Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Oct 07 2001

I reek of sulphur. How did this come to be, after …

I reek of sulphur. How did this come to be, after the weekend of editing I promised? Well, things didn’t quite work out the way I had planned. Fortunately for you, I didn’t spend a boring weekend in my room editing my book. Such a dull prospect was simply too much for me to face. I needed to get outside.

Saturday afternoon I walked over to Grandma Nitti’s for lunch and bumped into Carl, Maurice, Lori and Maurice’s girlfriend, who were all engrossed in Lori’s recounting of a disturbing dream. So I ordered and sat down on the porch to listen. I won’t recount the dream here, of course. Even I have some standards of decency.

Eventually they left, leaving me alone on the porch. Eventually I was joined by a portly, smiling cat, who climbed up onto the chair next to me and fell into a comfortable nap. It was all very pleasant, so I continued to sit and watch the people walking by as evening fell. Not long after I finally left, Carl rushed past me, heading back towards the restaurant. I barely had time to register his presence before he blurted, “No time to chat. Have to pee,” as he rushed off.

This morning I was awoken not only by the sun shining through my curtains, but also by a phone call from Harry, who was planning a trip up to some hot springs on the other side of Yangming mountain. I had planned, of course, to stay in and edit edit edit, but somehow I just couldn’t face staying in all day yet again. The weather was just too nice, so I arranged to meet Harry and another friend, Yong-gen, halfway up the mountain.

It was good to get out of town again, riding my motorcycle on roads other than the one to and from work. Harry was late, of course, so I wandered around a nearby park which had a busy stream running through it. All kinds of people were walking around enjoying the nice weather. The park appeared to be quite old, judging by the ancient bridges and other stonework. One set of tables was placed right in front of a culvert, however, which makes one wonder just how much communication went on between the various designers of the park.

Eventually Harry and Yong-gen showed up, and after a stop at 7-Eleven for seaweed rolls and yoghurt, we continued up the mountain. It wasn’t long before he drove right into a massive cloud that was hovering over the top of the moutain, and both temperature and visibility dropped quite suddenly. I had to turn on my lights and put on a jacket. The weather on the other side of the mountain was most cloudy and cool. Occasional traffic jams on the twisty, narrow roads made us glad we hadn’t driven a car, however.

The hot springs turned out to be a large complex encompassing restaurants and karaoke bars, as well as the hot springs themselves. The men’s section was comprised of a series of stone pools strewn about on the slope of the mountain, all out in the open air, many of them inhabited by hefty, naked and also quite asleep taxi drivers who snored as they soaked. Some pools were hot, some cold, and some in between. There were high-pressure showers and mud baths filled with a substance not unlike wet cement, except that wet cement doesn’t usually contain so many twigs and leaves, on which one could float quite easily provided one didn’t mind getting mud in one’s ears. There was also a TV set and wicker chairs and tables to sit on. It was easily the best hot springs I’ve ever been to in Taiwan, and I’ve been to quite a few. It felt wonderful to sit in the hot spring water and soak up the heat while gazing out over the clouds grazing the dark green tops of neighboring mountains. We spent several hours going from pool to pool, often lazing around in the mud baths and chatting. When we got out, we were all statue-gray.

There was a Taiwanese-American guy there who needed a lift back to the city, so Yong-gen let him ride on the back of his scooter. The fog on the way back was even thicker, and we paused once or twice to take pictures of the fog banks from which we had just emerged. The city, however, was still enjoying sunshine. Coasting down the mountain on a motorcycle is hard because you have to either keep it in gear the whole way, which hurts the engine, or keeping the clutch in all the way down, which hurts the fingers. On the way down the near side of the mountain we stopped at a small park and all tried to capture an image of the reclining buddha statue with our digital cameras in the failing light. Then we parted ways, and I headed over to the 70’s Airport Love Palace to watch Star Trek.

All in all a good, tiring day. I needed something like that, I really did, even though I should have gotten more editing done. Any editing would have been good, actually. But I was seriously going to go stir-crazy if I stayed in one more weekend, and a slight sulphurous odor isn’t too high a price to pay for one’s sanity, now is it?

posted by Poagao at 5:20 pm  

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