Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Nov 28 2002

I took the MRT up to Yuanshan Station last night a…

I took the MRT up to Yuanshan Station last night and began walking across the new and rather empty park towards the Arts Center, where I was told I would find my new Taiji sword teacher. Since the Songshan Airport is just east of the area, all the buildings are low, and every few minutes a jet airliner would float noisily overhead. The Grand Hotel, brilliantly lit to show off its golden roof, presided over the scene from the edge of the hills to the north.

When I got to the courtyard in front of the Arts Center, bad dance music blasted from boomboxes, accompanying a group of teenage would-be Travoltas as they practiced their moves. In the far corner a group of people sat practicing guitar, oblivious to the noise. One of the guitar players, an older man with a hat, waved at me. It turned out to be Mr. Xu, whom I’d met a few days ago at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. He was instructing a younger man how to play basic melodies on the instrument, although he himself wasn’t exactly a virtuoso. After I walked over to watch, he offered his guitar to me. “Want to play it?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No, I don’t know guitar, just piano and trumpet,” I winced inwardly as this garnered a few ohs from the group. “Is there anything you don’t teach?” I tried to change the subject, but Mr. Xu just smiled and returned to his lesson.

Since the guitar lesson was winding down, Mr. Xu told me to go through a little of the sword forms I already knew. I was warming up when a little wiry fellow on rode up on a bicycle. “Who’s scabbard is this?” he asked in Taiwanese, looking around. I told him it was mine and moved the scabbard so he could park against the wall. He introduced himself as Mr. Li. He was there to study Tuishou, a kind of planted-feet wrestling. He invited me to go a couple of rounds with him. He turned out to be Taiwan’s version of Plasticman. No matter how I pushed, he would just bend and spring back. I only dislodged him a couple of times, and that was sheer luck. Then Mr. Xu came over and gave us a bit of advice, showing me how Plasticman could be thrown quite easily. I just nodded.

The instruction went on for two hours, mostly basic stuff, which was good because I haven’t worked out in a couple of months. I think Mr. Xu has some really good ideas, and he seems happy to impart his knowledge in an easily understandable way. He only has a few students, but the ones he does have seem to know what they’re doing, as opposed to the morning Taiji people I’ve seen who just seem to be going through the motions, resulting in a kind of vague dancing.

After class I took the train back down to the Taipower Building Station in the Shida area to meet Kirk. We went to a traditional Chinese place off Shida Rd that was open until 2am for snacks, and Kirk told me how taxing his new job at American Express is. He also told me all the interesting things he had learned about the credit card industry as we munched on fried sweet potato balls, radish paste squares and lightly fried tofu with soy sauce.

It was almost 1am when we finished chatting, and I decided to walk home from there. On the way I passed my old digs on Da-an Park; I wasn’t surprised to see that another election headquarters had opened downstairs, and shadowy figures lurking in the park just across from the place made me wonder if they had some sort of security after the recent shooting murder of a city councilor in Shilin. The Taipei Grand Mosque was lit up quite beautifully despite the late hour. Signs in English requested passers-by to refrain from smoking on the sidewalk in front of the mosque.

I always enjoy walking through alleyways I’ve never been down, especially late at night when nobody’s around. Appropriately, it began to rain as I threaded my way across the forested section of Renai Rd and back home.

The Oriented thing is tonight, and Berta invited me to a nearly NT$900 (gah!) Thanksgiving meal at United Mix on Friday, but there’s no way I can afford that. I don’t even know if I can go to the Oriented thing, as I have to meet my landlord to hand over my outrageous-in-a-French-accent rent tonight.

posted by Poagao at 3:20 am  

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