There are two great balconies here. Everything on the side of the mountain and down below on the streets is visible from them. Dozens of dogs, all barking and howling and I can hear two different roosters, one with a textbook call, the other one very soft and sad. Cats are wandering around everywhere. The colors of the houses and buildings -dark, dirty, an industrial feeling with greens, grays, browns, and dull reds mixed in. The smells of meats and soups being brewed, and sanitation sitting in sewers and drains.
The rain is drizzling down on the grimy streets. A great temple sits on the mountainside. It looks close, but I am told that it is very far. In a small storefront shop six men celebrate with wine and beer. One of them imitates a young rock and roll star with his narrow hips moving back and forth and he smiles wide to show all gums. He bows and then shakes my hand and offers me cigarettes and a cup of beer.
Down the road, the odor from a small Japanese restaurant stops me dead in my tracks -the kind of smell you wish you could take a picture of for record’s sake. On the front door is an old black and white photo of a kung-fu master holding a speared weapon in one hand and a cigarette on a long wooden holder in the other.
Dogs are everywhere, in small packs, very busy and genuinely involved in their various projects. Jogging past about seven dogs of different sizes and colors and to them I do not exist. I say something in English to one of them, it startles her and she barks in Chinese and runs back about fifteen feet to safety.
An old man is doing Tai Chi exercises on a small bridge. He is waving his arms and he spots me jogging. I am huffing and puffing by now, and I can tell that he thinks I am quite insane. Further up the mountain side, another old man resting on large rock holding a hand carved walking stick. The same pack of dogs runs up the road, past me and overtakes him. His stoic expression does not change as they run past and around him, but he starts waving and then banging his walking stick on the ground in a kind of warning to the dogs, who take it just as that and stand clear of him.
The rain has long since stopped, but the air is still rich with water. The sun dogs bark and run back down the road. The gates to the great temple are locked and it looks as if it is empty. I feel someone standing behind me and I turn to see. There is no one. I start jogging back down the winding mountain road. The rain begins lightly again, so I pick up my pace to see if I can beat it back home.