I originally had no plans for Saturday. After a busy schedule last weekend (I actually can’t even remember what I did, but I remember thinking I felt really busy, going into Taipei to do stuff and running around doing stuff and doing stuff that I can’t even remember now because clearly it wasn’t that big a deal?) I was excited to do nothing. Then I remembered that it was Halloween and I was like, “oh, that would be a cool thing to do.” Then I learned it was also the day of the gay pride parade. And then I learned it was the rugby world cup final. The idea that I would just spend all day in my apartment chilling out suddenly seemed so dull.
I’ve been teetering on the balance between doing things and not doing things. I think I have FOMO (fear of missing out), but I think it’s good to have a little FOMO to push me to try new things. So I decided to book these past Saturday and Sunday noons through nights full of activities. Join me by reading my recollection of these events in a narrative that is full of asides, shitty punctuation, POV changes, and careless tense switches.
Saturday, I ate lunch with friends Rob, Martin, and David. Afterwards, I planned to find a little coffeeshop and write down a story idea I’d thought of on Thursday, but I figured that would be lame, because I can write in a coffeeshop literally any day of the week. But the Taipei Gay Pride parade only happens once a year. So we went to that. I had been to Chicago’s 2011 Pride parade, so that’s the only thing I could really compare it too. The Taipei parade was much more of a march, which was kind of cool. In Chicago, if you’re not a part of an organization or group, you’re a spectator/supporter watching from the side. In Taipei, there are organizations and groups (pro-gay marriage, HIV awareness and de-stigmatization, anti-LGBTQIA violence, intersex awareness groups) that are marching, but also anyone can join the line. So for the most part, the parade was just people walking. Some people were dressed up – this one dude was not dressed up special but had a live snake wrapped around his chest – but a lot of people were just in regular clothes showing their support. I think that’s nice because it takes the spectacle out of it and makes the event feel more like you are an active participant instead of a bystander.
Also different from Chicago, you can drink alcohol openly on the streets of Taipei. Not many people were drinking, but I did have a beer. After marching, we hung out at an outdoor cafe and someone recognized me from a story slam. It lifted my spirits knowing someone thought my story was affecting enough to 1) remember it, and 2) come up to me randomly and tell me.
Afterwards, David and Martin left while Rob and I went to Chili’s (yes, like the American Chili’s) and met with our other friends Brad and Alycia. I proceeded to have the TIME OF MY LIFE jamming out to the Chili’s playlist. Friends of mine who’ve eaten at P.F. Chang’s with me know that I love the music they pipe through in the restaurant. Well Chili’s was like a 1000% more awesome. Every song I was bouncing up and down singing along because they were all 2000s hip-hop/pop hits from my youth that are somehow engrained in my brain. I think the waiters thought I was crazy, but I did not care, because “Misdemeanor on the floor pretty boy here I come.”*
I was not particularly hungry (not a good thing before going out to do more drinking), but I had approximately two orders of bottomless chips and shoved the rest in a plastic bag in my backpack. Again, the waiters probably thought I was on drugs. GNF. I thought the chips would come in handy later.
Two more friends – a couple, Chris and Jamie – joined us on our bike pub crawl (bike to a bar, have a drink, bike to another bar, have another drink, repeat). At a beer bar called Ho’dala I met this couple from Singapore – a wonderfully talkative British guy and his girlfriend. We must’ve talked for almost an hour. And it was fascinating because as we were leaving the bar, I realized: I know so much about him, but he knows almost nothing about me besides the fact that I am a black woman from Chicago.
The next bar was called Pregame. It is named after the traditional American college pastime of drinking before going out and drinking some more. In Canada, they call it pre-drinking even though that sounds 2000x lamer than pre-gaming. I wanted to go there because they have beer pong tables in the basement (sadly they were plastic, not wood or ping-pong table material) where you can buy pitchers and play beirut. They also had a Princeton pennant! BONUS! I went over to take a picture of it and one of the guys at another table asked if I went to Princeton, and I was like, “YEAH!” He also went to Princeton. Small world**.
Sadly, Alycia and I lost to Brad and Chris, but it was at least a pretty close game. We then played ring of fire and I realized how much I missed the Charter taproom and can’t wait for Reunions 2017. But I’m trying to live more in the present, so screw 2017, it is 2015 NOW.
Pregame closes at 12 (because it’s a pre-game bar, duh). So next we’re headed to the Brass Monkey. I’d never been, but I’d heard it was popular and also they were playing the world cup final. On the way there, Brad and I got into a spirit discussion of identities (gender/transgender, racial/transracial). Imagine me, hoarse, slightly tipsy, shouting while biking down an empty city sidewalk. Although it’s not fun almost loosing your voice because you’re aggressively shouting, it is cool to talk about these issues. That’s another thing I miss about Princeton. On any given day, you could have an amazing conversation over lunch or dinner at your eating club, or coop, or dining hall. That doesn’t really exist for me anymore, except in these moments. So I relish them.
The Brass Monkey was PACKED with HUMANS (not monkeys, and I also didn’t see any monkey stuff, so I’m not sure where that name comes from…) with their eyeballs GLUED to one of the five television screens around the bar. We watched the last half of the match. I ate some leftover Chili’s chips, but they were stale. I drank a Coke, not wanting to be hungover the next day.
I didn’t get home until around 2 or 3 AM, and didn’t get to sleep until about 4 AM. I would like to believe a normal human body would respond to this behavioral change by shifting the normal wake up time a few hours. If usually I go to sleep around 11 PM and wake up around 7 AM, then if I go to sleep at 4 AM, I should wake up at 12 PM. That’s when I set me alarm for.
But alas, my body is slowly trying to kill me. It woke me up at 8 AM and didn’t let me go back to sleep, even though I was tired and couldn’t hold my eyes open. So I laid in my bed listening to the Talking Heads “Once In A Lifetime” while wondering how I got here, in this position of being exhausted and yet having a full day of activities to do. I was able to fall back to sleep for about 40 minutes, and woke up in time to shower and head to Taipei for a writer’s workshop.
After the workshop ended around 4 PM, I had an option. I could go back to my apartment and sleep. Or I could stay in Taipei and attend the closing film and party for the TIQFF (Taipei International Queer Film Festival). My boss had invited me to the event and I thought it would be a good practice session in mingling/networking, plus something I’d never done before. FOMO? Maybe. I thought I might miss an opportunity to meet up with creative individuals in Taipei, or at least see how worlds like this work. Is that FOMO? Is that bad? There’s also an expression: “if you don’t play, you can’t win.” So I found a coffeeshop (FINALLY!) and decided to chill there, drink some coffee, and write some before heading to the show at 7.
At several points I felt like I was going to die. Have you ever been so tired you felt like you might throw up. I wasn’t alcohol hungover. I was just exhausted hungover. It was no fun.
But alas! You push through! You get to the other side! At 7 you go to the closing film showing. Completely alone. Knowing no one. You’ve become better at these situations since coming to Taiwan, but it’s still difficult. You guess you feel like people see you alone at these things and think: yo, homegirl has no friends; she must be weird. You’re also afraid the film will not be entertaining and you will fall asleep during it. That would be awkward.
I got my ticket and got a complementary water bottle. I’m thinking to myself: okay, this is something. I got a seat at the back of the theatre. The film – The Queen of Amsterdam – was actually quite enjoyable. It was of the heist caper genre, so not very realistic, but cute and funny. I guess a good thing to end with.
Heading to the closing party alone, I’m thinking: this is gonna be a shit show. Not only do I know no one at this party, but I also don’t know Chinese, the first language of a majority of the attendees. So I got a glass of water and just kind of walked around looking at stuff, sort of pretending like I was looking for a place to sit, or people to talk to. Then I just set myself up against a wall.
A man who works for the American Institute came over and started talking to me. YAY! He introduced me to the founder of TIQFF, who I’d actually emailed before concerning some scripts I’d written. So it was nice to meet him in person.
More mingling around. Still there are few foreign faces there. I see one woman who is also standing alone and go over and introduce myself. It turns out she’s an intern for a filmmaker in Taipei who makes short videos about foreigners in Taiwan. They saw me and thought I seemed pretty cool and might be able to do a few videos. But they were both too afraid to come say hi, so it was lucky I went over and introduced myself. I got their information before they had to leave so that might develop into something.
I then met a man from Mexico and a man from South Africa. We chatted. The man from Mexico was hilarious. He had me laughing pretty much every time he opened his mouth.
The venue of the party had a little movie theatre and it in the owners were playing some short films TIQFF had produced to go along with the festival. One was about Winter, a man who was HIV-positive. It was a really touching short documentary of Winter in conversation with this little boy. So the audio consisted of the boy asking questions and Winter answering over images of the two of them hanging out: the boy making a painting of Winter, the two of them eating cake, taking photos, etc.
Winter was at the party, so I went over and said “Thank you for sharing your story,” since it’s so brave to do that. Like, I cannot imagine being open about something so stigmatized around the world. We took a picture together.
I walked around some more and started talking to a French guy and a Taiwanese guy. The French guy was all smiles. Seemed very friendly. The Taiwanese guy, not so much. If you don’t play, you can’t win. Well, I talked to several people and had some really good interactions, but I guess it’s got to end somewhere. Not sure if it was a translation issue, but about three minutes into our conversation, the Taiwanese guy said: “You should probably leave.” I think because I had mentioned that I had a bus to catch, but it was just so blunt and not what you would expect someone to say. I smiled and said: “Yes I should.” And got outta there. Actually, I went to the bathroom first, and when I left the bathroom I saw the Taiwanese guy AGAIN and patted him on the back and said: “Bye bye!” And he was probably like: what? She’s still here?!
It’s 11 PM and I’m riding the bus back to Keelung, proud of myself for hanging out for at least an hour at a party where I knew no one. And I wasn’t a complete wallflower. I don’t consider myself confident, but people that know me say I’m confident. But I don’t feel confident. So am I confident? I always feel like I’m faking confidence. Like, I don’t want to mingle and introduce myself to people because it will be hard and it might be awkward, but I want to know who these people are and I want them to know me, so I just have to suffer through it. Is that confidence? If you’re successful at faking confidence, does that mean you are confident?
*That song actually did not play in the Chili’s, but it’s good regardless.
**The phrase, not the coffeeshop in Princeton.