Thursday, August 31, 2006

All About Anthology

I sit at the laptop with the clean white keyboard, hands poised over the keys, ready to record the first thought that rushes into my mind. But because I want it, nothing will come.
Writer’s block, a sure sign of a rusty imagination? Frustrated, I wriggle my fingers, stretch my hands, grasp at thin air. Anything to pull forth the shadow of a story. I find nothing but empty space, void of the slightest wisp of an idea. I try to imagine inspiration alighting, seeping through my scalp like the porous whisper of water melting through sandstone and lying softly on my cerebral cortex.

And then there are four little men standing on me. First they aren’t there, and then suddenly they are.

Two balance precariously on my right shoulder, almost the same height at six inches tall, one is rock-climbing up my left arm by holding onto a lock of my hair, and one sits on my head, as if he were playing the drums. It really is the strangest sensation, but I have no time to ponder this because the one on my left arm speaks.

“Are you writing about us Nell?”

“Yes,” the one on my head pipes up. “Are you making sure you do us justice?”

“Let’s have a gander,” says the one by my ear.

I know who he is, of course. I know who all of them are. “What are you tossers doing here?” I say out loud in surprise.

“You know, you really ought not to shove so many bits about John into it,” one on my shoulder says, only half in jest.

“You ought to shove Paul into so many bits,” the one on my arm wisecracks with a deadpan face. The other on my shoulder has slid off and is walking on the keyboard, stamping on letters at his pleasure. “GEORGEISGREAT,” it slowly spells.

“Right you lot, get out of here! I’m trying to think,” I begin, trying to push the one on the keyboard out of the way. The one on my head, however has begun to dance a little jig.

“Write about the haircuts,” he sings down to me, making me look up, cross-eyed.

“Write about me guitars,” the one on the keys demands.

“Write about me contribution to holiness,” the one absailing down my left arm calls out to a huge racket.

“The only thing holey about you is your logic!”

“Aye! The only holey thing about you is your head!”

“Holy crap, that is!”

“Will you lads be quiet!” I hiss angrily. “Someone is going to hear all the shouting and then where would we be?”

“On your ‘ead, Nell,” the one up top quips cheekily.

“And in your heart,” the one with the chocolate brown eyes teases.

“Shut it Macca, you’ve wormed your way through enough birds for one lifetime.”

“Speaking of worms, you’re looking rather gangly, Lennon,” comes the lightning reply.

“Sod off, then. Or I’ll run Rings around you.” They all burst out laughing hard with this last riposte, throwing in loud barking sounds for good measure.

Someone next door begins to pound on the right wall to indicate displeasure at the cacophony.

“Shut up boys! Shut up! It’s past midnight!”

“Tch tch. You ought to be getting on with it then, oughtn’t ye?”

“I would, John, if you lads would kindly leave me alone. It’s bad enough I’ve got you in my head right now, let alone on it.”

“Hear that lads, she called me John!” He clasps his hands to his heart melodramatically.

I open my mouth to retort but he is already singing, “When you call my name, O-o-o-o-oh, Say you’re driving me insane,” the others are chiming in with ragged harmony and then I’m really laughing, doubling over and clapping my hands over my mouth to prevent the giggles from escaping.

“That’s the ticket Nell!” He-on-my-head says, pleased. “Thought we might cheer you up a spell.”

“Well, thank you very much. Apart from crazily swinging off my hair, you’ve been rather welcome.”


“Very, Macca, only now, I need a little bit of silence to get my head back round the right way.”

“All right fellas, what say you we leave the lady alone?”

“I can’t, I’ve already departed,” the rock-climbing one on my arm jokes, and I am surprised at this offhand banter.

“Don’t you have someone else to bother?” I prod.

The one on my head pauses and listens. “She’s right you know. There’s someone out there who doesn’t know about the flaming pie.”

“Doesn’t know about the pie? What do they teach in schools nowadays?” The one on the keyboard grouses.

“Well then Nell, we must be off, it looks like there are causes more lost than yours,” the
one on my shoulder grins. “Still, we know where to find you.”

“Ye stand warned, lass,” the one on my left arm winks. “Bye for now though.”

“Bye Nell,” from the one on my head.

“Ta!” The on one the keyboard.

I can’t help giggling, just a little. “Bye lads—“ I begin, “Oh wait! Wait a minute, I meant to ask you about the meaning of –” but they are gone, one minute there, the next minute not, spinning fragments of crazy rainbow that stood solid for a little while.

Somewhere above my head, I hear whooping and laughter and – is that the sound of barking?

They’ll be back, I know.

Right now, they have to be elsewhere, spreading the beat.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Pacetaker

The man with the silver box wanders through the street all night, every night. Never hurrying or slowing his steps, he moves like a shadow on a wall, sinuous and silent. No one seems to see him or to take much notice.

No one waves.

No one glances.

At intervals, he pauses like a snake waiting for a charm. Then through the streets it comes to him, a whistle so thin and lightly-pitched that it could almost be air. Smoothly, the man with the silver box raises his box and eases back the lid. And then through the air, the whistle grows in volume, weaving in and out of the velvet darkness that is the sky, seeking reprive.

And then, all of a sudden, it swoops like a bird tired of flight and lands deep in the center of the silver box. The whistle chokes and stutters, and then is silent. And the man with the silver box smooths the lid shut before sliding through the streets once more.

No one waves.

No one glances.

On a good night, the whistles crowd above his head like vultures in a glorious ballet, jostling to plunge into the deep black of the receptacle. The man stands with his silver box, held high like the second coming of God and breathes as the whistles soar and dive with Olympic grace as souls do, and listens as they flicker and die.

A soul is a funny thing, he thinks. It fades with scarely any of the glory that heralds its arrival into this world. And people are funnier things, to mourn the departure of souls so.

Across the town, a girl presses the silver blade of a razor to her forearm. She slices along it, not lengthwise but down the arm, as she’s been told to, and the pain is like a prayer. The blood first seeps, then bubbles through the wound. Above her head, her soul whistles its goodbye.

In a hospital, a man gasps for life. Deep in his chest, a bullet hole has ripped a path of broken veins and flesh, tearing the golden thread that is his time on earth. His hands convulse briefly and as the orderly hurtles his gurney toward an operating theatre, the whistle begins, pulling to join the others that swirl in the quagmire that floats above the hospital.

In a little room in a little building, two girls crouch over a hamster cage. Their pet is on his side, his beautiful beige-white fur matted with the struggle to breathe. His eyes, pasted shut with dried tears, waver slightly, as if in a plea. His stomach, soft with thin fur, is a little well of hunger and pain.

Still, his nose twitches with the curiousity that has led him into nights of sleeping in cups, burrowing holes in boxes and getting lost behind the fridge. His is a life of getting lost and being found, of being stroked and gently held, of being loved and laughed over.

One of the girls is praying to something that she cannot understand. To the stars, the moon, to the leaves in the trees. Take him away, she begs, let him be free. He’s just a hamster, she says, he won’t understand the hurt.

The man with the silver box hears her. He hears her more clearly than words, as if she were a whisper in his chest. There is a whistle too, a very little one, smaller than the whistle of a baby’s soul, cleaner and more musical.

But it is faraway, pulling with some reluctance, still a day and a half away. It is a soul hovering between life and death, longing for rest but also for existence. He is in no hurry, he will wait. The girl’s words are thudding in his head like rocks rattling in a bowl and as long as she prays, he will wait.

Take him away, she begs, let him be free.

Humans are funny things, he thinks, gently caressing the box to receive this last, tiny soul. They call so desperately for life, and yet sometimes, so desperately for death. Well, unlike them, he has all the time in the world.

And he will wait for the prayers murmured in his ears till the little lost soul finds it way to its rightful place with him. And then he will walk, never hurrying or stopping, to the pier at the end of the world where he will release the souls from the box and watch them dance and swoon like grateful sparrows into a briny sea backlit by the moon.

Now he stands, hands and heart open, for one lost soul and a girl’s whisper.

People stream past him in the streets, oblivious to the silver box and the whistles.

No one waves.

No one glances.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Fire Away!

I’ve been tagged by Priya, and we all know what an obedient citizen I am!

1. WHAT MADE YOU SMILE YESTERDAY? The look M gave me as we discussed piercings while trawling Bugis’ flea market.

2. WHAT WERE YOU DOING AT 8 THIS MORNING? Wriggling in bed to the too-bright light streaming in from the window


4. SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED TO YOU IN 1995? I was in a school play as the Artful Dodger. They chose me for the role because they said I looked rough. Damn right!

5. LAST THING YOU SAID ALOUD? “Gross!” (to my brother)

6. HOW MANY DIFFERENT THINGS DID YOU DRINK TODAY? I had teh ping in the morning and then it was water all the rest of the day.

7.WHERE IS YOUR BEST FRIEND(s) RIGHT NOW I have a couple of wonderful friends in Singapore and a couple of amazing friends in Australia… And of course the love of my life is here…

8. WHAT COLOR IS YOUR TOOTHBRUSH? Okay, I am obsessive about toothbrushes and I mean obsessive! So I have three different toothbrushes in three different places. One is green, one is purple and the last and most impressive one is a myriad of colours. It is the one, the ONLY Oral-B 360 and has straight bristles combined with rounded bristles for a better brush, surrounded by rubber bristles that scrub off plaque and a rubber tongue scraper across the back. It’s also a gift from the very indulgent M. Don’t mess with the toothbrush, baby!

9. WHAT IS OUT YOUR BACK DOOR? Erm… the lift. Flats do too have backdoors, Priya!

10. LAST THING YOU BOUGHT? A chocolate dessert roll. I know, how very predictable.

11. LAST GIFT YOU RECEIVED FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY? A pair of diamond earrings and a diamond pendant. I was on cloud nine, I assure you. Now I just need a limo and two furry white dogs and I’ll be in the big time.

12. WHAT COLOR IS YOUR FRONT DOOR? It is wooden, and as most of us know, wood is brown.

13. WHERE DO YOU KEEP YOUR CHANGE? In my pockets. My father turns them out before he puts them in the machine and everyday he announces the amount he finds. Today we topped ourselves with a grand total of fourty dollars from my back pocket. Want to do my laundry, anyone?


15. BEST ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Belgian Chocolate from Haagen Daaz… no competition!

16. SOMETHING YOURE EXCITED ABOUT? I am excited about everything. I am like a damn energiser bunny that won’t shut up and talks and talks and talks and then has to be forcibly told to keep quiet and study or else I will flunk out of school and end up homeless, on the streets with no other change other than that which streams from my back pockets and no money to ever buy Belgian Chocolate from Haagen Daaz again.

17. LAST RAINBOW YOU SAW? Do you know, I remember seeing one, I just can’t for the life of me remember when.

18. WHAT SIZE SHOE DO YOU WEAR? I have ginormous feet. When I was younger everyone used to lie and tell me that my big feet meant that I was going to be tall in proportion. All this has taught me is that people lie. And I need skis.

19. DO YOU HAVE ANY SISTERS? Nope. Unless you count Jonathon…

20. ARE YOU VERY RANDOM? God, yes. Can’t you tell already?

21. DO YOU WANT TO CUT YOUR HAIR? I want to shave my head!

22. ARE YOU OVER THE AGE OF 22? Oh thank god no… I have a few months of youth left before I cross over into the doddering beyond…

23. DO YOU TALK ALOT? Huh. I’ll give you one guess.

24. DO YOU WATCH THE OC? Now and then. Although you don’t have to keep watching it to follow it, you know the guy and the girl are on and off and on and off and the other guy and girl are on and off and on and off and in between someone gets drunk and someone gets pregnant and someone dies. I love it!




28. DO YOU MAKE UP YOUR OWN WORDS? Oh man. All the time! Yesterday in the library M told me something and I said (as one does), “Oh, Spinky!” Put that word along with Scarfify and Pluur and you’ll get a rough idea.

29. ARE YOU TICKLISH? Here and there.


Fill this in on your blogs if you read this guys! I want to know all sorts of strange things about you! And secondly:

Instructions: Name 20 people you can think of at the top of your head. Don't read the questions before you write, and tag 5 people to do the survey.

1. M

2. Priya

3. Ying Yi

4. Sera

5. Jamie
6. Chand

7. Beck

8. Ann- Marie

9. Marie

10. Glenn

11. Erwin

12. Kevin

13. Reb

14. Geraldine

15. Reggie

16. Mel

17. Mag

18. Doreen

19. Lexian

20. Jia Jun

1. How did you meet #14?

I met Miss Geraldine at work! And life has been madness ever since.

2. What would you do if you had never met #1?

Are you kidding? I don’t even want to think about it. I can’t imagine my life being any different. I guess I can’t really say that you can miss someone you’ve never met. But when you wait all your life to meet someone like that, you can’t remember what life was like without them. And I’m not sure you’d want to try.

3. What would you do if #20 and #9 dated?

Well, one’s a hot French girl and one’s a hot Chinese girl… I think they’d be hot together!

4. Would #6 and #17 make a good couple?

Jamie and Mag… hmmm they’re both really gorgeous, I’m just not sure they’d be gorgeous to each other. Somehow I think they’re both more MAN people. Ya know.

5. Describe #3.

Ying yi is the most horrid person ever. I don’t understand why I still bother to spend all my time laughing and talking to her and arranging study dates during which not much studying takes place. She is also the most boring, unhappy, untalkative person I’ve ever known. Hah!

6. Do you think #8 is attractive?

Ann- Marie is both sweetly pretty and a really great person, so yeah definitely attractive in my book! And she’s really funny too!

7. Tell me something about #7.

We used to write the most awesome books together. Of course, they were all about us dating the *ahem* Backstreet Boys and having their children, so you know, it was both a TON of fun and not very realistic.

8. Do you know anything about #12's family?

Yeah! His parents work together at a Nonya food stall and his mother makes very good Ngor Hiang. I don’t know how he stays so skinny!

9. What is #8's favourite?

I have no idea! We haven’t had a meal in a long time… it’s about time we did!

10. What would you do if #11 confesses that he/she likes you?

Erwin?? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I love him to bits, but he’s like my brother!

11. What language does #15 speak?

I’ve spoken English and Mandarin to her, but I think she has a dialect or two tucked under her belt!

12. Who is #9 going out with?

She was going out with a genuine American Marine before she went back to France!!

13. How old is #16 now?

My age… but her birthday’s at the beginning of the year.

14. When was the last time u talked to #18?

When a bunch of us met up for hawker food the other night… it was SUCH a blast!

15. Who's #2's favourite singer?

Oh boy… I don’t know if Priya has a favourite singer but I know she really likes Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses… tell me Pri because I know you’re always changing alliances in music!

16. Would you date #4?

Ahahaha! Yeah! I think we did kinda use to “date” in fact, although, you know, it was back in a girl’s school, so anything goes. AHAHA!

17. Would you date #7?

Heh yeah… together with Sera we could have a ménage a trois!

18. Is #15 single?

Not anymore!

19. What's #10's last name?

Koh. And his Chinese name is Wei Ming!

20. Would you ever consider being in a relationship with #19?

I just saw her dancing last night and she is hot! So yes, I’d consider it, although I’d have to factor M in in a very big way.

21. What schools did #3 go to?

She was a Rafflesian all the way and now she’s in university with me.

22. Where does #6 live?

Braddell! We used to play together in her house when we were kids and she had the uncanny ability to walk down the staircase bannister. I love this girl!

23. What's your favourite thing about #5?

Jamie? Wow… it would have to be her wicked sense of humour. She’s pretty and she’s smart, but I really dig the way she makes people laugh!

24. What do you think of #13?

Rebecca is one of the sweetest people I have met in such a short period of time… and I’m looking forward to getting to know her more.

25. What do #4 and #19 have in common?

They’re both very petite and sweet-looking.

Five people to do this so that I may have the pleasure of reading it:

Ying Yi

Monday, August 21, 2006

Life's Little Pleasures

Shampooing the dog and being sprayed with foamy suds as he shakes himself out and wags his tail.

Curling up next to S in Ben and Jerry’s under the strange, alien-like revolving lights and holding hands to the scent of baking waffle cones.

Being recognised in a lecture by one of my favourite professors because I took his class last semester.

Feeding the hamster so I can watch him empty his cheek pouches frantically into a “secret” corner in his sawdust that everyone knows about.

The first lick of cold whipped cream and chocolate sauce against an intoxicating base of hot cocoa.

Laughing and reminiscing with Mel about the mad days we used to have (and sometimes still do).

Driving along Siglap Road by myself with the radio for company.

A funny message from Priya.

Running into Mel Chia in a Japanese Gender lecture; the last class I had with her was nigh four years ago.

The first week of school has been tempered by so many delightful moments that it’s been really easy going. Sometimes I forget the simple things in chasing parts of the puzzle to make up the bigger picture. Prof Singh said something funny (but true) in last week's lecture.

Something along the lines of, “To be a good student, you have to be two things. Stupid, and hungry. Stupid because you have to be willing to admit that you do not know, and hungry because then you want to learn.”

Well, I’m always hungry, and certainly more than a little stupid!

I just hope this bodes well for me this year and “feeds my hunger”, so to speak. That, or I could always end up working at Macdonald’s.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Here I am again, in a place that is almost the same, but not quite enough for deja-vu, in a room that was so filthy that it warranted a scrubbing thrice over, on my hands and knees. I had to pick dustballs off the bed and scrape a dead baby lizard off the floor, undoubtedly one of the finer ways to spend early Saturday afternoon.

But I’ve settled in now and things are looking pretty good. The floor is clean if not as spotless as I would like, the sheets smell nice and I am eating chocolate mint biscuits in front of my laptop. Even Angstrom seems to be comfortable, climbing around his cage and snacking on my cookie crumbs now and then.

Somehow, this seems like the year I’ve been holding my breath for. The finality of it all makes it weigh heavier still.

I’m scared all right.

Scared that I won’t be able to see it through, or that I’ll lose my momentum and get into playing games. What if I can’t salvage what I have left to do?

There is an irony in leaving the hardest and most challenging things till the last, when you’ve already had shots at not messing up and when the tedium begins to set in. Maybe this really is survival of the fittest. Only, I don’t just want to survive.

The semester sounds really really exciting, like everything that we’ve learnt up till now is just a prelude for understanding what is to come. I don’t want to let myself down.

The deluge begins tomorrow. I just really need to get my shit together and ride it this time, instead of wussing out, like I usually do. Well, onward ho, the end is in sight and you and I are in this together, S.

Final year? Bring it on.
Cheers, mate.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

True Story

I’ve been following Ms E. Moen for a long time, and she’s a great and very special artist in an offbeat, offhand kind of way. I love that she draws with a kind of carelessness and that her stories are infused with honesty and a little humour.

Especially because this filled me with butterflies.

Just thought I’d share the love.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Doppelganger Shadows

I am who I am why I am how I am where I am what I am who I am, as I am.

I’ve tried, but I can’t change who I am at heart.

Maybe it’s time I stopped wanting to.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Because We Are Patriots At Heart

S did a very brave and sweet deed today in fulfilling a request of mine.

Halfway through, a little girl came up on the screen and said in a naïve, little girl way, “I like to put words together to make sentences and paragraphs. I like to create my own world with the words I use.”
S nudged me and said, “That’s you!”

Why, so it was.

That, and I had a coloured tattoo on my face.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Reams of Conciousness

“Change is much of the essence of life. Death is the final change. We can not hold on, even to a day; how, then, can we capture life itself? Perhaps our whole awareness of individuality, of self, is an illusion. If so, it is better not to grasp unduly at that illusion, but rather to live our lives in such a manner that when we must at last lay them down, we will not be ashamed.
Life has meaning only if we live for meaning.”

-- Piers Anthony, Author’s Note.

There are three things I worry most about losing in life. The people I love, my sight and my sanity. The first two, however, are rectifiable and controllable, to an extent. The last is something of an inexplicable oddity.

I finally finished reading On A Pale Horse today and I really really enjoyed it. The writing style was not great and the tone could be a little stilted at times, but the premise was novel, the logic interesting and there were some very exciting (sacriligeous?) ideas such as the fact that God, Death and the Devil were equal and separate in their functions and spheres.

The personification of Death made the book likeable, a Death with compassion, with a conscience as opposed to a mindless worker in a scheme of cogs and wheels. It was a little strange in parts, but then Anthony is a strange author and in part, it comes with the territory.

One of my favourite parts of the book was when Nature describes to Death the five different trains of thought that can be taken to reach a conclusion. It was not scientific by any means, but so intuitive and simple that it needed no proof. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I often took on the schizoid train of thought and went round in circles, asking never ending questions and always getting the same answers, something that is supposed to be slightly abnormal by way of logical consideration.

The other night, M and I were watching an episode of Criminal Minds. For some reason, the series appeals greatly to me, perhaps because they care enough to delve into the minds of the people committing offenses rather than proceeding on purely technical know-how. It means something to me that the psyche can be studied, if only on the most obvious, “textbook” level.

This episode was about a man with paranoid schizophrenia, subject to hallucinations and delusions of grandeur. At the height of the episode, a member of the crime team tries to talk him out of holding a carriage of people hostage by trying to understand his point of view and alluding to the fact that he knows what it is to see through different eyes. That is, to be crazy.

That spoke to me deeply.

I understood exactly what the forensic expert was trying to say in some oblique manner, I felt like I knew what he meant when he spoke about the voices in the head that would not stop talking, the way the patient could see things from odd angles that added up together to provide a kind of universal puzzle that was complicated past understanding. In some ways, he was talking about me.

Do I hear literal voices? No.

Do I believe that the government is planning to implant a microchip so they can control my every move? Highly improbable.

Am I paranoid and sensitive to the fact that people around me have the potential to affect my life in unpropitious ways? Yes. And schizoid thinking is just a small facet of that. There are other parts of me that worry excessively about things that do not exist and a constant dialogue in my mind that won’t let me rest for all the questions and second-guessing.

And while I am sane at this point, (clinically sane as M will say), I look at pictures of schizophrenic people standing fully clothed in the shower, dazed and catatonic on random street corners, and I glimpse myself in them. I glimpse that rambling disconnection of thoughts, the echolalia, the complete and total loss of control.

And it worries me that one day, I will cease to separate fact from fiction. That the weird and sometimes abnormal scenarios that I concoct in my head will become real to me.

That scene in A Beautiful Mind where John Nash plasters his walls in a demented attempt to gain coherence? I get it.

It would be a terrible thing to be mad. A part of me embraces this insanity –when I watched Das Kabinet Des Dr. Caligari with its gnarled sets, crazed, frightened, directionless characters and acid soundtrack, I wanted to climb into that world and live there, mad and formless as all the rest of them. But, god, can you see it? A life with no anchor of reality? Not knowing whether you truly have any friends or people who will hold fort for you, losing all the things that once meant something to you for an illusion created by your mind? Not being able to trust anything or anyone?

A worse kind of purgatory than even God could make.

I have a kind of grasp on life.
But a mind is only as good as the person who owns it. And sometimes, the only thing keeping me from losing it is the fact that I know where the lines lie between behaviour that is socially acceptable and behaviour that will land me in an asylum. I see hints of schizophrenic and bi-polar traits in myself all the time. Where does it stop being a coping function to everyday life and become harmful to its host?

Supposing one day my rationale failed me altogether?

Could anybody stand by a truly crazy person?

I do not fear losing my mind because I am simply fearful.

I fear losing my mind because it is a very real thing for me.

Because sometimes I truly believe I am closer to the edge than most. Because I worry that one day, that dialogue in my head will become voices with different, dangerous personas. People from all walks of life become afflicted at a multitude of ages. I would just be another one of many.

Right now, I am grateful to be able to crystallise and vocalise my thoughts and have a grasp on a world that is real and that stands the right way up. I’m not saying that I’ll ever be crazy, naturally that probablity should be maintained at a minimum. But I want to be more understanding of the people who cannot comprehend this world anymore. To stop pretending that I do not know what it is to be off-kilter.

To acknowledge that it is a possibility that lies in me.

And to be empathetic rather than to shun.

Because in some madness, there really is no method.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hard Day's Night

Dear Ms. Fong,

I regret to inform you that I am appalled at the state of affairs that our friendship is currently in. What was meant to be a dignified tea-sipping, scone eating lunch swiftly degenerated into a bawdy food fest filled with risque discussion upon your arrival.

While I believe conversation to be an integral part of any relationship, it is rather inappropriate that such topics as humping dogs, bitchy girls and sex should take centrestage in polite company. Worse, I finally realised that our friendship had taken a bad turn when, over the course of photo-taking you adopted such an other-worldly expression that I, not to be outshone, had to attempt to compete by throwing in my “three-fold tongue”.

If in future you attempt to stoop to such disgraceful levels, I will be forced to pull out all the stops and make the dreaded “pig-snout with crossed-eyes” face. You stand warned.

Finally, I will remind you for the last time that I fully expect the famed “Manuel the Butt-shaker” to be present at our subsequent meeting such that we will be suitably entertained during our tete-a-tete.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

Yours Sincerely,


PS: BABE! That was fun! Let’s do it again!

And today, lunch with the old gang was the order of the afternoon, a highly entertaining affair whose madcap essence can only be truly expressed through visual dialogue.


Suffice to say, I had a wonderful time that was a laugh a line, and love you girls to bits!

Saturday, ho!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Pit Stop

So, by some strange twist of fate, M and I found ourselves in Bangkok. We’d talked and talked about this trip for a long time, but actually being there was a whole ‘nother barrel of naked mole rats. For some reason, the entire trip was a little surreal and right now, seems a little like a dream, perhaps because we were in and out of Thailand before you could say “Tom Yum Goong”.

We were only there for four days, but managed to experience a little of the madness, crowding, jamming and even flooding that seems to characterise the city. I would blather on about street food and shopping, but there were lots of other interesting things going on over the course of the past weekend.

For one, the hotel we were staying was a rather prestigious affair. Not five-star chandelier prestigious, you understand, but first and foremost, it was the tallest hotel in Thailand which meant that it was huge and accomodated throngs of people. It was also pretty darn comfortable considering the free buffet breakfasts and the huge rooms. More importantly, it had the dubious honour of being the official venue of the 4th Annual World Bridge Championships.


Yeah, I know, I had the self same reaction when I found out!

World Bridge Championships? I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t bridge a card game played by tea-drinking little old ladies with cats named Muffy? Okay, granted, my friends in school play bridge all the time and really enjoy it. But World Bridge Championships? For real? People actually flew halfway across the globe to sit across the table from each other and slap cards down all day while training furiously at night?

The whole thing seemed a little absurd to me, but the participants took it very seriously. The whole four days, people wandered around in groups of four wearing matching jackets and tags emblazoned with their flags. I saw the Hungarian, Egyptian and Pakistani teams walking by in deep thought, while the Thai team wore their jackets everywhere, a warning reminder to everyone else that they were on home ground.

The Israeli team breakfasted with their coach in tense silence. The Canadian team sat next to us and held intense conversations about strategy and game play. “It takes four whole years of training to become a world champion,” I heard one Canadian solemnly tell another and had to hold my hand across my mouth to keep from spewing orange juice in their general direction.

All day long, players stepped distractedly in and out of lifts, talking and trying their best not to make eye contact with the enemy. When they met, they either pointedly ignored each other, or politely sidestepped the competition while talking quickly in their native languages.

All this for some card game that frankly, can’t be all that much fun to watch. Nevertheless we shared lots of laughs trying to guess which country each group of players was from.

What was not a whole lot of laughs? The massage.

We’d been told that Thailand was a great place to get cheap, good massages and I love a good massage as much as the next guy, so when M’s cousin announced that we were getting a foot rub, I was well chuffed. We went to this lovely little place that was tucked away in a shopping mall and outfitted with leather couches and burnished wood floors. The masseuses served us with cold tea and bathed our feet in warm water laced with slices of lemon and lime.

It started off a little ticklish and I wasn’t wild about the wooden gizmo they used to rub between my toes and pressure points (they could have used a chopstick for all I cared) but the scented oils they used were comforting, the massage was good and firm and I was kept amused by the fey music playing over the speakers. Best of all, the massage ended with a back and head rub (yes, they washed their hands in between!) and all in all, my feet came out feeling really pampered.

Which is why I jumped at the chance for a second massage at night, this time for the whole body, at an authentic Thai place. We reached the little shop at one in the morning, only to find that it was a shophouse of sorts with wooden stairs and seedy-looking floors.

You know those pictures of the woman on her stomach, peacefully smiling on a soft mattress, with the flower in her hair?

NOT this place. At all.

Yeah, we were made to lie on mattresses, but only after entering a strange, rickety room where we changed into loose fitting pants and shirts the colour of hospital gowns. Then, a small-sized lady knelt at my feet and told me to lie on my back.

Okay. I’m not the biggest fan of lying on my back.

Even more so when you kneel on top of me, take your elbow and stick it into my thigh, which is what said lady did. I let out a yelp of shock which I quickly turned into a laugh which I directed at M so that the lady wouldn’t think I was laughing at her. The following dialogue ensued:

Me: Hee hee hee! HEE! HEE HEE!
M: Stoppit! Stoppit! If you start laughing, I won’t be able to stop.
Me: HahahahHAHAHA!
M: (As her masseuse plants her elbow into M’s thigh) AHAHAHA! HEE HEE!

And so it went on as we were poked, prodded, pushed and pulled by the ladies who massaged my thigh in every place imaginable, with every part of her hand possible. At one point, she entwined my legs with hers and used her forearms to knead my groin. Her gams rubbed against mine uncomfortably and I could feel the sole of her foot on my calve. I half expected that she was going to take her clothes off and lie on top of me, a prospect that was far more alarming than comforting.

After a while, she left off massaging my legs (thank god!) and moved on to my back which afforded me a chance to catch my breath. She pummelled my shoulders with a strength that would have made a really tender chicken chop while I lay on my face, gasping, wide-eyed and controlling an overwhelming urge to burp. The air was punctuated by the sound of the ladies talking and the occasional snore from a member of our party who had fallen asleep.

I must have dozed off as well, because when I came too, my masseuse was talking.

On her cell phone.

While she dug painfully into my back with her elbow.

I finally gave up trying to sleep and was almost glad when she told me to sit up and cross my legs.

Of course, my relief was misplaced because the next thing I knew, she was sitting behind me, bracing herself against my back while she locked her hands behind my head. My panic must have registered because she immediately leaned over and said in that chiding, sing-song way that Thai people have, “You relaaaa.”

“What?” said I, dazedly.


“Oh, relax. Okay.” I let my muscles go limp. Which was a huge mistake as I quickly found out because with a superhuman effort, she pulled my body two different ways, cracking my lower spine.

I yowled in surprise, to which she replied exasperatedly, “RELAAA.”

“But…” CRACK. This time, my upper spine, in a different direction. “Ahhh” I whimpered gingerly.


“Oh my –” CRAAACK. All the little bones in my neck.

Next to me, M’s masseuse was beginning to administer the now familiar warning, “Relaaa.”

“Brace yourself.” I gasped to her as my lady gave me a final crack for good measure and let my body slither back onto the floor. Which is where I sat in shock as she finished up by rubbing my hands and arms.

We finally collected ourselves at 3 in the morning feeling rather more motley than when we’d come in and meandered back to our hotel. I’m not saying it wasn’t a good massage. All things considered, once I’d gotten over the shock, my body was a little looser and despite feeling violated in more ways than one, I crawled back into bed and had a good night’s sleep.

Perhaps the next time round, if there is a next time, I’ll be a little more prepared.

Maybe I’ll come ready with something to bite on to keep from laughing and ask for the same lady again. After all, she was awfully strong. And the massage did have its good moments.

This time though, I’ll just close my eyes, grit my teeth and RELAAAA.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Chinese Walls

Speak to me, please.
I don’t just need to hear your voice, I need to hear you.

And I’m on my knees…

…bleeding on a bed of roses with a grenade in my mouth.