The World On Sunday

Sunday, December 23. 2007

The World On Sunday has been cancelled this week due to drunkenness. All apologies and does fuck you sound good? Then fuck you. This is how it is, or did I just fill my obligation by posting a fuck you? I like being right.


But since this will likely sit here for a while, and kind of ramble will fill the void nicely. It’s better than posting nothing, which seems to have suited everyone else around here for a while. I’ll be in my home town til just before new year, then I’ll be at Pyramid Rock on Philip Island. Totally out of contact range, beyond civilisation, beyond recognition. Have peace, have mercy, have the insight to see good in the year that’s just past and strength to see adventure in the one to come. My brothers of the Dragon, I sense this has been a tense year for us all, a trying year, a questioning year. A hard year, one I didn’t see coming. Or maybe, one I didn’t see coming and still let it happen. A train wreck I didn’t move away from. If I’m half right, know that healing begins with accepting what’s gone wrong – whether we meant it to happen or not, whether we had control over it or not.

Celebrate your holiday season how you will – the US citizens out there, happy holidays. The Aussies, merry Christmas. The Taiwanese, happy Just Another Fucking Week At Work. And A Jolly New Years To Us Who Celebrate The Pagan Way – remember, Chinese New Year isn’t just a fuck you to the west, it’s a fuck you to us all.

See you next year with the wash up.

Fuck, I’m so drunk right now…

Time to be sad, time to be happy

Wednesday, December 19. 2007
Unpleasant shit happens all the time. I don’t feel it as much as I used to. A train crashes in Pakistan, I somehow don’t feel too unhappy about it. People die all the time. A corrupt businessman wins the election in South Korea, and I feel anger. Not that the guy he replaced was a champion, but how does poetic justice apply here? It doesn’t, and we here in Australia are blessed with a truly vibrant democracy and if this lets me have the moral high ground in talking about other countries, so fucking be it.

Unpleasant shit, and sometimes, good things. Japanese whaling is something that shits me off, not just because it’s a topic I know more than most people – including Japanese people – about, and if I wasn’t sick of this soapbox, I’d let you have it. It shits me off especially because so many people who think they know about it love to play the apologist on the Japanese side. So very unnecessary, to say the least. Whaling started in big numbers only after World War II, at the advice of General MacArthur, to help feed the people. Give the Japanese whaling boats (something they had never had before) and they can feed the population with the meat and the US makes money from the whale oil. It’s winners all around. Somehow, like so much of life in Japan, it was wrapped up in old values and borrowed culture, and five decades later all anyone can seem to remember is that they’ve always been doing it. Japan is a strange place like that.

Strange places, and none more strange than Amsterdam. The days of Amsterdam as a backpacker Mecca are numbered, with some bastard killjoy mayor over there taking it upon himself to cut the red lights that made the city so famous by three quarters. That would be like Disneyland getting rid of the Disney, like Everest getting rid of the mountain, like taking away that big black box in Mecca. It is exactly like taking away that big black box in Mecca. The reason for going there, the reason it is known at all. Do people visit The Netherlands and go visit Rotterdam? Fuck no, they might go there because it’s in the neighbourhood and need a day to chill out. Otherwise, the Netherlands would be a real backwater. Honestly. That corner of Europe would be home to nothing but boring people and tulip hunting tulips. Not that I’m all about prostitution, far from it, I’m all about each to their own, but I think this argument is about paying credence to what pays the bills. Amsterdam is a wonderful place and whether red light windows adds to this or not, whether coffee shops help or hinder, it makes it the liberal capital of Europe, maybe even the world. It’s acceptance, it’s openness, it’s understanding and patience and grace, it’s trusting people and encouraging them to come and visit and be together. Stories, rumours more like it, abound regarding nasty stories or nights gone wrong, but they are more like folklore, in reality it is one of the safer destinations. You’re more likely to get ripped off, mugged or otherwise rumbled in any number of other cities; but nowhere else are you guaranteed such a good time.

With the changes looking like happening, I’m just glad I can say I was there when it was still in its heyday. I’m sure, like the Summer of Love or the Other Summer of Love, I missed the real apex, but fuck you, I was busy. I saw it when it was all that, when it was how the stories that surely will be told were true. Amsterdam will suffer for this, and the world will be a less happy place.

At least we might stop the Japanese whaling mission – it’s looking good so far.

The World On Sunday, Three of Four

Sunday, December 16. 2007

Hazy, nothing’s clear today.
Everything’s coming in without a filter on.
Aperture is stuck on the widest setting.
How many mistakes do you have to make,
Before you learn to see them coming?

Since Jess cut my hair on Thursday, I’ve been really happy with the way it looks. It wasn’t a major change, the only major work was getting rid of the mullet (hey, it grows faster at the back, man, Jesus had long hair) and a tidy up. By her own confession, Jess is more of a colourist than a cutter, but she was cool with doing it. And I’ve never had such indie rock looking second day hair, I look like I did nothing the day before except stand in front of a mirror and get it looking just right. And that’s not just the hangover talking, either.

Last night was a friend of a friend’ housewarming party. I found the place, arriving on my own, and walked in to see a guy on the couch with a giant mohawk. Right then I knew it would not be awkward at all, it was my kind of party. Everyone was cool, and drunk enough that when I got there all the social tension had melted away. Getting there was a bitch, an a great advertisement for why Melbourne’s public transport is a steaming great pile. It was in Coburg, and a look at the map told me it was a way down Bell Street – no more than twenty minutes by car, if the traffic is against you. But there’s barely anything running from my end to there, especially past eight on a Saturday. I could have spent more than an hour on the train to get there, going all the way into the city and back out again – but really, who can be bothered? I just took a taxi, underlining the fucked-ness of it all. I’m never living the suburban life again, man.

I had this blue pill lying around for a few weeks, and because the colour of the thing weirded me out, I was pretty remiss to try it, especially since there’s been a lot of talk recently about the kind of stuff that goes into some of the batches. But no-one showed up dead on the news after that weekend, so I figured I would be OK, but still I wanted to at least show it to someone who knew about these things. The housewarming was for Cat, who I’d known of for a while, but hadn’t managed to squeeze my way into a meeting with yet. I knew of her from before the party and our mutual friend had expressed concern at her appetite for the less-than-legal stuff, so I guessed she might have the 4-11 on it. She’d seen them before and were fine, they just had a lot of blue dye in them. Won’t kill you, they’ll just make your teeth blue.

Sunday has been hazy, then, for good reasons. It’s been well over twelve months since I did anything like that. Does that make it any better? No, nor does it make it any worse. If I felt ashamed at all about doing it, I sure as hell wouldn’t write about it here. My straight edge days are behind me, or possibly just on extended hiatus. They will be back someday, and you can bet your house I’ll claim I was like that all the while – you just watch me, I do love the moral high ground. As fun as being a guru is, preaching down is better than preaching from the gutter.

I don’t know how I must look, or at least I can’t judge too well, or maybe the two gay boys were hitting on anything and everything, and I just got caught up in their path. Either way, I was so flattered by their advances I damn near said yes to joining them in the upstairs toilet. Would I tell you all about that kind of story if it ever happened? I like to think I would, but all that – that’s for another day.

I’ve been thinking about Kosovo a lot lately, what with it being in the news and all. Here’s a half-chewed posting I got caught up in writing, before it turned into a corpulent obese train wreck and I couldn’t be bothered fixing it. I like to think it’s insightful.

Kosovars and Russians, and how they learned to stop worrying and love the bomb all over again

A small corner of a small corner of Europe, a piece of land that’s really little more than that, echoes of the Great War, and divisions that could crack the plaster, crack the foundations, bring down the carefully laid plans. Monday saw the passing of a deadline for reaching an agreement on the future of Kosovo, and the events that start now could potentially be the rocks at the top of a mountain that cause a landslide.

The last piece of the former Yugoslavia to break away and begin its own story, Kosovo has long been a province of Serbia, and in the glory days of Tito the ethnic divide wasn’t a matter worth fighting over. But as the world saw, the latter days of Milosevic and rampant Serb nationalism made it all too clear that men like Tito are rare, few and far between, and tensions between neighbours are all too tenuous in old Europe. Milosevic started it, and the Croats were not entirely blameless for their part in the events which led to the war in the nineties, while it’s easy to see the Bosnian Muslims as caught in the crossfire and the Montenegrins as entirely complicit in their support for Serbia – the mess is incredible, and it can’t be said long enough that Tito must have been an incredible person to hold all the cards in the right order. For the longest stretch of the dividing of Yugoslavia, the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo looked almost as good as their cousins in Slovenia, waiting for their moment and taking control of their fate when the time came. I wonder what old Slobodan thought of the Slovenians leaving so apparently easily, and taking most of the industrial workings with them, but apparently he was busy murdering people.

While the Montenegrins went their own way last year, the Kosovars had a historical burden on them. The Serbs, while a minority in Kosovo, remembered all too well the nation-forging event of losing to the Ottomans there, and being so nationalistic as they’ve become, took that as reason enough to scour any Albanian who thought it might be his home too. A land belongs to the people living on it, and both sides need to agree on conditions if they’re going to get along. Enough had happened that I now agree with the Kosovars, that a peaceful arrangement with Serbia is no longer possible. Give them their independence, make sure they do it right and don’t go killing any more Serbs, and be done with it. It’s an incredibly dense topic to sum up this way, but there’s only a black and white response here. Do it or don’t – more people will suffer if it doesn’t happen.

But rather than making it about Kosovars and Serbs, old alliances have come into play. Old friends, treaties, agreements in play on a map that’s changed so many times since they were written and forged, that it no longer makes any kind of sense. Why do the Russians even give a shit about what goes on there? They line up with the Serbs not out of any kind of sensible rationale, but because they always lined up together. They lined up together against the Austro-Hungarian empire when Franz Ferdinand was killed in Sarajevo, and again when Hitler’s tanks rolled across the borders (not a great success that time, but who’s counting) and again now, over what is really little more than a rental disagreement in the grand scheme of international diplomacy and politics. Only now the cold war has been won and lost, only now the old Soviet Bloc is mostly EU territory, only now Russia feels more and more like the bear backed into a corner with more and more hunters lining it up in their scopes – only now Russia has veto powers in the UN Security Council and insists on using it not for what’s plainly right, but to throw its weight around and score points for its more beleaguered friends. Serbia has had a bad run these last 20 years or so and it’s not looking like turning around now. Russia continues to curry favour with its old ally and probably deliberately turn a molehill not into a mountain, but a wedge to further drive into the handful of cracks it sees in its enemies.

The chain reaction this could all cause is incredible, looking just at the base matters – but who thought that a few bullets in a street in Sarajevo would ultimately cause two world wars, who might have known? I’m not going to get entirely hyperbolic on you here, but the greater issue is how much weight Russia is throwing around, and the direction they are heading into. True democracy is once again an illusion there, with powerful thugs running the show at any cost, it all looks very twenty years ago.

Done. And now the block of text it complete, so I shall leave it. I was going to add a few notes on what I remember about the place, but once again, I’m over it.

The World On Sunday, Two of Four

Sunday, December 9. 2007
It’s a Sunday, that feels like any other Goddamn day. It’s a day of strange sleep, of dead batteries, of frustration and maybe standing someone up. Of just not knowing, because it feels like every other day where I just don’t know.

Apart from Wednesday, when I went to discuss a potential problem and have some beers with Stevie, I worked every single night. They called on Wednesday, too, but I ignored it, knowing I had Friday and Saturday up my sleeve to get by money-wise. They called on Monday and Tuesday, and Thursday I went to a different store as a favour for the previous night manager. The guy, Agro, is as annoying as they come, but a more dedicated and enthusiastic worker you couldn’t hope for. He takes it all a little too seriously if you ask me, but working for him was pretty good overall. Every day? That’s another question. I put in nine hours three nights, and might again tonight (they called before). This means total hours for the week have already passed the magic number of thirty-eight, meaning every hour past is paid double time, regardless of time of day or actual effort on my part. Generally, management will bend over backwards to avoid this ever happening, but it’s likely they didn’t realise because I did that night for Agro. Suck shit.

So it’s been work, work, drinks, work, work, work and tonight, more work. I’m leaving a note telling them to fuck off from now on, I want my Friday and Saturday nights back. And I’ll be getting them. If it means I only get two nights a week up til Christmas, so fucking be it – there’s a price and I’ve finished paying it. I’ll clear a grand this week on payday, and it might even be above a grand after tax. Take that.

Last night was the real centrepiece in the Banquet of Unprofessional that the store can descend into on occasion. The reason? Annual Christmas party. I’d rather chew my own testicle off than go, such is my relationship with most of management (who I see barely ever as it is) and the rest of the staff, who I never see at all. I could have finally looked presentable and hit on the few checkout girls I do see at the end of their shifts; but fuck it, just fuck it. Not interested. Which meant that they asked me to work, and by coincidence, there was no-one qualified to be in charge in charge last night. I was effectively in command. Shit all got done, mostly because day crew did such a shit job and we had to clean up all their crap – and the people I had to work with were less than ideal workers. Part timers who come in maybe once a week. So yeah, it was a real circus last night. Wouldn’t have wanted to be there this morning.

So there was that. What a week. Maybe one day I’ll look back at it and go, holy fuck. What was I doing with myself? But it won’t be because I worked that fucked job so hard, it will be for more traditional reasons.

The reason I pinned down Stevie was to discuss a potential kick to the shins, one that in the following twenty four hours dissipated. I felt like Jess Jess could become something more than just a person with a couch to crash on; this is far from ideal considering what’s coming up, but oh so fucking typical of something I’d do. I ran it all by him, and he said he didn’t see a problem. Fair enough, was all I could say. And as we worked through a jug and pondered the unfortunate reality that apart, we look ok, but sitting together, we look like two guys who really need a haircut. Such deep conversations we have. And all that dissipated, because something else came along that made me want to crush my balls in a vice.

It’s all I can do to not jump off the roof! Beat me up, throw me around, then let me hold you. Then that shit with the ice cubes, and your friends, then paint me hooked. It’s probably wrong, too. We got past the awkward, which means there’s only a rich vein of fun to cut into – if only I could just call you, but your phone is always out of juice.

It’s been a stupid week. I didn’t really sleep in the middle of it. Then the second part was consumed with catching it up and in between, working. I feel like I’ve said this a lot lately. And not just here.

Well, onto it.

E-mail on the subject of destroying your fears

Friday, December 7. 2007
When I was a little kid, I somehow came across a book in the library about rabies. If it was a child’s book or not, I don’t remember – but it had in reasonably graphic detail what happens when an animal catches rabies. This gave me nightmares, for weeks. The sheer pain and helplessness of a rabies victim really got to me. The highlighted lack of any medical help hit me especially hard, in my fragile child’s mind. The fact rabies doesn’t exist in Australia didn’t help settle my mind at all. So when I got this communiqué yesterday, it was a genuine triumph.

From: Sonny Lau
Sent: Thursday, 6 December 2007 3:00:19 AM
To: ***********

To Mr. ----- ------

Dear -----,

You have a good Rabies antibody level as of 19 November 2007.

Your level was 0.53 (EIA) IU/ml.

The result has been amended. Please discard previous report for this test. We received this amended report only late yesterday afternoon.

0.5 IU/mL or more of antibody is considered a protective level in people exposed to Rabies virus. In vitro, Rabies antibodies have been found to protective against Australia bat lyssavirus.

The World Health Organization recommends a minimum post-vaccination immune antibody level of not less than 0.5 IU/ml.

Please continue to take all precautions against contact with animals in general whilst overseas. All the proper post-exposure care is to be implemented upon an at risk exposure, including the 2 follow-up booster doses of the rabies vaccine. Do remember that the main purpose of pre-exposure vaccination against Rabies is to simplify & minimize post-exposure management.

Warm regards.


HAHA! Take that, rabies virus! No longer shall I fear you! I have few real fears, genuine crippling deep seeded fears. Heights? Awesome thrill. Flying? More boring than anything. Terrorist attack or act of God? I ain’t that unlucky. Getting hit by a drunk driver crossing the road? Well, fine. But there’s no vaccine for that. There is a vaccine for rabies and while it’s not as simple as most (you still need some pretty serious medical attention) you won’t fucking die in a foaming mess of pain. And I’ll take that any day.

The urge to crush

Friday, December 7. 2007
And what ‘John’ (fuck, I need to come up with a better pseudonym for that guy) calls the rainbows and Skittles effect. Why can’t I be like this all the time?

Oh, right. I’d go fucking insane, it wouldn’t be right, or good for business. Or good for anyone. You can almost hear me sigh at this point, and wonder why I’m the only person in my neighbourhood awake right now – people, just because it’s dark and society tells you to fear the darkness, set fire to your TV and bring the enlightenment upon yourselves.

Rainbows and Skittles. Man, I heard that guy got into some shit in Spain, I think it’s best we wait and hear it from him instead (or till I get bored of my bullshit and start telling you about his instead) and ended up in the crushing Zone Of Death, also known as Queensland. Queensland produces some compelling evidence that too much sunshine is really bad for you. Further research indicates that the Republic of California suffers the same problem. I guess I’m the only truly temperate soul in this house, and thus the only one sane, clear headed and rational to be truly worthy of attention. Long, cold winters and grey skies was too much of the year, with temperatures in the mid-teens seen as normal have bred in me the decency missing in so much of the world. Until the sun comes out and summer hits us early. And then it’s all rainbows and Skittles.

See, I managed to flush out the Bancho. It happens from time to time. But for the record, it must be stated that his post was total gibberish, except for the word ‘cognac’. Now we are languaging, people!

Insanity. I’m off to crush something I’ll likely need later on. Call it a plot development.

I think

Wednesday, December 5. 2007
I think a lot, about all sorts of things. What’s going on at that party down the road, would it be a good idea to drink all the beer in the fridge, could I talk a jury out of convicting me if I bomb a TV station for cutting any decent programming just because it’s summer?

I think about Islam, about Nintendo games, about why Final Fantasy XII isn’t that good at all, about long-finished cricket games, about what my children will look like. I think that if I ever see a porn star with the names I want to give said children, I’ll have to pick new ones. I think about how my greatest achievement in life would be making a movie about Muhammad, because taking pot-shots at Christians just hasn’t got the zing it used to have.

I think about how most people think they know about linguistics but really know fuck all.

I think about how the girl for me is probably so far at the end of the bell curve, I’m going to have to go a long way far and wide to find her – but when I do, I’ll know exactly what to say.

And then the Jihad-wielding motherfuckers hunting me down because they take offense to my movie (teddy-bear naming teachers and Danes worldwide will know nothing of the fury rained down upon me) will slit my throat and upload the video for all the internet to see.

Man, isn’t life an adventure?

The World On Sunday, One of Four

Sunday, December 2. 2007
Sundays are back; did they ever go away? It’s a December special, early onset summer has me thinking something can be gained and learned from this year, here, at the end of all things – that Sundays shall come back to the House.

Free city rhymes bounce down from the twenty-first floor balcony, people down there are all in a state, all in the same way, they just don’t know it yet. One girls shouts about the boy who ruined her night, another boy tries to keep his pants up as he runs to wherever. They all shout at each other, ears deaf from music, all saying nothing.

Running, look, you can see all the way from one end of LaTrobe street to the other
Jumping in, no fear, say yes, be generous, say what you want, say what you think,
You might be my long-lost brother
Sleeping, it’s my lunchtime while the world winds up its day and night
Hoping, that all this won’t fade like the rainbow chaser.

A different feeling on the streets, like hope in the air, but revolution soon dies, sold out for a pay rise. But until the reality behind the promise shows itself, the land breathes fresh air, the hardening of hearts is over and the tyranny of mind can finally end. Too extreme, too much, too much time like that. We can say sorry now, we can face the past and do what we need to, and then the healing will start. Fairness returns to the working class, a fairness long fought for, a fairness that we missed so bad it hurt. No longer will we sit back and be slandered, for the nation’s voice has answered our call. Everything else, the more it changes, the more it stays the same and the less we miss it. Let dinosaurs be dinosaurs and may we not grow complacent.

But the streets already feel different, like it’s ok to hope again, for a brighter day, not search for a way back to simpler days that never existed in the first place. No, what is right will never be, because compromise wins all too often.

I made a new friend. True story. Sunday was spent wondering where she was, and driving in the sun. Bad calls are my thing, but apparently it turned out for the better in the end. Not better for me, just better all around. After working Friday night away, and a rostering error gave me Saturday night off, I got up at five in the afternoon and got started on a six pack of Coronas in the fridge. It’s Corona time of the year, a beautiful thought of its own, and the neighbours have a lemon tree within fruit-pilfering distance – I see no coincidence in that, just the divinity of the planet telling me: it’s Corona o’clock, boy, so get to it. And get to it I did. I’d planned to sit around, drink beers and play video games with my little brother, but he’d left the house hours earlier and was going to see My Chemical Romance at the tennis centre. This left me with plenty of beers but nothing to do until meeting him after the show. Cue a handful of text messages to random names in my phone, and just like that, I’m meeting Jess Jess for a drink. I call her that because that’s how her name appeared in my phone a month ago. We hit it off because of a shared love of Sublime (major props to my West Coast homies) and even though she told me she was gay, I still got a number. And she was bored like me, only broke, so I said I’d buy her a drink or two. Small price to pay to get to hang out with someone, and I had a feeling it would work out. Either I make a dick of myself or slide into awkward-vile, that’s the usual result – but not Jess Jess, it was direct and successful.

We went to The Workshop, my new favourite city bar, and over a jug we found out that we had a lot in common and plenty of stories to tell. For once I had someone who actually wanted to listen to my travel tales (mostly I get glazed looks) and there was just enough friction to keep it moving. She was actually broke, but not playing me at all, several times I got a promise that next time would be her shout. And we could hang out as long as we wanted, because her place was in the city and not far away, and had a spare bed to crash on. So on we went, from there to a few other places to her place. It was about two am that she just crashed out and had to go to bed, leaving me wide awake (the untold joys of working nights, no kidding) and wondering what to do. I lay down for about ten minutes and decided to go find my brother. Making decisions while in a state of not being suited to make decisions is a stupid idea, because I actually left. I made my way over to Bourke Street and found him outside the club, telling me he was ready to go home. What the hell? Two am is the heart of the night! What’s up with that? It turned out that everyone was heading back early (they’d all been at the My Chem show) and were going to stay at Tija’s place in Murrumbeena. Still, I wasn’t stranded, since going home would be an expensive taxi ride and Jess Jess’s place was locked to me – so back to Tija’s place, feeling like a dick and having gotten all worked up to drink and dance some more, like I had the party-equivalent of blue balls.

I couldn’t sleep at Tija’s place either. I lay there in her lounge room until the sun came up and people started appearing around the house. What a way. For the most part, the casualty ward was pretty clean of severe cases, so things got moving pretty quickly. In the heat we drove people home and then made it back ourselves. That’s my boring weekend.

There’s just too much shit and sugar out there to strain my tastebuds telling the difference right now. Full retreat, bring everything about, take note.

Extreme of consciousness

Sunday, December 2. 2007
…and there goes the regular update schedule. Kerouac Cat is dead. The guy from the morgue is here but he ducked outside for a cigarette and I’m taking the chance to write the true cause of death on the certificate: Coronary failure caused by chronic psoriasis. Nova collapsed, Normal Mailer died and John got the boot, and not a peep from the Cat.

My apartment is a disaster. My landlord finally fulfilled his threat to waterproof the apartment below which (in which his brother resides) despite ignoring my requests to fix the water leakage problem in my apartment. I realise this is nepotism and there’s not a lot you can do about it. The jackhammers last about two and a half days. The house was full out of my stuff from outside and concrete dust. We can’t use outside because it’s so dirty. The dog has to stay inside because it’s such a disaster, and now it’s been dragging on for two weeks. The first weekend we went away to Kending in the hope that we’d miss some of the construction – and instead no one fucking came, because “it was raining”. Bullshit. Taipei actually had good weather while we were away.

After we got back it did actually start to get nasty with two weeks of on-off, mostly on, horrible rain. Then even after it did fine up no one came because it “had to dry” Well fuck. Get up there with and dry it then.

I spent this weekend in Hualian practising with Charles and Jason. It was awesome, despite having a wicked cold. I asked the landlord on Friday (incidentally, a beautifully fine day) if anyone would come and he said Saturday. Lo and behold, no one fucking came.

Why do the fuckers with the jackhammers always come on time? Why do the motherfuckers who finish the job seem to live on permanent holiday because of rain?

Hualian was brilliant. We hung out practising, then went to the hot springs Saturday night. We stayed the night there in Japanese-style tatami rooms with futons for an incredible NT350, which includes the spring. I’m writing this on the train back to Taipei, in between my neighbours gabbing to me, and watching the beautiful scenery of the East Coast. Fuck, I could totally move out here. The bleached white desolateness of the place is inspiring.

Coming down was something else. Charles and I couldn’t get a ticket on the train and ended up getting lucky, obtaining seats on a shuttle bus which was so busy they’d actually put an extra service on.

Wednesday night we had Sichuan at Kiki’s. I’d already got the feeling on the cold’s onset, but we still had a great time. Originally it was supposed to be Peter and Kayla and us, but I kept inviting people and Charles, my neighbour Agan and Jeremy and Patty all came. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to come by all those people in the same room.

Thursday I was pretty sick.

Kending was a blast. I’d taken Monday off so we could stay a little longer and avoid a rushed trip and the crowds. The weather was not quite as hot as I’d hoped; the water was a little cold, as I’d predicted; but it was still fine for going to the beach. We flew down, which is definitely the way to go. Although it turns out the service to Hengchun airport is very limited, the fact that you can go from Songshan Airport in Taipei and be on the beach in Kending in less that two hours is worth knowing. In fact, it seems that Hengchun exists solely to service the two commercial flights – one in, one out – plus the odd helicopter charter and I imagine some freight flights. At any rate, flying in fairly cheap, and beats the Insomniac Express overnight bus, as well as flying to Kaohsiung and taking a bus from there (the bus from Kaohsiung takes over two hours. More on that later).

We caught the bus into Kending and found a hotel on the strip. Hindsight reveals that at this time of year, it is possible to get some pretty good deals on packages at some fancy hotels, with a little preplanning. Our hotel was basic but nice and we got a large room with two double beds and a balcony for NT1200. We rented a scooter next door and went down and hit the beach, though not before a nap which meant that we got there just a little too late. Still, the water was good, the beach not empty but not crowded.

In the evening, we wandered the markets which set up at dark. We had a drink at Warung Didi’s before deciding to visit another place to see a band. It turned out the band had already finished but another would be playing later upstairs and there was a sexy revue-type show we could watch. For NT350 each we got two beers a piece as well as the show (one girl, not bad; one not so good; one guy very funny) and then the band upstairs afterwards.

The guy from the show actually came up and struck up a conversation with us. An interesting guy, for sure. It seemed he made more money a month than I do for his routine. I lost a little interest in talking to him though because the band, A-Team (from Taizhong, I think) totally put sneaker to the backside. They were really hot – amazing vocals and super tight rhythm.

The next day was all on the beach – we headed over to the softer, whiter and more secluded sands of Baisha, where I managed to get very burned. After an above average lunch at Bossa Nova on the strip at Nanwan (South Bay) we finished the afternoon on the beach there.

By early evening a fierce wind had sprung up. We visited the small natural gas fires at Chuhuo. It was an amazing natural phenomenon unfortunately cheapened by people selling popcorn and other junk there, then fools cooking said popcorn in the fires there, and more fools letting off fireworks. Natural gas escapes from the ground there, and comes up through stones. I assume that it is ignited by humans as I doubt the fire continues to burn in heavy rain but nonetheless it is amazing, particularly as you can ignite certain small divots in the ground, as one small boy showed us.

We stopped in at the famous steamed bun place I’d read about in the in-flight magazine. We’d gone past it on the way to Chuhuo and as predicted by the magazine, there was a long line of people there. However, on the way back there was no one as it was near closing time. Unfortunately for us the cheese buns, as well as most of the other kinds, had sold out, but we were still able to enjoy their regular buns – which were justified in their reputation. While we were eating there, Sun, the guy from the show in the club, drove by and stopped. Small place. The boss of the bun place ended up giving me a free one before we left. Seemed he had developed a lot of the flavours to lure foreigners in.

We ate pig’s knuckle on the way back. Taiwanese-style pork knuckle, although delicious, for me will always be third after German and Korean varieties.

By now, the wind was pretty severe, and Warung Didi’s was pretty empty. It was also Sunday night. After a drink and some chicken, we left for an early-ish night.

We woke up early the next day and after a quick breakfast and coffee, we went down the beach for a final hurrah. At that time of the money it was almost deserted, and the Caesar Hotel bar had not yet started blasting music. The water was cool, flat, crystal and most inviting. We swam for two hours before heading back to pack, check out, but as we left the beach we got a call – the strong wind meant our DC8-Dash flight out of Hengchun had been cancelled. We were instructed to go to the airport were they would give us tickets for a bus to Kaohsiung, where we could catch a flight back to Taipei.

As I mentioned, the bus ride to Kaohsiung takes more than two hours. Having paid the extra for a flight to Hengchun I was a little disappointed that I would still end up spending more than three hours getting home instead of one. Although the airline staff in Kaohsiung managed to get us on a competitor’s flight as soon as we got there, outside of this they were a little less helpful. Not the best way to end our long weekend but better than the bus all the way I suppose.

As I write this the scenery speeds by in between tunnels and you cannot help but be amazed by the crazy diversity of this place. One minute it might be a green river, the next it’s mountains and lonely, windswept beach with lapis lazuli water. Then you might be looking at newly developed houses in the middle of nowhere, or some salty, forgotten fishing village. Or maybe abandoned houses, rooves caved in and decaying. Next it might rice fields and farms or it might be some factory. Beauty and ugliness change in the flick of an eye. Old and new, mundane and ridiculous all sit juxtaposed as the cinematography of the railway line follows the winding steel north.

I need more space to think.