adrian is rad



Filed under: — adrian @ 11:22 am

I lived with James aka ob1 for a year at ye olde frat. I knew a great many things about him: he was a triple major; had a fiancee; captained the gymnastics team; played guitar in a rock band; walked up the unstable banisters of the center stairwell on his hands; tried to imitate tricks he saw Jackie Chan do; was built from pure muscle. Then he went off to circus school in Montreal. What I didn’t know was that he’s a good writer, too:

Ten years ago: Circus school teaches me how to drink, how to smoke, and how to love a woman only until morning. My classmates and I are the shaggy, unshaved future of the circus arts, sleeping in the hardwood corners of each other’s apartments. In the candlelit Montreal winters we vow to fight the good fight together. “The future of circus,” we tell each other through late-night veils of smoke and alcohol, “is whatever we make it.”

Six years Ago: Our growing collective of circus artists dedicated to theatrical expression through circus arts has been tapped to receive funding and international tour support from the French government but is forced to disband when two of the four members accept Cirque du Soleil contracts.

Four years ago: I am homeless in the streets of Tokyo until an expatriate Flamenco dancer from Madrid takes me in. She teaches me how to seduce a woman and how to dance with her close. “You smell like cinnamon,” she tells me, and then, like a gypsy curse, “you will be the boss of your own company someday.”

Two years ago: I am the boss of my own circus company with projects in fourteen countries and annual revenues over 300,000 dollars. The future of circus, it seems, is business.

Three months ago: I drink absinthe beside Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River with one of my best friends, a French acrobat. Seven years ago we were street performers on the Ramblas of Barcelona. “The future of circus has forever changed,” he tells me. We are the last generation of artists who knew circus pre-Cirque du Soleil – just as the generation before us was the last to know the great circus families of Europe in their full glory. The trunk has been severed from its roots.

Last time I saw him was in Taipei in 2007–that’s in the “two years ago” section of the time line. It was surreal even then. I’d gone to grad school and worked in Silicon Valley. He’d gone to circus school, busked in Europe, started his own company and lived out of a suitcase. We watched football and played foosball in a sports bar in the Xinyi district of Taipei, not far from Taipei 101. In many ways we picked up where we left off, but our experiences were so different in between.

It’s worth checking out the whole article.


my favorite sign on the planet

Filed under: — adrian @ 4:39 am

do not enter please obey this traffic sign

And I’ve seen lots of strange signs but this may be my favorite. So simply good!


story week, part 4

Filed under: — adrian @ 10:33 am

I’m going to tell you a story every day for the week.

Near the end of my time living in Taiwan, I decided to go to Kinmen (formerly transliterated as Quemoy), a Republic of China (Taiwan) island 2km off of mainland China for a weekend. It’s a fascinating place that’s had a lot go on in the last century: isolationist Fujianese culture followed by briefly adopting British-Asian colonial styles and then sustaining shelling by both the Japanese and Maoist Chinese.

It leads to some shocking scenes: traditional Fujianese villages with miles of bomb shelter tunnels underneath. Or sorghum fields, waiting to be harvested for traditional brews, with rusty anti-parachute spikes every 10m. Such images are endless.

The English proficiency was very low and I had mastered only a few dozen words and phrases of Chinese including such useful phrases as “This is a pair of chopsticks” and “This is my business card” so communication, or lack thereof, was a major issue. I didn’t hear any English on my flight. I was picked up at the airport by someone that couldn’t speak English; I was taken to a scooter shop where I rented a scooter from people who didn’t speak English. Only when I got to the guest house did I hear any English and then it was quite broken.

I was in over my head. I was an island.

At one point I tried going to the local-style noodle shop. Well, I succeeded at getting there. And I succeeded at standing awkwardly in the entrance for a while. I even succeeded at pointing at a bowl of noodles with pork and indicating I wanted that dish.

When the proprietor said something as she carried a bowl past me, I thought she meant it was mine so I followed her to the table where a young man and an older woman were already sitting–it’s not entirely unusual to sit with people you don’t know–and started to sit down. Then the young man’s friend returned to the table and sat in that chair and started eating the dish I thought was meant for me.

Seeing my confusion, the young man got up and grabbed me a chair. “Xie xie” (Thank you). A dish of various meats and tofu arrived. “We,” he said motioning in a circle, “together.” “Oh. Xie xie” and I tried a few pieces. My noodles arrived and I started eating them. (They were delicious, incidentally). He pushed some sauce toward me. “Spicy.”

Finished with their meals, the young man and his friend got up and paid the proprietor, who gave me a funny look. He came back over to the table. “You no pay.” The spicy sauce must have started to get to me because my eyes welled up a bit. “Xie xie.”

No man is an island, it turns out.



Filed under: — adrian @ 11:28 am

So, holy cow, I’m moving to South Africa, Cape Town to be exact. If we’ve talked recently I’ve probably already mentioned this to you, but I haven’t made it public on the internets till now because I wanted to make sure that things like work heard it from me before reading about it on the internet.

I will answer some of the questions that a lot of people ask.

I’m doing this because I want to. My parents are South African and every time we visit (8 times now) I’ve always wanted to live there, particularly in Cape Town. It’s something I’ve been seriously considering since September 2004 and now I’m doing it.

I don’t know how long I will stay. It might be as little as four months. It might be 1-2 years. I don’t think it’ll be five years.

We do still have family in SA. My aunt and uncle live in in Johannesburg. We also have a lot of family friends in Cape Town. I’ll be staying with one of my mom’s best friends while I get set up.

I don’t have a job lined up. I’ll be looking to work in engineering there. I will be going on an extended leave of absence from my current company.

No, I don’t speak Afrikaans and nor do the majority of South Africans, though there is a significant demographic group in Cape Town that does speak it. South Africa has 11 official languages now; most of daily transactions fall into English.

Yes, you can visit, though check plane fairs before you get set on the idea of going. It’s not cheap to get there (though it’s fairly cheap to stay there).

Yes, I’ll write about it here. I’ve also started a photo blog, in part to encourage myself to take photos regularly while I’m there.


on utilitarian bikes

Filed under: — adrian @ 5:45 pm

Heading to lunch the other day with Dug, I saw a newly opened store front for My Dutch Bike. I thought it was pretty cool. After all, I think these solidly built, three speed utilitarian bikes are great. I had one in Germany and enjoyed it. And I think for a lot of the populace, they’re a good option.

But then I looked at the price. $1600? What???

I saw similar bikes in Asian: China and Taiwan especially. The one here, by Phoenix, I found in Jakarta where it was for sale for, I believe, $75 brand new. I think it was a single speed, but it’s absolutely bomb-proof and is really classy to boot. Note the mechanical linkages for the breaks instead of cables. For that price I should have gotten one and shipped it over here.


crossing rivers and borders (literally)

Filed under: — adrian @ 9:49 am

I just realized that I’ve often lived and worked in different places where I had to cross water and boundaries to get there. Examples:

  • Lived in Boston, Ma; went to school in Cambridge, MA
    I crossed the Charles to get to school, crossing town and county (from Suffolk Co. to Middlesex Co.) boundaries in the process
  • Lived in Menlo Park, CA; went to school in Stanford, CA
    I crossed the San Francisquito Creek, crossing town (actually going through Palo Alto briefly) and county (from San Mateo Co. to Santa Clara Co.) boundaries in the process
  • Lived in Menlo Park, CA; worked in Palo Alto, CA
    I crossed the San Francisquito Creek again, crossing the same boundaries.
  • Lived in Songshan, Taipei; worked in Neihu, Taipei
    I crossed the Keelung River to get to work. I’m not sure what, if any boundaries I crossed.

I don’t know why I noticed this, but there it is.


wow. that’s pretty hard to believe

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:15 am

I left Taiwan and came back to the States a year ago today.

You can see my initial reactions to being back and my stewed thoughts.

Mostly it just seems strange that that was already a year ago. Time passing–you can’t really avoid it, it seems.


what I missed in Taiwan

Filed under: — adrian @ 8:42 pm

I’ll give you a guess as to what was one of the things I missed most when I was in Taiwan last year.

It’s pumpkin pie. When I realized that spending Thanksgiving there meant no pumpkin pie, I was practically distraught. I tried to have some around Christmas when I was back in American but the circumstances didn’t work out. And pumpkin pie just doesn’t work outside of the time frame of October-December.

So when I was at Mission Pie, one of the overpriced but very good places in the area, the other day with a friend and they had pumpkin pie, I was pretty happy. The two-years-in-coming slice was delicious.


lunch in chinatown

Filed under: — adrian @ 9:00 pm

I spent lunch time walking around Chinatown yesterday. It was really reminiscent of a Taipei in some ways, hills and many white tourists notwithstanding.

Signs in Chinese and badly mangled English. Going into stores with foods only labeled in Chinese. Not knowing quite how much language you share with someone working in a store. Extremely slow old people on the sidewalks…

It’s strange what what one misses about a place.


one year on…

Filed under: — adrian @ 6:40 pm

One year ago last Friday I moved for Taiwan. Right after I returned in December, I gave you a debrief/ by the numbers sort of post so if you want to see a lot of specifics of the trip.

When Dave, my friend and coworker who was there for the first week I was, and I arrived in Taipei, it was hot and humid. Sweltering, muggy, suffocating–whatever you want to call it. We were tired and it was hot and we didn’t understand the language. We attempted a day of work and made it most of the way through, though, to be honest, I don’t think either of us were productive in the least. Dave’s luggage didn’t arrive (except, of course, his tux for a wedding he was going straight to after Taiwan) so that 6’6″ guy and I went to the store to get some clothes to tide him over. He found a shirt that fit and some socks but the largest underwear in the store, as Dave hilariously recounts, wouldn’t make it past his knees when he tried them on later.

We went to get some shabu shabu for dinner that night. The menu was entirely in Chinese and the people working there didn’t speak English at all so we ordered by pointing randomly to a line on the menu. The beef, which–as it turns out–we had ordered was pretty good. A thus I started my almost four months in the country.

It’s so hard to sum up four months in a place with so many varied experiences. Theer was the time in Jianmen, the Taiwan (Republic of China) island 2km off of mainland (People’s Republic of) China that I went to because it had a very interesting history of isolation followed by English colonial-by-way-of-Singapore influence followed by heavy military presence and bombing. It was a fascinating place. The people there also spoke very little English and even though I was near the end of my time in Taiwan and I’d had a one-on-one Chinese tutor, my language skills were not enough to get me by. I was in way over my head. At a noodle restaurant that was drying its fresh noodle on racks outside, I pointed and gestured that I wanted a bowl of whatever everyone else was having and that I was just one person to be seated.

After 15 minutes of mulling around near the entrance, I took the proprietress’ pointing at a bowl to mean that it was mine and I should follow. It was not my food and when I sat at the tableful of strangers, it was obvious I had sat in someone else’s seat. One guy, who was at the table with his friend–the other person at the table, an old woman, seemed unrelated–got me a chair. Later he offered me some of the chicken he and his friend were sharing. Pointing at the chicken and then the three of us: “together.” He also gave me tips about the hot sauce: “good”, pushing over one bottle. Later when the proprietress gave me a funny look while he was paying I didn’t make much of it–after all, as far as I could tell, I was the only white guy on that island, so I got plenty of funny looks. He came back over to the table “you no pay.” I felt ridiculous for nearly crying in the middle of the restaurant but I couldn’t help it.

There were the hoards of guys in Bangkok that tried to sell me fake tours or “massages”. There was the cab driver in Taipei that short-changed me.

I obviously stuck out, perhaps not as much as my 6’6″ tall friend when he was there, but I did. Sometimes it was fine, or even good. I’d make a faux pas or get myself in a jam and people would give me some leeway or help me out. Other times it just felt more like I was a complete outsider. In four months of taking the bus every single day, both ways, and often again in the evenings, I saw another westerner on the bus exactly once. I’m sure the women on the bus thought I was a bit odd.

It’s hard to explain what living there was like because there were so many different experiences. On an average day, my activities were mostly the same: wake up, shower, eat, work, eat, work, maybe run errands, make dinner, and go out or watch TV or write or read or play guitar or whatever. It was just what I was eating was different and the surroundings and people were completely different; the language and writing were (for the most part) not understandable.

I’ll try to give you a better taste through some photos. I’ve picked out some of my favorites because they give a feel for the place, because I like them artistically or because I think they’re quirky or funny. Feel free to ask more about any of the photos if the caption isn’t sufficient and I’ll give you more info if I remember.

You can also read some of my posts from when I was in Taiwan or otherwise traveling.

Taipei, early September

Shabu Shabu restaurant on XingAn Rd.

taxi at an intersection

Danshui Night Market, at dusk

Longdong Park along the northern coast

Scooters near Keelung

seafood market along Fuji harbor

sales/ net girl at seafood market along Fuji harbor

a mock-up (machine) shop

(many more below the break)



trip (and other) photos up on ghm

Filed under: — adrian @ 2:48 pm

I’ll be posting a lot of my trip photos–and some older photos too–up on the collective photo blog over the next week or two. Check in there for new photos. Here are a couple so far:

You Go Girl, Brooklyn

Monk outside Snake Alley, Taipei


that’s an odd thing to be proud of

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:48 pm

Disregarding living in a foreign country but otherwise in a stable place, I was traveling all or part of 97 different days last year. Basically I was a tourist for over a quarter of the year.

One of the odd abilities I picked up along the way was this sense I get of where the most likely place will be to have a publicly accessible restroom.

For instance, in touristy areas, your best bets are medium-sized mid range-to-upscale hotels. There’s almost always a bathroom off the lobby.

Today while out in the Inner Sunset (right near this beautiful structure actually), I had the urge and only a bunch of liquor stores, dry cleaners and a tutoring center close by. Then I saw an Albertson’s. Supermarkets, in America, for whatever reason, almost always have a restroom.

Relieved, I was able to take the long route home with a nice walk in there.

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