Last Wednesday I reentered the wide world of poetry readings, a nice little institution woefully underrepresented in Hong Kong. As far as I could tell, it is one of two regular poetry meetings on the island. FYI, established bourgeoisie: When people say, “Hong Kong has no culture” they mean things like “there are no poetry readings here,” not “please open another art gallery on Wyndham with some paintings of fat sumo wrestlers dancing.” The reading was at the Fringe Club, which is a great place where people take themselves way too seriously. “Hi, I’m an artist,” someone once told me there, “I make art for a living. Let me guess—you’re a banker. I feel sorry for you.” At the time, I was a banker and was very embarrassed until I came up with a solution: “I will pay you $500 to shut up,” I said. She shut up. I didn’t pay her. That was a parable about the financial crisis. Back to the reading. There was basically nobody there, which was confirmed when the MC said, “I am so sorry that not many people are here. But we’ll press on!” It was kind of like telling a girl that she has a giant zit but hopefully nobody will notice it—it just made us really self-conscious. I readied my poems nervously. Luckily, other people were reading first and I could buy beers to calm myself. Somewhere some psychologist is reading this and sending me informative literature on alcohol dependence. I listened to a few poems including this guy’s “political” poem, which went along the lines of: people-in-Chile-are-dying-and-we-say-that-it-is-bad-but-are-only-saying-it-not-doing-anything-and-we-are-rich-and-that-is-somehow-ironic. OK, awesome. I felt ready to read my poems, which were about a) food and b) a bicycle. It was time to bring the A-game. “We have a late arrival,” the MC said. “She will read some poems.” Damn it, I would have to wait a little longer. Then this woman comes on stage who—I swear to God—looks exactly like a cross between my mom and my aunt Carol. It was completely disorienting. I wanted to simultaneously hug her and ask why she got me a crappy Christmas present. She finished and I came up, really embarrassed that Mom/Aunt Carol hybrid would be ashamed of me. I squeaked out a few poems. Everyone clapped quietly in a nice I’m-glad-that’s-over kind of way. One guy gave even me a thumbs up until I realized that he was just scratching his nose. Relieved that it wasn’t as embarrassing as my karaoke performance, I sat down and drank more beers, proving again that if you drink enough, you can go on stage and do anything.