dennissweeney

Day 365 and Epilogue (One Long Interminable Day)

In Hash Runs, Taipei, Traveling on August 23, 2011 at 2:20 am

What you can do is wake up in the morning and go to work without stopping at home, the hope that your boss will not say anything about your facial hair flashing in and out between pages on the train and steps outside it. You can teach. You can begin to understand that there will be very few minutes in which you be able to pack your things before you leave on your very long trip. You can eat teppanyaki with Inma and she can stay over and you can listen to Mano Negra while you organize items.

In the morning you can teach again.

After which you can hurry to the far west of the city and enjoy fresh tomatoes and basil in sauce on spaghetti and wine, and then beer, in the company of friends whose friendship you only now are getting at the depth of, another reason to regret you are leaving that you have to push out of your mind, positive feelings coming out as gratitude and giving and wine mix at the door at the end of the night.

In the morning you can teach again. For the last time.

Following which you can hurry to the train station and buy a ticket to the beach, and your train can get canceled, and you can sit reading The Savage Detectives fussily until it comes, and read fussily until you walk out into the night and down the boardwalk in the wrong direction, only to make a U-turn back to where the drinking is, and a plate of fried rice, and bottles of Taiwan beer. You can eat the rice and you can drink the beer and listen to the hash legends and when they turn off the air conditioning you can make your way into the night and sit under a useless awning on the north end of the boardwalk down from some kids barbecuing and look out on a moon that is yellow and half, tilted as if hung from a nail, huge above the ocean that is huge, too, and you can keep drinking in the shadow of the crash of the waves against the rocks until the beer runs out.

You can wake up in the morning in the white bed in your hotel to a sort of half-awareness that you should be helping Joe sort out the trail, which is probably what he is doing at this hour, and you can fall back asleep.

You can wake up again two hours later and Joe can tell you that he has done it and you can feel bad and he can tell you you don’t have to and you can all order Chinese breakfast, the four of you, with eggs and bacon and cheese and a square of peanut-buttered toast that you don’t know how it ended up there. You can go to the beach.

In the water you can play until the stern lifeguard tells you no swimming and to keep your area of body-surfing below the thigh, which you can heed only to a nominal extent, catching the waves with your momentum for nanoseconds that hardly seem authentic but yet exist, too, in some corner of your perception with which you are not well-acquainted. You can leave the water only when you and the rest of the swimmers seem to have arrived at the last reasonable moment and you can begin to sort out things for the run. You can buy hot dogs. You can get the flour ready and take a cab to the run start, flouring all the way, and put on your gear to run for the first time in a week.

You can do the run, with Joe, without Joe, conscious that possibly this is not the path you were supposed to take and then relieved and exhilarated when Joe tears around the corner behind you from his section and you are back on and taking care of business. It can occur to you that this is your last China Hash run for a long time. That you are here. That, ok.

You can slow as you get back to the run start and keep dropping flour, compulsively, until the run becomes beers and the beers become crackers and the crackers become sand and a frisbee and the sand becomes a line of people who were lost and more beer and your sunburn aches under the first intimations of dusk and you end up walking back from the rocks splashed by the ocean waves to Arthur’s truck, eating dinner in Toucheng, drinking beer, saying goodbye, trying to give Arthur’s shirt back to him and him giving it to you once again, saying goodbye again, and getting in Arthur’s truck again for the long ride home, during which you have to pee, you have to sleep, you have to push off the urge to want to vomit, twelve kilometers in the longest tunnel in the world, and he drops you off in Nangang and you get back home on the MRT which somehow, at this point in your life, operates, business as usual.

In the morning you can wake up early and start to pack your life into boxes and monetary transactions. You can feel not nearly as bad as you think you ought to feel. You can go to work, say goodbyes there as you pick up your paycheck. You can let the day’s sun disturb your sunburn. You can pack boxes, speak with bank personnel, ride the train, walk on sidewalks, go to Shida. As this series of events occurs you can feel physical withdraw from the alcohol you have been on the last three or however many days, your muscles inversely carbonated, energy sucked from them from the inside, and you can see the days drift together and present themselves as one long continuous one, and they can accordion for you, and you can see that all that is left for you before you leave the country is the continuation of this day, the steady stream of mental force into an investment in a clean cut with the universe you have created for yourself, or, what, the one you have walked into, and stood in for so long.

Day 364 (The Things You Forget About)

In Taipei on August 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Before I came to Taiwan I was nervous about how I would find books and I did some research into where I could find books and the internet reported that there was a book trade every Sunday at Grandma Nitti’s although it seemed debatable whether it still existed and it was never confirmed by anything associated with the place itself. When I arrived I found a few other places that sold books, Inma signed me up with the library, and I more or less forgot about it.

It is a year later. We search for a Greek place and we see the awning on a street in Shida that I do not recall ever having been down before, even though I have been to Shida countless times. It says: Grandma Nitti’s. On it is the bespectacled face of a grandma. This is it.

I think how one year ago I was trying to envision what this place looked like, what sort of street it was on, what its books were like, who Grandma Nitti was.

I thought it must be on a sidestreet somewhere have a yellow awning and be musty and closed-feeling inside, with a big table near the entrance where people would spread their books. I thought Grandma Nitti was a middle-aged man.

I know now that there are no sidestreets, that the awning is off-white, that it is open and Greek-feeling within, and that the books, at least now, are on a single set of shelves when you walk into the restaurant. Grandma Nitti is a Taiwanese woman named Rainbow.

They have Granta 90. It is NT$50. Needless to say, after we eat our nachos and spinach-eggplant lasagna and our breakfast burrito, I buy it.

Day 363 (The Uselessness of a Suit of Armor)

In Taipei on August 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Goodbyes are never representative of what you are saying goodbye to. They are never fitting. They are always trolling through a military paraphernalia shop eying the camouflage clothes and ninja swords while whoever you are saying goodbye to tries to find pepper spray for her mom so she can repel unwanted visitors while her daughter is away. Or suggesting that her mom could sleep in the suit of armor the shop has for sale and then she wouldn’t have to worry about a thing. Or poring over Craig’s List in order to confirm that she is using it correctly despite the inattention landlords have paid to her emails so far. Or walking down the street casually, anticipating your own rest after a long day of work.

In other words, goodbyes are tests of what came before. You can’t concentrate all the good intentions you had into the final few moments. Goodbyes are grasping this and looking back and seeing if you contributed what you meant to contribute. They are judging if you created the relational piece of art you would have liked to created. They are understanding that there is no such thing as a representative moment because the representative moment would have to encompass all the moments you had with a person and thereby looking back and judging for yourself, each of you, whether those moments were sufficient on their own.

So were they? Huh? Were they?