Street scenes and stories—Pt 2---hardware, geodes, shark jaws


Coming back from lunch Thursday, David Lee Thompson and I passed a little hardware store---it is not the sort of place you’d recognize as a hardware store right off.   Few hardware stores in the US display shark jaws and clay statues of ancient soldiers in their front windows along with drill bits, wire brushes and hammers.

We made our way into a narrow store about twice the size of our hotel room, packed from floor to ceiling with all sorts of stuff.  We nearly stumbled across a stack of welding rods ad gloves piled high as a coffee table at the front door.  David had been looking for some new gloves, so I figured we were in luck.  On top of the welding rods, was a box, labeled in Spanish, “Guantos.”  (gloves)  David kept holding up his hands, I kept waving the box, pointing, saying, uselessly, louder and louder in Spanish “Guantos!  GUANTOS!”  The proprietor kept nodding his head in agreeable puzzlement.  Suddenly, his face lit up as he exclaimed “Gloves!” with a broad grin. 


We agreed and he turned and threw himself onto the selves like some sort of rock climbing bat or lemur.  Swinging from shelf to shelf with surprising agility for a man who must be 70 if he’s a day, the proprietor reached the top shelf and brought forth leather welding gauntlets.

David headed back to the work site, but I loitered to look around the store more.  Suddenly, it dawn on me this was an extraordinary place—not because of the window display or because of the gigantic cut and polished geode—big as a Western toilet-- kept next to an ancient telephone.  All the tools were in American, not metric measures.  Well, that made sense.  Most of our tools, bolts, nuts, washers, and nails, are made in Taiwan nowadays. Here in this metric country, I could just go a block down the street from the hotel and pick up 3/8th inch bolts and nuts!


I looked over the cluttered racks and shelves while the owner would nod to me, occasionally breaking out in a stream of consciousness chatter and throw himself onto the telephone, dial somebody, talk a little while, hang up and return to my side.


Finally, I came across some simple one piece sheet metal garden trowels, perfect to make a small squid.  After my debacle trying to shout Spanish at a Chinese hardware owner to buy gloves, I didn’t want to risk trying to explain what I wanted with garden trowels.  I paid him NT$120 (about US$4) and left to explanations of “first standard quality, very good digging!” 


Crazy as he might seem to me, I did not want to seem crazy to him by trying to explain I would making a squid out of them!

  I drew around the shark jaws and statue

   Inside the hardware store.

how many left turn lanes do you need?


I don’t understand why there are roller coasters in this country—they have cab drivers.  Driving is a blood sport as much as means of getting around.  Abundant traffic laws are treated as simply a few suggestions by most people on the road.  Sidewalks, when not covered with somebody’s tea stand or lawn chairs or chain wenches or stray dogs, are treated as simply another lane.  Lane markers themselves are a sort of street decoration provided by the government. There are few bicycles, most people ride scooters which swarm through streets and alleyways like bees.  Cabs and trucks sweep through them with no more regard than for each other or their personal safety.


Kristaps Gulbis, the Latvian sculptor, and I have the bad of habit of watching while riding in cabs.  Experienced people just carry on their conversations or watch out side windows, secure in fatalistic knowledge they will either get there safely or not.  A great thing about cabs, is they are cheap and clean.  More over, unlike in America, the drivers actually speak the native language and know their way around.  They do not speak or read English, so we have pockets full of destinations written out in Chinese for us to show the drivers.  Tipping is not done, so what you see on the meter is what you pay.

Street signs are in Chinese, with English transliteration randomly added.  Roads have both names AND numbers.  In other words, there is a difference between Gushan Road #2 and Gushan Road #3.


A perfect example of traffic difference is the number of left turn lanes.  Thanks to aggressive urban renewal, there are a number of good roads herein Kaohsiung, most clearly marked with one, or even two, left turn lanes. 


Every road has four turn lanes, though.  One turn lane for those turning left; one lane for those impatient to turn left and swinging more sharply left to cut off those turning left; one for those making a U turn; and one for those who were going to go straight or turn right but decided halfway into the intersection to turn left.


Now, in the United States, oncoming traffic would be expected to yield or the left turning lanes would be expected to yield.  Here, enlightened self preservation is expected to cause oncoming traffic and left turning traffic of all flavors to simply interweave. 


This follows, too, if you’re a pedestrian.  As Joy commented, and I agree, pedestrians should never break stride or vary their pace or hesitate.  It only throws off the aim of people on scooters who are trying to avoid you.  Traffic is somplicated by stray dogs, (who never seem to get hit), old lady street sweepers on three wheel bikes pulling rubbish bins and brooms, and the usual buses, trucks,  and, amazingly, police cars.


We have actually seen police cars pull over people and write tickets—I cannot imagine what for!!!!!  Oddly, they are strict about plate numbers being visible.  In fact, all commercial vehicles have to have their plate numbers painted in large letters across the back of the vehicle.  Police cars here are small, and the ones we saw, had no wire or bars between front and back—in fact, two of them we saw, had fine lace doilies along the backseats.

   reconditioning electric switches in a sidewalk shop

across from hotel--note shrine in family home to left while man

watches TV.

   side walk restaurent in next block from hotel

corner of block with hotel--note all the shops

with reconditioned welding equipment, and machinery

other side of the corner

  view of Longevity Mountain from our hotel corner

   alley down the block from hotel

  alley cross from hotel

   shop down from hotel selling polished rocks

and electric solenoids.

  view of Kaohsiung--note all the water tanks on top of buildings

  sidewalk across from HanShin Dept. store

  street next to HanShin Dept store

   Han Shin Dept store.  Note Lavender giant Xmas trees at front

   Buddhist temple across from HanShin--makes a good income renting out scooter parking spaces

in the front grounds of the temple.    Note swastika-ancient symbol of long life and prosperity which the Nazis took to use.