"The city is being swept away by the metropolis. This action does not just replace one noun with another, but radically turns one state of affairs into a state of perpetual motion. As a collective action -- a verb more than a noun -- the metropolis destabilizes our concepts of time and place. With the dissolution of the city into the forever- emerging metropolis, our existence slides into permanent mobility." - L. Lerup, in After the City


seventeen. the fragmented whole & the walk vs. the ride
Hong Kong draws to a close with gray days that threaten rain. my last afternoon and evening out on the town were somehow a quintessential cross-section of Hong Kong as I have experienced it: flying back from Shenzhen on the KCR rail and watching the city emerge, suddenly and sporadically as the dictates of topography allow; climbing the grungy stairs to the 3rd floor of the Mansion back in Tsim Sha Tsui for a nostalgic meal of Indian food (how good it was to eat with my hands!); walking through a shiny shopping mall in the by-now HK trademark juxtaposition of circulation and consumption in order access the water’s edge ‘Avenue of Stars’ for the 8 p.m. nightly spectacle. here, for 15 minutes every evening, the tourism board sponsors an ‘ooh-aah’ fest of song and light starring all the major buildings across the water in the financial district. god knows what the electricity bill for this is -- green lasers, Hollywood spotlights, neon facades pulsing and blinking in rhythm to the musak – it’s the first tourist thing to do in Hong Kong, and I could not resist making it my last. walking from here to the Starr ferry pier to return to HKI (where I’ve been house-sitting for a good friend) I passed a panoply of plasticized cotton-candy and photo stalls; it smelled like a carnival. my last ferry ride was poignant and quiet. it has been one of favorite things about Hong Kong: for $.25 and 7 minutes the stunning, mobile view of this city on the harbor and commuting are tourism are all compressed into one functional, breathtaking, and affordable experience. then a bumpy loud tram ride back to the Pok Fu Lam area to sleep in an immaculately designed and furnished apartment (complete with professional Lavazza espresso maker) where from the bed I can look out the window and see 2 twenty-storey towers rising above me.

Mumbai & Hong Kong reflected…looking back over my hand-drawn territorial tracks of Mumbai and Hong Kong, I am surprised by what I see: every footstep/rail segment/busride in Mumbai was a veritable whirlwind of disaster and delight, from the minutae of avoiding the human waste on certain sidewalks to the trepidatious wanderings into unplanned alleys nestled between barely standing shacks to the windswept liberation of climbing to meet the orange flag of a temple on a hill. nothing was a blur because everything was hard won, and thus my sense is that I got beneath the grit of that city more than I did Hong Kong. however, my drawing of Hong Kong is thick with lines -- the train tracks, bus roads, tram lines, & footsteps in some areas so tangled as to be barely decipherable. compared to Mumbai’s scattered and sparse longitudes, one would think that my experience of Hong Kong had been more dense than that of Mumbai.

considering this disparity of cognitive construct and visual evidence, I realize that much of it has to do with the amount of walking, and the amount of getting ‘lost’ I allowed myself in the two cities. in Mumbai if I was not on train I was usually on foot, buses being inefficient in traffic, difficult to decipher, and not as networked and ubiquitous. moreover, being on a train in Mumbai still allows a vivid interface with and sensual experience of the passing city due to the aboveground nature of the system, the permeable compartments, and the violation of the trains’ right-of-way. in contrast, it is effortless in Hong Kong to emerge from the MTR and immediately find a city bus or mini bus or tram going in a direction you feel inclined to go. major stations have a transit interchange area, usually beneath, adjacent to, or a stone’s throw from the rail station, and which serves as the terminus for many routes. the average station has a collection of bus-stops immediately outside its exits, which are usually along a major artery and thus coincide seamlessly with road-based modes. it is strangely difficult to walk too far in Hong Kong; development is nodal, and sometimes broken by topography or long stretches of pedestrian-unfriendly territory. in Mumbai, everything is pedestrian unfriendly in a sense, so everything is paradoxically walkable. here the difference between that which is walkable and that which is fenced or cordoned off or so roundabout or broken by terrain is stark, creating a more stringent dichotomy between the walked & wandered city and the ridden & routed city.

undoubtedly too, the modal configurations account for some of the ‘constrained extensiveness’ vs. the ‘thick narrowness’ of how I’ve known Hong Kong and Mumbai. everything in HK is sealed (save for ferries and trams), and the trains, when above ground, are often well-walled-off or elevated above the city fabric, creating a second, third, fourth layer of experiential distance between viewer/sensor & city. this separation between linescape and adjacent urban mesh also has its advantages though; above-ground noise pollution is minimized, and railway/highway right of ways can find unlikely uses such as parks or promenades.
for me, Hong Kong has been a seamless yet erratic choose-my-own-adventure of navigability which has made me very aware of the particularity of the idiosyncratic slices i've drawn through the city. in contrast, i always felt that Mumbai was navigating me; I was much more at the mercy of the city, and thus, felt more led by an inevitable urgency to simply navigate space.

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