Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Mar 21 2015

Full Friday

Yesterday was an interesting day. It was Friday, which meant office work and wrapping up various tasks before noon. There was no room for delay, because I’d been asked by my old friend Chalaw to appear on a TV program with him in the afternoon. Also, the Ramblers had a gig at Cheng-chih University that night, so I had to suit up and bring all my gear with me in the morning.

Fortunately everything went smoothly; I caught the subway over to Houshanpi Station and got in a taxi with Chenbl and Xiao Guo, who were helping me out with all my stuff in exchange for getting to watch a TV taping live. Not a great deal for them, but I appreciated their help carrying all that stuff. The guard at the TV studios could have been Chenbl’s twin brother, a fact which both of them found quite amusing.

Chalaw greeted us in the makeup room, and we chatted for a bit before going into the studio for rehearsal. Some really good backup musicians were there, so we got to perform with awesome slide guitar, drum, bass and keyboard backup. After rehearsing once or twice, we recorded a song, and then another. It was quite cold, but hopefully I wasn’t too off-key.

I’m positive that I was off-key for the interview portion of the show, though. I’m terrible at interviews, always doing and saying the wrong things and looking at the wrong people, stammering my answers out and shaking my microphone. The editors certainly have their job cut out for them, is all I can say. Still, Chalaw and the hosts were very nice and accomodating.

We had to leave a bit early, so we could get over to Cheng-chih University for our soundcheck at 4:15. The cab took us over the bridge of the Jingmei Stream, through the campus gate and up the hill to the Arts Center, where the gig was being held in honor of photographer Shen Chao-liang’s exhibition on the topic of highly decorated, mobile stages in Taiwan. The Ramblers were to play on just such a stage ourselves, something we’d been looking forward to for a long time, as it is just so our style. Shen Chao-liang greeted me as we got out of the cab. He’s only a little older than I am, and has created several wonderful photographic works. He’s one of the best Taiwanese photographers out there, and it was great to talk with him. The prints at the exhibition were large and lovely.

Mosquitos were consuming Xiao Guo’s arm, so we booked it into the building and over to the rear veranda overlooking the river and the city beyond. The truck had already been set up in front of the empty stands. Due to space restrictions, the audience was being limited to 300 people via online registration. We went through the soundcheck with the very professional sound people, whom I duly added on Facebook later.

Chenbl had flute class that night and couldn’t stay, but Xiao Guo and I feasted on boxed dinners along with the rest of the Ramblers and the Lion Dancing troupe who were going to open for us. They put on a splendid show, though afterwards I heard one of them say ruefully, “I knew I shouldn’t have eaten before the show.”

Our show was next, and it was wonderful, even though I had a headache and kept wincing. The place was packed, the stands full and the audience spilling over both sides of the stage. The crowd was very enthusiastic about all the music, and virtually exploded when we started to play our version of the old standard Wang Chun Feng. In between songs we would raffle prizes and sell our “medicine”, students lining up in front of the stage. It was great.

After the show was another show, i.e. the folding up of the huge stage into a little blue truck. Everyone watched raptly as the various parts enfolded into each other, almost seeming to swallow the man who was operating the hydraulics. At the end he got almost as much applause as we’d gotten.

Most everyone had left by the time we got back out front to catch cabs back home, but after David and some others had taken the first cab, the second cabbie demanded NT$500 just for our luggage. He knew he had us in a tough spot, but we refused to give him the satisfaction and sent him packing without any fare. Of course, this meant that we had to hitch a ride back down the mountain, where we could catch a cab, but fortunately one of the group volunteered for shuttle duty. Finding a cab wasn’t difficult out in front of the campus, though Slim decided to go his own way.

So, all in all, a great day, made better by the fact that it’s now the weekend.

posted by Poagao at 10:58 am  
Mar 19 2015

Taitung, etc.

So we headed down to Taitung on Saturday morning. It was bright and sunny, the perfect day for a train ride. This particular train ride, however, was four hours long despite the fact that it was Puyuma Express. No matter, we were with friends and our spirits were high. Also, I’d arrived early so that I could pick up some decent grub to munch on while watching that beautiful east-coast scenery.

The journey went smoothly, though we had to keep an eye on Sandy, who kept testing the limits of just how long each stop was by getting off each time and standing on the platform until the conductor shooed him on board again. This situation was not helped by Conor, who simply made up a length of time for Sandy.

The Tropics were waiting when we stepped off the train in Taitung, the warm wind especially welcome at this time of year for Taipeiens such as ourselves. We caught some expensive taxis over to the old train station, which is now an art space, and set up on the small stage there. Some street performers were playing on the sidewalk, and an older man was playing a leaf. Soundcheck was smooth thanks to the crew, which included one of the Betelnut Bros., so they really knew their business. The only flaw became apparent when the breeze shifted so that we smelled the bathrooms next to the stage.

It was a good show, though we started slow. Kids were dancing, albums were sold and signed. Between the sets I had some chicken fingers at the cafe opposite where I was able to enjoy the view. Afterwards we caught the same cabs that we’d taken there and booked it up to Dulan. And when I say booked, I mean booked. The driver spent an inordinate amount of time in the wrong lane at an inordinately high speed. Seats were gripped, oaths muttered, followed by sighs of relief when we arrived in downtown Dulan. We were staying at Barry’s hostel. Barry used to run some bars in Taipei before moving down to Dulan. We tossed our stuff on the bunks upstairs and made our way to the Sugar Factory teahouse, where some excellent music was being played by some very talented individuals, including the inimitable Redeye. One of the women on stage was playing an interesting old trumpet, so during the break I asked to look at it. It turned out to be a very old Bach model, probably around 50 years old, with no finish left and buttery valve action. I played a little bit, and they asked me to play along, so I did. Eventually, the Ramblers got on stage to play, but not quick enough for an older foreign gentleman sitting nearby, who kept shouting at us to “Fucking play something already!”

It was a fun show, though I was already tired after the show and the previous gig. I left early to go back to the hostel. My bed had bad fengshui, however, being near the stairs, and I didn’t get much sleep.

Sunday morning on the back veranda as soon as Mojo had woken up, eating danbing and sipping doujiang as we cast a weather eye over the Pacific, making plans to go to the beach. We piled into Barry’s van along with his three dogs, and set out, stopping by his property to admire his huts and ducklings before arriving at the expanse of grey sand that was the nearest good beach. Most of the others went swimming, but as I was still getting over my cold, I only took off my shoes and waded in ankle-deep. The sun vanished behind the clouds appearing over the high mountains to the west, and there was a smattering of rain. We talked and breathed and strolled. Sandy was magnificent in his pink underwear.

Back at the hostel, we were treated to a delicious five-star lunch of paella and goat balls, prefaced by spinach soup. It was amazing and surprising. Mojo had to leave early as she was headed back to Taichung. As the rest of the guys were dedicating themselves to an afternoon of sitting in front of the hostel, periodically crossing the street to the 7-Eleven for beer, I elected to walk over to the Sugar Factory in search of hats or whatever else I encountered.

The factory held no good hats for me, alas. However, I walked around to an interesting photo gallery and talked to the photographer’s assistant for a while. It turned out that she knew my college roommate DJ Hatfield, who is living in Dulan these days. That weekend he was in Lugang, so we didn’t get a chance to meet up. Then again, it’s a pretty small place and everyone knows everyone. She said she was impressed by foreigners who take the time to at least learn the language, and expressed a bit of dismay about the backpacker scene. She wasn’t the only one. The more people I talked to, the stronger an impression I got that many locals aren’t really in love with Western backpackers.

I walked west, back into the town. There weren’t many people around, only a few gathered in a few yards around barbeques. I heard a lot of Amis language, which DJ is studying. It felt different than your average Taiwanese town, at once more orderly and neat and more interesting. There was only one temple, but many churches. I managed to find some hats I would have been interested in buying, but the shop owner was out.

We got the taxis, which are apparently the only taxis in the region, back to Taitung, which seemed in comparison like a huge metropolis. Still full of paella and goat balls, I only got a couple pieces of bread for the 4-hour journey back to Taipei. There was much less talking this time, instead more sleeping. It was after midnight by the time we got back. I’d like to visit Taitung and Dulan again, though.

Monday was rough. This whole week has been a game of catch-up. I’m taking violin classes on Monday nights, and I’m playing badminton on Wednesday nights. Yesterday I had to go change out the strings on my rackets, so I walked across the CKS Memorial. A large tent was being set up in the middle of the square. I took a couple of pictures when a guy in a black rent-a-cop uniform waved me away. “What?” I asked.

“You can’t take photos of this,” he said.

“Why not?”

“It’s private.” I pointed to the tent.

“Sure, maybe that’s private, but not where I’m standing,” I said. Then came a shout from another black-clothed fellow standing by the opera house steps.

“NO PHOTOS!” He shouted.

“WHY NOT?” I shouted back.

“IT’S PRIVATE. IT’S NOT ALLOWED!”

“THAT’S PRIVATE,” I shouted, wondering why I had to explain this to them so many times, pointing at the tent. “THIS ISN’T,” and I pointed at where I was standing. The gall of the man, sitting on the steps where I’d sat for days and nights 25 years ago protesting for democracy, telling me I couldn’t photograph there.

“OK, TAKE YOUR PHOTOS,” he called.

“THANK YOU.”

“AND WE WILL ARREST YOU!” he continued.

“HAVE FUN WITH THAT!” I called back, laughing. Really, I should have been outraged by his audacity, but it was just so pathetic. I had no idea was in the the tents, nor did I care. I kept walking around the tent, noting that it was for a Volkswagen event, with the slogan “Because it’s Volkswagen” on the side. Oh, so that’s why they’re acting all fascist, I thought to myself. Nice of them to say. I kept taking pictures, but I could tell from conversations with the guards that they knew exactly where their authority ended, and they were only required to say this shit by their employers. None of their BS was remotely enforceable.

The new strings on my rackets took some getting used to, but it’s good to be exercising again; I’m really out of shape after the long winter break.

Yesterday was also the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the student occupation of the Legislature. I spent a lot of the day in the area, walking around among the various tents and groups. It felt sad in a way. I didn’t see many people I’d known from the event, but I did manage to meet Ian Rowen, who wrote a nice academic piece on it, and a few others. The events on the street felt more like a tribute band performance than the original band coming back. The spirit, the people even, just weren’t there. It was all fans, groupies, people who had wanted their voice magnified by the original event. But then again I’m a cynic; there have been many positive developments in the year since, and I shouldn’t ignore that. I have no doubt that, should the need arise, they’ll be back. In the meantime, I do hope that the historic significance of the occupation is recognized and given the proper credit, though it’s inevitable that the truth will be “adjusted” by various parties along the way.

Anyway, tomorrow is Friday. It’s going to be a very busy day. And hopefully a good one.

 

posted by Poagao at 10:42 pm  
Jan 20 2015

Taichung show

We took a bus to Taichung on Saturday. Well, most of us did. Sandman got lost and couldn’t find the station in time, so he caught the next bus. But David, Slim, Eddie, Conor and I managed to board at the new Taipei Bus Station, hidden in the lofty heights of the Q-Square building, in time to get down to Taichung by mid-afternoon. Every time I travel to Taichung I wonder what it would be like to live there, and note how much it has changed since I went to college there. And every time I conclude that without a metro system I would probably find it quite inconvenient. Hopefully the first new mayor the city has had in well over a decade will do something about this situation. We’ll see.

We were playing at an underground live house, the Sound Garden, where the performance space seemed to be hidden behind a door in the “regular” performance space. I had to ask where the fire exits were, as the place seemed ready-made for disaster with one long tunnel to the exit. After our sound check I noticed that nobody was around, but when I went outside I found a long line of people waiting to get in.

The show was great, even though we were without Thumper, our percussionist. Mojo, who had been waiting for us there, was helping us keep time with some small cymbals, but I had to concentrate rather harder than usual on keeping the bass-line steady, as I could feel everyone leaning a bit more heavily on it than they would have if Thumper were there. The audience reaction was ecstatic throughout the show and encores. The mood was great, and we sat around signing CDs for a long time after the show. This was followed by a sumptuous dinner at a restaurant across the street, which ran long because we were all still high from the show and full of bright talk. It was after 1 a.m. before we caught a bus back to Taipei, and after 4 when I tumbled into the Water Curtain Cave, grateful for my bed.

Our post-gig dinner

Our post-gig dinner

 

On Sunday I practiced violin. You didn’t know I played the violin? That’s because I don’t, really. I signed up for community college classes that start in March, but I haven’t studied since I was a five-year-old Suzuki student with a quarter-sized instrument in Maitland, Florida. But Chenbl convinced me to give it a shot, and now I feel really sorry for my neighbors. Sure, I play trumpet at home at reasonable hours, but I know how to play the trumpet. A beginner violin student really should be exiled to a soundproof room for several months at least. But the violin is borrowed and the classes are cheap, so if it doesn’t take…well, no harm, no foul.

I saw “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” recently. I kind of had to, as every single friend of mine had asked me if I’d seen it, and, as a photographer, if the movie really resonated with me. It was a strange film, with great camera work, but it didn’t really resonate with me, probably because I was wondering throughout whether it should. Another reason was the way photography was portrayed in the film, and the nerd in me got in the way when I saw Sean Penn trying to act like a photographer. “I just want to be here, seeing it for myself,” Penn says at one point in the film.

“No, you’re not seeing it for yourself, that’s a frickin’ 400mm lens!” I say to the TV and any neighbors who are listening in. “And Ben Stiller just screwed up your focus anyway!”

 

 

posted by Poagao at 10:13 am  
Sep 30 2014

busy weekend

I reeeeeally need to update my website; it’s been rocking this millennial theme since, well, around the millennium, and is hopelessly dated. If I don’t update it soon I won’t have to; I’ll just say it’s deliberately retro. Yeah, that’ll work. The problem is that I don’t know what I am doing when it comes to web design. I’m going to need a new computer in the near future as well. It’s always something.

The weekend, as I predicted, was madness. I met Chenbl at Jing-an Station in Yonghe on Saturday morning, where we got on a bus down to Taoyuan to join the wedding banquet of our friends Sean and Lulu. One of the nice things about a cross-cultural wedding, I thought, is that you can throw any old stupid event into the mix and everyone will assume that said stupid thing is a “tradition” of the other side, and nobody will be the wiser. But the weather was brilliant, the food good and the ceremony kept to a minimum, so it wasn’t bad, as weddings go.

In fact, it went so smoothly that we were back in Taipei in time for the Muddy Basin Ramblers’ set at Daniel Pearl Day, which was held at the Hakka Cultural Park this year. The place was so packed with young white people wearing pastel polo shirts, sunglasses and khaki shorts I could have sworn I’d been transported back to Lexington, Virginia. I’d told David I couldn’t guarantee I’d be there, so he got Sylvain to fill in on bass, so I sat out most of the first set. This was just as well as I was feeling a little under the weather. The second set was pure acoustic, held on the sidewalk, and didn’t really work because the music from the two stages drowned everything else out. Still, people were dancing.

I managed to get home at a decent hour, and took most of Sunday off to rest up, venturing out again in the evening for a dinner with Sean’s parents. Again, good food and company. Sean’s father apparently writes serial fiction, a la the old shorts they used to play in the theaters during matinees, but in print form, so perhaps more like Dickens or in Black Mask. I don’t know as I’ve never seen it, but I’d like to read some of it. At the very least it must be more interesting that this blogging business.

 

posted by Poagao at 3:27 pm  
Sep 15 2014

Lindyhopping and a crazy bike ride

We were due in Danshui at around 6 on Saturday for a dancing gig that night, so I spent the day mostly at home before gathering up my instruments and heading out to the coast, hauling my cart. It was supposed to be a “black and white” affair. I didn’t really have any white shirts, so I just wore black: My black baggy worker pants from Osaka. Black T-shirt. Black jacket. Black Indonesian felt hat. Black shoes. Black glasses. At least my socks were white.

Sandman was sitting in the square outside the station, and soon other Ramblers began to turn up. Conor was last, of course. David and Mojo had already gone ahead, so we chose a Wish for a taxi, and were rather surprised when the driver didn’t seem very interested in taking us. It was as if he had just come across the concept of driving a taxi and couldn’t quite come to grips with it. He threw our stuff into the back and took off in a jerky, indignant rush, though we hadn’t said we were in a hurry. When we got to the cruise-ship-like hotel near the wharf, he claimed he couldn’t write a receipt because he didn’t have a pen, and he couldn’t give us change because he didn’t have NT$30 on him. Neither objection was sustained.

The dance club was empty as yet, though a tall Western fellow who was obviously in charge directed us inside to the storage room. We did a sound check and had just settled down to our boxed dinners when he told us that people might see us eating there and we’d better make ourselves scarce.

It was a lindy dance convention, it turned out, and boy do those folks take it seriously. I felt as if I were privy to the inner sanctum of some secret society. Everyone was dressed to the nines, but as the club’s AC didn’t work so well, most people had downgraded to around 6 before long. I was sweating profusely in my felt cap and jacket under the stage lights within minutes of starting our first set. A few songs in, and I had to take off my jacket. Unfortunately, I needed two hands to do this, and I lost my grip on the washtub bass stick, which clattered to the floor, eliciting a comment from David, who was trying to explain the next number to the audience. I threw my jacket to the side, bent down to pick up the stick, and then proceeded to put my foot through the tub.

Well. I’ve had tubs break, crack, or whatever, before, but never have I seen a tub disintegrate with such explosive force. Perhaps it was because it was the only green tub I’d ever bought (I got it in Kaohsiung when I was playing with the Heineken Band in ’09…perhaps five years is a considerable span of time for a tub after all. In any case, splinters of green plastic flew everywhere while the CRUNCH! reverberated through the room. I looked down at the destroyed tub, wondering what the hell I was going to do now.

Fortunately, David had spotted another tub in the club’s bathroom. So, while the rest of the band played something bassless, I “appropriated” it and created a hole with a screwdriver I’d heated with a lighter. Five minutes later we had our new tub.

We played until after midnight, two sets in total. My ears were ringing as the sound, which was good enough, was also very loud, and I was glad to get outside, back to the quiet, non-screaming dancer-filled world. The bus back to Taipei Main Station left around 1:15 after backing over some barriers. Thumper, Sandman and myself were on it. I had no idea what happened to the others; I just wanted my bed. At the station we caught a taxi deeper south, as we all live in the wilds of Xindian. I fell into bed around 3.

Sunday was bright and hot when I came to. Thumper had spent much of the previous evening regaling us with tales of the open road, so I decided the haul out the Crazy Bike, which hasn’t seen the light of day in a while. Of course the tires were flat and the frame coated with dust, but after a trip to the local scooter shop it rode just fine.

I took the riverside path north, thrilled to be out on my bike again on a brilliant, albeit hot day. At some point north of the Xiulang Bridge, however, I began to detect a certain odor coming from the river. Unbidden words came to my head from PDQ Bach’s cantata Iphigenia In Brooklyn:

Recitative:

“And lo, she found herself within a market, and all around her fish were dying; and yet their stench did live on.”

Ground:

“Dying, and yet in death alive.”

I continued riding, not daring to stop and eat the snack I’d brought, which was, unfortunately, a tuna rice triangle. At one point I spotted a crane and several city workers working to relieve a canal of what seemed like several thousand dead fish. Occasionally they scooped out a bird as well, one of which was actually still alive. I sidled up to some of the workers and said in a conversational tone, “So…lot of dead fish ya got there.”

“Ya think?”

“Any idea what killed them?” The worker grimaced.

“Weather…could be a reason,” he started.

“Not the only reason!” Another worker called over.

“Chemicals? Factory waste water?” I suggested.

“Can’t help it,” he told me, followed by the usual excuses about making money and this is Taiwan and that’s just the way things are, etc. It was depressing.

When I walked over to the city officials standing a ways off making notes, I asked the same question. “It’s the weather. Recent temperature fluctuations have taken all the oxygen out of the river water,” a woman with a badge told me.

“So, no possibility of chemicals in the water?” I said, eyeing the green sludge six feet away. She shook head.

“Definitely not. We tested.”

So that was that. I continued north, not letting the stench interfere with my happiness at just being on my bike on the riverside again. The paths had developed considerably since my last ride. I could now cross the intersection of the three rivers on a path hung precariously below the traffic bridge. The wind, thanks to an approaching typhoon, nearly blew me off at several points, but it was fun, and I snapped panoramas of the view. Small water buses plied the waters, which is a new and welcome sight. Taipei needs to engage its rivers more, in my opinion.

On the other wide was Sanchong, and instead of traveling up the Erchong Flood plain, I proceeded up the Danshui River on paths I’d never ridden before. It was fascinating. There is a lot of new development there, rows of huge luxury apartments with floor-length windows just waiting to be stacked with boxes and laundry. The new airport MRT line will go through there if it ever gets finished.

The sun was getting low in the sky, so I turned around near a small earth god temple from which issued the sounds of karaoke, and headed back to a water bus port I’d passed on the way there. The water buses, though very limited in scope, are a lot of fun and dirt cheap: NT$15 a trip, including bicycle, and you can use your Easycard. I only wish they had a wharf in Xindian. Fish were jumping out of the river as we headed south again. Was the water in that bad a shape? I wondered. At least it didn’t smell so much now. I Lined Chenbl and showed him the scenery from the boat. Line does not yet feature smells, but I’m sure they’re working on it.

I got off at the Huajiang Wharf and pedaled south, eyeing the flashes of a storm boiling up over the mountains beyond Xindian as I rode. Sure enough, drizzle began to splatter me as I crossed under the Xiulang Bridge. I sped up, as I hadn’t brought rain gear and my only defense against getting soaked was ineffectual cursing. The rain actually felt good after being in the hot sun all day, however. Night had fallen by the time I got back to the Water Curtain Cave, where I partook of a cold shower and a veggie dinner from the shop downstairs.

All in all, a good weekend. Tiring, but good.

posted by Poagao at 3:56 pm  
Apr 08 2013

Muddy Spring Scream Ramblings

I gave a talk on photography last Thursday at the Chenghuang Temple in Taipei. I was expecting few people to show up, as it was the first day of a four-day weekend, and it was raining. I was wrong; the place was packed. I didn’t promote the talk at all, so I can’t explain how so many people came. I had too much material to get through, so I didn’t get to a lot of what I wanted to say, but it seemed to go well. Nonetheless, I needed to get away afterwards, and Spring Scream, where the Muddy Basin Ramblers were schedule this year, was just the ticket.

Sandman and I took the bullet train south at noon on Friday, the second day of the Tomb-sweeping holiday. Sandman had had his doubts about the trip, but was feeling better once we were rolling and drinking and commenting on the scenery. Kaohsiung appeared in a flash of conversation, and the other Ramblers, sans Thumper, were waiting for us in a restaurant downstairs from the station. We were going to take a bus, but a man was hawking his van, which seemed reasonable at NT$2,500 until we realized that his “van” was actually a Toyota Wish. Somehow, we managed to cram all of our gear and all six of us into the small station wagon, David crammed in the back and me with the tub in my lap, before we set off.

It’s a couple of hours from Kaohsiung to Kenting, where Spring Scream was being held for the 19th year. I’d never been to Spring Scream, as it has always existed in that realm of older foreigners that I never partook of, along with old bars and other expat joints that I’d heard of but never visited. The Ramblers had never played at Spring Scream either, and we felt this was the year to change all that. I hadn’t been in Kenting for years, and I was surprised at all the new development: Hotels, b&bs, restaurants, go-kart tracks, etc. We spilled out of the Wish at the Uni-President Hotel, the only real hotel in walking distance of Oluanpi Lighthouse Park, where the music festival was being held. It was hot and muggy, and though the hotel pool beckoned, we had to trek down to the festival to check in. This involved showing ID, signing our names, and getting a forearm tattoo as well as a chip on a bracelet to pay for things with. This chip had to be bought, and adding money cost money, as well as refunding money. There’s nothing about this that doesn’t indicate it’s a racket.

Spring Scream consisted of two main areas, separated by a winding path lit with LED lights. The first area had a couple of stages and long rows of food/drink/tattoo/handicraft stands, a big screen for Urban Nomad films, etc., and the second area held several stages and a few stands for handicrafts and tattoos and beer. Most of the bands sounded the same, so I spent a bit of time in one area before getting bored and going to the other area. I had some pizza from the Alleycats Stand, and talked with some people. The beer was apparently supplied by Bear Beer, but I have to say the place was a bit bear-deficient. I only saw a handful of actual bears, one of them limping. At night our friend Louis got on the big screen with a Skype session and played some music at us, which was cool and tech-y. David and I trekked back up the path to the road to find a long line of taxis well after midnight, while Conor and Slim came back much later. Our room was a split-level affair, so everyone had a place to sleep, even if it was the floor in Slim’s case. A thunderstorm arose in the night, heavy rain and lightning pounding the window. I was grateful that I wasn’t one of those poor souls camping out in a tent.

It was still raining on Saturday morning, and I bought some sandals to wear as I was afraid of ruining my shoes in the inevitable sea of mud that was the festival grounds by this point. The hotel’s breakfast wasn’t bad, though they were closing down by the time we straggled down to the basement to partake of what was left. A small girl at the next table stared at Slim with an expression of utmost disappointment on her little face. She didn’t look at Conor or me, just at Slim, as if he was far from meeting her expectations. Conor and Slim returned to their slumbering, but we got up for an impromptu practice behind the hotel, bringing several staff members out, not to complain, but to say how much they liked the music. I can understand how desperate they are for good music, as the hotel tends to play elevator music in the halls all the time. Thumper showed up as we ground through the pieces, having rented a car and driven down from Kaohsiung with his wife. The thunderstorm had brought cooler weather, and the pool didn’t seem so inviting now.

But we had to be back down at the festival, with our instruments this time, as we were scheduled to play at five. There was no lying about on the grass this time, as everything was wet, and the path between the two areas was a river of mud. Our well-traveled friend Alita, who wrote so enthusiastically about our appearance at SS this year in the TT last weekend, was wearing her signature wings, which were rather damp. Everything was rather damp, but when we finally got on stage after the previous two bands went long, we made everyone forget it was raining. Or, at least until a large gust of storm reminded us. It was a great, high-energy show, and the audience was really into it, even dancing in the mud, somehow. Thumper was recording everything on the Go-pro camera mounted on his head.

The management signaled that we had five minutes, and everyone looked at their watches, puzzled, as we still had much more than that. However, they were apparently trying to get back on schedule by cutting down our time, even though we had more people listening to us than any other band had up to that point. It was not a little reminiscent of our last appearance at Peacefest, and there was a reason it was our last appearance. That was also a very muddy experience.

Still, it was a great show while it lasted. We were mobbed by people wanting to buy our album when we got off the stage, which was nice, and we all walked around in a little glow until we realized that it was still raining and colder still. David lent me a jacket, but I was still chilled and rather bored with walking back and forth between the two areas in my now-muddy sandals. I sat and watched a documentary on Jimmy Carter and the Oil Crisis until another deluge forced everyone to take cover. By around 10:30 I’d had enough and decided to go back to the hotel for a nap and a warm shower, taking the tub and stick with me. I intended to come back for a midnight jam, so I left my trumpet there, but after a nap and talking with Thumper in his room for a couple of hours, I decided I didn’t feel like facing that muddy path again that night. Apparently cops shut everything down at midnight, but that didn’t stop Conor and Slim from staying until 5 a.m.

Breakfast on Sunday morning was good, and though Slim was able, thanks to the magic of electrolytes, to come eat breakfast, Conor was unable to rouse himself to such lofty ambitions. Thumper had already eaten, so it was just David, Sandman, Slim and myself. The disappointed girl was not present; perhaps she’d seen the show and changed her mind.

We had all heard the horror tales of traffic back to Kaohsiung following Spring Scream, so we tried to get a somewhat early start. I rode in the back of Thumper’s rental, while the rest took a taxi. A gaggle of expensive sports cars was blocking traffic on the road north, driving very slowly so as to clear out traffic ahead of them for some miles, whereupon they would drive very fast on the empty roads they had created. It was an incredible display of asshattery, proving that it’s ok to crap on other people as long as you’re 1) rich and 2) together with other rich people.

Traffic richtrolling aside, the drive was smooth, and Thumper dropped me off in front of Pingtung Train Station. From there I walked around town a bit, having lunch at Mos Burger, visiting a few temples and chatting with an elderly couple about an old Japanese-era ruin that had once been a luxury residence by the river. Oddly enough, there was a pile of ten-NT coins on the ledge of one of the windows, and they couldn’t explain this, saying that it definitely wasn’t haunted, as couples often went there for wedding photos. I walked around the neighborhood behind the train station and back around to the front, where I bought a ticket to Xin Zuoying. I was glad to rest my tired feet while watching the scenery roll by as the daylight faded.

At Zuoying, I consulted my schedule and decided I had enough time for another stroll, so I walked down to the nearby lake and sat watching the lights of the city reflected on the water. It was very pleasant, and I was surprised at how low-rent the undoubtedly convenient area between the train/HSR/Metro station and the lake still seemed. Hardly anyone was about on the streets as I walked back to the massive station complex, which resembles a space station compared to the modest neighborhood around it. I had a sandwich and salad while charging my phone, and then headed upstairs and then down again to board my 8:30 train. The trip was spent dozing, mostly, and Thumper was waiting downstairs from the Water Curtain Cave with my instruments, which he had graciously offered to bring up in the car so I wouldn’t be burdened with them between trains.

The Ramblers are working on our second album these days, and it’s a project that will take us most of the summer, most likely, but we’ll have a few shows here and there as well. It was great to get out of town and get a change of scenery, especially after working hard on preparing and giving the photography talk last week, but it’s also good to be back.

posted by Poagao at 12:34 am  
Sep 17 2012

My weekend, let me tell you about it

Back-to-back gigs made for a wonderfully strange weekend to coincide with the first hints of fall in the form of cool rain/misty non-heat/whatever you want to call it. The kind of weather that makes people turn off their air conditioners, realize that the air conditioners were covering all the noise from their neighbors playing Mahjong, and then promptly turn the air conditioners on again.

The Muddy Basin Ramblers were on the list to play at the old abandoned bottle-cap factory in Nangang on Saturday afternoon as part of a rock festival, aimed at the city’s youth, called the Black Town Music Festival by the art group URS 13 that did the Dihua Street exhibit where we played and I exhibited some photos a while back.

I’d never disembarked at that particular station before, and got lost  a few times in the labyrinthine connection between the MRT and train stations on the way, but eventually I emerged close enough to follow the sound of heavy metal screeching to the factory, which turned out to be comprised of the graffiti-covered shells of several large buildings, stripped of everything, the floors and walls sporting interestingly shaped protrusions leftover from the process of making bottle caps.

I managed to get within about 50 meters of the stage before the noise drove me back. Judging from the dozen or so people braving proximity to the band, the booming, echoing acoustics were not working in their favor. I wasn’t sure if there was any applause; the ringing in my ears might have cancelled it out.

You might ask: What the hell was a jug band doing at a rock concert? I suppose they were going for a certain amount of variety, and they knew us from the Dihua Street activities. In any case, after a lengthy sound check on stage, we were sure of one thing: They were into us. Even during the sound check a large crowd had gathered, applause breaking out even for short bits of music to test the microphone setup. Once the actual show began, the huge factory space filled to capacity, though it was hard to tell with all the lights on the stage. The sound guys had done a great job, testing each instrument individually and then the band as a whole.

The show went well, with the exception of one very odd key mishap, and everyone was happy. For our final song, David told the crowd, “This is a Taiwanese song we learned recently; you might have heard of it. Sing along if you know the words!” We then played the intro to “Wang Chun Feng” in a schmaltzy Nakishi style, and delighted screams erupted from the crowd.

Thumper and Sandy had to leave after the show, and Conor had another gig, but David, Slim and I hung out. Well, Slim and I hung out on the steps in front of one of the old buildings, on which is inscribed what TC actually stands for, and chatted while we waited for David to bring us back the Most Delicious Chicken Rice Bentos in Nangang or Possibly the World. Even Slim took more than two bites, and that’s as ringing a declaration of Goodness as there is. The rain came and went, people came and went, the sounds of subsequent bands wafting over to us on the wind. Strange things happened. I think a panda was seen at some point.

Sunday was the day of the Blues Queens Cruise, our second performance aboard the riverboat that plies the Danshui. Chenbl and I wandered from the metro station onto the wide plain of grass along the riverside that was recently added, confounded by the addition and the obvious lack of a riverboat in the vicinity, but it was further down the river a ways, docked amidst several smaller vessels. For a moment, in the cool mist, I could imagine walking down that path in some past decade, ticket in hand, and boarding a steamer bound for Japan.

This feeling was reinforced when we got on board after pushing the last few tickets on the dock with a show accompanied by a fellow in a wheelchair who could summon goat-dogs with his teeth: Japanese was the lingua franca of the boat, as most of the passengers as well as the other musicians were from that island nation to the north. The cruise was a benefit for Orchid Island, which was damaged heavily in the last couple of typhoons.

The mist lifted as the boat left the dock, pushing out into the river and heading towards the ocean, the sun glinting across the far-off waves of the open sea beyond the river mouth. The Japanese band played on the top deck first, and the sun dove slowly towards the horizon through various stages of clouds as the ship turned this way and that, until it was a cherry pop dipping into the ocean.

Various other craft were passing to and fro as we marched to the edge of the larger ocean waves before turning around, and we took the stage as night fell, the lights on the shores of either side blinking and flashing, the outlines of the mountains beyond fading in the darkness. Our sound was crackly and jazzy; it was a good show again. How could it not be? We were on a riverboat, playing our music as night fell in a cool breeze.

The boat docked once again at Danshui, and we walked to the old street to look for taxis, but the taxis were having none of this. They hesitated to appear, and once they did, the did not like the looks of us. David sat on the corner and played a tune, and the dancers danced, and the photographers photographed. A mainland Chinese couple yelled at us for “taking too long to decide” and promptly jumped in a cab that had been considering whether we would be worth the risk. Someone called a taxi service, and more cabs appeared. I motioned for one driver to roll down his window. “Where are you going?” he asked. I showed him the address, and his face fell.

“I have something to do now,” he decided.

Eventually we managed to find taxis over to Mudskippers, a bar on the river near Guandu, where David promptly launched into the epic “Ballad of the Chinese Tourists Who Stole My Taxi”. Conor and I accompanied.

As the other Ramblers contemplated my varied and important secrets, dinner was served: Chowder, caprese, spaghetti and fruit. All delicious, thanks to one of our band’s most loyal and longstanding fans, Jaye. You know Jaye.

We played, talked, danced and sang until the threat of the last train back to the basin called us to our senses. Then we talked, danced and sang on the subway back through the wee hours left before the week ahead.

posted by Poagao at 12:24 pm  
Nov 21 2011

A fairly interesting weekend

A fairly interesting weekend. On Saturday Chenbl and I went out to Banqiao to a big campaign rally for President Ma. It was held in a stadium, the stage in the center of the field, surrounded by a sea of seats. Vendors were selling various paraphernalia around the track. It began to rain almost immediately after we arrived, but that didn’t stop droves of people flowing into the stadium. I helped out on stage by wrangling some of the people dressed in those blow-up costumes of various anthropomorphized items, such as drinks, other goods, and airplanes on stage during one of the shows. I led either a 747 or some kind of dragon around by the wing lest the person inside fall down in an embarrassing manner. At least they were protected from the rain, though I wouldn’t relish having a battery hookup in there to keep the thing inflated in that kind of weather.

President Ma and his running mate Premier Wu spent a lot of time shaking hands and talking with people before they got up to the stage, where Eric Chu and other KMT officials were filling time with speeches, permeated with a lot of “Diu-m-diu! (Right?)”

DIU!” the crowd shouted back in between mouthfuls of lunch. We took advantage of a short lull in the rain to slip away after the president’s speech, following a steady stream of people making their way through the downpour to the train station. I spent the rest of the day among hundreds of prints on my living room floor, trying to make some sense out of it before I meet with the publisher.

The sun was peeking out on Sunday morning, so I decided to go to 2/28 park for taichi practice. Most of our usual practice area was covered in water from the previous day’s rain, but I found a sufficiently large patch to practice the forms and some sword before going over to practice tuishou with some of our group, who had congregated on the pavement in front of the fountain. It was a good, refreshing practice.

After some lunch at Mos Burger, I headed over to the new Bobwundaye for Lo Sirong’s CD launch party. David and Conor played on the album, and they played several songs from the album while we munched on some delicious snacks prepared by Katrina and sipped whiskey provided by Sirong for the event. It was a beautiful afternoon outside. Most of the other Ramblers were in attendance, with the notable exception of Slim, who was indisposed, so we followed with a couple of sets of our own. Slim was notable by his absence, and I couldn’t hear the bass, so I played as well as I could by feeling the vibration in my foot on the tub. It wasn’t a bad set, but rather rough around the edges.

Afterwards David introduced me to his taichi group, which practices at Xinglong Park in Muzha on the weekends. They were very interested in the whole lineage thing, who I studied with, which always reminds me of parties at the Hamptons where people ask which family you’re from (I’m guessing, having never been to the Hamptons and all). When I mentioned Teacher X, they said, “Oh, he is the student of our master!”

“His masters are dead,” I said. Which is true, both Master Yu and Master Song died years ago. Only Little Qin, my “elder brother”, also studied with Master Yu for a short time before the latter’s passing.

They were very nice, and invited me to join them at the park some time. But one older fellow, a tall, slim man named Mr. Li, seemed eager to try me out then and there. He kept making little illustrative pushes as we talked, as if he were sounding me out, and when I put down my bass string he advanced in earnest.

Mr. Li is very good, and, both of us having more than a few drinks under our belts, things got a little, uh, animated. My response was probably ill-advised, but then again I’m not used to doing tuishou in bars. We went back and forth rapidly a few times, but Mr. Li was making annoyingly quick grabbing moves, and I ended up pulling him around me. As he stumbled, his glasses flew out of his pocket and hit the floor. I could feel everyone staring at us, and I apologized to Mr. Li as I helped him pick up his glasses, which thankfully weren’t broken.

I felt bad about it, though, and I’m sure I made a horrible impression on the group after they were so nice to me. They left (I can’t blame them), and I took a seat at the bar and had some more whiskey while chatting with David, Kat, Conor and Jay until late. Though Kat had pulled the steel door halfway down and doused the exterior lights, such is the location of the new place that groups of patrons kept pouring in every so often, all “just for one drink, we promise!” I think they’re going to do quite well.

David and I shared a cab back, a Toyota Wish with skylights, and I spent the latter half of the journey staring at the lights shining out of the windows of various expensive apartment towers living the rivers of New Taipei City.

posted by Poagao at 10:10 am  
Jun 20 2011

A full weekend

I’d thought that the Muddy Basin Ramblers were meeting up at the Red House Theater in the West Gate District at 1:30 in the afternoon before our 2:05 show at a benefit concert for Japanese tsunami orphans, and I therefore proceeded to enjoy a leisurely morning at home, slowly getting my things together, before realizing that we’d actually arranged to meet at 12:30. One mad dash and a NT$300 taxi ride later, I was behind the theater going through a quick practice with the band, minus Conor who was already on stage with another band.

The show went well, but it was over too quickly. It seemed like we’d barely started before we were playing our last song as the hosts came up on stage. I was taking apart the washtub bass when one of the hosts, a woman, grabbed the tub and held it up for the audience to see. “This is what he’s been playing, if you didn’t notice!” she said. She then asked for a quick demonstration. Now there’s a sentence to boost my search ratings.

We were going out to celebrate David’s birthday that night, so I hung around and listened to the other bands, which included a Japanese family of ukulele players who performed some hits from Miyazaki movie themes like Spirited Away and Totoro. Adorable, if somewhat out of tune. One of the younger kids lost the beat halfway through one song, and within two measures the rest of the family switched to accommodate him. We had planned to find a spot near the Chungshan Hall for a little street performance, but Sandy and Thumper bailed early. A South American group got on stage and played such wonderful mariachi-style tunes I wanted to jump on stage and play along, but I refrained.

Eventually I tired of the booming sound, however, and walked out to the square where the old roundabout and park used to be before they made a boring intersection out of it, and stood in the same spot for about half an hour, just looking at people and things. Everyone had a camera, everyone was taking photos except me. The Golden Melody Awards, which I attended with Chalaw a few years ago (we didn’t win, but he won the next year), were taking place that evening, and one of my favorite bands as well as a friend, Matzka, was up for several awards. I knew from previous experience that he and his band were probably walking down the red carpet at the venue as I stood watching people in the square. Matzka would win the best group award that night. Not bad.

Night fell over the Red House Theater as all the bars and clubs fired up and filled with bears and other demographics. We walked over to the Calcutta. Slim was sloshedly vociferous the whole way. The food wasn’t bad, better than Tandoor, I felt, though I’m not a particular connoisseur of Indian food. David and Robin told tales of their recent honeymoon in Paris, of all the wonderful sights and sounds I missed when I was there, such as Belleville and the bars where Django Reinhardt and Stephan Grapelli played. The Leica Forum is going on there at the moment, attended by many a wealthy photographer (and probably some good ones, too, he said, trying not to sound too bitter).

The others were heading to Bobwundaye after dinner for some jamming, but I had an early start coming up on Sunday, so I reluctantly declined even though I was itching to play some more.

I was awake at 7:20 a.m. the next morning, grabbing the Invincible Rabbit and heading out into the already-brilliant sunshine, across the bridge and onto the subway to Taipei Train Station, where I met up with Chenbl, Terry, Lulu, Sean, his girlfriend Lily and her cousin, who were visiting from Hong Kong. Sean just got his master’s degree from Qinghua University in Disney Studies.

We caught the train to Keelung, traveling along the various construction sites and through the industry, through the mountain range and into the port city in about 40 minutes. Chenbl just failed to catch the bus out to Peace Island, so we waited in the hot sun, shooting irritated-looking passengers. Terry had an even more formidable beast than the Rabbit, a 1Ds, while Lulu, I think, had a 50D. A new liner was docked in the harbor, the Star Aquarius, bigger and nicer than the Star Libra I took to Okinawa. I wondered where it was bound for..Singapore? Hong Kong? Across from it was the Cosco Star that we took to Xiamen a few months ago. It looked small and dirty next to the Aquarius.

We caught the next bus out to Peace Island, which is located across a short bridge up near the mouth of the river. The area by the entrance is still under construction, as it was this time last year when I last saw it. The sun was glaring off the newly laid concrete, and a guard languished deep inside the shade of his shelter at the gate of a military base. We walked out to the rocky coast, where some messy picnickers were lighting fires and consuming bottles of tea. I climbed up on the rocks to get close to the sea, delighted to hear the wonderful sound of the water sluicing through the various crevices.

We walked up the coast and inland to a small group of houses whose occupants no doubt rely on hot, sweaty tourists for their livelihood. A group of aboriginal children surrounded us, trying and failing to guess who among us was Taiwanese and who wasn’t. “You’re the only real Taiwanese here,” I told them. The kids were apparently big fans of the hit TV show Rookie’s Diary, and weren’t entirely convinced that I knew Ye Da-tong, Lai Hu, Luo Gang, and Yang Hai-sheng, and I thought it was a shame that my friend Fu Zi-cun, who played Yang Hai-sheng and who is not a bad photographer himself, didn’t come along this time. He’s busy filming a new series down south though, and couldn’t make it.

The kids were playing around on a laundry rack comprised of a bamboo stick on two poles as we talked to them, and suddenly the bamboo stick, which was obviously quite old and moldy, broke. Almost immediately an old man in a white shirt came rushing up, yelling at this travesty, and the kids scattered. The old man took off his shoe and threw it at the kids several times, cursing them. At one point he actually got his hand on one of them and raised a heavy club to hit him with, but Terry stopped him, saying, “There’s no need for that.” I wondered if we would see that old man in the Apple Daily some day.

We walked down to the nearest bus stop and, 15 sweaty minutes later, caught a bus back to the train station, where we’d arranged to meet up with the Taiwan Photo Club, or at least part of it. Craig and Selina were there, of course, as well as Josh Ellis, Gillian Benjamin and a few others. They were waiting at the Starbucks on the harbor, and we had a quick lunch at the Burger King next door, enticed by the free ice cream sundaes, before boarding another bus out to the Fairy Cave.

I don’t think I’d ever been to the Fairy Cave before. Flocks of birds swarmed around the cliff face above the cave’s entrance, which was accompanied by ever-shy monks and a great deal of religious paraphernalia as the cave contains several temples. It was cool and misty inside, and several side caves branched out from the main one. One of the side branches became quite narrow, and some people came back claiming it was impossible to get through. I tried it, and though I had to crouch over and turn sideways, both the rabbit and I managed to get through fairly unscathed, though my shoulders were scrapped and muddy. Inside was another altar enveloped in a heavy mix of mist and incense that an ancient fan in the corner failed to alleviate.

We explored the neighborhood around the cave, waking up dogs and cats and a strange kind of wasp that attacked Josh because it really didn’t want to be on Facebook. Then Chenbl led us on a long trek across the valley and up another hill to a nice view of the sea right next to a power plant. As we recovered from the climb, which included the toxic fumes of a house painted entirely in tar the owner probably won in a game of majhong and didn’t want to waste, a lone paraglider sailed over the smokestacks of the powerplant, his shadow flitting across the field overlooking the sea.

The walk back down was much easier, and we luxuriated in the air conditioning of the rickety bus back downtown. Terry, Lulu, Sean, Lily and Lily’s cousin had to leave; the rest of us crossed the bridge over the other side of the tracks. A couple of aesthetic homeless men populated the bridge, lit by the late-afternoon sun in a way that even I couldn’t resist taking a shot, though I generally don’t like to take too many such shots. Craig was taking phone pictures the whole time, unburdened by a heavy DSLR. Probably a smart move considering the heat and all the hills we were climbing that day.

We wound our way through the steep alleys and stairs, passing and occasionally photographing the local residents. One man sitting on his scooter smoking glared at me as I took his shot. “Sorry,” he said, pointing to his cigarette. I refrained from pointing out that he would look just as thuggish without the cigarette, and walked on.

The whole of Keelung was laid out in the light of the approaching sunset as we reached the big KEELUNG sign, whereupon the mosquitoes decided that Chenbl was the only really delicious person on the site. Everyone except Craig and Selina climbed up to the top of the hill for an even better view. Josh and I stood atop the summit, on a circle of an old structure, noting the approaching clouds and thunder that meant it was surely raining in Taipei. The Aquarius had departed, off to wherever it was headed, a voyage of good food, swimming pools and gambling. The Cosco Star would be heading out later that evening.

Rain began to fall as we descended the hill, often going in circles as Chenbl tried to make the walk more interesting. We recrossed the bridge, noting that the homeless men had changed positions, and walked over to the Miaokou Night Market, which was mostly closed due to construction work. I didn’t see anything I liked. The harbor city was taking on its nocturnal form, its nights darker than those of other cities, its streets and alleys closer, wetter. I was game for more exploration, but I could feel the group’s gravitation towards the train station and our comfortable homes, so I went along, telling myself, another time: Keelung will still be there.

posted by Poagao at 12:01 pm  
Apr 25 2011

One wedding and a pleasant day

My good friends David and Robyn got married on Saturday. They’ve been together for as long as I’ve known them, but they decided to make it official with a touching ceremony held at the Taipei Artists Village, the site of many a late-night jam over the years. Jason presided over an impressive and apparently endless spread of delicious food and tents were set up, under which friends from all over the world mixed and mingled. Hakka singer Lo Sirong as well as Chalaw & Passiwali provided great tunes over the course of the afternoon, and I got on stage to play trumpet for a few songs while rings of guests joined David and Robyn in aboriginal-style dancing. The weather was brilliant, specially arrange, David told us, by Jason, who apparently has an in with the weather gods.

The highlight of the afternoon was definitely the vows the happy couple had written to each other. I always find myself abashed and slightly in awe of such genuine displays of mutual affection, especially between two of the nicest people I know. Then a woman asked everyone to hold hands in a giant circle and close their eyes while she gave her bilingual blessing.

Things were winding down by 7 p.m. Chenbl and I walked over to Q-Square to meet Steve and Masaharu, a friend from Osaka, who was in town for just one day. Something to do with frequent flyer miles, I gathered. Masaharu speaks almost no Chinese and very little English, and our Japanese is in its infant stages to say the least. After dinner we walked to New Park to meet one of Steve’s friends who is into Mongolian Throat Singing. He’s putting on a show early next month that I’m looking forward to attending.

Sunday morning was spent rather frantically trying to make the Water Curtain Cave somewhat presentable, as my friend Professor Wu from Kaohsiung was paying a visit. An art professor who is responsible for sending waves of students adding me on Flickr each time he uses my photos as teaching materials, Professor Wu had never been to Bitan before, despite a professed familiarity with Taipei.

When he arrived, he was amazed.”I had no idea all this was here!” he exclaimed when we went up to the roof to survey the area*. As the weather was fine once again, crowds of swanboats filled the lake, and tourists were crowding the bridge, stopping on the other side when confronted with the shabby illegal shacks surrounding the group of high-rises where I live. We had a nice lunch at the blue-roofed riverside cafe overlooking the river before retiring to the Cave to talk photography. I’m looking at publishing a photobook, but I need some direction on the direction, so to speak, and needed a fresh opinion. Professor Wu gave me some interesting views, and his advice made certain thorny issues quite a bit clearer.

As the afternoon progressed we walked down to the dock and took the ferry across to the unofficial temple, where I took photos of some gangsteresque fellows while pretending I was actually shooting Professor Wu. As the ferry glided across the sunlit water, I noticed, far above the people diving into the lake from the cliff, suspended walkways built into the mountainside. I’ll have to go explore those someday soon.

Professor Wu had never been to Dihua Street either, so we took the subway over and walked down the silent avenue among the old buildings in various states of repair. Chenbl had to remind him to ask the local gods before taking photos at a minor roadside temple, the kind where the ghosts of accident victims are pressed into service for various local duties.

Dinner was a lavish affair downstairs at Taobanwu…well, lavish for me anyway, in that it included little cups of vinegary drink in between the courses. Professor Wu had to get back to Kaohsiung on the bullet train, so we parted ways at the station. Hopefully he’ll be able to make it up next weekend to see some accoustic Muddy Basin Rambling at Huashan after Urban Nomad on Friday night.

*I should note that I am by no means recommending Bitan as a good place to live or that you should consider moving here. It’s colder and wetter than Taipei, the bridge swings in the wind, and the crowds of tourists on the weekends are truly wearing. Try Muzha; I hear they’ve still got a few spots left over there, with their fancy gondola and all that.

posted by Poagao at 2:56 pm  
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