Friday, October 18, 2002
I was at the flowershop downstairs a couple of days ago, chatting with the people who work there. An order came in for a dozen roses in a bouquet for a girl in Taipei. "Ooh, that's nice," I said. "Is someone getting married?" The shopkeeper shook his head and smiled.
"We get all kinds of orders," he told me. "After a while you're able to guess what's going on behind the scenes. This order came from a career soldier in Kinmen. Looks like she wants out of the relationship. I'd say her chances are pretty good."
Would-be detectives take note! The flowershop network is more informed than the government. Smells better too.
I would have posted over the past few days but something told me that you wouldn't be interested in hearing about me doing a lot of walking around. Last night after work I was supposed to meet Berta at Amigo for dinner, but she was late. That was ok; I just sat and read, trying to ignore my growing hunger after a depressingly light vegetarian lunch that afternoon. When the food arrived, though, a feast was had, leaving us both feeling, according to Berta, "disgusting, but in a good way." Afterwards we went to the Estrogen Mall so that I could introduce her to the Caramelitissimo Caramel ice cream, and I was reminded that I shouldn't be eating any more of that stuff when we went outside to eat it and my ass wouldn't fit into the chair. Then again, from the look of most of the customers at the Estrogen Mall, you'd have to have an ass the size of a Kleenex box to be considered average there.
Steve is supposed to be coming up to Taipei today, so we will probably have lunch or something. I keep thinking that I need to get down south again one of these weekends. Ideally it would be at a time when the weather up here sucks and I can feel all superior about being down there in the pleasantly sunny yet not overly hot climate.
Latest Housing Report: I went to look at a rooftop apartment one evening a few days ago. It seemed quite nice. Not large, but big enough, located fairly conveniently. The landlady, a woman in her late 40's, seemed to want me to leave, though. "Have you seen enough? Can we go now?" she kept saying. She told me that she lived in the apartment downstairs with her husband and children. She also wanted to see my ID card and demanded a lengthy explanation of my job content.
This was all well and good, and I was just about ready to take the place, but my previous experiences with insane landpeople have made me skeptical, so I came back the next day to have another look. Taking my time looking the place over, I discovered cracks running from floor to ceiling in several places. Noise from the MRT and Fuxing South Road seemed louder than it had the night before. Two air conditioners attested to the fact that the tin roof would most certainly be an oven in the summer. The water pumps on the roof made a constant and annoying clicking sound. But the most disturbing thing was that when I asked the guard downstairs what the family renting the place out was like, he told me that the landlady was single and lived alone. And I'd have to share a mailbox with her.
All of this tipped the scales just far enough against the place that I ended up calling the landlady up that night and saying the place was a little on the expensive side for me. "Well, save your money, then," she told me and hung up.
That was close. A good landlord is an absolute necessity here. I'd rather rent a box on the street from a nice, reasonable landlord than a luxurious downtown apartment from an insane one. In fact, I just saw an ad for a basement locker at Sogo...maybe I'll check it out. I understand from the IKEA catalogue that even department store lockers can be quite roomy if you just know how to decorate them.
Monday, October 14, 2002
The weather was brilliant on Sunday. I went to United Mix for a late lunch, but just as soon as I found a table I was invited to sit with a friend of Berta's and another woman, who was both Russian and very pregnant. Then another woman arrived and began talking about the places she'd been and how Chinese was supposed to be pronounced, and then Berta showed up. With so many woman there, and one of them so pregnant I kept looking at my watch, the conversation inevitable dive into baby-related girltalk. I ate my meal quickly and silently, all the time thinking of the Paul Theroux book in my bag and how I could be reading it if it weren't for the restrictions of polite society. Civilization can be so annoying. Berta, being the nice person that she is, tried to chat with me, but I could see that even she was distracted by all the estrogen at that table.
As a result of the atmosphere and the wonderful weather, I felt a great need to get out, out of the restaurant, out of the city. I got on my motorcycle, which has been no doubt been feeling neglected since I moved so close to the MRT, and rode up past the Grand Hotel, past the Palace Museum, and up into the mountains towards Wanli on the northeast coast. I stopped along the way and took a short nap perched on a boulder in the middle of the small river there, listening to the water rushing through the stones and the wind in the trees. Later I rode up to the peak, so high it was in the clouds, so high you can see both the Taipei basin and the northeast coast, all the way to the sea.
As I watched the sun set over Taipei, I remembered that it was the Shihlin Night Market's last night before being torn down, so on my way home I stopped by and made my way through the crowded alleys, inching along as if we had all just gotten out of church. It seems everyone else there was also catching a last look at the famous place, one of the biggest night markets around. I took some pictures and video with my camera. Flour-covered chefs posed for me without being asked. "As a souvenir!" they would call out. "The market's last night!" It's being rebuilt, of course, as a large indoor market due to be opened in 2004, but it won't be the same.
Now it is Monday again, and I am at work, although it's a bit difficult to do anything productive as a young guy in a blue shirt is currently taking apart all of the cubicles in our office. I hope he is supposed to be doing this and wasn't sent by some rival government office to create havoc under our very noses. That would be irritating.
As I sat at a small table outside the "Black Star Magic Coffee/Teashop" on Changan Road today before work, I watched a couple of guys go through an elaborate show involving one guy trying to give the other guy a large amount of money in checks. Both of them wore sandals, and periodically a wad of chewed betelnut would emit from one or the other's mouth, landing in a pile on the sidewalk. The man on the receiving side kept loudly refusing the money, standing up and saying "It's too much money! Oh!", while the other one would look around and protest, "But I just collected it this morning!" Both were smiling broadly. Although I really like the name, I think the place might as well change its name to something a bit less ambiguous, like the "Gangster Coffee/Teashop".
Sunday, October 13, 2002
After spending all afternoon wrangling in virtual mud with my computer over our difference of opinion concerning the installation of Dreamweaver, it was too late to attend Maoman's barbeque, so instead I set out for Tequila Sunrise, where I was to meet Dean, Mindcrime and their respective firlgriends Kay and Janice for dinner before the party at Whiskey. The meal was decent, nothing special. I suppose the main attraction at TS is their unique decor, which includes stairs. Afterwards we set out down Xinsheng S. Road in search of an ATM when we passed a restaurant that had been completely trashed. The words "Doesn't pay debts!" were spraypainted in red all over the facade, and the sign had been removed. "Shameless" had been etched in black on the doorstep, I noticed before being pulled away by Mindcrime, who was nervous that either the debt collectors or the owners might come back, think we were part of it and string us up. Personally, I think that if either party came back and even suspected that it was we who had written the words, their first words would be "Wow, your Chinese is so good!" Then they would kill us.
The party at Whiskey was fun, despite the pretentious nature of the place. The waiters were dismissive, and the room was so ill-lit that the menus were all but unreadable. Periodically one of the sulky waiters would come by and turn up the repetitive techno music, which we would then have to turn down again. Still, lots of familiar faces were there and the wine wasn't bad, so a good time was had by all, except of course the waiters.
China Declares Independence! "D'Argo and Greg" Premieres! Now that I've got Dreamweaver and Smartftp up and working, it's time for another facinating edition of the News from the Renegade Province!