Miles from Home

China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Holidays, pt.III: New Year’s, Code Word “Apocalypto”

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2006 will be a highly regarded campaign in the personal scrapbook. I am trying to put aside the whole “war-thing.” Even the war, however, has had a profound effect on me. So it goes. First year out of college. Move to Asia. Self-study. New job. Democrat controlled Congress. Wal-Mart on environmental light bulb campaigns. Obama.

If it was a football season, I would say I went 13-3, nabbed a one seed and home field throughout the ‘loffs. It was a great year; but after a few nights of madness toward the end, the wheels nearly came off. One more week of 2006 might have spelled trouble.

The idea had been to spend Friday out, rest Saturday, and go big on New Year’s Eve. That got a little boggled. Friday featured a brief run by Luxy and a late-night appearance at Roxy 99, one of my roommate’s favorite bars. The place is a typical Taipei bar, packed into a basement without room to breath. It is one of the more bar-centered night spots, usually a good time.

I left around 2am. As it was later told to me:

Smash! Something hits my roommate in the face while he is standing at the bar! My roomie is no small dude. He is one of those freak-strong people, a rugby player used to a few scraps. He turned toward the culprit and took a few aggressive steps.

Thwap! Boom! Bap! Before he gets there, two more guys jump him from the sides. Fighting Taiwanese is liking finding a cockroach in your house, there is never just one. He goes down (surprisingly enough to me) and gets kneed in the head a few times. He comes up fast in a ball of rage and immediately gets tackled by security. They throw him out!

The next day he notices a nice, deep puncture in the flank behind his shoulder. Somebody was likely taking a swing with a broken bottle. Who knows why? Talking to somebody’s girlfriend?

Saturday disappeared behind the curtains of my bedroom. I finally got up for an afternoon bbq at a friend’s rooftop flat in Tienmu. A monster of a balcony with a nice view of the mountains, plus promises of 438 “the best cricket match in history” were enough to get me in the shower and on the road.

Seven full grown men in a room eating steak, drinking beer, and watching cricket…. aw yeah! It should not have come as a surprise that we rumbled, bumbled, stumbled into the nearest pub. There was a live band. A good mix of folks.

I eventually cornered off speaking with a woman who graduated Harvard with a Ph.D. That was tricky conversation. I sat with her at her table with her two friends and two of my own. They bought a bottle of vodka for the table. There was an older gentleman sitting next to me having a good time chatting me up in Chinese. A good guy.

An hour later I see the older gentleman standing by the front door of the pub with half of his face shred off. What?! I had not noticed him get pulled out of the bar by another man and then allegedly beat down on the sidewalk. No one would tell me what happened or call the police or call an ambulance. The bar cleared. It closed. It was insane.

Later, a Taiwanese girlfriend of mine who was at the bar said the alleged attacker was “a king” of Shilin and Tienmu neighborhoods. The Taiwanese underground mafia. Actually it could have been my fault, she suggested. Maybe this king did not like seeing the other man drink it up with foreigners and have a good time. Drinking with foreigners is really seen as quite an ego boost to some people here.

New Year’s eve witnessed another afternoon departure from bed. The loose plan was to fortify some fireworks position by a reasonable hour at Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. We took the MRT to the closest stop and found an Italian restaurant nearby to fuel up before countdown.

We secured a spot in the grass, which was key. We had a fantastic view of Taipei 101. Plenty to drink, and not tea. Taiwanese drink tea like Americans drink beer. We were a motley crew of South Africans, Taiwanese, and Americans. It was festive and fitting of 2006.

We watched Taipei 101 explode for over three minutes. I popped a nice bottle of champagne. There were half a million people in the closed-off streets surrounding 101. People were stopping and asking to take their picture with me. This was laughs, a real celebrity huh? We decided it hinged on my “German-pink tie” and my blazer. I bought the tie for New Year’s in Düsseldorf, Germany in 2004. It gets rave reviews.

We decided it was our turn for the foreigners to strike back. We began jumping in random pictures, random acts of hugging, loud shouts of “happy new year” in Chinese. We ended up walking the streets like this for nearly two hours. North and north and north in search of a cab.

Happy 2007!!! Let’s go further!

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Written by Miles

January 2, 2007 at 3:14 pm

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