TPE: Bat Alley


Every night, I make the four-minute walk from our apartment to the hospital. The trip is short and mundane, but often the highlight of my day. Taipei can be oppressively hot when the sun is out, but the evenings are often beautifully mild and breezy. All around the VGH campus, people sit outside chatting and enjoying the night: families with small children, couples, elderly. It’s no small joy to see people laughing and having a good time in a place where there is also so much suffering and pain.In particular, I love seeing all the old men hanging out in their hospital pajamas, cigarette in one hand and IV stand in the other. It’s a perfect picture of defiance – or maybe just habit. Oddly, it’s also quite calming to see – and helps me put a lot of this past year into perspective.But the walk isn’t all peace and tranquility – there’s also a few moments of pure terror. Let me explain.To get to VGH from our flat, you enter through a nondescript gate at the rear of the campus and walk through a parking lot to the main building. The lot runs along drainage channel about fifteen feet wide. (In the photo, the lot is in the foreground; the channel and main building are at left.)At night, the parking lot is a feeding ground for what looks like several hundred bats. The bats flitter chaotically between the channel and the high lamps, devouring mosquitoes and terrifying passerby like myself. (OK, maybe only myself…none of the other passerby seem to notice or care.) Navigating this gauntlet of hungry bats, many of which of which fly uncomfortably close, is nerve-wracking. I try to keep myself calm by recalling grade school lessons about bats and their superior navigational SONAR. But I also can’t forget the story I read long ago about the young girl that died of rabies after being lightly scratched – lightly scratched! – by a passing bat.As I write this, I realize that if there’s ever a good place to be scratched, bitten, mutilated, gouged, pecked, or clawed by a bat, it’s probably the parking lot of a major metropolitan hospital. I’ll just have to keep calm enough to remember this on my walk later tonight.Happy Halloween.(Veterans General Hospital, Taipei)

TPE: Hospital Cleaners Rule


OK, maybe I can complain about one thing: at this hospital, no matter how sick you are, when the cleaning crew comes to perform its annual floor waxing, you gonna get your shit and your terminally ill asses out of the room until we say its OK to come back in.(Veterans General Hospital, Taipei)

TPE: Above It All


I’ve never spent this much time in a hospital before, but I’m finding it hard to find anything to complain about. The staff and facilities have been great. The view is not bad either.(Veterans General Hospital, Taipei)

TPE: Looking The Part


With my new self-administered buzz cut, I fit right in at VGH. I’m a patient undergoing chemo, a monk praying for the sick, or maybe just the slacker delivering pizza.I’ve had a feeling for quite some time now that I’ll be a different person after this year. I guess the change has already started.[Napoli Pizza, Tian Mu: supreme pie=good, seafood pie=bad](Veterans General Hospital, Taipei)

TPE: Busy Clippers


My brother gets a hair cut. Tomorrow, I’m gonna break out my own clippers and give myself a buzz, because I’m DIY. I’ll need him to take a look at the back to make sure I got it right, though.(Off Shipai Rd, Taipei)

TPE: What Does The Scanner See?


What does a scanner see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does it see into me? Into us? Clearly or darkly?A Scanner Darkly is so paranoid and heavy that it’s easy to forget how freaking hilarious it is after it ends. This was my second viewing and I laughed out loud several times, which probably confused the hell out of the people sitting next to me. This is a really cool movie. Stop surfing the net right now and go rent it.(Cathay Pacific flight 451, NRT-TPE)

TPE: A Last Visit


A final visit. Twenty plus hours of traveling alone. I’ve never done long-haul flights so frequently, but I can see myself getting used to it.Transfer planes at Narita. Just an hour-and-a-half here this time and no terminal switching. I’m thankful for the good connection. I get a really strong ice coffee at Doutor (L-size) and manage to avoid the sweets. Somehow, I manage to resist the dollar soft serve ice cream at McDonald’s (they take American dollars).A (very) American woman in an Auburn U. sweatshirt makes a really irritating cell hone call.There are so many Japanese hipsters here, I feel like I’m in the East Village.(Narita Airport, Japan)

Underwater, Above Ground


I try to imagine what it must be like. Maybe like being underwater, a few inches below the surface. Shimmery figures, hollow sounds.Distance, I’m sure. Comfort, I hope.(Soho, Manhattan)

Yes, The New Yorker


This is a pretty boring photo and I’ll be the first to admit it. I post it mainly to let you all know that my life is not all globe-trotting, young women, and steak-eating. In fact, my days consist largely of wandering around the streets, looking up at the sky, bumping into things. This photo is what life is like for me 98% of the time. We’ll return to the more exciting 2% in tomorrow’s post.Thank you.(34 St, Manhattan)

From The $2 Seats


Those in the know wait for the 7 train to Manhattan on the western end of the station.(Willets Point-Shea Stadium Subway Station, Queens)