For a while, I wasn’t sure if I should go to Hong Kong. There was a lot to figure out. Would the timing work with my stop in New York? Was it worth the expense? What would be the best use of my time there when I arrived?
However, I did want to meet our two new technicians: Macho and Neway. They contacted me over a year ago to get involved with FPF, and we’ve been working to get them set up in Hong Kong ever since. I figured that by going to visit, I could better determine what our approach should be for this area.
On top of that, I’ve been trying to spend more personal time with my co-workers, and to get to know people better in general. Macho’s family was kind enough to offer me a place to stay, so I decided to go for it. I booked a flight from NYC to Hong Kong.
A Bike Ride Adventure
It’s a very long flight! I knew there would be jet lag, but I think I underestimated just how hard that would be. Still, I figured rising with the sun and trying to reset my clock would be the best plan.
When Macho asked me what I wanted to do upon arrival, I told her: let’s go on an adventure. So, on my first day, she rented us a couple of bicycles. We headed across town to see the new home her family was preparing to move to.
What I hadn’t realized was that she hadn’t ridden a bicycle in years! She struggled a bit, but it meant a lot that she’d go to all this trouble for me. We had a nice ride along a river, and I started to take in my new surroundings.
The Lay of the Land
Right away, I was struck by how things are organized in Hong Kong. It’s all about making efficient use of limited space in ways that are highly functional, but also beautiful. On the other hand, how can everyone be in such tight quarters all the time and not want to hit each other?
I also noticed the interplay of the urban structures and surrounding green spaces. In New York, Central Park is growing up in the center of what is otherwise a purely urban landscape. Here, though, it felt more like the city was growing up amongst nature, melding and merging.
And no one, in fact, was hitting each other. Everyone seemed very kind, not to mention incredibly hard working. The positive attitude must have been contageous, because I quickly adjusted to the tiny spaces and close proximities. Things felt peaceful.
A Piano Lesson
Speaking of efficient use of space, it turned out that Macho’s new apartment was in a building whose first two floors were all shops, looking almost like a mall. I was already interested, but then it got even better: one of the shops was a piano lesson studio!
Heading inside, we spoke to the staff to see if we could take a look at their pianos. I really wanted to see what they had, and to check out the tuning. Apparently this was a very strange request, but Macho did her best to explain, and eventually we were given permission to go back.
Their pianos were in great shape, and very well tuned. I asked who did their tunings. They told me they have an ongoing contract with an organized service. Macho said it’s very hard to break into services like this in Hong Kong, because there’s so much integration with corporations.
I started to feel a little worried and intimidated. How were we going to get FPF rolling out here? In Brooklyn, there’s a certain spirit of learning, and a love for fresh variety, where growth of smaller businesses is encouraged. But here, when systems are already locked in place, and everything is working exactly as expected, what’s the appeal in making a change?
Part of FPF is that we like to help people learn, to let them in on what we do. But that only works if there’s a desire for that kind of involvement. A friend of mine suggested that perhaps in Hong Kong, Floating Piano Factory could be more of a white glove, high-end service, offering a personalized approach that larger groups can’t provide.
On our way back, Macho and I pulled our bikes over to check out the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. They had an entire exhibit up about Bruce Lee, cataloging his life and experiences. One room was filled with countless magazines and pieces of memorabilia, all collected by just one man.
In a video interview, the collector explained his fascination. When he was a child in America, he was the only Asian student in his class, and other kids would pick on him. At the time, depictions of Chinese men in films had been terrible stereotypes of defenseless, bumbling characters.
After Bruce Lee hit the scene, however, that all changed. When the world saw his incredible abilities in martial arts and film making, the image of a Chinese man was upended and redefined. From that point on, the collector was inspired to stand up for himself. When confronted on the playground, he would channel Bruce Lee, striking martial arts poses that would scare away his bullies.
On my way out, I found a letter that Bruce Lee had written to himself before he became famous with the title “My Definite Chief Aim.” He laid out his specific goals, telling himself exactly how he would become a star, the amount money he would make, and a timeline for his success. He set his vision in ink, and then he went for it.
It made me feel inspired to do the same. I, too, want to set and achieve some big, crazy goals. I guess the only way to do that is to commit, take a breath, and move ahead at full speed.
About this series: Floating piano has come to be internationally known, and thanks to the internet we’re getting inquiries worldwide about our top-rated apprenticeship program. This has inspired us to try to connect with international piano lovers in person via some transcontinental traveling. Eathan Janney, lead technician and founder of FPF will be visiting Peru to search for human connections through pianos. Meanwhile our star apprentices Daniel DiMaggio, Bimol Karmaker and Tom Erickson are manning the ship at home in NYC, ready to tune your piano to the highest standards.
As a “Goodwill” Ambassador, FPF assigns itself the task of connecting with piano owners in various locations and exploring the histories of their pianos. We will document these adventures and stories, and as a gesture of good will, offer to tune the pianos for free. Piano tuning is our business, but we are also fascinated with the non-transactional aspects of a piano tuning visit: the interaction with a piano owner, the sharing of music, the caring for an object that has a life history of its own. Music is a global phenomenon that exists outside of the physical, political, and national boundaries that may separate us. We would like to highlight these factors by making connections through pianos and sharing these stories with you.
Special thanks to playwright Chad Eschman for collaborating on this post.