The Hong Kong Milk Tea Diaries

Along with shooting the documentary about Dave’s search for his birth mother here in Hong Kong, and following his initial glee at having a milk tea again after many years, I began shooting his daily reactions to the hot drink at cafe after cafe. It has become Dave’s Milk Tea Diary, and we search out a new place each day. He had an early favorite, a small restaurant he went years ago and the first place we went when we arrived. It has remained in the number one spot ever since. We’ve been to a few that are on the “Best Hong Kong Milk Tea” lists. Some deserve their praise. Others, not so much. It’s a funny way to see the many restaurants and neighborhoods of Hong Kong. Cholesterol be damned!

The list so far:
1. Nam Wah – a traditional Hong Kong food restaurant on Waterloo Road in the Ho Man Tin neighborhood. Zero ambience, but excellent milk tea!
2. Australian Dairy Company – the surliest waiters in town and the place to go for HK breakfast and milk pudding, but don’t plan to sit long.
3. Tsui Wah – a chain of traditional Hong Kong restaurants and we’ve been to several.
4. Sun Hang Yuen – a hole in the wall ‘Cha Chang Teng’, aka Hong Kong style cafe in Sham Shui Po, the neighborhood where Dave lived as a small child. We had a quick bite – excellent beef and scrambled egg sandwiches and milk tea! They serve their milk tea in a plastic cup, which had been a nonstarter up until we tasted it.

These (so far) are all decent, but hard to rank precisely.
Yuen Kee – we stumbled upon this little cafe on a bustling late-night square in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Delicious Cafe – another we stumbled upon in Sham Shui Po that has a nice product (and good food, too.)
Ming’s Kitchen – this one is on the same street as Australian Dairy, but serves a variety of foods and is easy to get into.
Nam Cheong Cafe in Sham Shui Po was a great find for the food and they do a decent milk tea, too!

And the ones to avoid.
Yee Shun Dairy Company 港澳義順牛奶公司 – Good milk pudding. So-so milk tea. Waitresses with ennui.
Chrisly Café – another well-known and highly touted breakfasty food place, but not as good as Australian Dairy. And meh! milk tea.

So what makes a great milk tea?  Creaminess. Non-bitterness, but strong enough to taste the tea. The best one would not need any sugar added. I’m sure Dave has more discerning taste than I, being the Milk Tea aficionado  that he is, and I hope to learn from him in the ways of the milk tea. We will keep searching for the one that will knock Nam Wah off the top of the list until our last day here. And we may want to add some variety, as in Bubble Milk Tea, Milk Tea in a box or bottle, and who knows what else.

It’s all part of the adventure!

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Kowloon adventures

So we’re still here. Still trying to find Dave’s Mom, and maybe a sister, and perhaps a Dad. We sat down with a detective this week. A young woman. She’s been at it for 10 years and had some tales of daring to share. All about jumping from a moving car. And sneaking DNA out of a house. We interviewed a retired Hong Kong cop, too, but he didn’t have the fire that our young PI does. She’s ready to go out there and try everything. The guy saw a couple of opportunities and then a dead end if it didn’t pan out.

It may be slow going though. What we know is almost nothing. There is no birth certificate. Only one relative alive as far as we know met the birth mom and doesn’t know her name. The club where she worked it gone. The clinic where she delivered the baby shut down long ago. We know the doctor’s name, but he’s probably dead. So what can the detective find? Fingers crossed she can think of things we can’t.

So we’re going to the press. Putting it out there that there is a filmmaker from New York who was born in Hong Kong who is looking for his birth Mom. We’re going for the human interest angle. He’s just looking for his Mom and possibly his big sis. He’s an only child, so having a sibling would make his ecstatic. He’s not looking to disrupt anyone’s life. Just find out who he is. Simple, no?

I go back and forth between hopeful and hopeless. But as with any documentary, the story is what happens. Finding Mom may not be what this is about. It’s about a journey. And Dave has found out a lot about his family he never knew. He’s connected with many of them on a deeper level than ever. And I’ve gotten to see Hong Kong in a way I never would have.

We have about a month left here. Anything can happen and I hope whatever it is, it’s good for the camera. Ha! Stay tuned.

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Hong Kong Documentary

So I’m in Hong Kong directing a fascinating documentary about the search for an old friend’s birth parents. It’s called The Secret of B because there are so many secrets within his family and so many different stories of his adoption. It was certainly not a straight forward adoption. First, his birth certificate lists some relatives as the parents who gave him up. Second, his father won’t really talk about it. His mother took the secret to her grave. He wouldn’t have ever known if he hadn’t stumbled upon his adoption papers by accident when he was looking for a birth certificate in his family’s safe deposit box. I always knew he was adopted, as did everyone in his family, but they were all sworn to secrecy. Now that he knows, and he only found out in his late 30s, he wants to find his birth parents. So here we are in HK, talking to relatives, hiring a private eye, running different scenarios for how it all plays out.

In the meanwhile, I’ve met a lot of cousins and had a whole lot of incredible meals. It’s a wealthy family, but I love that when we eat out some of the places are top shelf, but many are humble spots with typical Hong Kong cuisine. I’m getting an education on the foods that are typical here. Milk tea is Dave’s favorite. Dave is the adoptee. He could drink milk tea at every meal. It’s a dark tea with thick condensed milk. He’s also partial to the pineapple buns, so called because they look like pineapples, not because of any fruit. We went to a place for brunch that serves macaroni soup. And another place that has amazing smoked meats and most of the food is cold.

We’ve done dim sum, and hot pot, and sushi, and french food. And one of the best meals was at the home of one of the cousins and was a pot on the table that was filled with a variety of meats and veg and more was added as we ate. But along side the simple fare, his cousin served Dom Perignon and Chateau Lafitte Rothschild. That cousin also drives a fancy-schmancy Mercedes Maybach, and owns a bunch of other very expensive vehicles.

But this family, while wealthy, are so open and warm and have welcomed me into the fold. So far the trip has been an eye-opening look at how different Hong Kong is from Mainland China. More to come. Stay tuned.

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To Blackout or Not to Blackout?

Yesterday, a message started going around to women asking us to replace our photos on Facebook with solid black for one day “to show what the world might be like without women.” But almost at the same time messages started popping up from friends and acquaintances about how this was just a way to silence women. Messages of, “That’s what they want. People are so stupid.” or “We have been silence and invisible enough. Be loud, be present, and be courageous.”

My take on this is that changing your photo doesn’t silence you. Blanketing FB with black squares in a show of solidarity is a powerful visual protest. I’m still posting all the political posts I have every day. I’m not sitting silent. I am participating in a one day action. That is all. And the angry rhetoric of many women claiming to know how we should all protest is counterproductive. It should never be either/or. It should be both/and. We need to throw everything we have at the toxic patriarchy. This might seem to some to be the wrong thing at the wrong time, but since I’m sitting in a small town, calling my Senators (who will not be moved), writing postcards to GOTV, and eagerly awaiting the next women’s march, it’s something I can do today to feel connected to millions of other women. And I won’t apologize for it.

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The Fall of Male Privilege

male-privilegeIt feels like a watershed moment. Beginning with Weinstein, or maybe farther back with Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, powerful men are being brought down because of a pattern of behavior as old as time, but not to be tolerated any longer, I hope. Ailes’s and O’Reilly’s departures did not open the floodgates though. It was Weinstein’s disgusting drama that pushed women in Hollywood, in Washington, in New York, famous women, women in industries with power to finally come out in droves to say that men had been groping and harassing and sexually assaulting them and that they were not going to stay quiet any more! [The Spacey story demonstrated that powerful men are equal opportunity predators.]

The #MeToo moment has shown a lot of unwoke men the pervasive disrespect women have put up with and the dystopian world we all navigate, whether it’s as an A-list actress or a fast food worker, on the job or just in our everyday lives. We all have our stories.

It has reminded me of early in my career when I was still in NY and still very naive. I went for a “job interview” with a very famous director (Wax on, Wax off). He answered the door wearing only a towel and then handed me a glass of wine and a joint, and told me to make myself comfortable while he got dressed. He pretended he’d just lost track of time, but then said he wanted me to accompany him to a screening so he could see how conversant I was about movies. It turned out to be a private, just the two of us, screening and an extremely uncomfortable couple of hours with him in the semi-darkness.

After the movie, there was no discussion of the film or the job. And when I did not agree to continue on into the evening with him, since he’d already taken up half my day and I had plans with friends for dinner, he got truly pissed off, as if he never considered that I could want to be anywhere but in his company. Needless to say, I did not get the job. And when I told another industry friend all about it, she said, “He does that all the time. Everyone knows that.” I didn’t.

All these powerful men are resigning or being forced out and yet we still have an admitted sexual predator in the White House and another running successfully for the Senate. And no doubt thousands (millions?) more who are probably hoping they can just ride it out and continue their misogynist ways.

And then there is the way Charlie Rose “apologized”: “I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.” Really? If that’s not the pathology of male privilege, I don’t know what is. Or Jeffrey Tambor’s: “I’ve already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue.” Two words stand out here: misinterpreted and deliberately. The implication is that he did not understand that his actions were wrong. Again, male privilege pathology.

It seems that men cannot fathom that a) women probably don’t want to see you masturbate, b) we don’t appreciate being groped or kissed by people we don’t feel close to, even if you are famous or powerful, c) we may put up with your disgusting behavior if we think that reporting it will get us in trouble, and d) the days of Don Draper behavior being acceptable were over a long time ago.

I’ve heard some men (and women) referring to the current climate as “a witch hunt,” with the implication that women are coming out of the woodwork to unfairly take good men down. I’ll admit, that that could be happening in a few instances, but I doubt it’s pervasive. Also I’ve heard, “It’s sad that men have to watch what they say and do, because they might get called out for sexual misconduct.” Well, women have been watching what they say or do for a very long time because they might get raped or groped because they were being too friendly. See how that works?

I think this may be a great moment when men start to be a more aware of their actions towards women in general and that’s a great thing. They won’t be changing overnight, but it is an opportunity to move towards that ERA utopian future we’ve been dreaming about. Baby steps.

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Biking Biltmore

Asheville is a big biking town and last year my brother gave me a bike. It sat for a year in my entrance hall, used now and again as a coat rack, until spring cleaning took hold of me last month and I took it in for a tune up. Then it languished again waiting for its inaugural ride for a month. Every time I passed it, I made a mental excuse for not getting on. But the exercise Goddess was not going to let me get by that easily. My season pass for the Biltmore Estate was up for renewal and they made a note on the email about getting the upgrade for biking as well. Just another 20 bucks and you can come on the estate any time and bike around. So when the pass came in the mail, the guilt began to build. And today I finally succumbed.

First thing this morning I headed over. I’ve seen the bike paths running along beside the road on the estate for years and always planned to take advantage of them “someday.” Now, I have not really been biking for a number of years (and that number is in the double digits.) Just riding back from the bike repair shop to my house nearly killed me. (There was a hill.) I knew that most of what I’d seen from the road was pretty flat, so I was only a bit worried. What else was there that I couldn’t see? Nevertheless, I mounted my bike and before I knew it was feeling “Born to be Wild,” the wind rushing through my hair, free and cool. Once on the path, it was absolutely lovely. Big fields spread out before me. _CTV0085The French Broad River ran by to my right. Sometimes the path was beside the main road, but for much of it, it took me through the trees. No traffic, though I ran into other bikes, the occasional horse, a hiker and a fleet of Segways.

It was hot today, muggy, but flying down hills, through shady groves by the river, you’d never know it. I was riding on cool air. But then, coming out of the trees, the path headed uphill and suddenly I had two problems. First, I forgot how to use the gears to make it easier. And second, I had no idea where the path would go. So I turned around and headed back to Antler Hill Village where I’d parked and the Bike Barn where they have maps and people who know their way around the estate. On the way there, I passed the Lagoon where the resident geese were terribly busy corralling their adorable herd of goslings. It was a great ride for the first time out.

BiltmoreThe Biltmore Estate has changed immensely since I was a child. Then, there was just The House surrounded by a acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. Now, there is an inn, a winery, various restaurants, and since last month, Antler Hill Village, a grouping of bistros and shops. I wonder what George Vanderbilt would think? He wanted his estate to be self-sufficient, a feudal fiefdom and it seems to be turning into a Disney-esque park. Nevertheless, it is the best place in town to bike.

So now I have a map. I will return. There are a lot more trails to explore. I just need to figure out that gear thing and I’ll be a biking rock star!

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No Justice, No Peace

This is what the majority of people in the streets were about.

This is what the majority of people in the streets were about.

Baltimore, Ferguson, Staten Island, and the list goes on and on. Black men murdered with impunity and then reduced to “thug” status. Rather than looking at the crime of policemen killing people whose only crime was walking in the road or looking at a cop the wrong way, the victims become posthumously guilty of their own deaths. Communities come out to protest and it turns to violence. Is it unjustified? I don’t condone violence, but it seems violence gets attention the way a peaceful protest never can.

In the Baltimore case, the media has been gleefully present for the violence, but conspicuously silent about the crime.

This is the narrative that the media chooses to promote.

This is the narrative that the media chooses to promote.

Only days after the death of Freddie Gray whose spine was nearly split in two, there’s been no word from the police as to the crime for which he was arrested, and there has been no examination in the media of the system that is playing out in city after city.

According to Talking Points Memo:

Baltimore police initially said Gray was taken into custody after he made eye contact with multiple officers … and ran away from them.

These are no longer “isolated incidents.” They are a pattern of abuse that is crying out for a solution. And that solution needs to be system wide. Not town by town, but this country has to come to terms with racism and poverty and the militarism of our police forces that only exacerbates the feeling of us vs them. There is so much work to do that calls for a movement, that calls for a leader, that calls for a revolution.

TheBlackPanthers_OfficialPoster_WebI saw The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution at Full Frame Documentary Festival last month. It is the heartbreaking history of the rise and fall of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. So much of it feels decidedly déjà vu. From its beginnings as a reaction to the police targeting black men for walking while black, and the larger system keeping their communities poor and undereducated, and as a part of the larger youth movement that brought revolutionary ideas to the streets, the Party became an amazingly powerful national organization for black empowerment. The film weaves together the history through archival footage and interviews with surviving Panthers, their supporters and some of their detractors. It shows just how scared the establishment was of this uprising and how far J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI CoIntelPro program went to infiltrate and undermine them, even when in those early days they were using their organizing efforts to feed and educate their communities. There is a quote from J. Edgar in the film that feels very apt for today’s law enforcement, “Justice is incidental to law and order.” The film doesn’t gloss over the Panthers’ radical and at times violent agenda, but it shows that in the context of the times, their talk of fighting for their lives wasn’t just rhetoric. It also points to problems many organizations face, the egos of their leaders. Perhaps the most charismatic and best strategist they had was Fred Hampton, who was assassinated in his bed by the police. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution chronicles the Panther’s story from its founding in Oakland in the 60s through its leadership infighting and eventual disintegration in the early 80s. More than anything I came away from it wishing that another organization with the energy and reach could bring together the black community today to finish the fight. It is a film well worth seeing and I truly hope when it has a wider showing, that a lot of people see it and are inspired to act, again.

At the end of the day, the question is how do we make it better? Does it come down to divergent narratives? We all know something is very wrong, but as long as the narrative from some is that “the poor” are that way because it is their own fault, how does it get better? Is it somehow better for those who think that way to let things continue as it is? Is there a way to change that situation and make it worth their while to create an inclusive community that thrives together? Is the world getting worse or is media just shining a light on the dark places more? So many questions and time is ticking away.

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