Happy Second-Day Birthday to Me!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

It’s late and I’m exhausted. We woke up before 6am—the legacy of jetlag—and we just arrived back at her parent’s condo at 9pm. Luckily, most of what we did is meticulously recorded in our photographs. I only need to add a few tidbits to round out the day.

After eating our customary bakery breakfast, we went with Doolies’s mother to a studio to watch her rerecord the introduction and conclusion for a weekly lecture given by the Master Teacher for her satellite television station. The studio had many cool switches and levers, and Doolies wouldn’t let me play with any of them. After ten takes of each section, I think she finally nailed it. When she made a mistake or didn’t like the take, she’d say, “NG,” meaning not good. I think it is secret Hollywood talk. In my estimation (since I’m in an estimating-type mood), I thought she nailed it after the first take, but what do I know, she was speaking Chinese after all. When I say ten takes, I wasn’t counting the rewinds when she made actual mistakes—just the finished NG versions. Ten of them. We spent at least eight of the recordings wandering the streets near the studio, where Doolies found a shopping area. I dodged shopping with Doolies and her mother yesterday by feigning it was my birthday, and she went without me to spend her mother’s money buying a third wardrobe. I wasn’t as lucky today, and while it was still early when we found the shopping area, many of the smaller stores were already opened. Man, I can’t even do shopping humor right tonight. You should give up now, nothing interesting here. I can’t seem to throw my brain into a gear, the engine is revving but I ain’t moving. And, as an added bonus, I couldn’t bear reading it after I finished, so you’re reading a low energy musing with no edits. Talk about lucky! (I think I used that line yesterday.)

We were driven to the studio by two camera guys from the television office. They ended up accompanying us through the rest of the day. One of them, I’ll call him droopy dog, took most of the photographs you’ll see. Droopy Dog spent fifteen years in Queens, NY. Although I assume he spoke flawless English, he was quiet. While the driver and main camera guy was polite, helpful, and easy to laugh, Droopy Dog was the opposite. He grunted and did little. We were able to get out of him that he was very happy to return to Taiwan from the states. Contrast this with a young kid we saw in the evening. He went out of his way to greet me, the white man who speaks English (there we go, while this musing is painful to write (and I’m sure read), at least I won’t forget which language I speak today). He said, “Where you from.” I told him Seattle. “I’m from LA,” he thought a moment. “We’re both west coasters. West coast, represent!” Okay, I made up the represent part, but it was strange how proud he was to be an Asian American visiting Taiwan. He wanted everyone, including the tall white dude, to know that, no, he wasn’t like the people around him, he was from America. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. It’s been a long day.

We ate dinner at a local hotel—Doolies’s parents eat many meals at this hotel, which offers seven different dining experiences, ranging from Cantonese to Japanese to Taiwanese to Western to some other stuff I can’t remember—and one of the courses they ordered was Drunken Chicken. Doolies’s grandmother made this dish for me before. It’s like chicken soup mixed with a gallon of rice wine. It’s as tasty as it sounds—if you’re an alcoholic. But Doolies’s father really enjoys it, and they cook it at the table in the hotel. Being the polite guest that I am, I took a bowl full, ate the yummy noodles, and picked at the chicken. One of my rules of eating is that I believe if food is prepared for me, I shouldn’t have to do work to eat it. I’m willing—not happy but willing—to cut meat where necessary, but don’t ask me to put together fajitas or peel shrimp. There’s a reason I go out to eat, and it’s not to have to prepare my own food. The chicken in the Drunken Chicken soup is on the bone, either small, attached legs, wings, or other various chopped up parts. Not only are they soaking in the rice wine, but they’ve been soaking in it for some time, creating a highly flammable and alcoholic chicken, which also happens to be dry. I nibbled a bit, manipulated my soup so it look like I ate more than I did, and stopped eating it to focus on the more delicious aspects of dinner. After Doolies told her mother that I did not want any more chicken because I didn’t even eat the chicken in my bowl, she promptly ordered me a fork and knife, sure that western utensils would make the chicken more palatable. The serving lady didn’t have to look to see where the utensils were going, like it’s not bad enough I’m a white guy.