Something about travel makes a person introspective. Maybe I am more open, maybe more closed. Either way, I am able to more easily step outside of myself. Perhaps it is the anonymity – no one knows who I am here. This is true of most places on earth, of course, out here, I can create a new identity. Everything is reinventable. Maybe I always wished I wrote more. Now I can. Maybe I had too much attachment to physical things. Here I can let it all go. Maybe life moved too fast. Here I can slow it down. I must first and foremost, however, reinvent myself as a local by mastering silence. At worse is a person stays silent, people will assume that he wasn’t paying attention. Or deaf. Or stupid. Actually, I guess you can do a lot better than stay silent, but you can definitely do a hell of a lot worse.
There is a Taiwanese baseball team on the TV called “Sinon.” A man can’t help but think of it as the French “sinon,” “otherwise.” A man who speaks French, that is. But this makes a man think of all the languages he doesn’t speak. To think of all the baseball teams named “desolation,” “until,” or “should.” If only we spoke more languages, my friend.
But what would that really do for us other than to provide a moral high ground in being able to speak to people in their mother tongue? “Multilingual.”
I read a book about translation by Umberto Eco. It dealt with the idiosyncrasies of different languages and the impossibility of a one-to-one mapping between them.
But there is a flip side. The way that discovering these idiosyncrasies yourself can open your mind and your life. It’s like when you live your whole life in Tokyo, riding the subways, and just by chance you take a ride in your friend’s car and you discover that two places that take 30 minutes to travel between by train would maybe take you 5 minutes by bike, 10 walking. In learning a new language, this happens intellectually and emotionally. A language is a system that defines our passage through life. Another language is like walking into a whole new universe.
I have committed myself to 3 shots of tequila after a rum and coke and a dead cow’s worth of grease in the form of fried American-style bar vittles. What do I need this courage for?
It’s less courage and more a commitment to the time that it will take to drink these three shots. I am trying to write deliberately. Seeing each word before writing it down.
The tequila is room temperature.
I am sitting in a bar called “Roxy” in Taiwan. Taipei.
Lately I have been the victim of digital robbery. Memories and writing stolen away from me by failure of media and hardware respectively. In the past it would take a fire or a flood to destroy this shit. Now it takes a scratch or a power source failure.
Where has my voice gone?
I have been trying to let go for so long now and succeeded in general. What is holding me back now?
I found a nice tailor in Taipei.
After only one drink I am at that stage of drunkenness where you feel like your energy is seeping through the whole room, infecting the ladies like a madness. But I know it is not true.
The Taiwanese are loud compared to Japanese and quiet compared to Americans.
Dutch beers here.
I like a country where you can’t drink the water.
But I love the feeling of tequila flowing from your stomach to the rest of your body.
The pen on paper is fingers on skin. Little hairs on your arms rise. Lips part. A sharp inhalation.
And now my handwriting resembles so closely that of my father and it makes me wonder if he had these thoughts ever in his life. It makes me wonder about how handwriting is not about how you write an “a” or a “b,” but how you write “love” or “fuck!” or “death” or “loneliness” or “failure.”
I pulled on a stick today; got a fortune out. Time for Shot #2.
Lately I have been feeling like I disappear.
Like that. Did you see me? In these moments I feel like I can observe without being observed.
In Japan I was seen as white. In America and Europe I am seen as Chinese, and in Taiwan (China) I am seen as being Japanese. Full circle. Full circle.
Is this just another one of my experiments? Just a way to determine after how many drinks my writing changes to what? Marijuana, LSD, THC, what more can I want?
Here is a list of the last 3 years: USA, Canada, Holland, Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and, effectively, Lithuania. Where the fuck is my home?
Here is my life. This is what I do: one-armed handstands.
2 more tequilas. This is fun and alarmingly so.
Why is my dead grandfather in my thoughts so often? I was a damned pall bearer for my grandfather and I had forgotten about that until I was watching an Ally McBeal episode of all things that talked about pall bearing.
Did I mention “phony” as one of those words before?
But there is a buzzing in my head that gives a slight feeling of urgency to what I am trying to express. Want to see a straight line? Here:
And a back flip? There. See? I am not that drunk.
And the Red Hot Chili Peppers are telling me that what they got I gotta get it put it in me so here we go with Drink #3.
The American in front of me has finally let it all hang out and is now revealing his Americanism to this song. The two beautiful Taiwanese girls accompanying him have left the table. Gone home. But as far as I can tell he speaks perfect 普通話. AS DO I, OBVIOUSLY!
“Otherwise” has won the baseball game.
I am going to go to the bathroom and then walk around the bar.
“The Killers” are playing.
I almost walked out of the bathroom without washing my hands. I think they have a 32-channel mixer. Has that ever helped anyone?
The baseball game has finished. A movie is playing on cinemax. The bar is nothing special. Sinon… Sinon…
A big group has moved from their side of the bar to mine. A Nirvana poster on the wall. Take a good look at the gouges on a table the next time you are at a bar.
| || || || | ||| <- A killer riff.
1999. Remember that time? The Gymnast? The Old Money? The Half-Breed? The Communist? The Quebeqoise? All the others? There was a 1999, a 2000, all over the world. But I only knew mine. I keep having flashes to go back and talk to people but I promise myself that I will not.
To be an American in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, to be Japanese in Taiwan? German in Europe? What about English in America?
Building for building there are more Taiwanese flags flying in public in Taiwan than American flags flying in the USA as far as I can tell. Maybe I have not been back in too long a time. No, probably not.
“Otherwise” is still celebrating their win.
Me, my girlfriend is coming tomorrow and I’m not sure I’m still the only one in her life. And that is OK. We lead lives without comparison; it is a small price to pay.
My father has not written me since I wrote him a loooong time ago. That is a first. His girlfriend has moved in. It is time to move to fiction, to writing slowly, but first: Shot #4! And it was good.
The DJess does not know who sings “Dirty Water” and neither do I. I was drunk enough to think I could just email Boston real quick. Nor “Kids in America.”
Did you know that God is helping me on this trip? He told me to go to Terminal 1, he told me to oversleep and miss Narita Airport, he made me skip the beautician and go to the funky beautician, he made me choose the wrong bus line that got me closer to my hotel, he made me walk longer through the nightmarket to find the place with a straight razor, to find the tailor, and he helped the DJess find the “Kids in America.” Now I need to listen to it.
Congratulations, you are an alcoholic.
I start from 2nd grade and count a continuous string of 12 girlfriends to age 15 (Shot #5). Another 13 take me to age 28. Slowing down a bit. Best guy friends in my life only number 16. Hm.
That is some strangeness. And that’s not counting my family.
Two more shots.
His name is Kieth, the American, that is.