Taiwan Update

Got locked out of this house. Headed down the street for a foot massage. According to Chinese reflexology, a vigorous (read: painful) foot massage improves other bodily functions. For $6 more, was offered a shoulder massage. Took it because my neck/shoulders have been tight since running 7 miles on the treadmill at the gym. He rubbed my shoulders like 3 times before spending the next 20 minutes on my butt, inner thighs and…climbing on top of me and reaching around to my stomach? Called Reggie and asked him how many shoulder massages involve areas close to where-did-the-bad-man-touch-you areas. He laughed. Maybe in Taiwan, a person’s shoulders are in a vastly different area of the body.

Foot massage: $30.
Shoulder massage: $6.
Getting molested by a toothless middle-aged Chinese man: priceless.

It was Bohr’s birthday yesterday so my former boss took us out for his birthday. We went to this Russian bakery for drinks after dinner. They have this refridgerator unit that’s been converted into an “ice bar,” with ice covering the shelves, floor and bar, complete with miniature ice snowman. There were hundreds of vodkas to choose from. We picked two from Russia, including one that was 160 proof. I will never ingest anything that is 160 proof unless I am officially trying to kill myself. My stomach was still burning a half hour later, and combined with the fact that there is mass smoking inside bars in Taiwan, I had to call it an evening early due to wanting to put my head in a toilet.

Went home, called Reggie. I had called in the morning my time, then drunk dialed him again at 1am. It was weird because on his end, he had received a call from me late at night and then the next day. So it was still the same day for me but another day from him. How many drunk dials will you ever receive at 10am on a Wednesday, I asked him. Hopefully, not that many, unless someone is trying to re-enact scenes out of Leaving Las Vegas.

My ex-boss has lost a lot of weight. I haven’t seen him in years. He’s married now and expecting a daughter at the end of this month. He’s still a very attractive guy, in a very low-key, quiet manner, and girls fall hard for him as witnessed by the fact that all the girls in the office went nuts when he and his girlfriend broke up while I was working with him. I’m not talking about a handful. I’m talking about over 30 girls, complete competitive madness as though an attainable celebrity were now available. I was watching him last night and I think I figured out what it is. He’s very soft-spoken, easy-going, nice, subtly charismatic, etc. But he always looks sad; there’s just this inherent sadness to his energy, that just demands the instinctive nurturing side of a woman to want to be gentle with him. Yet he’s dynamic in his career and very successful. It brings out the part of a woman who wants to save a man, the part that thinks that with unconditional love, you can open up a person and fulfill them, and once that happens, he’ll take care of her in return. It’s somewhat risky reasoning, but it is what it is and it’s the basis of many relationships. But some people just carry around inexplicable sadness and I suspect that with people such as this guy, no one will ever be privy to what it is that makes him so sad, in certain deep, private chambers inside of him, no matter how unconditional the love. I suspect this type of sadness is so deepseated that it’s been with him for quite a long time, and he wouldn’t feel whole without it, so as a result, those around him either overlook this aspect or if they notice, they have to accept that there will always be a private part of him that they will never get to see. Some people’s loneliness comes from the inside out, and nothing from the outside can warm that part of them. It makes them who they are.

5/31 1:58pm

Somewhere back on the west coast in the U.S. it’s probably still Memorial Day but I have no idea anymore. I’ve been getting up around 6am running the 6 blocks down to get my family breakfast, then going back to sleep until a more godly hour. I also take lots of naps. I rationalize this by watching my 7-month pregnant aunt take 3-4 naps a day, and say that since I limit myself to two per day, it’s not quite as shameful. I think I’m one of those people who take vacations that allow for laziness and lounging, rather than those who take vacations with manic itineraries.

I watched the final minute of the Suns/Spurs game. I’m sure there will be much said about the blown call at the end when Amare’s block of Tim Duncan’s dunk should have been a goaltending call. I don’ t care though. It was pretty.

As for a half-assed trip recap, we left Friday evening and arrived late Saturday morning here. There are 8 of us sharing my grandmother’s 3-bedroom condo–my cousin Bohr and his mom, my aunt Jodie and her husband, my mom, brother and I, and of course, my grandmother. At least there are 2 bathrooms and plenty of mirrors for all the women to get ready in the morning. We hit up a street market for a late dinner. The thing about Taiwan is that there are what feels like hundreds of street vendors in any given alley, all selling some form of fried food most likely containing processed fish product. But it’s all fairly cheap, ranging from 50 cents U.S. to $2, so you can pretty much try 4-5 different things all for under the cost of an entree at a cheap diner. And you never have to tip.

The meat is so fresh that they pretty much slaughter the animal sometimes right in their little space, something that luckily, I have yet to witness. I did see a whole pig floating in the water when we went to visit this seaside market area (kind of like 3rd Street Promenade in Los Angeles); it must have fallen off one of the boat ferries. I couldn’t stop staring because it was kind of sad to see this slaughtered pig floating in the water surrounded by random trash. Like it died for nothing. My mom requested that I not take a picture of it (as she had earlier in the day with the La Muff sign), because she doesn’t like me portraying Asians in a bad way.

The second night we were here, my mom’s oldest brother (aka my rich uncle) had this family reunion banquet. It wasn’t so much a family reunion, as all the family members who happened to be here this week, and 25 of his friends. He had rented out the events room of a nice restaurant and had a man with a Casio running a karaoke machine. Whoever invented the dinner format of having karaoke going on as people try to eat should be shot. Whoever thinks that a respectable job description is “Man who runs a karaoke machine while backing up the music with one-fingered notes on a Casio keyboard” is someone who still lives in his parents’ garage. It was mildly awful. The head of D-Link was there. I wanted to ask him for a job. The night ended with Bohr’s mom up alone on the stage with the microphone saying, “Bohr! Do you want to come up here and sing You Are My Sunshine?….Bohr?…..Julia? You Are My Sunshine?…” I don’t think the human language has an emphatic enough way of saying no in answer to questions like those.

Yesterday was the first day of the Computex show, which was why most of my family is out here. So they all left in the day and it was just me, my pregnant aunt, my brother and my grandmother left to nap away the day. I took Michael to the 12-story department store that’s designed after the department stores in Japan. I lost my brother at one point and had to enact a floor to floor search. After searching each floor from top to bottom, I decided to take the elevator up to the top floor, which was where I had last seen him. The funny thing about the elevator was that there’s a very graceful young woman in white gloves who ushers people into the elevator, and another inside who pushes the buttons. The funny thing was that whenever someone’s floor came up, she would say in Chinese, “Forgive me, but this is the [3rd] floor.” I’ve noticed that about the different service jobs. Rather than just announcing something, they always pre-empt it with, “Forgive me” or “I am deeply sorry,” etc. Like, “I am deeply sorry, but here is your order of fried meat product.” Maybe it’s the way they say excuse me, just twisted by a severe translation. Regardless, it makes us sound like pushovers.

I have just bought a bunch of grapes that I thought cost the equivalent of $1.50US, but actually cost $7US. Damn my limited Chinese vocabulary. For 7 bucks, these things had better get me drunk or something.

I’m in Taiwan right now. No, it doesn’t have to do with the dead hooker in my trunk. I ditched her in my neighbor’s backyard weeks ago. I’m here for quality family time. I plan to spend my trip going to the gym for hours at a time, while binging on street-vendor food that would make a health-safety inspector commit suicide in frustration.

Yesterday we passed a cafe named, La Muff.

I took a picture of the sign for this blog. My mom said, You had better not post that on your website and portray Asians in a bad way. I said, I’m not the one who called my restaurant, La Muff.

One More Michael Story

We were walking along a street in Taiwan, window-shopping, helping my mom buy gifts for her coworkers. I was bored as hell so I started pretending that I had an invisible dog on a leash. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m Method with this stuff so in my mind, I really did have a golden retriever on a leash (even though I would have preferred a labrador, but you work with what you’re given). It was an inside joke between my brother and I, made funnier because it embarrassed my mom (she’s a great sport) and it confused the hell out of the people around us. My mom, who had gone into a store, waved at me and said she needed help. So I asked the owner, “Can dogs come in?” He said, “No.” So I tied the “leash” to a metal sign and left my “dog” sitting at the street corner. I said to Michael, “Make sure no one steals my dog.” I was joking. But he takes it REALLY seriously and stood at the door of the store, keeping an eye on my “dog.” Some guy stood right next to where my dog was and lit a cigarette and Michael comes running up to me and whispers, “That guy is smoking RIGHT NEXT TO your dog.” I laugh and say, “That’s okay.” So he goes back to standing by the door, staring at where my dog is and I’m at the counter helping my mom, when we suddenly hear Michael yell, quite ferociously, “WATCH OUT FOR MY SISTER’S DOG!”, scaring the fuck out of some extremely confused old lady who had unwittingly stepped into the space where my imaginary dog was sitting.

Michael Guarding My Imaginary Dog

I’m a Bad Person

One morning while we were in Taiwan, I was going to the gym and my (lazy) brother happily couldn’t go because he had hurt his foot. I asked him if he wanted to go with me just to keep me company and we could get lunch afterwards, and he said yes because he wanted to be with me. I told him he had to buy me coffee first (there’s a cafe next door and he buys me an iced coffee every morning along with an iced tea for himself). Well, he took his sweet time getting ready and I kept telling him I was leaving but he wouldn’t answer me. I thought he was a little too confident in knowing that I wouldn’t really leave without him so I pretended to leave, opening and shutting the front door so he could hear, then hid in the living room. He left the apartment a few minutes later, in no hurry, taking the elevator down. I took the stairs and followed him into the street hiding behind pillars, staying about 10 feet behind him. He went into the cafe to look for me, then came out and walked to the end of the block where he stood looking around for a long time with a stricken look on his face. It was apparent that he couldn’t remember which way the gym was. I watched him walk back inside the cafe and I hid and waited for him to come out. After a while, he came out and instead of looking for the gym or going back upstairs, he came towards me and sat at a bench really close to where I was hiding. I thought he saw me but he hadn’t so I ducked behind a wall. I could see his reflection in a store front. He had a paper bag with him and he took out an ice tea and just sat there drinking it, looking really sad. I started to feel awful so went up to the bench and stood RIGHT behind him, hovering over him until he noticed me. He didn’t jump in surprise like I thought he would. He just kind of looked at me sadly and said, “I thought you left without me.” Then he handed me an iced coffee that he had bought for me anyway, even though as far as he knew, I had already left without him. I felt like such an ASSHOLE.

this is how THIS American hails a taxi in Taiwan.

The Smell of Diesel and the Stickiness of Sex

Landed in Taiwan two days ago and getting off the plane, I was immediately hit by that thick, humid tropical air. The air immediately covers you with that post-sex stickiness (which is probably my least favorite part of sex) that makes you feel dirty instantly. I guess in both the physical and mental sense.

The first thing we did was eat. The people of this tiny island seem to have three loves: 1. Eating 2. Working 3. Shopping. With maybe getting foot massages running a distant fourth. The streets are crowded with street vendors selling all kinds of things which I can’t begin to identify (I saw something that looked like a flaccid uncircumsized penis!), let alone order. Food here is cheap. For example, my mom, brother and I settled in around 8am and went out for breakfast. We ordered the following (I’ll post pictures from the trip and of the food on my website when I get back. I’ll do the best to describe what we ordered):

2 bowls of noodle soup
1 bowl of beef noodles
2 orders of tofu with cilantro and plum sauce
1 bowl of fried fish pieces in a thick mushroom stew
1 fried Chinese croissant
1 order of steamed dumplings
2 orders of grilled beet cake
2 orders of egg tortillas
2 cups of cold soy milk

All this set us back the equivalent of $9 US. For three people to eat like pigs. Granted, these places aren’t passing any food inspection exams anytime soon. Or…ever. But this stuff was pretty damn good.

The thing that I forgot but was reminded of right away, is the fact that this country is redefining the term “waif.” Taiwan is a little island with no cows. Therefore, people don’t drink milk and tend to eat limited quantities of meat. The result of this is that the average waist size of men and women combined is -2. Consequently, I’m considered a cow here. At least in India, I would be considered sacred. But the flipside is that while clothing stores don’t carry sizes above 5 (five for FAT, or Large), the top bra size at lingerie store is 31B. I walked in and the saleswoman said right away, I don’t think we’re going to have anything that will fit you. That’s right. Go milk!

I happened to catch the Lakers/Twolves game today. Well, KG’s the man. And now I have to deal with another year of cocky LA fans. Fuck yall.

Til next time…hope everyone had a great weekend.