Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jul 18 2005

After foolishly thinking that I’d get there quicke…

After foolishly thinking that I’d get there quicker by taxi instead of the subway, I arrived at the train station with just enough time to get on the train before it left. It was a Fuxing train rather than the straight-trip Ziqiang train, so it took a long time to get to Tainan. I chatted with Duncan, Zoe, Blair and Jeff, read, and took pictures of the train on the way down to pass the time. The air outside was thick with smoke from freshly harvest rice fields. I wondered if the farmers were moving up their harvest schedule due to the approaching typhoon. Sitting in front of me and Blair were two elementary school-aged kids, one boy and one girl. They were brother and sister, and after staring at us for a time from between the seats, they decided to talk to Blair. They would ask him all kinds of questions, but they seemed afraid of me. When they asked me where I was from, I said, “Taipei.”

“No, that’s impossible!” they said.

“It says it right here on my ticket,” I said.

“No, where are you really from,” the girl asked.

“Mexico. I was born in a small village and raised by bandits,” I said. Blair started to snicker.

“Yeah, I see now,” the boy said, sagely. “You do look Mexican.”

“And your Chinese has a Spanish accent, too!” the girl added. The pair then looked questioningly at Blair who had begun to laugh openly.

We got to Tainan about 5:30, and exited the old white station into a sweltering heat while Duncan called Jim, the boss at The Armory, to come pick us up. In the meantime I sat on a bench that was radiating heat from the day’s sun and listened to Zoe talk about her experiences in Europe. Jim arrived in his van soon after, and we drove to the bar.

The Armory is just a two-story roadside house, possibly a former storeage factory/residence near the park. There’s a nice little gardin in front, and it’s done up inside with all kinds of paraphernalia and snapshots stuck on the walls. A rickety spiral staircase leads to the upper floor, which seems to be made of plywood and has a nice-sized bar in the back.

We set up in the back of the first floor on a small dance floor and a rented sound system and figured out the sound before going out in search of snacks. I’d heard that the place did a good business; it was originally a foreigner bar and then gained a following in the local community, but people tended to show up late, so we had some waiting around to do.

After some dinner from the kitchen, we set up and started playing at around 10:30. I was really tired but a large glass of Coke perked me up a little. The place was filling up quickly. Periodically the sound would go out, and Jim would rush back to the sound system and try to fix the problem. Ear-piercing feedback would cause everyone in the place to duck as if being physically threatened. Other than that, though, it went well. I heard we sounded particularly good on the second floor. Many people commented on the washtub bass, and one guy invited us to a jam session at his place afterwards. He said he had a trumpet and a baritone there as well; I’d been wanting to try out a baritone since David started talking about maybe getting one for the Muddy Basin Ramblers.

Finally the sound system just conked out, and we decided not to fight it any longer and call it a night. I packed up and took a few pictures of the place. Out front a frighteningly thin girl was throwing up and crying, alternately. I’m pretty sure one symptom was the cause of the other, but I wasn’t sure which was which.

We left in the wee hours of the morning and went to the guy’s studio in a taxi. The place was a fourth floor walkup, a smallish apartment with lots of musical equipment and soundproofing on the walls and windows. About a dozen people were there, lying on the sofa, munching on snacks, and jamming on mostly electric instruments. I accompanied on trumpet for a while, then lead a session on bass with a bassline I wish I could remember. Seriously, it rocked; it went on so long I was dripping with sweat before I sent it home. Then I fiddled around on the keyboard for a bit. We played until after sunup, but you couldn’t tell because all the windows were covered with soundproofing. A small black-and-brown dog crept around nuzzling everyone’s legs, and occasionally one of two cats would dart through the barrage of music. Later when I went upstairs to check on the weather, I found them chasing each other on the roof.

We left at around 7am and went back to the house where several of the guys live, and crashed there. I woke up at around noon and opened the door to find a cat waiting for me. The cat was obviously expecting someone else and balked halfway into it’s entry. The others were up on the rooftop balcony talking and watching the weather. All I knew was that the typhoon was supposed to hit Taiwan; I didn’t know anything else because I didn’t have Internet access anywhere since I left home. The sky was dark and clouds rushed over us at an alarming rate, though. Spats of rain caused us to move our chairs further inside.

We went out for some tasty danbing and tea at the non-lavender-tea-carrying “Lavender Tea Shop”, and then went back to our lazy chatting on the rooftop. I found the trumpet and baritone in the hall downstairs. Both looked to be in pretty bad shape. Insects crawled out of the dusty, falling-apart baritone case as I opened it and took out the larger instrument. It was battered and tarnished, but once it was probably silver. I took it up on the roof and played along to the Ska music they had going on the stereo. It wasn’t too bad. I kind of liked it, even. I asked Jason, the owner, how much he wanted for it, but he was reluctant to sell it based on its sentimental value. He admitted he never played it, however, so he agreed to let me borrow it for a while.

So I was carrying three instruments with me now. The wind was picking up as we had lunch at a Greek restaurant, the best Greek cuisine I’ve had, I believe. The white stucco walls were covered in graffitti, and the kitchen was open to view, always a good sign, though there weren’t very many customers. We then went back to The Armory to settle up with Jim before getting on a wild chicken bus, the really comfy kind with barcaloungers and tv sets in each seat, back to Taipei. On the way we passed only one accident, but it looked a bit serious and ambulances were involved. The bus was flying through the stormy night, and I was a bit nervous about our speed. I still managed to get some sleep before we arrived. I had a vision of not being able to hail a cab due to the weather and jumped in the first one I saw, only realizing a few minutes later that Zoe and I could have shared what promised to be a long, expensive cab ride. I immediately felt terrible about my behavior and called Zoe, but she said it was ok. Zoe rocks, I must say.

The weather got pretty nasty last night and early this mornng, making my big, untaped windows shudder and vibrate and filling Bitan to the brim, but it seems a lot better now. The typhoon ran into the coast around Hualian and seemed to stall there, massive mountains scraping it out from underneath. We’ll get some more rain from it, but it seems the wind and other violent behavior are pretty much overwith.

posted by Poagao at 5:55 am  

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