My grandfather worked for a movie production company, and right before he retired, he bought a ’64 Cadillac that had been used as a prop. Goldfinger came out the same year, but that has nothing to do with the car. He rebuilt it from the frame up and then drove it 4000 miles from Kentucky to Alaska to give to me on my tenth birthday. I wasn’t really in to cars at the time, but I remember being impressed with all the little golden ducks in the Cadillac emblem. I should’ve cherished that thing though; it was plum red with fins and rockets for tail lights and all sorts of street cred. It was a cross between the bat mobile and something Shaft would drive, but at fourteen years old, I agreed when my mom asked if we could sell it to help finance my end of a month long trip to Taiwan.
My stepfather was going over to represent the United States in some sort of labor conference and we were going to make a family trip out of it. I had a love seat to myself on the top level of one of those freakishly large airplanes and I drank wine coolers after my parents passed out because the international waters were on my side. Actually, I drank a lot on that trip. Plum wine with sunken prunes was served with every dinner and I had to drink it or risk offending all the dignitaries that were constantly with us. We ate pickled squid and shark fin soup and washed it all down with booze because drinking came with a height requirement instead of an age limit, and at five foot nineish, I towered above most of our hosts. It was like treading water in an ocean of bobbing black haired heads when I was out in public.
Everything revolved around plums. The Taiwanese rate their hotels in plums instead of stars and ours had five of them. Their government paid for that portion of our trip, and as a result, I had a badass suite all to myself on the top floor with my parents in a room to one side and Steven Segal in one on the other. And this was when he was a skinny ninja as opposed to the bulbous reality star he is now. I was fourteen and a huge fan so I started stalking him trying to get an autograph, but all the notes I taped to his door and all the calls I put in with the front desk were ignored. The fucker wouldn’t even look at me in the lobby when I yelled his name. He’d just say something to his body guards and they’d swarm around him like a grist of bees to protect him from some teenage white kid. So I was naturally in a rather peevish mood when he checked out and my parents came to retrieve me and tell me that we were going to spend the day with some emissaries in the downtown shop of one of the last living calligraphy artists that was still fluent in ancient Chinese.
I was a bit awestruck when we walked into his studio, and in hindsight, so was he. His lair was more like a dojo with rice paper partitions and floor mats and I was an American youth with hydrogen peroxide dyed hair being ushered around by four or five emissaries from his government. He was an odd little man sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the floor in white silk robes. He had an enormous mole on his left cheek that was sprouting a crop of black hairs that jarred violently against the paper white hair on his head hanging down in lanky waves against his shoulders. It was as if Yoda decided to disguise himself as human, and that’s why I couldn’t stop staring. I have no idea why the guy wouldn’t stop staring at me.
He stood slowly and walked over to me. Everything got really quiet and I could hear the smooth cadence of his slippers against the matted floor. Speaking through a translator, he told me that I would have “great power” one day, and that he would like to give me a gift if I would accept it. I nodded, and he walked over to a cabinet and pulled out a large piece of parchment that turned out to be from a long dead dynasty. It was browned with age and impregnated with flakes of beaten gold; the old man held it as if it might combust if rubbed the wrong way. He brought it over to where he had been sitting and spread it out in front of him after resuming his monk-like position on the floor. His movements were precise as he started making ink in a small well by mixing black paste in a pool of water. He chose his brush, asked me my name, and then held his right sleeve in his left hand before he started writing. His penmanship was like a martial art. It was beautiful. All the Taiwanese men behind me started gasping and making noises of satisfaction that are usually associated with really good apple pie or sex. His entire torso followed his brush strokes as he created his art. He finished it off with a set of personal chops, which are little orange stamps that I’d equate to a signet ring, and then smiled. He stood and walked back to me and proffered his gift with a bow. I bowed and took it, and everyone else started clapping. Strangest thing.
I brought that piece of art back to the states with me and framed it; I’ve hung it in every bedroom I’ve ever owned and as ludicrous as it might sound, I feel as if I came out on top vis-a-vis the trade I made with that ’64 Cadillac. That someday distant wherein I’ll fall in to “great power” hasn’t dawned, but I’ve got time. Stephan Segal is now trying to cling to validity by training UFC fighters and wearing yellow sunglasses. Neither is doing the trick. I sat on the floor for UFC 135 in Denver and he walked past me, fat as hell and wrapped in black leather, so of course I yelled out that he was a “raging cock monster”. It was loud in the arena so he only turned and smiled, but I felt as if I could finally put the grudge I’ve been nurturing for twenty years to rest. I guess I’d be doing Yoda a disservice if I didn’t.