The New Frontiers: Repeats, Reunions and Restorations…

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

I’ve got news for Mr. Santayana: we’re doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That’s what it is to be alive. It’s pretty dense kids who haven’t figured that out by the time they’re ten…. Most kids can’t afford to go to Harvard and be misinformed.”  ― Kurt Vonnegut

Before I go on, I’m still not going to post any pics for the foreseeable future.  Outside of their first names, I want the kids to still have a measure of privacy.  I am writing this with their full knowledge and permission, but I am now trying to be a little more restrained due to circumstances.

Well, it’s happened.  I’ve met my “kids”, and in all honesty, I still don’t know what to think.  The first meeting I had in mind kinda went awry, as WestJet inexplicably flew well over 90+ minutes late.  Add processing and the rest, and my late but still ok 9-something pm landing suddenly became one that happened a little before midnight.  Needless to say, by the time I I got out of the gates, the kids were absolutely exhausted.  Given that Terry had to get back for lunch and dinner service in Whistler the next day, the meeting I wanted to have with them both together pretty much was blown out of the water.  Georgia just went home, and we would find a time to later meet.

Terry

Terry stayed over in Vancouver that night, and met me for a pretty early 6:30am breakfast in a Chinese café-bakery.  (By the way, highly recommend New Town Bakery on E Hastings, it was simple, inexpensive, hot and simply rocked.)  In the brief hour or so that we talked, he was simply a joy.  Obviously a child of the 00’s, his Star Wars was Anakin Skywalker and the Clone Wars.  Linkin Park was his Sting and the Police and he never even heard of The Doctors 1 thru 8.  He’s bright, analytical and determined to be a chef no matter what.  He’ll make it, I have no doubt.  But he’s also a little awkward socially.  His focus on his craft has made him appear to be a little cold, even aloof to an extent.  Still, once you do get to know him, you can’t help but respect him.

Georgia

On Saturday, I had went out to meet an old friend I had never met face to face in 15 years.  It was fun, exciting and a grand old trot down memory lane.  But as all good things, it had to end a little early as I had promised a friend to pick up some Dragon’s Beard Candy from the Richmond Night Market.  On my way there, I noticed a text from Georgia, who was already there and we agreed to meet.

Remember, until this weekend, all of my communications with the kids have been entirely on the phone or via the net.  Everyone has a persona they assume online, whether it be one that’s daring, brave, meek or silent.  But in person… ah, there’s the rub.  The cute little 8 yr old girl I remember is a very different 18 year old girl, and one that I bet her mom would have tore her hair out over.

It’s not that Georgia is a bad girl, or some wild child who drives parents to drink.  It’s that she’s so very much her mother’s daughter.  I see so much of my old love in her, and so many of the special qualities that made me so charmed and enamoured even now over 3 decades.

Georgia is smart and clever, quick witted and open.  She is a caring, loving blossoming woman who you can’t help but fall in love with from the start.  She keeps the same insane schedule that her mom did at this age, with most of her days already prescheduled weeks to months in advance.  It’s that drive that made her mom such a star to UBC, and when properly focused, will make Georgia a contender in the days to come.  The problem is that just like her mom, she wears her heart on her sleeve, and is incredibly pig headed.  Terry told me that once she’s made a decision, it takes a small miracle to make her reconsider.  Like me, she has a flair for the dramatic, and makes life changing decisions at a whim as she will follow her heart.  And more importantly, she has a sense of justice based on her own beliefs and is quite willing to defends those decisions to the death.

Unfortunately, this has led her to three decisions that I wonder how much came from me (somehow) and how much came from my old love.

– After reading “The Days” and finding out so many things about her bio dad, and my deep unusual relationship with her mom, she’s stopped talking to him now altogether.  She assures me that she came to this decision herself, but I can’t help but feel that I’ve traumatized her with the truth.  Problem is that, what choice did I really have as well?  I wasn’t about to lie to protect the false reasons why I was abandoned the kids after the death of their mom, or my complicated feelings for her even after all of these years.  Nevertheless, it’s been months since she has had more than a 3 word conversation with her dad, and I feel so horribly personally responsible for this.

– She’s about to get married in a few months, about the same age when my old love and I had once considered the future together.  Worse, it looks like her taste in men is about the same.  Her fiance was working at the Richmond Night Market (hense the timing), and he’s CHINESE.

– She’s asked ME to be the one to give her away.  She sees it as things going full circle, and that I was supposed to be her dad.  I am honored that she asked me, but it feels quite honestly wrong in a lot of ways.  I don’t deserve this pedestal.  I was with her mom in a quasi lost love relationship for over 7 years. Her real dad raised her for most of her 18 years.  He has cared for her, loved her, and sacrificed so much for her that I can never ever repay.  This is his spot, and his honour not mine.

Now let’s get back to where this mess is about to lead.  I’m not going to comment much on her fiance for now, since I really don’t know the guy at all.  All I know is that he’s from Shanghai, studied in western schools and is 24 years old. I have no idea if he’s getting his citizenship, or if he’s even a landed immigrant.  He speaks english with a bit of an british / chinese accent, and apparently works at that market on the weekends.  He seems to genuinely care for Georgia, but I can’t get over the fact that they started seeing one another only months ago…. and now marriage???

I haven’t had time to really think this all through, but this feels so wrong.  I’m trying to respect her decision, but now I think I have to be her father to try to talk sense as she’s presently lacking one right now.  She won’t talk to me at all abotu how her dad is, and what are his thoughts.  I’m actually a bit surprised that he even let Georgia move out at this age for that matter, assuming he even had a choice.

I’ve gotten advice from a few friends here and there, but I still have to think for now. I can tell already that my wife is going to have some problems with Georgia, which is another consideration I’m will have to factor in. So many lives, so intertwined in the decisions I soon will have to make, and all from a single desperate moment based on an ill-conceived haphazard plan. Wow. If there is some sort of afterlife, I can just imagine my old love just looking on in total puzzlement and disappointment.

But there is one thing for certain… I promised someone special and dear to me that I would always be there to strive to be their father, mentor and friend.  I promised her that I would always be there to try to guide them on a path that would find them their own happiness, and to avoid the mistakes that my old love and I made that will always haunt me.

“Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” – Margo Channing, All About Eve

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The New Frontiers: Countdown, Last Thoughts, and the Calgary Flood of 2013

This is a quickie add-on.  As you all know, I’m am now literally hours away from seeing my kids.  But, I’m having some mild guilt as well right now.  As you all have probably been watching on the news, my city Is being hit by one of the largest floods ever experienced.

Right now, Sled Island, Enbridge Ride for Cancer, Banff Marathon, Pacekids Run, and many many more events have been cancelled.  Even worse, the Trans-Canada Highways and the related rail lines have been totally washed out near Canmore.  As such, many of the supplies that keep Calgary stocked in cheap Chinese manufactured products, fruits, vegetables (I mean the green leafy types, not the BC liberal and green politicians), and so on will be in short supply for weeks to come.

A LOT of my friends in the social media world and more have been doing their best to help, or will help if the waters recede enough to allow a clean up.  But I can’t be there. I’ve been waiting over 9 years for this moment tonight with my kids, and a bit longer also to meet a dear friend as well.  So yes, I feel like I’m abandoning my town in it’s time of need right now.

I’ll be back Sunday night.  There’s going to be a LOT of cleanup to come, so I’ll get my chance to help and pitch in.  But sigh… it’s a lot to see.  For my friends, I’ll be there Monday on.  Stay safe, and be the best our city can be.

Now back to my kids.  Nerves and all have more or less faded.  I’ve been worried about this for so long, that I’ve decided to just give in to the inevitability and see where it all ends up.  Right now, I know that my “son” will be there, but now there’s a complication that my “daughter” won’t be.  Her grandmother has given her a “it’s me or him” ultimatum, and this can’t be easy for her.  If she makes it, she does.  I’ll always do my best to be there for her from hereon.

That’s pretty much it for now. To my fellow Calgarians, do your best and take care. I’m doing what little I can right now before I leave, and my best wishes to you all when I leave my post tonight.

To my kids. I’ll see you soon.  To Xan, so looking forward.  To Vancouver, to the challenge.

Fortes Fortuna Juvat.  Fortune Favours the Bold. My love to you all.

How to Be an Overly Sentimental Idiot in a Typhoon

A few days ago, Wendy from Yelp had started a contest for tickets to a party.  It was a Truth or Dare Challenge, to tell the story of the craziest, bravest thing you’ve ever done for true love or willing to do for it.  I’ve done quite a bit for each person who I’ve ever given my heart, but I can really only think of one time that I put my life in outright danger, and here’s that tale.

Hong Kong.

Those 2 words bring forth a ton of memories of all sorts.  Incredible food and experiences.  Expensive cost of living.  Shopping beyond belief. An island oasis filled with energy that can only be matched by Tokyo or New York.

I remember all that… but more importantly, I remember the incredible heat and tropical weather.

As a kid and a teen, I had visited HK a few times over the years, but until that particular summer, I had never actually lived and worked there.  Through family connections and so on, I had gotten the opportunity to work there as an intern for BBDO HK, a dream position for a mediaphile like myself.  BBDO, the legendary ad firm that came up with Delta’s “We Love to Fly and It Shows”.  This was legendary, as this was THE firm that managed the world-wide Apple Computers account, VISA, Pizza Hut and Pepsi advertising.  I got my chance to see how advertising is created from within the halls of creativity and imagination.

But that’s just trivia really.  While there were a lot of things to remember, what I remember most was the Category 5 Super Typhoon that hit Hong Kong dead on.

typhoon in hk

I had been in Typhoons before, with my friends in Taiwan.  I recall all of us in my bedroom, hanging out while waiting out the incredible winds buffeting against the concrete walls of the Chien T’an complex.  I remember walking out the next day, only to find the huge parade square completely submerged and seeing everything that wasn’t bolted or nailed down laying all over the complex.  Needless to say, it’s a bit of a scary event…. for most.

As you’ve read from The Days, I had acquired a love for lightning and thunder, and deep respect for the power of an angry storm.  I cherished it in fact, with the glee of a child that would be easily dazzled by a shiny new toy.

My friends, well, probably thought I was a bit insane, as I would every so often leave the safety of my room to look out onto the majesty of it all.  2 years later, there I was alone in Hong Kong, watching the city locking down for the most powerful storm ever to hit that island in a decade.

I had been in HK already for a good month, and I missed my then-gal (yes, HER) in Montreal.  Long distance rates back then were insanely expensive at $1-2 a minute, and mail service was terrible.  In previous years, very often I would find my postcards and letters reach her weeks after I had already returned, so writing to her seemed pointless.  And, well, since I was a Canadian with little Cantonese language skills and without any real connections except for the monthly meeting of gamers at the Mariner’s Club, I just felt terribly alone and lost.  I had always defined my identity as a knight in training to my friends and family, but in these lands, I couldn’t be that for anyone.  Then came the typhoon.

I made a quick call (all of a buck or two) and left a message with HER mom to tell her to check the HK weather reports.  And then I looked around the place where I was staying (the cousin of a family friend), grabbed a bed sheet, a disposable Kodak camera, a bunch of balloons and rushed up the fire escape stairs to the roof.

I remember hearing the wind pound against the roof door, straining to knock that door down.  I heard the hard rain hitting the ground outside like cannon fire, and the sound of patio furnishings crash against exhaust pipes and air vents.  I grabbed the bed sheet, tied it securely against my waist and then to the staircase railing.  And with a shove, I forced my way through.

The rain had hit me like a shower of gravel, hard, wet and heavy.  The wind pushed me against the door almost immediately, but I braced myself and went on.  And there I stood, waiting for that moment… one I knew that would come soon.

The storm was dead on Hong Kong by then.  The lightning turned day into night, and the thunder came forth like a thousand lions virtually at the same time.  It was terrifying.  It was incredibly stupid.  And it was glorious.  For a few brief seconds, I no longer was 5000 miles away under an asian sky, but felt a little bit closer to home as it should be.  I braced myself again against the door and sat onto the ground, all the while probably in danger of being blown off the roof or be impaled by debris.  And what I did then?  Made some balloons.

The sentimental side of me had been taken over by the ubergeek me.  Now that I was at the heart of the storm, I wondered how cool would it be to photograph some balloons flying out to sea.  Well, I wondered, though it really wasn’t the smartest thing to do.  I released the first balloon with one hand and ready to snap the shot with another.  Well…. the winds were hitting at roughly 190km at the time.  I didn’t even get a chance to aim, as the wind took the balloon and ran with it with an unearthly acceleration.  I had barely let it go, and poof… off with the winds and deep into the night and out to sea.   I tried again, and again, annnnd again…  Yep, not exactly a triumph for Terry the scientist indeed.  Finally, 10 balloons down and maybe 12 useless camera shots of the dark, I decided to take a shot just prior to letting the balloon ago and see what would happen.  Jackpot.

There weren’t many shots left on the camera, and the storm made the night seem like the whole of HK was wrapped in a black velvet cloak, but I struggled in the hope of a few pics of something.  Anything.  And with the second to last shot, I managed to get a shot of a brightly lit sky of lightning.

That was that.  I struggled to get back inside and close the door, and soaking wet as I was, I returned back to the safety of the apartment 10 stories below.

When I came back home, I had taken the now developed photos, put them in a cheap frame from Eatons, and dropped by a familiar house where someone was waiting for me.  She knew from my message that I was going to do something stupid, dangerous and utterly gallant to feel close again.

She had kept those pictures throughout the years.  Sure they’re in a different frame, and has probably been scanned and so on, but they still exist.  I know they do… because T&G has them now.  They never knew exactly why they were so important to her, but now they will soon when they get to read this.

2 months and counting until the reunion.

Dancing in the Dark… Taiwan Style

Back in the 80s, I was honored by an invite to be a part of the Taiwanese Chinese Youth Corps cultural tour.  Every year, hundreds of up and coming Chinese kids around the world were invited to the island nation to see a little bit of Chinese culture, connect with fellow other kids our own age, and learn a few skills along the way.

Now, I was probably at the height of my “I am Canadian” phase at the time, that is, I tried to see myself as beyond being of Chinese cultural heritage (in general, I’m actually a mutt… but that’s a tale for another day).  Hell, if you asked me if I was Chinese, I probably would have said Quebecois first and foremost.  Yeah, I was definitely what we Chinese call a “banana”, yellow on the outside, white on the inside.  A little concerned, my folks suggested I give my heritage a bit of a break, and try to keep an open mind.

Well, admittedly the trip did change a lot of my impressions and thoughts on being Chinese, but there was an unexpected effect.  While I became more China-centric, I also let my guard down and became a full fledged party guy for a brief sliver of time.  It was pretty inevitable. get 1000 17, 18 and 19 yr old boys and girls and put them on the same campus with no parental supervision?  What do you think happens?

Now, I can tell you about the pub crawls, the late night dinners, sleeping in karaoke clubs, and more… but one particular night will always shine in my mind.

Kiss La Bocca. more affectionately known as just KISS, was probably the very first night club I ever went to.  There, with some beer and my new friends. I was introduced to the electrifying music of New Order, the smooth sensation of a Rum and Coke, the quiet delights of a snuggle in the shadows and the hot action of the dance floor.  It was there where my friends and I would sneak out every other night to relax after a hard day of Chinese language studies and road trips across Taiwan.  And it was there when lil’ evangelical me (back then, I was such a religious kook) had his first… well… I don’t know what to call it moment.

To understand this event, you have to understand that KISS’ layout is basically a dual level nightclub.  On the ground floor is one huge dance floor, with random lights flashing off everywhere.  At one end of the floor, there’s a large stage surrounded by huge speakers.  On the sides, there were bars, tables and chairs and so on.  The upper second floor is more of a huge veranda, surrounding 3 of the 4 sides of the room giving the crowd above a great view of the floor below.  Now that you have an idea of the room, let’s get back to the tale.

So there I was, with my friends and basically going wild on the floor below, when the music switched from techno to a romantic slow song. All of us left the dance floor, but Patricia (wow I miss her) came up to me and asked if I’d like to slow dance, and astonishingly I said yes and we embraced.  The lights shut down, and all that could be seen were couples holding close, fumbling in the dark.

It was… nice.  Her body close against mine, warmth against warmth, heads against each other.  I savored the moment between 2 good friends, and admittedly just the simple pleasure of a cute gal pressed against me.  And then… our eyes adjusted to the darkness.

It was a shock… and then some.     As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I started to see the other couples dancing cheek to cheek.  They were all close and intimate.  They were all in each others’ arms.  They were all men.

My eyes widened.  I closed them again and when they opened again… yep… it was all men.  I whispered to Pat, “Take a look around. Are we in a gay club?”  I couldn’t see her face and see her reaction, but a few seconds later she replied, “I think we are.”

Well, the tender, sweet moment between Pat and I was pretty much lost right there and then.  We started to look around us more in depth, and looked up together at the walkways above.  And again, we were shocked yet once again.  There they were, over a hundred Taiwanese pairs of eyes, all male, all watching Pat and me intensely like a Foodie on a diet staring at a 21 day aged well done Prime Rib.  We held each other tighter and continued to dance, and I asked her, “Are they watching us or just me?”  She replied, “We’re in the middle of a gay club, so I’m pretty sure just you.  I guess your ass has a lot more sex appeal than I thought.”

Remember, I was a bit evangelical and definately a little homophobic then., and if you know me, you know that my friends tend to have a sense of dry wit and humor.  Needless to say, Patricia hit the PERFECT words to freak me out and enjoyed it all the while.  So I did what any young mildly evangelical homophobic kid would do when slow dancing with a hot girl but surrounded by hundreds of gay couples and being watched from above by other men… I took the slow dance lead and lead us off the dance floor all the while Patricia was both mildly amused by my reaction and a little surprised by the whole revelation around us.  In fact, I slow danced us off the floor, didn’t even notice having left it and continued to go on right back to the safety and sanctity of my friends and our tables.

Now this is one of those cultural things that I never could have known about, just like in my previous blog about barber poles (check out The Boy, The Barber Shop and the Talented Hooker to see what I mean).  When I explained the whole event to a Tour coordinator, he spent a few minutes laughing before he could control himself long enough to breathe.  My friends and I went out on a Wednesday night, which to you or me probably wouldn’t have made much difference at all, but makes all the difference to a local Taiwan guy.  You see, Wednesdays seems to be the unofficial night for Taiwanese guys to go to night clubs, to take what they’ve learned from American videos and the past weekend, and to test out their new moves so they could impress their girlfriends on the weekend.  And being an obviously Western crew, we walked in on the one night where each and every one of them would watch and examine us to learn fresh moves from the US of A.  Being the only visitor guy who dared go on the dance floor for a slow dance, they were analyzing every little thing I was doing to see if they could improve their own skills, and thankfully not to check out my Chinese-Canadian ass.  (Thank heavens, I never thought my ass was particularly sexy.)

It was a fun night.  It was an awkward night. It was magic, and comfort, and sexy, and freaky.  And it was a night that was a step on my path to understanding on when to embrace the experience and run with it.  Thanks Patricia and all the crew of the Chien T’an 1989 Taiwan Cultural Youth Tour for memories I’ll never forget.

The Boy, The Barber Shop and the Talented Hooker

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” – Sigmund Freud

“Some of the worst mistakes in my life were haircuts” – Jim Morrison

Image

Young me, with a good ol’ cup of Van Houtte coffee

When I was young, daring, invulnerable and stupid, I did a fair amount of traveling on my own in Asia.  My folks had encouraged it, as my life in Quebec had produced a walking banana or a Chinese kid who is yellow on the outside but white on the inside.  I had wholeheartedly embraced my Canadian heritage, with little or no knowledge of my Chinese roots and admittedly didn’t even think of myself as an Asian kid.  So, when the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore came up, I didn’t hesitate (much).  I thought it would be fun, and in a time before the internet, it would be interesting to explore new lands and places that I’ve seen only in James Bond movies and the Noble House mini-series  (ironically starring a young Pierce Brosnan).

Well, the novelty quickly wore off and then some.  Being of a northern climate, the 30+C temperatures roasted me alive during the day, and the intense humidity made me gasp for breath.  Worse, all of these areas seemed to have been extremely influenced by the West that made it indistinguishable from some southern cities, just with way more Asians.

Of course, that’s not true.  There’s a lot of little subtle differences here and there if you’re willing to look and listen.  Some of even funny as heck, really.  Go to a Pizza Hut in Hong Kong around lunch time on the weekend.  They offer a set price for a bowl of salad, as much as you can fill from their salad bar for a few bucks.  On the weekends, you’ll see some of the most astounding acts of balance and scale ever, as ever growing 3 or 4 foot high salad towers arise from these bowls, with a starved group of students waiting in the booth for the salad acrobat to bring his creation over to.  Heck, look at the pizzas too, as scrambled eggs and scallions has their places of honour next to the pepperoni with extra cheese.  It’s the little things, where the West swamped them with our culture, and they turned around and made some tweaks to make it their own.

And this is where I come in.  I had spent a few months in Taiwan at the time, but having the mandarin language skills of a deaf-mute, I had to take a LOT of things on faith that it was identical to Canada.  Most of the times, being the seasoned traveler I was, I really kinda winged it most of the time.  Worse, I was guilty of a common traveler’s crime, that is, when encountering people of another culture who had no clue what the heck you’re saying, you repeat your questions over and over in English, but LOUDER.  Needless to say, I don’t think I really endeared myself to a lot of the locals.

Well, it had been months since I landed, but not knowing where my usual sources of useful services could be found, I hadn’t cut my hair in ages.  It was getting pretty bad, so I kept an eye out for hair salons and the like.  And it’s with total abandon and boyish glee that I ran over to the first barber pole I saw.

Before I go on, I have to explain a little bit about Taipei’s famous Snake Alley or Huaxi Street Night Market.  It’s a tourist wonderland, filled with some of the most awesome clothing, music and trinket deals, and some of the best street food on the planet (really recommend the oyster omelet!).   It’s also famous for it’s delicacy of snake blood and urine, mixed in a alcoholic aphrodisiac, and for being a den of sin and villainy to some extent.  Being the person who I am, I couldn’t resist exploring it alone.  (Yes, as I mentioned, I was young, invulnerable and stupid indeed.)

When I saw the barber pole. I saw it as a lucky event as what were the odds to find a barber in a place like this?  I quickly ran through the door and hoped there wasn’t too much of a line up.  There wasn’t… in the front.  In fact, in the reception, there was no one at all.

The room was quite unremarkable.  While everything seemed to be made of a dark wood with a dingy layer of dust everywhere, there were the customary barber chairs and mirrors, a little cash, and a curtained door in the back.  Lighting didn’t seem to be all too hot as well, but as I was in a barber shop for the first time in months, I didn’t really care too much.  I called out, wondering where the heck was everyone, when a young woman in a pretty tight dress walked out.  It quickly became apparent that there was a language barrier, as everything she said was pretty much greek to me.  So, I thought, might as well pantomine everything to show what I wanted done.  I walked over to a chair, dusted it off a little (yes, warning bells should have gone off but I was again, young and stupid), sat down, and indicated to her that I wanted a hair cut with a few hand motions.  She seemed to be a little puzzled, but played along and started to cut my hair.

Now, this was where things started to get weird.  The girl was a bit apprehensive when considering that all I expected was a haircut.  She seemed a little confused, and I just chalked that up to maybe dealing with someone who couldn’t talk back to her.  So I sat down and let her cut away, wondering why and so on while it was taking forever.  And things then started to take a different turn….

As she was cutting, I noticed she was getting closer and closer to me.  In fact, within a few minutes, I would describe the event as practically intimate.  With each snip, she started to rub her body against mine and I, being the catholic school boy at heart, was getting to be pretty flustered.  Was this some sort of new way to cut hair?? Is this the custom?  What kind of place was this?  Needless to say, I was just speechless.  I had no idea what to think about this, and would have jumped out and left but I didn’t want to leave with a half done job as well.  Besides, it… admittedly.. was getting to be kinda fun in a weird barber shop experience.

Finally, over 20 min later, the ordeal came to an end.  My hair was cut, maybe not expertly so, but decent enough to be able to walk around in society.  The girl was still looking a bit confused, and was now trying to get me to get into the back room for some reason.  Well, I hadn’t paid yet, so I thought maybe her cash was there and so I went…. into a back room with a few beds separated by curtains, lit candles, lots and lots of beads, the heavy scent of jasmine and more…  It suddenly hit me, this wasn’t so much a barber shop as it was a BROTHEL.

I can’t really elaborate on what happened after, only that the resulting fumbling, really nervous English dialog and me giving her about $30 (no idea what it cost, but at that time, I wasn’t really thinking straight).   I promptly ran out and hit a bar for a few drinks.

Here I was in Taiwan, a devout catholic kid at the time, and fairly naive in a lot of ways with no internet existing as we knew it.  How was I supposed to know that in some parts of Taiwan, barber shops and poles were used not to indicate a hair salon, but a prostitution brothel!  There were events like these and more, but this would be enough for this tale.  My brother in spirit, Dave, reminds me of this every so often, and I keep wondering, how the heck did I survive my stupid years.