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Elyse Sewell -
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    My New Year's Day was perfect.

    Even if I have the bare minimum of "work" to do for my agency, it's just not the same as having a whole day off. Even one casting can occupy a huge portion of daylight hours: I have to get ready and apply the excessive makeup that my agency demands, then it's totally normal for it to take an hour to drive to the client's office, and another forty five minutes to wait for the client to arrive, examine my and my colleagues' portfolios, make us try on clothes, etc, then another hour to drive home. Longer if it's rush hour (it's always rush hour). Ah, this holiday rules! I rose with Chanticleer and some 7:00am fireworks outside. My big plan was to take a random bus and walk around trying to find some lion dancers (MY FAVE). The bus dropped me off near a park in the former French Concession, where it was tai chi time.

    I walked and walked, and found no lion dancers. I ended up downtown, at People's Square. This area, usually a body-to-body teeming clusterfuck, was eerily deserted. I lamented the reduced opportunities for frottage, but...wait, no I didn't! I was puffing out my chest, breathing deep of the pollution, throwing my arms wide and singing "Edelweiss." I was sashaying. All the attractions were still open, so I went to the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. They had an awesome "virtual reality pod" with a 360-degree screen inside, showing Shanghai as if you were flying through it in a helicopter. They had a diorama of the whole city!

    That big park in the diorama is Century Park. I went there. I was less than enchanted by the "guano-smeared dovecote" attraction.

    I ate at a Manchurian restaurant. The menu had English translations, but the jiaozi, dumpling, section was only in Chinese. Bah! Only "fresh vegetable juice jiaozi" was in English, so I got that and was glad I did because look at it! Each color had a different filling. RMB20 = US$2.92.

    Finally, I love my Shanghai agency and everything, but they are DROPPIN THE BALL when it comes to getting me the good jobs. Hello? That should be me on that convenience store hot dog warmer.

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  • 02/01/09--09:07: dud on the tracks
  • Could somebody please press the little green button on the stop time machine? I'm not ready for the Chinese New Year holiday to end yet. I need one more week.

    One more week to have eight-hour walkabouts. One more week with no makeup. I haven't yet smeared enough eel grease over the pages of The Travels of Marco Polo whilst lounging in distant Hunnanese restaurants. I have more bus routes to pioneer! Another week's worth of laundry to neglect!

    Today, I visited a tourist attraction: the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. I'll let the Ministry of Tourism tell it: "The Bund Sighseeing Tunnel is a river tunnel across the Huangpu river, first combining sightseeing and traffic functions in China. With high-tech of digital audio, laser and electronics, eight sightseeing areas are displaying in the Tunnel...Visitor, who is in bare feet or topless or drunken and trouble making, or suffering from acute infectious or psychiatric not permitted to enter the Tunnel."

    There was no line, and I thought I was going to have a whole car to myself. Alone on the platform, waiting for the ride to start, I was contemplating whether anything in the history of the world had ever begged more urgently to be mooned than the cars coming through the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel in the opposite direction; alas, at the last minute, a family came ambling down the escalator and boarded with me. Moon mission aborted.

    The little car lurched down the tracks into the tunnel, and the noble eightfold multimedia/laser extravaganza began. Y'all. It was just a bunch of wack flashing lightbulbs!

    A recorded voice indicated the "eight sightseeing areas" as we passed through them, first in English and then in Mandarin. I scrabbled for a pen and was able to take precise notes: "Shining star! Sea swirl! Fossil variant! Nascent magma! Paradise and hell! Mental waltz! Basalt and blue water! Sea cadence! Meteor shower!" Yes, I count nine too, and can only conclude that I must have hallucinated one. Pictured: "sea swirl" (obviously).

    It cost 40RMB (=US$5.85) to get across the Huangpu river via the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, and 3RMB (=US$0.45) to get back across on the subway. Conclusion: the charms of the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel are not worth the exorbitant fee! Too much sea cadence, not enough antelope acumen.

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  • 02/05/09--07:37: far cathay
  • I'm still pretty high from Chinese New Year. The prolonged break from the frustrations of ladypose moil, combined with the fact that I'm reading The Travels of Marco Polo, a mostly-true catalog of Marky Marc's impressions of unfamiliar provinces, has my soul incandescing daily with delight at the myriad subtle ways in which the Chinese mode of life differs from the Western. The lady in the street, trotting after me with my dropped glove, shouts, "Big sister! Big sister!"; the grocery store cashier yells to the old lady who abandoned her basket and went back for a bunch of spring onions, "Grandmother! Hurry up!"This pastry, served up alongside peanut and coconut shortbread, was flavored with sugar and ground seaweed, musty and dusty and oceany, unlike anything I'd ever tasted before, but so delicious and perfect. Sorry. I've been sitting here trying to think of how to put my good feelings into words without venturing into Mawksville or the trite latitudes. It's hard! The world is full of people, life is sweet, and my dispo this evening is sunny. I guess that's all.

    Anywayz, wanna look at some dogs being publicly humiliated?

    Sponsored by Camel.

    I'm normally not much of a noodler, but I tried some today at a Muslim restaurant. It was 6RMB (=US$0.88) for that huge mess of miàn, a bowl of mutton broth to wash it down, and at the end, a bowl of hot water (drink it? or wash hands with it? I didn't know; I drank it). Also, every table had a ceramic dish full of garlic; the other diners were all holding toes of garlic in one hand, chopsticks in the other, alternating bites of food with bites of raw garlic. I ate three cloves; I can't smell myself, but I MUST be sporting an invisible aurora of stink lines right now. Cancel my scheduled afternoon makeouts.

    Shoyu = soy sauce. Didn't buy (presumed loathsome).

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    "Shanghai Slice"

    The song is "Wètètié Maré by Muluqèn Mèllèssè, from Ethiopiques 1. Hope you like it!

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  • 02/13/09--21:58: drop her in the water
  • "Hey Elyse, where'd you get that unsightly abrasion on your ass?"

    "Well, I was balancing on a velour-covered eraser-shaped plywood prism precariously propped on a tripod inside this velour-lined plywood box. I was gripping my shanzhai Gucci handbag under my baby oil-slathered arm whilst attempting to support my weight on one foot without wrinkling the shimmering instep of my golden pleather loafer. I guess the prism must've slipped because the next thing I knew, I was on the floor, with my buttcheek throbbing and the walls of the velour-lined room swaying around me.

    "Oh. Oh my god! I...I'm here in my bed. It's morning! It was all a dream.


    BONUS: I uploaded these pics two days ago with a narrative in mind that would've tied them all together. I ran out of time, had to go do a casting, the moment passed, I aborted the story, but the pictures were already uploaded. Here they are, blood:

    Michael Qiaodan of the Xicago Bulls, my second-favorite baller (after Shaq).

    I ran out of toothpaste, and I went on a mission to a distant hypermarket where I thought I had seen The Only Toothpaste (Crest Vivid White, God's own toothpaste) some weeks ago. I was wrong; they didn't have it; I ended up with this shit. What is that anyway, some lotus flower shit? Some water lily shit? I used it for the first time this morning and I can practically hear my teeth sizzling and rotting in the absence of Crest Vivid White. Henceforth I'll just have to do my chewing with one of my many grillz.

    This lady with her sidewalk foot-treadle sewing machine operation cut the atrocious 3/4 length bell sleeves off my white dress and hemmed the stumps for only 4RMB (=US$0.58).

    I did castings in that dress with NO COAT because that's how warm it was in Shanghai two days ago.

    Lastly, Happy Valentine's Day, baby. I love you. I got you this gross of shots individually packaged in spermatozoon-shaped plastic bottles. What did you get for me?

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  • 02/18/09--09:14: hola hovelito
  • My Hong Kong agency emailed me: "Elyse, we have castings for you, we have jobs for you; we're waiting for you to get your ass down here, thanks." I arrived in Hongers an hour ago; my heart was breaking to leave Shanghai this afternoon, but oh my god, I'd forgotten that Hong Kong has about a million billion charms of its own. I'd been in China for so long, and now...I'm not in China any more. I've got a mild case of the bends. No more anarchic traffic, no more xie xie, no more blatant gawping (both at me and by me), no more lack of cheese, nose picking must now be done furtively. No more manageable hair. No more tiny televisions blaring tinny commercials in taxicabs. No more loogie-slimed sidewalks. No more US$5 massages. Cantopop instead of Mando-pop. No more Mandarin, dammit! This morning in Shanghai I bumped into a dude on the sidewalk; I wheeled around and apologetically bowed my head at him, eyes downcast, hand up at forehead level, palm out, as I backed away. He did the exact same gesture at me, perfectly synchronized, perfectly mirrored, totally, totally Chinese. No more of that. Then on the plane there was a squalling baby; my Honger seatmate and I glanced at each other for just an instant, but long enough for us each to flex a bitchy, sympathetic eyebrow. Now more of that!

    Goddamn, I'm having a good Year of the Ox so far. I don't really have anything organized to say, but I just wanted to post something to celebrate my emergence from behind the Great Firewall of China. As I have mentioned before, access to is blocked within China; I've been updating my blog by using a sluggish proxy server on the already godawfully slow apartment internet connection. It took FOREVER to post something, FOREVER for other people's Livejournals to load, I couldn't preview anything, and it was hard to reply to comments, especially when the comment I wanted to reply to was not the original post in a thread. But now I can access LJ directly and online life is easy again, so if you asked a burning question sometime during the last two months and I never replied, try asking again here. I expect to enjoy a lot of slack-jawed computer slumping in the coming few days, not least because of the fast and free internet connection: my new Hong Kong hovel is fucking PALATIAL and I never want to leave. Not only is it huge compared to my usual HK cribz, but the furnishings obviously predate the arrival of IKEA in Hong Kong, so there are none of the instantly recognizable [*] pieces (The Cheapest Wardrobe in IKEA, The Cheapest Bed in IKEA, The Cheapest Chair in IKEA, Those Cheap IKEA Mugs) with which I am so familiar via models' apartments worldwide. Unlike the claustrophobic shithole I occupied last summer, this one-room manse boasts a place to sit besides the bed (A MINIATURE LOVESEAT!), a place to eat besides the bed (A COFFEE TABLE!), a desk broader than my forearm, and no dimension narrower than my wingspan. There is also a wok and the TV is not mounted on a metal arm over the bed. I am gagging with joy!

    [* Is there a word that means "related to furniture"? Analogous to "sartorial"? I feel like there is. Edit: supellectile! Thanks!]

    OK, it's bedtime, but not before I upload some China action for your eyeholes. Ah, viva la high-speed connection.

    At every intersection on my Shanghai street is a small phalanx of motorcycle taxis. The drivers lounge all day on their bike seats, hammock style, waiting for someone to engage their services. I took pics of a few of them as I walked out of the 'hood this morning, found a photo kiosk, made prints, and distributed them on the way back. So awesome. I wish I'd had that idea weeks ago.

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  • 03/03/09--03:02: pope papular
  • On the personal tip, dear reader, I've been discombobulated. I've been working a lot whilst conquering the most pustulent and cystic breakout of my life. Ugh: clients have looked at my face, grimaced, and asked, "What's happen you?" I'm pretty sure I lost jobs over it. Makeup artists have had to practically embalm me; there are probably photographers in this city right now, up past their bedtimes, laboring over the excessive 'Shopping my recent pictures have required.

    And I talk a lot of "vanity" shtick, haha, but my god, when I was all broken out, I was constantly quailing with a self-consciousness way out of proportion to the gravity of my zit sitch. I became weird about even talking to people. I had to remind myself that, no, the 7-11 cashier was not staring at my skin, that I wasn't an ogre, that I could still have a fun conversation. What the fuck, I discovered: I am a va-a-a-ain asshole, for real, in a sick and shitty way. I have not been pleased with myself over this.

    Too bad about my idiotic attitude; it spoiled what would have been a fun work week. After the relentless ladypose endurance test of Shanghai, it took me a while to get re-accustomed to the leisurely pace and luxurious clothes of HK jobs. Honestly, I still feel naked if I'm not wearing at least one shanzhai article on my body at all times.

    I went hiking on Dragon's Back Trail. I recommend this, Hong Kongers: it's on HK island, you can take the city bus right to the trailhead, it's well strenuous, and after you descend the peak you can find a clean little beach where I have never seen another soul (though I've only been there on weekdays).

    Forklift driver's training obstacle course:

    Lastly, HK grannies love a lurid print. I was snickering at these sweaters when I took this picture, but now the more I look at them, the clearer the message from the Universe: I will never be happy unless I buy that giraffe shirt and wear it. (HKD79=US$10.18) This may happen as soon as tomorrow. BEANZ!

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  • 03/04/09--05:26: prada socklet
  • If you're interested in the fashion industry, you may be aware that at Prada's S/S09 runway show back in September, several models stumbled or fell down on the catwalk. The company later explained that the shoes were manageable; the spanners in the models' ambulatory works were the socklets.

    "Socklet"? I encountered a pair at my job today. I didn't have to wear them, but I took this picture in case anybody else was curious about the cause of all the modelslips. Prada's treacherous "socklet" is a drawstring pouch of non-elasticized poplin. Behold:

    Socklet terror aside, I had an excellent day clopping around in Hong Kong's New Territories district in wigs, frocks, archless platform sandals, and the occasional not-yet-available H&M bikini (about which latter: CUTE, Y'ALL).

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    Are you guys more into plastrons or carapaces?

    I would like to shake hands with the bitch who could wear these impractical shoes for more than an hour without the universe somehow ruining them. Puddles of quicksand and plagues of feral cats would appear in her path; her pustulent bunions would burst. These were designer samples and I was allowed to ruin them; all the pressure was off. Still, the moment I tied those little tassels, I found myself rummaging around the studio looking for wasabi peas I could wash down with some Popov. Don't those feathers seem to say, "Quick! Find a way to puke on us!"?

    Out of four versions of this picture, this was the least annoying facial expression. Still annoying. Nice weave though.

    This shanzhai masterpiece (on a handbag in the HK subway) reminded me of an ancient lady I saw in Shanghai carrying a huge purse with bedazzled letters that said, "THE STOOGES THE CRAMPS NEW YORK DOLLS." Fuck it, I didn't turn away or even try to stop smirking as the old lady's daughter saw me, looked down at the bag and then back up at me. I smirked off into the sunset savoring the fact that they now knew that something risible was written on the bag, but would probably never find out what.

    COMPULSIVE EDIT: I'm adding one more ridic shoe pic to try and cleanse the system. You want to read LJ entries about something besides designer shoes and makeup, you say? Well, you have to wait until something good happens to me besides "I spent the day comfortably, in makeup and designer shoes." I'm not exactly at a fucking zenith of intellectual stimulation right now. I've been in HK so long that the thrillz ain't growin on treez like they used to.

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  • 03/21/09--09:12: you can't beat solidarity
  • Mandarin pop enthusiasts, I have a favor to ask of you: does anyone recognize the first song in this video (it starts at about :20)? Can you hook up the title and artist, or an mp3? Sorry to make you click through, but this is coming from the Chinese Youtube and I can't find the embed code. [Video via ChinaSMACK]EDIT: I got it! Thank you, ic70492.

    Dance performance video.

    I first heard that song in Shanghai, in the bathroom of a KFC where I was pit stoppin'. By the time I realized what a monster jam it was, it was already over, and I scrambled up to the counter calling my agent to explain to her that I wanted her to explain to the cashier that I wanted to know the name of the song or see the CD they were playing in the store. My heart was already sinking, knowing it wasn't going to work (I know through firsthand experience that, when you can't see the stereo, "Please write down the name of the song that was playing before this one" is almost but not quite impossible to communicate via charades). It didn't work, of course: the guy behind the counter told Juju who told me that he hadn't heard the song and there wasn't a CD player (it was Muzak, I guess). I left, frustrated. But then I heard the song again in this video and now I have a chance to find it and put it in my iPod and rock to it until my heart stops.

    And while I'm using my Livejournal to get stuff that I want, gimme revenge on Go Sushi in Causeway Bay, home of the most abominable sushi I've had outside of Boise, ID. I will not apologize for ordering a melted cheese-topped shrimp tempura roll; I have no patience for sushi purists. Wrap some seaweed around some pork floss and birthday cake, sprinkle salmon eggs and glitter on top: you have made legitimate maki. A "cheese-topped shrimp tempura roll" sounds good; this partially-combusted slice of wanksta petroleum loaf was just a carcinogen. It tasted like ashes. And that roe corona you see in the top right corner was a California roll which was dry and did not cohere and fucking blew: Go Sushi, we got BEEF.

    I approached this Free Giftwallah on two separate occasions to get the Free Gift I deserve and didn't understand why she wouldn't fork over the Gift (a juice box or a chocolate Hanukkah gelt) or even make eye contact with me. I finally figured it out tonight when I saw other people doing it right: you only get the Gift after you've stepped onto the (up only) escalator. At the summit, surprise surprise, you're trapped in a labyrinth of a mall and must shop your way back to ground level.

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  • 04/06/09--21:13: fai di
  • I can hear my next door neighbors perfectly. They fight a lot but they like to get busy! They're doing it right now. The girl groaned, in Canto, "fai di!" ("hurry up!"). I was like, ooh, harsh, but then the stereo started playing a Cantopop song with the refrain "fai di, fai di-i-i-i, fai di." Please, please let me run into them in the elevator so I can hum it. Even though the dude leaves his foot stink powder-dusted slippers in the hallway, then puts them on and leaves the building, creating a breadcrumb trail of dusty white nuggets, I'd still like to open up talks about a possible glory hole.

    So much better to be sharing a wall with them instead of TV-blasting Unknown and Bitch Who Sticks Her Head Out and Stares Every Time She Hears the Hallway Door Open.

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  • 05/04/09--11:38: clockin a grippe
  • I possess a finite amount of good taste, and I choose to apply it to books, music, snacks, and congee flavors. Crabmeat and roe congee:

    Sweet-potato flavored Kit Kat:

    I just don't have enough available connoisseuseship in my brain to attempt to be a book snob, snack snob, juk snob AND flick snob. I rarely watch movies, and when I do, I'm alone, usually in a state of psychic desperation. I don't want to watch people shooting guns; I don't like boring shit; I can't stand to be left befuddled by David Lynchian whatthefuckery. I enjoy cheerleading- and gymnastics-centric themes and low-IQ Jennifer Aniston vehicles. So I was watching a shanzhai DVD of He's Just Not That Into You the other day. What're you going to do about it, lose all respect for me?

    A cuckolded Jennifer Connelly confesses, "We never have sex anymore. I don't know what I expected him to do."
    Subtitles say:

    In other news, a guy came down with swine flu in my 'hood and the government quarantined the entire hotel where he was staying. The stories in the South China Morning Post have been excellent: there are about 300 people inside; they're halfway through a seven-day quarantine sentence. They were served SPAM sandwiches and Swiss rolls for breakfast (note that Hong Kong-style Swiss rolls lack icing on the outside and come in wack flavors like cappuccino). They were all summoned to the lobby and then told not to congregate in large groups! Journalists were standing outside the ground-floor windows, holding up signs with their phone numbers so the detainees could call and give interviews; the hotel responded by blocking all the windows in the lobby with sheets. I put on my HAZMAT suit and went to have a gawk this afternoon:

    Finally, garish outfits, you say? They think that you're dressed dreadfully drably.

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  • 05/08/09--04:43: stop having a boring tuna
  • I went impulse shopping in the travel agency and came out with a weekend trip to the Republic of China. Greetings from Taipei! Look at all those Japanese cars driving on the right-hand side of the road: it could almost be South Carolina. I haven't felt this at home since I went to the American consulate to get blank pages put in my passport. My passport at this point is a grubby and mutilated libretto indeed; this latest addition was the fourth set of supplementary visa pages to be crammed into it. The newest pages aren't plain blue like the older ones, they're festooned with all manner of inspirational quotations from Honest Abe and lurid unitedwestand images of bald eagles 'n' fruited plains and shit. They're so over-embellished that they don't even look blank; in fact, the Taiwanese passport control officer just flipped right past them and sploshed my Taiwan visa right on top of an old faded (cherished!) one from Milan. Annoying.

    Anyway, I'm headed back outside now, but not before I seize this opportunity to increase your guava Slurpee awareness. The Slurpee machine right next to this one was dispensing lemon-lime out of one nozzle and lychee out of the other. I got a 12-oz guava/lychee: delect! O summertime.

    World's best Slurpee flavor: Diet Coke, never spotted outside of West Hollywood. World's worst: "Slurpuccino," mercifully discontinued recently in Hong Kong, but its Folgery ghost still adulterates the flavor of its Orange Creme successor at my local 7-11.

    I think this was a pocket mirror. Not positive. Does it really matter? Shagbark!

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  • 05/09/09--10:55: ROC. K?
  • As expected, Taipei has yielded up some good gems. We have a lot to talk about.

    The other day, my friend described electronically-translated, no-sense-making Chinese menus as "poetic." Huh. I always just thought of them as "hilarious," but I guess I can try to see it his way. Lo, the unconscious poetry of dim sum in the night market:

    I took this pic because it seems like a term of endearment. Sugar Paste Pie, text me!

    It's really hot here and my appetite has been for the birds. The fact that I've consumed approximately 30oz of Slurpee per day is probably not helping. Nevertheless, I valiantly went toe to toe with a classic Taiwanese oyster pancake last night:

    It was oysters and eggs in an elastic flour pancake, cooked on a griddle, with a sweet/spicy red gravy on top. I imagine if I'd been freezing and starving, this would have been transcendent. As it was, I was feeling hot and greasy and promptly got the hiccups. NTD40=US$1.21.

    Confidential to four-wheelers considering a holiday in a Far Eastern metropolis: there are WAY more people whippin' around Taipei in wheelchairs than I have noticed in any other Asian city. Intending to mention this in my LJ, I asked this family if I could take their picture...

    ...then turned around and saw this custom wheelchair-accessible scooter parked just a few meters down the street.

    Brimming with Slurpee, I could not possibly have drunk this. I didn't buy it. Regret!

    Lemon jelly, served in a plastic cup with a fat straw.

    I was thoroughly lost and in a blind rage for a good half hour last night. Taipei is short on street signs and long on disparate romanizations of street names (Chongqing on the map, Chungching on the sign, etc). The only thing that made me feel better was stumbling upon a huge Confucian temple with this excellent altar inside:

    I have more to show you, more to tell you. But I can't stay out of my posh hotel bed for even one minute longer. The thing is a fucking silken sleep-dreadnought. It makes my hoveland cot feel like a wack undersized manger full of rancid burlap. God!

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    Q: Do I have more pics and shit from Taiwan?

    On my last day in Taipei, I took the subway to the northern outskirts of the city, where the 'burbs give way to mountains. At the subway station, most people were boarding buses, but there were a couple of different routes and I wasn't sure exactly where I wanted to go, so I decided to just walk uphill and see where I would end up. I got a rhythm going, spaced out, and didn't realize for hours that I'd been speed-hiking up sidewalkless, shadeless, pedestrianless roads without getting anywhere picturesque at all.

    Oh yeah, and my sunscreen had been taken away at Hong Kong airport security (RAGE!), so it was an especially florid piece of sweaty hag-gristle that finally gave up and hailed a passing taxi.

    Good thing I did. I was still so far away from any kind of summit. It would've taken all day to walk. We passed through a traffic-choked hamlet where a big calla lily sale was going down. There were flower stands lining the roads, and crowds of stamen enthusiasts carrying huge bouquets back to their cars.

    At a higher altitude, the heat and oppressive sunshine gave way to cool green tufts of ferns and malodorous mists from the geothermal springs all over the mountain. The taxi driver let me out to trot around the trail for a while.

    When I was ready to go back to Taipei, I got in the taxi and said, in my nuanced, precise and gorgeously-accented Mandarin, "OK, I don't want to go to Xinbeitou Station, I want to go to Beitou Station." The taxi driver said OK, and we started the descent. The taxi was unmetered: there had been no timer or odometer totting up how much I owed as we cruised around Yangmingshan, and as we drove, I steeled myself for the inevitable ripoff situation that occurs in unmetered taxis all over the world. I was silently rehearsing Chinese haggling phrases and assorted dismayed and incredulous bitchfaces, ready to go apeshit on that taxi driver the second he tried to overcharge me. O, did I ever feel like a cynical twat when we arrived at the station. I turned to the driver with my wallet out and my lips pursed into a tight little asshole, and he just waved me out with a smile and a Mandarin "'Bye!" Roadside taxi rescue and tour of Yangmingshan, NTD0=US$0.


    They forgot the fifth best thing: Gettin'laid. Philatelists lick it and stick it, amirite?

    Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

    I still have more to post about this trip (including stinky tofu, do not fret). Another day, another day! Check you later.

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    Frequently asked question: Did you buy that thing?
    Answer: Usually, no. I've been traveling for so long that my acquisitive impulse has been crushed like a hideous Taiwanese bead sculpture in an overstuffed suitcase.

    I mean, Facebank, you're cute and all, but you're not coming home with me.

    This Korean device is meant to prevent the wearer from engaging in a classic pan-Asian pastime: dozing off in public. I slipped it out of the package, turned it on, and clipped it to my ear; it vibrated vigorously at random intervals and did seem like it would effectively keep me from falling asleep if I were wont to do so [I'm not].

    Asian quarter machines are so much more advanced than the bacteria-infested dispensers of matte and sticky Hot Tamales, Bonz and Homies we have in the United States. From the machine on the right, you get a seed, a tiny pot and a ziploc bag of soil for NTD20=US$0.61. An attempt to actually grow the thing would probably result in Sea Monkeys-style failure and death, but I'll never find out for sure because the machine was jammed.

    This machine was also jammed.

    I bought two keychains. The one on the left is electronic bubble wrap: you push the buttons and it makes a popping sound. It's a good idea, but the sound it makes is too long, the POP too delayed; it's more like "squeakyPOP! squeakyPOP!" than the straight-up, satisfyin'"POP!" of real bubble wrap.

    This is the packaging from the other keychain. It's supposed to look like a pull-tab on a cardboard box: you pull on it and hear a ripping sound followed by the noise of whatever you've just unleashed from Pandora's FedEx envelope. I think there's something wrong with mine: once I turn it on, it never shuts up; random ripping sounds are interspersed with screams and trumpets and cuckoo clocks and wolf whistles and a few unidentifiables (sandpaper? garbage trucks?).

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  • 06/05/09--20:29: watermelon mt.
  • I packed up and left Hong Kong about a week ago. It was the least frantic packing-up-and-leaving situation I've enjoyed in a long while: I organized my stuff more than an hour before I had to leave for the airport, I didn't have to wear any extra layers of clothes that wouldn't fit in my suitcase, and my luggage was a mere 100g overweight! I spent my last minutes in my hovel serenely drinking tea and writing emails, the very picture of travel-togetherness, then, like a jackass, I floated downstairs and into a taxicab without my laptop A/C cord.

    The machine was dead within an hour, and when I got back home, I balked for several days at the US$80 price tag for a new cord from the Mac store, then telephoned all around the astonishingly bunk-ass Albuquerque Macintosh retail scene looking for a secondhand one, then finally figured out that I should order one from Ebay, then bid on one using my dad's Paypal account (covertly), then had to wait for it to arrive. I've been using my parents' gravestone-sized, pop-up-ad-plagued slabtops for a damn week! I've felt hobbled! Parents just don't understand [how to install Flash players and download Firefox].

    So I spent a week without a comp and the access to my iPhoto that I need to write LJs; therefore, I've forgotten about most of the urgent wack flight complaints I wanted to blog about except for this Delta Airlines announcement I transcribed into my notebook: "Relax and unwind with one of Delta's chic signature cocktails, a 'Mile-High Mojito' or a margarita." A minibottle of Jose Cuervo and a third of a can of corn syrup margarita mix in a plastic cup constitutes a "chic signature cocktail"? CHIC. I gnashed my teeth 'n' air-raged (and emphatically declined the barfmaking chic signature cocktails). American airlines, with your incessant testing of human beings' capacity to endure suffering, why don't you and your greezy-dictioned stewardesses all kiss my ass? "Are you okay with sitting by thumurgency exit with your chic signature cocktail?" Get off my jock!

    Oh, one more thing: any Minneapolites reading this? I spent my nine-hour layover lurching blearily around Mpls, and would like to know: what's your motivation for actually paying for your light rail tickets? Is it the famed Minnesota Nice that makes you do it? I ended up cursing my impeccable good citizenship after I inserted a $20 into the ticket machine and received 18 Sacajawea dollars (which now bear the image of Martin Van Buren, btw, wtf) in change, then encountered no ticket takers or turnstiles for the rest of the day.

    My last few weeks in Hong Kong were less than delightful: I was sick of modeling and having some difficulty getting though days without plunging into a snarling galactic snit. There have certainly been times when I would've just laughed or even relished being slathered in ugly and unhip makeup and ordered into ricockulous poses; I'm laughing now, but when I was in the middle of all this shit it felt degrading like never before:

    "Pretend you climbing up rainbow! Pretend you sliding down rainbow! We will add the rainbow later! Big pose! Smiling! Bigger!"

    That decal covered my entire arm. When the job was over, I was instructed to remove it by peeling. So much epidermis came off with it that I think the whole mess might've been a pretext to obtain a DNA sample. (I am not the father!)

    On this day, the makeup artist shoveled some powdered shit into my eyes, they started to sting and swelled up into labia majora-lookin' slits. There was no mirror in the makeup room, so I trundled off to the bathroom for an inspection and, surprise!, discovered the horror that the hairstylist had wrought upon my head. (PS Nice mustache, bitch.)

    I went to bed like this. Makeup and all.

    I got a lot of inspiration from President Obama. When he has to do a crappy modeling job, like his campaign for Pink Wedding, he just smiles and tries to maintain a pleasant attitude.

    Anyway, I eventually made it out alive, wounded in vanity alone. ¡Albuquerque! Viva el hogar familiar.

    Speaking of which, confidential to my fellow Q-denizens: vayan ahorita mismo a Pro's Ranch Market on Central and Atrisco. Es un awesome Mexican supermercado con food court adentro: se puede comprar "street" tacos, pescado fresco, y todo tipo de licuado. Hoy probé licuado de mamey (the only flavor I'd never heard of) y coctél de pescado, pulpo, y camarón. Riquísimos. While you're in there you can get all the Bimbuñuelos, Jarritos, tortillas frescas (y blandísimas), nopales, ceviche preparado, and other Mexcessories that you need to get you out of bed al NM amanecer. And if you're going to sell elotes on the corner of Zuni and Wyoming (like the abuelito my mom chattily asked, "¿Qué vas a hacer con cinco libres de cotija?"), you can buy your cheese, chile and mantequilla there too.

    If you're not from Albuquerque, you suck, but I'll show you a couple of Pro's Ranch Market pics anyway.

    The green stuff is nopal, cactus leaves.

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  • 06/09/09--15:24: mein Lieblingsgemüse
  • Hey dudes. As of today, I'm on Euro vacation: warm greetings from the Continent.

    I had a li'l layover this afternoon in the World's Second-Worst Airport (London Heathrow), just long enough to flip through a copy of The Independent looking for signs of rhodri, snicker up and down the aisles of the airport convenience store, and shake the ashes out of my pant legs (Murkin panties combusting as they do in the presence of British accents. Cad fancy!).

    My countrymen, did y'all know that they basically speak Murkin in the mirrorworld, skewed about fifteen degrees more hilarious? Do they do it just to tickle me pink, or do others find these product names amusing too? To get the full effect, you must imagine a Yank saying the name, chewing up his /r/s like hunks of Oberto. "You guys gotny mora those Revels? C'n I've a Starbar?" It's not natural. British Brunch Bar and NutriGrain Elevenses Raisin Bake are not meant to share a 7-11 shelf with Funyuns and Flamin' Hot Asteroids.

    For some reason, the process doesn't produce the same effect in reverse: the thought of a British accent murmuring "Pop Tarts, Cooler Ranch Doritos, Cinnamon Toast Crunch" just makes my nips tingle.

    So. I'm in Düsseldorf now, plotting a course for Points Beyond. Don't ask where: dunno yet. Meanwhile, light a candle for me tonight as you pray to the Patron Saint of Free Wifi, that I may continue to blog 'em as I see 'em. Amen.

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  • 06/11/09--12:48: quik pix von Deutschland
  • Gasthaus in Bad Bodendorf: restaurant, hotel, one-lane indoor bowling alley, time warp:

    1982: A very good year for bowling.

    Nobody bowled, but I knew I would've won. Eradicator!

    Spargelsuppe: cream of white asparagus soup. I've been contradicting myself re: my opinion of Spargel, the darling of the German summer. It's easy to dis the weirdly blunt, flabby cave-wands, object of hilarious fervor (Spargelzeit!, "asparagus time!"), grown underground to prevent photoynthesis, so unlike American asparagus that they don't even make ya pee stank. But no: it is delect and I will never malign Spargel again.

    Salat. You can see shredded carrots, cabbage, cooked yellow potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce, dressed in a sweet, not-vinegary dressing. Srsly where the fuck are they growing this shit, Eden? Been ruminatin like every day.

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  • 06/13/09--14:46: forest crunk
  • Black Forest Folk.

    German highways don't just look immaculate when compared to the Bud can-strewn Adopt-a-Highways of the States and the styrofoam/cig butt/dead body/tea bottle graveyard roadsides of Asia, they are literally free of litter. I was looking. Not one piece of litter on the Schwarzwald Hauptstraße shoulders.

    Souvenir plaques for your walkin' staff.

    Conversational German Lesson
    Letter slot: Briefschlitz
    Boost wherein the booster interlaces his fingers into a stirrup for the boostee to step in: Räuberleiter ("thug ladder")
    Woodruff: Waldmeister

    All these pics are from yesterday; I'm already in Zürich with a shitload more and scarcely enough Computerzeit to blog 'em all out. Ach, du liebe Elyse! Here's my one Swiss pic pick: dinnertime beef tartare.

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    Vienna was not really part of the plan, but I ended up here on a layover, awaiting a train to Budapest tomorrow morning. Arrived after midnight and just got back from a long walk around: maybe my blood is just boiling from all the sugar I've eaten (literally had naught else today but 1.33 apples and a bu-uu-nch of candy), maybe it's the random luck of this nice hotel in a cool 'hood with its affable desk clerk Heinz, maybe it's just the vestiges of my explosive childhood crush on Tom Hulce in Amadeus, but Austria is giving me a really good feeling and I'm sorry that I'm not going to get to lamp here longer. So commenters, does anybody live here? Anybody have a good Vienna story to tell me? Anybody got Tom-Hulce-in-Amadeus' number?

    Any Budapest tips/tricks/dares also warmly welcomed.

    Unrelated decoration: Swiss banknote.

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  • 06/23/09--03:33: fault linez
  • I always scold myself on the kinda-rare occasions that I buy emergency socks or underwear instead of doing laundry: like, how wasteful and disorganized. How contemptible! But oops, life got so entropic in Budapest that I found myself in the panty zone of a supermarket, late nite, weighing my options. Go commando the next day? Drive down the dirty dual lanes of Inside-Out Avenue? Or cough up for cheap Hungarian drawers? Well.

    The next morning I hitched my new undies up over my shoulders and swaggered off to the public bathhouse, excess fabric billowing out the back of my pants and luffing in the breeze off the Danube River.

    I don't consider the blunder-vulnerability of a first entrance to a public bath in a new country to be "part of the fun" (accidentally set street shoe to wood floor in a Korean bathhouse and you turn into a pillar of salt); I was tense as I craned my neck around the sovietly slow-moving entrance queue trying to make sense of the papers and cards and receipts and money that were changing hands. People with entrance cards were skipping the queue and sailing through the turnstiles: it was early and they were all effectively jammie-clad, tousle-haired and pre-coffee. There was an adjacent hotel and people were shuffling through barefoot, in hotel bathrobes. One lady had pillow-marks on her face. Intimate.

    After I bought my ticket, I had to lurk for a second, discreetly waiting for another woman to come through the turnstile and (unwittingly) shepherd me through the labyrinth. One finally appeared, swinging a much-reused plastic grocery bag, and I followed her between some curtains and down a staircase and through a hot, tiled passageway ten thousand miles beneath the earth's crust, then up a hot, tiled staircase that looked kinda cool so I stopped to take a picture but it wasn't worth it because the picture turned out blurry and I'd lost the woman and when I got to the top of the staircase I was all alone in an inscrutable dressing room. What now? Get naked or don't? What to do with my clothes? Should I use those CLR-thirsty showers? We didn't seem to have passed any sex-segregating signage; was I about to stumble into a forbidden world of urinals and swingin' balls? I could hear no one; see no one. WTF. I decided to put on my bathing suit and perfunctorily dampen myself with the (suspiciously bone-dry) showers, then, dripping (foul: didn't bring my own towel), I gingerly carried my handbag around and around until I saw a sign pointing toward "Effervescent Baths."

    The first room was huge and high-ceilinged, all tile and travertine, skylit, strewn with plants and water-spouting statuary and plastic deck chairs on which lounged fat Hungarian men in bursting Euro-speedos. A lady sauntered through in a hilarious sequined swim cap (girlfriend, where were you when I was lost in the dressing room?). There was a big cool pool which a couple of people were languidly churning with counterclockwise laps, and a big warm pool, milky with some kind of mineral. Triumph, I had found it! In the doorway, I drew a breath and screamed, "Bitches! Watch me now 'cause I'm 'bout to get PRUNEY as FUUUUUUUUCK. CHUUCH," and bellyflopped into the warm pool. Oh, don't worry, the baguette that someone had stashed on the deck was wrapped in plastic and stayed totally dry.

    Eventually I got out and moistened my way down a corridor and into the second room, where I finally found towels (dammit)(and by the way they weren't made of terrycloth but of muslin), but no windows, no skylight, and no boys allowed. There was a hot pool, a very hot pool, and an ice pool. A mushroom mama in black bikini bottoms was alternately plunging her bulk into the latter two, and I thought I'd do the same, all rude health and ruddy cheeks and virtue, but I couldn't even get ankle deep into the ice pool before I had to cower back to the very hot and huddle with my foot over the geothermal vent in the bottom, fantasizing about magma bubbling up through it straight from the liquid mantle of the earth! You can get the idea from this picture, but you can tell I took it in the co-ed room because, come on, "swimming costume optional" is not actually an option.

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  • 07/01/09--00:01: my place in the old world
  • I may have slept too long on composing this entry: my Euro vacation is over and I'm back in Albuquerque; so much has happened between then/there and now/here that I feel like I'm trying to write about the distant past rather than two weeks ago! Oh well, I'll do my best to make it interesting even if it's not quite fresh. This entry is about Budapest.

    I never really got comfortable with the Hungarian Forint (US$1 = 193.77Ft). Every time I bought something, I'd scrabble frantically through my wallet, unsure whether the banknote I eventually thrust at the cashier would be enough to cover my tab or too small by an order of magnitude. I was so overwhelmed by arithmetic that my practice of vigilant change husbandry lapsed into chaos: by the end of the trip, my coin purse was literally bursting at the seams with Hungarian shrapnel of every denomination. The dudes on the bills gazed 'pon my fumbles with frosty disapproval.

    I updated my personal fruit taxonomy: turns out the gooseberry is not an imaginary cousin to the schnozzberry; it is a green and veiny reality, called egres in Hungarian. I bought a punnet of these bland little things, ate a handful, and guiltily averted my eyes as the rest decomposed in the fridge. Gooseberry schmooseberry.

    Flea market.

    My bargaining skillz were forged in the fires of China; the tedious "pretending to walk away in exasperation at the high prices" performance is necessary nearly every time you want to buy something in a market or on the street. It can seem melodramatic and silly, and it's difficult not to stalk off in a mild snit, clutching your purchases, kicking yourself for having paid too much. Dickering at the flea market in Hungary, by contrast, was surprisingly fun: business was conducted in English, not sign language, the vendors were foxy but not totally inscrutable, the prices were cheap, and I walked away with a feeling of accomplishment and a few new pieces of flair.

    300Ft = US$1.55. You're worth it.

    I boarded my first Budapest busz with my bulging change purse in hand, ready to pay the fare in coin. Horrors: the bus doors closed as I realized there was no coin slot, only a ticket-validating machine. Instead of nonchalantly taking my seat, I acted out the panicky charades for "idiot tourist without a bus ticket," swiveling guiltily to and fro, wide eyes darting between the empty seats, the ticket validator, and the driver's gaze in the rearview mirror. I didn't want to get off the long-awaited busz and venture into the rain in search of a ticket, so I spent the whole ride quaking with fear of getting caught, arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to death. In the end, nobody checked my ticket, and furthermore, none of the other passengers validated tickets either. The entire time I was in Hungary, I didn't see a shred of evidence that any one of my fellow riders was legit and paid-for on busz or tram.


    For me, the most arresting thing about Budapest (warning: trite) was the Eastern European architecture. Every building on every street in the city center was an absolute megalith, set flush with its megalithic neighbor on either side, creating gapless canyon walls along the narrow thoroughfares. Many buildings sported ornate old features on the rooftops: brick arches, metal domes, spires, fat toadstool-shaped turrets topped with spikes, so the view down any megalith-lined street always included a few fanciful shapes bounding or bristling into the sky. None of my pics even comes close to capturing how good-looking it was.

    At a stall selling lángos, deep-fried bread. Rögtön jövök = "coming soon," or in this context, "brb."

    Lángos is like Indian frybread (New Mexico State Fair, anyone?) slathered with sour cream and cheese. When I ate this, I was not in the right (read: ravenous) state of mind and kept thinking of the remarkably similar Navajo Taco my high school cafeteria used to serve for lunch, and the way my then-boyf would douse the ground beef with a carton of milk to lubricate the thing enough to eat it.

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  • 07/02/09--05:10: hungarian product bonanza
  • Új! (pronounced "ooh-ee") = New!

    Cold cherry soup. I tried this stuff years ago when my beloved Hungarian ex-roommate Olga whipped some up in Hong Kong. No Hungarian model ever leaves home without a selection of those Knorr packets in her suitcase- you can make everything from bean soup to tzatziki to chocolate custard. Or, you can not make it, leave it behind in the models' apartment cupboard, and let your successors try to decipher the directions on the back.

    Snidlinggel. I fucking dare you not to adore that. You can't! (Also, ye Super Mario World etymologists, gomba = mushroom.)

    Tea tree and mint-scented dish soap: mmm.

    I was totally transfixed by these Burger King adverts. The font and illustrations and glossy ubiquity (BK must be newly arrived in Hungary) all look so American, and the text so close to English, that your eye can almost slide past without noticing that the thing is actually written in extraterrestrial Hungarian. You know that part in "A Sound of Thunder" when they finally make it back from the Jurassic and they decide to go out for Whoppers and milkshakes, and it's not until they're stomping their muddy butterfly boots into BK and looking up at the menu that they realize something is terribly wrong? Chilling!

    Clockwise from top left, those side orders are chicken wings, fried shrimp, onion rings (two ways to say onion = hagyma, vöröshagyma), and "burritos" (shudder).