Poor Boys and Pilgrims: Paul Simon Visits Taipei

My friends are cynical about seeing the monuments of rock and pop in concert, and so am I. Usually the sound in the venues is awful, so you can't hear much of anything. Then there's the costly ticket prices (I paid NT$3800 to get in), short performances and having to sit through a bunch of new stuff that doesn't resonate. Still, when Paul Simon rolled into Taipei, I wanted to see him, to be in the presence of a singer that I've been listening to ever since I can remember and who has influenced me with his lyrics and melodies. This is some of what he played tonight; there were four or five songs I didn't recognize:

Boy in the Bubble
That Was Your Mother
Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover
Mother and Child Reunion
You Can Call Me Al
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
Slip Sliding Away
Me and Julio
Obvious Child
I Would not Give You False Hope
Here Comes the Sun (Beatles)

He also played five Simon and Garfunkel songs:

The Only Boy in New York
Sounds of Silence (just Paul on the acoustic guitar)
Homeward Bound
The Boxer

In all, it was a good concert. Nobody was leaving for the doors. The sound was fine. His band (all eight of them) were top notch too. I just kept thinking, this dude is 72! According to Simon, this was his first visit to Taiwan. He did the mandatory "thank you" in Chinese and several encore songs before leaving.

The Only Living Boy in New York was the first Simon and Garfunkel song, or "S and G stuff" as Simon referred to them, played. I'd listened to it the day before with a bunch of other stuff to get in the mood. When I heard this one, ironically, I thought he'd never play that one.


Yang San Lang Art Museum


Yang San Lang (楊三郎)

Shufang, Ahleena and I decided to check out the Yang San Lang Art Museum (楊三郎美書館) today: https://www.facebook.com/yangsanlangartmuseum. Nestled in the shadow of Zhongzheng (中正) Bridge, down European Lane in Yonghe (永和), it was a short trip from our restaurant. When we arrived, we were greeted by Christopher Young, the grandson of this great Taiwanese figure in Taiwanese painting, namely Yang San Lang.

The museum has five floors, all of which Christopher patiently walked us through. The first two hold some of the grandest paintings. As Christopher explained, it has to do with the dynamics of the museum. The upper floors have shallow ceilings; in other words, they're too small to hold larger works. Having said that, the paintings that made the deepest impression were on the third floor. They are of Tamsui boats. To tell the truth, I probably wouldn't have given them a second thought, especially after seeing the masterful stuff below. Chris filled me in on his grandpa's obsession with boats however and I came away with different point of view.

In 1947, Yang San Lang was already an important figure on the Taiwan art front. So important, it seems, it landed him on the KMT 228 kill lists. Luckily, a benevolent police officer tipped him off. This individual also pointed out if Yang showed up at an exit point from Taiwan, family in tow, the invaders wouldn't give a second thought on erasing the whole clan. Thus, it was decided that Yang's family would leave first. Yang himself was expected to make a rendezvous with a helpful party out in Tamsui, and from there board a ship and continue on to Japan. It was up to him to get there though. Being an imaginative and industrious fellow, Yang procured a small boat near his native Yonghe and proceeded to row himself down the the Hsin Tien (新店) River. This was no easy feat, as the soldiers from China were patrolling her shores. At the time of 228, the Hsin Tien was awash with debris, floating corpses, etc. and this certainly helped the cause because Yang's boat was able to blend. Whenever he saw movement on land, he ceased with his paddling and dropped to the bottom of the boat. Three days later, Yang managed to make his way to Tamsui and get on out. He then spent the next six years in Japan before landing in the West. Needless to say, there wouldn't be a museum today, stocked full of wonderful paintings of Taiwan, America and Europe, if Yang hadn't, with the help of a boat and nice cop, been so resourceful.

The museum is definitely worth a visit for anyone interested in Taiwan's history and great art. And when you're finished, there's a cafe downstairs, run by Yang's grandson, that serves up strong coffee and tasty desserts. 

Christopher Young, grandson of Yang San Lang (楊三郎)