Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Mar 31 2002

It was still raining on the way down to Taichung y…

It was still raining on the way down to Taichung yesterday afternoon, but it had more or less stopped by the time we reached the city. We checked into a motel of dubious repute (the directions were accompanied by a picture of a Chinese couple gettin’ it on, but it was cheap), and then headed down to have dinner with Doug, who used to work for the News. He took us to a nice, house-sized restaurant called FM or something like that. The food was something like “Northwestern Fusion”, whatever that means. Actually, it was delicious, and the bartender mixed us some pretty incredible drinks, one of which was a chocolate martini. Dean and I held the martini and tried to sound like Oscar Wildcat from Queer Duck.

Afterwards, Doug took us to a bar on one of Taichung’s many canals. It was called “Napoli”, and it was filled with young foreigners and a band whose main feature was pure volume. We took a table outside so we could talk. It was rather pleasant, actually. I wouldn’t mind living in Taichung again. It was where most of my first impressions of Taiwan were formed. Doug whisked us back to the Dubious Motel in his red BMW, and I was soaking in the commodious tub when I heard that the Queen Mum had died, and that there was another explosion in Israel, and I remembered why I don’t watch TV at home.

This morning we set off for Puli at around 10am. In the wrong direction. We had already gone several miles before we realized this, and stopped several times for directions involving a great deal of head-scratching and contradictions. Dean quickly became an expert at quick u-turns in traffic. Soon enough, however, we found the right road to Puli, where our friend Mark was getting married or engaged or something. Nobody knew exactly what he was doing. Even Mark himself wasn’t sure. The depressing mist covered most of the industrial ugliness until we reached the mountains. Entire halves of mountains were gone, relics of the 1999/9/21 earthquake, whose epicenter was near Puli.

The wedding/engagement/whatever was crowded with Chinese people, some of whom scowled at us as we entered. Mark’s parents had come all the way from England to attend. Some nervous officials made speeches in Taiwanese on the stage, some not quite sure which country Mark was from, and then we got down to the business at hand, i.e. the meal. All afternoon it had been raining on and off, but it was warm and lively inside the restaurant. I think the entire town was there. I couldn’t blame them. What else are you going to do in Puli on a Sunday afternoon, anyway?

After the meal we piled into cars and drove out to Mark’s inlaws’ place, which is an old brick factory on a nondescript river. It was facinating. Mark gave us a tour of the facilities, and the place seemed fit for a movie set, full of ladders, conveyer belts, mounds of clay, and a huge smokestack. Mark even plucked some leaves off a local plant for us to chew on. The factory has been abandoned since the quake of 99. It just sustained too much damage to repair. Mark’s inlaws are trying to sell it, but nobody seems interested in buying.

We hadn’t been there long when the ground began to undulate. It felt like we were standing on a giant waterbed. It only lasted a few seconds, and we thought no more of it. Once we were on our way back in the car, however, we turned on the radio and found out that a 6.8 quake had hit near Hualian, and Taipei had gotten a severe shaking, with several buildings having collapsed. Worse than that, however, was that two of the giant cranes atop the Taipei Financial Center, which is the monstrosity going up right next to where I work, actually fell off the top of the 50+ story-tall structure and crushed four people in their cars on the ground below. I called Kirk and he said that he had been at Warner Village when it happened, and he had seen the whole thing. “I kept thinking that this was impossible, what I was watching,” he told me over the phone. I realize that it was an Act of God and all that, but I still think they should investigate those cranes to see if there was anything man-made that contributed to their collapse. On any weekday, I could easily have been walking in the area where they fell. Scary stuff. I was thinking about it the whole way back to Taipei.

When I finally got home, I found that something was blocking the door of my room. I forced it open and was greeted with a picture of chaos. The shaking had toppled my CD tower, stereo speakers, some pottery and my old videocamera. The wreckage had piled up against my door, preventing me from easily opening it. One of my rear speakers, cord and all, had struck my turtles’ washbasin, knocking rocks all over the place, and shards of broken pottery were strewn all over the floor. It was amazing. This is the worst my room has been trashed from an earthquake in the two years I’ve been here. Thankfully my computer had stayed in its place, and nothing of value was really damaged. A few dents and dings is all.

The streets near my office will still be closed tomorrow, so I don’t know how I am going to get to work. Wouldn’t it be cool if the window blinds are stuck in the “up” position? The Vampires would just blame me, however. I also hope that Office Turtle is ok.

posted by Poagao at 5:30 pm  

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