Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Don't expect to see much from me for awhile. Why, you ask?

Tomorrow I go pick up my health report (and boy, that wasn't an easy process, royal pain in the ass, should write a rant about it - but at least it only cost me $20US for the X-ray, HIV test, and the eye exam, try getting that in the States for that cheap), then go to Tamkang University to apply for classes starting 11/20. After that I head over to Core Pacific Living Mall to begin the long days of queuing in line for the two pub shows on Friday and Saturday nights. I'll get to come home in the evenings, but I probably won't feel like writing much and will likely just sit listening to the new CD over and over and over.

Next week I head to Hong Kong Monday evening so I can get my student visa. No, you can't get a visa while you're actually in Taiwan, that would be too easy. You have to leave the country to apply for a visa. I'll be back on Friday afternoon. Doesn't give me much time to hang out with friends there.

Then Sunday the 5th is the autograph session! Yippee skippy, looks as if I'll actually make it to this one. My original plan for going to Hong Kong was leave 11/3 and return 11/9, which would of course have caused me to miss this event.

November 10 is the placement test for the university, then 11/11 is the Airwaves concert, and I won a ticket, yeah!

November 19 there's another autograph session in Taichung, but I probably won't go since I'm going to the one on the 5th.

Took the cat in for her shots (5-in-1, rabies, feline peritonitis, de-worming) today, $1800NT ($54US). Taking her back on Monday to leave her for boarding ($1500NT = $45US) and spaying ($2000NT = $60US). Probably cheaper than the US but still more money than I really wanted to spend. Especially since I'm not making any money this week or next!

Bottom line: I'm gonna be busy. You'll see me when you see me.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Finally, About Singapore

OK, I guess I've slacked off enough and should write a bit about my trip to Singapore before I completely forget what happened. All the photos are posted here: Singapore - October 2006

I arrived at a few minutes before 11:00 p.m. on Monday, October 2. I think about 50 other planes must have landed at the same time, because the immigration lines were packed! The whole room was filled with people of all sorts, and none of the lines seemed to be moving quickly. It took about 40 minutes from landing time to actually getting out the door, where David and Tona had been patiently waiting for me. I felt so bad about making them wait so long and told them to just drop me at the hotel and go home, but they wanted to eat first, so off we went. We stopped at a hawker center that was rather famous in Singapore, but David and Tona hadn't tried it. We munched down some good food and then headed for my hotel.

I'd chosen a place I found on the Internet, the Astro Hotel . The description made it sound quite charming, and I'd asked Lee Ying about the area of town, and she said it was OK. Well.....it wasn't quite as charming as the website made it out to be, and I rode up in the elevator with a guy and his Vietnamese hooker, listening to him giving her instructions on just what she could do for him. Oh swell. However, it was cheap and it was quiet, so what the hell. During my short stay I killed a total of six cockroaches, but they were all little bitty things, not the monsters we have here in Taiwan, so I wasn't too upset. At a cost of $38US per night, I wasn't about to complain.

By the time I actually was in bed, it was after 1:00 a.m., and I was able to sleep in a bit on Tuesday. David and Tona were supposed to meet me for brunch around 10:30, but because there was a heavy rainstorm, David called to say they'd probably be a little late. My room had no window, so I was clueless about the weather. By the time I emerged to do some preliminary exploring, there was no rain, just wet pavement, and the heat was just awful. Singapore has only three seasons, you know: summer, hot summer, and so-hot-you-think-your-hair-will-melt summer. I believe I experienced hot summer this time.

I wandered around the Gelang Serai area a bit. It's the Malay part of town, and since it was the Malay Hari Raya Light-up Celebration, there was quite a bit of activity going on very close to the hotel. Most of it was at night, but there were some things open during the day. I picked a good time to visit Singapore, because it was also the Indian Deepavali (Festival of Lights) and the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival, and every part of town seemed to be lit up with beautiful lights in the evenings.

When David and Tona arrived, we went off to the pork rib soup place they'd taken me to in September. Damn, that stuff is so good! The do-it-yourself seasoning I'd bought was nearly as good. After we had our fill they dropped me off at the shopping center that has books, books, books. I was on a search for some books I'd seen on the last trip. I spent some time there, searching with no luck, then I walked down to Arab Street. It was fun wandering around there, looking at all the beautiful materials and the carpets, but I didn't buy anything. On the way back to the MRT station, I walked through a wholesale market area, where I bought a cheap coffee cup and a spoon, since the hotel had none. Then I stopped for some kaya toast and coffee to give my feet a rest. Um, I love kaya toast!

Walking from the MRT station to my hotel took me through the Malay bazaar, which had all sorts of stuff. It's a bit like the night markets in Taiwan, but not quite. Again, I didn't buy anything. I spent a little time at the hotel before heading off to meet Lilian in Chinatown for dinner. I got there early and walked all over the place looking for a bathroom, because the bathrooms in the Singapore MRT stations are not as easily found as those in Taiwan, and I'd assumed they, like Hong Kong, didn't have them. By the time Lilian showed up, I was pooped!

She took me to a hawker center that specialized in barbecued seafood, and I had stingray for the first time in my life. Oh my. It was so delicious, so tasty, such a shame it's not available here in Taiwan. We also had some clams and squid, and I had a Tiger Draft, which was twice as good because I was so hot and tired. After dinner we drove to Chinatown proper to look at all the lanterns. Sadly, I was too tired to have much enthusiasm, but we did walk around for quite awhile, chatting, and then Lilian kindly drove me back to the hotel, taking a detour through Little India so I could see all the lights (which weren't nearly as pretty during the day, when I went back).

On Wednesday I went alone to the Chinese Gardens in the morning. My friend Li Yan had told me they would be much prettier at night when the lanterns were lit, but I didn't really have any evenings free, so daytime would have to do. I didn't eat any breakfast, because I figured there'd be a place to eat there. Ha, wrong. The teashop was closed, only open at night. So, by the time I finished my two hours of walking, I was famished! I had some pineapple cakes that I was going to give Li Yan, but she never got them - I ate them. But I didn't eat the Kahlua cake I'd made for her, so I'm not such a bad person, right?

Li Yan and I met at 1:00 and she took me to her university for lunch. We ate with some of her friends, including a guy from Shanghai. The food was very inexpensive (I must say here that I actually didn't pay for any of the food I'd eaten so far, because everyone kept insisting on treating me) and there was far too much of it (I got ma po tofu). After lunch we went to the library so I could check my e-mail, then browsed the campus bookstore for awhile. Then Li Yan suggested we go to Haw Par Villa, built by the same guy who had built Hong Kong's Tiger Balm Gardens. She said that although it wasn't as popular as it had been in the past, it was still an interesting place to see and wouldn't be crowded. Sounded fine to me! So, we took a bus (believe it or not, Singapore actually has some non air-conditioned buses, so strange in such a hot climate) and spent about an hour walking around the Villa.

After that Li Yan took me to SunTec City Mall, because there was a used bookstore there. It's a very interesting store. You can choose to just rent the books or to buy them. Each book has two prices listed, and the older books are cheaper than the newer ones. For example, you might pay $15S for the book, but if you bring it back to the shop, they will give you back $12.50S. They had tons of stuff, and I bought quite a few of the books on my list. We walked around the mall a little bit, but my feet were starting to complain, so we didn't stay long.

I had plans to meet up with Angela and Taka for dinner, and Li Yan was going with her family. The two of us went back to my hotel so I could pick up the stuff I'd brought for A & T, and Li Yan's father picked us up and drove me to the place I was meeting my friends. Traffic was bad, so I was about a half hour later than I'd planned on being. Taka and Angela were waiting for me, and we just went to the food court at the mall for dinner. I decided on the chicken rice, since it's soooo good. After dinner we just wandered around in the mall, talking. Neither of them had the time to go with me to Little India, and I was pretty tired from all the walking I'd done anyway, so I just went back to the hotel, arriving around 10:00 or so. I watched a little TV, because there were a couple of interesting Chinese TV series on, then went to sleep.

I spent most of Thursday riding the MRT all over creation, searching out the used book exhibitions in the hope of finding the rest of the books I wanted. No luck, sad to say, although I did find a couple others that were cheap, so it wasn't a wasted day. Lee Ying had hoped to get a half day off to spend with me, but she was unable to, so we made plans to meet for dinner. However, Li Yan wanted to hang out again, so she and I made the trip to Little India. It wasn't quite as exciting as I'd hoped it would be, but I think the heat and my tiredness probably had something to do with my lack of enjoyment.

We met up with Lee Ying at 7:00, and Vynson also joined us. After a discussion about what to eat, we decided on pizza and proceeded to the restaurant. As luck would have it, they had a special on, two pizzas for the price of one - cool! We had a lovely dinner, laughing and talking, mostly about Wu Bai, of course. Vynson told the story of how he came to be the "Singapore Wu Bai" and had us all laughing. After dinner, Lee Ying, Li Yan, and I took a cab back to my hotel so I could get the cake and books I'd brought for Lee Ying, and I spend another evening watching Chinese TV series before falling asleep.

Friday it was up early to pack and then a short cab ride to the airport. I had another chicken rice meal there and then wandered around the shops, stopping at one of the free Internet stations to check my mail.

My flight was on time, but I had the misfortune of being seated next to a couple and their little girl, maybe two or three years old. That kid was incredibly annoying. I was in the aisle seat, and it was the very first row, so there was a lot of leg room. This meant said child could walk back and forth, which she did, frequently, grabbing onto my legs, stepping on my feet, keeping me from napping. The flight attendant didn't help, because she was just encouraging her to keep walking over to her. And then some little boy from the other side of the plane kept coming over to check out the little girl, so I had both of them annoying me. Grrrrrr. After the umpteenth time of being awakened, I guess the mother finally noticed my exasperated sigh and offered to change her window seat for my aisle seat. That was a bit better - until we started our descent. Then the kid began screaming at the top of her lungs, because she didn't want to wear the seatbelt. She kept it up, non-stop, until we were on the ground. I hate kids.

Uneventful bus ride/MRT trip back home, and as I walked from the station to my house, I was treated to the wonderful smells of everyone outside barbecuing, because it was Mid Autumn Festival, and that's what one does in Taiwan on Mid Autumn Festival. It smelled so good, but all I had to eat when I got home was a bagel I'd purchased in Singapore. Wah! Poor me, no BBQ this year.

Many thanks to my Singapore friends for making my visit so nice! I hope you'll be visiting me in Taiwan soon so I can return the favor :)

They Just Keep Getting Better!

Howdy folks, back from Singapore, but before I tell you about that trip I want to write about Saturday night's excellent performance by ABS - All Blues and Ska.

See ABS at New York New York for the full set of photos. Maybe one day I'll figure out how to post the videos I took.

Charlene, Natari, and I showed up at New York New York Restaurant at 7:30 p.m., because we'd been told that in order to reserve a table at the front we had to get there early and have dinner. Huh. Guess they didn't tell any of the others that, because the place was virtually empty. Since it's Mid Autumn Festival, most of Taipei was outside barbecuing with their friends and family. Ah well, what the hell. We ordered a few dishes and had a nice meal, waiting for the 9:00 show.

But you know, this is Taiwan, and this is ABS, and we know that they never, ever start on time. It must have been at least 9:30 p.m. before we got any music, but it was worth the wait. The show was kicked off by a solo performance of a guy named Mark, half Taiwanese, half American. My goddess, could this guy belt out the tunes. If I hadn't been looking at him, I'd never have believed he was white. The guy can sing. Dino said he, Xiao Zhu, and Da Mao had played with this guy way back before Wu Bai ever showed up on the scene.

We were actually a little bit sorry to see Mark leave the stage, but Dino promised the audience he'd return for the encore. Then ABS kicked in and all was well. They've added another guitarist, Lao Liu, who we'd seen playing with them at the summer street party. Between him and Xiao Yang (whom Dino calls Stevie Ray Yang) the guitar riffs were flying back and forth all evening. Xiao Zhu's bass and Da Mao's keyboards were smoking, and I thought Dino's drum kit was going to explode from the force of his blows. He's not known as 大力打鼓 Da Li Da Gu (Hits the Drums with Vigor) for nothing!

There was a surprise guest at the show. Xiao Yang's regular job is playing guitar for Bobby Chen (whose "Love You 10,000 Years" duet with Wu Bai can be found on the Wu Bai Live CD), and Bobby was in the audience. Unfortunately, Bobby was doing what Bobby does best - drinking. Wu Bai's song "You're Drunk, My Dear" is aimed at Bobby. He's only gotten worse over the years. He got up on stage with the guys, dragged out his harmonica, and they all did one of Bobby's songs together, with a nice round of applause from the audience afterwards. And then Bobby refused to get off stage. And Dino and Xiao Zhu were getting progressively more pissed off. They tried to reason with him and said, "Later, for the encore, OK?" but he wouldn't budge. Finally, ABS departed the stage and left Bobby up there alone. Shortly, his other two guitar players came up, looking quite embarrassed, and they played while Bobby drunkenly sang another song. Bobby's keepers managed to get him off stage so the guys could return, but he came back up to the front later, stood in front of Da Mao, poking him in the chest and grabbing his keyboard as he was playing. Another keeper, a woman, was able to get him to let go. There was another nutcase who kept getting on stage, too, a guy Charlene said used to be on TV and was a reporter. He ended up with a tambourine in hand and was smashing Dino's cymbals and the movie screen behind the stage. Every now and then he'd pretend his elbow was a camera (you had to be there). Weirdo......

Dino's beautiful girlfriend Carrie was there, along with his son, Alex (who was pretty drunk by the end of the evening, ha). Xiao Zhu's wife Du-du and Da Mao's wife Bee were along for the ride, and the three ladies spent some time in front of the stage, dancing up a storm, joined by another gal who I assume belonged to either Xiao Yang or Lao Liu. I've only said "hi" to Du-du, no conversation, but Bee has always been a sweetheart when I talk to her, and of course Carrie is a living doll (and Dino is one damned lucky man). What a contrast between these three fine ladies and a certain other wife who has nothing but sour faces and glares for the fans and who would never condescend to a friendly conversation. I guess some women are just more confident in their men and aren't threatened by fans who have no interest in trying to bed their boys. Likewise the guys are always very friendly and talkative when we go to the ABS shows. I think they really appreciate the fact that we admire them as musicians in their own rights, not just as a backup band for Wu Bai, which so many people make the mistake of doing.

It was around 1:30 a.m. when things finally ended, after a kickass encore that even got me up dancing around a bit. It was far too late to catch the MRT home, so I stayed at Natari's place, waking up at 6:30 and heading home, where I fell back into bed for a few more hours. I was in kind of a daze most of the day yesterday and didn't do much at all. The house is filthy with cat hair and cat litter, and I really have to clean today! Really. I do. So, Singapore story has to wait.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I'm Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Taking off this afternoon for Singapore, back on Friday evening. Looking forward to Saturday evening and a fine performance from ABS. Also looking forward to the upcoming Wu Bai & China Blue pub shows on October 27 and 28, although not looking forward to queueing in line for three days, mostly alone since the others in the group have to work during the day :(

The new CD comes out this month, and I hope that means an autograph session. I have so many autographed CDs and other things, but not one them I actually got done myself. I think it's about time I stood in front of the guys on my own, huh?

Apologies to everyone I owe e-mail to. I'll eventually get around to it. I hope.