Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pimp my Dive

I've found my new Backyard gang. Apparently they come every other week just to listen to Mark. Of course I've noticed them before (they've been coming for three years) but I've never done anything about it, always preferring to sit alone.

That was before they renovated Backyard, so that there is effectively only one good table in the whole place. And that's the table Peter books before he comes. When I got in, I went straight up to said table, saw them there and asked Peter, can I sit here?

He grinned, yes, please do.

We've seen each other for roughly three years and this is the first real conversation I've had with them.

Ng, his buddy, said later that night when I thanked them for letting me sit at their table: "It's our table (including me in that our), you're always welcome."

Seems like there is this code among the true Mark appreciators. You sit there, you listen to the music, you don't bother nobody, you don't flirt, you don't try and catch anyone's eyes, you don't try to engage anyone.

In fact, these two guys are so well-bred, they don't even make song requests.

Why? I wanted to know.

Well, we prefer to be surprised, said Peter. Then he started telling me about House at Pooh Corner which, like me, he first heard at Backyard. He sighed and said it was a year since Mark had sung that. He doesn't seem to want to sing that anymore.

So I texted Mark (who had disappeared into the bowels of the Backyard on his PR rounds) "Christopher Robin and I walked alone..." and went on talking to the two guys. Suddenly he was there by my side going, saying yes boss and grinning like a maniac. I pointed to Peter, he wanted to hear that song. Mark said, no problem and it was the second song in his second set.

He was much more at ease with the new stage today (although he still hates it, no more intimacy, no more cosiness). People shouted out requests or sent up little pieces of paper and he laughingly obliged or sang a replacement song if he didn't do the one they asked for.

Mark's eyebrows shot up at my choice of seat and once, when he sang a song for the "monday night guys" (by which he meant Peter and Ng), he added, and their new member. I think he was much amused.

I went to see my Ashley yesterday and apparently, I'm going bald. He tsked tsked at my head and provided me with a special shampoo to use over the next four months. He said, it's serious oridi, if you don't start doing something about it now, you're going to complain in a very short time.

Nothing loth, I bought the shampoo, sighed loudly, and proceeded to wear my cap to Backyard (now shy of my shiny scalp). Jennifer (the other Jennifer) walked straight past me and then said, oh my god, I thought you were a boy.

I grinned. It was Standard Six all over again. Yeah, that was the idea.

Backyard is shaping up nicely. It's a different place now. Peter and Ng, who've been coming here a lot longer than I, discussed it seriously. It's become posh. I liked it when it was a dive, a little dingy, a little frayed at the edges (but then I like old things), but all three of us admitted, that the old place had its drawbacks, especially when there was a crowd (Fridays, Saturdays, holiday eves) when there was elbow room only and not even that.

Now maybe some of my posh, dive-resistant, finicky friends will come.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


The thing with falling asleep at seven in the evening is that you start awake at about 11, completely refreshed and looking forward to a night of no sleep. No, none at all.

Insomnia is not my friend.

Anyways, I logged on to find the other members of my 3K Production (we haven't had a reunion in YEARS!) online chatting about booking our accommodation in Penang when young Evelyn shows up on our shores for the first time since she went away. So there I was, just out of sleep googling away to see what deals were available when I found a sort of decent looking guesthouse...long and short - we've booked, or at least we're on the waiting list and I'm going to hang with my two chicas in November. (Happy Birthday Jenny! What a great gift)

Today when I finally got out of bed (I woke up early because there were raised voices and tempers flying all over the place, my least favourite way to start awake but stayed in bed nonetheless)it was lunchtime and then I decided to drop in at Tropicana to see this girl who sells aboriginal crafts. She was there. She was busy. She led me to another stall run by Burmese women who have banded together, tired of being oppressed from all sides, to try and do something about it.

I took one of them for coffee (a sturdy person who did a degree in Physics back home and who, with the help of a French expat organised and coordinated these efforts) and she told me stuff. I jotted a few notes (difficult because I couldn't understand her accent and had to ask her to spell every second word) and she gave me the contact number of this French expat so I could get the full story better.

I sent one of the editors an SMS pitch and she didn't reply. Young Evelyn (whom I told about it of course) said it sounded like a fantastic story and I could pitch it to the international mags. Think I'll do that. I am slowly stumbling on stories of international interest here (thanks to my pal Al). And people introduce you to other people. It helps being a freelancer and not attached to any one press or agenda. I am enjoying the freedom more and more.

Anyways, the girl tells me about some shocking news she's had from home and nursing her latte she starts to cry. I don't quite know what to do. If it was one of my friends, I would give them a hug. Instead, I go get some napkins and offer them to her. She takes them and dabs her eyes.

"these people, they force them to join the army at 14 of 15, they are not educated, they don't go to university...and then they become leaders, with no education, no idea of how to develop the country, only of how to oppress the people and hold on to power. We have a good climate. We could do so much in terms of agriculture. But they take away our land and make army camps. And then, they don't compensate us. So we don't have jobs, it becomes more and more difficult to survive."

I offer her the only comfort I can. That I would contact the number she gave me. And write the story. Not of the atrocities back home (although that is a more poignant story than most of the so-called stories we cover) but of their brave efforts here, to help themselves. English classes, making soap to survive - vanilla bean, lavender, lemongrass and ...I can't remember what the fourth scent is.

When not breaking down, she is very businesslike. She has a list of things the organisation needs - English teachers, volunteer transportation when they go to sell their wares at fares as they tend to be hassled by the police when they use public transportation, and a better marketing and distribution network. She wants to expand their product base from just soaps to shampoos as well. Is there anyone who could teach them to make shampoos? (Tudor Rose, can you help? You make shampoos, right?)

While she's talking I mentally scan my contact base to see who would do. I remember how I used to hook people up before because there was a time when I knew everybody. And if not everybody, at least lots and lots of people. One of the privileges of being a reporter and someone they all want to talk to.

I wonder if I could still do it.

The girl nurses her latte while I've finished my cappuccino. I want to leave and go to the Curve to check out sofas but she wants to talk some more. I remember a blogpost I read recently about extricating yourself from awkward social situations and make up my mind.

Kindly, but firmly, I tell her I have to go. If I stay because I feel guilty I'll end up resenting her and will do the sum total of nothing to help her. (I know me)

So I drive to the Curve and find that the so-called sofa sale is a sham. I make my way to Ikea and find quite a few sofas within budget but the one I want is not available. At least, not yet. So I give the guy my number and he says he'll give me a call in two weeks. And in case he doesn't, here's the number I have to call. I take the paper, stuff it into my bag and wonder where I'll find an oven for my budget. Esther said Best Dengki. I don't think there is one in The Curve.

So I make my way out of Ikea to look for electrical shops and am stopped short by a stall selling Japanese pancakes (that look suspiciously like French crepes) with different combinations of things in them. I buy three and decide to abort my search for an oven. I will go home and have tea instead.

So Dadda and I end up having tea with the pancakes (which surprisingly, he likes), he is unhappy with events of the morning and tells me what happened. I listen, give my opinion and then go to my room.

And fall fast asleep.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Masks and Other Humorous Objects

I've just bought a whole bunch of scented candles on eBay - five sets in all, to people my Christmas baskets that I will give out to specially selected people. I already have two presents wrapped up in the large, large box Nat Geog gave me after the assignment, and have started mining addresses from friends from all over. I wrote out all of one Deepavali card (which I can't send out till, say, Halloween) and will probably start writing out my Christmas cards soon because, well, I like doing it, and I want to make sure I have them all posted on time. If I don't start ridiculously early, I start ridiculously late. And by that time, Christmas is over.

Was chatting to George just yesterday and he teased me about the amount of Smiths I quote verbatim on this blog. This is because he introduced me to The Smiths and I used to cover my ears and scream whenever he held me prisoner in the car and forced me to listen. Note to Georgie: I still find it too depressing to listen to them. But I love their lyrics. So much so that I'm thinking of printing two teeshirts.

One which says: Last night I dreamt somebody loved me...

And another that says: The more you ignore me (in front)
The closer I get (at the back).

And wear both tee-shirts every time I go to Backyard. What do you think of that?

Anyways, I went for my walk today (after about a week of not - first there was the day out with Esther and then there were the two assignments right at the time I go for my walk, forget about waking up early, if I'm up that early it just means I haven't been to bed yet, and then there was the all-nighter to finish my stories and then...I was just plain lazy, and it was raining, and blah, blah, blah).

It was raining today too, but I didn't let that stop me. No, not me. I opened my fluoroscent yellow umbrella and proceeded to go my way, the ascent, then the descent, then the ascent, then the descent - ad infinitum.

First round, I had the soundtrack from the fourth level of hell playing in my head. Those voices grow louder, more insistent and they hammer, hammer, hammer away at me. Just bloody awful, banshees keening away, Gods ripping apart the heavens, titans clashing (you know the deal) and then some. To the drip, drip, drip of rain on my yellow brolly.

A lady passed me on her way out and smiled exuberantly. (I don't know how she could have smiled at me...me resembling my famous combination of both thunder and death warmed up). She said: "Oh fresh air, fresh air, this air is very fresh." And the rain continued to mizzle.

So I nodded, showed some teeth (actually, no, it was one of those tight-mouthed smiles, no teeth) and went on my unmerry way. Clang, clang, clang sounded the cymbals in my head. Words crawled out, twisted abortions, from every available crevice as I pounded the pavement slowly. Very slowly.

Anna would call this a casual stroll. She walks quickly. For her it's a matter of fitness. For me it's a matter of demons.

But I kept walking. One round. Two rounds. (a sip of water). Three rounds. By the fourth, my socks were soaked and I was limping. I limped back to the car, drove off, gliding home on some wave of light. Or maybe it was sound. Who knows?

I stopped for a while at the ESH to look at ovens, not minding that my teeshirt was soaked in sweat and despite the Versace that I had squirted liberally on self before going for my walk, I now smelled like I was unfit for public places. Nothing loth, I sailed in and examined the ovens, tut tutting at those unpriced and the fact that the although there seemed to a hundred shop assistants there, there were none on hand to assist me. Clearly, nothing here for me.

So I got back into my car where only I could smell me, and drove on home. Taking note of two places that would come get the oven and the sofa I wanted to dump, because, well it was time for something new. How on earth could I get around to my Christmas baking if the oven, not only didn't work, but the sales and service people, kept hiding from me, not returning my calls and not wanting to tell me how much it would cost to fix (except that it was A LOT!).

I don't know.

I've got books to read, people to see and places to go.

Well, books to read, anyway.

Milan Kundera's The Curtain. And then Milan Kundera's Encounters. I should have started off with Art of the Novel (the proper first in the trilogy but Kinokuniya didn't have a copy).

I'm thinking I should defray the cost of my enormous appetite by writing book reviews.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ghosts of Mistakes Past

I met her at the gym, while we were both sweating it out at the sauna. Actually, I had been there with the sauna all to myself, sweating it out alone. And this person came in, sprinkled a few drops of essential oil from her extremely overpriced bottle on the hot rocks, and leaned back to enjoy. She had asked me beforehand, if I would mind.

Being a sucker for aromatherapy, I replied, of course not.

We started chatting. I assumed she would be a kindred soul.

But well...she regarded me with a sort of detached amusement. Told me she had just come back to Malaysia (from England) and she was horrified at the lack of education about all things healthy here. It seems that people here paid top prices for shmuck. And kitsch. And they didn't have the intelligence or taste to know the difference.

I wondered. After all, this was a gym in Bangsar Village. Severely upmarket. Most people here had been overseas, either on holiday, or when they were studying or living/working there. She wasn't that much of a rarity as she made herself out to be.

I asked her what brand oils she used. She told me (I can't remember now, I'd never heard of it) assuring me that it was very expensive and only the very best for her. I asked her if she'd heard of Culpepper. Her lips curled into a sneer because (a) she hadn't heard of it and (b) it must have been something cheap and nasty cos she had never heard of it.

She had started her own online shop and she gave me her card with the URL. I checked it out. It seemed to run to mostly "angel essences" each at more than RM100 a pop and I wondered who would buy these things and what the benefits would be. From what I could gather it was "supposed to make you feel better", something any cheap oil bubbling away in your cheap burner could do quite admirably.

Lavender, anyone? Maybe patchouli? How about jasmine (despite the connotations)?

I realise that I am remarkably blur. You have to take a two by four and fit me square on my forehead before I open my eyes and take notice. Unless I am already predisposed to dislike, that is, if someone has tripped on one of my prejudices and I have dismissed them as an asshole (any behaviour controverting this hypothesis would be carefully ignored and any behaviour confirming just as carefully noted) I generally don't notice the little things till later. Much later.

Similarly, with this girl, her obvious condescension didn't strike me until she asked about my interests and I happened to mention a blog I was hooked on. The fact that it was written by someone who was homeless and drug-dependent was all she needed.

Promptly, she issued a series of directives. One of which was that I should "stay away" from broken people. No, there was no place for empathy in life. And reading stuff like that was "not good". It would only drag me down. It's sad we have these unfortunate creatures around. But we could best help them by dissociating and pretending they did not exist while we got on with our happy, healthy, suburban wife of the 50s lives.

Well, I had gotten myself into this. I should not have struck up a conversation with the bitch when she sprinkled her oils and curled her lips and preened herself on being so much better than the average Joans out here in kitschland.

I quit the gym. And I didn't stop reading the blog.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Oh brother! Sometimes the nights are endless. Not because of my famous insomnia, but because I have two stories of a widely differing nature to complete and very little time to complete them in. All nighters. I used to love `em. Now I don't. Wouldn't you just know it?

The weather has turned, well, wet. Very wet. It's raining now. It was raining a little while ago when I got home, having taken Dadda to the clinic to see the eye doctor. As we were coming home we passed some spots in Old Town and Dadda said suddenly: "I used to live here."

"Really?" I wasn't listening, trying to figure out the way home. I hate Old Town. Always get lost there.

"Yes. Your Pity Auntie used to live here. I took you to see her once. Well, you insisted on coming. Last time I had to sneak out because if you saw me going, you would insist on following me. Then when we got there you fell asleep. And then you wanted to go home almost straight away."

Hmmm. Charming kid I was, I don't think.

The doctor examined Dadda's eye and said it was ulcerated. I didn't know eyes could be ulcerated. He taped it to ensure that some muscle or other doesn't turn in and the D man complained on the way back that the tape was white and didn't match his complexion. I said that was the last thing he needed to worry about...his right eye is so red it looks like it is actually bleeding. Nother check-up at the hospital next Friday.

I have bought cat food and the little kitten who used to protest noisily at my window has gone. Methinks it was killed by the bigger cats. Or maybe some human because it never shut up. I used to feed it. And then, when I actually go out and buy cat food for the purpose it disappears. Instead a large similarly ginger pregnant cat presents herself at our doorstep and meows at me. I go empty a can of cat food in my "bowl for strays". She watches me, then eats the food, then takes herself off without much ado. It's a functional relationship. No need for demonstrations of affection. (I wish all my relationships were as simple)

I want to reward myself for finishing the two stories yesterday (after receiving alarmed emails and text messages from the editor in question who thought I was cutting it a wee bit close).

Not sure how to do it. Having gone to bed past six and woken up at nine (or been woken up by the D-man who wanted to go to the clinic) am a wee bit groggy and listless.

But thought I'd check in and say hey, anyway.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

At The End of the Day It's Another Day Over

It's a struggle, it's a war
and there's nothing that anyone's giving
another day standing about
what is it for?
One day less to be living!

I'm tired. It's been an exhausting few days. Everything around me is swirling in chaos as I'm too tired to take stock and do anything about it. There was the 10-year death anniversary dinner that I got lost trying to attend (Chubs left his sat nav for me and it led me to the middle of nowhere and cheerfully announced, you have arrived at destination) which ended at about one in the morning (we would have left sooner but the sky opened up and the rains came with a vengeance).

There was my day wandering around One U with Esther (who has now moved to JB so I have to catch up with her when I get the chance which I don't anymore) that had me literally crawling with fatigue and then there was about five hours at the hospital this morning with the D-man for his checkup which dragged on and on and on (and is still not over yet because his red, swollen eye is in a precarious state and they've referred him to another doctor and next time he has an appointment, I am not going to have an assignment on the same day if I can help it)...and after all that, there was trying to get into the middle of town on time, find a parking place in an unfamiliar building, and getting up to the 31st floor on time.

And then there was the elusive interview with the guy who had been so difficult to get and arrange - and then, who would not stop talking even after the interview was over, no matter what I did (like shutting my notebook, thanking him, saying, well, that was very enlightening...).

I decided to go buy some Nando's after the interview because the D-man had a very crap quick lunch and I wanted to get him something better for dinner. He objected strenuously (Nando's is expensive, just get me chappati), I said no, Nando's it is...which would you prefer the burger or the chicken? And then got home, forked out his angry mango which he munched contentedly while watching the BBC, had mine in the dining room, while simultaneously feasting on Tess of the D'ubervilles, and then, worn out, I decided I would take a nap.

I was aware that I needed to get up (my face was still plastered with make-up and I hadn't brushed my teeth) but was in one of those slumbers where I simply couldn't. I just lay in bed, paralysed with sleep until, I can't remember what, finally woke me up.

And then I was thinking...oh boy, the interview to transcribe (but I won't do it tonight) and another assignment to go for tomorrow evening and I got an email from one of the people I work for asking if I could file a travel story by tomorrow afternoon.

Um no, I can't. I didn't interview anyone and I'm too tired to conjure something out of thin air. There is something enervating about the air and although I'm up now (it's exactly 1.08am here, I'm drooping apace and I want to get back to Tess but I don't think I'll finish her tonight).

There are so many things I want to do.

I guess I will have to go back to to-do lists, because without them NOTHING gets done.

(Bilbo is weeping in my head, he's saying I'm sorry I got you into this Frodo my boy, I'm sorry for everything...)

Thursday, September 16, 2010


So there I was about to have breakfast (OK it was past 11 but I have a combination of insomnia and no regular job I have to wake up for, so sue me!) and the phone rang.

"Jennifer...your phoooone!" Julie, with her eyes glued to Criminal Minds, sang out.

So I go, take the phone, don't recognise the number, answer anyway and hey ho, it's Theresa. I thought she wanted me to come in and caption pictures. But no, she didn't need that. What she wanted to do was give me an assignment.

As I frequently get last minute assignments I assumed it would be for today. Not so. It was for Tuesday. Evening. Hmmmm. And it was so very interesting. She read out the press release, then sent it to me, going on nineteen to the dozen about angles etc.

Angle? Origins.

When I got off the phone after agreeing to said assignment, I couldn't help but think how my sister Jackie, our family historian, would have been more suited to this assignment. She has been delving into family history, interviewing the old people (I come along sometimes with a notebook and take notes and promptly lose them), collecting anecdotes....reading about the migratory patterns of the people who settled in Kerala eventually.

Once when we went to Sabah we had two old uncles who collected us and took us around and told us family stories to their heart's content. My favourite was one of this pandit/doctor, who came to examine his mother (my grandmother's sister) who had been bitten by snake and instead of treating her, said...this snake has been bitten before, this snake will bite again. My uncle (a little boy at the time) was crying because he thought his ma was going to die. His uncle (the ma's brother) grabbed said pandit by the collar and said, you bugger, you better do something for her or I'll bash you up!" (which was pretty much par for the course). What interested me was the pandit's complete detachment from the scene going forward and his interest in only commenting on said snake, like it was too too fascinating, more fascinating than my grandaunt's poisoned limb.

Anyway, as I said...Jackie would have loved this assignment. She would probably have loved hanging out with all the cute doggies as well.

Picking and choosing what I want to do definitely agrees with me.

I'm recharging my camera batteries now and will sally forth to get a new cover and then voila, I'll be transformed into a sort of photojournalist, recording KL life. (I'm reading Susan Sontag at the moment and the idea of recording the city as it turns the corner and disappears is one that I find fascinating. On the other hand, I find pictures taken specifically for FB the most repulsive of all repulsive things...however, it captures this present space in time, doesn't it?)

I should have done more to capture this space time.

Backyard has changed beyond recall. It is the end of an era. It is the end of the intimacy. It is the end of the innocence. (And all I have are my memories and a few blogposts).

It would not be wrong to speak of people as having a compulsion to photograph: to turn experience itself into a way of seeing. Ultimately, having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it, and participating in a public event comes more and more to be equivalent to looking at it in photographed form. That most logical of nineteenth-century aesthetes, Mallarmè, said that everything in the world exists in order to end in a book. Today everything exists to end in a photograph. Susan Sontag, On Photography


I have just finished James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner which I found on the bookshelf at home in JB which I was attempting to put in some semblance of order. I'd never heard of the book but the title intrigued me. It's eaten through by silverfish and towards the end I had to guess at the words, so full of holes were the pages.

The story is like a vicious nightmare that startles you awake; and your heart is racing and as you lie bathed in your own sweat, the images fade and you can't quite remember what so filled you with horror.


Like that.

Andre Gide, who wrote the introduction and reintroduced this book to public notice in the 1920s (it was first published in 1824) was delighted with it. The fanatic and the devil, walking arm in arm, justfying the blackest crimes.

And yet, I felt sorry for the protagonist. He seemed to be weak rather than utterly bad. He was jealous of anyone held in greater esteem, cast off by his father (?) as his wife's bastard, brought up by a pious hypocrite. And the most dreadful thing about it was his description of the devil who dogged his footsteps.

The "friend" that he grew to dread, who always left him feeling horrible, who could argue away any doubt, and who undoubtedly held sway over this weak young man, flattering him, frightening him, pushing him to extremes.

So, you know the devil not by his words but by his effects.

I recognised this.

I recognised the effects.

I remembered.

But I was lucky. Some grace, heretofore unsuspected, raised its head and delivered me.

So let me sit here for a while and count my blessings.

Later for you.

Good night.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Moonlight Kiss

That ole tune by Bap Kennedy is playing on my computer, the mood is mellow...waaaaay mellow.

I can feel my heart
and it's fit to burst
try to clean it up
but it just gets worse
wish I could fall
on a night like this
into your loving arms
for a moonlight kiss

I didn't fall asleep last night after all. There was a fire in my belly and my skin was burning...so I tossed and turned until, to my consternation, my alarm went off, signalling, oh no, it was time to get up.

No sleep, no rest, no blissful oblivion, no sweet harlot of the senses, no Delilah of the mind.

I pondered briefly on whether I would make the best of things and go for an early morning walk and do my "morning pages" (about the only two good things about being up so early in the day) but my cantankerous limbs which twitched like someone was playing Eine Kleine Nachtmusik on my nerve endings, refused to budge. No, not an inch.

So I lay in bed dozing until it was about seven, by which time, I think I could have fallen asleep because it had gotten light and then dark again (one of those early morning thunderstorms that is so edifying and sleep-inducing) but I had Alison to meet, the one bright spot in this dark day (literally and figuratively).

Got to Bangsar just in time for the first large drops to start pelting the car, and then me, as I ran across the street to pay for my parking on one of those machines.

Al arrived not long after. She was exactly on time. Despite the storm which had started to roar and disturb the shutters and pour its wrath on that less than innocent street.

As was our wont we chatted for about four hours nonstop, Convent-style, without pause and then it was time for her to go pick up her son, and I thought I'd stop by at NST and buy the papers with my articles in them.

By then, the sleepless night was telling. Also by then, the early shower had taken away whatever coolness there had been in the day. A concentrated and stifling heat bore down on me a I made my purchases and then took off home.

Another quick shower, another call to Mary (I called last night before midnight so I could give the phone to Mark and Victor to wish her too), and then it was to bed, to bed, to bed.

And instead of working, I slept the day away. I'm awake now but my eyes are scratchy.

And tonight I think I'll pull an all-nighter. I don't want to look at this report much longer. I will finish it. And then sleep again tomorrow.

Oh wait, Kinokuniya called to say they had located my copy of "Ruined" and they would set it aside at customer service for three days so I had better hustle and get my keister over there some time tomorrow.

I wish I wasn't so tired.

I wish I didn't feel so Hamlet before the ghost:

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew.

And this too shall pass. It shall. It shall. It shall. But until it does:

How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world.

In the Moment

Hey you there, you with Susan Sontag's "On Photography" clutched in your hand, you with the eyes gazing at the new stage and wishing it was the old one, you with your thoughts roving all over creation, COME BACK!

Come back to this minute, it will never recur. I mean you may be here next week sitting in this same chair (don't, it's in front of the frigging speakers for crying out loud, what were you thinking?), wearing the same sweater, watching, listening, wondering....but it will be different.

It's always different.

Times slithers forward like a slippery snake. You can't grasp it (my dear, if it's a snake, I wouldn't, I really wouldn't).

Hey you with the eyes, you with the dreaming eyes, you, who have projected an hour into the future, when you'll have to pay up and leave, just one red wine today, not even squiffy, not even a little bit, COME BACK!

Stop glancing at the clock and mentally calculating.

Stop thinking about the report that sits on your computer still unfinished because you frigging well couldn't bring yourself to do more than, well, what you have done. Will have to stretch this further.

Stop thinking about the early breakfast with your pal Al tomorrow (that'll be nice, but be there then, be here now, OK?).

Hey you! You with the sad eyes, you with the broken thoughts, you with the diffracted soul, call yourself back.

This is now. This is here. You are happy.

Happy enough.

And tomorrow, well that's another day.

We'll deal with it then, OK?

Time for bed now, darling.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Work Avoidance

Well I've finished Shalimar the Clown (when I got into it, about the time of the Max Ophuls narrative, I couldn't put it down) and Under the Greenwood Tree (Hardy's sweetest novel - the only one where he allowed the woman to remain her happy, vain self) and I was up until five this morning transcribing (not my favourite job). And when I passed out, aching, from crouching over the laptop, there were still four pages left to go.

Instead, I woke up way past noon, had my breakfast, read the last bit of Under the Greenwood Tree (my favourite part is when the carollers shuffle into the tranter's cottage to have some cider) and got on the computer, read a few of my favourite blogs and listened to Zooey Deschanel sing "Baby it's Cold Outside" with Leon Redbone. I love how lazy her voice sounds - no, that's not the word, languorous, yes, that's it.

Beautiful, what's your hurry...

Now I've moved on to Laughter in the Rain.

Hmmmm....methinks I see a pattern here.

If I start reading Lysistrata right around now, it'll be clear.

Work avoidance.

Except I can't. I shouldn't. The damn thing is due tomorrow.

PS: I've just finished transcribing. Now I'm going to have to "clean up the copy", join the ideas, write reports for the presentations, and edit the panel discussions. I've realised that some people waffle just to hear the sound of their voices. They have nothing interesting to say and it kind of stands out when surrounded by articulate experts, they look like fools who can only stutter in some dismal form of broken English. (Am I being mean? I don't care. When I have to edit fools, my blood boils)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Truth The Desperate Know

The first thing you learn about desperation is that you have no time for courtesies. Unless said courtesies will achieve the desired end. If not, you throw it all out of the window, because all your energies are concentrated on this huge blazing need.

To survive.

The second thing you learn about desperation is that you have no time for gratitude. As the people who have done you a good turn tot things up in their unofficial scorebooks, you turn your back on them, ignore them, and walk (or crawl) away, grasping earth, grasping grass, grasping anything that will keep you from falling away.

Your threatened non-existence.

Your rise and fall.

They, the undesperate ones, the polite, charming, thank you-saying, nodding, smiling gnomes, they will judge you, call you names.

But you heed them not.

Because the third thing you learn about desperation is that your reputation doesn't mean a damn thing. To hell with what they think. If you could, you would smash each smug visage with your bare fists. Pound them into blood and dust.

Desperation makes you angry.

It makes you fight.

It makes you destroy.

It makes you annihilate.

You drop the child you were carrying and let them find their own way to die.

You fight your mother for her last drop of water.

You sink your teeth into the wild dog fighting for that last piece of bread.

And if you're ruthless enough, you survive.

Even if you're standing in field of corpses.

Even if you made some of the corpses yourself.

Even if the ones you used to love the most are among the corpses.

If you're desperate enough, you survive.

Solvitur Ambulando

It is solved by walking. St Augustine

I took my customary walk at Kiara today. I wore a yellow rain slicker and water pooled on the plastic and made little rivulets in front of my face. The air was soggy but clean. And I I pushed gamely on, puffing through the foggy air, feeling my head slowly clear as it tends to do when I'm there.

Many people have asked why I don't simply go to the less difficult course in Taman Tun. But I don't want to. I love this walk. I go alone as usual, and when I start, my head is buzzing with negativity. It's almost like I'm a bystander while everything from low level anxiety to outright murder pulses through me.

I walk and breathe.

Gradually the thoughts settle down. The physical exertion demanded is, well, it's less than it was before. When I first started walking two weeks ago, I would come home exhausted and aching all over. If I sat down, it would be difficult to get up. Basically I would feel like Lot's wife, on looking back.

That good old pillar of salt.

Something inside me kept pushing me to go nonetheless.

No, it was not a weight thing. I've come to terms with how I look now. I find it difficult to care whether people find me attractive or not. (In case you were wondering, they don't. Wasn't my last boyfriend the one who kept me at the treadmill 45 minutes a day in a desperate attempt to shrink me to size? In case you wondering, he didn't succeed).

I have all this work to do. I am supposed to write this report and one article (which was actually due pronto - as I found out when I sms-ed the editor asking her when she wanted it). But I cannot miss out on my walk. I become nervy and irritable when I do so (even more than usual, which is saying something) and my body feels sad and jaded.

Endorphins is where it's at.

So I go for my walk when it rains (like today) or when it's dark (the streetlamps worked one day and didn't the next - but on the bright side, I saw fireflies because it was dark enough for that). I walk and I talk to God and I talk to the people who exist only in my head and I talk to the different versions of my personal dementia. I walk and roses bloom in my hands and music soothes the savage breast and sometimes, I feel words of poetry well up in me.

Not my own, but other people's.

Like today, it was seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness.

And then I thought about how Jackie and I used to distract ourselves from how tired we were feeling on our jogs by reciting Shakespeare. She had memorized 'The quality of mercy is not strained..." and "to be or not to be...". I can't remember what I memorized. But I do remember the both of us doing the different parts from Les Miserables one (was it Sunday?). That was fun...every time we passed someone else, it was Jackie's turn and she was in the middle of one of the more dramatic numbers:

"What have I done, sweet Jesus, what have I done, become a thief in the night, become a dog on the run..."

I have fond memories of running with her, of running with Siti, of running with Shirene, of running with Anna.

Now I no longer run.

I walk and it seems, I walk alone.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


So here I am, slightly tipsy after a night out, and you look at your calendar and say, yeah, it figures, it's Monday. But get this. I'm not tipsy from a visit to Backyard.

The last time I visited Backyard was...um...like last week with my Auntie Ann and Mark wasn't playing. Of course, if I'd known he wouldn't be playing, I wouldn't have gone. As it is though, we had a blast. The band was really good and they played really cool songs. Auntie Ann, was telling me how she hadn't been to a pub in the longest time (like more than a decade) and funnily enough she kept bumping into people she knew there. (That's what I love about Backyard. It's kind of like Cheers. Not everybody but enough people know your name to make it homey). Anyways all the people she knew were from her church. So they raised their eyebrows a bit, because she's all but saintly. (But as I said, we had a blast).

Today I was at Alexis. There was wine, there was chocolate cake, a jazz band and a group of really interesting people. I asked Omar if he'd go to Backyard. He kind of brushed over that, didn't register or whatnot, because my dear Omar is kind of Vere de Vere, and we ended up at Alexis instead - I couldn't believe this was the Monday night crowd. It was simply packed. The band was very very good...and sometimes, I could even hear myself speak.

And funnily enough I managed to make a few new friends. Who'd have thought, hey?

I had Omar all to myself at dinner (which included sake...banzai people!) and we didn't gossip, so much as exchange anecdotes, catch up, and just have a really good time. He's looking about 10 years younger. But then, I always thought he was/is cute.

There are a few contacts who turn into friends and stay with you over the years whether you're an editor of some business magazine or not. Your importance lies in yourself. Not your position. I've met enough of the opposite to really, really appreciate these people.

The week that was...was busy. I have been flinging myself into projects, writing articles (one about doggies came out yesterday) and generally keeping myself busy.

I've come to realise that my pet aversion are the people who cannot understand that I would prefer to be a freelancer, not tied down to any place, not having to answer to anybody. They come forward with job offers, fancy titles, and money...and the thing is, they expect me to fall.

I wonder at this. Of course money is important. There's lots of stuff I want to buy. But I'd rather earn it in a way that makes me happy. I was so miserable in my last job. My health broke down, my peace of mind was all but shattered, when I walked out of it, I remember a few bad nights, where I tossed, turned, talked in my sleep, and ran a fever.

I never want to go back to that again.


And there was a meeting on Thursday with someone offering me just that.

I wonder at people sometimes.

I guess we all walk around with blinkers and convince ourselves that what we want wants us back. I know I do.

But I'm working on getting rid of said blinkers. The truth is painful but it sets you free. And that's how I want to be.