take that Dodongo

Back in the F-L-A!
First off, thanks, readers, for the comments on yesterday’s blog. Made the effort all the more worth it.

Apparently all this rain the past few days is because there’s a typhoon churning off the coast of the island. I thought I left my days of tropical-weather-tracking behind me when I moved out of Florida. It’s OK though, it seems it’ll pass us by doing nothing more than giving a good storm or two. I mean, with the humidity here it might as well be raining everyday anyway. The eye is set to pass just offshore of Northern Taiwan, which is right where we are. Anyway, kinda nice to have a Florida-esque thunderstorm raging vainly against my open hotel window while I sleep – I’ve always dug being inside while the elements thrash outside, somehow gives me feeling of power or whatever. Like, try as is may, it can’t put forth enough effort to overcome the effort that man put into the shelter which houses me. We win: human engineering 1, weather 0. I say that now, when this week alone the earth and sky have so far teamed against me in both an earthquake and now typhoon. Damn, does Taiwan have volcanoes?

My trip to Taiwan so far has been filled with omen. OK, not “filled” with omen, but at least containing some omen. I’m not sure what it all means yet, but if one of you four who read this are armchair numerologists – get back to me with your interpretation. See, when I checked into the hotel – I got room number 1111. Now, I thought that was kinda cool – and immediately came up with some good jokes about how I’m all “number one” or something. Since then, the number one is all over my trip. Every time I take a cab ride, the total is spot on 100NT? each time for four separate rides. When we go to customers to present, we sometimes get temp badges. I didn’t check on the 1st day, but yesterday my badge was number 111. Is that crazy or what? I checked my flights back, and none of them are all ones – so I take that to either mean they will end in a fiery crash into the sea, or something? at least.

I skipped dinner last night, unintentionally, heading up to my room for a “nap” after a Boddington’s with the boys in the hotel bar. I hit the bed around 8pm and didn’t wake up until the typhoon loudly hurled rain into my window around 1am. I missed a phone call and a knock on the door, I think the 4am bedtime the night prior really sapped me. Anyway, I ended up getting about eleven hours of sleep – which I think is the main contributing factor to how energized and well I feel now. I even managed to wake up early enough to give myself some time to play a little Zelda64 before breakfast (I’m so freakin’ addicted, I totally just liberated Dodongo’s cave on Death Mountain and I’m kicking butt – I’m actually looking forward to a possible 10hr of uninterrupted playing time on the flight home). We were slated to head to some club which is infamous for it’s Wednesday night “ladies night,” but I sacked it instead. I’ll be here next Wednesday anyway, so I can scam the Taiwan-tang then if need be.

I gotta say, I look pretty awesome in some dress clothes. I mean, I’m still fat and whatnot – but I clean up OK. This morning I made sure to ask Sharaun if my intended shirt/pants combo was legal: blue shirt and black pants. It seems it would be legal, but dependant on what shade of blue the shirt was. I described it as light to medium blue, at which point she blessed the ensemble (seems dark blue and black won’t work). So anyway, I’m sitting here, looking dapper as all get out, ready to wow these dudes with my public speaking skillz. It’s good to be able to talk to Sharaun each morning and run my planned outfit by her, since apparently I’m totally incapable of knowing what “goes.” It’s OK though, because with her to rebuff me as an “idiot” for even suggesting dark blue and black, I don’t have to worry about it.

I’m getting tired of presenting the same thing over and over again. Tired of the forced laughs and smiles and feigned interest in things. At least next week I’m presenting some different material to a semi-different audience, maybe that’ll be enough to keep me awake. At our first meeting today, our audience sucked – eight presenters to three attendees. Three attnedees? For most of the previous sessions we had a pretty good turnout. Sometimes I wish I could just chill at the hotel or bum around the city instead. Owell.

If you guys wanna call Hammertime, the featured guest of yesterday’s entry, her international number (I think all Taiwanese hookers who are worth their salt have international numbers) is: 886955863197. ‘Night y’allz, Dave out.


No sex?
Taiwan. Again. I’ll write today’s entry in the style of “5th grade essay.” Intro paragraph over.

Of Taiwanese Hookers and Hundred-Dollar Grape Juice
An Essay by Dave

One day when I was in Taiwan last night, me and some buds (poor grammar intentional) just wanted to go have a good time. We went to some food, where I ate a fish head, tail, and even eyeballs! After the meal, all my friends and I decided we should to go the big street market to look for some things to buy. I like the big street market very much, mostly the booths that sell boiled animal entrails skewered on sticks because they are funny and gross to me. I try not to laugh, because this is this man’s profession to sell this gross stuff! Anyway, we get many good jokes from the big street market, and are always giggling at the stinky smells that are all over in the air and on the people. Probably the most funny are the shirts by GIOGIO ARAMNI and shoes by PUWA.

After shopping at the market, I ended up buying a cheap ballcap and some of my favorite cologne (probably fake like everything here). Now my friends and I are getting tired of the crowded stinky marketplace, and the hot weather is making us sweat. Someone says, “Let’s go to where they have karaoke!” and the rest of the crew says, “Yes!” We climb in taxis and ask for a good place for “singing, drinks, and pretty girls.” The first place we go is guarded by several yucky men with small headphones in their ears. The yucky men are very happy to see us and all jump up to lead us upstairs. Soon, we hear that this kind of special karaoke is very expensive, almost $70USD per hour, per person. I bet the reason for this is that it’s not really karaoke at all, it’s mostly $70 for the sex that you can have with women while you karaoke. Since we are not really looking for sex right now, we move along trying to find a more better karaoke. Surprise! We are in the part of town where everything comes with sex! Everywhere we go there are more yucky men grabbing arms and saying “very happy ending!!” I think we should go to a new place, so we get in another taxi.

This time we make it more clear, “karaoke, drinks, girls, and no sex.” “Hmmm…” thinks the Taiwanese man.. “… no sex?” It seems maybe this kind of karaoke doesn’t exist. But our driver was very cool and young with a ponytail and emo glasses, so he suggests a better place. It’s a bar, says the driver, where girls can come sit and talk to you while your drink beer – and guess what, no sex! We think, “This sounds great!” and start going. We arrive at the intersection of a couple small alleys, and there are bars everywhere! All the bars have some women standing outside saying things like, “Come have beer here, only $100NT and we are the best!” The first bar we go to is very normal, with many pretty girls who flirt with us from behind the bar. We stay for a beer and then decide maybe we should look around some more of the bars. I think this is where the idea went wrong, because we should have stayed at the normal bar.

As we walk down the street, some not-pretty girl runs up to me to bring me to her bar (the best bar, of course). She has some teeth, and some are not in the right places where teeth should be. Eventually, we do go into Megan’s bar (Megan is her name, she told me already). As soon as we sit down, we realize this is a special bar. For each of us guys, one girl comes and sits next to us. Our beer comes to the table, and the girls start to talk to us about all kinds of boring things! Soon, they ask for a drink – and we decide we will buy them a round. Megan, my girl, the one with the teeth, leaves and brings back three very small silver cups with some dark red wine or other liquor for the three girls. We also have Candy who is from Vietnam and is actually very pretty, and some other girl who I think has the same dentist as my girl Megan – none. To be funny, we call my girl, Megan, “Hammertime” because it looks like someone took a hammer to her grill. Don’t worry, it’s OK because she has no idea what this means – thankfully words like “gap-toothed” and “death-breath” aren’t understood by our new friends.

Soon, the girls finish their thimbles of drink, and ask for another round. We agree, since by now we are having a great time calling them names to their smiling faces and pretending to be different people who are very important inventors from Australia and the Himalayas, again, this is all OK because they barely know what we are saying so who’s going to tell them we don’t travel the world in yachts? One time, a smart friend of mine finally asks the girls how much their tiny drinks are making us spend. His girl, who has a ugly-tie with my girl, says that we are paying $400NT for each little drink. My smart friend maths-out that this means these few drops of stuff are almost $15USD each! Wow!, we wonder what this surely strong liquor is, and ask if we can taste it to find out why it’s so good. Now guess what? The secret comes out! It’s only grape juice! The girls drink tiny drinks of grape juice for $15USD each and pretend to get drunk while we really do get drunk. What a good business idea! By the time we left we were into that bar for $5000NT, over one-hundred bucks…

By now all the formalities of this social visit are over, and our troop of ladies are paying very good attention to us by holding our hands, and touching our shoulders, chest, and even thighs! I keep having to move around and stand up for no reason to avoid Hammertime’s wandering hands and dragon-breath. To me, it’s past time to go. Soon these women ask what room we are in at the hotel, we give room numbers of our other friends who decided not to come out with us, because we think that would be a hilarious joke on them. The whores give us their cellphone numbers just in case we want to call them while we’re in town, we can call for anything – but mostly sex. By now we’re glad we all have fake names and live in remote locations across the world. Since we are all three co-presidents of our big company, we decide we better leave and get some rest before making all our “inventions” tomorrow.

This is where the essay ends, but don’t worry one day I will write about the after-party. For now thought, it’s almost time for my turn up in front of these customers – presenting to a bunch of people who probably catch only about 60% of what I’m saying. No worries, no name-calling here.

Dave out.

I shaved for you

Mmmm... beetlenut.
Taiwan. Again. Sitting here in the offices of one of our customers while another member of our traveling marketing troop presents up front. Marketing always gets to talk before engineering, it’s just the way it goes. Figured it’s as good a time as any to get a quick entry in. I was planning to write last night but I had my great “catch-up” sleep. You know, that night where you sleep like a corpse after traveling to a 15hr+ timezone. So far though, it’s been good. Yummy food, decent beer, and ridicu-hot Florida-esque weather. Yay Taiwan.

For the flight over here, I thought I’d try something a little different this time. Usually, I just try and sleep as much as possible, and get through the 10hr trip with only a few crazy dreams and some bedhead. This time, I took a little while to load my laptop with both a classic NES emulator and a N64 emulator, along with a bunch of ROMs. I configured a cheap Wal Mart controller for the emulators, and boom – access to hundreds of old-school Nintendo games for the flight. Just like 5th grade again. Anyway, I started playing Zelda64 for the Nintendo64, which came out when I was college. Holy crap, I am now hopelessly addicted to this game. I played for nearly six hours on the plane and another couple in the hotel that night. And I find myself finding excuses to head up to the room for an hour and get some Zelda in. Hopefully I won’t beat it before I leave here so I can have something to play on the flight back.

The more I come to Taiwan, the more comfortable I am here. I guess it just comes with a sense of familiarity, you know, getting used to you surroundings and the way things work. On Saturday we took the public transit (MRT) downtown to poke around, and it was no problem having done it before – even for a couple of white boys who don’t speak the language. We headed down to Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world, and did some shopping. I hate shopping, but I love people-watching, especially in a foreign country, so it was OK. We’ve got a really good group of engineers and marketing brothers out here this time, so going out is always enjoyable no matter where we go.

Changing subjects, I was thinking before I left about what it’s going to be like when the backyard is finally done. I mean done like done, done like I can lay out a hammock and look around the backyard while relaxed – instead of spotting a million little projects that still need to be done. That backyard has consumed my spare time like nothing else before, I think of it all the time. It’s been a monumental project that I’ve given a lot of sweat and muscle too, and I’ll kind of be sad to see it go. Although, it will be nice to have the option of yardwork-less weekends and evenings again.

The “desert island” beard I was growing is gone. That’s right, in preparation for my trip, I mowed my face before leaving the other night after coming in from the yard. I had been planning to keep the shaggy unkempt mess as a vie for some respect while in Taiwan. See, at one point while my Taiwanese customers were here in the states, and I had neglected my shaving as I so often do, they told me I looked “much more handsome” with the “beard.” So, I started growing a “desert island” beard – a beard which is purposely unmanaged and allowed to grow wild. Only problem is, my beard tends to want to “connect” to my chest hair, which isn’t all that flattering. That and, my beard isn’t really that conventional, I don’t grow a single hair in the “soul patch” or moustache areas – smooth as a baby’s butt. Which makes for a beard that’s pretty unbalanced in favor of the neck, making my lack of chin all the more pronounced. Owell, it’s gone now.

As much as I can, I’m going to try and write each day while I’m here. It’s kinda hard, what with work each day and being addicted to Zelda64 in my free time, but y’know, I’m dedicated here folks. I need to keep my three or four readers abreast on what’s going. Until tomorrow, or whatever, Dave out.

waiting for the bus to take me to college

Spacey man, far out.
Even though Skinny Puppy’s Rabies may be one of the worst examples of “music” ever, it’s a like opening a musical time capsule for me. Listening tho this album brings my clad-in-black high school days rushing back. Not that I feel into the whole industrial/goth thing for too long, I’d say maybe six months top – but there was a time I lived for Frontline Assembly, Ministry, Skinny Puppy, and the like. So listening to it now as a byproduct of my ripping project is fun enough. I’m mad right now because I can tell I’m going to have to stop writing at some point and go pee, and I hate interrupting my writing – the urge goes stale really quick. Chances are I’ll come back to the page and deem everything I’ve written already “crap.” Owell.

I came home from work today fully intending to head into the backyard and fill in the ditches that comprise my recently-finished sprinkler system. However, it was so balls-hot today, I decided a nap on the couch would be far more rewarding. It’s OK, I worked quite a bit this weekend – the pavers for the porch were delivered last week and I started laying them. Seeing the combination of the finished retaining wall and newly-added mulch, the trees, and a little imagination for a finished paver-porch and green grass, I’m getting really excited. I actually think the backyard is gonna look better than average when I’m done. To be able to say that I did it 100%, from planning to labor to maintenance – will be a source of extreme pride for me. Considering I learned most of the skills on my feet as I went along, I think I’ve earned that pride.

Listening to the “new” Nick Drake album, not new really – but some of the mixes are new and even a few tracks are new to me. He’s got one of the most brilliant voices, and his writing is awesome. To think I “discovered” him back in college from a VW commercial or something (remember, they were all headed to a party – got there, and decided that driving with the moonroof down was better than the party?). Anyway, fate would have it that I “discovered” Nick Drake and Elliot Smith around the same time – so they’ve kinda “melded” in my mind as period artists. Reminding me of hot, rainy, summer afternoons in Florida, waiting for the bus to take me to college. Good memories, good music.

The Taiwan trip is sneaking up on me, and I haven’t really been preparing that much in terms of getting ready for my presentations. I need to set up some meetings at work to “pick some brains” and make sure I have the right canon of knowledge and current marketing party-line when I get up there. I’m not worried about the customer visits, but the industry training event is a little different, as I want to do a good job and not just be another white dude up there blathering. While I’m excited about the trip (I always am), I expect the last minute “ugh, I don’t even feel like going” feeling to set in as the date draws near (it always does). I always end up having a blast though, and each time I teach or present in front of an audience my confidence in doing so improves vastly. Crap thing this time: I miss Sharaun’s birthday while I’m over there. Yeah, that really bums me out, but what can ya do?

Doodoo time.

Much better. An odd out-of-cycle dump, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Drifting off into the don’t-wanna-write-anymore ether, Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures lulling me along. Too long staring at the screen writing nothing means it’s time to call it quits. Until tomorrow, Dave out.

spending the day with mom

No whammies...
You guys remember what it used to be like to stay home sick from school? Maybe my experiences are atypical, but I have some really fond memories of sick days. Not the middle through high school sick days where it was nothing more than playing hooky – but those gradeschool days where your mom actually judged you too ill to go to class. For me, those days were awesome – in spite of whatever was ailing me.

Those were the days where I didn’t have to get up on time, get dressed, etc. The best part was spending the day with mom. I can remember doing puzzles with her, watching TV, and her bringing me blankets and juice while I laid on the couch. You could play Nintendo, read a book, whatever you wanted. And let us not forget the jewel in the sick-day crown, getting to watch the Price is Right at 11am. Oh man, maybe they’ll show Plinko? no other game is cooler. Being sick as a kid was awesome, unless it was debilitating sick that is.

If you couldn’t tell, I cancelled my Taiwan trip and am still here in the good ol’ USA. Upon further consideration, the timing of the visit just wasn’t right – so I decided to let the company take the $100 cancellation fee and postpone. It’s fine with me really, since there is a lot to get done around here. I’ll have plenty of chances to head over there this year, so what’s a few weeks anyway. Now I can be home for all the closing of affairs with our refi, and be there when our free shade trees get delivered from SMUD.

I think we’ve decided to do pavers in the backyard instead of pouring a concrete porch. Part of the reason is because I think we may be able to save some money on materials by buying the pavers as “seconds” from the same place we bought the retaining wall stone. Also, Sharaun prefers the look of pavers to plain concrete, and to top it off – we can do the labor ourselves and at any pace we want. I’ll just price and choose what kind of stones we want, have the pallets delivered, and go at a comfortable pace the same way we did the retaining wall. Should come out looking nice I think? now I just need to come up with the scratch for the stones. My math says it’ll be about $700 for a project our size. Sprinklers, pavers, sod, landscaping – that’s the order we’ll go.

Sharaun’s folks are coming to visit for the 4th of July, it should be really fun. The more time I end up spending with my in-laws, the more I tend to look at them as family. I really like them, whereas I used to be a little afraid of them. Now I look forward to their visits and going back to Florida to spend time with them. We got a tentative rafting trip planned, one that we’ve done before up north on the Feather River. It includes an overnight stay where the rafting company takes awesome care of you and cooks dinner, has free margaritas, etc. It was so much fin last time – so I’m pretty excited about doing it again this year.

I have nothing more to say guys, lest I get even more boring. Out.

Taipei to Tokyo, Tokyo to San Francisco

Miles, gimme more miles.
Goodbye Taiwan, you were good to me. Now I’m once again airbound, hurtling over some kinda Asian sea, or maybe even and ocean (my geography is terrible), on the first leg of my journey home. Taipei to Tokyo, Tokyo to San Francisco, San Francisco to Sacramento.

The flight wasn’t so bad, slept most of the way and we had a 100mph tailwind bumping our groundspeed up to a breakneck ~680mph. Now I’m sitting in that ratty United Express commuter terminal waiting for the stupid flight back to Sacramento. Funny thing is that I was all bummed about having to take Benz home after getting in, since I still need to get Sharaun a super-last-minute Valentine’s Day gift – but I don’t have to worry about that anymore. See, while we were in Taiwan, Ben lent his truck to the recently wheels-less Pat – who promptly got it impounded by parking it in front of someone’s driveway. Owell, at least I don’t have to take his ass home. Good times.

Several people have told me recently that I would dig The Da Vinci Code. I’ve heard the name of the book before, but I thought it was another one of those Bible Code books (which I totally dug). Anyway, apparently it’s not like that at all. After reading the review on Amazon, and realizing it’s fiction – I’m not so sure. I thought it was some kinda non-fiction piece about religious sects and stuff. Maybe I’ll give it a shot anyway.

Man, with Noise Pop coming up, I’m in concert overdrive. Tonight is the Notiwst show, and then in the next few weeks we have: The Unicorns, The Wrens, Vanderslice, Pedro the Lion, The Decemberists, and potentially the Strokes, Stars, and Dears. Should be an action-packed month. Maybe I do download scores of albums per month, but I can half-justify it by thinking about the show revenue I give the guys… right? No? OK, so I’m a concertgoing thief… I can deal with that. I mean, on average, our show crew numbers four or five. The least would be two. So that’s not minimal, especially for indie-types, whose income comes primarily (at least I think) from live shows. Whatever.

Holy cow, we rented the movie Spellbound the other day. It’s a documentary following eight kids on their journey to the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. I’ve been wanting to see if for a while now, ever since Ben told me about it when it was playing at the Crest downtown. What a great movie. On the top a nailbiter about the Spelling Bee and the pressure the kids (and their parents) go through. More than that, an alternatively heart-breaking and -warming look at smart kids in a dumb society. The emotions that come through from these kids, who wear most everything on their sleeve at that age, are intense. It’s a look a teenage awkwardness, parental pressure, American family life, and probably least of all – spelling. At several points during the film I was at the “if I blink a tear will fall” level of man-crying. I ripped a DVD to send to my folks, since I think they’d really enjoy it.

That’s it. Dave out, and it’s a holiday.

as wheat on the plain

Hard to look manly on these hogs.
Taiwan… oh man. People drive like absolute maniacs here. It’s totally legal to have a TV screen right in the center dash, so the cabbies are driving hell-bent around town while watching some Taiwanese beauty pageant. Nearly knocking over the thousands of scooters that dart in and out of the cars and trucks. There are lines painted on the street, and traffic lights too – but I think they’re more to make us white boys comfortable than for any real traffic regulation. I swear these people are perhaps the worst drivers ever, or at least on par with what I’ve experienced in China. Scooters are by far the most popular mode of transportation here. With hundreds of people driving them around, paying no attention to where they’re going. I’ve seen three people to a little 100cc scooter, with a 4ft stack of boxes roped to the back. They totally get everything they can out of ’em. Saw one lady who had a dog on there with her, crazy. But so far we haven’t died – so there must be a method to the madness I suppose.

One thing I found that I really do like about Taiwan is the fact that hairy men are totally respected here. Yeah, that’s right – dumb Americans with their prim and proper attitudes toward body hair. I mean, I’m pretty much ready for the next ice age… I have a permanent sweater with sleeves and all. Over here, since the men are hairless – body hair is seen as a symbol of power. That alone is almost enough to make me move here. Had I known, I would’ve packed some wife-beaters and walked around the street in full display. That’s right ladies, I’m a fierce warrior and a power to be reckoned with – flock to my hairy ass. In fact, grab some incense and start bowing – you worship me now… look at these locks, see how my whole body ripples as wheat on the plain? Look, but not too long lest you lose your vision for the sheer glory. Finally a country where I can go swimming and get a tan. Bless you Taiwanese people for your crazy mixed up ideas.

So yesterday I got back from presenting and had a few minutes in the hotel room to change and check e-mail and relax. So I tossed off my chinos (what are chinos?) and dress shirt and crashed on the bed in boxers and a t-shirt to check some e-mail and maybe surf a lil’ Fark. It was an amazing day here yesterday, despite the awful air quality the sun was out and the temperature was perfect – so I had thrown open the curtains to let some of the sun in while I relaxed. I’m sitting there checking e-mail when I catch something out of the corner of my eye. Looking over to the window, here comes some dude on a platform, hoisting himself up to wash my window. Great, I’m half-naked sitting on the bed with a laptop… umm… no Mr. Window Washer man, I’m checking e-mail. Anyway, I just pretended not to notice they guy – figuring if I jumped up and ran to change or put on clothes it would just draw more attention to an already awkward situation. I gotta admit, he didn’t let it throw him though. He did a full clean job, stretching the event to a painfully uncomfortable minute-and-a-half. Owell, at least I wasn’t stark naked. Right after that housekeeping busted in and turned tail when they realized I was in the room. I guess I should learn how to use the “do not disturb” light and keep the curtains drawn eh?

Not really excited about the 24hr journey home, but glad I’m getting back finally. Would be nice to have a fat American burger instead of effin squid pizza. Would also be nice to be with a good old American woman instead of bedding these Taiwanese chicks all the time… what? OK I’m gonna go take advantage of the nice weather and free time I have by walking around the city a bit. Then it’s lunch at a famous dumpling house, and off to my last customer meeting before I leave.

Dave out.