Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pulitzer Rugby with Neil Simon

Beijing was spectacular--and a bit of a spectacle for some...BUT, I've missed some earlier events and since I'm not really up for a full commie write-up at this time (plus, I need to acquire more photos from my incomparable travel buddy, David)...I'm just going to picture dump pre-Jing events and let my public wallow in anticipation a few more days.
Way way back, I mentioned that I was in a commercial for the drunken brawl known as the HK Rugby Sevens. Incidentally, the event is now being blamed causing HK's record high pollution index today. You can barely see me in the commercial, if you know where and exactly when to look. Barely. Since I know the exact moment and position on the screen, I see myself every morning on the TV in the train station. Makes me feel so celeb until I realize that if you're on the train, you shouldn't have to take the train.
Picture DUMP from filming day:

"The Odd Couple (Female Version)" took Hong Kong by storm from March 9 to 13. Incredible cast, team, and crew. It's not a rip off Neil Simon--he changed the gender of his original about 20 years later in order to show a female side of the situation. Again, let's picture DUMP. Please keep in mind that this was set in 1984.
The ladies with Paul and Teri, Director and AD. Paul is such a dashing Irish lad:

At the after party:

My Act 2 costume...Virginia Coultas' skirt from the 1940s. Thanks to my mom's ridiculously generous box of candy (which I of course shared with the cast), I had to go to the gym on the final performance day to make sure this skirt would still fit:

Act 1 costume, however, I could fit about 3 other pairs of pants under those hideous jeans. Notice the zipper...then try, just try, to erase that image from your memory:

Final mini-dump: Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I attended a literary discussion of the book (which The, Dad, and I are currently reading these two weeks). He's definitely the coolest Pulitzer Prize winner I've ever met. He's a dude from the DR with mad nerdery. At the book signing afterward, my line friend Jackie was nice enough to photograph my discussion with him.
Starts out with me saying something awkward and confusing:

Then he talks and it gets better:
And we're friends! Even on facebook. Junot before this shot: "Hide the book!" :
Now all is clear for Beijing---I can hardly wait to divulge it all (mmmaybe not ALL, some things from Beijing are better left in Beijing. Like silken coats.) Oh, a teaser.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Taiwan Day Four: Zipper in the front/Say that in French

Taiwan Day 4 began innocently enough. A long (3+ hours) bus ride to a surfy-ish beach town called Kenting. En route, we passed through Heng Chun, a village of witchery and a giant banjo. In Kenting, we alight and eat at a Thai/Myanmarian restaurant. Post meal, let the chaos ensue.

Our primary goal in Kenting was to snorkel. We walked along the road, passing "Hotel California," dudes, and babes.
We managed to overcome some major language barriers ("Nar?!" doesn't help so much when attempting to rent snorkeling gear) and successfully purchased a snorkeling experience.

Ah, but the rub.

We had no means of transporting ourselves to the actual snorkeling location. If only a random stranger with lace windows and fake artillery would have collected us that morning. Enter Monday Hero. He rents mopeds to dudes and babes. However, he will only rent to dudes and babes with international drivers' licenses. For whatever reason, he took it upon himself to ensure our snorkeling happiness and called a taxi for us.

At the snorkeling place, we changed into our gear and took another weird gray taxi bus with two new friends to the shore.

Astounding experience. Everyone has seen photos and underwater footage, but it is nothing--absolutely nothing--like seeing it in real life. Maybe part of it is the element of surprise. A massive school of fish suddenly streamed out of a hole in a coral boulder and swam directly under me. A snake-like eel thing (my bio friends are impressed with my terminology, I'm sure)--anyway, the eel thing wove itself around corals, plants, and my leg. Dozens of varieties of fish swam, fought, hid, ate and chased each other in the aquatic metropolis as I floated above it, trying not to inadvertently touch anything. I could have stayed out there for hours, but apparently it was cold and the guide made us go back after only 45 minutes.
Several times, I strayed too far from the pack and had to be beckoned to return to the fold. The waves sometimes crashed over my head and into my respiration tube. This solidified for me, in a very real and tangible way, what I have always known cerebrally: humans should not ever drink seawater. Coleridge said it best,
"Water, water every where,/And all the boards did shrink;/Water, water every where,/Nor any drop to drink." I used to think that Mariner was a bit of a wuss. I can feel his pain a bit more accurately now--same as Pi. Not that I've ever killed an albatross or shared a boat with a tiger--I can identify only with the water part.

Okay, so that was an unnecessary literary tangent to express that drinking saltwater sucks.

Upon our arrival on shore, they threw us in a big red van with about 15 new friends. After a mere two minutes, they plucked us from the red van and told us to get in the gray van (people telling us to get into gray vehicles would be a recurring theme if someone were to write an analytical paper about our trip. I haven't unpacked that metaphor yet, but I'm sure someone will). They took us back to the snorkeling place so we could shower with hoses, change clothes, and short circuit several hair dryers.
Our original gray van was to collect us at 5:30pm, but it was held up in traffic, so we had to attempt to attract a ride the old-fashioned way:

(All photos stolen from Meaghan)
It worked, and they sent a different gray van with several new friends inside: 5 Chinese people and 2 ridiculously good-looking French men. The strikingly handsome French men were also heading back to Taipei via the High Speed Rail. We ended up in the same car, but parted ways in Taipei as we ventured to our hostel of the evening. The "main guy" at the hostel was Brad from Texas. He's an architect and a fascinating personage. He was just in Hong Kong last week on one of those I-Need-To-Leave-Taiwan-To-Renew-My-Visa trips. Meaghan and I met up with him to show off our city.

To round out this whole expedition--we got up the next morning, ate breakfast with a secretive Australian guy (later learned he does what, McG--mail-order brides?) and went directly to the airport.

Crazy trip...next up: Beijing!! Going next weekend with fellow American and theatre supporter extraordinaire, David.

In case anyone is wondering, I am still working. A lot. We have many shows all the time. Before I hit the Jing, I'm hoping, if I'm not too overwhelmed with life, to blog about "The Odd Couple" and my epic meeting of Junot Diaz. And the shenanigans in my apartment--anyone need sequins? All this and more, oh so much more.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Taiwan Day 3, Or "Are we really going to get in that car?"

Day three began with the sadness of leaving the sordidly sketchy hotel, and the happiness that we weren't staying there that night with the Valentine's Day Rates: Increased, displayed, and available by the hour.
We watched a lion dance on the way to breakfast, which we ate al fresco (breakfast, not the lions). It was just like Europe! Except I ate curry and had a really hard time ordering orange juice. I ended up with some sort of green tea. Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan, rife with ancient temples, which we spent the morning locating:

Next Tainan stop, The Chihkan Tower: It was a Dutch fort in the colonial days (1620s). The Taiwanese called it "Tower of Savages" and "Tower of the Red-Haired Barbarians". I sense some contempt for the Dutch settlers. A stone rendition of the Dutch surrendering in 1661 to Koxinga, a Ming Dynasty general: After a nine-month siege, the Dutch were forced to sign a treaty with Koxinga leave the island forever. "Koxinga" is a European bastardization of "Guo Xing Ye" which means "Lord with the Royal Surname." Trying to figure out if "Carpenter" is royal. Inside the Tower resides the god of literature: He stands on a huge mythical dragon and kicks the Big Dipper. Many students were there praying to him for good grades. Wish I'd known about that in college. Around this time, I heard people speaking Cantonese--musical relief to my ears--and immediately invited myself into conversation with the HK family.
We took a train to Xinying, a city we had no interest in seeing, but there were buses from there to the mud springs--a main attraction of Taiwan. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Xinying, we discovered that the next bus out would leave in 1.5 hours. By then and the time it would take to get there, it would be too late to do anything. Oh, but what luck! A cab driver said he would drive us there immediately for about $8US. Ok then. All was well until the cab stopped in an alley, the driver told us to get out and the man who had approached us before told us to get in his car. We obliged, as good hostages do. It was a small gray Toyota (probably on the re-call list), with lace around the windows and a gun on the floor of the backseat. When Lindsey asked Gaelle if she was concerned about the gun, she said, "No, it's not even real." She was right...but still, who has a fake gun in their car? I kept trying to ask our friendly driver what his name was, but he never knew I was talking to him. In about 45 minutes, we arrived in Guangzihling, a city with many springs. He dropped us off at a particular spring and gave us his number so that we could call him for a ride back into the city. We looked down into the spring and--wait for this Christmas Miracle--we see Hugh and Susan, our Canadian neighbors from the shady hotel in Tainan! Hugh, circa 65 years old, yelled up at us, "We got in for the kid price, 350!" Duly noted. At the entrance gate, we saw the prices: 350 (about $4US) and 500. The guy at the gate asked us which price we'd like to pay.
--What's the difference?
--350 for kids. 500 for adults.
--Well, we're adults, but we're friends with that guy who got in for 350.
--Oh! He's your friend! 350 is fine. Go in. Go in.
We spent about 2 hours sitting in extremely hot water and clay, splashing an annoying kid in the cold pool, and attempting to communicate. No one spoke any Canto, but one grandma called me over to talk to her granddaughter in English. We said many profound things to each other when she wasn't hiding her terrified face from me. Grandma beamed throughout, though she understood none of it. It reminded me of my own grandma who stood by proudly when I "talked Chinese" with the guy at King's Wok in South Dakota.
We showered off the clay and called the guy with the grey Toyota. He drove us to the Lake of Fire and Ice. It was dark, so we couldn't see much of a lake, but here's the main attraction:
It's a rock, flowing with water and perpetually on fire. Water and fire do not typically coexist. There's some sort of geological explanation for it and I'm sure there's also a deep metaphorical connection I should make here about humanity and harmony, but we heard the Toyota honking at us (we told him we'd be 5 minutes). We hurriedly finished our famous Taiwanese sausages on a stick, and rode back to Xinying. There, we caught another train down to Kaoshiung (location of the earthquake a couple days ago). Walked a bit to find a place to stay then went out to the night market.

It was similar to HK night markets, but with more food and a better sense of pedestrian traffic lanes. We ate mysterious things and I found the famous "pineapple biscuits" someone in the office requested. So ends Day Three...yes, that was all in one day. Don't relax yet, the excitement of Day 4 is yet to come.