When I was fifteen, I dreamed of living in the big city, as many a young person does if he is artistic and sensitive. By "artistic and sensitive" I mean short, skinny, unkissed, bad at sports, and carrying a C average in high school. What attracted me to the vibrant chaos of urban life was its evident lack of quality control. In the big city, I thought, anything goes. Oh, if I could go too. I wouldn't be so sensitive in London or Paris, where there would be thousands of people who were shorter and skinnier, and had worse pimples in the middle of their foreheads. And New York was a hotbed of the arts. Not that I had any interest in art. I considered myself artistic because it was the 1960s. And in the 1960s it was obvious, even to a fifteen-year-old from suburban Ohio, that art consisted of doing anything you wanted to do. What I wanted to do was read science fiction and build plastic model cars. No doubt a public awaited to applaud my talent for getting through a Ray Bradbury novel during third-period geometry and producing, in one dateless weekend, a candy-apple-red, chopped and channeled deuce coupe with blown Chrysler Hemi, in 1/25 scale. Also, among eight million New Yorkers there was sure to be a fifteen-year-old girl (not to exceed my 5'4") who was fascinated by miniature 1932 Fords and The Martian Chronicles, who looked exactly like Natalie Wood, and who—through some legal loophole perhaps having to do with her father's being a UN diplomat—had a driver's license.
I admit that this is an odd way to begin an essay about Hong Kong. But I believed in the infinite potential of cities. I was convinced that when enough people of various tastes and interests were gathered in one spot (free of, for example, parents and high school), great things must occur. I envisioned miracles of self-fulfillment, pleasure, and surprise.