Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

Day 316 (Another Virtue of Skyline Chili)

In Taipei on June 29, 2011 at 11:18 pm

My problem with the prospect of cooking on a nightly basis is this: when you plan a meal—buy everything at the grocery, prepare it, get the timing just right so everything is hot when you eat it, set your water up on the coffee table, set your book out next to it—the instant when you settle down in front of the food you’ve made is never the episode of pure joy you wish it to be. Without fail, it proves too awkward to hold your book open and go through the motions of eating at the same time, or your seating arrangement is uncomfortable for your tired legs, or you are distracted by the disproportionate levels of ingredients you have added when cooking, and the calm following the storm of multi-tasking comes nowhere near matching the picture of bliss you painted for yourself as the pot of gold at the end of the reckoning.

What I conclude is this: the pleasures of sitting by oneself reading a book as one eats, though profound, match neither in quality nor in timbre those of sharing a meal with someone else. When you painstakingly prepare food, it should not be wasted on the distraction of a book. To justify itself, it must be commented upon by at least one another person and savored in the gaps between conversation. One person is simply not capable of appreciating the effort that even he himself put into a meal if he eats it alone.

But: when the food you are preparing is Skyline Chili, and when your home is in a country that is not the United States, none of the above applies.


Day 315 (The Persistence of Evolutionary Programming Even in the Face of Logic)

In Taipei on June 29, 2011 at 10:56 pm


Which makes you wonder, doesn’t it, whether being in the cozy shelter of an apartment building in a city of many buildings taller than my own in fact provides the safety that one feels it should. It may be that I am at my most vulnerable here, without anywhere to run, in a stationary cell between other stationary cells waiting to be consumed by the indiscriminate brawn of the sky. Thunder, I tell myself, it can’t hurt you. The echos ricochet for a fearful length off the alleys and streets, a bass rumble like nothing conceivably human.

Certain things, I can feel it in my synapses, are built in.

Day 314 (The Leech)

In Taipei on June 27, 2011 at 11:32 pm

The leech is cute, almost, creeping its way along my hand like an inchworm. I pinch it and pull it off before it can clamp. Problem is, it begins to look for blood on the finger I’ve pinched it off with. It is the problem of double-sided tape, of unduly sticky things everywhere. I can get it off only with a tissue, within which I give it a good squeeze. I throw it in my trash can.

Damn hardy, the leech, living in my bag of wet clothes since the end of the hash the day before. I thought I was safe when we left the grounds. Guess not. I go on with my life.

Then I realize it may not be not dead, and I should probably empty out my trash can just in case. I go over to take the trash outside. Already mounting the wadded tissues is the leech, inching its way to an escape. I look at it with a pissed-off admiration. He wasted no time getting back on the horse. But how much credit can you really give a creature without a brain?

Day 313 (Datong Shan)

In Hash Runs on June 27, 2011 at 11:06 pm

The flowers’ yellow coat of pollen has worn off. They have been through so much.

They sit on the sidewalk, now, among a pile of backpacks. Within their own bag, they poke through a small hole cut in the lid of glass jar filled with water. They seem discarded, forgotten.

When their previous owner returns to them, he notes this with alarm. Here they are, unspilled, yet so casually thrown between the sweaty runoff of a long day, to be greeted by a small throng with stomachs full of beer.

The new owner of the flowers arrives. Don, she notices, holds a fruitful stem in his hand. She points out his gaff. He admits it, requests that it be forgiven, and mentions that the flowers reminded him of his mother.

The crowd walks off, regathers, and parts again. The few that remain rumble away on a bus that is nearly empty, for the first time in history. The new owner of the flowers wants to set them to the side so she can relax on the way home, but they will spill, the previous owner is sure of it. So she sets them ticklishly between her legs and the next seat. The two are graced with the undiminished scent the entirety of the trip home.

Day 312 (The Clinic)

In Taipei on June 27, 2011 at 10:47 pm

His aqua-blue Polo is electric. He pops its collar with panache. Then he points to somebody below, on the floor. He nods in played-up drunkenness, which does nothing to preclude his real drunkenness but delivers a glimmer of sobriety, of the sort of self-awareness that might have happened, barring events.

Behind him the bar towers with glistening bottles of liquor. The tenders climb the rolling wooden ladder to staggering heights to fulfill the whims of the thirsty patrons. The song suits a club, even though it looks like we are in a fancy, high-ceilinged pub.

I am the only one there wearing a hiking backpack.

Ari keeps at it. The best dancers these days are those who know how silly they look while still jiving with all available means. He is one of them. I find myself hoping he doesn’t knock any of the expensive beers on the bar over. Feet from his feet, adults looking to get lucky dive into the fray. A lot of them don’t seem to notice the clinic being delivered just north of their mingling heads.

Day 311 (When Your Hair Gets Long Enough to Put in a Ponytail)

In Taipei on June 24, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Between the orange band and the yellow band, it comes to me: my hair is long enough to hold back without the aid of a hat or a bandana. As in, in a ponytail. As in, like real long hair. I can keep the top samurai style, and I can keep the bottom out of place separately, and maybe it will even bob on my neck and tickle, sometimes.

How good it feels to not have the hair from the side of my head drifting into my eyes and covering my ears. How good it feels to be sleek, held in place, sprightly, ready to pounce.

The day held some vague promise of retrospective doom, that grungy film that sets in after months of doing the same thing. It promised it would be ugly and not say why, even if it had a reason.

No, no, no. No more. Now—

My hair is wet and the strands poke out the top of the bands and the whole world is fresh.

Day 310 (The Grasshopper)

In Taipei on June 24, 2011 at 12:05 am

I am reading The Idiot, an appropriate book for you to be reading according to the yellow sticky note on it, as I walk up the sidewalk, making myself scarce in my response to the temptations of the visual world that surrounds me. Concrete tiles pass and I traverse space. The prince is set upon by hypocrites unbecoming to his kindness and trust in the universe.

Toward me, in my forward peripheral vision, comes a weaving entity. It weaves out of the way before it strikes me, but only barely. What a jerk, I think. I look to the side.

The jerk is a Taiwanese student, headphones on atop the day’s uniform, reading a book.

He is not a jerk—he is a protégé. You haven’t learned to walk straight yet, man, but keep at it. You’re getting there.

Day 309 (The Hare)

In Hash Runs on June 23, 2011 at 11:12 pm

As the lone hare, there is:

the snap of the chest strap on your backpack in the first hundred meters of the run, so the thing will bounce on your shoulders for the next 7.5 kilometers;

the realization that the run takes you a lot longer when you are carrying 5 kilograms of flour and that the runners are already off;

the sensation that you’ve gotten lost on your own run, as any course is far different at night than during the day;

and the further realizations that:

the first bag of flour is prematurely empty, and that you’ve got to dip into the second one, and that it’s got to last for the duration;

that you better not dog it, because you will get caught;

that you are over the hump, and as long as there is not disaster you will make it triumphantly in;

that it is done, finished, and all you have to do is write BASH on the ground in flour and sit down, and wait to see how close it was, and god, you are tired.

Day 308 (A Shell of Your Former Self)

In Taipei on June 23, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Let your body attack itself for a little at the onset of extreme climactic heat, let the muscles in your lower back heave soreness like two cords trying to support something god-sized, let your energy seep away to water the hardwood floors of your apartment.

Curl in your bed in the fetal position for a three hour nap when it’s already dark out, the air-conditioning on, wafting at intervals over your uncovered body, stimuli shut out so the pain of near-total immobility remains uninterrupted.

Wake to the murder of hundreds of already-dead souls in the quest for total annihilation of the gods, nauseously repeated symphonic riffs beneath the crashes and shrieks of knives plunging into hearts, stone crumbling from the bounces of an immortal, weapons ricocheting off the skin of the impenetrable into your ears across your door.

Buy some guavas, eat some chicken noodle soup.

Be a shell of your former self.

Day 307 (Lost Souls)

In Taipei on June 21, 2011 at 12:57 am

I sit on the toilet, my legs straddling the wet area from the leak that has always leaked. I read The Mother Earth News, number 52, July/August 1978. In the classifieds there is a heading, Lost Souls. Beneath it, there is an list of people Mother is trying to remunerate in some way. Then there is an entry that reads:

ROBBY Sussman, call home. We love you. Love, Mom, Dad.

That’s it. That’s the whole thing.