I went over to the Page One bookstore in Taipei 101 this afternoon, or rather what’s left of it. When Page One opened in the new mall complex that formed the base of what was then the world’s tallest building, it filled an entire floor with rows upon towering rows of books on every subject, featuring vast literature and fiction sections, a healthy art and photography selection, and the whole place was filled with that wonderful new-book smell. There was a huge Sony Store opposite with all kinds of cool gadgets, and the Jason’s supermarket downstairs was filled with tasty treats from all over the world, including Keebler Fudge Sticks.
Over the years, however, things have changed in the area. More buildings have gone up, mostly luxury apartments no normal person could ever hope to afford. More useful stores, such as electronics outlets and interesting restaurants, gave way to more and more top-end fashion accessory brands. The supermarket was left mostly devoid of Western goodies, settling down into more of a large-ish Wellcome grocery at three times the price. As this happened, Page One closed off one section after another, slowly shrinking until it could only be entered through an exit stairway door.
Now it’s scheduled to close in the near future. Most of the unsold books have been brought to the front of the store, including the children’s book section, which I found kind of sad. The whole thing is kind of sad, not just Page One but the entire area, although Page One seems like an apt metaphor for what’s happened, i.e. money chasing out culture. But I suppose it’s better to build that area up than to simply tear the old parts of the city down, which is happening, but not at the rate it might have had no land been available out at the east edge of the city.
After purchasing, somewhat out of a sense of guilt, a Star Wars notebook, I walked around the area a bit, remembering when it was mostly empty, and how happy I’d been when the Warner Village theaters were built. They’re still there, of course, along with a long series of expensive Mitsukoshi Department Stores. I stopped in the Gogoro Scooter shop and was impressed with the electric scooters dotting the showroom floor, though for me a city scooter is solving a problem that has been solved effectively with the arrival of the MRT and the YouBike system. If I were to buy another two-wheeler, it would an electric motorcycle with enough range to get me into and back out of the mountains for a day or so.
But the area around 101 has become markedly less interesting. The real action is happening, as it seems to always have done, in the alleys of Taipei as young entrepreneurs open up more interesting shops with their own vibe and audience. Perhaps the vacuous culture-suck that surrounds 101 is a useful lightning rod, drawing clueless rich tourists and spoiled rich locals away from places where they could do a lot more harm. The real soul of this city still lies elsewhere.
I took the big movie poster over to the new DV8 the other night. I figure that that is the most suitable place for it, rather than just sitting amid the clutter of the Water Curtain Cave. For one thing, the first scene we shot was at the original DV8, and Gary, who runs the place these days, also acted in the film (in a scene shot at Peshawar, which has long since been torn down). I’d never been to the new DV8, which is now on Fuxing South Road near the rear entrance to NTU, not far from one of my former haunts, actually. I should get a DVD to Gary, I suppose, though Dean said he would work on a Blu-ray version.
In other news, Maoman, Taffy et al are setting up a book party/signing for me on July 18th, a Saturday. They’re looking at Vinyl Decisions, which is near the old Bob’s (My, there are a lot of old/new places in that area). I imagine it will be a small affair, but I’ll post the details either here or on Facebook when I know more. Hopefully the print version will be available on amazon soon; they require a certain amount of time, but it’s been a while, so hopefully by that time it will be up. Currently the print version is available at Camphor Press’s site. If you buy one and somehow randomly encounter me on the street when I’m not in too foul a mood, I’ll probably even agree to sign it for you.