Grandma would always throw a fit when Third Great Uncle hung his underwear up to dry outside the door. "Aiya, somebody tell him to stop," she'd plead. "Sut lai." Disgrace.
If there's one article of clothing we all share in common it's underwear, so it was always curious to me that a display of something so common could be deemed a disgrace. To me it was hilarious: there hung Uncle's stringy white briefs flapping like flags in the Scarborough wind on plastic hangers for all their neighbours to see. Shuffling around in his tou hai (slippers, chanclas) collecting his laundry like fruits from a tree -- for Third Great Uncle it wasn't no thang. I loved it.
When I went back to visit Hong Kong this year I realized that, like Uncle, nobody there gives a rat's ass about disgraceful behaviour. For the Hong Kong denizen hanging up clothes outside is the thang. It's a ritual that keeps the hands busy and the jeans dry during the monsoon months when everything stays soggy. When that subtropical moisture creeps up the walls and the Banyan trees droop down heavier than usual -- that's when you lay out the drawers to catch that extra breeze.
I looked up at all that Asian hanging glory and tried to guess who owned what. It was hard. At the end of the day clothes are made to protect your back from the sun and bird shit. White wifebeater? Tell me you don't have five in your dresser right now, made in one country and one country only. You might be able to tell somebody's personality from their clothes in Toronto but in Hong Kong it might be a girl's and it might be a grandpa's, who knows.
What I could gather from these hangers is that these people were Chinese, full stop. I could tell because of how little f*s were given. These were dim-sum eating, soup brewing, tai-chi in the park-doing Chinese folk and they knew that you knew. They didn't care that you knew because you were probably doing it too. It's what I love about Chinese people. We can be crass, we can be chintzy, but in our city we do things our way and if you don't like it you can stop eating our food.
Hong Kong is like a transparent pig factory, everybody's business is out there whether you want to see it or not. But in Canada nobody wants to admit things they already know. That explains why Grandma doesn't want Third Great Uncle draping his shit all over the porch like they did back home -- it's because then they'll know that we're really Chinese, that we drink soup, that we love chi, that we wear underwear. They'll know.
All I know is that culture is a like a tree re-potted and clothes dried in the sun always smell good.
I recently had the pleasure of working with this hyper-competent creative crew on the visuals of Le Fog, a soon-to-be-released track from Toronto rapper Progress. We listened to this song so many times I woke up last night screaming "FLEX!!!!" It's dance, it's vogue, it's not what you'd expect from Progress. But do expect for it to murder your replay button when it drops. The talent and professionalism in Toronto never ceases to amaze me. Looking forward to living the magic all over again. Release date TBA, stay tuned.
Thanks for dropping by. More content to come, stay tuned.