Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

Day 135 (A Daily Basis)

In Taipei on December 31, 2010 at 11:06 am

— Andy, sit in your chair.

Thirty seconds.

— Andy, sit in your chair.

A minute.

— Andy, sit down!

Three minutes.

— Andy, look at your paper.

One minute.

— Andy, pay attention!

Forty-five seconds.

— Andy! What are you doing? Sit in your chair and pay attention!


Day 134 (From Which You Can Look Down at the Compost Heap Below)

In Taipei on December 30, 2010 at 12:48 pm

From the alleyway we get to a vine-strewn concrete wall with a wrought-iron gate opening inward. We make our way across the small courtyard toward the dim light of the house’s foyer. It is not a foyer, though. It is an uninhabited, chandeliered dining room propped up with the high-fidelity crackle of old jazz. Someone appears. We are offered wine, and we accept. Then we file past a vacant, dark living room up a set of stairs. On the white brick wall of the landing, there is a sketch-like but grand mural depicting a European-looking figure intertwined with something. The sketch is colored sepia, so that we hardly notice it is there. We pause, and then proceed up the stairs. When we summit, there is a long, dark, wooden table. The old jazz is up here, too. And the dim lighting, with candles and another, muted chandelier. An alcove with couches and polished, wooden cabinets. Wooden birdcages on the cabinets. Reddish candles through the windows, on the balcony.

Day 133 (Socks on a Taxi)

In Taipei on December 29, 2010 at 11:44 am

A host of black socks, a few gray mixed in, lying on the windshield of a stationary taxi parked on a busy street.

Months ago I would have been puzzled. By now, causality is clear.

Socks wet from laundry. No dryer. Dearth of places to hang them. Let them drip on the eastern side of the yellow cab, the window angled toward the sun.

Day 132 (What God Looks Like)

In Taipei on December 27, 2010 at 10:14 pm

There is a god somewhere, or some personification of the universe-force that brought my wallet from the floor of a cab, to the hands of a cabbie, to the money drawer at school, to my hands, against the odds, once more. And he or she may very well be the man seated half-cross-legged a level down on the park’s small, central wooden structure. The treeless tree fort seems as if it was built for him to eat his tupperware lunch within, his white and gray hair flowing from his chin and underneath his ball cap. Or ball caps. From the slot in the back of his external hat protrudes the bill of another, wedged inexpertly, to protect the back of his neck. His beige socks are rubber-banded at the top, because otherwise they would be so loose as to fall off. He eats with peace, but not so much that it appears noble. He is sort of perfectly imperfect. He goes about his lunch without knowing you are there. You look at him from above and are reminded of things you’ve never seen.

Day 131 (The City)

In Hash Runs on December 27, 2010 at 1:28 pm

This is the stuff of dreams, clunking down the longest escalator in Taipei with your hands in the air balancing you, trying not to slap the stationary clientele, clutching a subway token, bursting onto the tile floor and weaving like a random missile through the tottering commuters, nearly traumatizing every fourth person, packing with twenty sweaty runners into the standing-room-only blue line train, waiting for the doors to open achingly gradually at the next stop, springing through their nascent crack into the station, choosing between escalator and stairs, bounding upward on whichever you’ve chosen, and emerging with wobbly legs onto the sunlit street, not even time to squint.

Day 130 (Santa Claus)

In Taipei on December 27, 2010 at 10:25 am

An old man with a short white beard walks from cluster to cluster handing out size large yellow shirts with Chinese and English on them, remnants of the festival I happened to go to two months ago. He doesn’t speak as he disseminates them. He is a modest, emanating island of purpose in an archipelago of people who are a little confused, it being Christmas, and they being here, not there, listening to bad stand-up comedy and a mash-up DJ, even after the pleasantness of a keys and strings sextet. He comes to our cluster. Without consideration, he hands a shirt to the girl to his right, then one to the girl to his left. He has one left. He looks across the cluster, at me. He reaches across, and hands it to me, which I have secretly been hoping for, and now his hands are empty.

Day 129 (One Eve)

In Taipei on December 24, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Back to basics. To the thing behind the literary stuff. To the joy of when I was a kid. We formulate pretexts for our attachments but at the beginning, of time and of motive, there is a little seed that seems irrelevant every day but one or two a year, when against the odds we sit ourselves down in our bed—a different one than then, wider and sunken at its center—and open a book and read and read and make the world inside the book the world that we inhabit instead of the one our bodies objectively are a part of. When we tap into the flow of a universe besides our own, no matter the artfulness of its construction. When we let words take us and pull us with them, instead of following along behind them as best we can. For pages and pages. ‘Til our butt gets sore and our eyes get tired and our brain gets fatigued. ‘Til we have to come back. To a sense, though, that something has happened. Something different, and we can’t tell if, when compared to normal life, the something is a little more hollow or a little more rich.

Day 128 (Temporarily Overhead)

In Taipei on December 23, 2010 at 10:56 pm

When you see the fronds and leaves and canopy from overhead, they look different. What scratches and pummels you, what you push aside and leap past, when you are on land, forms a knit blanket of green arms draped on one another when you are in the sky. The forest rises and falls like the land it is rooted in, with a regularity not regularly attributed to trees. You could practically reach down into them and rustle their leaves, like the fur of a lumpy dog.

Day 127 (Where Happiness Comes From)

In Taipei on December 22, 2010 at 11:20 pm

I didn’t think a single material thing could inspire such bliss. But as I sit on my nightstand, because there is nowhere else to sit, facing my poster of Tiananmen Square, and I put a pfeffernut in my mouth, and I chew it, and the anise rings on my tongue, and this place, at long, long last, tastes like Christmas, I cannot help but tilt my head back and smile, letting my taste buds tingle and my torso warm from inside itself, the crumbs sitting in a soft mud in the hollows of my molars, the scent of a pine tree an inch away.

Day 126 (What Flowers Become)

In Taipei on December 21, 2010 at 10:44 pm

It is a bunch of flowers planted in the earth. Then, it is that and swarming horde of people. Then, it is that and a building fabricated from plastic bottles and bamboo. Then, it is that and how to make incense with leaves and how to make paper with chili peppers. Then, it is that and India, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Bhutan, Oman. Then, it is that and spaghetti bolognese. Then, it is that and houses of wood with roofs of grass. Then, it is that and a Chinese garden and teahouse. Then, it is that and a giant squatting rabbit and blueberry and chocolate gelato. Then, that is it.