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Last Stand in Hong Kong

When you're young, bored, and on the road, what do you do? Drink and dance!

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We had ourselves a fine drunk at Ned Kelly's Last Stand. I had met the two Swedes and the big German there for that very reason. We had all decided that Hong Kong didn't have much to offer the sandals-and-faded-jeans crowd from the youth-hostel circuit, so we decided to just blow it out at an Australian-run Dixieland place. Something about that odd combination was impossible to resist.

When I got there, they were already into a pitcher of San Miguel, with help from two Italian stereotypes. If I made these guys up for a short story, people would accuse me of lacking imagination. Each of them had thick, curly black hair and a mustache, they both had their shirts open to expose a rug of chest hair, and they both wore jeans so tight that their eyes bulged when they sat down. Once again, I thought, I'll be drinking in an Asian bar, surrounded by everything but Asians. Such is life on the hostel circuit.

Ned Kelly's Ned is the Australian version of Jesse James was particularly rowdy that night. There was an American warship or two in town, and nothing is as rowdy or as scary or, frankly, as embarrassing as a bunch of American servicemen rolling into a foreign city. They always look like a bunch of starved pit bulls turned loose in a chicken pen.

Pretty soon Ken Bennett's Kowloon Honkers hit the stage. They're the local Dixieland outfit. I don't know how they wound up playing Dixieland at an Aussie-run place in Hong Kong, but they knew how to get the crowd going. They looked out at all the shaved heads and started up with a batch of military songs, including "Battle Hymn of the Republic." The Navy boys joined in on the chorus, and even the Europeans sang along, then I noticed the big German and one of the Italians were dancing with each other, and a Texan was talking Metallica with a guy from New Jersey. Then one Italian bet another he could pick up the bartender, then the Swedes were teaching everybody handshakes, and an Aussie wound up dancing on the table with a pitcher in his hand, to the consternation of the New Zealand waitress, then a Marine and a Navy boy got into a fight over Bruce Springsteen, then I was trying to dance my ass off to "When the Saints Go Marching In," and then it was all over and the waitress was sweeping up peanut shells. Like I said, it was a fine drunk.

But we had a small problem. Most youth hostels don't really cater to the all-night crowd, so when we stumbled back around 2 in the morning, we found ourselves locked out. We also had a large problem: the German. He had been snoring in the cab on the way home, and somehow or another we'd have to get him over the fence so we could all get to our beds.

I got over the fence all right, but there was a pretty steep hill on the other side and a concrete basketball court at the bottom of that hill. The plan was that the Swedes would hand him over the fence he was about 10 percent conscious and I would be the "safety net." The first part of the plan worked okay, though it turns out that 300 pounds of Swede can barely lift 250 pounds of German and I was more of a landing pad than a safety net. I took an elbow to the head and a knee to the back, but we got it done. He woke up just long enough to curse us with "Vut chu people doing to me?"

He was still mumbling and whimpering, and we had to get him to shut up before we could take him into the hostel. The main room has about 40 bunks, and at that moment it had 36 happily sleeping hostellers in it. I prayed that that would last. The German was moving into his sentimental phase he kept asking to be sure "Mister Memphis" was still there as we negotiated the maze of beds, trying to locate the German's. There was some mumbling and tossing in the bunks, but we were still doing okay until we found his bunk, laid him out in it, then I swung his leg over and it crashed into the metal frame of the bed. Instantly, five flashlights came on, and half the room was yelling at us. The German started yelling back at them, something about everyone else being little girls and crying for their mothers, so I just put my head down and weaved toward my bunk.

I felt a small twinge of guilt for waking everybody up, but as I drifted off to dreamland, I thought, Screw 'em! Where were they when the Italians sang "Glory, glory hallelujah"?

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