Thursday, July 10, 2014

Big Wave Biotch

        I moved to Hong Kong to perform.  I play in a hyper-swanky club every evening, the piano is nice and the room is cool. Thus being said, I literally have all day to do whatever I want to do.  Really, that is the amazing thing about taking these types of ‘house band’ style gigs - sure you play the same place for an extended time, and you start to miss playing with different bands every day, but at the same time you do not have to hustle, life is easy, and you get to take the daytime hours to work, study, play, or any combination of those things.  I could have a nine to five job here in HK also if I wanted, then I would really be raking in the dough!!

The first week I was here was mostly focused on getting the gig going smoothly, I am working with a singer named Nash Reed. She is cool and we are going to have a blast here, but now in the second week I have a little more time to be going on some adventures.  I am the kind of person that likes to go out and do stuff.  I have started feeling more like my mom and my uncle lately (they are the big ‘do-ers’ in my family…).

After wandering around Hong Kong Island for a day and also wandering around Kowloon for a day I decided to plan my first goal oriented excursion.

I heard there was a surfing beach on HK Island called Big Wave Bay.  This is the perfect kind of thing I feel like I am looking for right now, all of my surfing experience has been in the cold ocean waters of Westport W.A. and Vancouver B.C. and the blistering weather in Hong Kong makes a cool dip and surf sound real appealing.  Just for the record, I love surfing but I am horrible at it.  I have so much fun doing it but surfing is a work in progress for me.  By no means do I need anyone EVER watch me flounder around in the ocean trying to get on the surf board or trying to drop in on some sweet waves.   I do argue that I get a better work out ‘not surfing’ than any of the heavy surfer guys do actually riding the waves… its a much more difficult work out not to drown after totally eating shit than to stand on the board and cruise.

I left at about 11 am and took the subway all the way to the end of the line.  I could have got off a few stations earlier and taken a ‘mini bus’ (#9) right to Big Wave Bay but I had the whole day and decided that it wouldn’t hurt to walk, it is only about two miles.  

Using my iPhone GPS to guide me, I started on my route.  Right away I found the most massive cemetery I have ever seen.  There must be thousands and thousands of bodies buried there.  It was chinese style, so all of the tombstones had a picture of the deceased on them along with a few words in chinese and a place for flowers and incense.  Also at the entryway to each row of tombs was a sort of raised fire pit, maybe for the burning of fake money offerings..?  Just an educated guess but I am not an expert here.  The tombstones were massive, and so were the hills that the cemetery was built upon.  I counted over five hundred stairs and then stopped caring.  It was pretty insane to see all the graves so I marveled at the scene for a while.  It really was a massive feat of effort to create this graveyard, and as amazing as it was I could not help but think how it was a massive waste of space!

I continued walking my route - the road I wanted to be on cut right through the graveyard so I started walking along it… one mile later, STILL IN THE GRAVEYARD.  At this point I cannot believe how freaking big this crazy place is.  I found several buildings that looked like apartments, but as I grew closer I realized they were storage for cremated remains.  Probably a cheaper option that an overly excessive tombstone with a marble picnic table next to it, etc, etc.  I mean... do people really come and hang out at loved ones graves or is that just a thing you see in movies?  If they actually DO do it, how many of them are willing to climb up the massive hillside to do it?  On this Tuesday afternoon in a graveyard of at least ten thousand graves I was the only person there besides a large crew of upkeep workers.  (no grass by the way, all cement).

Finally I escape the cemetery and start to see some amazing views of the coast.  The path I am on leads right directly through a massive park (green area on the google map) where it looks like I can easily get down to Big Wave Bay.  So there I was, sweating profusely from every part of my body, my clothes all totally soaked, jumping at all the sounds of jungle creatures stirring very close to the path.  It was a grand old time!  I saw some nasty looking spiders and some sort of weird mammal rat thing.  Another mile of walking and I am getting closer, which is good because I am dying.  I am now hiking down the other side of this giant hill that started at the cemetery when suddenly I turn a corner and…

Barbed wire fences.  Guards in uniform with weapons.  Cantonese inmates.  No Trespassing signs.  ‘It is illegal to free prisoners’ signs.  What the fuck.  MY PATH ENDED AT THE FRONT GATE OF THE HONG KONG PRISON.  That was definitely not marked on the map - and prisons should not be surprises, especially in parks!  Well shit.  One of the guards started to yell something at me, I motioned that I was lost and he just kept making the ‘you can’t come in here’ signal with his arms… like me, with my board shorts, sandals, sunglasses, beach hat and backpack full of sunscreen actually wanted to go INTO a prison in Hong Kong.  Forget that, pissed off, hot and running out of water I turned around and hiked back up to the cemetery.  

As I was arriving back to the cemetery I saw a woman jogging (Wow, really intense to jog in 95 degree weather, 80% humidity).  Insert weird ‘I am a traveller and explore all day, mostly alone, and crave for anyones attention’ conversation.  

I shouted a little to loudly, “Hey, what are you doing?”

She looked up as she was approaching and in broken english said “Exercising.”

“Oh.” I replied.  Insert awkward five second silence.  She is looking at me like she is waiting for a zoo animal to perform a trick.  “My name is Mack, I am lost.  I just got up from the jail.”  I extend my sloppy, sweaty hand like a goofy, 6’2 215lb American.  “I want to go surfing.”  
My guide

She shook my hand and looked totally confused.  Maybe because I just said I got back from the jail, or because she was trying to understand what the word surfing meant.  Once I stuck my hands out to my sides and surfed the air she relaxed a little bit.  I wanted to say “Hang ten bra!” but kept it in.  Anyways she helped me to the path where a tiny, mailbox size wood sign read “BIG WAVE BAY —> 2KM”.  It was pretty hidden so I did not feel to lame in my navigating skills.  

I was ready to finish with my daily adventure at this point but decided what the hell, I have been hiking around for a few hours to find this place I might as well go see it since it is only 2 more kilometers.  So once again I climb up and over a ridge. 

Coming down on Big Wave Bay was amazing for three reasons.  The view was incredible.  Secondly, there were a lot of people on surfboards floating very close to the shore, with basically no break whatsoever.  Finally it was the first time in my entire life I have seen what is called a shark net.  As the name implies a shark net is a massive fishing net floating out around the whole bay to catch or deter sharks from entering the recreational area.  Wow.  I have never seen anything like that before!  I have a fascination with sharks so I thought it was pretty interesting.  I did some research, the Hong Kong waters are teeming with wildlife which definitely includes many types of sharks, and after three shark attacks in 1995 in a three week period the country(?) set up all of these shark nets at all of the public beaches.  If it has a lifeguard tower and changing rooms, it has a shark net.  Since the mid nineties there have been no recorded incidents as far as I can tell from a quick google search.  

The water was pleasant, not too gross and sweaty like the ocean water in Thailand and definitely not too cold like at home.  The surfing looked pretty lame so I asked 
a couple of the locals and they said that the only big waves happen when there is a typhoon happening down in the Philippines.  Well, not like I really need any big waves myself… but a curious mind wants to know why Big Wave Beach is filled with twelve year olds riding foot high swells to the beach!  At this point I was running out of time, I had been out for several hours and had to get back to get ready for the evening performance so the surfing will have to wait for next time!  

I walked up from the beach and found the bus stop - after about five minutes the mini bus came (#9) and picked me and some others up and deposited us directly at the subway station.  So easy!  Next time I will probably take the mini bus directly to the beach.  All for $10HKD!  

Cheers, extra pics below!

I thought this was an apartment building!
but the whole building was filled with these!
Some of the graveyard up on the hill
A picture of part of the graveyard.  It wrapped around these hill sides!
Truly massive!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Back Over the Pacific

Four days ago I moved to Hong Kong.  My friend, and in a sense mentor (I’ll explain), Scot Ranney set me up running the band at a fancy club here.  Scot is a fantastic pianist, and has really changed my life in quite a huge way.  When I was getting into playing the piano seriously was when I started getting interested in jazz and Scot Ranney has run the biggest jazz piano education website on the internet.  It was a place I could go and ask questions, seek out things to learn, and get advice from not only Scot, but many accomplished pianists from around the world…. wait for it…. FOR FREE!  His website is and I recommend anyone who is interested in jazz to check it out, not only pianists.  Right now I am sipping down an espresso in my room, this ones for you Scot, thanks a million for not only the referral but for all the musicians you are inspiring and lives you are changing through music.

Jet lag is a bitch.  I know on this blog I have complained about this before, but I really hate it.  I do not mean to sound whiney or sissy or anything, but I absolutely hate messing with my sleep.  I already have a hard time achieving a full nights rest, changing sides of the world just makes things dreadful.

I have to catch an 8 a.m. plane from Seattle to San Francisco.  For some, not a problem, but for any musician out there this mere fact alone is enough reason for me to be jet lagged and super tired.  I go to bed at two in the morning, at least, every night.  Therefor, even if I was merely flying to San Francisco on an 8 am flight I would be incredibly messed up from arriving at the airport at 6, leaving my home at 5, and going to bed at 2, or 1 if I was feeling extra relaxed (never happens, always stressed out about sleep loss). 

After my flight to San Francisco, I am supposed to have a four hour layover, then get on a fourteen hour airplane flight to Hong Kong.  


There is a massive car accident on Highway 18 in Seattle the morning of my flight.  Instead of forty minutes to arrive at Seatac, it takes me three hours riding in a packed SUV driving at 8 mph on the freeways.  I arrive at the airport at 10 a.m.  Flight missed.  Oh shit, this has never happened to me before.  Went to the desk where we stood in line for an hour, then finally talked to a United representative (most ghetto airline in America) who told us we were basically screwed, then gave us some false hope after realizing how much baggage we had.  Then, as luck would have it the plane to SF after ours was two hours late leaving, so we were booked onto that flight.  

Saying goodbye to people you love, not knowing when you will see them again always really hits me hard.  I am a pretty empathetic guy, so these flights are never one hundred percent excitement for me, not to mention I am 6’2, 215 lb. flying coach.  It’s not that big, but it is big enough to make it an extra hassle for me.

Two hours later we step off the plane in San Francisco to immediately board our flight to Hong Kong - only enough time to use the toilet in between.  
Sit down, buckle up and begin 14 hours of waiting.  I never sleep on planes.  United is by far the most ghetto airline I have ever flown a crossed the pacific ocean with - always opt for Korean Air in my own opinion.  

Finally with an awful temper and a soar backside I arrived in HK with all of my stuff : It was imperative to send a van for transfer for me because of all the musical equipment I needed to bring, and unfortunately that detail was overlooked even though it was spoken about many times.  A sleek black BMW pulls up to the curb in the 85 degree, 65% humidity middle of the night.  In this tiny BMW they are going to try to fit 5 luggage bags, a bass, and two keyboards.  Waiting for a larger vehicle is not an option, so I jump in the back seat and am covered in instruments and gear.  Somehow with the trunk open, all the long gear on my lap and bags everywhere, all the doors were shut and I was off.  This is crazy, these professional drivers really know the capacity of their cars.

An hour later I arrived in my room, which is great actually, but even though it is midnight I can’t sleep.  HK is fifteen hours ahead of pacific standard time, so adjusting to the new time is a slow process.  It has been four days now since I have arrived, and I finally slept 8 hours, from midnight until 8 am. The first few days I was so exhausted I could hardly do anything, and the intense heat and humidity does not help, but slowly and surely I am coming around.  Other than dealing with the exhaustion, the first few days of being here was spent preparing for work and running errands to take care of things that I need, HK ID card, clothes, suits, toiletries, etc.  Scot has been really great showing us around and giving the hook up on where to do and find things.  Went to a jam session at a club called Peel Fresco last night and met a bunch of cats!  Fun times!  The singer I am going to be working with, Nash Reed, is great and the music is all jazz this time around so I am looking at some good times getting back into the piano after a strange hiatus of playing keyboards and organ for a few years!

Anyways, rock on.  Tonight is the first performance and tomorrow is the first adventure. Excited to be living in HK.

Oh, and just a teaser for a future blog post… Sunday is unofficially called ‘Pilipino Day’ after a certain, strange (for me!) phenomena
that happens in Hong Kong.  More to come on this soon.

Peace Out.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sunny Side of the Street

Just wanted to post a recording of a recent old jazz tune I recorded for fun.  Check it out!

I am currently back in the USA for the holidays - heading back to China afterwards!

Happy New Year :)