In keeping with the current Out Traveler's "Trips that Changed My Life" theme, let me now recount a few days I spent in Hong Kong in the late 1980's. I was working as an entertainer for Princess Cruises at the time, finishing up a two-month stint Southeast Asia. I was thrilled to be disembarking Hong Kong, a fast-paced, cosmopolitan mix of the familiar -- Mrs. Fields cookies, yum! -- and the exotic?what exactly is a "junk", anyway? I learned three valuable lessons there:
LESSON 1: DON'T BE AFRAID TO GO IT ALONE
I had never holiday-ed solo in my life at that point and I was bit nervous about the prospect but my fears were promptly trumped by an intoxicating feeling of independence and thrilling lack of accountability. I remember walking down the sidewalk and thinking, 'No one in the world knows where I am right now.' That made me feel good about myself, like Mary Richards, throw-your-hat-in-the-air good.
I stayed at the Mariner's Club, a no frills, hostel-type joint just for people who work on the high seas. I didn't think of myself as a mariner per se -- I was a dancer, damnit! -- but for $13 a night, I was happy to let them think I drove the boat.
It was thrilling to be in Hong Kong, doing what I wanted, when I wanted with no ship to catch or travel mates to coordinate with. I hit the basic tourist spots. I trammed to Victoria Peak, shopped at Stanley Village, dined in a floating restaurant at Aberdeen, and went to the cinema to see The Last Emperor, which was a real treat because I had just visited China's Forbidden City, where it was shot, a few days before.
My stay was not without some misadventure, though, which brings us to:
LESSON 2: IF YOU HOOK UP WITH SOMEONE, TAKE PICTURES
My last night there, a trio of Australian male flight attendants chatted me up on the street and invited me to dinner. Afterwards, the cutest guy--let's call him Clay--invited me back to his hotel room. At the time, his proposition came out of nowhere, yet I'm sure if we were to play back the videotape, it would be dead obvious what was going on from the first hello. It's hard to believe I was ever that na?ve, but I was.
Completely tormented, I went with him, yammering all the while that I didn't want anything to happen--at this point, I had only ever been with one guy in my life--and Clay assured me nothing had to. I think he had his fingers crossed. While we were laying on his bed talking, a song came on, "Learn to Say No" by George Michael and Jody Watley, which seemed to sum up the situation perfectly: You're too strong for me baby, I gotta learn to say no. I mentioned this song to a George Michael-obsessed friend recently and he had never heard of it, so it's possible that I made it up to help me process my flight attendant fling and that the song doesn't exist.
Truth be told, nothing much happened with Clay physically, yet I was wracked with guilt about it. Not only was I gay, but I was the kind of gay who teased bushy-stached, Dolfin short-wearing flight attendants in exotic hotel rooms. What was next, a Prince Albert?
Looking back, I don't know whether it was a hot fantasy that I was too freaked out to make the most of or if the guy was a total creep and I was lucky to get out of there alive. Was it a scene out of the Falcon video Night Flight or a pre-cursor to Too Catch a Predator with Chris Hanson? I have no idea, which is why I wish I had pictures. I think some photos would clear that up.
LESSON 3: NEVER LIE ON YOUR CUSTOMS FORM
I had four suits tailored for me in Hong Kong but I didn't declare them at customs. I thought because they were clothing, I could get away with it. Stupid, stupid, stupid! The customs officers in San Francisco tore through both of my giant bags, found the suits -- with my name and 'tailored in Hong Kong' sewn into them -- and pulled me into an interrogation room. It was terrifying, like a scene out of that drug mule movie Maria Full of Grace only my version was Dennis Full of Shit. I had to write an essay about why I did what I did, pay a $300 fine and I missed my scheduled flight back to Los Angeles. For weeks afterwards, I was a jet-lagged, guilt-ridden shell of a man, convinced that God had punished me for my semi-whorish ways in Hong Kong.
I never heard from "Clay" again but I think of him once in a while, usually when I'm going through customs.
More Going My Way:
Going My Way: As Seen on Screen