Archive for the ‘Taoyuan’ Category

Day 181 (To the Last Syllable of Recorded Time)

In Taoyuan on February 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm

The fourth plate of dumplings comes to the table. We understand, then, that we are reenacting yesterday’s orgy of eating. We are stuffing our bodies with a last set of fantastically reeking calories before our weeks of detoxification set in. The routine will necessitate moderation and thought. Familiar foods will present themselves in what can reasonably be called portions. We will drink water. We will breathe.

But for now, there are soft balls of dough with pork in the middle, and vegetable- and meat-stuffed dumplings, and ovary soup with eggs and greens. More than any five people could be expected to eat. That’s all right. Keep eating and eating. There’s no tomorrow, for the five of us. Trains and planes are already rolling in. Stomachs will lurch, but then stomachs will be empty. Cycles of indulgence and economy. Kids circle the track five floors below. The echo of Derek and the Dominos tiptoes about in the next room. The tile floor is chilly beneath our feet, but home is colder. There is snow, there.


Day 180 (Hitting Balls)

In Taoyuan on February 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Thwack. The golf ball soars above the lit greens and over the netting on the back of the range.

Thwack. The golf ball arcs for two seconds and then dribbles off left through the intermittent puddles.

Swish. A practice swing is concentrated and tight but unfluid, a failing attempt at bettering a swing that will be in a matter of minutes irrelevant. Still, you want that instant of contact untrammeled by the unintentional errors of the human body. You want the center of the club head to meet the center of the ball. You want to send this little piece soaring off into the universe.

Thwock. The only other person at the range, seven stations off, knocks an iron straight and short. He is here so late, on a Sunday night. What a sad, rich picture.

Swish. A golf ball meditates on its tee, saved by innacuracy. It’s all in the left oblique, but sometimes you forget about other things. It doesn’t matter, though. Five of you cycling in and out of the driving stations Zen-like like the stoic pocked balls, wordlessly in the damp night, except not really. That’s how you’ll think of it, but there is conversation, and tweaking of technique, and the spoken handing of clubs. It’s as if the hesitantly lit darkness enforces some sort of austerity on that which is not austere.

Thwack. An exhalation of delight. A bout of awed applause.

Day 152 (Camo and Replica M16s and Abandoned Buildings)

In Taoyuan on January 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Might have been a poor move. You’re exposed. Get out of this situation. Cover Paul as he sprints to the shack. Not yet. You ready? Now. Unleash a spring of BBs. The fire has stopped. An opportune time. Sprint in his footsteps, firing your gun sideways without looking where you’re firing. Make it to the shack. Get in a crevice.

Can’t be productive from the crevice though. Move to the shack’s central column. Probably no fire can reach you there. Probably. Fire off some rounds. Can’t be productive from there either. Duck and run to the wall of the shack. Squat against it, head below the window line. Poke your head and your gun out. Now you’re drawing fire. Poke out again. Fire! Get back, for Christ’s sake. See the guy behind the column? The one Paul is pointing at? Keep him on his heels. Paul will get him from the other side. Hard to tell if they’re moving in or we are. Paul got him! Poke out. Nothing. March on forward.

Downstairs area is clear. Move to the second floor. Hold your gun at the ready. Take long, quiet steps. Finger on the trigger. Keep your back to walls. Know the hiding places. Room to room. Peek over the banister. Hit players shuffle back with a raised hand. Keep moving forward. Darker rooms. Unknown territory. The whistle blows.

Area cleared. Enemy liquidated.

Day 9 (Jorge Luis Borges Does Taiwan)

In Taoyuan on August 27, 2010 at 3:12 pm

I have lived an entire day. I saw and spoke to people I know, I went to the store, I noticed that one person had mascara on her right eye and none on her left. It is now the evening, and I am wondering, How did I get here? I don’t remember the flight, though I may well have taken it. But when do I return? And for a second before I open my eyes, I understand that something here is illusory. Either the memories behind my day or the day itself has been a dream.

I awake, anticipating the alarm. The covers are white. I am here. These nine days have not been imagined.

Day 7 (In the Carrefour)

In Taoyuan on August 25, 2010 at 8:08 pm

The orange Tide trades stares with the waiguoren leaning against the fluffy bags of dryer sheets across from him. A 64-wash bottle, strung with his compadres above the 111-wash. Less bulky than them, he is, but more gracile. A swifter product, lacking in the drawn-out repetition of the 111, the inevitable crusty habituation of pour, pour, pour. The 64-wash has resigned himself, triumphantly, to an early disposal.

But the foreigner’s gaze is unsettling. It glances over the Tide’s ideographs. It searches in the gaps between the 64-wash and the others beside him on the self. It emanates from above something like a sneer. Contempt! The Tide’s seen it before. Consumerist dogma, the shackles of name brand and the illusion of choice. Puh. A hackneyed response to the rows and rows of gleaming colors. The interloper should feel what it is to be a capsule for the blue goo of product.

Day 6 (Moment While Walking on the Way Back to Taoyuan)

In Taoyuan on August 25, 2010 at 1:32 am

A foot hovers above the train station’s tile, weary in shoes flouting the point of shoes, its numb nerves connected to a system that recalls, just seconds ago, a broad pink floor decal reading, “Area for women to wait for train at night.” Connected to a system, too, that is just beginning to sense the tremendous vibrations of Sylvester Stallone’s movement to rescue a lacerated woman.

A nation and a man, separated by time and quality of spectacle. An action hero echoes the subdued, bureaucratic efforts of a nation to protect women from violence. Or a nation echoes an action hero’s explosive surge against unrestrained misogyny. Under the toes, there are these reverberations.

Day 5 (Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers Do Taiwan)

In Taoyuan on August 23, 2010 at 6:49 pm

From below builds slowly a synthesized sing-song tone. It layers upon itself repeatedly. It becomes discordant. Nearer, and louder. It sounds like an ice cream truck, come outside the community’s track to tempt exercisers. Except its recording is discombobulated, producing a melody both sickly sweet and deranged. The tune reaches an irritating crescendo.

—What the hell is that? It sounds like the ice cream man.

—It’s the garbage truck. So that people know it’s coming. Everybody runs downstairs and brings their trash.

—Are you kidding?

—No. It sounds like I am.

Day 4 (One Hundred Milliliters of Tea)

In Taoyuan on August 23, 2010 at 4:16 am

Imagine five folks just off the street of Taiwan, where scooters fly past recklessly and to which corrugated steel grates close at night. In they sit, on finished stumps, before the cross section of a much grander tree. Behind them, Taipei loudly beats the stuffing out of Saudi Arabia in baseball. In front of them, a man explains that when making tea, he prefers the old way of cooking the leaves, on charcoal, rather than electrically, for the full month. He rolls each tea leaf into a dried, compressed ball by hand.

To get to the bathroom, you have to climb something of a ladder past the shop’s desk, and walk through a living room past a silver, state of the art karaoke set. The man conducting the tea ceremony pours a few of the leaves out from their tiny pot, into a Space Jam mug, to show you how profoundly they expand when they again become wet.

Day 2 (Balcony Over Taoyuan City)

In Taoyuan on August 22, 2010 at 12:09 am

The balcony looks over a track, a playground, a woman doing a bizarre exercise on a swing down below. Its ledges are lined with green plants. A light wind blows, meaning there might be a typhoon soon.

We drink small sips of barely diluted top shelf alcohol. Then we drink tea, chá, strong earthy tea in thick, potted cups. I’m a fresh element here, among Paul’s parents, he and Christine. I want to know how to say this, I want to know how to say that. He. Drink. Hen hao. Very good. Wan an. Good night.

Or, more literally, peaceful night.