Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jun 19 2007

Back on the bike

end of the lineMy goal of taking a nice long ride on the Crazy Bike along the riverside over the Dragonboat holiday had been frustrated by rain on Saturday and Sunday, so on Monday I covered myself in sunscreen, pumped up the tires, and set off despite the ominous rumblings coming from the sky. Negotiating the mouthbreathers on the bridge was troublesome, but once I got on the path itself things went much more smoothly. It was great to be cruising along the river, looking at the views, the trees and sky, listening to the cicadas and feeling the wind. Since I last rode that path, new sections have been added, making previously twisty bits straighter and smoother. The massive highway bridge they’ve been building south of the Xiulang Bridge looks almost complete, and when it’s done another messy detour will vanish.

bridge constructionA huge stage was being set up along the river in Banqiao. The newly paved roads were smooth as silk. I made good time all the way up the Xindian River, along which they are building an elevated expressway that crosses the Danhan River where it and the Xindian converge to form the Danshui River. The construction site for the bridge alone is huge.

The sun came out as I rode westwards towards Tucheng, and the weather became very hot. I stopped to put on more sunscreen, and two other bikers remarked as they rode past, “Oh, right, we should have brought some of that!” Both the Crazy Bike and I got stares and remarks. It seemed most people noticed the bike before they noticed who was riding it. The path to Tucheng has been made into a scooter lane, so the bike path had been rerouted, but the riverbank is wide enough that it doesn’t really matter.puddle

A huge black cloud loomed over Tucheng, thunder booming distantly from it every so often. I reached the end of the path and turned around, away from the black wall of weather, following a group of slow kids and pausing to take pictures of things along the way. The fact that I hadn’t ridden the bike in a long time impressed itself upon me shortly afterwards, and while it was still enjoyable, I was pretty much tired out. The return trip took almost an hour longer than the trip out, partly because of the massive crowds that filled the riverbank near the stage they’d been setting up earlier. Another reason was the multitude of people who apparently want to kill their retarded family members. I’ll be riding along and when I approach some group of people traveling the opposite direction, usually a family or group of friends, someone will always remain completely oblivious to my presence despite the fact that I am an apparent foreigner riding a bright red dragster bicycle directly towards them. I can only conclude that they are mentally impaired in some fashion. However, the other family members/friends will notice me, grab the oblivious person and invariably shove them or pull them right into my path. Thankfully I managed to avoid hitting anyone, but there were quite a few close calls.

The sun was setting over the river, reflecting off of Taipei 101 and turning it into a bright white flame above the city. It must have been raining in the Xinyi District as a rainbow appeared just above it. Bitan seemed to be shrouded in mist as I approached; it seemed particularly inviting after a long, hot ride. I rode on, through clouds of small bugs that flew into my eyes, nose and mouth, causing me to spit every few seconds.

The area was still full of holiday revelers, mandating another game of hit-the-tourist crossing back. I would have loved to taken a nice long, cool shower and gone for a swim, but I had to go to Darrell’s for looping, so I ditched the bike and went straight over. After that, I went to badminton practice, which tired me out utterly and completely. When I finally did get home, the pool was closed, so I drew a bathtub full of cool water, plunked down in it and zoned out with a tattered copy of the Dao De Jing comic.bitan

My little brother Philip was in town on Sunday, so he came down to Bitan to have a look, as he’d never been here before. When I met him at the MRT station, he made the usual remarks about how fat I’d gotten, and we talked about his scuba dives in the Philippines as the source of his relatively svelte proportions. Bitan is a madhouse these days thanks to the Dragonboat Festival-related activities, so the bridge and surrounding streets were packed. Philip really liked the area and my place. I showed him Clay Soldiers, and he found it entertaining despite his feeling that there was a lack of chemistry between the actors.

We had dinner at the dumpling place downstairs and then took a walk along the hillside out back before going down to the river bank for the obligatory Bitan Photo Opportunity. It was nice to see him; he said he’d like to bring his wife and kids along next time.

posted by Poagao at 12:24 am  
Jun 17 2007

Street jammin’

“It’s raining,” I said on the phone to David, who was still entwined in the subway system on his way to Bitan. We’d promised Athula, the Sri Lankan rotti-provider and patron saint of the Muddy Basin Ramblers, that we’d perform on the street in front of his stand as part of the Taiwan Beer Festival on Saturday night. But all I could see from my balcony as dusk fell was sheets of rain. Still, I got my things together, just in case.

20 minutes later the rain had stopped, so I stuffed my pocket trumpet in my backpack and lugged the euphonium and the washtub bass components down the wet street and over the bridge, meeting my neighbor Brent and his wife on the way. The bridge was full of people, and I wondered if it might not be a good idea to have a sign saying “Do you know why you’re crossing this bridge?” on the Xindian side, as most people just cross the bridge and turn back. The strollers I can understand, but it’s the people who seem to be in a hurry to cross, glance at the other side, and then rush back that confuse me.

Xindian Street was full of people and pavilions selling various products under a curtain of Taiwan Beer ads, and Athula was doing his usual roaring business. We set up in the middle of the street. Just our appearance, with all of the unusual instruments, attracted a lot of people, but once we started the show we gathered up quite a crowd. They were in a festive mood, too, applauding and yelling in appreciation. It seemed that everyone had some kind of recording device running. Several people brought cups of herbal jelly tea for us all to drink through thick straws. Sandman’s dog Balu trotted around the area following up interesting smells.

kidThe rain started in again, and we moved under one of the awnings nearby. The acoustics there were a little better, but there wasn’t enough room for much of a crowd. As soon as it stopped, we moved back out into the middle of the street. We played nearly every song that involved the euphonium, which tired me out and left my trumpet performance lacking, but I managed anyway. At one point Thumper invited a small boy in a striped shirt to play the bells on his washboard, and the kid really took a shine to it; the look on his face was priceless.

We played the Taiwan Song, which David said was meant for just such an occasion. After another song I had just put away my trumpet and returned to find a spectator playing the washtub bass with a rather confused yet determined look on his face. He used so much force that he broke the pencil I’d been using to pluck the string in half. I let him play and retrieved my trumpet to play along instead.

We were halfway through Work Song when the downpour started. Big, heavy drops began splattering down, and around us a host of umbrellas went up. Slim slipped his hat over Conor’s amp to keep it from electrocuting anyone. By the time we finished it was pouring rain. I slipped the washtub over my head and gathered up my trumpet and the euphonium, which had tumbled to the pavement when Jojo had mistakenly picked up the unfastened case, and ran back over to the awning for shelter.

conorIt was 10pm, and the pavilions were beginning to pack up. We stood around chatting with local denizens, politely declining invitations to play again on other nights. I pinched the straw of my herbal jelly tea, trying to filter out the jelly part, but to no avail. In the meantime, some of the foreigners in the crowd were getting pretty drunk. One guy fell off his motorcycle, breaking a part off of it.

The rain stopped again. By the point, traffic was being allowed through again, and a cavalcade of little blue trucks approached to take away the pavilions. We weren’t quite finished, however. We set up again and played some quieter songs for a while before the police showed up, as we knew they would. More chatting and milling around ensued before Thumper and I whisked Slim away from his complicated social life, down to the dragonboat platform erected on the edge of the river, which was covered in beautiful fog. There, we chatted and drank until the wee hours. It was a nice evening.bridge

posted by Poagao at 5:10 am  
Jun 17 2007

Street jammin’

“It’s raining,” I said on the phone to David, who was still entwined in the subway system on his way to Bitan. We’d promised Athula, the Sri Lankan rotti-provider and patron saint of the Muddy Basin Ramblers, that we’d perform on the street in front of his stand as part of the Taiwan Beer Festival on Saturday night. But all I could see from my balcony as dusk fell was sheets of rain. Still, I got my things together, just in case.

20 minutes later the rain had stopped, so I stuffed my pocket trumpet in my backpack and lugged the euphonium and the washtub bass components down the wet street and over the bridge, meeting my neighbor Brent and his wife on the way. The bridge was full of people, and I wondered if it might not be a good idea to have a sign saying “Do you know why you’re crossing this bridge?” on the Xindian side, as most people just cross the bridge and turn back. The strollers I can understand, but it’s the people who seem to be in a hurry to cross, glance at the other side, and then rush back that confuse me.

Xindian Street was full of people and pavilions selling various products under a curtain of Taiwan Beer ads, and Athula was doing his usual roaring business. We set up in the middle of the street. Just our appearance, with all of the unusual instruments, attracted a lot of people, but once we started the show we gathered up quite a crowd. They were in a festive mood, too, applauding and yelling in appreciation. It seemed that everyone had some kind of recording device running. Several people brought cups of herbal jelly tea for us all to drink through thick straws. Sandman’s dog Balu trotted around the area following up interesting smells.

kidThe rain started in again, and we moved under one of the awnings nearby. The acoustics there were a little better, but there wasn’t enough room for much of a crowd. As soon as it stopped, we moved back out into the middle of the street. We played nearly every song that involved the euphonium, which tired me out and left my trumpet performance lacking, but I managed anyway. At one point Thumper invited a small boy in a striped shirt to play the bells on his washboard, and the kid really took a shine to it; the look on his face was priceless.

We played the Taiwan Song, which David said was meant for just such an occasion. After another song I had just put away my trumpet and returned to find a spectator playing the washtub bass with a rather confused yet determined look on his face. He used so much force that he broke the pencil I’d been using to pluck the string in half. I let him play and retrieved my trumpet to play along instead.

We were halfway through Work Song when the downpour started. Big, heavy drops began splattering down, and around us a host of umbrellas went up. Slim slipped his hat over Conor’s amp to keep it from electrocuting anyone. By the time we finished it was pouring rain. I slipped the washtub over my head and gathered up my trumpet and the euphonium, which had tumbled to the pavement when Jojo had mistakenly picked up the unfastened case, and ran back over to the awning for shelter.

conorIt was 10pm, and the pavilions were beginning to pack up. We stood around chatting with local denizens, politely declining invitations to play again on other nights. I pinched the straw of my herbal jelly tea, trying to filter out the jelly part, but to no avail. In the meantime, some of the foreigners in the crowd were getting pretty drunk. One guy fell off his motorcycle, breaking a part off of it.

The rain stopped again. By the point, traffic was being allowed through again, and a cavalcade of little blue trucks approached to take away the pavilions. We weren’t quite finished, however. We set up again and played some quieter songs for a while before the police showed up, as we knew they would. More chatting and milling around ensued before Thumper and I whisked Slim away from his complicated social life, down to the dragonboat platform erected on the edge of the river, which was covered in beautiful fog. There, we chatted and drank until the wee hours. It was a nice evening.bridge

posted by Poagao at 5:10 am  
May 29 2007

On the Internet, everyone knows you’re a dog

I was late to a lunch date today. As I rode the subway into town, I thought about how this day would go if it were a couple of years down the road, and technology had kept up its current rate of development. My guess is my friends would look my position up on their GPS phones, see that I was still in Bitan, in my apartment, at noon. They’d see me leave, walk down the street, and then turn back to my apartment. My Twitter 2.0 service would flash “forgot my damn umbrella” and a real-time weather bureau layer would confirm that it was now pissing rain in my neighborhood. They’d watch me cross the bridge, just miss one train and wait for another, and then see me go one stop too far. T2.0 message: I’m tired of getting off at Taipei Main Station all the time. Then the little dot labeled “Poagao” on their screens, should they check it during their already-proceeding meal, would wander through some alleys in the vague direction of the restaurant, and (I’d like to think) they would make space for me at the table just before I walked in the door.

The rain in Bitan was incredible, I should add. I could see the heavy rain approaching and leaving, the white froth advancing in a line across the bridge at a good clip. My feet and legs were soaked, and it was a good test of my semi-waterproof shoes (verdict: kinda). To the north, the city was bathed in sunlight. The rain missed it completely.

But what I’m curious about is this: If everyone has access to our whereabouts, paths, even our hitherto-private musings typed into a wide-distribution services, will it make us more allowing for human nature? Before, we’d just come up with an excuse: “Traffic was bad” or “There was a sale on gold bullion” or “I was attacked by monkeys” or something that may or may not have happened. When it gets to the point where everyone can see what’s happening, and we all witness the chicanery that we all do and don’t tell anyone, will such shenanigans cease to be the social faux-pas that they currently are? Or will everyone just know, and not even bother mentioning them?

I guess we’re about to find out.

posted by Poagao at 2:57 am  
May 29 2007

On the Internet, everyone knows you’re a dog

I was late to a lunch date today. As I rode the subway into town, I thought about how this day would go if it were a couple of years down the road, and technology had kept up its current rate of development. My guess is my friends would look my position up on their GPS phones, see that I was still in Bitan, in my apartment, at noon. They’d see me leave, walk down the street, and then turn back to my apartment. My Twitter 2.0 service would flash “forgot my damn umbrella” and a real-time weather bureau layer would confirm that it was now pissing rain in my neighborhood. They’d watch me cross the bridge, just miss one train and wait for another, and then see me go one stop too far. T2.0 message: I’m tired of getting off at Taipei Main Station all the time. Then the little dot labeled “Poagao” on their screens, should they check it during their already-proceeding meal, would wander through some alleys in the vague direction of the restaurant, and (I’d like to think) they would make space for me at the table just before I walked in the door.

The rain in Bitan was incredible, I should add. I could see the heavy rain approaching and leaving, the white froth advancing in a line across the bridge at a good clip. My feet and legs were soaked, and it was a good test of my semi-waterproof shoes (verdict: kinda). To the north, the city was bathed in sunlight. The rain missed it completely.

But what I’m curious about is this: If everyone has access to our whereabouts, paths, even our hitherto-private musings typed into a wide-distribution services, will it make us more allowing for human nature? Before, we’d just come up with an excuse: “Traffic was bad” or “There was a sale on gold bullion” or “I was attacked by monkeys” or something that may or may not have happened. When it gets to the point where everyone can see what’s happening, and we all witness the chicanery that we all do and don’t tell anyone, will such shenanigans cease to be the social faux-pas that they currently are? Or will everyone just know, and not even bother mentioning them?

I guess we’re about to find out.

posted by Poagao at 2:57 am  
Apr 18 2007

Rumors of fireflies

As I sat in the office yesterday I came across a report of fireflies massing in the forests of Bitan. As my usual Tuesday-night activities have been canceled, after work I went directly home, picked up my camera, and headed to the river-crossing to Wantan, hoping that the ferry was still running. Most of the riverside restaurants were closed, giving the area a spooky, haunted feeling. Most people were inside, no doubt in part because the air was filled with dust from a storm sweeping the island. It left a gritty taste in my mouth.

I saw the ferry moored on the other side of the river, but as I approached the makeshift dock a woman’s voice called across the water, asking me whether or not I wanted to take the boat. I waved, and a tiny figure climbed into the boat and began paddling slowly over. A few fishermen braved the dust, sitting on the bank next to tied-up poles, watched by children and cats.

The Southeast Asian girl punting the ferry spoke with an accent, though she spoke both Mandarin and Minnan pretty well. She said she’d been here for five years and wondered why anyone would want to take pictures of fireflies.

As I walked into the wooded areas of Wantan, I was encouraged to see a few fireflies flickering about by the road, but as I progressed, they grew fewer and fewer. The spot Sandman had pointed out to me last year was devoid of the insects. I walked on, hoping to come across some small hillock or glen covered in their light, but I saw none.

The normally lonely, empty temple on the side of the hill was swathed in canvas and lit from within, as if it were full of revelers eating sumptuous meals. It reminded me of Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, where an abandoned country town comes to life at night with various ghosts and spirits.

My presence in the small village further down the road alerted the local Barking Unit, and people left their soap operas, coming to their windows to see what all the fuss was about. I was reassured that the dogs did not actually bite, but they followed me suspiciously anyway, until I was out of their territory on the other side. Occasionally I would come across a frog waiting on the road. I tried to move the first one off, but he wasn’t having of it, so I ignored the rest.

Still no sign of fireflies. I took some solace in the fact that, even if I did come across a field full of lightning bugs, I couldn’t really photograph them properly without a tripod.

As I walked, the dogs of each little house would wake up, bark, and follow me for a bit. This got pretty old pretty fast, and I imagined that all of the fireflies were probably at a meeting somewhere, or at a bar drinking Japanese energy drinks. The dust was making my throat sore, and the last ferry was at 9pm, so I turned back, passing all of the indignant dogs again, and back to the ferry. I took some pictures of Bitan from the riverbank, as well as around the area of the Dimu Temple, where a few latecomers were praying and meditating among the candles, before going to the makeshift restaurant to seek the ferry operators.

The Southeast Asian girl was summoned to take me back across the river, along with an elderly couple. I tried to take some pictures from the boat, but it was moving too much for a clear shot. The elderly couple chatted with the girl in Minnan, praising her language skills, which is basically code for “We picked up on your accent.”

On the other side, I walked down the deep, dark canyon of Xindian Street, noting the addition of a couple of elegant new apartment buildings along the way, as well as a new sushi bar I’ll have to try out sometime. At the end I bought rotis for dinner and made my way home across the bridge, which still held the scent of hot wood after a day in the dust-weakened sun.

Later that night it stormed. Summer’s here.

posted by Poagao at 6:20 am  
Apr 03 2007

Another Bitan Weekend

Prince Roy, exiled from Spicy Girl’s SOGO shopping odyssey, came down to Bitan on Sunday along with Mark to enjoy the summer-like weekend weather. We met up on the bridge, as usual, and walked along the relatively mouthbreather-free upper sidewalk to the ferry crossing. There we boarded the brand spanking-new ferryboat, larger, cleaner and made of fiberglass, replacing the creaky old wooden boat they had before. The sparkling new white-and-blue boat’s metal railings even sported four bright orange life jackets (capacity was eight people), which, oddly enough, were made in the People’s Republic of China, complete with instructions written in simplified characters.

Accompanying us on the new ferry were two of the punter’s friends. They stayed on the boat, relaxing and chatting with the ferryman. One of them was sucking on a plum lollipop.

We disembarked on the other side and bought some drinks at a local watering hole set up in what looked like a container car, and proceeded to walk across the plain through the bamboo fields. A yellow dog followed us up to the border of its territory, where it spotted another dog, whined a bit and retreated. The air was fragrant with the scent of spring blossoms. It always amazed me that I can find such a rural atmosphere minutes away from my front door, yet downtown Taipei is 20 minutes away on the MRT.*

We walked to the Haihui Temple, where we looked out over the river at Zhitan and its strange Americanesque street layout. Mark wondered at the inscriptions on the balcony wall, which had “donated by” and the name of the donor written in red letters on each section. We puzzled over one character, which turned out to be simplified. I suppose the author didn’t have a thin enough knife to carve the traditional character.

We walked on, PR and Mark talking about investments, and all three of us dissing various dissable bloggers, including ourselves. The road wound through cargo containers made up as homes, with little gardens and barking dogs, as well as an open-air karaoke session. I was surprised to see a brand-new house; I’d been told that construction was illegal there. No doubt someone has sufficient connections in the area.

The mosquitos were beginning to bite by the time we made it back to the ferry. The two friends were still in the boat, still sucking on lollipops and chatting merrily with the punter. He’d told me before that the two ferrymen usually divide the day into two shifts, but I’m not sure exactly when his shift began. This time more people crowded onto the boat, surpassing the stated carrying capacity, but nobody paid that any mind. We had life jackets, after all!

PR’s ultimate goal that day was to have a meal at Rendezvous, so that was our next destination. We got a high table with a nice view of the river and spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking and chatting. I had the risotto this time rather than stuff myself with pizza, and it was delicious.

As the evening was getting on, PR and Mark decided it was time to go, so I said farewell to them at the foot of the bridge. After they left to catch the train back to town, I stood looking out across the river at the lighted buildings on the other side and watching the people coming and going across the bridge, trying to remember what it felt like when I was still living in the city. Eventually I walked back home, on the way taking a picture of one of the local strays lying in front of the gangster KTV palace, surrounded by the detritus of the street in such a way that it looked as if the sleeping dog was being watched over by an array of scooters, plants and traffic cones.


*For all of you considering moving down here, this does not mean that Bitan is a great place to live! It is in fact a nasty, crowded, smelly place with awful traffic, blaring karaoke, packs of stray dogs, a high crime rate, mouthbreathing tourists, noisy construction, scooter gangs and racing ricers, gangsters, random fireworks and no sidewalks. It is also mostly pan-blue, and few people speak English. There’s no Wellcome, no Blockbuster or Asia1 or any DVD rental places at all, and it’s a NT$300 cab ride from the city if you miss the last train. Plus we’re chock full at the moment. No vacancies! Sorry!

posted by Poagao at 3:19 am  
Mar 18 2007

Swanboating

Prince Roy, Spicy Girl and their friends Kate and Paul came down to Bitan on Saturday, as the latter two had never been down here before. We rented a fish-shaped swanboat and paddled around the lake playing bumper-boats with the tourists and looking at the birds. It was pleasant. Everyone else was making AIT-related conversation and taking pictures of the scenery, while I rocked the boat and took shots of the paddle pedals.

Once ashore again, Daniel showed up with his brand-new, ridiculously large Nokia smartphone. We had a pizza dinner at Rendezvous. I tried SG’s risotto and found it pretty good. I’ll have to have that next time instead of trying to stuff myself with a whole pizza.

I had to leave early, though, to make the Bliss gig. Daniel drove me and my stuff over to the Xinyi Road establishment, where David was getting out of a cab just as I arrived. The bar was empty. David and I moved couches around upstairs to make room for the inevitable dancing. Slim showed up, sans tux this time, and Sandman called to see if his entourage had arrived yet.
We cajoled the owner, Barry, into letting us have free drinks, and I started in with some rye whiskey. People started showing up, and soon the place was packed. Eddie Tsai, who helped us with fight choreography and swordwork, was there, along with a music professor who played bass. There were many other familiar faces, including that of Chris, whose 30th birthday we were marking that night.

We got a bit of a slow start. Viola Lee was too slow, and my attempts to spice it up with trumpet riffs met with mixed results this time around. We’ve done it better, but we were just getting started. As the night progressed, things got hot. Really hot. Streamers fell from the ceiling. Whiskey was passed around. Tempos quickened. Dancing ensued. The crowd smoked. With little regard for any and all mistakes, we charged forward through the night. At one point I found myself completely lost; it took me a couple of measures to realize where the song was and myself relative to it. But it didn’t phase me. Nothing phased any of us. Song followed song, but we kept on. David was a madman, and I played the tub until it split in two.

It was after 1am when we finally stopped. If we’d gone any longer we would have collapsed into a heap of dark chaotic matter. But it didn’t matter. We’d created this great big thing that couldn’t be undone; there were too many witnesses.

Afterwards, the band dissolved out into the crowd, everyone spinning on the vibe we’d been producing all night. For some reason, kissing-related troubles occurred on several fronts. I was sober enough to resist giving in to kissing a certain party, but only just. Instead, we ended up out on the curb, marveling at the show and sizing up cabs with a mind to the capacities of their trunks. Sandman wanted to hold out for a Wish, but we settled for a regular cab home instead.

posted by Poagao at 1:18 pm  
Mar 18 2007

Unavoidable Piano Lessons

My apartment is usually nice and quiet. Once or twice the people downstairs cranked up their 60-million-watt Karaoke system, apparently to attract aliens from far-flung planets, but after I had a word with them they stopped.

Recently, however, I’ve been hearing a piano. Playing the same melody over and over again, it sounds nearby. Yet when I went around to all my neighbors, nobody admitted to having a piano. Some people had heard it, but nobody knew who the culprit was. I crept along with my ear to the hallway walls, listening for some clue. Was the building haunted?

On a whim, I went up two floors, but no piano. Then I went down two floors from my place. Ah-ha! It turned out to be the apartment two floors below me, though the people in the apartment below me, the alien-hunters, claimed to have never heard the piano. I can only assume that they’re actually deaf from all of the karaoke…either that or some strange construction fluke transmits sound around some apartments and into others.

It’s a student, I’m guessing. The parent or husband (I’m guessing, as I never actually saw the piano player) said they would stop playing in the mornings and waking me up. The problem is that they play during reasonable hours, when I can’t really raise any objections. But the constant sound of piano practice in my apartment is really, really distracting. I can’t have cover-up music on all the time. The torturing soul plays all weekend, when I’m home trying to edit. The same tune, over and over. The next time someone tries to impress me with their piano-playing skills, I’ll wonder how many of their neighbors went insane so that they could play “Imagine” whilst looking wistful for their friends.

posted by Poagao at 1:06 pm  
Feb 18 2007

Good-bye, DV8

DV8, the musty, wood-covered site of many late nights after work at the newspaper as well as a scene in the movie, is closing its doors for good after Chinese New Year’s, so David, Thumper and I met up there on Friday night to see it once more. A fair share of people were there, including Gavin, Bob from Carnegies and Matthew Lian. We did the traditional DV8 thing, that is we drank, hunted through the music collection, argued about politics and played some pool downstairs.

Our old co-worker Ronnie, who is now at the Taipei Times, wrote a story on the old place’s imminent demise. It was good, but one part made me laugh:

Kenbo Liao remembers one such hazy moment in 1996, when China was launching missiles over Taiwan. Lots of people had left Taiwan, but he was here with a few regulars. “The missiles were probably shooting over our heads,” he said. Around 2am they got together and pledged to defend Taiwan against China. “We were comrades,” Liao said.

Ah, Kenbo. What a character. It’s hard for me to get all weepy about his selfless act of heroism in drinking in a bar, however, as at the time my military unit in Hsinchu was on high alert, so with all the snap drills I didn’t have the chance to express my patriotism in such an eloquent fashion.

David was roaring drunk by the time we hit the street in the wee hours of the morning. He had a flight the next day to Australia, the lucky sod. After we had walked about 50 feet from the door, I turned him around to face the bar, from which music was still emanating, and said, “There it is. You can see it, and you can hear it.”

The next day was Chinese New Year’s Eve, and I spent the evening at a friends house in Nangang eating good food and playing with their new Wii. They only sell the Japanese version here, so we spent a bit of time squinting at the squiggles on the screen, trying to guess what they meant. It was a lot of fun, though. The tennis was probably my favorite, though I didn’t get to play the pingpong. The bowling was ok, as was the baseball. The boxing was just frustrating, as the punches seemed to bear no relation to one’s hand motions.

I got back to Bitan, exhausted from the food and the Wii-related activities, at about 2am, and the fireworks were going strong. I longed for sleep, but the constant barrage outside my window made it impossible. I tried going downstairs to the common room, but it was just as loud there. Then I tried my bathtub, which was even worse as it cut off my circulation and made me dizzy. In the end I just laid on my bed waiting for it to die down, and took a nap the next morning.

When I went down to the lobby, I saw a newspaper article posted on the bulletin board, about the strict anti-fireworks measures being undertaken by the Bitan Police. Patrols every hour, on the hour! The residents are suffering! More news from bizarro-land, ’cause it ain’t happening here.

Tonight looks to be more of the same, colorful explosions-wise. In fact, it will probably continue for several nights, and as I’m a bit short on money this month, I can’t afford to go stay at the Love Hotel just up the road for a night or two. I wonder if I have any old all-night sauna coupons left…

posted by Poagao at 1:29 pm  
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