Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jan 18 2004

The other day I was in the city dropping off some …

The other day I was in the city dropping off some more DVDs and found myself on Jinhua Street for some reason. I recalled that a friend of mine had mentioned that an antique shop near there had old phones, so I looked around and found the place, which is located on a small park.

They did indeed have several old phones, including a couple of big black things most likely used as murder weapons in the 40s, along with some older hanging wooden boxes that required cranking up so you could ask Edna the Operator to connect you to the Hudsons over on 3rd street. Another rusty white phone was also the hanging type but was obviously a 50’s version of retro. My friend had told me that the owner had quoted amazingly expensive prices to them. I’ve looked old phones up on ebay and the like, and they tend to run up to US$200 or so. New phones aren’t generally much cheaper, but there is not a single good-looking new phone on the market today. They’re all wrapped in tacky glittery blue plastic straight from the 1983 “Buch Rogers in the 25th Century” backlot set sale. This is why phones aren’t used as murder weapons any more. Try killing someone with one of those flimsy things!

The owner quoted me a good price, though, and told me what he originally paid for the phones way back when he got them from the phone company. I bargained him down to the original price (or so he said) and got myself a big black hunk o’ NEC phone. I don’t know what model it is as I can’t find it on the Internet, but the dial sticker is in Japanese so it’s most likely pre-1945. The folks at Chunghwa Telecom said they could hook it up if it’s not broken.

Another customer came in and sat down at the little table, and the three of us chatted over tea and oranges. The other customer was friendly in a slightly crazy way. He runs a tea shop over on Dunhua South Road and knows all about all kinds of tea. He told us about his experiences in mainland China looking for unique teas. He’d been to Singapore and other places as well. One thing he couldn’t abide was rich show-offs. “I hate those fuckers,” he said. “You come up to me with your fancy car and clothes and expect me to pay attention to you, but I can just ignore you!” He must get a lot of that where he is, since the intersection of Dunhua and Ren-ai is rife with pretentious rich people.

I learned that the antique shop owner used to be an elementary school teacher, which is why everyone called him “Teacher Liu”. Most of the stuff in the shop was detrius leftover from his old house. “I’ll never sell it all,” he told me. “There’s too much.”

After an hour or so the slightly crazy guy left, leaving his card and making me promise to visit his teashop. I told him I might need a place to film someday, so who knows? After he was gone, Teacher Liu told me the teashop guy was actually quite rich.

Another fellow walked in, Teacher Liu’s old neighbor, an older man surnamed Chen. He brought dried black beans to go with the tea. I had no particular place to go, so I stayed on and chatted some more. The conversation was about 60% Mandarin and 40% Taiwanese, a kind of code switching I suppose, though nobody would consider it such here. We even talked politics, though Teacher Liu said he usually avoids such topics as politics and religion.

Eventually it got dark, and I left. On my way to the MRT station I came across a very small antique market. One shop had mainland Chinese propaganda posters, including one with a red guard and a map, reading “We must liberate Taiwan!” It was being purchased by a Japanese student and a Taiwanese guy who said he wanted to change the wording to read “We must liberate China!” The wonders of Photoshop. I snapped a high-resolution picture with my digital camera before he rolled it up, though, so I may do something with it later.

I usually do this thing from work (shhhh), but since I haven’t been in the office at all this month, the bloggin’s been mighty scarce. Things should pick up in February, though, blogwise.

posted by Poagao at 3:31 am  

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