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The holidays in Taipei

Christmas was right around the corner and I wanted to be somewhere happenin’ so I bought a five hour first class bus ticket from the bottom of the island to the top back to Taipei.  The seats were huge, they had snacks and water, and it felt good to be moving again. 

That night was Christmas eve and I had no plans so I went to Speakeasy Bar to have a few drinks.  I walked in and was the only one in there.  I met a girl, Vicky Sun, a Taiwanese girl who went to Wagner College in Staten Island. We nerded out for a little while about music and how McSorley’s is both of our favorite bars in New York.  The music at the bar was a mix of Christmas songs and George Michael, switching back and forth every few songs, so I was in heaven.  Some Frenchmen stumbled in who knew Vicky, and I found out they were in charge of setting up the fireworks to go off on New Years Eve at Taipei 101.  A few had lived in Brooklyn for a number of years so instead of Jim, I was referred to as “Heyyyyyyyy badda bim!”    The night wore on and it was a drunken Christmas for the record books. 

On Christmas day Felix invited me to get some dumplings with him and his parents.  Felix was born in Manhattan, but both his parents are from the Philippines.  He spent a good deal of his childhood in the Bronx, and then in North Carolina, after which he moved to Hoboken and met Nick Mcguiness, our mutual friend.  Felix is aggressive in the only good way, drinking tequila.  We call him “The Patron King”, and he is marrying Rachel, “The Patron Queen”, who is Taiwanese.  The amount of shots of tequila that Felix has bought me over the years easily goes up into the hundreds of dollars, and this trip was no different.  The bottles came out on our second night together.

Felix’s dad is a big reader and we immediately bonded over travel books, whether those quick page turners were the best way to go or is it better to sit down with a Dickens novel.  I finished The Kite Runner back in Tainan and had picked up Digital Fortress, a Dan Brown novel in one of the hostels.  The Sunni/Shia thing has always been confusing for me, and the Kite Runner offered some insight into all that Jazz.  It was appropriately timed for the events going down now in the middle east.  I read Digital Fortress in a few days.  It’s a thriller in the style of The Davinci Code but all about code breaking at the NSA.    It’s funny because the book was written in 1998 when the NSA was still clouded in mystery, but now after the Edward Snowden meltdown it’s pretty much old news.  The first time I ever heard about the NSA was in Good Will Hunting, when the young Matt Damon interviews there and gives one of the best speeches of the movie to an interviewer whose face is hidden in shadows.  Well done Gus Van Sant; it’s one of those rare masculine movies that my nerdy hipster friends and my crossfit addicted college friends can all share in together.  But would they drink coors light or a micro brew?  Have you heard the rumours that the actual writer wasn’t Damon and Affleck but instead William Golding, the writer of The Princess Bride? 

Felix’s dad also tells the most borderline offensive jokes I’ve ever heard, but for some reason they never come across that way, he’s a master at flirting with the line but never crossing it. 

Vicky invited me to go to dinner at her friend’s house because I was a lonely traveler with no place to go.  Everyone pitched in and brought something, I brought wine and some duck paté; basically whenever I’m supposed to do something classy I think about the menu at Brooklyn Winery and just pick two things from there.  It was a really relaxing night with guitars, great expats, and delicious food.

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Nick is here.  Nick Mcguiness is in China y’all!.  And his Hoboken-no-jokin’ roommate Jim Flowers, who will be referred to in this blog as, simply, Flowers.  He’s a gay, Catholic, republican from Boston – so stereotypical.  Flowers is a man who stands tall, has a good laugh, and looks you in the eye when he speaks in a way that makes you feel pretty sure that he’s smarter than you.  When I asked him my favorite hypothetical of, “If you could speak eight languages fluently, which ones would you choose?” He answered,

“English.”

“Yeah, but if you had to choose eight.”

“English, English, English, English, English, English, English, English.”

However, in a hostel with over 50 flags of different nations on the ceiling of the bar, he was able to name the country of origin for every single one, including one or two flags of dissent.  So it’s confusing.

The wedding was beautiful, Rachel looked incredible and it was great to see Felix so happy with his parents at his side.  Taipei has been good to me in terms of food and drink; we even made it over to the original General Tsao’s chicken place. Delicious.  I think everyone knew I was on a tight budget so I’ve never been so hooked up in my life.  After the wedding the bride and groom had rented out a private KTV room for all the guests.  It’s pretty much your own private room to do karaoke with your friends.  Nick was killin it with the Boyz to Men all night.  I stuck to my classics, “Lets get it on”, “Have you ever seen the rain”, and “Careless Whisper”.

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Felix and Rachel took care of us for the next few days, bringing us to a small hillside village where Spirited Away was based off of (I promise I won’t get into my anime guilty pleasure. . . YET).  We did a few tea ceremonies and then it was New Years Eve.  A friend of Rachel’s invited us to go to her mom’s art gallery that had rooftop access to see the fireworks coming off of Taipei 101.  A few years back it was the tallest building in the world until Dubai took over.  We were headed to Shanghai the next morning at 11am so it was pointless to book a room for the night.  Instead, we partied hard and slept on the floor in the art gallery.  Good thing mattresses in China are barely two inches thick, we were all pretty accustomed to it.

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