Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The USO Show, Part I

My Father came back to Taipei to take us to the Mountain for a USO show. Early in the morning on a Saturday or Sunday we set off. My Mother and I rode in the back seat of an Army staff car, while Dad rode in front with the driver.

It was my first trip outside of the city and the first hour or so was wonderful. I'd never seen anything like the Taiwan countryside. I still see images of it in my dreams. It wasn't only beautiful, it was strangely beautiful. One of the scenes that had a huge impact on me was the sight of a cliff, not far from Taipei, in which there were built homes. All you saw of the homes were massive doors reinforced crossing iron bars and barred windows. I was impressed by the adaption to the terrain.

It wasn't all cliffs and hills and mountains. We traveled for some time from town to town through a plain. The towns were generally dusty, impoverished, and bleak, but they seemed to me to be places that the people living there must care about.

As we reached hills the driver pulled the car over, and my Mother and I were blindfolded. We remained blindfolded for what seemed like an hour. The idea was that we wouldn't be able to tell the spies who captured us how to get to the Mountain base.

Finally we were allowed to see again. By then we were into mountains. There were miles and miles of winding roads past of terraced rice paddies. Then the roads snaked higher into rocky cliffs and the occasional temple or isolated dwelling that looked carved out of rock.

After those scenes the actual mountain base that my Father worked at was a let-down. When we got there we were on the top of a mountain alright, but it was an undramatic rounded mountain, so rounded that the top was almost flat. Flat enough that it had a small airfield. I had imagined pinnacles, or at least precipitous drops from an edge. There was just a gentle slope falling away from the top.

We got there early enough that we had a few hours to kill before the show. My Father took me to the quonset hut where he worked at a desk and introduced me to his staff.

There was a bookshelf near the entrance to his office that was filled from top to bottom with Ace Doubles. It was the science-fiction stash of one of Dad's subordinates. I had not been introduced to written science fiction up to this time. I poured over the covers oohing and ahhing over bug-eyed monsters abducting leggy women while being zapped by guys in sleek spacesuits. Even after I was told that there were never half naked women in the stories, I was still sure I wanted to check them out. It was another way science hooked me.

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