I am an American technology worker who just moved to Taiwan.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

One rule in life

I went back to Antonio's for dinner tonight as I am still in Europe on business and this is the only place in town worth eating at. Because it is the only place in town worth eating at, it is notoriously tough to get a seat. My ex-boss's boss is beyond a regular there and one time a group of us had to douche out and drop his name just to get a table. I sat at the bar alone tonight and everyone recognized me from last time. Alle had a boatload more questions about Taiwan and was thoroughly empressed when I busted out some currency at his enquiry and was able to answer, "That's Sun Yat Sen" when he asked about "the guy on the hundred". To answer to his surprise, I said, "Hey, if I claim I am from Taiwan and can't tell you anything about the money, you'd think I was totally full of shit!"

As a rule, I try to not be full of shit, but I really only have one steadfast rule in life. If there's one thing that the whole Taiwan experience has taught me, it is that rules can be too restrictive. If I really follow "the rules" I would have never made the leap to come to Taiwan. Having one rule is OK. The good thing about having one rule, is you have no excuse to forget or break it. Let it define you. Own it. Live it.

The cashier girl at Antonio's sits at the bar and struck up a conversation with me and we talked throughout the night. She was wearing a shirt that said "Doing 9 months inside" and had a baby in a prison uniform on it. The shirt was covering her bulbous belly of 21 weeks pregnacy with here son "Santiago" kicking from the inside. But my rule, my only rule, is I never ask a woman if she is pregnant. If an old friend shows up stashing a beach ball under her shirt, I will lock eyes with rigidity so as to not even glance at the belly until she reveals that she is pregnant. No way, no how.

Last time I got the Bolognese, this time the clams & mussels. If you can't figure out a rule for yourself, here's a good one: "If even in doubt, get the bolognese." It's the true measure of weather or not an Italian place can make sauce. Anyone with a supply of decent tomatoes can make fra diavolo, but bolognese is an art form. It was a good night chatting with Alle and Nicole. Antonio's is packed every night and come 8:00, they are turning away people left and right. Friends and I have a joke about getting "Nine-thirtied". If you are trying to get a reservation and they really don't want you there, they'll offer a reservation at 9:30. At Antonio's they just say "Nee" ("no") and you are shit out of luck. They offered me a grappa on the house before leaving and as I left, Alle said to stop back in before my flight on Saturday, at least for a coffee if I can't make dinner. I left with a sense of accomplishment. Nicole said that she remembers everybody, some people get tables, some get 9:30'd and some get sent to the Doner stand down the street. I left with a sense that maybe I have cracked the inner circle of Antonio's.

My boss is out here now and he has been trying to set up some dinners, he invited me out to dinner either tonigh, tomorrow night, or both; I'm not sure I chose tomorrow night based the rest of the company on the invite. As I got back to the hotel my boss was in the lobby with a bunch of Taiwanese guys from my company and he asked if I was just out walking around or what? I said I just went to dinner at Antonio's and he lamented, "Why didn't you invite me?" I said I thought he had some big dinner planned and he revealed that he got stood up. One of the other Taiwanese guys practically had his eyes pop out of his head and said, "You can get in to Antonio's!?!?"

At this point I felt like the King of Town.Since it's only good to have one rule in life I broke the rule of being full of shit and totally exagerrated my cred at Antonio's and told him if he ever needed a table at Antonio's to let me know. Not sure I can really do anything about it, but for me, Antonio's is on my list of homes away from home.