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Loose in Taiwan

Loose in Taiwan

(Sam’s Account of His Final Days in Taiwan)

1.

I woke up hung over on that Thursday morning just I had every morning that I could remember in the proceeding few years. I took a few hits from the pipe that was on the floor next to the bed, putting me into an even more blurry state of mind. I wished I had another drug that would actually make me feel good. I showered and shaved and hopped in the car for the thirty minute drive to the elementary school where I taught English, stopping at a Seven Eleven for coffee like I did every day. When I arrived at work I realized I couldn’t remember most of the drive to work and I realized it was probably a good time to stop drinking and doping. But that wasn’t going to happen. This was far from rock bottom.

I taught my morning classes as usual. In the period just before lunch, I had the sixth grade class. They were a little naughty and some of the students had no interest in learning English. In fact, some of the boys made it a point to learn as little English as possible. I did not blame them for this attitude. I was forced to take Latin and Spanish in school when I was a kid in the USA. I too made an effort not to learn, choosing the more fun option of goofing off with my friends in the class. Now these Taiwanese kids were doing the same shit to me that I had done to my teachers. One sixth grader in particular was determined not to speak a word of English. His name was Jim Fu. By sixth grade many of the students knew a fair amount of English. All of them could answer if you asked them their name or age or where they came from or other basic questions. They could tell you what a dog was and other common animals and nouns. That is every kid but Jim Fu. When I asked any question at all Jim would just look at me like I was the most foolish asshole in the world. He failed every English test I gave in the four years I’d known him and he never spoke a word of English. He was very overweight and very tall for his age. He was twice the size as most of the students his age. Often times he fell asleep in class and I would have to shake him to wake him up out of his snoring slumber. I couldn’t figure out how to reach him or how to prompt him to want to learn. That day I went through the same routine of asking the students questions that I did most days. I asked the students with higher English ability more difficult questions than the students with less ability. When it was Jim’s turn to answer a question I pointed to a picture of an apple and asked what it was. He didn’t answer me as usual and when I told him it was an apple and tried to get him to say the word apple he just smiled slightly and shook his head, amused with my struggle to teach him or get him to speak. By the end of class everyone was ready for lunch. I was walking back to the teacher’s office to eat lunch and Jim was approaching, pushing the lunch cart for his class. I asked, not expecting a reply, “Hi Jim, what’s for lunch?”

“Chicken, rice and vegetables,” The kid answered with a sly grin in perfect English. I was astonished and happy to hear Jim speak. I was amazed to find that he knew the words for certain foods.

I said, “Wow! That is great English speaking Jim!” Then I went into the teacher’s lounge where I saw Jim’s teacher. I told the teacher, Mr. Chen, what had just happened with Jim.

He responded, “Jim knows everything there is to know about sleeping and eating.”

2.

On my way home from work that day I had to stop and see my friend Mike to pick up some more weed. When I got to Mike’s place another guy was leaving. He appeared to be an American as well. When I said hello to him he didn’t respond. When I saw Mike inside I asked, “Who the fuck was that dickhead that was just leaving here?”

Mike informed me, “His name is Andy or something. Little prick is down from Taipei for the weekend. I saw the little prick out surfing and he asked me if I knew how to get weed. I told him I could get him some so he stopped by. When he got here he said he wanted a quarter pound and he blackmailed me into giving him the price he wanted. Made a vague threat about the cops finding out about me. Can you believe that? Thought about smashing him right then and there. Fuck that little prick. I can’t be doing this shit anymore at my age. He bought the rest of the herb off me and I barely turned a profit. You should go rob that little prick if you need weed. But on a better note, I think the Filipino is going away for a while. I made the call today. That means I should probably get away too.” I was disappointed because I had no other way to get weed that day, but I did know who had a lot of it now. I didn’t know how I felt about what Mike said about the Filipino but I knew I would miss Mike.

Mike was one of my good friends and he stayed in Taiwan longer than most, almost thirty years. He was pushing fifty years old. He moved to Taiwan in the late eighties and a few years later he was married to a Taiwanese girl named Megan. By the turn of the century they had a baby daughter and a Mexican food restaurant. Things were going pretty well for Mike and his family and soon they bought a large building on the main street of the town and opened a large night club. The night club was a success but dealing with the town’s tough drunken and drug addled gangsters and prostitutes into the wee hours of the mornings began to drain Mike and his wife of their energy and disrupt them from their family duties. Aside from fighting each other almost nightly, gangsters had begun to tell Mike he needed to give them money in exchange for them providing him and his business protection. Mike and Megan once again decided to change their business. They closed the techno pulsating and strobe light blinding nightclub. Mike and his wife decided they would start an entertainment company.

They recruited Filipino entertainers in the form of rock musicians and sexy dancers. The rockers spoke English so they could jam out to popular American rock songs, making them attractive for Taiwanese who wanted to throw a private party. The dancers were sexy Filipina girls in their late teens and early twenties. They would dance for the partiers and afterwards drink with the partiers and give lap dances or other favors for an additional charge. Mike and his wife turned the old night club into a bar that also served as a rehearsal studio for the band and dancers so they could practice and make additional money when the band and dancers had nights off from the private parties that usually took places in the ballrooms of hotels in any of Taiwan’s larger cities. Soon Mike and Megan employed two bands and two groups of dancers. When one band and one group of dancers were out giving a private party, the other would play and dance at the bar. Megan went on the road when they got a contract for a private party in another part of Taiwan while Mike stayed home and watched over the bar.

The business arrangement worked quite well financially but it did not work so well for their marriage. It wasn’t very long before Mike was having a secret affair with one of the sexy dancers while Megan was doing the same with the lead singer and guitarist. These affairs carried on for a few years before shit hit the fan. When both Mike and Megan became aware of the others infidelities the fight between the two became vicious. Megan moved into an apartment and a war began. She paid a private investigator to get Mike’s phone records and place bugs in his car. She fired the dancer Mike was seeing and paid for a nice apartment for her instead of sending her back to the Philippines. Megan planned to use her as a witness in the divorce trial. Megan seized the entertainment business while Mike was left with the bar. Mike did the same type of things as she was doing but he also went after the Filipino musician as well. One night when the band was practicing Mike crept into a storage room where the lead singer kept his guitar case while he rehearsed. Wearing gloves as to leave no prints, Mike stashed a bunch of weed, meth and ketamine in the lining of the dude’s guitar case and he left unnoticed. Soon after that the divorce was finalized and the band and dancers stopped practicing in Mike’s bar.

A few years passed and Mike closed down his bar and went back to teaching English while he waited. Megan carried on with the successful entertainment company and ended up marrying the Filippino rocker. Mike sat back and patiently waited for his time to strike. He wanted to see the guy who stole his wife go down. His daughter was older now and he got information about his ex-wife’s affairs through her. She told him about the plans of Megan and her new husband to visit the Philippines. Mike got all the details of their flight and he anonymously tipped off security personnel at the airport about a long haired Filipino rocker looking guy smuggling drugs in his guitar case. Sure enough, airport security pulled the rocker into secondary and searched his guitar case and the drugs were revealed.

The Filippino has served a few years of his life sentence in Taiwanese prison while Megan fights relentlessly to prove it was Mike who had framed him. The problem for her is that Mike is now back in Idaho where he operates his parents ranch in peace. That day I said goodbye to Mike for the last time and drove home.

3.

I walked over to Igor’s restaurant when I got home. I ordered some pho and drank a few brews with Igor while I waited for my food. I met Igor while surfing a year or two before I met his girl, Springroll. I met her when they moved down to Taitung from Toucheng in the north. They opened a killer little Southeast Asian restaurant across the street from my hostel, which is also where I live. Igor had helped me get the hostel going and we became pretty good friends. Once their restaurant opened I began eating and drinking there nightly. I quickly realized that Springroll was a tough and feisty little thing, although she was thirty-four years old and under five feet tall. She originally came to Taiwan as a Vietnamese bought bride, like so many other Vietnamese girls in this country. I thought mail order brides were just sent to western countries but they are everywhere in Asia too. Her story is just one of many. Some of the stories are happy love stories while many are sad and some are downright absurd and stranger than fiction. As a teacher in southeast Taiwan’s countryside schools, many of my students are half Vietnamese because their mothers are mail order brides. Often times the father is a Taiwanese man with social issues, mental problems, and even retardation. From what I have heard, these brides cost around ten thousand U.S. dollars.

She grew up in squalor in the bowels of Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Minh City. She had numerous brothers and sisters. Her father had shrapnel stuck into the side of his body from his days as a fighter for the Vietcong. If the shrapnel was removed it would have killed him so he toughed out the remainder of his days with sharp metal pieces stuck inside of him. However, his days were numbered as he was knifed to death in a shaky Saigon alley when Springroll was seven years old. The knifing was assumed to be over a gambling debt as that was his main vice along with smoking and boozing. The suspect was never caught. With the man of the house dead and the mother in a wheel chair with poor health due to a goiter on her neck, the family’s situation became desperate. Two of her older sisters turned to prostitution and her older brother left to never be seen again. Her younger brother and she remained at home and the older sisters brought home the money. Springroll and her younger brother remained at home but Springroll was determined not to become a prostitute. She became a paid for bride instead. She signed up with a company who brokered the deals and she listed her qualities such as cooking, cleaning, and her virginity.

One day a little after her eighteenth birthday she was contacted by the agency and told to come to the office dressed in slightly revealing clothing. She made up and put on a pretty dress and went to the agency where a dozen or so other girls were also waiting. A potential buyer was coming in from Taiwan. An hour later a tall and overweight Taiwanese man with a mouth full of rotted teeth stained red from a lifetime of chewing betel nut shuffled up in a soiled tank top and rubber flip flops. He was in his late twenties and appeared on the slow side mentally. Springroll’s heart sank when she saw this slovenly man. The girls were instructed to get in a line for the man to inspect. The man walked up to each girl and inspected them from head to toe. Each one was supposedly a virgin. When he got to Springroll he saw something he liked in her petite body and cute face. He chose her right then and there and soon she was on her way to Taiwan to live with this man whom she did not know. In Taiwan the people spoke mostly Mandarin, a language she knew very little of.

The first night in Taiwan Springroll was taken to the man’s home, which he shared with his brothers and his mother. The brothers appeared to be gangster types and Springroll would soon learn more about their activities. They referred to their brother, Sprinroll’s husband, as Pighead. They also had a spooky way of looking at Springroll. The brothers and three other ruffians were sitting around a table drinking rice wine, smoking cigarettes, chewing betel nut, and playing cards while cursing in Taiwanese. Springroll was led past this little gang without indroductions by Pighead and past his cranky mother in the kitchen who barely acknowledged Springroll. Pighead took Springroll up to her new room with its unmade sloppy bed and alcoholic stench and there he clumsily took her virginity.

Nine long months passed for Springroll before she gave birth to a baby girl. In this time Pighead’s family had Springroll open a Vietnamese restaurant out of their home when they realized how incredible her cooking skills were. The restaurant was a hit with the Toucheng residents because of the good food and the attractive and friendly Vietnamese girl who did the cooking and the cleaning and every other duty aside from collecting the cash, which Pighead’s grouchy old mother did religiously.

In addition to running the restaurant, Springroll woke up very early each morning with Pighead and they went into Taipei’s wholesale fruit market to load up his truck with fruit that they would sell in the morning back in Toucheng. After selling fruit the entire morning she would head straight to the restaurant to open for lunch.

In those nine months she also came to realize that Pighead was a gangster of sorts, kind of like the muscle for his smarter and more experienced criminal brothers and their friends. One of the brother’s apparently dealt heroin using a delivery like service and he was a junkie himself. On more than one occasion Pighead and his brothers would be gone for the entire night without explanation. She sometimes overheard the brothers laughing or talking and though her Mandarin and Taiwanese were limited, she thought they were talking about how they had beaten people up or made them disappear. They were gangsters, gamblers, drinkers, druggies, and thugs.

Springroll also stopped sleeping with Pighead whenever he pleased. She had become so repulsed by him that more often than not she refused him sex. This angered and frustrated him. At this point Pighead returned to his old habits of visiting prostitutes in the nearby brothels.

Five years passed and Springroll’s days passed with the hard work every day and Pighead and the brother’s criminal activities always present in the near vicinity. Her daughter was now in Kindergarten and Springroll also fit in time in the evening to help the girl with her studies. She had long stopped sleeping with Pighead and she had open resentment for the entire family from the five years of emotional abuse. The mother and brothers only ever shouted orders at her and Pighead and she did not even acknowledge one another.

During these five years a group of foreigners had become dedicated customers at the Vietnamese restaurant. They were surfers who consisted mainly of English teachers in their twenties from America, Canada, Australia, and South Africa. Among these guys was Igor, a Canadian in his mid-thirties. He worked for a large computer manufacturing company. Igor was friendly and spoke Chinese well. Springroll’s Chinese had become fluent and her and Igor often talked and flirted. After five hard years she figured she deserved something more and she began seeing Igor on nights when Pighead and his brother’s were off doing whatever it was that they did. Springroll and Igor would go to Igor’s apartment or to discreet hotels, as cheating on a spouse is a crime in Taiwan. Sometimes they would drive the hour into Taipei so they could stroll freely without worrying about being seen.

Somehow Pighead got wise to Springroll and Igor. Soon Igor had people tailing him in cars and people lurking in his neighborhood that appeared to be the likes of Pighead and his brother’s friends. As a result Igor and Springroll stopped seeing each other as often and then stopped seeing each other altogether. One night the police randomly knocked on Igor’s door and asked to come in. Igor had just smoked a bong load and was sure they were there to bust him for marijuana but they were there for another reason. They asked to come in and one of the cops had a video camera that he used to record every nook and cranny of the entire three bedroom apartment. They did not find what they were looking for. Igorn later figured they were looking for Springroll, as Pighead had filed a complaint with the police that his wife was having an affair with Igor even though he visited prostitutes on a weekly basis.

Springroll’s temper flared when she found out that Pighead had called the police about her and Igor but she did not show it. Instead she made a call to the police herself. She informed them that one of Pighead’s brothers was a heroin dealer and perhaps a murderer. The cops set him up with the help of Springroll and he went down on drug dealing charges. As a repeat offender for drugs and violence he got locked up for the remainder of his days. No one ever knew it was Springroll who tipped off the police about the hardened criminal.

Springroll wanted to leave Pighead and his family badly but if she did she would be unable to keep her daughter. She began seeing Igor again but less frequently than before. Pighead was onto them. One night as Igor and Springroll were sitting in Igor’s car outside of a Seven Eleven Pighead came out of nowhere and stood in front of the car so Igor was unable to drive off. Pighead was drunk and holding a baseball bat. He was swearing at Igor to get out of the car. Igor turned the car on and began driving slowly forward but Pighead stood there in front of the moving car. As the car approached him he jumped onto the hood of the car and began beating on the windshield and roof with the baseball bat. Igor kept driving slowly with a manic and pissed off Pighead on the hood and his bare feet dragging on the asphalt. Igor drove slowly to a police station located a couple blocks away, the entire time with Pighead beating on his car. Once at the police station they all three were questioned by cops. Pighead told them that the lady was his wife and she was having an affair with Igor. Igor and Springroll told the cops that they were just friends and that Pighead had gone crazy. The cops didn’t know what to make of the whole shit show but they charged Pighead with damaging Igor’s car.

After the car incident Springroll moved out of Pighead’s family’s house. She was given none of the money that she had singlehandedly made for the family so Igor helped get her a cheap apartment in Taipei. She found work in a noodle shop by networking through her Vietnamese friends. Igor and Springroll began seeing more of each other. Igor was notified by the police that Pighead was pressing charges and that he would need to show up to see a judge like person in Taipei to explain the situation. A few weeks later he was in a room with a judge, Pighead, and two of Pighead’s sketchy buddies. Pighead’s feet were in bandages as they had been badly injured. Pighead gave his version of the story and then Igor gave his, telling the judge about the baseball bat and the car damage. The judge stepped out of the room and one of Pighead’s friends said, “Pighead, maybe the feet is payback for that time you bagged that guy off the street and beat him to death with the pipes up in the mountains.” Igor pretended he didn’t hear what the gangster had said. The judge stepped back into the room with his solution. Igor was to pay Pighead three hundred thousand Taiwanese dollars. Igor figured this to be ridiculous but at least now he and Springroll were free from Pighead, or so they thought.

Following the lawsuit Igor and Springroll moved south to Taitung. They opened the restaurant and things were going pretty well. Igor grew a garden of fresh basil and lemongrass and built the place to look nice while Springroll’s food was even better than the other Vietnamese restaurant nearby. Interestingly enough, that restaurant was run by a Vietnamese bride who was married to a mentally retarded man. Her husband also had two retarded brothers that helped out at the restaurant and were managed by the Vietnamese gal while their elderly parents drank booze and screamed at each other. Theories differ but some say the brothers were retarded because their mother drank a bunch during pregnancy. Others say they are inbred and that their parents are also cousins. The Vietnamese mother had two smart and well-mannered good looking kids with her mentally handicapped husband. They were not happy when they found out Springroll opened a place up the road.

Springroll missed her daughter but went to see her every few weeks. In Taiwan the father usually gets custody of the kids. After being in Taitung for about six months Springroll got a credit card bill in the mail. Apparently Pighead had racked up a massive bill on a card with her name on it. Rather than get into a dangerous standoff with Pighead and his crew Igor and Springroll decided they would pay off the debt that was over ten thousand US dollars. Slowly, they paid this debt off and began a peaceful and happy life with their restaurant and garden in the tranquility of Taiwan’s east coast with its emerald mountains falling down into the turquoise sea. The only beef Springroll and Igor had was with their neighbors, the yoga people. The yoga people did not like the style of my hostel and Springroll and Igor’s restaurant so they treated us with a stuck up and snobby air. For this reason every time the yoga people planted flowers Springroll sprayed them with oven cleaner, causing them to die shortly after.

After eating dinner I walked home. The next day I was taking a day off of work to meet with someone I hoped to do business with.

4.

After living in Taiwan for two years I had seen some potential in the place to make money so I decided to try my hand at something different in order to make more money and not suffer the long days of teaching any longer. Because my family in the USA are fruit growers, sellers, and exporters this was first venture I tried. I would middle man big deals between my uncles’ companies and importers in Asia. My uncles told me to go ahead and try to make some contacts. I figured this was the best opportunity I had as Taiwanese import and eat a ton of fruit, a lot of which comes from California where my family comes from. I began my research by looking into fruit importing companies in Taiwan and by calling my family at home and asking them who the big hitters in Taiwan were. I couldn’t make many connections because of language barriers and writing barriers, but I did manage into touch with one of the biggest fruit importers in Taiwan and for some reason the owner, Mr. Li, agreed to meet with me near Taichung. I began to see money signs everywhere.

I thought it would be better to take someone who spoke Chinese with me so I asked my friend PJ if he wanted to go. PJ was already a self-made man from Tennessee who owned the best pizza parlor Taitung County had ever seen. PJ agreed to go with me but it was a big issue with his wife because she did not want him out of her sight. For this reason me, PJ, PJ’s wife Sonia, their new baby Bailey, Vince from the staff at the pizza parlor, and their curly, hyper, gray overgrown schnauzer, Rudolph, all piled in to PJ’s van for a Friday morning trip across the island to Taichung to meet with Mr. Li, Asian king of fruit.

Vince was originally from Kaohsiung so in the morning on the way through there we stopped at the fruit gangster of his childhood neighborhood’s place. This guy was a calm and cool gangster with a few trademark black Benz’s parked in the yard. He had a few big drive-in coolers full of all kinds of fruit that he sold to the local grocers. He showed us around his place and then we sat in a shipping container that had been converted into his office, complete with a large flat screen television a massive aquarium and a fridge full of beer and betel nuts. He offered us smokes which we felt as we had no choice but to smoke and Vince introduced us as a teacher and a restaurant owner. The guy’s beautiful wife came in and made traditional tea for us while his children shuffled around on the floor in his office. The fruit guy didn’t speak a word of English so I had PJ tell him we represented the companies of my uncles in California and we were wondering which importers we should call on. He gave us the contact of the importer where he bought his fruit because he recognized the names of my uncles. The company was also located near Taichung. PJ called them and we made an appointment for later in the morning. We were ecstatic. Now we had two meetings in line in one day. Surely we could strike up a business relationship with one of the two companies, hopefully both!

We showed up near Taichung at the office for the importers who sold fruit to the gangster in Kaohsiung. The office was inside of a big warehouse with loading docks for trucks. Once inside the gentlemen introduced themselves and their secretary and offered us a sofa in the office. Then they brought out tea and betel nuts to chew. As our mouths turned bright red from the strange stimulant we talked business through PJ’s Chinese speaking and the minimal English of the cute secretary. They too put off the vibe of gangsters or at the very least business men on the fringe of legal operating as they smoked cigarettes and chewed betel nut. They also seemed excited to meet us because of our U.S. fruit connection. They offered to take us all out to lunch.

At lunch much beer, Taiwanese liquor, and food was consumed. It was the two businessmen and their secretary treating PJ, Sonia, Bailey, Vince and me to a huge Taiwanese feast with the lazy Susan and all. Throughout the lunch the business men got increasingly drunk and soon they were telling me I should marry their secretary, who was sober and dying from the embarrassment her employers were causing her from their raucous behavior. Luckily they avoided the topic of business or they would have realized I was bluffing in my knowledge of the fruit industry. All I had was the connection. They began smoking and spitting betel nut and ashing cigs in glasses. She would be driving them home. After the long lunch, we said good bye and exchanged cards. They said they would be in touch with me with some requests for pricing. After lunch we had to hurry to get to our meeting with Mr. Li.

That afternoon when we got to the address Mr. Li had given me we couldn’t believe the grounds of his place for business. We drove through rice paddies that were all his until we drove on a little bridge over a moat filled with brilliant large Coi fish. The moat surrounded King Fruits, one of the largest fruit importers in Taiwan. The building was a modern art masterpiece, two stories with large mirrored windows. I was here to conduct business with the owner over something I knew next to nothing about. PJ, Vince and I told PJ’s wife to wait in the car with the dog and baby while we went inside. We were shown into Mr. Li’s office, a man of around fifty years of age. We began telling Mr. Li about are contacts in the States and he was interested, detecting that I did not know much but curious about the big names I was dropping. Soon PJ’s wife was escorted in by Mr. Li’s secretary, she had got tired of waiting in the hot car and the baby was crying. At this point Mr. Li probably wanted us all out of his office and he asked if we would like to join him for dinner. We said we would and he led us out of the front of the classy new building. As we were leaving the building and admiring the view of the property, Rudolph, PJ’s mangy gray dog, sprinted across the landscape and leapt with precision into the coi pond that trimmed the building. The dog came out of the water with a dying and bleeding coi fish in the grips of his jaws. The dog put the suffocating fish in a flower bed before walking directly up to Mr. Li and shaking off his wet coat all over a disbelieving Mr. Li. PJ was kicking at the dog and yelling, “Bad dog Rudolph. I’m very sorry Mr. Li.” Mr. Li diplomatically forgave us and we drove off to eat at a gourmet Japanese restaurant. I rode with Mr. Li in his Porshe while the rest of the gang piled into PJ’s beat up old van.

At the restaurant we loaded up on sashimi and red wine and soon the awkwardness of the dog incident was forgotten. We began making plans to introduce Mr. Li and my uncles. Things were going great. Mr. Li told us that after dinner he wanted us to return to his office so he could show us something. We agreed and headed off towards his office once again.

Once there he showed us the way to another building located right behind the building that held his office. It looked like a large storage unit with its metal garages. This building, he explained, was a line of garages that housed his exotic car collection. He said he wanted to show us one car in particular, a rare Ferrari he had recently attained for nearly one million dollars. Our crew stood around with eager eyes as the garage went up to expose the exotic car. Mr. Li hit the lights in the garage and just as we were laying eyes on the flawless red beauty Rudolph the dog once again dashed in, this time jumping up on the passenger door of the Ferrari and digging his claws into the red paint before scraping them down the side of the door. Mr. Li began jumping up and down repeatedly screaming with a thick accent, “Get fuck out! Get fuck out! Get fuck out!” We all scrammed towards PJ’s van, tripping over each other as we aborted our mission to become international fruit salesmen. The dog, Rudolph, was running after the van as we fled and at the edge of the lavish property we stopped the van to let him in and off we went again. It looked like I would be teaching English for a little while longer still. We drove the six or seven hours all the way back to the east coast that night.

5.

I was awoken early the next morning to someone banging on my garage. I went downstairs to see what was causing all of the noise. My home is also a hostel for surfers and people traveling on a tight budget. Standing there was a white guy who had heard that I offered cheap accommodation. I let the dude in and showed him to a room.

I should go no further until I state that the expats in Taiwan are a strange bunch, me included. There are more than a few rejects of western society. Many are from America, South Africa, Europe, and Australia. There are also quite a few Canadian wackos, like Ken Scone. I met Ken that morning when he arrived at my hostel. He was an English teacher who came down from northern Taiwan for a weekend to surf. I quickly realized this guy was off his head. Ken wore glasses and he spoke in a monotone voice while the expression on his face never changed. He was of medium height and his appearance was something a person wouldn’t look twice at, for it was pretty nondescript. After talking to Ken for three minutes I was informed of the time he spent two weeks in a Circus Circus hotel room in Vegas smoking meth with two trailer park hookers and of the time he picked up syphilis off a hooker in a back alley in Kuta Beach. I thought these strange things to tell a person you don’t know but who am I to judge him? He was my only guest at the hostel that weekend and I had the opportunity to observe him thoroughly.

Later in the evening Ken emerged into the commons area of the hostel and began his MMA training regimen, complete with taped ankles and a karate robe. He practiced his punches and kicks, he stretched, and then he twirled around some sort of fighting stick. I asked him what in the hell he was doing and told him that I thought he looked like a total poser. At this point he approached me and threw me into a chokehold. I began to suffocate and right as I was beginning to lose consciousness he let me go saying in his robot like voice, “Mixed martial arts is not for pussies.”

I was a little shaken up by Ken’s aggressive manner and I sure as shit locked the door to my room that night. Late in the night I went out to take a leak and I heard someone shuffling around downstairs in the common area. I went downstairs to see what was going on and when I got there I saw Ken sitting on the couch in only his tight white undies and a laptop computer on this bare thighs. Dark hair covered his almost naked body. “Are you alright down here?” I asked Ken.

“Actually I don’t sleep very well, especially when I’m not at home. You see, I spent four years locked up after I killed some guy in a fight. Couldn’t sleep hardly at all in prison and since I got out I have never been able to sleep very well,” Ken responded plainly as if what he told me was completely insignificant.

I prodded, “Hold on. You went to prison for murder?”

“Manslaughter. Fought some dude over a parking spot outside a bar in Kasketchawan where I’m from. When he hit the ground after I hit him he never got up. I think the same thing may have happened to a guy I fought in a Thailand barroom too a couple years back. But I got away after that incident,” Ken informed me in his one toned increasingly frightening voice.

“That’s good. Wouldn’t want to get caught making the same mistake twice. What you doing on the computer?” I asked to change the subject.

He showed me a beautiful Asian woman’s Facebook page and said in his creepy way, “This is one of my gals in Taipei. She is from Thailand and she is deaf and dumb. There is a whole bunch of chicks like this one in Taipei. I think they are human trafficking victims. I met her at a whorehouse but now she gives it up to me for free.”

“Well you are one lucky bastard to have a hot chick that won’t talk back to you,” I said with sarcasm that I hoped Ken wouldn’t pick up on. I decided I wasn’t going to believe anything Ken had said in order to spare myself the fear of him that was beginning to grow inside of me. I classified him as another lunatic bullshitter who couldn’t cut it in Canada. Besides, how would he be allowed to teach if he was a convicted murderer? He would never have been able to pass the background check the Taiwanese government required you to submit in order to teach. “I hope you can catch some sleep man,” I said and went back upstairs to my bedroom.

Once in my room, I entered the name Ken Scone into google. I got a hit from a newspaper article from Kasketchawan dating almost ten years prior. It read something like “Suspect in manslaughter case, Ken Scone, fined by judge for threatening witnesses.” I was shocked. I made sure the door to my room was locked and I wedged a chair underneath the doorknob but I was unable to sleep a wink for the remainder of the night, lying ready for the sociopath to barge into my room in his whity tighties at any second. Thank goodness Ken left the next morning to go surf and he didn’t return. Maybe he wasn’t satisfied with the accommodation. If Ken ever contacted me to stay at my place again I would have to think of a reason to tell him he couldn’t stay.

6.

Ken may have left that Sunday morning but he was quickly replaced at the hostel by another lunatic, Hal. Hal was different than Ken because he was friendly so I actually liked him and he was my friend, but a loony tune nonetheless. He was a blond haired South African guy in his mid-thirties. I couldn’t determine the reason for not being able to understand a word he said. It was either because of his thick Afrikaans accent or it was due to the amount of crack and meth he’d smoked while growing up in Durban. Whatever it was, the dude was a character. He showed up that Sunday morning mumbling, “Ya keen take some acid and shred all day my owe? Waves pumping. Hundreds mate hundreds.”

I took a hit of acid and Hal took a few. We drove to the beach and paddled out. We were the only surfers around which was a treat because we didn’t have to compete for waves with the hordes of Japanese surfers and others who came to surf Taiwan’s fun waves. The day was sunny and beautiful and the waves were coming in flawless and glassy. After surfing for half an hour that acid kicked in. I having a blast surfing in the kaleidoscope swirls of blue green water and blazing sunshine. Hal paddled over to me and told me all the acid was a bit much for him and he was going to go in to the beach. I told him where I hid the key to my car so he could change into dry clothes while I surfed more. Then he caught a wave in and I carried on surfing and tripping out for another hour or so until I looked into the parking lot and saw two vans full of visiting Japanese surfers staring out at the waves. I knew they were going to paddle out and crowd up the lineup so I decided I would go in and did so on my next wave.

When I got to my car Hal was nowhere to be seen. I became a little worried because he had taken so much acid. There were about a dozen Japanese surfers near their tour vans across the parking lot changing into their swim trunks and smoking sport sticks like chimneys, getting ready to paddle out. All of a sudden a barrage of bottle rockets and Roman candle fire balls came flying from the nearby bushes straight into the mob of Japanese surfers. I knew I’d had them in the car leftover from camping a few weeks before and I knew it was Hal who had found them. The bottle rockets and fireballs did not stop and the surfers became terrified. I saw rockets and fireballs just barely missing their faces and other parts of their bodies. They forgot all about their surfboards and towels and got half naked into the vans and pulled the hell out of there. As Hal emerged from the bushes once the vans were out of sight he grumbled, “Teach them to bring so many turkeys. Shall we take those boards too?”

“The fireworks were cool but taking the boards is a bad idea. Ryo will know it was us. Come on let’s get outta here in case they call the cops. We’ll come back and surf this afternoon,” I said while trying to pull Hal away from the Japanese guy’s surfboards he was now examining. I got him reluctantly in the car and we drove towards my place with dilated pupils and sounds echoing through our thoughts. When we got back to the hostel we played ping-pong for three hours straight before going to Igor’s for lunch.

The reason we disliked the Japanese surfers was because of Ryo. As the story goes, Ryo grew up traveling and surfing a little. He spent most of his time surfing the crowded waters of Japan where he was from. While traveling in his late twenties, he found himself in Taiwan and he loved the place so much that he knew he would never leave. The place was rich with waves and the surfers were few. Some of local islanders surfed and occasionally an adventurous traveling surfer would stumble upon the island paradise. When he fell in love with a bright and beautiful young island girl named Ding, he realized this was where he wanted to raise a family. They were soon married, and together they lived in a small town on the wave abundant east coast of the island. Here they decided they would settle down and make a living. Because Ryo had a deep love for the ocean and surfing, he chose to make a living doing what he loved. Ryo and Ding opened a surf hostel and a restaurant.

The surf hostel was very mellow. Ryo and Ding kept a low profile, refraining from advertising for their hostel on the internet and other highly viewed outlets. Ding was responsible for making food and keeping the rooms clean, while Ryo constructed the bar and bunk beds and tended to the garden where they grew fruits and vegetables and other herbs to serve the guests. They lived a happy and healthy life, eating well and surfing good waves nearly every day.

After a year, they had set up a sweet little piece of paradise. Surfers weren’t the only people who enjoyed staying at their cozy little hostel. Backpackers and travelers of all sorts enjoyed the comfortable hostel with the delicious organic food. Ryo and Ding were proud of what they had built together. They decided they wanted to have a child. This would complete their wonderful life together. They tried nightly to make it happen but Ding never became pregnant. After six months of trying every night, they decided it was time to see a doctor. They did everything the doctor recommended. Ryo even stopped smoking the special herbs he grew in his garden. However, Ding was still unable to become pregnant.

All the while, the hostel became more and more famous. Word of mouth spread and surfers began coming from every corner of the earth to enjoy the surf hostel and the great waves that broke nearby. Soon, Ryo and Ding bought more land and constructed more bungalows to accommodate the growing number of guests. Around this time, Ryo bought a van and began charging guests money to chauffer them to the surf breaks. Ryo and Ding began making more money than ever, but the local island surfers became resentful every time the van full of traveling surfers paddled out on their peaceful solo sessions. Ryo and Ding shrugged off the concerns of the local surfers, they believed making money to be more important. The more money Ryo and Ding made, the more money they wanted. They decided to advertise in Japan, America, Australia, Brazil and other places in order to grow their business even more. They focused mainly on Japan as that was where Ryo was from. Soon packs of Aussies, Americans, Japanese, Euros, Brazilians, South Africans, and even Israelis, Germans and Russians were showing up. The Japanese surfers especially came on hordes as it was convenient to stay with Ryo because he knew how to speak Japanese and Japan is very close to Taiwan. Ryo bought more land and more vans to support his growing enterprise. He also had to hire a staff. Among the employees he hired Souffle, a tall and handsome traveling French surfer who enjoyed the island so much he asked Ryo if he could work at his hostel. Ryo hired him to relieve Ding of some of her grueling work. Souffle had unique bright red hair, a very rare sight on the island.

Ryo and Ding now had a huge hostel that could accommodate over one hundred surfers at a time. They had five large vans to deliver the hoards of surfers right to the breaks, eliminating any adventure for the snobby and yuppified wannabe surfers in which their clientele had turned into over time. Ryo and Ding now charged absurd prices at their hostel because they could, and because most of their guests were the type that wanted to be pampered. Souffle was similar to a servant at the hostel, driving people to the beach in the vans and working side by side with Ding in the kitchen. He was at everyone’s beckon call, especially Ding’s.

Ding and Ryo still frequently tried to have a baby to no avail. With Souffle working by her side every day, Ding soon became attracted to him, and him her. One day she came up with the idea that she could use Souffle to impregnate her. When Ryo was out driving the customers to the surf, she asked Souffle if he could give her a hand in the pantry. When Souffle entered the pantry Ding was waiting naked. She seduced him and soon they were doing it daily in the pantry when Ryo would take the guests out to surf. Ding was soon pregnant.

Ryo was overcome with joy when Ding told him she was pregnant. Of course he believed he was the one who had impregnated her. He wasn’t in the least bit suspicious that someone else could be playing in his yard, as his ego had grown so big that he thought of himself as a king. In these days, Ryo was doing much less surfing and much more money counting. When his guests would paddle out he would sit in the van and count his wads of cash. His love for making money overtook his love for surfing and he began getting fat and out of shape. He bought every top of the line surfboard and fluorescent wetsuit on offer, although his surfing was less and less.

Nine months past, all the while Ryo and Ding becoming richer and richer and greedier and greedier. Souffle caught a flight back to France as Ding went into labor. The baby was born. He was a healthy baby boy with beautiful red hair that was the same exact tone as Souffle’s. Ryo, who had dark brown hair, was baffled. Where did the baby get his red hair? He asked all the guests if they thought the baby looked like him. They wanted their host to be happy so they told him what he wanted to hear, that the baby looked just like him. Because love is blind, he believed them. Ding and Ryu named the boy Ryu Jr.

As the years went by Ryu took Junior surfing every day. Even when the waves were terrible he forced Junior to paddle out while he watched from the van, counting his cash in between set waves. He had a dream for his only son to be on the WCT one day. Junior won many events as a youngster and made it pretty high on the WQS, the best ever for a Taiwanese.

While Junior was touring the world surfing, Ryu Sr. and Ding carried on with their business of making money and taking vans filled with surfers to Taiwan’s surf breaks. They also bought a mini bus for occasions when they had extra-large parties. At any time of day you could find dozens of Ryu’s guests at any given surf break in the area. The local surfers had grown to despise Ryu and Ding over the years, as they brought an instant crowd to the beach every time. Often times the crowds were disrespectful towards the locals. Still, Ryu was proud of his business and his wealth. Although he himself rarely surfed anymore, he had his son’s surfing to be proud of. He constantly bragged to anyone who would listen how he had coached Junior and taught him everything he knows. He said surfing was in their family genes.

One day not too long after the day Hal assaulted the Japanese with fireworks when the surf was maxing out and the best break on the island was firing, Ryu decided to paddle out. This was a mistake, as he was way out of shape and the conditions were heavy. His respect for the ocean had dwindled over time. On the paddle out, the first wave in a cleanup set broke his leash and he lost his board. It was a ten wave set and Ryu Sr. was never seen again. His board was found later that day a half mile or so down the beach.

7.

After lunch Hal and I were still a bit frazzled from all the acid and we wanted to go surfing again. We drove to the beach and as we were pulling into a parking spot I saw a guy that I recognized but I couldn’t remember where from. He was changing into swim trunks getting ready to go surfing. I watched him from the driver’s seat of my car, trying to place where I’d seen him before. I asked Hal, “Do you know that guy waxing his board over there?”

“Naw mate, never seen the poodle,” is what I think I understood Hal to say. I don’t know what it means to be a poodle but I don’t think it was a compliment. Then it came to me who the guy was. He was the guy leaving Mike’s house when I got there a few days before. He was the guy who had bought the rest of the weed and made it so I couldn’t get any. Mike told me he had blackmailed him. He also told me he lived up north. That meant he was probably surfing one last time before he had to drive home because it was Sunday afternoon and more than likely he had to work the next day. I told Hal the situation and to stay in the car and watch the fuckwit because he hadn’t noticed us pull up and I did not want to blow our cover. We sat still in the car watching the guy. I was hoping he would hide the key near the car so when he paddled out we could easily break into the car. I was slightly disappointed when I saw the dude put his key in the pocket of his board shorts but then I realized I would enjoy breaking the window of the pricks car. Once the guy was far enough out in the water I lobbed a rock at the guy’s car from where my car was across the parking lot. The rock missed the windows but did some nice damage to roof of the car. The next rock went clear through the back right window. I looked out to where the guy was paddling in the ocean and from where I stood it did not appear that he was aware of anything happening to his car. I went down to the old green Mitsubishi Lancer and reached into unlock the door. As I did so I immediately smelled the good weed in the car. It was in a backpack on the floor in the back seat. I grabbed the backpack and walked over to my van. I fired it up and as we were pulling out of the lot Hal said urgently, “Hold on! I gotta do something.” I stopped the car and Hal got out with a huge bundle of fireworks. He had a box that shot out fifteen big rockets if you lit the wick. He had a hundreds of rounds of the loud popping blackcats in his grip too. He ran down to the guy’s car, lit all the fireworks, threw them in the through the busted window, then ran up and hopped in my van. As we drove away we heard hundreds of explosions coming from inside the guy’s car. As if stealing his weed wasn’t bad enough punishment. We began laughing as we drove off in search of another place to surf..

On our drive to find another place to surf we stopped at a Seven Eleven to load up on beer. As I was getting back into the car I heard my phone ringing. I found it under the seat and picked up. “Yo dude it’s Joe. I thought you were going to pick me up at four. You still coming?” I glanced at the clock on the dashboard. It was four forty five. I had forgotten all about picking Joe up at the airport which was at least thirty minutes away from where I was. Joe was the fifteen year old younger brother of one of my best friends from back in California. He was in Taiwan to visit me and surf. It’s a mystery why his folks let him come visit their older son’s biggest derelict son.

“Shit. I’m sorry. Give me thirty minutes,” I drove like a demon towards the airport as we quenched our thirsts with cold Asahi. We pulled up to Joe asleep on his luggage on the curb about forty minutes later. We woke up the wiry teenager and he threw his surfboard and backpack in the back of the van. We hugged and said hi and it was less than a minute before Joe was all up in the fireworks. He seemed to really enjoy shooting bottle rockets out of the window of the moving vehicle. It was getting dark on the drive back towards my house so we stopped at a bar for dinner. We ate some dinner at the bar and kept drinking beers for hours after dinner. We were drunk and we were cursing loudly and making politically incorrect remarks so the bar owner, another among thousands of South Africans who had fled to Taiwan, asked us to leave. He said we were offending the guests. When we wouldn’t leave he told us he was going to call the cops. I knew the guy and knew he wouldn’t call the cops on me but we finally got up to leave and hopped in my van which was parked directly in front of the bar. As I started the car from the shotgun and back seat Hal and Joe were shooting bottle rockets into the bar and throwing twirly spinner things that spun into the air like helicopters into the guys bar. The few patrons were ducking under tables and the bar owner was yelling angrily at us from behind the bar where he ducked for safety.

“Stop with the fuckin fireworks. You fuckheads are gonna get me in trouble,” I yelled at the two goons in the car with me as they kept giggling like idiots. The van was filled with smoke and the smell of the burning wicks and gunpowder from the fireworks. As I drove down the highway and scolded my friends I realized I was approaching a roadblock set up by the cops to check for drunk drivers. I didn’t have time to think so I just pulled the car over to the side of the road. The cops were less than a hundred yards away and they were looking at us through the darkness wondering what we were doing. “Joe, have you been drinkin?” I asked.

“Nope,” He answered.

“Ok. Let’s do a Chinese fire drill. Or even better, slide up into the driver’s seat and I will slip into the back seat,” I instructed. The kid did what he was told and drove towards the roadblock worriedly.

When we got to the roadblock a cop came to the window while another cop stood nearby with a powerful rifle. The cop at the window asked in broken English, “Tonight you drink?”

“Nope,” Joe answered. The cop waved us through and we sighed in relief. Luckily they hadn’t seen our little switcheroo or asked to see our fifteen year old driver’s license. But what we were really lucky about was the cops not arresting us for drunken driving and then finding the backpack with the quarter pound in it that we had forgotten about behind the driver’s seat. It had been a long day with the acid and fireworks and beer so we went back to the hostel to get some sleep. I had to work early the following morning.

8.

Work was the same as usual. Slightly hungover but super stoned now that I had all the bud I could smoke. Morning classes went about the same as usual. The same kids with their same behaviors, just a different day. Jim didn’t speak as usual. I wished I could find a way to get him interested in learning English but I had to except that his true passions at this point in his life were food and sleep. I had his sixth grade class just before lunch and afterwards as I was sitting down to eat my lunch in the teachers’ office when the principal came up and said, “One of the student’s mothers would like to speak to you. This is Jim from sixth grades mother.” The principal then left us to speak to eachother. The lady was a beautiful and she was probably around thirty years old. Her face appeared to be of Vietnamese dissent. She was wearing sexy attire complete with a miniskirt, high heeled boots, and a skimpy top. She was dressed to kill and looking a bit like a streetwalker.

“Hello. How are you?” I asked.

“I fine thank you. But I worried Jim’s English. He do bad at test. He no good at school. I do not know what to do. He have no father. Only want to play video game. I can’t make him study,” The fine looking mother responded with gloomy frustration while I wondered how a lady with such a figure had given birth to a child as massive as Jim.

“I think Jim is smart but he has little interest in school and learning English. To tell you the truth I really don’t know what to about it. Is there something you would like me to do?” I said as I tried to focus on my job instead of fantasizing about the student’s mother.

“Maybe come eat dinner at my house and we talk to Jim? He say you are nice teacher. I cook food give you. Ok?” asked the lady. I didn’t know whether or not to believe Jim had told her I was a nice teacher. This invitation sounded a little sketchy.

“Ok. When?” I asked. I was thinking that this situation could be really good or really bad, or both.

“How about come tonight after work. We talk and I make Vietnam food for you. My house close to school,” She said goodbye to me and gave me instructions to their home. I didn’t know whether to be excited or nervous. This situation could more than likely get me in trouble. Would I be able to resist coming on to this beautiful lady?

I spent the rest of the day pondering my situation. After work I drove to the location she had told me to go to. It was only a few blocks from the school. The place was a betel nut stand. She was dressed in her sexy attire and she was flirting with a weathered old truck driver who had stopped to pick up some betel nuts, cigs, and liquor. She was a betel nut beauty. She waved to me and told me to come inside. Her house was located just behind her betel nut stand. She brought me a beer and smiled as she said, “Sit down. I close store and we eat. Jim play computer in room.”

I sat on a wooden sofa and drank the Taiwan Beer she gave me. She closed the stand and went into the kitchen that was connected to the room I was sitting in. As she prepared food she told me her story. “I come to Taiwan when eighteen and marry very old man. He die and leave me with Jim. Jim nice boy but don’t do I say. Now Jim no listen me and no like school. I no know what do!” As she said this she burst into tears. I got up and ran into the kitchen to comfort her.

I was patting her back and saying, “It’s alright. He will be fine. He is just a kid. I hated school at his age too.” Before I knew it she turned to face me and we began kissing. We began feeling each other’s bodies with the intensity of people who had not been touched in a long time. She led me into her bedroom and we both got what we were really after. The most disturbing thing about the whole experience was the sound of tapping on the keypad coming from the next room, Jim’s room.

9.

On the drive home I thought about what had just happened and my feelings were bitter sweet. Of course I enjoyed sex with the Vietnamese lady but I felt it was a little wrong to have a relationship with one of my student’s mothers. Did I take advantage of her, I asked myself. But I’d done worse things in my days and I knew I would get over it and that everyone would be alright one way or another. I wondered if I’d see her again. I was still hungry because I told the Vietnamese gal not to make me dinner in my quest to leave before Jim emerged from his room and saw me looking guilty.

At the hostel Hal and Joe were lounging on the sofa in the common area. Both had bandages on their faces and all over the rest of their bodies. “What the fuck happened to you guys?” I asked.

“We had a bad case of friendly fire. Got a few burns,” answered Joe. They explained how they had been trying to shoot a box of rockets down at the neighbor’s house. The neighbors are a couple with a yoga retreat about one hundred yards down the hill from the hostel. They have been resentful towards our raucous style of living at the hostel and have called the cops more than once for our parties. For that reason we have targeted them. Anyways, Hal and Joe were on the balcony on the third floor of my hostel looking down on the yoga retreat. On the ledge of my balcony they had set up the box of rockets so they were slanted towards the yoga retreat. They then lit the wick but when the first rocket went off the box fell into the balcony where they were standing instead of staying on the ledge. The fifteen or so rockets shot off in the enclosed balcony instead of at the yoga retreat. The boys had nowhere to run and hide because the balcony is big and they were about ten yards from the door leading inside. They rolled up on the ground with hands covering their faces in an effort to protect themselves but they ended up taking a beating from the rockets shooting and exploding all over the balcony. They had gone to the hospital with pretty bad burns all over their bodies but nothing too severe.

“No more fucking fireworks goddammit! I don’t know what’s worse, ya’ll getting burnt or how much trouble I would be in if the fuckin rockets rained down on the damn yoga retreat,” I yelled at the thirty something year old Hal and the fifteen year old Joe. My anger brought a fit of laughter from the two imbeciles until I too was laughing with them. Once the laughing subsided we went to eat Vietnamese food for dinner across the street at Igor’s.

At dinner the topic of the tree dick came up. The tree dick was a wooden growth that came out of a tree trunk. The tree was on the side of the same highway that my hostel was on. The growth looked very similar to a large penis. This tree was located about a mile down the highway from my hostel. Taiwanese people found the random growth to be so funny that they would stop their cars on the shoulder of the highway to get out and get a picture next to the tree dick. We found this to be quite annoying because cars would drive very slowly while they looked for the tree with the dick and when they found it they would stop their cars barely off the road to get out and have a laugh and take dozens of photos. The tree became so famous in Taiwan that it was on the national news. Soon whenever people passed who were from another part of Taiwan they would stop without fail to check out the tree dick. Sometimes five or ten cars would be stopped on the side of the road next to the tree dick and dozens of people would be gawking at it. The principal of the elementary school where I worked even took a picture with the tree dick. He made the picture his profile shot on Facebook. In the picture he had his tongue out and he was licking the tree dick. My friends and I found this extremely strange and perverted for the principal to have this on his Facebook, especially because some of the students were his friends, but the Taiwanese did not seem to find it offensive. We chalked it up to cultural differences. As Igor and I finished informing Joe and Hal about the tree dick Joe said, “Do either of you have a saw?” I was astonished that the kid still wanted to cause more trouble even after burning the shit out of himself with fireworks.

“I got one,” Said Igor as he ran into his restaurant. He came back with a small saw. Next thing I knew we were in my van headed for the tree. “Let’s make it look like the Jap surfers did it. The Taiwanese will be pissed and we don’t want to be the suspects. Stop at Seven and we can pick up some Kirin, Asahi, seaweed and a pack of Mevius.” After a quick stop at Seven Eleven we pulled up at a turn off about fifty yards from the tree so my van wouldn’t be seen at the crime scene.

All four of us got out of the van and walked toward the tree. Once at the tree Joe started sawing the dick off while the rest of us smoked Japanese cigarettes and chugged Japanese beer. We scattered the butts and empty beer cans around the tree to make it look like the Japanese surfers had been the ones to dismember the tree. Whenever we saw the headlights of an approaching car all four of us would hop down into the drainage ditch that was a little further from the road. Whenever Joe’s arms got tired from using the saw one of us would hop into relieve him. After about fifteen minutes we had the dick in our hands, free from the tree. Laughing, we ran to the van and drove back to Igor’s restaurant.

Back at the restaurant we placed the dick at the center of one the dining tables to observe it. We dreamed up the unlikely scenario that there would be a considerable reward for the dick and that we would all become rich. After forming a pact not to tell a soul about the dick unless a substantial reward was on offer, we walked back to the hostel and went to sleep.

10.

The following morning I awoke to a more mild hangover than usual. I drove to work, wondering what the response to the missing tree dick would be like. The morning classes went as usual but I had a difficult time looking Jim in the eye as I was unsure if he knew about what had happened between his mom and me. He didn’t seem to be wise to the incident and he sure as hell didn’t put an ounce of effort into learning English.

At lunch time I got on Facebook and I saw that someone had posted a picture of the tree that was missing the dick. Over eight hundred people had commented on it. The comments were all written in Chinese so I had to translate them. The comments read something like, “They could have just bought a vibrator” and “Taiwan monument stolen.” I wrote one that said “Probably the Japanese surfers taking it back to make strange movies.”

The principal of the school seemed down all day. He was just moping around and not engaging with any one. I figured it was because he had seen about the tree. At the end of the day I saw him sitting at his desk with his head hung down. When school got out I went straight to the beach to check the waves after picking up Hal and Joe from the hostel. Two vans full of the Japanese surfers were standing around the parking area looking at the waves.

I heard the screeching of tires and I looked up to see the principal’s Camry come steaming into the parking lot. It came to a dusty halt right next to where the Japanese surfers were standing. The principal got out of his car, slammed the door with a sigh of disgust, and pranced up to the Japanese guys swinging pathetically weak slaps with his limp wrists at their faces. The Japanese scattered away from this minor threat but even so they were surprised and frightened by the screaming man trying to slap them. The Japanese managed to get into their vans and lock the doors. The principal just stood there until ten minutes later when the Japanese surfers took off. We had watched the whole thing from my van, one hundred percent entertained. The principal must have thought the Japanese surfers took his favorite national relic and because of that we were able to surf just the three of us. Hal caught the bus back up to Taipei that night. I was sad to see him go but it would probably spare me some trouble. He would be back the next time the waves were good.

11.

The next morning my van wouldn’t start so I gave Joel the keys with instructions to go talk to the mechanic down the street. He would have to use hand gestures and mimes to get the point across because he knew not one word of Chinese. I called Sarah for a ride to work because she lives near me. Sarah is a fifty year old woman who dresses in tight clothing and miniskirts and still looks very sexy. She is super sweet and ditzy. Sarah is the kindergarten teacher at my school and also one of Mike’s girlfriends. She is also pizza PJ’s wife’s Sonia’s older sister.

When she pulled up in her car to pick me up she was sobbing uncontrollably. “Sarah, what’s wrong?” I asked.

“Mike go. He leave never say bye. I so sad,” moaned Sarah. Her stupidity brought a flash of anger to me and I felt like telling her right then that she had been just one of many girlfriends Mike had, but that wouldn’t have been very nice of me. Then my anger turned to pity for the lonely and sweet sexy older woman.

When I got to work Jim’s Vietnamese mother was sitting at my desk in the teacher’s office. “What are you doing here?” I whispered so I wouldn’t bring the attention of the other teachers. I realized then that I did not know her name.

“I bring Jim school and say hi. Will you come over later?” she answered with a pretty smile. I had gotten myself into a mess now. I would have to stop after work to tell her she couldn’t just enter the office and sit at my desk.

“Well I am super busy this morning. I hope you will excuse me. I will stop by after school,” I said trying to sound professional in case the other teachers were listening. I didn’t want anyone to suspect that I was sleeping with a student’s mother. She said good bye and tried to kiss me but I dodged the kiss, looking around to see if any other teachers were watching. Man was this one a nut. I didn’t know what I was going to do and she walked off giggling.

I was miserable that entire school day thinking about ways to deal with the student’s mother diplomatically and without endangering my job. I told Sarah that I didn’t need a ride home and I walked to Jim’s house after school. Jim’s mom was standing in front of her shop with another beautiful girl. They were both wearing super short jean shorts and tight little tank tops. The other girl was younger and perhaps even more beautiful. As I approached she got my juices flowing when she waved and blew a little kiss at me then walked off down the street, leaving me alone with Jim’s mother.

I decided to get right into explaining some rules. “Please don’t come to the office at school to see me. I don’t want the teachers at school to know about us right now. And what’s your name anyways?” I said seriously.

“My English name Amy. You too worry. Don’t worry so much,” She giggled in response. “Don’t worry. I won’t talk you at school if you don’t want. But please come and say hi to me sometime,” She said seductively as she got close to me and reached for my belt. Once again we were all over each other and we went to her bedroom, the sound of a computers keyboard could be heard clearly. I thought that this arrangement was strange but maybe not so bad as I was putting my clothes on afterwards. I was about to make an excuse for why I needed to leave and then I remembered I had no car to drive home in. “Where you car?” Amy asked.

“I do not have it today,” I answered.

“I take you,” she said.

Right after I left her room Jim popped into the narrow hallway and said with a smile, “Laoshe ni hao.”

“Ni hao Jim,” I responded wondering if I was the first laoshe to hang around those parts. He did not seem to think it strange one bit that I was inside his house. I was relieved and went out front to wait for Amy. Afternoon clouds came in and soon it began pouring rain like it only can in tropical parts of the world. After a few minutes we got into her tiny old car. I felt bad to make her drive me all the way home in this weather but I didn’t have too many choices and I couldn’t start crashing at her place already.

We were about ten minutes down the road when we noticed a hitchhiker covered in a yellow poncho with his thumb out. We pulled up and the hitchhike came to the window. It was no other than the dude who’s weed we’d stolen and who’s car we’d destroyed. I hid my utter shock as I prayed he didn’t remember my face from a few days before at Mike’s. “Can I get a lift just up the road?” he asked.

He must not have recognized me and I must have appeared to be a stoner because when I let him in the car he immediately started sharing the story of his misfortunes with us. “I just came down here last weekend to surf. I met a guy out surfing who sold me a lot of weed. Spent almost every dime I had on that weed. But that fuckin weed got stolen from my car when I was out surfing on Sunday. The guy that stole also left the inside of my car in flames. I think it was the motherfucker that sold it to me but seems like he left town. He was the only person who knew I had it. You from around here? You know that older guy Mike who surfs?” He asked.

“I know him. He went back to the States,” I said. Amy just sat there driving silently.

He broke down into a sorry whimper and cried, “He did? That bastard left me broke after he stole the weed he sold me! Then he destroyed my car! I am missing work because I have to wait for my car to be repaired so I can drive back up north. If I didn’t meet Ken I would be stranded right now.”

“Ken?” I asked.

Andy said, “Yeah. Keir Scone. I met him at this little hostel I am staying up just right up the road. He lent me money to fix my car. He is one badass dude. Do you know him too?”

“Can’t say that I do,” I lied as we dropped him off in front of the hostel. I was amused that the blackmailer and the barehanded killer had met each other and apparently enjoyed one another’s company.

12.

When we reached my place I asked her if she wanted to have dinner with me and meet my Vietnamese friend, Springroll. We walked over to Igor and Springroll’s and I got to drinking beer with Igor while Amy and Springroll hit it right off and started chattering nonstop in excited Vietnamese. We were just beginning a game of scrabble when Joe rolled up on my scooter. He ran up to us with a huge mischievous grin on his face. He was carrying a gift bag. He pulled a fake penis of hefty size out of the bag. Then he said with excitement, “Dude. I went to town because the waves were shit today and while there I picked this gem up at the sex shop. I figure since the Taiwanese miss the tree dick so much we will replace it. I want to see how this goes over with them. I went to the hardware store as well to buy a bolt we can drill into the tree. Then all we need to do is remove the spine from this nasty ass dildo and place it on the bolt. This time the tree will have a solid boner instead of sorry limpy. Do either of you have a drill?” Igor and I busted up with laughter.

I said, “I like your idea but I don’t wanna fuck with the tree anymore. The Taiwanese will deport my ass if they find out it was me.” I saw a look of disappointment cross Joe’s face. I had let him down with my lack of enthusiasm for his remarkable plan.

“I never knew you to be one to be afraid of a little prank man,” said Joe with true sorrow.

“Yeah, that’s not like you dude,” said Igor.

“Alright, fuck it man. Let’s go drill that freaky thing onto the tree. Igor, get your drill. Joe, If I get deported back to the States you can explain to your mom why she has to allow me to sleep on her couch until I find a job,” I said and we went to hop in my newly fixed van. The girls were still talking rapidly in Vietnamese about God knows what.

We pulled off the highway a little down the road from the tree and we walked to the tree carrying the drill, the bolt, and the dick replacement. It was a similar mission as last time. I stayed on lookout while Joe and Igor drilled the bolt into the tree. Every time I saw headlights approaching we hopped down into the ditch that ran alongside the road. Once we had the bolt drilled securely into the tree we put the hollowed out rubber dick over the bolt. Now there was a foot long, real looking, skin colored penis protruding erect from the tree where the tree dick had been. We ran to the van tripping over ourselves from laughter.

13.

We were feeling so great about the prank so we decided to carry on with our drinking. We picked up Springroll and Amy and headed into Taitung City to find a place to play pool. We found a bar that advertised Budweiser with a neon light on the outside and that was good enough for us.

Upon entering the bar we couldn’t believe our eyes. The bar was dark and smoky on the inside but it was easy to see the Nazi flags and memorabilia all over the walls because lights illuminated them. A bar in the most remote part of Taiwan had used Nazi décor for their theme! Everywhere you looked there were portraits of Hitler and soldiers, Swastikas, and other absurd Nazi relics.

As if the Nazi theme wasn’t bizarre enough, the transvestite cocktail waitresses slash hookers put the place over the top. There were no pool tables but we decided to hang around the joint for the astonishing atmosphere, taking a table in the corner where we wouldn’t be heard laughing about the absurdity of the place and what the Nazis would have done to Asian transvestites. We ordered some drinks from our lantern jawed waitress or waiter or whatever the gender correct term is these days. For the sake of the story we’ll just call it a waiteress.

After a few drinks I had to take a leak. The bathroom was located behind the bar in an unattached area. Back in this area there were tables where gangster looking Taiwanese men were sitting around drinking, smoking and playing cards. There were also closed doors that had sexual noises coming through from the other side. This place kept getting stranger. I went to take a leak and when I came out of the restroom no one other than Ken Scone emerged from one of the closed doors with a beautiful transvestite on his arm, but a transvestite none the less. As he emerged from what I imagined to be a room where men took the transvestites for sexual favors he saw me coming out of the restroom.

In his monotone expressionless voice Ken said, “Hi Sam. How did you find out about this place?”

“I guess I just kind of stumbled in. Pretty weird joint with the tranny’s and the Nazi shit everywhere,” I answered.

“Well this place is the best whorehouse in Taitung City. I’ve never gotten a better blowjob in my life,” he said in perhaps the most creepy way anyone had ever spoken to me.

“Yeah but that’s a dude that just sucked you off pal,” I told him in an unbelievably disgusted voice.

“Doesn’t matter to me man. A blow jobs a blowjob,” Kenn

said without tone or shame.

“Well enjoy yourself buddy. I think we are going to jam outta here,” I said as I hustled off to tell Igor, Joe, and the girls about Ken and what went on in the back room of the place. We were laughing our asses off about the place and finishing our drinks when our waiteress caught on to the fact that we were making fun of the place.

The strong jawed transvestite waiteress came up to the table and said with a hand on her hip, “You no like here you leave. You no want have fun you leave.”

Joe and Igor busted up laughing. Joe, who is Jewish I should add, said, “No problem sir, I mean miss. We have had enough of your shitty Nazi tranny bar anyway. Place is fuckin creepy!” As we were walking out the door I saw Ken taking a different transvestite by the hand and leading her towards the back area.

14.

Amy spent the night with me that night at the hostel. She called Jim and told him she would not be coming home. If he knew she was at his English teacher’s home I could only imagine the rumors that would begin circulating at school. I was playing a dangerous game with my job for many reasons. Not only was I a drug and alcohol taking elementary school teacher but now I was banging one of my student’s mothers. I dropped her off at her home and then went to school. The hangover I was experiencing and the worry over being found out about my affair with the Vietnamese mother caused me to forget all about our mission that replaced the tree dick the night before. Surely there would be uproar on social media and perhaps even the national news in Taiwan. I wondered if the Taiwanese would find the replacement funny or offensive. There would more than likely be various responses. I would have to wait until lunch time to look on Facebook and see the reactions of the people.

Classes were as usual, teaching third graders the English alphabet and the fourth, fifth and sixth graders very basic English conversation skills. I had Jim’s sixth grade class just before lunch as usual. Jim arrived early while I was making my last minute half assed lesson plans. With a mouthful of dried fish, he came right up to me and asked in way better English than I thought he would ever be capable of, “You and I mama have good night?”

Surprised, I broke out in a sweat and nearly shat myself before I responded weakly. “Uh yeah, we had a nice night. Have you been studying your English? You are speaking much better,” I said in an attempt to change the subject.

Ignoring my compliment, Jim asked with a serious and concerned look on his face, “You will marry I mama?”

The conversation was getting downright frightening and I found myself wishing Jim’s English would return to being nonexistent. I also felt a tinge of guilt because it seemed Jim had begun liking me. “I am not sure Jim. Maybe we can talk about it more later,” I responded. Jim went and sat at his seat. I prayed that he would keep what was happening between his mother and me a secret. It seemed he had not told any of his classmates yet. He was not the most social student so I was comforted by the fact that he didn’t have a ton of friends to inform about his mother and me. In class that day Jim was tuned in to the lesson the entire time. It seemed as if he was trying to win me over by being respectful and focusing on English. Maybe he was trying to win me over so I would marry his mother, I had no idea. This situation was getting increasingly complicated and I would have to sort it out sooner or later.

At lunch time I sat down at my computer and logged onto Facebook. Sure enough many of my Taiwanese friends and foreign friends who had driven by the new tree dick that morning had stopped to take a picture and immediately post it on Facebook. Everyone was ranting and raving about it and I figured half of the country must have seen the new realistic foot long replacement by then, and it was only noon. There were mixed emotions about the big dildo sticking erect out of the tree but for the most part people were getting a major kick out of it. Some comments said they preferred the natural, original one more but others said the newer and more endowed one was superior.

I looked up from my computer to steal a glance at the principal who was sitting at his desk across the office. He was just sitting at his desk staring off into space with a dreamy and satisfied smile on his face. I took this look of contentment to be the direct result of the reconstructing of his favorite national monument. I would be willing to bet he liked the second version even more than the first. I was astonished and pathetically proud that our little crew of immature expat goofs could bring laughter and entertainment to such a large portion of the Taiwanese population.

15.

While sitting there eating lunch in the staff room I got a text message from my friend Oscar. I had met him and his Taiwanese wife when they were vacationing in Taitung and after that they stayed at my hostel whenever they came to southeast Taiwan. He is an Australian chef in his late twenties who owns a gourmet restaurant in Taoyuan, a large city in the north of Taiwan near Taipei. Oscar is an overweight hippy with long dark hair. His passions include music, drugs, and food. He cooks excellent food and also holds excellent drugs that he has mailed into Taiwan from all over the world. His coke is sent in from South America. The speed comes from Australia. The acid and weed come from California. The brown sugar heroin comes in from Afghanistan or some place in that region. In his text he was letting me know that he had some of the heroin had come in because I had told him that I was a fan of that stuff.

I hadn’t done heroin in the five years since I’d moved from California to Taiwan. I got so super excited about the thought of doing some heroin that directly after school I drove to the domestic Taitung airport and hopped on a flight bound for Taipei. From Taipei I took a bus into Taoyuan and then I took a short cab ride from the bus station the Oscar’s restaurant. It was about midnight when I arrived there. In my quest for heroin I forgot about everything else and I now realized I would have a very difficult time making it back for work in the morning. The flights and trains had all stopped running. I decided I would worry about it after I scored.

The kitchen in Oscar’s restaurant held two purposes of equal importance. One, obviously, was to prepare mouthwatering food. The other purpose was for Oscar to sell and consume as much drugs as he possibly could and still move around like a zombie while somehow still cooking epic meals. He showed me his ketamine, hash, weed, LSD vial, mushrooms, DMT, cocaine, pharmaceutical pills, MDMA, speed, opium, some various shit I’d never seen or heard of, and the finally the big chunk of crumbling brown heroin. He is a generous drug dealer and he enthusiastically insisted that I sample as much of the merchandise as I could. “Here mate, take a sniffle of this pure blow. Oh, and try a dab of this molly, its fire. The acid I have right now is magic!” Worried about the real chance of overdose if I took even a tenth of what he was offering me I told him all I wanted was some of the heroin. He gave me what I paid for and I began shoveling it up my nose liberally.

After nodding off on and off for a few hours it was late at night. I had to be at work by eight o’clock that day and I lived about five hours by train. I called a cab and stumbled to the curb in front of the restaurant to wait for it. I figured my best chance of making it to work was to catch the high speed rail to Kaohsiung, a city in the far south of Taiwan. That would take an hour. From Kaohsiung I could hop a three and a half hour slow train to Taitung and I could make it to work in time.

I took the high speed rail to Kaohsiung but upon arriving in Kaohsiung I was stung to find there were no more trains running that night to Taitung. It was roughly three in the morning. I pondered my situation through a warm, opiate infused state of mind and realized I had better just spring the one hundred and fifty US dollars for the three and a half hour cab ride to Taitung. I went to a public restroom and stuck a hollowed out pen inside my bag of brown sugar dust and inhaled deeply, feeling the heroin rush through my body. I went out to a curb and hailed a cab.

The cab driver was amazed that a foreign junky had the cash to pay for a long distance cab ride and wanted half the cash up front. I handed it over. Once in the cab I became nauseous from the amount of dope I’d done. I lit a cig but soon nodded off and was awaken by the cigarette burning a hole in my jeans and then into the skin of my thigh. I woke up and tossed the cig. Nausea overtook me at this point and I told the cabbie to pull over so I could barf. We were only thirty minutes into what would turn into a long cab ride. I lit another cigarette and the same thing happened as before. In my heroin dreamland I was starting a new fashion trend, cig burn holes on my jeans. As I awoke from the burning in my thigh once again, I began puking inside the cab. The cabbie pulled over on what was now the shallow shoulder of a mountain road between Kaohsiung and Taitung. He was patient with me and helped me out of the car to resume throwing up.

I passed out for the next hour or so but was awoken to slaps to the face from the furious and screaming cab driver. This time I had dropped the burning cigarette on the seat next to me when I nodded off and the interior of the cab’s seat was melting away. As he was slapping me and trying to steer simultaneously I began puking all over the inside of his cab. Through all this I never considered the miserable feeling heroin gives and the danger of croaking, but only felt the good euphoric buzz it provided at the same time. The cabbie was yelling, something in Chinese about me paying for the damages to the cab. I told him not to worry and just get me to my fucking car at the Taitung airport. He did what I requested and I paid for the damage I had done to his cab with my cigarette and throw up. We made peace and I had about an hour to straighten up before work at the elementary school where I was to teach the good youth of Taiwan.

16.

Thursday morning was actually pretty comfortable for me. I thought I was an ace. Unfortunately, the rest of the staff and the students didn’t see me as I saw myself. They kept asking why I looked so tired and out of it and I kept telling them I was at the top of my game even though I was falling asleep standing up in mid conversation with other teachers. While teaching class I retreated to my desk where I fell asleep in the comfort of my cushioned chair. Students repeatedly woke me up, too worried about my behavior to take the opportunity to misbehave. I told them it was nap time and that they should do the same. Although I was not quite myself that day, nothing came of it immediately. I went home that day and did the rest of my stash and got a good night’s sleep. The waves had gotten good while I was on my little field trip from reality and I wanted to feel better than like complete shit the next day.

Friday was pretty uneventful at school. I was back to my normal self and the students and staff seemed relieved. Jim and his mom seemed to mellow out on me and I was grateful for it. I wondered if she was banging someone new and I hoped so in order to escape their grip more easily. Then I realized it had only been about two days since I’d seen Amy last. Jeez, it felt like centuries.

Friday after school I surfed good waves. Through the weekend the waves were good so each night we wouldn’t take the drinking to the extreme. Some dudes from Finland came in and we all played cards and dominoes Friday and Saturday night then woke up early each morning to go for a surf. They loved surfing even though Finland has no surf. They had taught themselves to surf when they left Finland each winter and went to a tropical location to thaw out. They all had long blond hair, smoked spliffs every waking moment, and drank beer from noon on every day. I kept kicking their asses at dominoes, a game they had just taught me. I was getting super lucky. Joe kept losing. I was taking their money and wondering if they thought I was cheating. I felt a bit guilty but they didn’t give a fuck, just glad to be out of cold and dark Finland. It was a health restoring weekend to an extent, but in reality it would take years for my mind body and soul to get back on track, a track I wasn’t planning on taking, ever again. I was going to write my shit, do my thing in regards to substances, work, the hostel, and surf and hope for the best and tell anyone to fuck off that stood in my way. Anyway, it was a good weekend surfing up and down the southeast coast of Taiwan. The sun was out and we surfed fun waves to ourselves in just our shorts. If there is something better than that I haven’t found it yet.

On Monday I kept to my health routine. This meant that anytime I didn’t have class I snuck away from work to go surf. Either they didn’t miss me at school or they didn’t want to call me out. Whatever the case, I was glad. It was nice to be off the drug and alcohol bender and surf again. I surfed after work on Monday then went to Igor’s for dinner. We played Scrabble as usual but I can’t recall who won. I told the boys about the principal of my school and how he seemed utterly jazzed and appeared very jolly over the replacement of the dick. We all got a good laugh and Joe said, “I hope I never see the dude attached to the tree in any sexual position. That might scar me for life.” As we were eating and laughing about the tree dick a lady came on the television news at the site of the replaced tree dick. She spoke in Chinese and showed a blurred out version of the replacement. She interviewed some people who had stopped to view the replacement. They were all in good spirits, along with the pretty female reporter. It appeared they would leave the replacement intact. Then the principal of my school was interviewed. He was in tears as he babbled about how special the tree was to him and how the people that took the initiative to replace the stolen treasure were his heroes. As he was speaking he had a strange grip on the blurry replacement. As for my life, everything was going super casual but that was about to change.

17.

On Tuesday nothing much occurred at school worth mentioning and there was still no sign of Amy. However, the other beautiful Vietnamese girl who I’d seen at Amy’s house a few days before was waiting for a kindergarten age student outside of the school at the end of the day. I said, “Hi there. You are Amy’s friend, right?”

She said seductively, “Yes, I wait here for my boss’ son. My name Ting. You Sam. I see you Amy house other day. You have Facebook? Maybe we chat.”

I knew it was a bad idea to get involved with another lady who was closely connected with my work place but I was down to giving my last fuck about much. She handed me her smart phone and I helped her to find me on Facebook and add me as a friend. We made plans to chat later through messages.

I got home from school that day and a new guest was waiting with Joe. He was a Taiwanese dude in his late twenties from Taipei name Sky. I usually only had travelers from outside of Taiwan stay in my hostel because they were not likely to gossip about my habits or the activities that took place at my hostel. I showed him to a room and told him the nightly rates. At this point I should probably mention I was running my hostel illegally. My visa for staying in Taiwan was a working visa for teaching only. I was not permitted to conduct other business ventures, although I constantly tried like the time a week before when I tried to hustle fruit.

Sky came upstairs to my room and knocked on the door not long after I met him. I answered it and he asked me a barrage of invasive questions. “How do foreigner get run business in Taiwan? I think illegal. I want run hostel like this and bring surfer down from Taipei to stay. Maybe we can do business? Maybe we make deal? I like the place here.” I instantly realized I had let a person I did not trust who was a potential jealous narc know about my hostel operation. Hopefully he hadn’t seen any drug paraphernalia.

I responded, “Yeah. Maybe we can work something out. Leave me your number and I will think about it.”

“Ok. But I think we talk now or maybe someone find out about your illegal business here,” Sky said with unbelievable nerve.

“You know what? Fuck you cunt. Get the fuck out of my house before I smash your fuckin lights out you piece of shit. Who the fuck are you anyhow?” I said this as I delivered swift kicks to the guys ass as he blitzed off down the hall. He ran down to his room to collect his stuff and leave. But paranoia overtook me. I understood that if I did not comply with this guys business proposals that he could easily inform the police or immigration about my caper. Now he definitely would try to get revenge on me for attacking him verbally and physically. I tried to forget about the mole I allowed to stay at my hostel and I logged onto my Facebook account. I already had a ton of messages from Ting asking what I was doing and if I wanted to go sing karaoke with her that night. Not one to resist temptation, I agreed to meet her at a KTV place later in the night. I was now playing with fire regarding both of my income sources.

I met Ting at the KTV and we took a private windowless room where beer was supplied and a big TV screen showed the lyrics of the songs we requested to sing. She sang beautifully in Chinese and I sang a few Beatles and Eagles songs pitifully that she demanded me to sing. After a few beers we were all over each other, tearing off each other’s clothes then having wild sex for hours afterwards. When it was time to go I told her she must not tell Amy, her boss, or anyone else about what had just happened. She promised she wouldn’t saying, “I tell no one. I just want to sex with you handsome man.” I was satisfied with this arrangement.

As we were leaving the KTV place a women rushed towards us out of a dark alley off to the side of the building screaming in a language I did not understand but instinct told me it was Vietnamese. She swung a high healed shoe at Ting and knocked her to the ground. Then she began kicking her in the face and head before I could restrain the woman. Once I had the aggressor detained I recognized her as Amy. She was in tears, a mixture of hurt and rage on her red and wet face. Over and over again, she kept saying, “Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!” I believed these words were aimed at both Ting and I. Ting scurried off and soon I was standing there alone with Amy. She looked at me in defeat and I felt like shit as well, only my heart wasn’t broken. I said honestly, “I’m sorry Amy. I am a bad man. I didn’t know you really cared about me.” I knew this scandal was sure to haunt me at work.

Then I walked away towards my car, feeling guilty and as if things were about to unravel in my life. When I returned home that night Joe and the Finns were already asleep. I’d bought a large bottle of whisky on the drive home. I turned on some old country music and drank until my memory was history.

18.

Shockingly, I awoke in time for work bleary eyed the next morning. I was laying on the cold tile in the common room of the hostel. The whisky bottle was shattered on the floor and my laptop computer was in pieces on the floor. I yelled a string of curses that the devil would have been proud of and threw a chair through the front window of the hostel. I had gone mad from too much whisky. I didn’t shave or shower. I prepared for work by throwing a torn T-shirt on and a baseball hat. I got in my van and drove towards work, stopping at Seven Eleven not for coffee but another bottle of whisky. I drank from the bottle thirstily on my drive to work, without concern for laws about staying in between lines painted on the road.

At work I went to my desk in the teachers’ office where I hid under my cap. I had the whisky bottle in a back pack at my feet under the desk and took a sip when I felt it was safe. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the Vietnamese girls that came to haunt me that day at work but an unexpected unlucky occurrence. My computer at work had something wrong with it and the school technician, who could speak and read English fluently, came to fix it while I was away teaching a class. I had a lot of writing saved on the hard drive of that computer. It was writing that would be deemed unacceptable for an elementary school teacher to compose, much less save on his work computer. It was mainly about sex, drugs, and other illegal things my friends and I had done in Taiwan and abroad. The technician saved all my writing on a thumb drive and took it to the principal. Together they made enough sense of it and by the end of the school day they approached me. By this time I had sucked down enough Johnny Walker to be reeking heavily of alcohol and not worry about the consequences.

“Sam, can we please speak to you about some writing we have come across on your computer?” asked the principal.

“Sure. Whatever,” I responded rudely. I walked over to the principal’s desk and pulled up a chair.

“On you computer there is a lot of information about illegal thing. It should not be on your computer and the police should be told. If it is yours, you will have to stay away from the school until we have it settled. Did you write that? It smells like jo, have you been drinking, Sam?” asked the principal with an overly emphasized feminine voice.

“I did write it and I have been drinking. But it’s fiction. Do you know what that means? It means it’s not fuckin true. Anyway, it’s no worse than your Facebook profile where your kissing the tree dick you fuckin twisted pervert!” I stated belligerently.

“Please leave school now or we will call the police, thank you. We will let you know when you can return to pick up your things,” responded the principal. I stormed out of there and drove home, where I passed out on the couch as soon as I entered the place.

19.

I was pleased on Thursday morning that I did not have to report to work. I was too hung-over. Having the responsibility of the job lifted felt nice but I was also quite concerned about how I would make money to get by. At least I still had the hostel to make a few bucks. I drove to the beach with Joe to check the waves, and seeing none I went back to the hostel. Joe decided to stay at the beach and surf anyway.

The Finnish boys were already awake. They had taken the opportunity to go pick psychedelic mushrooms in the cow pastures near the hostel that morning because the sun was blazing and the night before it had drizzled. They had found a load of the fungus and we began making plans for eating them.

At that point an albino Englishman named Jeremy showed up at the hostel looking for accommodation. He was tall and slim and chatty. He saw all the mushrooms laid out on the table and said with eagerness in a sophisticated British accent, “Ooh, psilocybin. How I’d love to partake with you fellows. What’s the nightly rate for a room?” We told him we’d share and I showed him to a room after telling him a price.

When he returned downstairs he proceeded to bum cig after cig and beer after beer from the Finnish lads. Being generous they didn’t turn him down but I could tell we were all wondering when the albino was going to go next door to the store and buy his own vices. It never happened. Apparently he believed that blessing us with his unique presence was equal tradeoff for our cigarettes, weed, beer and mushrooms. We all ate enough mushrooms to go a little bonkers and we wandered down to the beach.

At the beach was where things got a little weird. We began tripping out so hard that the Finnish boys and me could not look at Jeremy without busting into tears of laughter. His translucent skin appeared to be glowing and I thought of him as alien like. He told us that back in England he had been a model because of his exotic appearance while bumming our smokes without shame. We burst out laughing in his face at this claim. I fell into a fit of laughter that I could not pull myself out of and delivered cramps to my gut. I drew the line and left when Jeremy began telling us about his sexual experiences in Taiwan. “I love Asian girls but I do have quite a few interesting experiences. For instance, I was with this cheeky little Taiwanese gal the other night and she kept telling me about how the last foreigner she’d been with had also been one of my fellow countrymen. As she was blowing me she told me how when she blew the last Brit he had her put her entire fist into his asshole. It had me a wee bit weirded out, to be honest.”

I left the gang of Euros to go back to the hostel for fear I would say something offensive to Jeremy, the tall English albino had me thoroughly freaked out.

At the hostel, waiting by the front door, was a man in uniform. He introduced himself as being from the Taiwan Immigration Department. I quickly concluded that Sky must have reported me to the government about me running the hostel illegally. I had a flash of burning red anger run through and I would seek revenge on Sky. I tried to shake off the effects of the mushrooms but it was impossible. “Are you Sam? Do you run a hostel here?” the man asked.

“Nope. This is just my home. I am a teacher,” I replied.

“The Immigration Department has been informed that there is possibly an illegal business being run here. May I come in and look around?” The serious government man asked.

“Of course, of course. Please come in. My home is rather big and I often have friends stay here but I do not run a business,” I said as I prayed my tripping hostel guests would stay down at the beach. If Jeremy came back up he would surely blow our cover and the guy would realize not only that I was running an illegal business but that we were high on illegal drugs as well. I began showing the man around the large house and he seemed satisfied that I was only living there and occasionally letting friends stay over.

He was preparing to leave, content that I was staying within the law when from down the street we heard a voice screaming time and time again, “Look at my shrooms! Look at my shrooms! Look at my shrooms!” Then the officer and I both saw where the voice was coming from. Jeremy was running naked down the street towards my home holding his package and yelling over and over, “Look at my shrooms!” His albino white skin had turned painfully red from the morning sun. He was staring off into the heavens with the lights on but no one home. Jeremy came straight up to the hostel, where the government agent and I were standing. The government guy glanced at me for an explanation.

The officer asked me, “Do you know this gentlemen?”

As I was about to deny any connection with the naked albino madman I cringed as Jeremy said in a polite English accent, “Sam, may I please get my money back for that room. Those Finnish gents are rather rude and I would prefer to stay elsewhere. While I went out for a swim in the nude they hid my shorts from me. Look at my shrooms!” The officer was writing rapidly in a notebook.

“Yeah yeah. Here you go. Go put some fuckin clothes on before we all go blind,” I said angrily as I handed him the money. There was no use denying I was running a shoddy business at that point.

The officer then turned to me and said, “Sam, if you want avoid trouble with Taiwan government, please stop with your business. If we find you are doing illegal business, we will have you arrested. And please control your friends, they are acting awfully suspiciously.” I was in trouble now. I no longer had an income from teaching or from my hostel. My visa for staying in Taiwan was sure to be revoked very soon.

20.

Jeremy left my hostel but the damage had been done. I had to tell the Finnish guys that if they wanted to stay at my place any longer they didn’t have to pay me. They said they would still pay but tell any government person that I didn’t charge them if they were asked. I was thankful for that. The remainder of our mushroom experience was not as blissful as it had started out. If only the albino had never stopped in my hostel would still be a source of income.

Just when I thought things could not get any worse I got a phone call from a random number. It was Oscar, the restaurateur and drug dealer from up in Taoyuan. He told me that the cops were on to him and that they had been questioning people he was associated with and sold to. “I would expect they will coming to see you soon. As for me, I am trying to get back to Oz. Keep hush and we might get through this.”

Shit was being flung at me from all angles. I figured my best bet was to start selling off my few worthless assets and buy a plane ticket for the States. My teaching job was history, meaning my working visa would soon be revoked. My hostel was forbidden to operate. And on top of that, I was more than likely associated with a wanted drug smuggler and dealer. It was time to abort, pull the rip cord on Taiwan.

I decided not to worry about all of the bullshit in front of me and just go surfing. Joe joined me for his second surf session of the day. He was still a teenager so he had the energy to surf all day long if necessary. The waves had picked up during the day and we opted to go surf at our secret break, known only to our little crew of surfers.

Some of my friends had told me about a guy who arrives at the secret beach while they are surfing. The guy takes off all his clothes and masturbates on the beach the entire time the guys surf. Pretty unbelievably weird stuff. When the guys get out of the water the guy hops on his scooter and rushes away to avoid being identified. We named the surf break Jack Offs after the sicko. I had never seen the dude and thought that perhaps my friends had made the entire story up.

Joe and I had been surfing for about thirty minutes when I caught a wave that I rode nearly to the beach. I looked in on the sand and saw a guy removing his clothing. For a second I thought it was just a Taiwanese fisherman going for a swim and then I remembered what my friends had told me about the pervert who comes and spanks it while they surf. Sure enough the guy started beating off right there on the beach while looking out at Joel and me in the water. I told Joe, “Dude. That guy on the beach is whacking off and staring at us. Pretty fucked eh?”

Joe looked into the beach and saw what I was talking about. “Dude, that is so fuckin gross. That fuckin creeper better get lost before we go in!” We surfed for another hour and the dude remained on the beach, naked. Sometimes he would stand up after taking a break and sitting down on the sand for a few minutes. For some reason it was difficult not to look at the sex offender.

We agreed to go in after a few more waves. On the beach the guy was laying down about thirty yards from us. Apparently he had fallen asleep. He must have heard us talking because he sat upright and suddenly reached for his clothes frantically when he understood that we were out of the water and almost close enough to identify him. As he was putting his pants on Joe picked up a rock the size of a baseball and winged it hard straight at the sick fool. The throw was a bullet, a strike that would have impressed Nolan Ryan. It struck the dude directly between the eyes and he dropped back to the ground with his pants around his knees. We started laughing until we realized the fool wasn’t budging. “Man, we better get the fuck out of here. You may have killed the jack off dude!” That wasn’t the last time we saw who we suspected to be the jack off dude.

That night we were drinking at an old sugarcane refinery that had been converted into a bar. We were sitting at a table when a short wiry fellow wearing only very short shorts approached us. He had tattooed eyebrows and was missing almost all of his teeth. He was chewing betel and asked us in Chinese if we had a beer and a cigarette we could spare. We gave him a cig and bought him a beer. He seemed friendly enough so we didn’t mind when he pulled up a chair and joined us. The most remarkable facial feature this guy had was a big round red knot right between his eyes. Maybe he was the guy from the beach, we were both thinking.

Soon the guy was telling us in Chinese and severely broken English that he was a writer and an illustrator. He asked us if he could show us one of his books and we said yes. He went to retrieve the book from his car and returned with a tiny little book a little bigger than a pack of cigarettes. I looked at the first page and read a story about the man with the tattooed eyebrows banging an eighty year old woman behind a Seven Eleven. There was a crass illustration to match the story. Joe and I began laughing about this and the guy asked if we wanted to buy the book. The guy assured us that all the stories in the book were true. We bought the book for an equivalent of six dollars. The guy wandered off while we dove further into the book. After few more relatively harmless stories, if not perverted, we got more into the thick of the book. The stories, illustrations and photos became so perverted and pedophile like that we decided to go confront the sicko and get our money back. We found him talking to some locals who had to know about him and I went up and shoved him and I said as I held up his book, “What is this fuckin shit? Give us our money back or we’re taking this crap to the cops!”

At this point Joe and I got an unexpected reaction from the crew of locals. All of the locals protected the guy and began telling us to leave the bar or there would be problems. They defended the guy and his “artwork”. We were so stunned and disgusted that I just threw the book down on the floor of the bar and Joe and I stormed out of there. We believed the author of the book and the jack off guy from the beach to be the same man.

21.

Late that same night the drug dealer and restaurant owner named Oscar showed up to the hostel unannounced. He barged in sweating and holding a briefcase and wearing a backpack and asked, “Dude, can I stay here a night or two? The cops are after me and I need to rest.”

“What the fuck did you come here for then you fuckin idiot?” I asked stressfully.

“Sorry dude. It is the most low profile place I know in Taiwan. I will pay you well and leave you with gifts,” replied a body odor stanching, soaking, and obviously very worried Oscar, his long dark hair shimmering with grease. I agreed to allow him stay for one night only.

We went up to the balcony on the roof and the night was beautiful because the moon was full and there were only a few drifting clouds in the sky. Stars were shining and we were admiring the beauty of the purplish sky. We drank beer and stared up at the sky. Oscar suddenly asked Joe and I, “You guys ever tried DMT? This would be a sweet time to some DMT! Show my appreciation for you Sam.”

“Lets do it,” I said. Oscar went to the kitchen to make a bong out of a plastic water bottle and he returned with greenish yellow DMT substance. Joe did not partake but I did three separate hits and by the third and largest one I thought I had died and gone to hell. Luckily the stuff only lasted a few minutes because it was the most intense psychedelic drug I had ever taken. Soon after the DMT trips we all went to bed.

I awoke early the next morning feeling terrible about my situation. My situation slapped me hard like getting smacked across the face with a big bag of ice cubes. I wanted Oscar and his brief case of drugs out of my house. I woke him up and told him I hoped he would leave within the hour. He moaned, “Come on man. What about all the times I hooked you up? I’ll leave you a bunch of good acid too. I’d do it for you.”

“I don’t give a flying fuck about you or your lame ass drugs. Pack up your shit and get the fuck out before I do it for you.” This got his ass in gear. After a little whining and complaining I watched him go stand by the bus stop and I waited to watch him ride away from my house. I told Joe and the Finnish guys I was going to Taipei for a few days and that they needed to hold down the place for me and allow no visitors, especially Oscar. They understood the drill and I felt comfortable that my home was under good care as I boarded the train for Taipei. I was going to Taipei to go to some Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and get sober once and for all so I could get my life on the right track.

I boarded the train early that Friday morning. The ride to Taipei would take about five hours. Being one of the earliest trains it was not crowded. I took a seat in a car with just two other people in it, an older couple sitting up towards the front. I quickly nodded off to sleep. Awhile later I woke up and I needed to take a leak. As I walked through the car into the space in between cars where the bathroom was located I had to pass by an older couple. As I passed them I saw that the man had his hand up the ladies skirt. The lady was about forty with a lot of makeup and a very short skirt, perhaps a prostitute. The man was in his seventies and he was sporting a cheap and poorly tailored business suit. I pretended I did not see what was happening and I carried on to the restroom. After going to the bathroom I walked casually by them again and went to my seat where I fell back asleep. As we were reaching Taipei I was awoken again. As I rubbed my eyes I heard a moaning coming from the woman seated ahead of me in the cart. I looked up to see that she was now on the man’s lap and she was bouncing up and down. I decide I would pretend I needed to use the restroom again in order to walk by them and get a closer look at what was going on. As I walked past them this time I saw that the man’s trousers and boxers were down around his knees and the woman had her skirt billowed over the man’s naked parts as she rode him. I walked by and pretended I didn’t see them having intercourse. I pushed the button to open the door for the area in between cars and I entered the area, looking back into the car through a fogged window. I wanted to take a picture of the old couple doing it with my phone so I could show my friends but the fogged window prevented me from doing so. If I wanted to take a picture I would have to reopen the door to the car and blatantly take their picture. That is what I did and the old couple saw me do it.

The lady got off the guys lap and he pulled up his pants. She came after me and I took off into the next car. Apparently she was concerned about the picture. As I was leaving that car I looked back and she was entering it. This went on until I was in the first car of the train and she was coming at me. Luckily, the train came to a halt in Taipei right then. I stepped off with the lady at my heels saying something harshly in Chinese. I hurried into Taipei’s crowded Main Station and lost the woman. I looked at the picture I had taken with my phone and it didn’t capture much. However, in the photo it was clear to see what was happening and the look of surprise on the old man’s wrinkly face and the madeup hooker’s blushy face was priceless. My friends would get a kick out of it if I was around long enough to show any of them

22.

I killed most of that day reading, watching TV in a hotel room and wandering around the crowded city of Taipei near Main Station. That evening I went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I met some men outside prior to the meeting and had some coffee and explained to them that I wanted to quit using alcohol and drugs. I told them about my teaching job and my hostel. They welcomed me to AA and we went inside to get the meeting started. In the meeting we sat around in a circle and took turns reading from the AA textbook and speaking of our troubles with substances.

When it was one woman’s turn to speak all she could do whine about her cat. “He has an ear infection and it has me so stressed for his pain that I don’t know what to do. If he doesn’t get better I just know I will drink. He is such a sweet little kitty. I can’t stand the pain he must be in.” She rambled on about her damn cat for over a quarter of the time provided for the meeting until one tough looking little man stood up to put an end to it.

“Lady, this meeting is about alcohol and our struggles with substances. I’d love to talk to you about your kitty cat another time but this time is reserved for what brought us here and what helped to get us better.” The man said this in neither a friendly or unfriendly way, and I agreed with him silently.

Another man chimed in to protect the lady, “Oh come on Walter. She can get off her chest whatever it is she needs to.”

This time Walter’s tone turned unmistakably unfriendly as he said, “Fuck that Tim. These meetings are for discussing alcohol not little kitty’s with ear infections. I am out of here.”

Walter stood up and was about to walk out the door when Tim had to speak up again. “Good. Don’t need assholes like you here anyway. Gotta lead by example in this program.”

Now Walter was not walking towards the door any longer but rushing across the room to where Tim sat. “What the fuck did you say to me?” Walter asked as he threw a right haymaker that knocked Tim out of his chair. But Tim was no softy either and he got up and they had a bench clearing brawl right there in the middle of that AA meeting. Some people had taken Walter’s side and some Tim’s. A scalding pot of coffee was thrown in a man’s face. He let out a blood curdling scream and the empty pot was soon shattered in the mayhem. At least fifteen men were in the dogfight either trying to break it up or get a lick in. I stood alone to the side with the lady who had spoken about her cat’s ear infection and sparked the entire shit show. She didn’t intend for that to happen. I wondered if she’d be returning.

I left as the violence was winding down. People were cursing one another, apologizing, holding tissues to bloody noses and lips and storming out of the room. I chuckled as I left to walk down to Seven Eleven and pick up a tall can. Who was I kidding? I wasn’t going to get sober. I sat in front of Seven Eleven on a bench and downed a few Budweiser’s. Soon I was feeling pretty good, all worries about employment and finances pushed aside until a later date. I decided right then I was going to have a big night out in Taipei.

23.

As I was walking towards the subway station to catch a ride back to my motel I rang my friend Carlos from Nigeria. I had him pick me up a very expensive gram of coke and we met at my motel room. We dug right into that stuff in my grimy little motel room and then we went bar hopping. Very late in the night we met a bunch of his Nigerian friends at a bar and I was surprised to see more Africans than Asians in that wild little bar. There was dancing, that much I remember. But as soon as the coke ran out all the alcohol I’d consumed began to catch up with me and my memory began failing. I must have lost Carlos, my mind, and my way at some point because I awoke the next day around noon in the center divider of a busy Taipei boulevard.

I felt drained in every possible way. I was hungry for breakfast but I decided on a small flask of Jim Beam and a tall can of Budweiser from Seven Eleven instead. Often when I woke up in that type of situation the craving for alcohol was much greater than any desire to eat food. I needed to kill the shame more than feed myself nutrients. I drank all that booze on the sidewalk in front of Seven Eleven and then re upped on Jim Beam for the search for my motel. I quickly returned to the same state as I was in the night before. I got in a cab and gave him the business card for the motel that I luckily still had in my wallet miraculously. He took me to the address and I went into the motel and got my belongings. I was craving booze like a fiend. I kept returning to Seven Eleven for Jim Beam until I lost track of how many flasks I’d downed. I was trying to achieve a feeling with the alcohol that was impossible to get to. I hated the craving because it was elusive, I couldn’t satisfy it.

I was walking down the streets of Taipei drinking my Beam because it is legal to drink on the streets of Taiwan and because I had very little regard for any law had there been one. As I stumbled along I came to a large police station and I had what I thought at the time to be a brilliant idea. I would enter the police station and ask them to lock me in a cell for a while so I wouldn’t have access to alcohol and I would be forced to sober up.

I walked into the police station and approached a clerk at the front counter. “Will you all just lock me up until I can stop drinking please?” I asked. The clerk didn’t answer me but he went to go find someone who could speak English. He came back with a sweet little lady who asked if she could help me. I repeated my request.

“I am sorry but we cannot lock people who have not committed a crime. We do not lock people in cells for no reason. Would you like me to call you a taxi?” She asked politely.

“It is likely I will commit a crime if you don’t lock me up,” I said jokingly. They did not understand the joke or my request to be locked in a cell and the officer I approached originally began ushering me out the front door of the police station. They didn’t want me. My insanity in regards to booze was growing and I found myself soon in another Seven Eleven. My last memory was being denied the purchase of more Jim Beam in a Taipei Seven Eleven that afternoon.

24.

Somehow someway that will forever be a mystery to me I awoke on a train as it was pulling into Taitung Station, a good six hours train ride from Taipei. Either a Good Samaritan, God, or myself put me on that train and got me out of Taipei and away from my suicide by Jim Beam attempt. It was late at night but I was stricken with a disastrous hangover. I went to the train’s restroom and dry heaved, giving me little relief from the chills, sweats, and feverish condition I was in. Soon a conductor found me in the restroom and told me I needed to exit the train as it was at the last stop. I half stumbled half crawled off that train and into the train station’s rank restroom where I laid down on the cool tile floor next to an Asian style shitter which was little more than a hole on the restroom floor. I laid there on those tiles in other peoples piss and shit for hours with cramps and severe nausea in my stomach and needles poking my severely depressed brain. I knew I was the only one to blame but I was still angry with the world. I had gone to Taipei to sober up and instead went on a cocaine and whisky charged fuckshowfest. I laid in that bathroom stall all night, afraid to move from the comfort of the cool floor. I was unable to sleep but I fell into a delirious state and was awoken this time by a janitor who told me I would need to leave the restroom because he needed to clean. Where could a poor drunk find some peace in this place? I feebly got to my feet and exited the train station.

It was bright and sunny as I staggered to a cab in front of the train station early that morning. A sharp pain shot through my eyes and into my pickled brain as I wished I had sunglasses. After thinking hard about what day it was I realized it was Sunday morning. The Lord’s Day. I told the cabbie where my home was and looked at my reflection in his rearview mirror. There was dirt on my pale, puffy and sickly face. I ran my finger across my cheek to remove the dirt and then I smelled my finger. It was shit. I wanted to cry but I didn’t have what it took to do even that.

Joe and the Finnish fellows were hanging at the hostel when I got home. They took one look at me and they knew I’d put myself through hell. I could see pity for me in their eyes. I told them of my failure in my attempt to get sober and the nasty drunken night and day I’d had. I checked my email on Joe’s computer and there were a few crucial emails waiting. The first came from the Taitung County head of education. He informed me that I was no longer employed, something I had already figured and didn’t faze me too much. The next email was from the Taiwan Immigration Department and it stated that I had two weeks to find another job or leave the country. I decided right then I was going home to California, telling myself I would be able to get my shit together more easily there. My reputation as a drunk and wildman would make it nearly impossible to find a job in the part of Taiwan where I wanted to live. I bought a plane ticket to Los Angeles right then in order to get the best deal possible. I would be leaving Taiwan in less than a week. Joe was also going back to California a few days before me. The Finnish guys decided they would stay at the hostel until I took off.

My funds were minimal. I didn’t have much money in savings so I would need to sell my van, my scooter, my furniture, and most of my surfboard quiver. Immediately I began trying to do so. I posted some pics of my possessions on the internet and people began contacting me almost immediately because my surfboards were quality, my VW van was a killer surf mobile, and I had a lot of furniture that I needed to get rid of. The first guy to stop by was a Taiwanese doctor who was also a surfer. I had seen him surfing before and I knew him as Doctor Steve. I shouldn’t have told him my desperate situation because he tried to low ball the shit out of me. He offered me the equivalent of two hundred American dollars for a brand new Channel Islands surfboard that I’d paid over six hundred bucks for and paid to bring on an airline from the States. I was already feeling sick and edgy from the hangover so I told the doctor to get the fuck out of my house before I sent him to see another doctor because he wouldn’t be able to fix what I was gonna do to him if he made another stingy offer like that. He left and I was none the richer.

I went over to Igor’s for dinner that evening and I told him my situation and that I was leaving Taiwan within the week. “Fuck. Sorry about that dude. What are you going to do with all your shit?” he asked.

“If you want the van or any boards or furniture I will give you an epic price,” I answered. We negotiated for a little while and it was decided that I would sell Ian my van, my scooter, and a surfboard for right around ninety thousand Taiwanese dollars, equal to about three thousand United States dollars. I gave him some couches and chairs and things from my hostel as well just for being a good friend to me and helping me out in a crunch.

25.

In the days before Joe and the Finnish fellows left we surfed small waves and just kicked back. In the metal fire pit on the roof of my hostel we burned all the access furniture from my hostel that I was unable to sell, making for some great bonfires. Because my landlord, the owner of the house that was my hostel, had been a prick about giving me any of my deposit back and refused to do so because I was leaving before the lease was up, we decided to paint a little. The Finnish guys had been taggers when they were teenagers growing up in Helsinki. We went and bought dozens of cans of spray paint from the local construction store. Back at the hostel we went ape shit on the walls in the bedrooms and halls. I actually think we did the guy a favor as some of the tags the boys did were very skillful and the white walls were dirty with years of smudges.

It was decided that I would give Joe and the Finns a ride to Taipei in a minivan that had been abandoned by traveling surfers down at the beach near my house. The key was left in it for months and it was shocking that the van started on the first try. The green minivan was plastered with surf stickers and wreaked of cat piss on the inside. Holes were rusted through the floor boards. The heap could barely go the speed limit. If I was to get caught driving the van it would have been a problem because I was sure there were years worth of parking tickets on it and it was registered under someone’s name that I did not know. I could be charged with auto theft. Nevertheless, all five of us piled all of our possessions into the crumbling van for the eight hour drive to Taipei. I left my hostel in a sorry state and wasn’t happy about it, but I was headed for a new beginning in California where I belonged.

The van didn’t make it all the way to Taipei. It died on an extremely windy road on the northeast coast of Taiwan where cliffs fell a half mile down into the ocean. We got all of our surfboards and the rest of our shit out of the van and decided the only thing left to do was push the useless automobile off the cliff into the ocean far below. Soon after the van exploded on the beach below which was unfortunately out of our view we hailed the next public bus to roll by. We all went to the international airport in Taipei together. We all inquired about earlier flights and I was able to change my flight to an earlier flight the next day. Joe and the Finns decided to stay at the airport to see if they could get on standby and we said our goodbyes.

26.

I left the airport and went to a hotel room where I spent a depressing and uneventful night. The only exciting thing to happen before I left Taiwan happened inside the airport the next day. I was drinking beer at my gate when I caught the eyes of two pretty blond girls who were sitting waiting at the same gate. The girls were drinking beer as well. I got up and asked, “Mind if I join you ladies?”

They looked at each other questionably before the one nearest me said, “If you go grab another six pack.” Then they started giggling. Apparently they had started earlier than me. I walked off to grab some more Taiwan Beer and when I returned I sat down near the one who had spoken to me. We got to talking and they explained they were USC students who were on their way back to LA after traveling around Australia for six months. They had to go through Taiwan on their way home. We sat there on the airport floor downing beers and I went to go get more after that six pack went down.

When I got back with another sixer boarding time was about a half hour off. The girl who I had been sitting closest to me was waiting for a refill but her friend had dozed off. She asked, “Wanna xanax for the flight?” and handed me a little oval pill that I gladly swallowed. We got closer to one another and soon we were kissing. She then said,” I prolly sound like a slut but do you have a condom?” For once in my life the answer was yes and I reached into my backpack for the weathered Trojan that had been in there for years, awaiting this type of opportunity. Then we rushed off to an airport bathroom to have some fun before the flight. Now that girl had some spirit, and she was the first non-Asian girl I’d been with in a long time.

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