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Chronicles by Curto Hayden


Taiwan Home-cookin'
Curto Chronicles 3/16

Renee was funky. She wore thin-rimmed glasses that made her look profi, but her garb was quite funkified: bright colored bell pants made of sweater material, a mod shirt, and hair more auburn than black.

I made the acquaintance of Renee the funky, and was invited to lunch with her and a friend. Lunch was at her parents. Thus occured my first homecooked Taiwanese meal.

Mom prepared a buffet. A bowl of rice was standard issue for all, and we picked at the many savories as the stories unfolded.

"Where are you from?" Renee asked. Somehow, "Connecticut" always get simplified: near New York. I added some spinach and mushrooms to my bowl and dug the subtle flavors. Renee offered me a soup-simmered meat, but I didn't understand what it was. Duck? Dog? Bug? Mmm... tasted fine, that duck/dog/bug.

Renee's husband arrived and joined us. He taught in Kaohsiung and missed his train. Somehow that meant he had time to come chat. Everyone put unwanted bones and such in a little pile right on the table. I wasn't about it. Whether the practice was familial or Taiwanese I don't know.

Renee went to school in LA, and my "ahah" referred to her telling funky style. I gotcha.

We ate fish right off the ...fish, using chopsticks to remove the tender meat from its ribs. Mixed with the rice and the veggies, this was delicious.

I met Renee's peanut, Irene. The tyke was urged to speak English with me, but declined. Even dissed "Ol' MacDonald".

Profuse thanks, smiles, and goodbyes wrapped things up. I have since seen Renee and I gave her a thank-you card for her family. But instead of thanks it said: "Xie-xie!"

Luju 3/16/03

The word for "tea" is the same in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and... Russian!: "Cha".



Big Something Mountain

Curto Chronicles 3/16/03

"Because it's there" said the bear who went over the mountain. And so I hopped on my scooter and scooted.

First things first: I stop and buy a map. Of course, I can't read the thing, but if I'm going to die in the wilderness, I like to have something to flip through.

Vrooom. The most beautiful day in Asia fills my eyes with bright blue and sunshine. Palm trees make me smile. Rice fields look ultragreen. And that mountain, way over there? Tantalizing.

I pull over for "mien", noodles. I don't forget the mountain, I only direct my attention away from her for a bit. The joint I have discovered is Thai-Taiwanese. Thaiwanese? Indeed Thailand and Taiwan are very different countries, and here some T-T cats have set up a karaoke bar. The noodles are much better than the soundtrack. Kap kuun kup, xie-xie, thanks, whatever - I'm off to find my mountain.

I whiz past dragon-clad temples, stately and ornate. I zoom by lavish gravesites laden with flowers. I careen through tiny side streets and see children and dogs and stinky tofu vendors. The mountain gets closer, and I start to recognize a sign and can read: "Big (Something) Mountain".

I stop when I see an army of children in kung-fu gis up in a pavillion, receiving new belts for their slick fighting styles. Across the way is an outdoor puppet theatre, and gong music accompanies a silly show. Two kids come by to stare at me, and I take their pic and show it to them on the viewscreen. Amy introduces herself, and Mike. High-fives all around, and I'm back on my hunt for Big Something Mountain.

Base camp is by an abandoned factory that strikes me as beautiful, even cathedralesque. I dismount and start hiking up the trail. I pass some Sunday strollers, nod, smile, cha-cha-cha. The air is fresher and the verdure is thicker. I see a lizard skitter by, running on hind legs like a mini-dino. Gargantuan bamboo clicks together in the wind. The flower blossom known as Sakura adorns the trail. Some ways up is another abandoned factory that makes a great overlook and a photographic masterpiece. The next building in the forest seems to have been a little spa and hotel.

Now, I realize that St. Patrick's day means nothing to most of the world. But here, right now, it means something. I sit down in the shade, open a cold one, and salute the sun. Ganbei? Cheers! Smilin' eyes, indeed.

Further up is a pagoda with a dazzling overlook. The presence of titanic factories in the panorama unnerves me. I hate the discord of their stink; they are more beautiful when abandoned. Groups of strollers with parasols hang out in the pagoda and chat. I am at the top.

The trail continues back to a little glade where health-conscious hikers can excercize. There are weight benches, rope ladders, pull-up bars, and stranger things: spinny disk twists and back-arching tires. I see some Olympic rings (with a Robinson Crusoe aesthetic), and I head up to them. I always wanted to try this! A helpful man guides and congratulates me as I learn to hold forms backwards and upside-down.

I've been spending more time upside-down, lately.


Luju 3/16/03


"Big mountain" in Japanese is "ookii yama". In Chinese? I dunno. I don't speak no Chinese.

PS - You know the drill: if I stop I will, me in you fill.



The Art of Getting Lost
Curto Chronicles

I have a strange hobby. I like to venture. This is often known as a bad idea. Indeed, it is something like this which killed the cat. But the old adage speaks naught of all the other cats that stumbled across the catnip Eldorado.

Here are a few quick examples.

Kin Ting - The beach in chronicle 1. I climbed an impossible mountain, met some wacky kids and spent the day with them in a whirlwind of beaches, sunset, and neon nightmarketeering.

Tainan - I hopped on the train and hopped off when it looked cool. I wandered into an international hostel, checked in, and then took off for the nearest club ("Le Sight") for a very memorable Saturday night. I spent a lot of time in that dance circle...

Big Something Mountain - I woke up at 6:30 this morning to run to the top of the mountain and hang upside-down... I'm delighted to have discovered a great place to run/exercize/contemplate with fresh air and inspiration.

All these spots mean something to my future.

Some people don't like to meet new people. Some don't like to leave their couch and meet a new place. What new places have you found lately? None, if you are efficient and routine. It may be best for you to maintain routine, but if you work in some time for getting lost, you may discover something new to increase your efficiency. Or to increase your catnip. Have you found a new place recently?

I want to hear some stories...

Get lost!




New Hobbies
Curto Chronicles 4/13

I've acquired some new tastes! Here are just a few:

Counting karaoke bars.

Attempting to fathom scooter slogans.
- "Fuzzy: the World Scooter"
- "Jog is Fascinating to You"
- "You Can Try. Going...Going... Blaze it Up! The Custom Made of Going."

Smiling and nodding.

Drinking from coconuts.

Tainan, Taiwan





Taipei Personality
Curto Chronicles 4/20

Waking up at 4:30AM is not my typical modus operandi, but today is a special holiday (starting with "B" and ending in "irthday")...

I take the train to the bus, and in the process I bump into a gringo named Michael from South Africa. I've heard quite a bit about him already, since Lujhu is supersmall and people of my physiognomy are like sore thumbs: not so numerous and painfully obvious.

We chat it up on the four hour bus ride. Much of our banter revolves around travel, drinking, and girls, but there is much to distract us from more enlightened conversation: each big comfy seat has a personal tv screen, and we are served drinks while we check out the various movies and play video games. Michael reminds me of an American, since he wears a baseball cap and chows down a hotdog.

Michael was going up to see his Taiwanese girlfriend, and when we get to Taipei I discover she is off-the-hook gorgeous. He points the way to the main station and I wish him a lovely weekend.

The MRT is one of the best public transit systems I have yet seen. It is clean, efficient, and easily navigable. At times it is even beautiful, which is great since I am photographing it for an art project. Passengers look at me oddly since I sometimes take photos while ducking or spinning...

Birthday shopping goes well: I find stylish clothes on sale. On the other hand, my sunglasses are run over by a car and I am unable to find any French wine. I take a quick subway ride to meet Wendy, my friend from Paris (without any wine to give her... ). We hit a bomb restaurant, go out for cocktails, and stroll and chat. Wendy is divine to chat with since she grew up in San Fran and speaks English better than most Americans, and because she has a keen sense of reality (not to mention fashion sense). Often she decries Taipei for being more backward than other cities, but I am quite impressed by it.

Taipei is cleaner, fresher, and more vibrant than the cities to the south. Pollution is not as bad, and the city bustles with vitality. To me it seems like a nicer place to live than southern Taiwan.

Having stayed overnight in a lovely hotel across from the Grand Hotel pagoda in the mountains, I am refreshed and ready for a big day. I'm going to see the Beastie Boys. (Apparently they all turned Buddhist and are down with the "Free Tibet" tour. It is unclear whether they still fight for their right to paaar-ty.)

Over-and/peace out.

Taipei, Taiwan