The sold-out crowd, part of the grand finale of the 43rd Hong Kong Cultural Festival, clapped impatiently as they awaited our grand entrance. Just before going on stage, she leans over to me, and whispers, “Do you ever have to remind yourself that this is your job?” I think China (Forbes) was having a “moment,” one of those gaps in time I often have when I’m on tour with Pink Martini, an intense combination of gratitude and disbelief that envelopes me like a warm blanket. A rare three-month hiatus from performing will do that to even the hardest of hearts, apparently.
Actually, China is a kind, warm, down-to-earth woman who is often the one person in the band that keeps our spirits up, even during the most brutal of tours, with her fun-loving, good-natured attitude. Still, I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one in the band who actually thinks about how lucky he is to live out a dream, doing something he is passionate about, traveling the world, and getting paid for it. (Thomas Lauderdale likes to say, “Think about the alternative; you could be stuck at a desk under bad fluorescent lighting…”)
Whether or not my bandmates contemplate their strike of luck, the general morale after three months off has been high, and starting this tour in Hong Kong, where we’d only been to once before to play a private party for the French jeweler, Cartier, was the perfect place get back in the saddle.
The audiences were more than ready to party with us, as evidenced by how quickly they stormed the stage when Thomas invited them up to dance during “Song of the Flying Squirrel.” And, for our final number, “Brazil,” there were at least a hundred revelers with, and completely surrounding, us on stage!! I think they liked the show as much as we did!
On one day off, I took Kyle’s lead, and plunged into an adventure I won’t soon forget. Kyle Mustain, our newest bandmate (English Horn), is a Godsend, as far as I’m concerned. He researches cities before we get there, snuffs out the best things to do/see/eat/drink–concentrating on what the locals do/see/eat/drink—and I get to tag along.
The first thing he said to me that morning was, “I found this place that supposedly does the best snake soup in town.” I was putty in his hand.
Located in the bustling Lan Kwai Fong neighborhood, Ser Wong Fun Restaurant has been in the family for over 150 years, and they have served snake in many different dishes every day. We ordered the snake soup, chicken in a snake broth, braised duck, and a platter of the most oddly delicious, unidentifiable vegetables I can remember tasting.
As we took in the wafting steam from the soup, we couldn’t quite place the unusual scent of it. The texture is very similar to an egg-drop soup, save for the stringy shredded snake pieces, and the flavor, while foreign to our American palates, was, well…fine. Still, that scent? We finally deduced that it smelled like the bottom of a dirty mouse cage, and once we got that in our heads, and the thought of the typical snake diet, it was hard to go back to it. We did go back often to our Tsing Tao beers to wash it down, of course. Would I try it again? Yes, if only to know if that is how all snake soups smell, or if you would care to join me the next time.