Monday, January 31, 2011

Work Abroad: Pierre and his KTV gigolo job in Taipei IV

Just a reminder this is the fourth installment of the story of Pierre's work as a gigolo in Taipei. Best to go back and read all in the Pierre and his KTV gigolo job series from work abroad.

A little while later and Pierre had taken things with Ms. Hu further.
It was the mid-September Full Moon Festival meaning, among other things, everybody was supposed to have a barbeque in the evening.
The struggling artists, prompted by Eric, had agreed to arrange one and John, Pierre and Josh and myself had reluctantly agreed to go because it sounded like they had an ideal place: a top-floor flat meaning quick access to the refrigerator from the roof; the roof had not been built on; and, the best thing of all nobody had covered it with corrugated iron so you could see the stars.
Firstly, who were the struggling artists? The struggling artists were a group of Eric's friends who shared similar interests: they organized drum festivals in parks, they went to the beach and played their guitars, they studied ancient Chinese, and they desperately claimed to only be doing work they wanted to do rather than teaching. But that is where the similarity ended because, whereas Eric was committed and fierce in learning to do the things he wanted, they were not: Eric struggled; they struggled to get out of bed. And it was something about Taiwan that allowed you to do so. It was easy to get your 40,000 NT a month for doing very little and with that you had a scooter so negligible transport costs; food was cheap and you could always find a girlfriend better looking than you ever had back home - Either impressionable young girls who wanted to speak better English or older women who thought you were going to treat them better than a local guy. Their relationships lasted about a year or so, until the girl went off to study in Canada or the older woman worked out they weren't going to turn their lives around and get a good job.
Although this was a national holiday, requiring the purchase of lots of fresh meat a foreigner could still confidently walk into the supermarket at four o’clock and expect to get what he wanted - The Taiwanese had emptied the shelves of the chicken wings, squid, little boney fish with the eggs still inside, clams, shrimps and intestines, leaving all the nice pieces of steak, chicken breast, pork and sausages for those barbarian foreigners with no taste.
John and myself had been waiting on the road outside their apartment for Eric for half an hour and when he arrived we remembered another reason why we didn't like to attend the struggling artists bbq.
“Sorry I am late man! I had to go to several supermarkets,” said Eric. He had balked at the price of the steak and so spent an hour driving around town until he found the only reduced price chicken wings left.
“More Taiwan style, eh,” he said. We went upstairs and laid out next to the bbq were a lot of chicken wings all supplied by the hosts. They arranged this, but clearly didn’t seem to suffer from the Taiwanese desire to impress their guests with their generosity.
It wasn't a surprise. The first time we had eagerly turned up at their bbq with steak and lamb bought from Costco and wine. Feeling embarrassed we had put it down next to the chicken wings and proceeded not to get any all night. Tonight would be different. Our stuff wouldn't come out of the bag till they were all too high to notice.
Suddenly Pierre arrived with Martina, a Ukrainian girl who was in Taiwan as a model. Pierre pulled me over to one side. “Look at this. Don’t tell Martina where I got it.” Pierre had not managed to get any food, but had bought an extremely expense bottle of XO Brandy. I had no idea where he had got it so I, of course, couldn't tell Martina.
Eric had missed his chance for a bottle of brandy yesterday. As a way of saying she didn't want to study anymore, Eric's student had tried to give him a bottle of brandy with her excuse that she was busy. As a form of petty revenge he had said, No, and walked away shaking his head cursing the Taiwanese for not being straight. Telling himself back home they would have come out and told him, they wouldn’t have wasted his time like this. John assessed the situation correctly. “So it would have been much better if she told you you were crap? Back home they would never have given you the bottle... And, anyway, she didn't waste your time because you have been in Taiwan for a while and you know not to hang around waiting for students to call.”
Oh, for the marvels of alienation.
John had no such problems exploiting his status. His date for the evening was Lucy, another of his eager beaver, dying to speak good English young girlfriends who would be gone in six months to the States.
John walked off to hide his meat and we stood awkwardly with Lucy. It was awkward because we knew she would be determined to speak English and us Chinese, and we had to stop ourselves being rude. We decided to indulge her – It was funny how that always happened in Taiwan.
“Do you want a kebab?” I said.
“Sorry, what did you say?” she replied keenly.
“Kebab!” I picked it up to show her, “What about a beer? Taiwan beer is a nice beer you know!”
“No, thank you!” She was a little impatient: these weren’t useful words to learn. She decided to go on the offensive and ask a question. “What do you do in Taiwan?”
“I am studying Chinese” replied Josh knowing this was the quickest way to lose her. She moved to Eric: “And you?”
“I am a student of Daoism… dao jiao.” She stood awkwardly for a moment after realizing she wasn’t going to have a conversation useful to her progress in the English language and walked off.
“Where is Lucy?” asked John now he was back.
“Finding a victim,” said Josh. “Why do you bring these stupid, boring young girls?”
“Because I can, I suppose.”
Eric continued: “Don’t you just hate that when they try and show off their English?”
“Okay with me,” replied John. “We both get the benefit of a body part above the neck.”
At this point Martina wandered off. Pierre’s declaration he could get girls from anywhere in the world, that he didn’t need Taiwanese girls - and was thus better than the rest of us - hadn’t been an idle one. Two months previously his girlfriend from France had arrived on a year long deafening trumpet fanfare: they knew everything about her, but especially that she had large breasts – cue, Taiwanese girls don’t. He walked around for two weeks showing her off, totally unaware that we just didn’t care. Otherwise, over the last few years he has had a succession of eastern European models working abroad in Taiwan. Martina, like most of them came for two months, working packed schedules for the smaller, local clothing companies, who needed a white face to show their clothes were imported from Italy or France, but didn’t want to pay too much.
Up until now we had remained indifferent to his superiority, but the dynamic was getting annoying so we had a plan to stop it – We were always with Taiwanese girls, who, of course, didn’t believe in the superiority of men, but understood to play that game. You could be rude and sexist and they smiled; you could criticize western women, which they did all the time, and of course the Taiwanese girls smiled.
We decided Eric had to execute the plan because they were the least friendly to each other.
Eric spoke: “Pierre, man, where do you find all these hot white women? Look at us, we have to make do with the local girls.”
And with that Martina was his last western girlfriend.
Josh changed a topic.
“Hey, Pierre, how was the visa run?” he asked. Pierre looked like the game had been given away, and made a point of pulling me and Josh over to the side, making something that wasn’t clandestine extremely so.
“Best not to ask me about this in front of Martina.”
“She is not here,” I pointed out.
“Why?” asked Josh because he knew if he asked Pierre wouldn't tell. “It is complicated. Just don’t mention it to Martina.”
Eric walked back over so Pierre had to involve him. “American. Did you hear what we were talking about? Same goes to you don’t mention it to Martina.”
“That will be easy,” he replied. “I never speak to any white women. And, just so that I don’t, dude, just blurt it out. What am I suppressing?”
Pierre was feeling friendly towards Eric, now that he had shown the integrity to admit the truth about the women, so he decided to tell him: “I went to Thailand with Miss Hu (one of the women he met as a gigolo). She is paying me to live with her now.”
Pierre pulled his now that is big shit, isn’t it face, and on this occasion we had to agree it was warranted. That was the thing about Pierre you couldn’t permanently dismiss him as an arrogant buffon because there were some things he did exceptionally well - He spoke perfect Chinese and English – when many of the other French guys had rather strong accents; he could charm a crowd with his Chinese singing; and he got women to pay for him, which has just about every guy’s fantasy. Pierre then went on to tell his story…He didn’t want to live with her, but he had had enough of the KTV and he wanted to make a clean break. He had to do it - You see, he needed someone to buy him out of the KTV, otherwise he would get his legs broken by the bosses. Pierre had told us about being sucked into an underground world where he constantly had to stay alert, but this was nonsense. He wasn’t a mainland Chinese girl smuggled into Taiwan to whore until her debt was paid. He was working at the higher end of the scale; yes, they might have called him a few times, but basically he could have stopped being a gigolo and left the KTV anytime he wanted to.
“I had to tell Martina I was sorting out some business,” he said.
“Didn’t you have to go to get a new visa, anyway?” I asked.
“So no need to say anything other than that.”
Pierre had got tired of the club only working two times a week. He refused to meet Miss Hu on his days off, no matter how many times she asked. This forced her to come to the club on the nights he worked and pay them to take him out. He knew he could be getting that money, but, short-term at least, he liked to think about how much money it was costing her, and this way, he didn’t have to work either. Then, after realizing he didn’t have enough money for a visa run to Thailand he had decided to invite her:
“Pierre I am a traditional woman, well-respected in the business community,” she replied. “I can’t just go to Thailand with a young foreign guy.” She had reacted exactly as expected.
Two days later she called for his full name for the tickets - Of course, he had to go to the airport and check in separately.
“I am a good woman. I know you need somewhere nice to live, and I want to give you a chance to relax, not worry about money and find something you really want to do,” she had said. And with that she had managed to make the hiring of his services for 50,000NT a month sound like a humanitarian gesture the Almighty couldn’t match.
John wandered back to our group and we inched towards the bbq.
“You know Pierre is living with the old bitch?” I said to John.
“Of course! Anyway, come here.” Even though the hosts hadn’t felt embarrassed about not providing any food for their guests, John felt so about not sharing his food. Now they had gone downstairs for a spliff, and the hundreds milling about were all people he didn’t know and didn’t need to give a fuck about, he had started to pile large pieces of steak on the barbeque and give everyone dirty looks.
“If anyone comes near let me know,” said John. “Anyway, he told me last week, because I am prepared to carry the cyanide pill.”
Pierre wanted some steak and was back again.
“So what is it like?” I asked Pierre. “By the sounds of it must be a month or so.”
“Two months,” he replied. “And a nightmare.”
This is how he described a typical evening.
‘Oh, yes! Sorry, I am too presumptuous,’ he said. Miss Hu would flash him a stern look to leave her room. Despite the fact that he had slept with her countless times, stupid games still had to be played – On this occasion, they had just got back from a restaurant, and he knew she would want sex – that was what she was paying for after all – so he had followed her into her room thus causing the look. He went to his room, turned on the TV, and waited for twenty minutes.
“Miss Hu are you okay? Do you want anything?” he said. He knocked, then opened the door and went in. First time, he had just knocked - he didn’t want to burst into the shy ladies bedroom - and she didn’t tell him to come in, so he left again for another hour. Second time, he knocked and because he was getting impatient he just went in and this was acceptable behavior; she wouldn’t invite him in so she had to give him someway to get to her, otherwise he might be still knocking at regular intervals for eternity.
Why the fuck do I have to initiate sex, when I am the whore? He thought. I have slept with a few female whores and they do nothing, but play with their toes, waiting for the time to be up.
‘I am sorry about earlier. I just wanted to make love to you immediately,’ said Pierre who understood ham and cheese, as he had delivered more than an EU food mountain of it in his time.
The flattery was very simple to give. It wasn’t a matter of believing – for her, someone so obsessed with getting respect; tired and paranoid about not doing so, she was not interested in anyone’s sincerity, just that it came.
She only stayed three nights a week (that was the agreement) – the others she spent in her home with her son. She always arrived with bags of shopping and then spent two hours cooking, and washing up, presumably to try and create the image in her mind that they were a proper couple. Once a week, usually while she was cooking and he was hanging around trying to look helpful, she went on a tirade about how she didn’t get enough respect, and how he thought he could just come in a her house and do anything he wanted. How she was not a soft touch, or interested in using her money to buy people. And how she should be thankful that she was sponsoring him to help him get himself set up in Taiwan.
Sex was unusual. Pierre called it taking turns to masturbate. She was a stressed businesswoman who always needed to take control, get want she wanted, and sex was no different. She took control, maneuvered herself into position (it was an exact science for her), and five minutes later she was orgasming. Once was enough for her, and she then asked what position for Pierre was opportune for maximum efficiency and she assumed it. There was no chance of them cumming together, or even fumbling at doing so, or playing the game of pretending to try and do so that most couples do. And, no need to apologize for coming just before she did thus spoiling it for her. There was order: her first and him second, and nothing in between. Pierre had thought many times about heading to the bathroom first to get himself on the verge so he could beat her to punch, but in the end he thought better of it – No doubt she wouldn’t politely lie down, but demand instant rehardification. It was the nearest a heterosexual man could get to shagging another man.
For twenty minutes or so she would then tenderly kiss and cuddle him, but her expression did say, wasn’t that nice making love? but rather look at what we managed to do for each other. Today, we both managed to come within twenty minutes, our efficiency is getting better and better. Then it would be, “See, I am not so hard to handle. You can do it.”
Back to the moment.
“Hold on now,” said John. “I am going to ask you a serious question. It should be bleeding fucking obvious the answer but I have to ask it anyway because I know what a dumb wit you are. You are not taking Martina back to that apartment are you?
….You fucking are, aren’t you? Jesus, you are stupid.”
Pierre burst into indignant. “John, you know I can handle these situations. She will never work it out.”
Pierre then stared at us and us at him projecting the belief we thought our opposite number was as dumb as fuck. Clearly, all the dumb vibes had had an effect because later that evening we all headed back to Pierre's gilded cage.
To put it mildly the evening didn't end well.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Work abroad: Pierre and his KTV gigolo job in Taipei III

Just a reminder this is the third installment of the story of Pierre's work as a gigolo in Taipei. Best to go back and read all in the Pierre and his KTV gigolo job series from work abroad.

After his one stab at paid sex, Pierre had sworn himself off preferring to just drink with the women. Six months later Pierre had found his feet and in doing so rediscovered his sense of the melodramatic, and that melodrama expressed itself in clients with overlapping schedules. He was sure that if a client saw him with another it would be disastrous. His gigolo colleagues told him that it is generally not a problem, but he replied with: “Yeah, right, what I am going to say to her, ‘Sorry, I was fleetingly making someone else’s life less lonely. Now it your turn.”  Still, his gigolo colleagues knew there was no need for embarrassment, but were not interested in arguing (Taiwanese are very good at that) and decided it was best to just play along.
That evening:
He made an excuse to a Miss Chen to approach the bar and talk to his colleagues.
“Has Miss Hu arrived?” asked Pierre.
“No,” said his colleague.
Pierre did his phew, the world isn’t going to end face and waited for someone to be interested.
Nobody was.
Pierre continued: “I don’t know what time Miss Chen is leaving.”
“Should be no problem,” said his colleague again. But nothing was ever ‘no problem’ in the Pierre universe. He started to pull his this is deadly serious, man face, but got no joy. He then pulled it harder and harder until all the energy in his entire body was helping to radiate seriousness; but, all he got was a polite smile (Taiwanese were also very good at polite smiles).
Besides, they had seen and heard it all before: at the start he had just talked about the possibility that he would get a clash of clients coming to the KTV, then he invented them and had everyone running around pretending he wasn’t there, or in the bathroom, or covering for him at a table so that he could sneak out the emergency exit. Now, he was throwing out names that made no sense to them for authenticity.
“Is Miss Chen a regular,” asked a different colleague.
Pierre raised his eyebrows, but said nothing.
“Well…is she?” asked the colleague again.
“She might be,” replied Pierre.
Now his colleague was raising his eyebrows because he didn’t understand. He thought about getting to the bottom of the situation, but decided to walk off instead.
Suddenly Miss Hu arrived and it was a perfect chance to invent a problem. 
“Miss Chen, excuse me, I have a problem...I am really very sorry,” he said.
“No need to be so polite,” she replied. And she actually meant it because she didn’t much like foreigners, and was waiting for someone else.
Pierre went out the emergency exit of the KTV, clambered over the empty beer crates, slipping on a fire extinguisher buried underneath; down one flight to the office below, then took the lift back up.
He straightened his tie as he approached Miss Hu. “Sorry, I have got here. I was late tonight,” he said. Miss Hu looked baffled why he would lie - She knew he was already there with another client, and if he wasn’t popular, she wouldn’t be interested. Anyway, he had told her to be there at 10:00…Insisted in fact.
A little white lie. It wasn’t entirely accurate to say that he had decided never again to take payment for sex. He had decided never to take payment from a nice woman. A few weeks ago Miss Hu had taken a shine to him, and, at the moment, she was certainly fulfilling the above criteria.
Typical Miss Huisms:
“You know, even though I have a lot of money, I like to have normal friends. I don’t show off my money -I have 3 houses, one in the California, but I don’t it doesn’t make me arrogant.”
“I am really nice to my friends. I always forgive people when they are mean to me. But one time, I don’t like to use my power, a friend of mine doubled crossed and one phone call and they had their business closed.”
“My friend are only secretaries, but I don’t tell them that they should do better with their lives.”
“I pay for everything, and I never ask for anything, but I know they don’t respect me.”
And it went on and on…he was sure he was going to go mad. The first time he entertained her was the first time rage had been so intense he could have killed someone. Everyone, from time to time, was stuck talking to someone they didn’t like, and watched their clock desperately hoping the next sentence would be the last and you could get away. That first time, he had watched her lips and wondered how such beautiful, thick things could allow such obnoxious, arrogant drivel past. Didn’t they have a sense they were being showed up? It quickly became clear there would be no respite, so he concentrated his attention on those lips, convincing himself that when they stopped, she would stop. Unfortunately, they’re momentary stops were only pauses while she gathered together another snippet of self-absorbed reflection. Still it helped to see them unmoved for just a second, it was a moment’s relief before the torturer put the electric tongs back on his balls. Each sentence hammered into his head on the same spot. And it was so much worse because he was not just required to appear to listen to someone else but to actually listen and respond - She continually asked him what he thought and pulled him up if he wasn’t listening, but she wasn’t looking for a discussion, merely an acknowledgment of her plight: your empathy showed that you had digested what she was saying.
While he tried to keep his attention focused his teeth clasped tight, and his eyes stared forward, then he was hit by the sensation the parts of his face had got so close together they could feel the presence of the others and were about to engage each other in conversation. When she went he just stumbled around dazed, shell-shocked. He was afraid to go to sleep – Initially surprised he had not gone mad, he then decided the experience would be like when you play on an injury and get used to it, but the next day, you have done so much damage you are out for the season. He expected to wake up dribbling and babbling; or somewhere in a small African country, having undergone plastic surgery, carrying a new identity, with no knowledge of the past twenty-five years, only of unspeakable past trauma. He tried to run and hide second time she came, but she sought out the manager, who asked him to do a favor, and therefore he had no choice. It got better from then in - You will get used to hell. He knew what she was going to say, developing the ability to wake back up just when she was finishing a sentence. She was so obsessed with face that he could wrap her around his little finger: Keep telling her what a nice person she was; misunderstood, down to earth, sincere, and she would keep coming back. And, he wanted a woman who he could rip off, but had been restricted by conscience, so a candidate like this, that he disliked so intensely, wasn’t going to appear too often. He knew he shouldn’t miss hopping on the broom stick.
The next evening we were all out together.
“Have you sorted anything out yet - what you want to do?” I asked.
The fact that it had been eight months now since Pierre entered the KTV club, wasn’t lost on his friends either. He was still talking about how: he was going to change the world, do something different, not rely on his status as a foreigner to earn money, and now the period in which we were too impressed to say anything was over.
“I have been working 4 nights a week. It was not as easy as I expected you know,” he replied.
His expression was humble, introspective, and everyone wanted to feel sorry for him, but nobody could really take it seriously: you don’t believe the gambler who says he has quit, you don’t believe Pierre will start approaching life by realistically assessing his strengths and weaknesses.
Sometime during his upbringing his parents stopped trying to tether his self-belief to reality - Presumably, as he is still alive today, it was sometime after teaching him to cross the road, but the indications suggest not long.
He continued: “Having to drink so much everyday and deal with the people, I don’t think you boys could handle it.”
Ah, back to normal, we thought.
“What about that cash? You must have a stack saved up.”
“I have some, but meeting business contacts is not cheap here. You have to keep up appearances.”
We didn’t believe the excuse. We also disputed he was working at the club four nights a week --The regularity with which we saw him meant there would have to eight or nine days in a week.
Anyway, we knew he was spending the money. You can pretend this is independent cinema and invent the killer who likes to prune roses or work with disabled children when he is not lopping and dismembering, but in the real world, most of these guys follow the stereotype. Pierre and his colleagues spent fortunes on clothes, cars, drinking, and cards in illegal gambling houses. It was stuff right out of the movies for Pierre – dumping one or two thousand US dollars on a bet and losing it all. At times, we wanted to feel sorry for the na├»ve boy who we were sure was going to regret it bitterly later, but there was no need to feel sorry for him: Pierre only remembered the experience.
Still, even the most optimistic guy can have a few regrets. The Miss Hu situation would come to be one.
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