How to Pick Up a Maid in Statue Square by Rea Tarvydas

How to Pick Up a Maid in Statue Square

byRea Tarvydas

Paperback | October 1, 2016

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These stories collectively capture various versions of the expat life that share the feeling of being between two worlds, that experience of being neither here nor there and trying to find a way to fill that space.

The stories follow a kind of “life cycle” of expatriates in Hong Kong — a place often called the “most thrilling city on the planet.” They share the feeling of being between two worlds, the experience of being neither here nor there and trying to find a way to fill that space. From the hedonistic first days in How To Pick Up A Maid in Statue Square, as Fast Eddy instructs on how best to approach Filipina maids on their rest day; through the muted middle in Rephrasing Kate, as Kate encounters a charismatic bad boy and is forced to admit her infidelities; to the inevitable end in The Dirty Duck, as Philip realizes his inability to commit and resolves to return home to Australia; Hong Kong alters them all with its frenetic mixture of capitalism and exoticism. Characters exist between the worlds they once knew and this place which now holds them in its spell and shapes them to its ends. Their stories explore how they cope with this space where loneliness and alienation intersect, a place where insomniac young bankers forfeit their ambition while chasing deviant sexual encounters, or consume themselves with climbing the corporate ladder. It is a world where passive domestics live and work for the money they can send home, while their keepers assemble poolside to engage in conversations aroused by the expat’s desire to connect to others who share their fates. Always, of course, there is The Globe a favourite watering hole where, when night falls, they meet to tell their stories.

About The Author

Rea Tarvydas lives and writes stories in Calgary, Alberta. Her stories can be found in The New Quarterly, The Fiddlehead, and Grain magazines. Work is forthcoming in the Menopause Anthology (Inanna, 2017). Tarvydas is the 2012 winner of the Brenda Strathern Latebloomer Award, curated by the Calgary Foundation and presented at WordFest...

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Title:How to Pick Up a Maid in Statue SquareFormat:PaperbackDimensions:120 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.3 inPublished:October 1, 2016Publisher:Thistledown PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1771871172

ISBN - 13:9781771871174

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From LeonAn immense black-and-white billboard of a near-naked man hovers in the polluted haze of Hong Kong. Over twenty stories high, the gigantic man leans, his head tilted back, against the soon-to-be-demolished Ritz-Carleton Hotel. His eyes are almost entirely closed. Tight white underpants contrast glistening black skin. Leon finds he cannot sleep. Not that The Giant is staring, exactly; his eyes are barely discernible. Still, a vague feeling that The Giant is watching lingers in Leon’s consciousness, a feeling that, somehow, images are radiating onto The Giant’s retina. Not that Leon has enough time to sleep these days; he’s spending most of his spare time at the bank implementing the latest risk management system, a relatively simple install that isn’t anywhere near finished.From A Lucky Man Johnny showed his movies free of charge in random locations, projecting them against the sides of office buildings. He had a simple way of advertising his viewings. An hour before showtime, he would tweet the exact location and, through the magic of social media, his followers would converge on that spot. Sometimes, the police arrived before the film ended and shut it down. Johnny disappeared into the crowd. He really was that nondescript. He was a lucky man for he could’ve been charged with unlawful assembly and that’s serious business. Hong Kong may be a Special Administrative Region but it falls solidly under China’s khaki umbrella. After a viewing, his fans would head to The Globe to discuss possible meanings. Watching his work for the first time, I felt as if I’d caught a glimpse into the mind of a true artist. Discussions often took several hours and, one time, in the middle of the night, Johnny showed up and listened to our ramblings. Unfortunately, he never discussed the meaning of his film; however, he did share criticism of the latest movie he’d viewed at the UA cinema.Johnny made a point of showing his films once and only once, and, as a result, quickly developed a cult following. A message board was created to discuss his body of work. It still exists. I’m haunted by one of Johnny’s films, in which people ride alone in elevators. Their actions are simple; they finger the emergency button and scratch the panel with their keys. They pick their teeth and smooth their hair. Compulsively, they check their phones, take pictures of themselves. Sometimes, they touch themselves in intimate ways; run hands over breasts, adjust themselves for comfort. But their faces are complex. Riding a cushion of air, their faces slip into neutral. Stripped of their persona, they are themselves, exposed. I want to look away but I cannot.When I first saw this film, I wondered how Johnny had gained access to so many actors, as he avoided the local film community and preferred to work alone. Besides, he couldn’t speak Cantonese. I thought he must’ve formed an alliance with a local production company. I now know better.From 21:23The Night Porter arrives earlier than usual and knocks twice.Load Toad swings the door open.Two women, hand in hand, stare down at their feet.“Too much, parenthetically speaking,” says Load Toad and shakes his head.The Night Porter narrows his eyes and says, “Long Live the Chinese People.” An old-fashioned, military button on the breast pocket of his new uniform sags, and a blue thread dangles.An hour later, the Night Porter returns with a young man.“Christ,” says Load Toad and grins. “I don’t swing that way.”The Night Porter smiles.Trapped at The Skyline Business Hotel on account of a stalled contract, and no cigarettes. Load Toad’s sworn off smoking and tries to forget the large bottle of duty-free rum tucked in his luggage. Next door, The American turns up the television.The next evening, a single knock, forceful.The Night Porter gestures at the young woman next to him and says, “Yes, yes?”The woman has no face. Load Toad slams the door. On the way to the client’s office, Load Toad’s taxi skirts the partially constructed Guangzhou TV Tower. The tower is a slender hourglass of twisted steel columns that cinches at the waist like a corset. At the base of the TV Tower lie mounds of concrete rubble from demolished apartment buildings, assorted construction debris and abandoned trash. Offerings to the future, thinks Load Toad.The taxi slows to a crawl in traffic.Red-and-white striped plastic sheeting circles the construction site. An immense yellow machine shoves the debris; bullies it into oversized dump trucks that line the narrow streets. The taxi comes to a halt and the driver turns up the already blaring radio. From this angle, Load Toad isn’t certain if the TV Tower relays or blocks information, but he has a hunch she’s hiding something up her skirts. A three-legged dog emerges through plastic sheeting and barks a warning at the stalled traffic. A man edges past on a motorcycle, a battered plastic container of water strapped to his seat with fluorescent bungee cords. As the motorcyclist navigates potholes, the plastic container shifts and water sloshes into the dusty street. Load Toad checks his Blackberry for messages. Nothing pressing, just a short email from his wife, reminding him of an increase in school fees. More money. Load Toad drums his fingers on his knee. More.