F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Reunion

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Sunday, 4 October, 2015

Taipei, Taiwan

Joe Barthel and I were extras in that hugely popular 90’s TV show, Friends, this week. Spoiler alert: there may be a lot of angry fans when it airs – they appear to have replaced the original cast with a gang of Taiwanese buddies, furthermore, the sitcom seems to be mostly in Chinese now.

Ok so we weren’t quite hired extras, but instead paying customers. Taipei has a coffee shop named ‘Central Park’ designed to replicate ‘Central Perk’ from the show. If you can look beyond the subtle name change, then this place is pretty legit. In fact, so authentic that we even witnessed some Taiwanese ladies’ man wander up to a pretty girl at the till and say, “Ni hao ma?” (the Chinese translation of the show’s most famous catchphrase, “How you doing?”) – Just a cheeky joke for my bilingual homies.

As I said, the place was incredibly well put together – they had the big orange sofa, the unique chalkboard behind the bar and even the neon ‘service’ sign on the wall. Sure, there was also a framed Barack Obama poster on the floor, but then hey, not everything can make sense. Things could have been so different if Barack’s audition to play Ross Geller had just gone that little bit smoother.

It was a really fun place to drink coffee and it’s definitely a must visit to any big Friends fan that happens to be in Taipei. Joe and I have set the bar pretty high now though – I guess the next time we meet up it’ll have to be in ‘Bayside High School’ or something.

Funnily enough, most of Joe’s trip was spent in either coffee shops or bars – as it turned out, his visit was more badly timed than a funeral fart. He shared his Taiwan experience with ‘Wet & Wild’, the attention seeking typhoon that made everybody fear for their lives and shut up shop at midday.

However, we weren’t about to fall victim to the Big Bad Wolf. We were tough, unbeatable; we were that smart pig that built the house of bricks – metaphorically speaking, I don’t want David Cameron trying to stick his wanger in my mouth. Well, we had the weather beaten right up until we stepped outside. Jesus!

Seriously, it was crazy. We watched the weather snap trees, rock lampposts and even break a cat!! That’s a lie, but it did break my umbrella – I just didn’t think an umbrella would have the same immediate impact as a cat. It was certainly strong enough to have broken a cat though. Honestly, we tried to walk towards Taipei 101 and started flying like two little lost dragons, praying that we avoided an oncoming car or tree. In conclusion, typhoons are really scary – I’d recommend not sightseeing in them.

Therefore, bars. We ended up in a few. However, every place we entered seemed to be calling for ‘last orders’ due to the weather – so, we were now doing a pub crawl in the middle of a typhoon. Perhaps a little dangerous, but my mate was on holiday. I didn’t want him going back and saying, “What can I tell you about Taiwan? Oh, they also have houses with sofas and laptops that can illegally stream films. It was ok.”

Nope, that just wouldn’t do. I persevered and he is probably back in South Korea now saying, “Yeah, Taiwan. Wow. Taipei was great. The wind threw me into a tree, car and temple. The whole thing was like one great, big, wonderful trip. Unique and acidic – five stars.” I got you, Taipei.

One particular bar that we went to, along with another friend, Thomas, didn’t know if it was open or closed; it was all very bizarre. On arrival, a bartender came speeding past us holding some empty glasses and blurted out the words, “We’re closed.” Before jumping back behind the counter and serving some other late attendees.

A confused Joe went to the bar and ordered a beer. She said, “Sure.” Took his money and poured his drink. At this point we started questioning everything we believed we knew – she definitely said it was closed, right? Apples are definitely green? Conservative MPs definitely do fancy pigs? Screw it! Too much thinking, not enough drinking. I ordered my booze and took a seat.

Thomas then tried to order his beer. Tried. “Sorry, we’re now closed.” She told him, leaving the poor boy in a state of bewilderment; this was all so odd, why would you only serve two out of a group of three? I can only assume that he tried to tell her about the warrior army he’s made on his phone app – I would certainly be able to understand and relate to her hardship if that was the case.

He then came over to the table and informed us of what just happened. Naturally we laughed a lot, but only because of how puzzling the situation was. I considered offering to share my beer, but then I would be drinking a half – that’s my dad’s preference, which is cool, each to their own, but I’m not ready to turn into my old man just yet. So, confused Thomas was left watching his pals sip on a cold one.

Due to being sat alongside the bar, we were well placed to witness that very barmaid go on to serve a further two sets of people. Which obviously took us back to our initial question, why the heck wouldn’t she serve Thomas? Being positioned in the spot that we were, it was fairly easy to express our disapproval in simple, confused, facial expression form.

The night ended with him getting a bottle of beer on the house, however, the odd happenings were never really explained. Anyway, free booze can’t be scoffed at – we drank and then allowed the wind to blow us to the next bar. The party kept going, regardless of conditions. Joe was forced into a cool survivors kind of holiday!

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Joe in the typhoon.

On a different note, I spent this morning in the emergency section of the hospital. I have uveitis in my eye – basically, it is very red and has a panic attack whenever it see the sun or a bright light – much like a vampire.

Don’t fear, I was only in the emergency ward because it was a Sunday and that is the only part of the hospital that remains open. I’m taking like one hundred eye drops a day now too, so I’m sure I’ll be able to go back to having staring contests with the sun in no time.

I must say, I am not a fan of putting eye drops into my own eye though. My fingers have to wrestle my eye lids each time that dreaded moment comes around.

You know when your pet sees the little cage come out and instantly becomes aware that it is vaccination time – you witness old Jasper suddenly turn from a playful cat to a wild cheetah, running around as fast as it can, scratching and clawing at everything in sight. My battle with my own eyelids is quite similar – my cheeks are usually dripping in eye drops by the end due to all the failed attempts.

Also, if you ever think you’re having a bad day, go to an emergency unit in a hospital – it can really put an easily resolved sore eye into perspective.

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