Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

May 08 2017

Return from Fukuoka

We had to wake up early to catch the bus to the airport. I slurped down some (delicious) coffee jelly before we hit the completely empty Sunday-morning streets of Fukuoka. The Tenjin Bus Station counter was abandoned, but we got tickets from the machine; Chenbl shopped at the tourist shop while I took photos of a man sleeping on the stairway railing. He woke up, saw me, and went back to sleep again. Must have been a late night, or else he couldn’t afford a taxi (not surprising considering how expensive taxis are in Japan).

The bus headed leisurely down the ramp and past the intersection we’d just crossed, stopping at every stop regardless of whether anyone was getting on or off, the driver politely stopping for any and all pedestrians. This would have been maddening if we were in a rush, but the airport is located near the city.

There was a rather long line at “security” (this is always the biggest bottleneck at airports), but fortunately the Japanese haven’t gone full-on aggrostupid as U.S. airports have, and we were through in a timely fashion in one piece. Getting on the plane meant walking across the now-sunny tarmac an up a ramp, 1960’s tourism-ad style. The flight was mercifully free of ear-related complaints, though I accidentally spilled some of the tuna from the rice triangles Chenbl had bought for breakfast into the innards of the seat belt mechanism. I wonder how long it will take them to locate the source of that smell.

I’d barely shed any tears rewatching Moana before we were circling down to Taoyuan; the flight was a tad bumpy, especially as we were in the back to the plane, but I was surprised to see a woman collapsed on the terminal floor afterwards, apparently overcome by motion sickness.  Immigration and customs were walk-through, we returned the handy wifi box Chenbl had rented, and getting on the Airport MRT was a refreshing change from the dirty old bus (though I still find the design of the cars strange). I barely had time to unpack before heading out again to CKS Hall for band practice/recording, stopping by the concert at the Katagelan Village for the concert that was going on there. Wonderful music in both cases.

So, that was the trip. It was good to get out for a bit.

 

posted by Poagao at 10:53 am  
May 06 2017

Last Day in Fukuoka

Our last full day in Fukuoka dawned cloudy and misty, so we brought umbrellas and rain gear when we headed out this morning. We stopped into the Bic Camera to browse a bit, letting me sample some more of that lovely X-Pro2 shutter action. In addition to letting you try out cameras, something that isn’t really done in Taiwan except for spaces like the tech center next to Guanghua Market, they also let you try out earphones, which is practically unheard of (get it?) in Taiwan. Thus I was able to ascertain that a particular pair of Sony earphones sounded pretty damn awesome, and reaffirmed that I really don’t like Audio-Technica earphones.

By this time it was getting on towards noon, and we hadn’t even had breakfast, so we embarked on a long search for katsu-don, eventually ending up at a place that was actually near Bic Camera. Though a couple was able to cut in line in front of us by being Unnecessarily Cute, the food was actually quite good. The sun even came out while we were eating. I noticed that Japanese don’t seem to have a problem sticking their chopsticks in their rice. I suppose that’s because they don’t burn incense. I hope some day that people in Taiwan don’t have a problem with it either.

Our next stop was a huge bookstore with an ok selection of Japanese photobooks. The books ranged from complete abstraction to complete fixation, with little in the sweet spot. In this context, you can better understand the appeal Daido Moriyama has had over the years.

We then spent an inordinate amount of time looking at stuff in the 100-yen store. The light outside was now very nice, but for some reason we had to be inside looking at plastic things.

Eventually we did manage to get outside, walking across the little island at the middle of the city and having noodles at a narrow shop, before visiting a lovely temple nearby. As the temple was closing down, a bar across the street was opening up, a woman taking down the curtains from the upper floor and the bartender opening the windows downstairs. I noticed that many of the cars in Japan are breadbox-shaped, models that aren’t seen outside the country.

We saw a bunch of temple areas on the map, something which the guidebooks had neglected to mention, and we soon found out why; they’re huge cemeteries. So we beat a retreat and headed towards Hakata Station, which I still find impressive. It’s like a little bit of Tokyo, lifted straight from Shinjuku.

Alas, the station is also home to another 100-yen store, so we browsed that for a certain amount of time before exiting into the night in search of dinner. I managed to eat most of my beef rice, but spilled most of my miso soup. Oh, well. We then walked through the Canal City Wonder Mall or whatever it’s called, picking up some Yichiran instant noodles. Then we walked over the river towards our hotel, stopping at another noodle place whose products had a distinctly unpleasant flavor to it. I wonder how the neighbors stand it.

Back at the hotel, we discovered that there is a public bath on the top floor, which we took advantage of before packing up our loot so we can head out early tomorrow for the airport.

It’s been an interesting trip; I’ve seen quite a few places I’d like to revisit when I have more time and freedom to explore them. But we’ll just have to see.

posted by Poagao at 11:18 pm  
May 05 2017

Back to Kyushu

Though Yahoo weather still forecasted rain, the day dawned clear and brilliant. It was nice staying in a higher-end hotel, even though it was purely because we couldn’t find any other hotel with rooms on that date. The Google Maps walking route was a farce, however; the hotel wasn’t really that far from downtown. It just seemed that way, we found as we walked over to Kokura’s castle, which is actually a replica of the original castle built there in 16-something. It was actually built in the 1950’s. Still, it was interesting, with a rather silly video presentation, and the grounds were lovely in the bright daylight. I watched several men trying out the plastic samurai swords in the gift shop, mockingly threatening to cut down their girlfriends, while Chenbl shopped for cat-themed washcloths. We then caught an elderly woman rifling through our bags for some reason (nothing was missing).

After we were done with the castle, we walked over to the river, where a full-on German-themed beer festival was underway in the summer-like heat. An older white man was blowing the saxophone in a way that caused me to momentarily wonder if Sandman had stowed away in my luggage, but no, he was part of an expat band. The Ramblers really should look into that gig.

Chenbl and I got some sausages and clams, and paid a 1,000-yen deposit on a glass of mango beer (“Otherwise, I’d lose all my glasses,” the white dude at the stall said), and sat down by the river to eat it. It wasn’t bad. We then walked across another bridge to the city’s old market, which is located along a canal. Most of the shops are actually over the canal, and the light coming into the rear windows was nearly lovely enough to make me just walk into the backrooms of the stores, but I refrained. The neighboring alleys were home to many restaurants that were currently closed. I was liking Kokura quite a lot more in the light of day than I had the night before.

But we didn’t linger, though I would have liked to. Maybe I’ll come back someday for some real exploration. Instead, we went to the rocket-ship-esque main station and caught a train back out to Mojiko, where we toured some of the old buildings. One of them’s claim to fame was the fact that a young Albert Einstein and his wife stayed there in 1922. Half of the second floor was dedicated to Things Einstein Had Done Things In. Everyone was walking around carrying their shoes in plastic bags due to The Rules.

We walked over by the harbour, and I sat outside talking to an old Japanese man while Chenbl shopped and the daylight faded. It was getting cool as we walked up into the more pedestrian part of town, looking at the old empty houses that lined some of the alleys. Then it was time to leave; Chenbl went to buy tickets while I went down to the seaside to say goodbye to the place.

We caught a train back to Fukuoka, and promptly fell asleep on the train before realizing that we needed to transfer to a faster train at Moji Station. Of course, we didn’t, and as a result stayed on the slow train that stopped. At. Every. Damn. Stop, making what would have been a half-hour trip more like two hours long. So I slept, took photos of other passengers and the conductor, and updated my Instagram a bit. It was late by the time we pulled into Fukuoka Station, and after a subway ride and time spent buying stuff, the only thing open for dinner was the food stands. Unfortunately, we were served food with rather unpleasant seasonings. But beggars can’t be choosers. We’re at our hotel now, not a great hotel, but not poorly located. Again, no idea what we’re going to do tomorrow, which is our last full day here.

posted by Poagao at 11:43 pm  
May 04 2017

On Honshu

I woke up in Junku’s house to the sounds of various insects and other animals, as well as the fresh countryside air flowing naturally through the structure. Over a delicious breakfast, Chenbl and I tried to use Google Translate to have a conversation of sorts with Junku’s mother, but I’m not entirely sure it went smoothly. There’s just no way to tell.

After breakfast, we took Junku’s wife to the train station so she could go see her parents for the holiday, and then we set off up into the mountains to find the “Taiwan Village” Junku had heard about. It turned out to be a rather haphazard collection of structures in a field, but no actual Taiwanese were there (until Chenbl and I got there, I guess). We did find the son of the Taiwanese-Japanese couple who run the place, though. He just joined Japan’s self-defense forces a couple of months ago, though I personally wonder how that could be because his hair is far too long. After I accidentally let three cats into his shack on the assumption that nobody wouldn’t want cats in their place, he promptly tossed them out.

Junku then drove us down the mountain and up another to a forested park area. “Who’s hungry?” he asked. “I’m hungry.” I had no idea where food could be had until we climbed up to find a series of steel tables astride a small stream. There was no kitchen or food in sight, but it turned out that if you liked, noodles would magically appear in the stream of water flowing down little canals in the tables. You would then fish the noodles out of the stream with chopsticks and eat them with wasabi. I sat on the wrong side of the table for left-handed noodle fishing, however, so it was a bit awkward…supremely awesome though. I really wasn’t expecting noodles, and yet there were noodles. Which is the best way to have noodles.

Our next stop was a freshwater trout farm, where customers were fishing in concrete pools of crystal clear water, to be bagged and taken in to the adjacent restaurant for their choice of cooking, or even served raw as sashimi. We helped Junku fill several containers with spring water, which he said was the best water in Japan.

After a lunch of pork chop rice, we drove to Akiyoshido Cave, which was packed with tourists. We got a discount with our passports, but Junku wanted to pick us up on the other side of the cave, so he didn’t go in. The scenery went from a Miyazaki film to Lord of the Rings as we approached the huge entrance, which has a river flowing out of it. The interior was magnificent, but I had to keep my wits about me and not get too wrapped up in the splendor due to the fact that the floor was wet and slippery, and there were several points where one could conceivably just fall into oblivion. I wonder how the first people to explore the place felt. At the end was a long man-made tunnel back to the surface, the sides of which were adorned with a painted depiction of the ascent of man from lowly reptiles to literal happy anime campers.

I put on A Tribe Called Quest’s latest album, We’ll Take it From Here, for hip-hop fan Junku as we drove through mountain fields of strange pointy rocks, followed by Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN as we drove down to Nobase, Junku’s favorite fishing village, where we sat on the dock watching hawks dive into the water looking for dead fish. “There aren’t any big fish!” one of the fishermen told us. So we drove to another port town where pink and blue boats ferried people to and from nearby islands. A rather pitiful marathon was underway nearby, and as we walked the otherwise empty streets, ice cream cones in our hands, people wearing skin-tight pants and numbers would walk by, panting. Junku told me that the name “godzilla” is a combination of “gorilla” and “gochira” which means whale in Japanese. So the next time someone asks where godzilla came from, you can reply starting, “Well, when a gorilla and a whale love each other very much…”

We arrived at downtown Mine just as the sun was setting. It was a ghost town; it really felt as if everyone had abandoned it. The few restaurants, however, were all full. We tried several before finding seats at a place that served not only sake and plum wine, but food as well.

But we eventually were done with food-related things, and retired to a karaoke bar that was most likely in style in 1963. There was one other customer, an old bald man who had obviously seen better days. We began drinking, and Chenbl stunned everyone when he started belting out a series of Teresa Teng hits. Junku was in tears, and everyone clapped during every break. I sang a few songs, and even the old guy got into the act, the bar’s owner propping him up to keep him from falling over. The owner used to run a brothel full of Filipinas, Junku said. That was in the 80s.

We drank and sang late into the night, as the owner called us a taxi when it got time to go back. The taxi driver, it turned out, was a relative of Junku’s, so he got a discount.

The next morning, this morning, Chenbl and I got up around 8 a.m., dressed quietly, and went for a stroll around the lovely village, down the perfectly paved roads, across babbling brooks, past newly planted rice fields and old wooden houses adorned with just the right amount of flowers. It truly is a lovely place. Eventually Junku appeared to water his seedlings, accompanied by his frisky cat Rice, who jumped and ran and played in the grass, but came when called. I’ve never seen a cat do that.

But we had to go. Junku was going to take us back to Asa Station, but he decided to take us all the way to Shimonoseki instead, which was nice of him. He wanted to walk around town with us, but he couldn’t find any parking. In any other country you could get away with parking on the street, but not Japan. Even stopping to let us out was risky. I was said to say good-bye to Junku; he is the real deal, living his photography, and I look forward to great work from him in the future.

We walked up the coast towards the giant bridge from Kyushu to Honshu, stopping at a small harbor with the obligatory shrine. Massive cargo ships were dwarfed by the bridge as they sailed through the strait. We then took a bus back to the fish market for some fresh sashimi, which we consumed sitting on boxes by the harbor. Periodically a rogue wave would adorn our meal (and us) with salt.

After visiting the old trading company building again, we headed to Chuo-fu, up the coast. Chuo-fu is home to some (mostly scary) shrines, and some very nice houses along a lovely canal. Most of the famous houses were closed. We wanted to ride the nearby gondola up the mountain, but it had closed at 5 p.m., so we ended up taking the bus to Shimonoseki station just to see what was up there.

Not much was up there. We met a young guy from Hong Kong, who accompanied us on the bus trip, but said good-bye at the station. He’s traveling alone around the area, which seemed to awe Chenbl for some reason.

Night was falling, so we took a bus back to the ferry and got on a boat to Mojiko. Water sprayed us as we sat on the roof of the ferry, but the lights of both coasts as well as the cars on the bridge were entrancing. We walked around the town a bit, stumbling on a fair which featured fireworks and a snack of tough beef kabobs that were not really worth the price.

Then it was the train to Kokura, which is bigger than I’d imagined. The station is impressive, the monorail sticking out of the building like the contemporary hotel at Disney World. Our hotel, however, is far from the station, necessitating a long walk in the dark. But now we’re here, and I’m sitting in our room looking out over the lights of the city.

It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Don’t know what we’re going to do, exactly. I suppose we’ll think of something.

posted by Poagao at 11:47 pm  
May 02 2017

From Fukuoka

We got up and checked out of our hotel in Fukuoka around 8:30 this morning, walking to the nearest subway station, where a room full of identically dressed Japanese businessmen smoked in unison. We took a train to Hakata Station, where we boarded a JR train bound for Mojiko, at the top end of Kyushu Island. The weather was cloudy when we exited the construction site that is the current state of the old train station there, but I was just happy to see the town of Shimanoseki across the strait, including the impressive bridge between the two islands. On a whim, we took a small boat to the island in the middle of the two islands where two famous samurai duked it out in the 1600s. The one who won, named Musashi, retired from duelling and went on to write the famous Book of Five Rings, which I read as a teenager.

We took another boat over to Shimanoseki, and on the way one of the crew thanked us for Taiwan’s aid to Japan after the last big earthquake. He even bowed.

In Shimanoseki we bought some delicious caramel ice cream and strolled around the fish market. I’d guess the sushi there is really good, but we didn’t have time to try anything as we were on a schedule. We browsed a couple of historic buildings, but we had to get on a ferry back to Mojiko. Chenbl spent most of the afternoon Facetiming various relatives.

Back in Mojiko we caught a train to Shimanoseki (again), and then on through lovely countryside to Asa Station, a small town, where we were met by my friend and fellow Burn My Eye photographer Junku Nishimura. We went shopping and then out to Junku’s rice fields, where he and his father repaired an old red tractor while Chenbl and I dared each other to touch the electric fencing (we didn’t). All around us was a symphony of frogs.

We sat by the field chatting as dusk fell, talking of wild boars and photography, and then drove back to Junku’s family’s house, where a delicious dinner was waiting. We ate, drank plum wine, played with cats, rocked out to vinyl hip-hop hits from Junku’s extensive collection, looked over photobooks, and generally had a great time.

posted by Poagao at 10:48 pm  
May 01 2017

Fukuoka 3

We were planless when we headed out the door this morning. Utterly without a plan. Planes flew overhead, but we had no plan. One option was to head to the coast, and another was to head north towards the bullet train station. The decision was put off when Chenbl chose to have “Chinese” food for brunch, based on a guidebook review of a place’s dumplings. Verdict: No. Just…no. Also, do Japanese people think this is good Chinese food? Nobody else in the place seemed aware that anything was amiss. Then we went to the Bic Camera store to gawk at cameras and accessories. After trying all the cameras on display (no Leicas, alas, nor is the Sony A9 out yet), the Fuji X-Pro II’s shutter sound and feel are amazing. It would make me want to take shots just to experiences that lovely little sound and motion. Too bad it’s so big and ungainly, not to mention a crop sensor. Still, if I were in the market for a new camera…but let’s not go there, shall we?

We circled the hotel a few times and somehow ended up walking towards the cargo port. I felt like walking one way, and Chenbl had other ideas. So, in some kind of metaphor for life, we ended up…well, let’s not go that way either, shall we? Let’s just say we ended up heading north towards a more affluent, hospital-rich area of town, where we had some mochi and coffee jelly after watching an extremely polite construction worker get yelled at by a taxi driver. Poor fella, just doing his job and all.

The nice weather was dissipating as we walked across another bridge towards Hakata Station, and buildings got bigger and nicer. People were getting off work. I understand that a long holiday starts tomorrow, so I expect most people will be going places. We checked out the train ticket situation at the station and then had dinner at another street stall where Chenbl, who hadn’t learned his lesson about Japanese cooks and Chinese food, ordered more dumplings that turned out to be even worse than the ones we had this morning. Then we gawked at a night-time construction event before walking through the lightly drunken crowds back to Tensen and towards our hotel, encountering a homeless fellow being fed by an Indian convenience store clerk. The homeless dude sat outside the store, on the curb smoking a cigarette and making comments about passersby.

 

posted by Poagao at 11:51 pm  
Apr 30 2017

Fukuoka 2

I started out the day dog-tired after a night of very little sleep, but the day was nice, and I was woken up further by the loud students begging loudly all along the way to the station. We had some very nice katsu don in the basement maze of restaurants before heading upstairs to the train platforms, passing the very Japanese smoking rooms, complete with instructions.

The air was murky despite the sun. Our train almost immediately met countryside and then back to suburbia on our way to Yanagawa, which took over an hour. It was nice to be speeding along on a Japanese train again.

Yanagawa is a small place, and I was wondering where the bucolic canal scenes were being hidden. We took a bus on a long journey of about 20 feet to the pier, where we got into a small wooden boat with a dozen other tourists and a happy old man, who pushed us out into the canal accompanied by a long, complicated, and no doubt fascinating diatribe about the history of the area, none of which I understood. I did understand, eventually after we went under several low bridges, that he was trying to decapitate us all. He also sang songs. I held a bottle of coffee in the cold water with one hand while doing a Facebook Livestream with the other. It was a lot of fun, and I’m sure living right on the canal would be a very neat thing. It kind of reminded me of the canals we used to ply our little boat on when I was growing up in Florida.

We disembarked, all of with our heads more or less intact, at an old Western-style building full of souvenirs. Chenbl deliberated buying mud-skipper instant noodles (“made with real crushed-up mudskippers!”) but decided against it, wisely I felt. Then we walked around the nearly empty neighborhood for a bit before deciding to eschew the tourist bus and walk back to the train station.

This took a while, but it was interesting walking along the canals and fields. Chenbl kept facetiming various people, so we had a host of friends along for the walk, which included some eel with rice enjoyed on the side of a canal.

The day was cooling off by the time we arrived back at the station, and we endured the annoying idiotic pseudo-English of a mainland Chinese family while we waited for our train to Dazaifu, which we’d already paid for.

Dazaifu was almost completely deserted by the time got there just before 7 p.m. We walked up a row of empty shops and tori gates straight out of a Miyazaki film into a temple complex that made the shops seem like they weren’t even trying. Huge thousand-year-old trees, ancient shrines…the works. All shut down, however. We were too late. It was kind of eerie, but somehow comforting. Like we had Japan all to ourselves for some reason. Or we’d slipped into another dimension somehow.

Luckily, the I-lan noodle shop by the train station was still open, and I swear I had the best noodles EVAR there. The fact that we’d hardly eaten all day might have also had something to do with it. The shop closed after we were done, and we caught a train back to Fukuoka.

I was still full of noodles, but Chenbl wanted to sample some of the food stalls along the river, so we walked through a loud crowd along a waterfront every bit as splendid as the one in Kaohsiung would be if Kaohsiung were serious about creating such a thing. The food was ok, nothing to write home about, but it seems to me that the people of this town, and it is, I have to say, a town I quite like, are noticeably more boisterously happy than in other parts of Japan. I wonder if this impression is going to hold out.

Dunno what we’re doing tomorrow. Couldn’t tell ya.

posted by Poagao at 11:50 pm  
Apr 30 2017

To Fukuoka

I’m sitting in a small room in a hotel in Fukuoka. Though the flight was at 5:15 p.m., getting here was an all-day affair. Of course I left all of my preparations to the last minute, so the morning was spent frantically throwing things into a backpack before meeting up with Chenbl at the new Airport MRT station.

Finally! We have an airport metro line. It was the first time I’d taken the “express” train to the airport, and I was disappointed to find not only that the seats were less than comfortable, but it wasn’t terribly fast. For some reason, even though eating, drinking and smoking are prohibited on board, small trays with round indents in them that could have been either for very low drinks or ashtrays were installed in the walls of the train. But all in all it’s a huge leap from that dirty old bus.

The day was brilliant…if I hadn’t been traveling I would have liked to have taken a bike ride by the river or something. We got the airport and breezed through the almost completely automated process. The only thing that remains a pain is the security line, but it wasn’t too bad. I’m thankful that it’s not as barbaric as it is in the U.S., though.

Though we had a leisurely lunch and took our sweet time about it, we still got to our gate so early the last flight hadn’t left yet. So we occupied a couple of lounge chairs and waited, Chenbl snoring and me posting random images to Instagram, before our flight was at last ready to board. I got a brief talking-to on the subject of photographing the stewardesses (mainly, don’t do that), but the sunset was lovely.

As it turns out, there is no metro station at Fukuoka’s international airport (haha, take THAT Japan!), so we had to take a bus to the domestic airport to get on the metro into town. I had to supress a small squeal of glee when we got on the metro, because I’ve always loved Japanese metro cars, with their comfy carpet seats, heating vents and the general 60’s vibe. It’s been a while (three years, actually) and I’d missed them.

Since we’ve got a small portable wifi network with us this time, it was a snap to find the hotel via Google Maps, and after putting our things away and marveling at the small size of the room, we went out to make our way through the drunken mobs of Tenjin to have some dinner at one of the little portable food stands. It was delicious, and we talked with a group of Koreans who spoke Mandarin. In fact, it seems that most of the people around here speak Mandarin; it’s a little disconcerting.

We have no idea what we’re going to do tomorrow. I guess we’ll figure something out.

posted by Poagao at 12:13 am  
Jan 10 2017

Rogue One Spoiled Just for You

I saw Rogue One the other day. It was…ok. Thanks to the wonders of IMAX© technology, I spent altogether too much time wondering what the hell was wrong with Darth Vader’s neckpiece. Did they use CG reanimation for any other humans besides Tarkin and Leia? Because those two completely took me on a run down the Uncanny Trench. Of course, because I knew that they weren’t real, I was probably being overly picky and looking for imperfections, but those dead eyes were just. so. dead. Even with Tarkin, who is supposed to be unsettling. Just. So. Dead.

But even with the actual live characters, I had very little sympathy. It was like a bunch of wood blocks running around Forest Whitaker and Donny Yen. “Wait! Why are you leaving me behind?” Whitaker might as well say when they flee the Necessary Plot Point/Explosion.

“As a black actor in Hollywood you really should know this trope!” They shout back at him from the escaping spaceship. “Otherwise nobody would believe that it’s 1977!”

“Oh…” replies Whitaker, and sighs, thinking, you all gonna die anyway.

So they all die. I kind of knew this going in, and it depressed me, but it wasn’t just that: If they had started out with a scene from the time of Episode IV or later, a la the beginning of Lawrence of Arabia, it would have made the audience accept this from the beginning and proceed without that nagging thought throughout the film, e.g. “Are they really all going to die? Every single one? Maybe someone won’t die. Let’s see…nope, they all died. Oh, well.”

It was a fascinating concept, and an excellent idea. I would have liked to have seen the story, but it was hidden behind explosions of bad writing (and actual explosions). Perhaps the writers were also thinking: Well, they’re all going to die. We can’t have the audience actually identify with them, so we’ll have them run around the plot for a little bit, smother everything with luscious, shivery familiar music and scenery to take them back to the good old days, and INSERT STEP TWO HERE (Note: This means explosions)…and Win!

For the record, I loved The Force Awakens. I cried like a baby in the theater; I saw it twice. Even though I’m still pissed that Leia completely ignored Chewbacca’s suffering after Han died, I was actually interested in the characters and where they were going. Perhaps the Star Wars writers should take a note from this: Make us interested in where the characters are going more than where they’ve been. Episodes I-III were about where Anakin had been…turns out we really didn’t want to know. We don’t want spoilers. Heaven forbid! But we at least need stories that make us want to cover our ears when a friend start out with, “So I saw…”

posted by Poagao at 11:36 am  
Jan 09 2017

Digging the city once again

I didn’t feel like going home today. After lunch at my usual buffet place in Ximending, I walked north, intending to visit the Golden Finger music shop on Zhongxiao West Road to inquire about a new euphonium case (the old one is disintegrating rapidly at this point). I stopped along the way to take some photos of the workers erecting the new bus stop, then went into the train station to get something to drink. On the other side, more workers were putting up another bus stop underneath Civic Blvd. I then circled back down Zhongshan to the Golden Finger.

Which wasn’t there. It’s gone, replaced by a music tutoring place called 0.3 for some reason. They referred me to another shop, and though I could have gone another day, I didn’t feel like going home. I was out in the city with no agenda, and I was feeling happier and more at ease than I’ve felt in a very long time. So I walked along Zhongxiao, over to Huashan, where I wandered among the little shops and theaters, and then sitting in an empty dog park thinking that if I lived on the park, my windows would be open to it.

The shop I’d been referred to turned out to be another tutor shop, but I did find another musical instrument place that said they’d look into seeing if they might be able to get their hands on a baritone case. They also said they might just be able to spruce up my aging Stradivarius. We’ll see. 35 years isn’t that old for a trumpet, is it? I can still remember how it looked brand new.

At this point I headed in the general direction of the Zhongxiao-Xinsheng MRT station, but all the alleys seemed so interesting, I just traversed back and forth, enjoying being in the moment. I wasn’t getting any particularly good shots, I was just feeling as if I needed to keep walking, looking, choosing random corners and alleys at a whim. I stopped in a park for a bit and listened to the kids shouts and their older minders ministrations. I passed what looked like an interesting bookstore, but when I walked in, a woman came up and told me that it would be NT$100 just to enter the place. I repressed the urge to either try and bargain her down or perhaps ask her loudly, “So all of these people (insert sweeping gesture) paid NT$100 just to browse?” No sir, I’m a class act; I just laughed scoffingly and left in a huff.

I was taking photos of scooter riders stopped at the traffic light on Xinsheng and Renai when Chenbl called. “Are you running amok again?” he asked.

“I am. You mad, bro?”

“No.” He knows me pretty well. Just then someone called my name. It was Maurice and Brian, who were walking up Xinsheng. We chatted a bit on our way to the subway stop, but I balked at the entrance…I just couldn’t let the day go. I was too into my state of mind, enjoying the city too much. So I made up an excuse and set out again, circling the alleys, craning my neck to watch the hazy moon appear over the high-rises as apartments began to light up within. Cooking smells began to waft out into the alleys. People getting off work coasted by on bicycles.

And I was getting hungry, and I had to piss, so I gave in to these mortal needs and, after one last lap through the area (Ooh, look, that old Japanese house is now a restaurant. I wonder if it’s any good. But there’s a line, so…), I descended into the subway station and boarded a train heading south.

Back in Bitan, I had some fairly good fried rice and spinach for dinner. Crossing the bridge to the water music show they’re doing in the evenings these days, looking up at my building, the Water Curtain Cave seemed so much more desirable and welcoming than usual. Was it the walking? Or was it whatever feeling led to the walking? I ain’t complaining; I’ll take it. I have no idea what it is, but I needed it.

posted by Poagao at 8:26 pm  
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