Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ode to the umbrella




The umbrella in Hong Kong.  All sizes, shapes and colors.  Advertising for companies or businesses, or swathed in polka dots and flowers.  The bright orange, green and white stripes of 7-Eleven, or feminine butterfly-covered purple nylon.  Canopies depicting nature scenes, cartoon characters, animal patterns, or mere solid hues.  Kids’ parasols topped with Mickey Mouse ears, frogs’ eyes or other 3D figures.

Compact enough to fold up and fit in the purse or pocket; large enough to serve as a cane or hiking stick.  Rubber tips added to the end of the shaft to aid the elderly in walking.  Some shaped like swords.  Manual or automatic opening mechanisms.

Rain or shine.  Parasols pop out in the bright daylight, perhaps not even waterproof.  Dainty lace-covered portable shade, or thick nylon labeled with UV protection level.  Available for sale in shops, malls, department stores, convenience stores, and vending machines in the train station.  A well-dressed businesswoman regally carrying a matching black parasol; a gentleman huddled under a pink frilly canopy.  Fashion statement or practical necessity.

Plastic-sleeve dispensers stand at the entrance of malls and shopping centers; use one to keep the floors dry.  Buckets, trashcans and umbrella holders of all sizes and shapes litter doorways.  Deposit your sunshade as you enter, take one when you depart, and hope it doesn’t belong to another patron.

Piles of dead bumbershoots on the sidewalk and in the gutters, destroyed by strong winds and heavy rain.  Bent metal, ribs askew, strips of nylon soaking in puddles.  A $30 HKD device with a short lifespan, but the canopy fabric may be rescued and repurposed as a waterproof cover for a straw hat.

The umbrella.  An essential we cannot live without here in the subtropical climate of Southeast Asia.


City of Dreams

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