Extreme of consciousness

…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.

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  1. Kerouac Cat says:

    Scheduled updates can go fuck themselves. Having said that, regularity is about to return. Who'd have ever thought?


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