i meet the government
Post #688 • December 17, 2005, 9:56 AM • 9 Comments
A gentleman who works at Stock 20, Paint (that's his name - more on that later), broke the news to me. "Today the people from the CCA are coming. We are having a meeting at 4:30. Please come if you have time." The Council of Cultural Affairs oversees Stock 20 - basically, these folks are the Taiwanese counterparts of Rem Cabrera and his colleagues. Gwailo in residence, at your service!
The meeting, of course, was in Chinese, so I listened to voice tones, ate the treats on the table, and tried to follow along with the PowerPoint presentation. (Eating wrapped candy here is the culinary equivalent of Russian Roulette. Giant ginger gumdrop with two red beans inside? Down the hatch. Miniature chocolate butterscotch pudding candy? Mmm...) Mosquitos slowly filled the black box theater as Stock 20 staff made their quarterly report to their bosses. The other artists were there, and they made suggestions about how the facilities ought to be improved. I did no such thing - they asked me to say a few words, and I just said who I am and why I was there. All the while I was flashing back to meetings I've had at ArtCenter. It was exactly the same situation. Bureaucrats on one side, artists on the other, everybody trying to figure out what's going on with the other.
But afterwards - Miami cultural affairs people, take note - the government folks treated Stock 20 staff and artists to Japanese food, served on one of those giant lazy susan tables for fifteen people. Vegetarianism? Sorry, for the sake of my karma, pork just became a vegetable. Food began to arrive, and arrive, and arrive. What was it? I didn't ask, but my neighbor at the table pointed everything out afterwards: steamed egg custard with clams, fish-skin jelly, kimchee, breaded pork, giant shrimp tempura, vegetable cone rolls with lemon mayo, eel meatballs in barbecue sauce on wooden skewers, sushi crab roll. For dessert, the sweetest pineapple I have ever eaten. Because this was an official dinner of sorts, there were toasts. Repeated toasts. That meant sake. One at the beginning to the whole table, and then periodically, from one person to another. A few times, the main government guy raised his cup to me, and I replied. In the Chinese method, you salute the person with your cup, drink, raise your cup to him again, and set it down, at which point it magically refills without any action on your part. A head cold I had been fighting off landed on me hard that afternoon, but after dinner, I hardly cared.
We stepped out into a brisk night on a crowded street, the storefronts twenty feet apart, crowded with tables of people eating all along it, oblivious to the motor scooters zooming through. Neon signs, Chinese characters glowing in green and white and yellow, filled the night sky. We made our way back to the train station through thickets of people.