, I had made my best friends. We were wealthy expatriates, all of us. We
paraded through the city, laughing and talking obnoxiously loud, because it was ours. As
foreigners, there was a sense of empowerment, like we could do whatever we wanted and get
away with it. In most cases, we could. It's an unfortunate age for a situation like that to occur,
though, because every 15-year-old thinks they're the shit already and the last thing they need is
for that notion to be validated.
The first time I was ever caught drinking by my parents was that year. I put on my sequined,
scoop-neck “clubbing top,” which in retrospect looked absurd for a child of that age to be
wearing. I looked out into the Hong Kong harbor from our 40th floor apartment, knowing full
well I was going to climb up and down that hill, up and down those stairs, in and out of clubs and
bars. There was no plan, not even the usual fake sleepover. I was invincible; it didn't matter if I
was going to get in trouble. I listened to my “club mix” playlist on my iPod on the metro across
the harbor, into Central Hong Kong. I met my friends at a restaurant inside of Admiralty Mall, in
between luxury stores and Lane Crawford. We ate an absurdly expensive dinner no high-
schooler should ever have. We drank. We left the restaurant and went to a bar and continued
drinking. We went to some sort of “exclusive” rooftop party in Midlevels for someone's 15th
birthday, and drank more. We left the party and went to Park View, a secluded high rise
apartment full of investment bankers. We drank more.
The city fed into our fantasies. We had the money to keep doing the endless things Hong Kong
kept throwing at us. More clubs, more bars, more restaurants, more rooftops, more drinks, more
drugs. Whatever we wanted, we got. But we were still fifteen. My dad called me that night,
wondering why I hadn't come home. It was clear by my speech that I was extremely drunk, and
he came to pick me up shortly after. I remember passing out in the car and waking up to a large
flash. A speed-detecting camera had taken a picture of our car, freezing the image of my father
and I hurdling through Hong Kong's Rainbow Roads. If you found that picture now, you'd be
able to see that he was more shocked than disappointed, and I was far too inebriated to register
emotions. I went back up to our apartment, to my bed next to our floor-to-ceiling windows facing
the harbor. Sometimes looking out across a city's skyline makes you feel small, but not then. I
towered over the city; it was mine for the taking.
I moved back to the American suburbs the year after. It was probably the most depressing year of
my life; a drawn out come down from a huge ego trip. I didn't have the city, and without it I was
just another kid in Indiana. I alienated my friends from back home because all I could do was
gush about Hong Kong.
I still fall into that trap, years after the fact. It's worth gushing over, though. I've often thought
about whether my life will ever be that great again, in terms of how much was at my fingertips
and how every night felt new. I don't think I'll ever be as happy as I was in that delusion. My
eyes were glazed over from the bright Cantonese signs, the alcohol and most of all the boundless
energy Hong Kong had to offer. I was blissfully unaware of how we really fit into the city, but
back then we were the kings and queens of Hong Kong, and the city let us believe it.