Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Night Before The Night Before

Ron Sexsmith, she knows, sings just the right song. Aptly-titled, hopelessly sanguine “Maybe This Christmas”. The tune is like a mantra in her head all evening, a Mobius strip of sound charged with hurdy-gurdy longing.

“Maybe this Christmas will mean something more,
Maybe this year, love will appear,

Deeper than ever before…”

It’s just a song.

Just one of the many entreaties to a neon effigy; a tune that provides psychological comfort, but doesn’t change the way things usually turn out.

Like last Christmas, which was spent wandering the freezing streets in the rain, hardly enough money in her pocket to buy a plastic bowl of powdered soup to keep her fingers warm. Or like the Christmas two years before when she retreated into the bedroom while the family fought and the little potted plant her brother had optimistically trimmed with tinsel and cotton was yanked from its young, soft roots and shoved in the trash.

And then there was that time she curled up against the bedroom wall, too tired to sleep, too lonely to stay awake while her friends sang carols and ate fruit cake in the house next door.

While for most part the year seemed to flow by happily, at Christmas when love, more than anything, is supposed to hold court, her life seems to fall apart instead.

Maybe this Christmas.

Probably not.

Friday, December 22, 2006

On A More Frivolous Note

If, perchance, Seth Green and Ben Stiller were to meet one day and, in this very liberated world, to fall in love… And if, peradventure, they decided to meld their genes to form a child of their own… erm… loins, science permitting… Would it not be possible that said child would grow up to look something like this?

(image poached from

PS I know Sam Harris is a very respectable and intelligent man in his own right, and if by any chance I’m ever fortunate enough to meet him I’ll tell him so – and perhaps drop him a couple of hints about his parentage. After all, I think he has the right to know.

Friday, December 15, 2006

How to Bathe A Dog - In Seven Easy Steps

1) Ready the bath implements. This includes a good supply of warm water, shampoo, and most essential of all, the bath towel which does double duty as a restraining harness for when the dog comes grumpily out of the shower. Readying the bath implements is important because you will not have much time to wrangle the dog once he is caught, so everything should be at hand. Running for a towel in the midst of a good dog dunking could cause you precious seconds.

2) Catch said dog. This is easier said than done as once step 1) is completed, the dog will have mysteriously vanished like smoke and will be nowhere to be found. Good hiding places are under the couch, under the bed, under the table and under the toilet bowl. This is a good time to question the practicality of having furniture that stands on legs. Indeed, why not buy a futon and a plank of wood for a table and be done with it? Less is more!

A good trick to carrying out step 2) is to wave a treat such as a dog biscuit in the line of vision of the dog’s hiding place while simultaneously pretending that you cannot see him. Hum/whistle and look away innocently. When you spot a large pair of ears emerging, turn and make a grab for all you are worth. Unfortunately, this trick is only good for one go and also, as a side effect, makes the owner look really stupid (if he/she doesn’t already).

3) Dunk the dog. Do this quickly and without mercy. I repeat, take no prisoners. Do not be swayed by the huge eyes that will undoubtedly be flashed in your direction nor the piteous cries accompanied by trembling and twitching of the whiskers.

Tell yourself that this is what he gets for spending all week rolling around in dirt/ grass/ puddles of rainwater on the road/ the neighbour’s hot female Schnauzer.

4) Apply the dog shampoo. This is undoubtedly the easiest and best part of the whole operation for you. Liberally squirt lavender/ balsam-scented gel on the dog’s back and lather up a storm. Be sure to pile mushroom clouds of shampoo foam on the dog’s head for comic relief – even better if his ears are too big for his face.

And just because you can, rinse the dog off once to give him false hope, and when his tail begins to wag, apply the second coat of shampoo, cackling evilly as you go. Watch his face as you do this – I swear, pure gold.

5) Rinse dog and let him shake himself dry. It is at this point that the dog will decide to give you a bath instead. Stand firm. It doesn’t matter that now you smell of wet dog and fake lavender or that you had a proper shower twenty minutes ago. You didn’t come this far for nothing, you know.

6) Pick dog up and dry him with the bath towel from step 1). This means that whatever parts of you were dry and nice-smelling up till now will be dry and nice-smelling no longer. Because the dog will undoubtedly be thrashing about madly, doing his darnest to escape, you should probably also get on your hands and knees and dry the floor too. And then the bathtub. And then the walls. And then the dog, again.

7) Let the dog go. Breathe a long sigh of relief and pick clumps of dog hair off your shirt and out of the bath tub plug hole. Wipe your trembling hands dry and go out into the living room. Watch the dog run around in frustration before peeing on the freshly mopped floor and proceeding to rub himself in it to mask the noxious lavender fumes. Tell yourself that it’s okay, he is just a dog and doesn’t know any better.

Disregard the cheeky twinkle in his eye and the once more jaunty wag of his tail.

Count from one to ten.

Remind yourself of the way he looked when he was a puppy, innocent, warm, pink and cute.

Count from ten to one.

And then, take a deep breath and let it go.

Tell yourself, as you watch him trample his bath towel into dirty shreds, to take what victories you can. You know, pick your battles. It’s best for the both of you.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Our Daily Bread

At the time, I was just another traveller on another journey.

Sitting on a connecting flight from Toronto to DC, I felt like the loneliest person in the world. I had just been to see some relatives in Canada and the sudden silence created by my departure sat in stark contrast to the warm of their home. In addition, I had only managed to converse with M for short spurts each night by their rickety modem connection which only served to make me miss her more.

In the seat in front of me, a man whose back was too wide for the backrest began to move around impatiently, producing one of the many ominous cracking noises I was going to endure over the next few hours. The plane had single seats, a single aisle, a single toilet, a single flight attendant and not a single bit of food was served owing to the lack of space for a trolley. An old lady locked herself in the bathroom and hammered away for the better part of five minutes.

In three months, I had been on six planes. The novelty of travelling was fast wearing thin and home was looking good, but too far away.

It was then that I remembered the little parcel my cousin packed for me.

She had brought over some Italian Christmas bread one night and cut a slice for me to bring on the plane in case of the munchies. It was called Panettone, she told me, and was made by an Italian baker to impress the girl he was after. I don’t know if he succeeded, but when I first bit into the slice she gave me, I hoped with all my heart that he had.

Like a giant brioche, it was soft and fluffy without being over moist, and studded with raisins and cranberries. The crust was flaky without being crisp and the bread came apart under my fingers like spun floss. I ate it and suddenly the plane didn’t seem so cold or so empty, the snow-covered landscape down below didn’t look quite so desolate.

Mostly, it was a reminder that somewhere, someone was thinking of me, even when it felt like I was locked away in an airless capsule.

I reached home a few days after a lonely, wet Christmas. Being overseas was great fun, but at Christmas, everybody went back to what family they had and the stores closed on the empty streets. Christmas without friends and loved ones is no Christmas at all and going home made me want to shout and sing and dance in mad circles on the plane.

A whole year later, M and I were wandering in a grocery store when we came upon shelves and shelves of Christmas food – cake soaked in brandy, plum pudding, stollen misted with sugar, cookies iced to look like trees, gingerbread man augmented by cardboard boxes of candy canes and boxes upon stacked boxes of Panettone. Until then, I believed that maybe the bread I had on the plane was one of those things you experience once in your life and end up mistily reminiscing about like that time the tooth fairy left three whole dollars under my pillow.

I marched home with a huge box of Panettone under my arm.

It’s been only two days but I’ve already eaten half the loaf. I eat a slice for breakfast, a piece for lunch and a piece just before I go to bed. I eat it plain or lightly toasted, with little curls of butter melting in the warm hollows. I eat it with tea or milk, feeding crumbs and bits of candied orange and raisin to my dog under the table.

Just the taste of it reminds me of cramped, cold plane flights and the washed out purple and blue seat covers and carpeting. But it also tastes like the realisation of being loved. The salty tang of the butter against the sweet, airy fluff of the bread brings to mind mornings in a cold delifrance with buttered brioche and hot chocolate. Pulling it apart in my fingers recalls eating buns around my grandmother’s kitchen table. Just imagine, a bread that tastes of life and home.

Mainly, it just tastes good.

I suppose what all this really means is that if someone ever tries to create a kind of bread to win your heart, forget all their little flaws for a minute and bear in mind that you’ll be able to whip them into making you bread this good for the rest of your life. That way, you won’t have to wait for Christmas to get one you really like.

Unless of course, they can’t cook.

Then, you have my sympathies. And directions to the nearest Cold Storage.

(image ganked from:

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Purging Old Flames

Like razing my hair to the nape of my neck, I’m letting this one go. I suppose old scribblings have the right to see the light, imperfect though they may be.

This was your soil, you fell in love,
And forged your name, kept me from reach,
While I wandered a silent beach
Beneath the stars and dreamt your name.

What moved you, her poetic wiles?
Did you touch her? Pearl skin on teak,
Let her see your knees grow weak,
Hold loft your torch with leaping flame?

My fingers sought, found shells to bring
Home, bivalves, mollucs, scallops-ridged,
But distance cannot be abridged
And on the plane they came apart

I closed my heart. You loved sans guilt,
Sought comfort in her false, faint glow,
Bade past infatuation flow.

I kept faith every rise of dark.
Was I to forgive and forget,
To lie again beneath your heel?
Not I, I whet my hate of steel,
Pretending gladness while I pine.

And play your love notes in my head,
Your rapture in her serenade,
One question, all I ask: What made
Your country so unique from mine?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Secrets and Lies

So, okay, I have a confession to make. No no, it’s not about that time I slipped and fell down in the forum in front of everybody and scared the shit out of the girl standing behind me. Or the time I shouted really loudly past midnight outside M’s hostel only to find an acquaintance staring at me quizzically.


Well, I have to confess that… I’m an animaniac.


Somehow that didn’t quite come out right. Let me rephrase that. I’m an anime maniac. Yes, I know. Shoot me, somebody. I never ever thought that me, the greatest advocate against Hello Kitty and Pokemon since… well… ever, would succumb to the charms of Japan and its multi-million dollar industry. But I have.

And, oh! The shame! Once upon a time when I was much younger and more naïve, I actually knew what a bulbosaur was and what a pikachu sounded like, just because my brothers were into it. But I thought I’d changed! I thought I had reformed! I thought I was finally a free woman.

And then one day, I dragged M out to watch Death Note, the movie. And I crossed a line I never should have crossed. And now, I have been dragged down into the consuming spiral that is Anime Hell. I spent my time in between frantically studying watching cartoons of big-eyed, long-haired, sailor-uniformed girls exacting revenge on their greatest enemies and I enjoy it.

I mean, I could say that I wasn’t addicted. That I could give it up anytime! But that would be denial.

I started slow with Death Note the cartoon, just a couple of episodes of youtube once in a few days. And then I heard about Jigoku Shoujo (which is about a girl from hell who helps people take revenge on those they resent) and now I watch it almost everyday, sometimes a couple of episodes a day! This morning, I started on something called Blood +. I have yet to ascertain the plot, but it looks interesting already.

So far, plot wise, I like Death Note the best but Jigoku Shoujo is remarkably pretty, if a little feminine. When I first watched it, I was stunned by how poetic some of the scenes were - the Hell Girl bathing in a lovely, red-washed purgatory, the lush kimonos and the exquisite detail of the flowers. Even the boat ride to hell looked so magical I wouldn’t have minded lying at the prow for once.

But that’s not the worst of it, oh no.

It’s slow-moving, but the truth is that the more you watch the Hell Girl with her beautiful long, thick hair, her soft, sing-song voice and those eyes that turn red and mesmerise, the more she grows on you, as she did on me. And in one episode, when she went out into the human world to walk around, instead of wearing her traditional Japanese garb, she disguised herself in a baseball cap and woolen scarf.

And she was more than just pretty and intriguing.

At the risk of sounding like a brainwashed manga-loving geek who spends all night in front of his Macbook and hasn’t seen the right side of a shower since last Tuesday, she was actually… really really CUTE.

There, I’ve said it! Now excuse me, I think I have to go and kill myself.

Or maybe just, you know, watch episode 9.