Monday, April 13, 2009

Taipei Environment: The sun has lost all self-esteem

If you want, you can live on a mountain half an hour outside of Taipei and have monkeys tapping on your roof. However, if you lived in the city in an old apartment don't expect a view of anything other than the neighbor's wall - and don't expect the sun to have any self-esteem.

For a while we all lived in an old love hotel. There were thousands of love hotels around the city, but this love hotel was at the bottom of the pile; failing to innovate, losing most of its customers to spanking new, sophisticated up-market, better equipped establishments, who better understood the needs of those pulling a ‘crafty one.’ Now, it rented its smoked glass window rooms, complete with back alley location on a monthly basis to those too mean, rootless, disorganized or indecisive to pay a deposit on an apartment and then buy some furniture - Or, of course, people like John and me who were only staying for another six months??!

I recognized the benefits of not being able to see out of my window - namely, the incredible convenience - but John came from the countryside and had a really hard time.

He had actually paid extra money for a room with a window and spent all his time trying to get some light in it. He had pulled back the curtain, cleaned it, repositioned everything is his room to maximize its chances, but still beams seemed to just past it by. Every morning he pulled back the curtains expectantly, then shoved his head out the window to stare at the sky, have another try at resolving the problem; finally, he would beg for a few rays. Often he would lay there for twenty minutes or so, the window ledge cutting into his back. With the bed next to the window, he had to form a bench like position by arching his back, tightening his stomach muscles and knees to support the weight, and then push his head up against the bars on the outside of the window frame. For hours afterwards the window seal left a mark in his back so deep it appeared he might fold there.

"You have rust on the sides of your forehead!” I pointed out after entering his room.

‘How can light not come through a fucking window? I mean where the fuck else is it going?”he replied.

“Just accept it, man, light is not going to come through there in Taiwan,” I replied. “You know after years of being shut out by blinds, bars, frosted glass, small windows, curtains, piles of boxes, and having to squeeze itself between buildings so close together it is easy to make the mistake and hang your washing on the person opposite’s balcony, trying in vain to brighten a living room, sunlight has real low self-esteem, a confidence crisis – and it definitely is not going to spot such a small opportunity to provide its warm, life giving glow. Windows the size of this wall made of magnifying glass and some extremely dry wood shaving piled up inside might make it feel useful again.”

“You really think the magnifying glass would do the trick?”

“Of course! But tell me before you do it. I don’t want to be roasted in my bed.”

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