Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ni Hao Homage

The city of Taichung is like this. It’s like bowing hotel doormen in bell hop hats that carry my backpack to the taxi. It’s like tea leaves in mason jars, and laborers in tanks tops breaking for bottled beer at noon, and immaculately dressed elite forking over ten dollars U.S for a plate chocolate truffles. It’s like laser beam motor scooters swerving and dilapidated buildings that fade with hanging laundry on clothes lines. It’s like gated entrances and hidden gardens of gingko and persimmon trees, Mozart sonatas on cross walks, and bread that takes like sweat socks. It’s like high rise apartment complexes with cascading waterfalls and marble floors and old men slowly dancing tai chi at dawn around a pagoda oasis crammed between makeshift housing in a tenement slum. It’s like dandruff and body odor and brown teeth smiling back at you. It’s like lily pads in stone bowls, koi fish nibbling fingers, and employees burning success prayers in trash bins on the street. It’s rugby and soccer highlights on NHK, senate floor smackdowns, and Anime as it was meant to be seen. It’s like discotheque flashing neon, tea houses with bamboo floors, and taxi drivers that swindle if you pass them an address on a slip of paper. It’s like ink buns and tiger paws and bear penis. It’s like cell phone chatter when you pick up the land line, stolen English phrases, and chirping canaries in cages on the street. It’s like swan peddle boats on man-made lakes beneath stone bridges, bundled leather-faced workmen on scaffolding under naked light bulbs at two in the morning, and rows of scooters all parked and facing the same direction. It’s like schmaltzy jazz muzak on speakers, burning incense at corner temples, and red Buddhist candles. It’s like everything depending upon the roasted duck under a heat lamp and reciting William Carlos Williams to yourself while rubber necking in traffic an hour away with ten minutes left before you promised you’d call. It’s like red lanterns and camera mugging white guys on billboards, and surgical masked sets of eye balls darting away. It’s like industrial parks, and manicured lawns with stone pathways, night markets lit up like Christmas tree lots, and the Snap! Snap! Snap! of fireworks. It’s like visors on bicycle helmets and security guards in green jackets asleep at the desk, and home space heaters and air purifiers the size of igloos. It’s like Confucian temples, no garbage cans, and light switches on the outside of rooms. It’s like channel surfing Buddhist stations and televangelists in red robes and prayer beads promising to cure arthritis, stomach cancer, and heart disease for only 100 NTS. It’s like steaming wonton and noodle vendors next to Baskin Robbins and Pizza Hut take out. It’s like night markets and the rank odor of oriental powder outside pharmacies with ancient wooden cabinets and stone carved dragons the size of Volkswagen bugs standing guard outside of banks and restaurants. It’s like children in track suits flying kites with mother while their father strolls behind arms folded behind his back. It’s like 7-11 hardboiled eggs and ramen, horns blaring, old couples waltzing beneath naked bulbs, and ultimate Frisbee in the park with coaches and uniforms, and western billboards. It’s like coffee shop employees giving you their cell phone number so you can log into wify. It’s 110 volts, translating to Celcius, and military time. It’s like completely being at the mercy of everyone around you. Being so far away from everything that is even remotely comfortable that you revert to basic needs: Am I clean? Yes. Am I warm? Sort of. Am I hungry? No. How do I proceed? Haven’t a clue, but I’m game. And all the while everyone is saying Hao! Hao! Hao! The Chinese are nodding and smiling at you and saying Hao! Hao! And you’re nodding too because you’re along for the ride. Hao! Hao! Ni Hao! Yeah, it’s like that.

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