Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thursday Afternoon in Taipei

On of the perks of working as an editor for a newspaper is that my work schedule is from 15:30 until 22:00, which, provided I get up early enough, gives me plenty of time in the morning and early afternoon to accomplish what people abiding by more traditional schedules could never hope of doing. Another advantage is that as newspapers are also published on weekends, one’s “weekend” need not fall on Saturday and Sunday. In my case, “weekend” is Thursday and Friday.

One little indulgence I have developed in recent months is to go, mid-afternoon, to this place called in House, a lounge bar situated in the Xin-yi district, about a five minute walk from Taipei 101. Not only is in House one of my favorite lounges in Taipei, with excellent house music and a dreamy décor, but the fact that I am going there in the middle of the week before dinnertime certainly adds to the experience.

After you have been seated by one of the invariably good-looking, fashionable waitresses or waiters, you are handed a drinks menu to choose from which offers a nice variety, from wines to whiskeys to multiple cocktails. Comfortably seated in a leather sofa, with the not-too-loud mix playing round you and the faded pink and blue hues bathing you in a dreamy mood — to which we add hundreds of candles on tables, hanging from the ceiling and on windowsills — you place your order. From noon until 18:00, all drinks come with a cake or sorbet. What will it be, a 15-year-old single malt, or a kamikaze? Red wine, or a Mai Tai?

For me, part of the experience lies in the surrealism of it all. It’s as if reality were a dial and you shifted it, say, thirty degrees. There is something unreal about being in a lounge bar in mid-afternoon on a workday. It’s like stepping into a different world — not altogether unlike the real world, but like I said, a few degrees off. I also like to observe people there, for I never find myself alone in there. For me, I bring a book and read while I munch on peanuts, take a sip from my drink and eat my sorbet or cake. Others come in small groups. Some are hunched around a portable computer, talking shop, the bright monitor an out-of-place yet natural intrusion into the otherwise somber atmosphere. Others come alone, engrossed in a cigar, or deep in conversation on the ubiquitous cell phone. It’s amazing how many people one will find in a lounge at this time of the day. While some do conduct business there, for the majority it is, like me, leisure, a hedonistic escapade from reality. Looking at them, I always wonder what it is they do so that they can be there on a weekday. True, Taipei has more than its share of utterly rich people who need not have a day job for their entire lives. Maybe the people around me think I am one of them, who knows? I could very well see myself spending entire days there, writing a novel, perhaps.

At any time, it’s a place to see and be seen, where one drops all his worries and allows himself to be embraced by the alcohol and the enthralling lounge music. Make that a weekday experience, and the escapism is all the more complete.

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