Now We are in Ragtime

I thought a lot of times whether I should start writing this piece. After all I am very bad at writing, English. Yeah. My English is so bad that my boss keeps say in front of me time to time. But later I realize writing in my mother language, or born language being more proper and less touchy-nervy, Chinese, would not have improved a wee bit. So it’s futile to write anything, either English or Chinese or any language, for a bad writer like me.

And, writing anything takes my precious lunch time, as always. I’ve got only one lunch time every day for doing the things I like, learning Calculus, learning Python, practising guitar, watching Top Boy and other contents on my Neflix who seems run an endless list of items for me to catch up while feeling I cannot catch up, even how choosy I am.

Yeah. I need to sacrifice something I hold precious to make a point. As do others. Making a point in that fucking world is so hard now. Everyone needs to sacrifice for something even when that something is a sacrilege in someone else’ eyes.

But reading the last piece I wrote, https://lakeso.wordpress.com/2019/10/28/you-know-whats-worse-than-i-have-been/ I feel it is imperative to write this piece to make myself look a bit more balanced and impartial, like BBC always claims himself to be.

So, I tell you a story. A novel I read (or listened to) around half a year ago. Ragtime, by E L Doctorow. A sidestep: I really don’t want to write about something I read, and try then to extrapolate, elaborate, on the situation/problem/issue, which is my real intention of writing. Allegory. It is because, one, I think it’s too pretentious, or at least sounds too pretentious to somebody. I really don’t want to use my piece to show off how many books I have read (yeah a bit but…). I simply haven’t read enough books to show off! Two. No one, according to my experience, gives a shit about what I read, or what I intend to allure at the bottom.

But, this time, I think it is necessary. Ragtime is a literary version of what we call now “mockumentary". A pastiche of hearsays about the real characters in America in early 1920s. The characters were real. But what the writer mentioned about what happened to them were fictional, or not fact checked, like what you always read on Facebook, or WhatsApp. But one story was particularly catching me. The story about Coalhouse Walker, a person I can’t even be sure was a real person.  Coalhouse Walker, a black musician at the time who made some money out of his talent as a saxophonist. Money that was enough for him to buy the then latest model of Ford Model T Convertible (Imagine some musicians who have enough money to buy the newest version of Porsche Electric). Cool right? So Coalhouse Walker drove on the street. One day he parked his car on the road by a Firestation, and went for a few minutes. When he was back he was fined for illegal parking, at a time cars, and thus car parking, were still rare on the street. And the law was just innovated by the community just because of that only Ford Model T Convertible on the road in the whole community. Owned by a black musician. More than that. The sentence suddenly included keeping the car from the possessor for one night. Coalhouse Walker got told to get it back the next day at that same firestation.  Next day, the car, when Coalhouse Walker could take it back according to the new law designed yesterday specifically for the only one car in the community, got smashed from head to rear, from the convertible to the chassis. And the leather within was full of human shit. And Coalhouse Walker saw a whole brigade of firefighters in that firestation standing by with their evil giggling, 80% hinting him that “Yeah we did it you fucking nigga".  Coalhouse got furious. But calmly, he walked to the station to ask for the firestation for just 2 things: 1. formal apology of what they did. 2. fix his god damned car. The story followed with a lot of hardship to him, his wife, and his revenge, and his…..(please read the book yourself as I already forgot. Since then I have read 3 – 4 more books.  It’s simply too hard to get back to every details about the book).

TL:DR. He, and his gang, with a lot of guns and bombs, bombed the shit out of the city and finally got broke into a mansion of the then richest man in American. J.P. Morgan. I quoted a reviewer in Amazon about how I now feel (that reviewer happens to be me!):

... I found his reaction to what happened to him absurd, unimportant, him over the board, just like the characters around him felt. Then step by step Doctorow showed me that no I’m wrong. It’s important. It’s minor, but it’s important, and his reaction’s reasonable and justifiable. And finally, I felt I learned it. The more time I think of it the more I feel that I learned it. Some authors like to say Reading fiction teaches one empathy. And reading this book I experience what this quote actually means.

The funny thing about Coalhouse Walker was, after making all the fuss, and the “Uncivil Disobedience", and the literally “Riot" (a term HK Gov. like to refer so much recently that it’s like some buzzwords that make them sound cool), what he demanded, in front of the negotiator in the story, was simple, and back-to-basic: 1. formal apology of what you did. 2. fix my fucking car.  Which can further sublimated into one word: “D.I.G.N.I.T.Y."

D.I.G.N.I.T.Y.

I get off the MTR at Diamond Hill station every evening after work, and I walk to the bus station to take another bus back home. To boost up my walking steps figure on my iPhone, I choose to walk on the side stairs up to exit the station, rather than take an easy esca-way through. That makes me read the messages on the Lennon Wall by the flyover. One sentence catches me every time I read it.  I hate Chinese, so I give it a translation here:

It is you (HK GOV) who teach me that peaceful protest is futile

A bit beastified and uncivilized. But the basic principle is still:

1. formal apology of what you did. 2. fix my fucking car.  Which can further sublimated into one word: “D.I.G.N.I.T.Y."

D.I.G.N.I.T.Y.

Then step by step Doctorow showed me that no I’m wrong. It’s important. It’s minor, but it’s important, and his reaction’s reasonable and justifiable. And finally, I felt I learned it. The more time I think of it the more I feel that I learned it. Some authors like to say Reading fiction teaches one empathy.

I hope this piece can serve the same purpose when you read it while still don’t understand. Or if you mistake me as “blue" side.

But….after all, like I said, I am a bad writer, either English or Chinese no matter. You just don’t give a shit. You don’t need to.

*****************************

Today, I was on MTR all the way to work. A teen girl in school uniform standing by the door opposite me. She was reading her phone. And she cried. I intuited that she cried because what happened today in Hong Kong. But I’m not sure. And I could not confirm. It’s quite horrible for a crying teen girl to meet a 40 yo ugly man in blue suit and stupid Marshall ANC who wants to talk to her. It in itself is trauma.  But after all, living in Hong Kong is a trauma in itself. Watching her crying on what she read recalled my reminiscence of my 2008 self on MTR train crying shit reading Obama Inauguration Speech. The difference is threefold:

1. Mine is about hope while hers deep despair

2. Mine is about a place I’ve never been while hers deeply grounded

3. Hers is a superpower that I’ve lost long ago.

Power of Youth.

That makes ones cry. Makes ones feel. Makes ones stand up to do something to fucking fix their dignity, or cars. A power which is deemed to dissipate with age.  I really want to get back this power, like Bernie Sanders. But who am I ? An old aging fucking bad writer.

Who always wants to stay forever young.

A song used to be adapted by a rock legend in Hong Kong to tell young people to 加油 永不放棄 凝著眼淚 鼓起勇氣  The shittest thing is that rock legend is now having a lot of show to praise Communist China.

 

Girl. Get up. Bomb the shit out of this city for your dignity. To make this place fix your fucking car. And…don’t trust those old aging fucking bad writer, or rocker, who’s gonna betray you, sell you out easily, like his Mazda box on Facebook Marketplace.

https://youtu.be/hl-1sb49y-o

 

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