The Pyrate Democracy of Fujian, Kaohsiung,
2011, The Minor Tridiuum
I had gone out Saturday night for Halloween festivities. I don’t remember if I met Beatrice at Brickyard or if we had met before and decided to go to Brickyard. I went dressed up as a Jack-rabbit and we ended up coming back to my apartment on Bo-Ai Rd. Halloween in Taiwan was always fun. Thanksgiving and Christmas make no damn sense in East Asia, but Halloween is always a blast. My Cram school put on a haunted house, the kids got dressed up, I got to be silly and tell ghost stories. Elementary Halloween is cute and fun. Adult Halloween is slutty and wanton. That’s what happens when the gates of the spirit world are thrown open for a night and the ghosts walk among us. A several thousand-year-old Celtic holiday, unique in that it is marked not by a solstice nor an equinox but by its midway point between them, Samhain has been reduced to Slutty Halloween. Honestly, the Irish pantheon would have approved. Those gods were ho’s.
After dancing and drinking and the general Halloween carousing, we headed back to my place on Beatrice’s scooter, ducking down alleys and lanes because she didn’t have an extra helmet and there were police checkpoints up and down the roads that night. Also, I was deeply embarrassed to be riding bitch on a 75cc scooter. We had both been drinking and because I didn’t have a helmet, I asked her to use the side streets. Any potential mishap wouldn’t have been fatal at 25 Kmh. I’ll be goddamned if my mother ever got that telephone call from the State Department: “Your son died in a scooter accident while riding bitch without a helmet. Death by Scooter is beneath the dignity of America. We refuse to repatriate the bodies of Texans who die so shamefully. Thanks, The US of America.”
We got to my apartment as the sun was breaking. I woke up Sunday afternoon as the sun was fading. The light in Southern Taiwan is marvelous, industrial pollution and bunker fuel ship-exhaust aside. Northern Taiwan has the worst climate on the planet with sticky mud all summer long, a cold dreary winter monsoon and 75 months of rain a year. Taipei is effectively Mordor, lying in a flat swampy basin surrounded by mountains with a gigantic tower looming over it all. Kaohsiung, on the other hand, has mountains to its back and the South China Sea to its face. It possesses one of the greatest natural harbors on the planet, and an epic 20th century transformation story as it has morphed from sleepy Japanese backwater called “Beat Dog, Formosa” into the 6th largest port in the world and one of the more important cities of The Pyrate Democracy of Fujian. (I’m not fucking kidding. It really was called Beat Dog.)
The late fall light streamed royal gold into my bedroom, divided into slats as the blinds failed to do their job, ran across my bed and separated this lithe body next to me into parallel lines of hot and sexy.
I remembered who this was, but I didn’t remember who this was. This old feeling. What was her bourbon and coke unit? Did I piss anybody off? Where are my keys? Phone, testicles, spectacles, wallet, and watch? All there. Phew. Good. Nobody is dead. No phone calls from State. Fuckin’ Christ. What time is it? 17:30? Jesus. Fuck. Ouch. I hate the whiskey here. Don’t drink the well shit, Jack. Cheaper than Crown. Fair point. Maybe Crown is expensive for a reason. Fair — shut the fuck up — I know. How much longer are you going to do this? How much longer am I going to do this? You’re hitting the wall, man. Diminishing returns on this arrangement in this country. Your job sucks. Teaching was your dad’s thing and even he hated it at the end. I live with a ketamine addict. He’s filled the entire living room with dead computers. Drink less — better apartment. Fuck off. Just saying. Better job — better apartment. That’s not happening. You’re burned out on teaching English. It’s a stupid way to study Chinese. And women. This hook-up thing is not rewarding. No, this hook-up thing is NOT rewarding. Too much bourbon and coke units. Drink Crown. Fuck off.
How much longer was I going to do this? It was Sunday, October 30. I had pissed away the entire day in hungover nap and fuck with a woman I had known for less than 14 hours. I had been in Taiwan for three years. Things were not exactly going as planned. I had plateaued learning Mandarin. Trying to study Taiwanese instead was a distraction. I still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, nor what kind of graduate education I was going to transform this Chinese learning experience into. I had to work the next day at a job I despised with a boss who taught English to children. But yet, she hated foreign speakers of English. Petty provincial racism is silly, no matter the location.
I was turning 33 in 19 days and I was babysitting. Instead of learning about shipbroking or geopolitics or Taiwanese Aboriginal languages or any of the ten thousand things to do on the most important island in the entire world, I was babysitting, prevented from explaining English grammar points directly in Mandarin. I was babysitting. With a shit, outdated curriculum from the Era of Martial Law to keep my students’ attention and their parents happy. The opportunity cost of being a singing, dancing gringo monkey was growing too expensive. More importantly, my mother was turning 70 in March.