Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

Day 73 (Improvisational Comedy)

In Taipei on October 30, 2010 at 10:46 pm

An American in a panda suit would be reading postmodern short stories on the way to work, weathering the smiling stares with silent grins, acting nonchalant, suppressing guffaws when what he looks like occurs to him, adjusting his surprisingly hard tail out of the way when he sits, wearing red Chucks, acting confused when his students ask why he’s dressed like he is, going to lunch with his hat velcroed, sweating a storm underneath his fur, pretending to be a hard-ass when kids screw around despite appearances, telling people about pandas’ little-known tendency to be man-killers, putting paws up in a bear-like clawed grasp, etc. etc. etc.


Day 72 (Chinese Food)

In Taipei on October 28, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Quadrant one: Slices of chicken with skin and blood and fat prominent, some meat available too.

Quadrant two: Mongolian beef, tender cooked bits flavored in brown sauce, presented in a soupy pile.

Quadrant three: Pineapple shrimp, consisting of the crustaceans fried side-by-side with slices of pineapple, smeared uniformly with mayonnaise.

Quadrant four: Chicken fried rice with a liberal dose of egg and the addition of a few edamame.

Foregoing quadrant: Dumplings pink and green within, from shrimp and a sort of cabbage.

Quadrant of perception: Pointed shoes that don’t go with overly blue jeans that are only ameliorated by a mediating yellow button-up.

Quadrant across the table: The Obi-Wan Kenobi of Chinese men, reposeful timbre suggestive at rare moments of a Chicago accent, patron of the National Palace Museum, wearer of boat shoes and a bronze watch, remover of glasses while dining, embodier of intangible wisdom.

Miscellaneous quadrants: Teacup, saucer, teapot with candle lit beneath it, chopsticks, bowl, soy sauce, vinegar.

Day 71 (Roy G. Biv)

In Taipei on October 28, 2010 at 12:38 am

It recedes off into the sky, that way, acid drops dripping into the eyes that descry it. An unlikely day for a rainbow but its tiers are lit in a descending red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. The red and orange on this south side are nearly unseeable through the mist—the cloud—that engulfs its heights.

The body that fuels the requisite eyes bends over in a hamstring stretch before its base, which is so wide as to resemble abstractly a massive embrace, which is remarkable for its contrast with the still broad but predominantly towering aspect of the rest of the structure, as the body rolls out of the stretch and the neck bends backward.

It’s a symbol of capital, might. But in light of the decade’s events, it’s also a symbol of human folly, the striving upward that we do, so astutely, without thinking of the sheer exposure we’re submitting our prize to in a city of twenty-story buildings. It is fabricated from reliable steel, thick throughout, but in order to boast it has also to stick its neck out.

The neon rainbow is a surreptitiously sagacious acknowledgment of the irrational nature of an ambition that we think of as so eminently practical.

Day 70 (Dripping Black Spot)

In Taipei on October 26, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Surrounded by paintings we are, thick textured coats of red applied with some smeared black to form a craggy mountain, broad asteriskish pastel brush strokes describing a girl on a sunny day with a baby blue purse, white sine waves strewn across the edges of a rough blue ocean tide.

I, personally, am overcome.

The warm air caressing my skin lets the veins flow again after so many minutes in the rain-dotted chilly outdoors, and these are the most magnificent things my eyes have seen since I landed here, and I could look at them forever, and I wonder how I will ever move from these spots, in front of these paintings, how I will lead the rest of my life when I know there is such beauty hanging here, still, warm, still.

A knife through the feeling when I turn around and see an experimental canvas of splashed, dripping grey with masking tape strewn in random lines across it. Amidst such splendor, this thing is offensive. A little dripping black spot in the ecstasy.


The masking tape is fake. It is painted on. The painting is a representation of experimental meaningless bullshit. It is masterful, ever so convincing, perfect.

The black spot is erased. Where it lay becomes the crux of the sphere of this gallery. The crux of the sphere of this afternoon. The crux of many, many spheres of days and months and years, even, depending on where you are standing.

Day 69 (Public Transportation)

In Taipei on October 25, 2010 at 10:52 pm

As yet, the creepiest person I’ve met on the MRT is the automated gate that, at the touch of your plastic card, opens its transparent arms to let you pass. It is the first, wheelchair access gate when I come out of the train on the way to work. It lurks, its embrace wider than all the others, welcoming, blind to disability.

But as your card grazes its sensor it lets out an overamplified woman’s whisper that, in scratches and distortions, makes you feel as if something obscene is happening right here, right in front of the city employees in the adjacent information kiosk.

The Mandarin words it says must be tremendously pure and utilitarian. If they were not, the disreputable sensuality of its tone would latch onto even the slightest suggestion of deviance from the sterile cleanliness of the foodless, drinkless system of rails and magnify it into the breathy suggestion of unmentionable deeds I hear it to be, scandalizing every person who passed through it.

Day 68 (Guanxi)

In Hash Runs on October 25, 2010 at 12:28 am

Would you rather:

Nosh on a nearly interminable supply of caramelized sweet potatoes, still hot, at the fin of a soupy meal complete with rice balls and the leg of some animal with a hoof,


Slap and hop your way through a thick wood of bamboo, no one in sight before or behind you, for a kilometer, emerging onto a steep cleared hill dotted with palm trees offering docilely your death, and plummeting back into the wood anew?

Because you cannot do both of them at the same time.

But the catch is, you have to do one to do the other.

Day 67 (The Mitsubishi Delica)

In Taipei on October 25, 2010 at 12:14 am

The street artist sucks on a cigarette, proffered by someone crouching near him. His hair resembles an abortive mullet. His t-shirt is white and his pants dark. His face is hard and tanned, like that of a foreboding cartoon character. He sits on a low crate. With stencils and templates and cardboard and spray paint, he makes five-minute masterpieces in front of the pillar of some designer store.

He may well drive a Mitsubishi Delica, a vehicle that in its utilitarian ruggedness represents the type of Taiwanese person whose clothing and demeanor are spartan but who exudes this sense of semi-wild toughness in their misplaced and unworried-about strands of hair and the veins that can be made out running through their arms, who can be seen from time to time pirating a scooter with a cigarette around a tight illegal turn, or pacing the home base of a hash run with a cigarette in one of two hanging hands, or entertaining posh spectators with a honed routine and a stare of unbreakable concentration and a cigarette hanging forgotten from his lips.

Day 66 (The Universe’s Answer to Meta-Fiction)

In Taipei on October 23, 2010 at 7:21 pm

I stretch and finish a John Barth short story before an early bed in preparation for an early, early rise. It is about this cat his family owned that he jettisoned in the woods. The story ends meditating on this roadkill that he finds outside his house, no longer his house, thirtyish years down the line. As if the kitty came back, saying,

— What’s the deal, John Barth?

There are all these meta-fictional techniques he uses to draw your attention to the world outside the story. The postmodern, etc. And as the closing words of it enter my ears, I hear loud maos outside, drawn-out, mournful caterwauling. That’s how the Taiwanese say the noise a cat makes. And I’m thinking, half-believing it,

— Holy shit. It’s Barth’s cat, stray and starving and on somebody’s metal roof, way the hell out here.

Day 65 (Forty Days)

In Taipei on October 21, 2010 at 10:40 pm

My momentum takes me to an obscure path that runs along the river under the interstate where it heads out of the city. Two women with umbrellas gesture frantically in the negative as I step on the overturned fence and my feet on the steel structure make a racket. As if to accompany their warnings, an invisible and deafening loudspeaker begins to boom in Chinese.

I turn around, nowhere to go but back. Except down to the water’s edge, before the path begins, to see if I can somehow circumvent  the human barriers I’ve encountered.

After I let myself down the few two-foot high steps, I see that this is not a river but a flooded plane. There may be no river whatsoever that resides underneath, but now there is a muddy lake that engulfs trees up to their midway point and creeps up the concrete pillars of the highway interchanges. It has been raining for five days and still is.

I’ve forgotten that it’s not just in my inward frustration centers that incessant rain accumulates and accumulates and accumulates.

Day 64 (The Best Art I’ll Ever See)

In Taipei on October 21, 2010 at 10:21 pm

It’s been raining for days and as I try to wiggle into the circumference of my umbrella and think about how silly some art is, like the short stories I’ve been reading, I stare at the heavy white horizontal lines of the crosswalk and the black pavement that’s glaring around them because it’s covered in water and think how staring at this spot in my catatonic after-work state while cars blur by in my field of vision, their lights highlighting their velocity, is maybe some of the best art I’ll ever see, for which reason I let my gaze linger there a little longer until anxieties about looking like some sort of possessed wet maniac take over and I avoid once again meditating on any one thing.