BY GUNNAR HEINRICH
Anyone who?s spent more than three weeks in Hong Kong knows that on day four you?ve just about run out of official sights to see.
Victoria Peak? Check.
Repulse Bay? Check.
Mosque Street? Check.
The world?s largest sitting Buddha on Lantau Island? Very cool - double check.
Being the insatiable inquisitor, yours started looking for the decidedly obscure.
The Bottom?s Up Club? Nobody ever heard of it.
The Rolls-Royce showroom? Hong Kong purportedly rivals Palm Beach for highest number of Royces per capita. I found that to be less true but more so the case for the sheer volume of Mercedes-Benzes.
A small glass fronted store in Central with one Phantom sitting solo next to one desk with a little sign that read ?We accept American Express.? R e a l l y? how fast can you export?
And, finally, the Noon-Day Gun.
The Noon-Day Gun, they say, is a brass fitted Hotchkiss 3 pound recoiless cannon that sits on the Hong Kong side of Causeway Bay pointing towards Kowloon; the southern end of the peninsula that connects the New Territories to Red China.
At noon each day a naval officer will fire a warning shot across the bay telling the Communists to stay out of Hong Kong. Wait?never mind.
I?ve never seen the Noon-Day Gun.
Never even heard it fire, either. And apparently you can hear it for miles when she goes off.
The one morning I allocated to seeing it in action, I could not actually find it!
I remember my vain attempt vividly.
The day was a boiling pot of exhaust fumes, still subtropical heat, lightly pissing (acid) rain, and the malodorous market scents of spices mixed with decaying fish.
Sweat soaked my polo shirt straight through and I had a 30 minute turnaround time before I had to beat feet back to the Mandarin Oriental for a formal group luncheon.
I thought I knew where it was!
And knowing where it was meant that I could take my time perambulating there.
It was only ?til ten-to that I found out that a multi-lane freeway blocked access to the shoreline for an easy half mile (0.8 km?).
Assuming the role of obnoxious tourist-run-rampant, I stormed each hotel lobby in a four block radius demanding (accurate) directions to the Noon-Day Gun.
?The Noon-Day wha?? Was the usual English reply.
?The GUN! The Noon-Day Gun! You know, the one that fires at twelve?!?
On my third hotel visit, I was really steamed. Time was ticking, I was sweating, swearing, and my deadline to see this great antique in action was nigh!
?Oh,? an unmoved concierge would reply, ?Here?s a map of the area. I think you?ll find it? here,? he?d say helpfully pointing to some generic spot on one of those simple maps that displays every third street.
Two minutes to go.
Out the door.
Running in loafers now.
I can see the harbor.
I can see Kowloon?s tall skyline in the distance.
But as I look up and down the cement shoreline and past the river of a billion Mercedes-Benzes and slapped-together Chinese VWs, I cannot see the Goddamm gun!
12:01 says my watch. I missed it.
Friends, I missed the firing of the Noon-Day Gun just as I have missed my deadline to start my TMR column series of the same name.
My tardiness or inability to calculate time zone differences aside, I still think we?ll keep the name, regardless.
So, every Friday at noon ? cool South Wales time ? find yourself here and I will tell you another tale of vehicular wonder.
And unlike the actual cannon, I?ll be easy to find.
[Linked: Noon-Day Gun]