Stranger in a Strange Land

by Mark Forman on September 25, 2018

Was semi-binging Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown episodes over the Moon Festival Holiday weekend here. The one with Marcus Samuelsson and his wife returning to Ethiopia with Bourdain and crew along was particularly poignant. Marcus admitted how he has several homes and maybe no home. I can identify with that kind of at home where you are/at home no where dichotomy. My original home: Brooklyn was only home until I was 18-so even though that seemed like a lifetime when it was happening, only just a few minutes on my timeline. Now when I see movies or tv shows that were shot there it is both familiar and foreign at the same time.

The second long stop on the journey was the anti-NY, the Sonora Desert in Arizona in fact. When the plane I was on was triangulating for it's landing into Tucson the view I had was uncanny. It reminded me of one of those grade "B" horror movies like Godzilla or worse where you could see the strings attached to the beast creature victimizing the locality it was purported to be in. Tucson from the air in the late 70's seemed bot visually attractive and odd: it was so void of pedestrian life down below. So unlike the NY I had just flown from. During those pre-internet/pre-smart phone days jet planes seemed really fast, but obviously not so. It brought me from one world to another in about 5-1/2 hours.

Taiwan has been my home for so long it almost seems like I was born here. My coming and arriving in Taiwan are vague almost to the point of being dreamlike. I can pinpoint my first experience with local culture on the ground though. That was in the airport where I needed to change US$ to NT$. I was 2nd in line and totally bewildered after that 12/13 hour flight and dealing with a time of day that didn't reconcile at all with when I left and when I thought I should arrive. Some older man decided to walk to the front of the line ahead of me. I ws totally unprepared to use my seriously limited and rusty Mandarin Chinese on him so I gave him some universal language: and angry excited face and my thumb making jerky moves towards my rear. Low and behold his ability to read my excited sign language was excellent and he feigned innocence as he got behind me.

Several months later I must have briefly dozed off on a city busy and recall my rude awakening when I noticed everyone on the bus was Chinese and I wondered what they were all doing there?