Thursday, January 3, 2008

Taiwan Times Vol. 7 -- Countdown to Disaster

It had all the makings of a perfect night out. Brian, an American friend who also works as an English teacher, gave me the lowdown. A promoter was renting the presidential suite at the Sunworld Dynasty Hotel and throwing a kickass party for New Year's. Since the party was on the 15th floor, it would offer a spectacular view of the fireworks at Taipei 101, the world's tallest completed building. The flyer looked promising:

This would be a chance to relive the awesome 2006 New Year's party I attended in Shanghai, at Cotton's. At the time, Cotton's was a beloved bar that was having its grand reopening for New Year's. A bunch of my closest friends in Shanghai were all there. The bar was in a restored mansion, and we ran amok, it was like messing up someone's house--but not having to clean up. It was great! Maybe this would be Cotton's 2.0.

I really should have waited before committing myself so soon, because the best parties often come up at the last minute, when friends suddenly tell me they're doing something. But Brian has been a reliable clubbing partner for a while, so I trusted him. I like to prepare things in advance, and it was nice to know what I'd be doing for New Year's.

Throughout the week, I was so pumped, I mentioned it to everyone I knew. They all agreed it sounded liked it'd be cool.

Thomas, a translator at the news agency where I used to work, told me he was having a party at his apartment. James--another translator--and a bunch of my former colleagues would be there.

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James and Thomas, two cool guys from England making a living as translators.

I couldn't pass up on a chance to see them, so I decided to go to his party first, then go to the hotel later. That was my first mistake.

I was having so much fun reconnecting with my old colleagues and making new Taiwanese friends that I lost track of time. By the time I left Thomas' apartment to go the hotel, it was already 11:15 p.m. Plenty of time to get to the hotel before midnight, right?

The city government restricted the subway system because of the insanely high New Year traffic, so the gates to the platforms only opened very couple of minutes to stem the flood of people. Once I finally got onto a train, I thought I was safe. Then suddenly, the train started slowing down! Over the PA system, a machine voice said that the train had to slow down to adjust for headway. Oh crap, this can't be happening!

To give you a better idea of my dire situation, I pasted the Taipei MRT map below. I coming from Thomas' apartment, which is near Gongguan. It's on the green line, 5 stops below Taipei Main Station. I was trying to get to MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua, on the blue line, 4 stops east of Taipei Main Station. Click on the image for a larger picture.

Route Map
Believe me, it's not really as far as it looks. I was going to get off at MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua on the blue line and take a taxi the rest of the way. The Sunworld hotel was at the intersection of Nanjing and Dunhua Roads. I was only two stops away from my destination, when the train completely stopped.

Everyone on the train gasped. There were loud moans and urgent whispers. I didn't need to be fluent in Chinese to understand that everyone thought we were seriously screwed. I frantically sent a text message to Brian--who was already at the party--saying that I might not make it by midnight.

The train shuddered awake and chugged to MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing, one stop before Zhongxiao Dunhua. I wasn't taking any more chances. I bolted out of the MRT station to the street.

The streets were dead empty, everyone must be at their lookout spots, waiting to see the fireworks at Taipei 101.

A lone taxi was passing by. I hailed it down and dived in, shouting out the directions in rapid-fire Mandarin. I was so close!

When the taxi dropped me off, I leapt out and broke into a run, making a mad dash for the hotel. I could still make it, dammit!

I charged into the hotel. There was another party on the first floor banquet hall. Balloons started pouring down on the guests, and everyone was shouting and toasting drinks. NO NO NO!

The elevator took an eternity to get to the 15 floor. I staggered out a broken man. There was nobody around, so I wasn't sure where the party was. In one room, there was a desk with flyers announcing the party I was going to. But there was no one to take my ticket and let me in.

A Westerner with a satisfied grin loped out of a room and came to the desk, saying, "Dude! You just missed the show!"


While I was waiting at the deserted reception area, everyone else was on the 15th floor roof watching this:

The night was pretty much downhill from there. I got lost trying to find the hip-hop room. I kept stumbling from the main room, which played techno music, to the rooftop area.

I needed directions. I saw a Western guy dressed bohemian-style, talking to his friends and pretending to be cool and above-it-all. I asked him, "Excuse me, where is the hip-hop room?"

He looked down his nose at me and sneered, "Fuck hip-hop."

I should have kicked his ass for uttering such blasphemy.

Instead, I left him to being a douchebag and found the hip-hop room on my own. Brian greeted me and asked where I'd been. I felt too defeated to bother replying. Right now, I just wanted to dance and try to salvage the night.

The DJ was awful, all the songs he played were at least 15 years old. Brian assured me the music had been good earlier. There was a time when I used to force myself to dance to every song, no matter what, so I could get better at dancing. Now I won't dance unless I hear songs I like.

Well at least I could hang out with my friend. Then I discovered Brian had a date, and mostly concentrated on her the whole night. I don't blame him:

From the album:
"New Year's Eve (2008)" by Anfisa Pan

That's Brian on the right, looking quite happy. I'd be too, if she had been my date. Oh well, no hard feelings. A playa's gotta do what he's gotta do.

Anyway, I gamely tried to dance to the lame music for a few hours before calling it quits. There's no way my New Year's could possibly get worse. As I walked out of the hotel, I checked my cell phone. "1 new message." My friend Colin had sent me a text message several hours earlier. Here's a recent picture of us:

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Colin and me goin' gangsta at the Wufenpu Garment Wholesale Area.

Here's what Colin's text message said: "Hey, I'm at Ximen with all your co-workers from School 5 so get your ass down here now!"

Dammit, I could have been partying out with them instead of trying to dance to the crap music here! My life sucks.