Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jul 21 2005

I was at Moss Burger last night in Yonghe, having …

I was at Moss Burger last night in Yonghe, having some dinner before sword/tuishou practice, when I noticed that the woman and little girl sitting nearby getting rather special service. Usually, you go to the counter downstairs, they take your order, give you what they can do immediately, along with a number for the cooked part of your meal to deliver when it’s done. But an extremely solicitous employee was upstairs explaining each and every item on the menu to the woman, who in turn was trying to barter on the prices and deals available. This went on for about 15 minutes, with the employee often apologizing and nearly getting down on his knees and knocking his forehead on the floor. I wondered it the woman had found a finger in her salad or something. More likely she’s just extremely rich and/or some local gangster’s wife.

It’s hard to describe how to know if you’re in a gangster hangout here; usually it’s just a feeling you get when you walk into a place. You just know. Sure, some gangster types are generally identifiable, though many westerners I know tend to identify just about any Taiwanese man as a gangster, either from stereotypes or a general dislike of Taiwanese men. But there’s something very cool and yet a bit tense about a gangster-friendly bar or restaurant. Pretentious, to be sure, cocky and yet furtive in their arrogance. There are definitely degrees of hoodlum infestation as well as many levels of class within the system, but you can usually tell the difference between a normal place a gangster just happens to be using, and a joint they call their own. Due to the general lack of law enforcement, the sector of society tends to be at once a bigger as well as a more obvious part of society than it is in the west. It’s origins go back even further than legitimate government, and many people here see it as an integral, inevitable and even indispensible part of everyday life. Some foreigners seem to think that gangsters are all either mainlanders or southerners or cab drivers or whatever, but it seems to me that the whole spectrum of society is included (gangster dentists? flower-store hoodlums? Why not?), a kind of mirror universe, though that may imply greater separation between the two than really exists.

posted by Poagao at 7:30 am  

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