One-Hit Wonder

There are some place names on the world map which once held a sense of mystery and an exotic appeal, but which have been devalued by tourism or war: obvious examples are Acapulco, Marrakesh, Bali, Ho Chi Minh City, Goa.

But there are other places that have not been blighted by over-exposure and which retain an aura of enigmatic desire, alienated glamour, and film noir danger: examples might include Valparaiso, Antalya, Taos, Tbilisi, Wem, Chennai, Tuxtla Gutierrez, and Macau.

Hold that thought. Shake it up with a love of dancing, or perhaps of watching other people dancing. Serve as a cocktail of fantasy prose.

Macau again. The old Macau.

Which means small hours drinking in La Ville Blanche, Frenchified tribute to Lisbon, the white city dreamt of so passionately by the Portuguese barflies who hung out here for much of the twentieth century.

After long hours of fleecing empty-eyed gamblers on the casino strip, even the cheap Taiwanese whisky tastes just fine. Except that when I look for a word to describe the after-taste all I can come up with is “lonely”.

Around 2.30 a.m. I am trying to remember the name of the hotel that Vegas Velma had booked me into. I’ve been awake for over 48 hours.

It’s then that some hedge-fund flunky from the new Macau’s skyscraping financial quarter staggers over to the big retro jukebox and puts on this record.

It plays all the way through.

I head across to the jukebox and put the song on again.

Just at that moment I see her walk over to the bar. Lorelei Cheung, twin sister to Maggie. Back working at the old Ville Blanche. Our eyes meet and memories of Nassau and Atlantic City come pulsing back into my head. And of Macau, always Macau. The old Macau.

I put my glass down.

She walks slowly across to the jukebox, waits for the song to end, then presses ‘repeat’.

We dance. Only it’s more of a slow melting together, a warm collapse into recognition and sadness. I’m all out of hope. She’s all out of fear. We are both all out of love.


L’ Homme Qui S’Appelle Maintenant x


  1. Dear MM,
    A thrilling list of the last exotic places on earth. Valparaiso . . . shivers down my spine. You omitted a personal favourite, Montevideo – does just what it says on the can – but inexplicably included Wem, a give away if ever I saw one.
    PS Alan Tam? An anagram of Matalan? Surely not.


    1. Yes, I would have put Montevideo in but it doesn’t have the same ring to it since they changed it to Montedvd…as for Wem, I am unreliably informed that the citizens of Valparaiso regard it as the ultimate in exotic nomenclature (as with most things much depends on geographical determination).


    1. Yes, Wem. The place is full of sleazy but intriguing late night jazz bars where wild-eyed loners of both genders go to bandy smart one-liners with each other, drink sloe gin and smoke marijuana grown in the disused kebab shop at the end of the High Street. Shots ring out and men in long greatcoats flee the scene whilst dramatically lit from below, and dames who look like Ava Gardner sing torch songs to lost lovers. Probably.


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