Face Huggers and the Electric Park

Chris was in the fetal position in his oxygen/mozzy tent when dehydration dragged me awake, mouth first. While getting a cup from Chris’ mini-kitchen a cockroach tried to mug me. My lightening reflexes of terror saved me from a six-legged kicking and sent the beast scuttling off down the side of the counter. Chris’ corpse in the oxygen tent, my churning guts and that antennae waving fucker reminded me of those face huggers from the Alien movies.

Chris wasn’t dead. We worked inside until lunch. Lunch was Halal Thai food. The restaurant was open during Ramadan; it even had a 15% discount. There were pictures of the owner with, who I assumed were, famous Muslims, a prayer room in the basement, a calendar from the Chinese Taipei Muslim Association and little hotel-counter flags from various Muslim countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and of course…Australia. After the tension of that morning we were both being very delicate with each other. We discussed Tories and privatisation, a couple of British devils that we’d struggle to disagree on. We’d had two late nights and early mornings, not enough food, more than enough beer and we were doing a lot of work without leaving each other’s company for longer than bowel movements. In any argument it would have been hard to know who was right and who was just been a moody cunt but at least the coconut beef was creamily good.

I thought about going home, to Zhunan. It can take up to two hours to make it back from Taipei and I had a children’s play to teach on Monday morning. But, it did seem a waste not to interview anybody from our list while I was up in the city that Sunday. Chris wanted to so I agreed. We decided to go for ‘the Cyclist’. For us, a cyclist has a two wheeled label under their arse. It would be easy to know if we had the right person. In order to join up a couple more dots and connect some more people we wanted to go to the park in Banciao where the Falun Gong campaigner practiced. Perhaps this would be some kind of energy hub. We could recharge our batteries with magic, magnetic fields, Chi and the nature fizzing around the park.

We took the MRT to Banciao. We discussed the Catalan bull fighting ban and blood sports. Chris thought it was sad to lose that rip-roaring, rib-goring bit of culture. I sympathised with the culture but found it distasteful. Chris sympathised with the bull but he’s a traveler, geography student and Michael Palin look-a-like so finds loss of culture distressing. We changed to a different MRT train. All our talk was linked into the utilitarianism we’d been debating the night before. Where should the line be drawn? How much personal happiness should we sacrifice to increase the overall quantity of joy in the world? Should animals be counted? If not should severely mentally retarded people be counted? Should people be allowed to have sex with severely mentally retarded people if both appear to consent? These questions and ideas were seeping out of the gaping hole in my chest. This stranger-meeting-mission had sent some of my cynicism and intolerance bursting out of me like one of those face-hugging aliens that killed Chris in the morning. And if I lost that precious bit of hate…then what? Would I have to make an effort with everyone I met? What could I fall back on when things got tough? Meanwhile, Chris was probably still thinking about that ‘Cheaper to Fuck Them’ post.

We got to Banciao. We didn’t know where we were going. We looked at the Banciao map and listened to the Falun Gong campaigner from the digital dictaphone on my PDA. A pretty young woman came over to stare at us. She was attractive but with a girl’s shapeless figure, the most perfectly designed human to help us. Any sexier and her help would’ve been uncomfortable and anything less appealing would’ve set off my pride. You see I’m not completely reformed, but at least I was starting to read myself a little better. She listened to the recording and thought it was a telephone at first and was too busy trying to communicate to listen to us.

‘Hello? Hello?’

It took her a lot of listens to believe what she was hearing. She showed us the rough area on the green splashed Banciao map. She placed her finger in the middle of some grey, next to some white.

‘That’s not a park,’ she said, ‘I’ll have to check.’

Her little-girly face screwed up with a frown and her lips smudged together. She asked at the MRT information desk and came back like the wind had set her frown forever.

‘Yes, it’s that place. I’ve just come from there and there’s nothing there. It’s not very nice. It’s not really a park. Why don’t you go to a different park?’

‘We want to go where that woman practices Falun Gong,’

‘So is there an event there today?’


We tried to explain the project.

‘Perhaps you’re one of the people that we’re looking for,’ I said.

She quickly explained that she wasn’t and got out of there as unexpectedly as she had arrived telling us to keep a look out for ‘the roller skaters’.

Despite this warning I knew that there would be something spiritual about the place when we found it. Once there I’d bubble up like a pan on a hotplate. We went in the opposite direction and then the sky pissed on Banciao for about 10 minutes, we watched an umbrella-toting woman getting ready for the green man at the crossing. She tottered back and forth in high heels and a knee-long summer dress. Chris asked for a gust of wind. We waited, she started to cross, we waited, nothing. The gods had forsaken us. We walked under verandas to a bus station. A woman was belting out an odd sounding song with the single line of ‘ami to fo’ but sang in different tones and with a real melody. It’s Buddhist.

The rain meant that our only landmark, roller skating ones, were probably not there. After the rain stopped we made it to the park. It was small. It was also a different park. The wrong park. There was a lot of water. I thought that the Falun Gong energy came out of the mini-mountain-fountain. Our walking pace was down to about half speed. The place had a roller skating ring. We walked across it and played the recording to a trash collector. It took us a couple of attempts before he realised it wasn’t someone talking over the phone.

‘Hello? Hello?’

He sent us toward Taipei County Hall. We spotted a mother with her roller skating child. We had found the place. A concrete roller skate ampitheatre. No green. No water. No Chi. No magic. No power. But there were two cosplay girls and a photography team. I was the most reluctant but we decided to remove somebody from the original list and take the chance to talk to the cosplayers. They were reluctant about us. ‘The Cosplayer’ warmed up as we talked.

After ‘the Cosplayer’ I could feel the electric current in my blood again. Not recharged by nature but by 17 year old in unusual clothes. Now we wanted to grab ‘the Cyclist’ and we were walking at warp speed. We paced along to the Banciao First Stadium. A cyclist was doing loops in front of the stadium. We missed him a couple of times. Chris got into his path and hailed him as if he were just some kind of shaky taxi. The man was not a disappointment.

We went to Banciao station and I got a train home. It was the slow train, the local train. I’d had fun those three days but I knew I would be happy to get home and collapse. I was standing up for the first half of the journey south. I could hear people guessing at how tall I was in Chinese. There were a lot of people on the train and most were polite. But some people edged through the crowd and up against me, as if I was too tall to be able to notice people. They wanted to show their friends what a big fucking freak I was. Some pointed, finger extended, reaching out to the white giant. Two late teens were prepping themselves to ask me. ‘How tall are you?’ They never asked. This was all the other side of Taiwan life. I’d found out strangers did actually have feelings but some passengers assumed foreigners didn’t. And although it was shorter and a bit malnourished that alien creature of cynicism and intolerance crawled back inside of me.

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Spicy Girl

The interview with the Spicy Girl has now been added.

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The Cosmetics Girl

Interview to Follow

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Save Our Souls: Saturday Part 3

Then we went to the Red Light district.

We started off slowly. We interviewed a Betel Nut girl. Not a lingerie wearing one, like the ones that work around Zhunan, where I live. One with clothes on.

Then we got rejected by surly motorbike mechanics. I suspect the younger one would’ve agreed to the interview but the older one looked at us like we were asking him to slow dance or to take part in some naked white-man ritual.

We reached the neon-lit power source of the area. Two side streets laid parallel to each other like railway tracks. The people were not outside. We looped round these streets not knowing how to start. Building after building had heavy doors like those of a recording studio or steep, twist-your-ankle-and-break your-neck-stairs leading to basements. The groundlevel doors were sealed tight but those below street level usually let out a gash of light. They had names like, ‘Pink Lady’, ‘Heaven’s Rest’, ‘Fun Time’. Sex or trolls or sex with trolls lay behind every door but only the very drunk, those in ‘the know’ and men packing two steel wrecking balls between their legs could enter. How would we be able to go in there and firstly, convince them we really wanted an interview as opposed to a tug, suck or fuck and secondly how would we get them to actually give us an interview.

There was a simple restaurant with tables outside. We approached the kind of dining group that we would usually avoid like a chain whipping, mugging or knife through the gizzard. We approached, met and interviewed our ‘Brothel Owner’. Another guy, ‘Argo in English and Chinese’ aka the ‘architect’, who had intentions far from crystal clear a little more crystal meth, tried to ‘help us’ interview ‘the most famous girl on the road’. She wasn’t impressed with whatever Argo said and told me she was old enough to be my mother. I agreed but said that we just wanted an interview. She pointed to her friend and snarled we should try her, she was younger. While the celebrity girl was styling flesh and boots her friend was wearing a baggy t-shirt and pants. The celebrity wasn’t a monster of any kind and had kept an iron grip on her figure, not letting it slip, slide or splurge as the years rolled by. However, if I ever needed some sexual dysfunction in my love life and did want 15 minutes of fame then she was rough and tough enough to send my poor penis shriviling back inside of me.

We moved to a more expensive area. The road was wider, there were grand archways, entrance halls and steps going up. We walked and stalked around a bit before we finally interviewed a Beer Girl in a KTV. The KTV was enjoying the quiet before the pissed-up, client-pro singing storm. It was an excellent chance to snatch an interview with a loud and restless kind of profession.

Next, Tsingtao beers in a Family Mart. Convenience store drinking, is cheap, easy and perfect for people watching. The seats were by the glass store front. Eventually, we realised that the place next door was a brothel or something similar. The girls were in and out, in, out, in, out of that Family Mart. They weren’t all pretty. But all of them had some kind of perv-hook that got us every time. Tits and legs. Tight clothes and tits. Arse, tits face. Hair, face, smell. Walk, tits, talk. They splashed pretty pink acid onto our waify beer weakened morals.

We talked to various doormen, hawkers and short, squat alcohol stinking women. They felt our interview ‘ruse’ could be stripped away for a ‘cheap and pretty’ $NT2,000 ‘boom-boom’. One guy gave us some prices, 4,000 for 2 girls who we could touch times two meant 8,000. If this wasn’t even for sex it was pretty expensive. We persevered trying to broker a 10 minute, fully clothed interview with head shots. He was determined too, he had an attitude that suggested whatever our intentions we’d end up groping and stroking as feverishly as anyone. He called for beetroot-faced back-up who summoned a classy English-speaking woman. She was in the business somehow. She gave us tons of time, patience and consideration. She seemed to want to help us even more. She explained the main problem:

‘Our place is a private club. None of the girls can let you take photographs. They don’t want photographs.’

‘You must know some place where we can go,’ said Chris.

‘Why not try Sparkle at the top of Taipei 101.’

‘Because we’re looking for different people. There are a lot of people like us up there.’

She told us about girls you could talk to, girls to talk and touch and girls who do things, manythings, anything and things she ‘can’t talk about’. After a long time of trying, of walking up and down and of all the flesh butchers and the stares of ‘normal’ people who just live in that area we had to sit down. We found some steps just in front of a Christian church. It was closed for the night. I was close to breaking point. A well marketed opportunity (at a good price) would’ve snared me. Chris was still working hard but when he tried to talk to the soused pensioners, exiled from a job without benefit, I was cringing. They only had commission on their minds and I’m not sure if they even understood what Chris said or if they were just repeating what they always say to the nervous white men who ventured out so far. I had suspicions that Chris wasn’t just working anymore, at least on some level. We couldn’t have made it out of one of those places without spilling blood or love. The meaning of our work and our priorities were messed up. We’d have to try and unravel the meaning in the morning but we just had to give up and get out of there.

We went to a sea food restaurant. We drank beer, ate salmon sashimi, huge oysters and clams and talked about a lot of things. The night-life I wanted wasn’t there and the beer guzzlers who were didn’t invite us to join their prawn-shells and beer bottle covered table. Neither of us (though me in particular) find anything morally wrong with the concept of prostitution. The ideal concept and the corrupted reality are not always the same much like communism. Here are some of the questions we asked ourselves (our answers flipped back and forth):
Would we have spent so long chasing up a bus driver or doctor or allotment worker as we did looking for this interview?
What would have happened if we had actually gone into one of those places?
How much of the lure was scientific, journalistic or creative and how much was an excuse to put ourselves in a situation that we felt like we needed an excuse to get in?
Why don’t millionaires have prostitutes everywhere they go?
How does society and evolution play roles in programming us not to cause harm to everyone?
Why do we care about strangers?
How difficult would it be for us to abandon all of our ideals?
Why are all the studies we’ve read on prostitution based on Western culture only?
What role does sexual abuse play in prostitution in different Asian countries compared to Western women?

In hangouts for Taiwanese in Taiwan you usually pay the beer bills at the end and share large bottles in tiny glasses. So we didn’t keep much track of our booze-intake. We moved into conversations about communism, capitalism, democracy, dictatorships, governments and utilitarianism. We asked a lot of questions that we couldn’t firmly answer and some that were very depressing to answer.

We went to that place because I’d really wanted to go to a place packed with people. I wanted to join all this life around us in Taipei. I wanted to dissolve into this sea of people, merge into their lives and theirs to merge into mine, not just stand on the edge observing. At the time I thought this was a symptom of the night’s sexual frustration. I imagined that I couldn’t fuck those girls so I’d grind myself into someone else’s life and into their action. A cheaper, shitter alternative to a good ride. I’m not a eunuch, I’m a dirty fucking beast and these were sexy girls. BUT…I was completely wrong. I wanted these girls for the same reason I wanted to go to the lively restaurant (which wasn’t actually as lively as usual). I was meeting all these people, witnessing their generosity, their quirks, their awkward poses and nervous interviews. I witnessed their genuine happiness when we connected a little bit and their similarities even within their differences. In a different life any of them could’ve been someone I loved. The guy collecting the garbage couldn’t understand the gifts or some of the questions. He didn’t understand what we were after. He gave the artists’ sticker back because he had no use for it. He refused the postcard we tried to give him because he couldn’t read English, didn’t have a computer and would only throw it away. But the guy was obviously busy and he stood in the heat and let us interview and photograph him when he had nothing to gain from it. Police to sex industry workers to coffee shop girls and garbage men were helping us wholeheartedly and with nothing to gain. The garbage man likes Yami Shan. We will go to Yami Shan and meet some people there to try and mesh him more into this 101 web. He’ll probably never know but I will and it’ll give me some peace of mind.

I really could’ve slept with one of those girls. If it had been a good experience we would’ve kissed and cuddled and I would’ve felt some kind of connection. But then time would’ve been coming to an end and with a hard cock taking control of my brain I would’ve pushed inside of her. I would’ve felt her emotional-barriers move up even higher as I thrashed harder and harder into this person who I’d never really know. Cum. Relax. Condom into the trash, the hour hour up and the girl gone and dressed before I had time to say goodnight. It may sound stupid, it certainly does to me, but it would’ve been hard for me to have continued with this project. It would’ve all seemed shallow. Just an excuse to drink and fuck. We stopped at a bar near Chris’ house and interviewed the Bar owner and an Opera singing actor. The barman seemed too nice to be genuine and have his own business but I didn’t see any cracks in his boyish friendliness. All the interviews will come later. There are tons to write up. However, the opera singer with his big balls, big heart and big lungs was a very special man. He donated some art with a key on it. A key to unlock feelings and open people up. I’ll go out another clichéd limb to say that, that key, along with these last few days and all the people we’ve met is certainly helping to unlock me.

When we got back up to his place Chris put gyrating girls onto the TV. Plain girls who never fully strip and are never touched but who frantically thrust up at the air out of time to pop-dance music. He flicked between three channels. I only thought there were two. I told him to turn it off.

I said, ‘no good will come of this. It’s just…’

‘…frustration.’ He finished my sentence and turned the TV off.

At, the moment I think we should interview a male prostitute. Maybe later we can interview a female prostitute but I just want to find the clarity of a connection without so much sexual blur. Humans are insatiable. You connect eyes with someone, so you need to kiss them. Your hands explore their body and then you need to fuck them. You fuck them and you need to consume them, but, unless your a cannibal, you can’t. Even a bit of travel leads to more and more and then to continually itchy feet. Education leads to more education which leads to discontentment. We have entered these people’s lives and I feel like I want more. But what more can I have? Would Chris try and stop me if I tried to devour one of them? How can we connect more than we have already? It sounds silly, soft and sloppy but I really care about all these people. I honestly didn’t think that this project could possibly make me a better person. But maybe it will. I hope so.

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Save the Earth: Saturday Part 2

Welcome to the new post replacing ‘Cheaper to Fuck Them’. A more friendly title indeed.

Firstly, before I get into the prey of the day here is a little about how we work, especially since no interviews are up yet. I’m not going to say much about the people that we interviewed because you’ll get to read their interviews and see their pictures and you can make your own judgments. We give everyone a gift from one of the other interviewees and almost everyone gives us a gift to pass on. Some gifts meet the right people while others end up in unappreciative hands. We give everyone a hand-written postcard with this address and a hand written message such as, ‘Hello new friend, thank you for helping us, you will have a wonderful day and if you ever need anything then get in touch.’ They all answer our questions and they get one question from a previous ‘target’. The mystery question is picked out of a Taiwanese dice shaker after a dramatic shake. Sometimes someone’s meaningful question is blunt and flaccid read out by the new interviewee but other times it produces a long, strong and passionate answer. The ‘failures’ are as interesting as successes as it shows the disconnected nature of our people when we’re trying to link them all together. They write their own question and that enters the shaker. We leave them with a big thank you and a handshake.

Saturday. A medical student named Rick joined team Taipei 101. He was the translator. Here’s the list for the day:

12:45 Cosmetics Girl in ‘New York, New York’ department store near Taipei 101. We went in and at the ‘Coni’ counter there were about 6 trowel-powdered girls. Not ugly but if you could get all that make up onto a potter’s wheel you could probably mold a vase. Me and Chris made our clumsy moves. Rick stood back and watched understanding that Chris wanted us to do it on our own but Rick was waiting to help like a doctor at a boxing match. Chris knows a lot more Chinese than me but his nerves ration his words out in stumbling doses. My Chinese is considerably worse but I do most the talking. The more confident of our interviewees has taught me that both me and Chris need a bit more bottle sometimes. The manager was a man. He came from the back read our fake intro letter, listened to Rick and gave us the odd girl out. She had very little make up and no uniform. Perhaps she was a temp.

Garbage Man round the back of ‘New York, New York.’ It was good for us to interview him and he added to the meaning of it all so you should check out the photo and interview. That meaning finally appeared today, like a magic eye puzzle that you’ve been starring cross eyed at for 2 days. Black and white squares, black and white squares, black…wow a 3d ostrich eating a baby seal.

Falun Gong campaigner opposite Taipei 101. I hope the interview shows how lovely she was.

Police Officer in front of Taipei 101. A very jolly man. Spoke incredibly fast while his partner wrote up cars that were parked in the wrong place.

Psychic in Taipei Main Train Station’s underground city. I liked those glasses. Judge whether she is an attractive older woman like we thought or if it was her personality.

Meat Cleaver Masseuse in the underground city. Chris got the massage. I videoed it and will post a clip later.

Yo Yo enthusiast in the underground city. We decided to swap shoe seller for one of these amateur yo-yo guys. There were no female yo-yoers.

Pregnant Woman in the underground city. A familiar feeling about her.

Bus Driver at Taipei Central Bus Station. If he was just directing you to your bus you’d think he was just another drab driver. Extremely warm once again.

Rick’s message for the blog was ‘save the earth’. He left us at 5pm to meet his girlfriend. He might not be a wildman but he was very clear cut and worked incredibly hard for us. For free too and not even with expenses. Both me and Rick were amused though when Chris thought Rick might be able to help us find a pop-singer. I’m shocked he found time to meet his girlfriend nevermind knowing pop singers. When school restarts I bet Rick is majorly swamped. If he isn’t successful then I don’t know who can be.

The allotment worker wasn’t interested in talking to us which, I guess, is one of the reasons for keeping an allotment on insanely valuable land. An allotment surrounded by embassies, towers such as Taipei 101 and high-end stores. At the allotment a woman recognised us from the doorway of Taipei 101. Her youngish son was chubby and demanding like a little emperor. He kept wandering into the allotment and images of some kind of fairy tale or Quentin Blake illustrated Roald Dahl poem kept coming to mind.

‘Oh silence mummy’ our little brat cried
As he shoveled turnips and leeks inside
The boy gorged himself on carrots and peas
until old farmer Wu scythed off his knees’

Or something of the sort.

Between 5:30 and 7pm we rested our legs at a coffee shop, all the way back near Sun Yat Sen memorial hall, ‘Cafe d France’. We went there because I knew the manageress had an English speaking family. In the end we talked to a waitress who didn’t speak English, although she could certainly understand it. The place was busy so the interview took a long time to complete. I had mushroom soup which burnt my tongue but I enjoyed a lot, probably because it was very salty. I also had a chicken and mushroom pie which came in a tinfoil box. Me and Chris shared a Caesar salad which was OK but had warm, grey slabs of chicken. The place is certainly good for a break and has surprising foreign food for Taiwan. After that interview Chris had a sudden urge and some kind of surge because he decided it was time to find…’the Prostitute’.

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Tension: Saturday Part 1

Sunday morning. There was tension between me and Chris. I entitled a post ‘Cheaper to Fuck Them’. The title was a reference to the price of sleeping with a prostitute versus the price to photograph and interview one. The post contained the list of everyone we interviewed on Saturday. It was a raw, attention-grabbing headline. The kind that everyone wants to read even if it’s just to rile themselves up. And it was a short snap of a thing to get out there.

Lewis: ‘How ironic, we’ll end up being tagged as ‘mature’ for using bad language. Maybe I should write a post that just says “cunt, cunt, cunt” 50 times then we’d be super mature.’

Chris looked at the post.

Chris: ‘We’ve been so nice to these people and then we do this.’

Lewis: ‘The post isn’t about them it’s about us. We’ll only write about them clinically. Just give the facts and the interviews. No opinions. It really was cheaper to fuck a prostitute then interview one that’s what happened. And they can’t even read English, they won’t understand.’

Chris: ‘That’s the point. They won’t understand what you wrote but they’ll understand “fuck”. They’ll think we’re taking the piss out of them.’

Lewis: ‘That’s why we’ll have the interviews and photos without any comments. We just need to get the photos up quickly and then they’ll see.’

Chris: ‘OK.’

Lewis: ‘You’re very fucking moral. If you’re going to stress about it we can get someone to help add a message in Chinese so that they understand it’s not about them.’

We did that. I didn’t want to change what I wrote. I didn’t want to start censoring myself. Chris must’ve understood this because even though I was wrong and can see how I made a mistake he didn’t say anything about it to me again. There are lots of hints that Chris is at least as ‘perverse’ as me but he’s also a classic British gent. He spends all his cash on travel and fun but he probably should get himself a bowler and brolly. I think Chris still worried about the post. But even if he didn’t worry about it anymore, now I did.

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The Alternative Musician

Interview to be added at a later date

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