Sunday, September 30, 2007

Happy Meals

Happy Moments. That's the meme I've been given :)

My needs are simple. I don't need starbursts or spontaneous presents to make me happy. It can be something as mundane as finding out that I've the day off. Getting to sleep that one hour later. Finding that fifty cent coin in my pocket on laundry day. Managing to sneak into a forbidden garden for five minutes or so when the gate's left unlocked.

Don't worry be happy!

Still I have to say that the most recent happy moment I had was yesterday. Back for the weekend after a bad on-call, I found myself lying moped at home wondering what to do ( raring to go but yet too groggy to trust myself at the wheel ) till I got a message from Big Bicep Barry. He hadn't seen Hairspray ( shocking! ) and wondered whether I'd keep him company.

There was no need to ask twice. In a flash, I was out the door wishing the world a Good Morning Baltimore. Poor Barry didn't know what he was asking for but he certainly found out when I ad-libbed almost every song from the movie during the showing. My own private karaoke. Fortunately there was only a handful of people in the cinema ( much too early a matinee ) - and I hoped I didn't cause too much of a disturbance.

Barry : You've seen this how many times again?
Paul : Twice?
Barry : Sounds like you're already part of the show.
Paul : Yeah, that's me doing the twist on the Corny Collins Show.

Well no one hounded me out of the cinema with torches and pitchforks.

A pleasant afternoon out. Even found a branch of the old noodle house I used to patronize. Nothing better than spicy pork chop noodles on a cloudy afternoon. Fortunately the owner remembered to bring along one or two handsome Myanmar waiters from the original as well.

Waiter : Anything more, sir?
Paul : Nothing. Unless you're letting me take a bite out of you.
Barry : You're scaring the guy.

Happy moments. You take them where you can. There are so few of them after all.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Full Blossom

Do you remember that first crush?

Being in an all-boys school throughout my career with virile classmates teeming the halls, you'd have thought that I'd be falling in and out of crushes almost on a weekly basis. Turns out to be quite the opposite - since after seeing boorish boys snort coke up their noses and cackle with mindless hilarity, it's almost impossible to develop any overwhelming sense of lust towards them. Much of the appeal is lost after you've seen them perform the most disgusting tasks on a dare. And that's even after they eventually grow out of juvenile delinquency ( at least some of them :) ) and develop slick washboard abs.


I did have a sense of growing attraction to a select few though. Not that I actually knew they were crushes at the time, didn't even know what to think of these odd emotions at that time. No doubt my first sophomoric crush would have to be Sinful Shawn. Athletic, fair, good-looking guy in the mould of recent heart-throb Korean actors, he wasn't all that gifted academically wise though which is how he always ended up borrowing my scribbled notes.

So while Shawn copied my Math sums ( probably about half that I actually got correct! ), I spent the time wondering what it would feel like to brush my fingers through his glossy black curls. Wondered whether he'd freak if I actually dared to lick the back of his neck as I wanted to. Hey, I was barely 16! Hell, if you think that's bad, I once waited in anticipation all morning just to catch this buff stud changing in the showers.

Then of course my ISO came along to show me that I didn't have to remain content with only gazing with unrequited lust at the objects of my affection.

Balikan ang ganda, tamis, at pait ng unang pag-ibig.

Though I've heard wonderful reviews, took my time catching this particular movie for some reason or other. Just kept putting it aside till this afternoon when I finally saw why everyone raved over the Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros.

Of course Maxi positively revels in being a budding li'l limp-wristed homosexual with added swish, camping it up the only way he knows by being unabashedly and unashamedly fabulous. Not that his doting father and brothers mind since our lil Maxi turns out to be a talented Martha Stewart homemaker all on his own despite the harsh poverty of the downtown Manila slums. Nothing seems to faze our ever-cheerful preadolescent hero, not even the fact that his close-knit clan essentially deals in petty thievery, meth peddling and illegal gambling to make ends meet.

Maximo Oliveros makes his move
Come play with me, kuya!

Their unorthodox family values are shaken up after Maxi, harassed by some local goons for his effeminate appearance ( both actually get their hilarious come-uppance not long later ), is rescued by a handsome, upstanding knight in blue and promptly tumbles head-over-heels into a tender puppy love.

Just take a look at this voyeuristic scene from the Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros as the flamboyant Maxi watches the object of his undisguised affection, the straight-laced, idealistic cop Victor, recover from a beating.

Don't get any wild paedophilic ideas. No doubt ( the sexually ambiguous? ) Victor knows of Maximo's deepening crush but he never actively encourages it. Being the saintly paragon that he is, the well-meaning Victor never actually pushes the boundaries of their fraternal relationship - maintaining the elder brother role that he was always meant to play hoping to a positive influence for the growing boy.

Albeit that really hunky 'brother' you wanna wrestle around with. Naked. In mud.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

I'm usually a peaceable fellow.

Folks who know me would attest to the fact that I hardly ever throw temper tantrums! Never even indulged in hysterical flights such as throwing china or breaking furniture - although it does sound enormously gratifying! At home, that is.

At work though I'll admit there are times when the stress does get to me - after long hours of back-breaking, mentally-taxing work, it's just easy enough to snap when something particularly irritating happens. The proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back.

Though I do try my utmost best to keep the lid on my temper intact - wouldn't want an explosion of fury to scald those innocent bystanders standing close by after all. So I bite my tongue till it bleeds. Really hardly ever raise my oh-so-gentle voice even when I'm literally boiling inside so most of my admittedly snarky remarks sound more like sweet polite requests.

Though a lil more tart than usual - with a liberal dose of heavy sarcasm.

Of course some have said that it's sometimes worse to get cool snide comments.

Justin Chambers
Service with a smile!

So I actually tried not to lash out today when I heard indismissable proof of a fellow colleague's sheer thickheadedness. We've all heard of the controversial issue months back of some physicians finding themselves unable to perform basic resuscitation? I've always dismissed that particular on-dit as wild unsubstantiated rumour till yesterday when I heard Obtuse Omar mutter the same half-baked ludicrousness.

Yes, he was a bit confused about CPR as well.

In a blazing rage, I tore down the hallways in search of this fellow that I fully intended to ream out in private for being such an asinine fool. Reached the ward ready to bark for Omar only to find him already on the way out to search for me, looking utterly deferential.

Paul : You called? I came.
Omar : So sorry I had to call but I really needed help and I..
Paul : It's just a simple case and you should be able to know what to do but...
Omar : Yes?
Paul : Sorry. Your perky nipples distracted me.

Seriously I was just this close to snapping his head off when I realized. Whoa. Major pecs. Proof positive that perky pecs really do win the day - which had me realizing the full benefits of working out. And good grief, those broad shoulders. A pity he's vertically-challenged though.

Didn't stop me from giving Omar a brief lecture though. Turns out he's my junior in medical school ( which horrified me since Omar seems to have missed the strict, rigorous paramilitary training we got ).

But I didn't raise my voice.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

OMG That's sooo gay!

A show of hands, those of you who have gone around with their trusty gaydar trying to predict with some accuracy which stud actually marches to the same fabulous YMCA beat as we do. Certainly would be a game that most gay men would play on a daily basis - since the uncanny ability to guess a man's sexuality correctly could mean the difference between sex or death.

Since for some boys, celibacy would actually equate to a living death. :)

Not as easy as you'd think picking out the gay bird amongst the venerable flock. These days not all gay men all stereotypically fit into the simplistic cookie-cutter mould of interior designers, hairstylists and dancers. Not all raving faggots are intimate friends of Dorothy, Barbra and the like. Have a friend who couldn't sing a showtune to save his life, I'm sure. Hell, a handful of us even hang out at local blue-collar bars guzzling beer and spitting peanut shells, holding down seemingly macho careers such as plumbers and mechanics.

Can you really tell just by looking at me?

But the numbers are still few - and the majority are shoved so deep in the closet you'd have to crowbar them out.

There are reasons why some stereotypes remain after all. Toss a rock amongst a group of budding designers and you'll still have a higher chance of hitting a gay man. Just like I wouldn't recommend stoning a platoon of army recruits to find out :)

You see I've been trying to ascertain whether one of my colleagues is gay. Yes, I know I'm a fucking first class snoop ( you'll find that most physicians are curious sorts ) but hey that's me, I just gotta know! Most especially since Brash Brandon rings my gaydar almost on a daily basis. I'll admit it doesn't hurt that he's sorta attractive in the arrogant, disdainful Mr-Darcy manner.

Wet blankets would wonder why I don't just ask the question and end my suspense. Well, closeted boys would of course lie like a rug and hell, why would I settle for such a simple solution. Surely amateur sleuths like Frank and Joe Hardy would agree that half the fun is in piecing the clues together.

So exactly what makes a man gay? Easy enough to find out in this modern internet age where most of us have public profiles on display in the open, ready to be searched and dissected for clues.

1) Hobbies and such

Certainly the stereotypical stuff I mentioned. Even favourite authors, books and movies could lend suspicion. Friend of mine quoted Oscar Wilde as a clue :)

A flair for interior decorating, an obsession for Broadway musicals ( possibly the ability to recite by rote every line from Sound of Music ) and let's not forget, the inherent shopaholic gene. Let's face facts, even the most confidently metrosexual guy would have serious qualms about admitting to a weakness for mall-whoring.

Of course this doesn't always tag a man as gay so you need a combination of other factors as well.

2) Galleries

Straight guys do cam-whore as well - vanity certainly isn't the reserve of women these days! - hence the popularity of Guys Gone Wild. But just look at the display profile of the man in question. A preponderance of pictures all on his lonesome - or even more incriminating with a group of cam-whoring bachelors and nary a bachelorette in sight - would definitely raise flags. Hair a little too perfect, shirts two sizes too small, even pants just a lil too tight are another near-certain indication ( though it's getting a lil hard to tell these days :) ).

3) Subscription to Axcest, Fridae and the like

Which would be obvious enough but something else made me sit up and take notice ( with a sly smile ). Suits and Ties which I found linked on my colleague's site. Made my eyes bug out as I wondered why in the world a supposedly straight man would need links to a gay dating site! :O

Hmm... getting curiouser and curiouser.

The game's afoot.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

All Sheepish

Poor Scrappy Shep.

As some of you would already know, we had a surprise birthday party for my lil brother, Strapping Shane, who finally became legal. In some states anyway. Although I'm sure he already had some vague idea of what we were planning since we were far from discreet ( and some folks just can't keep a secret! ), he claimed to be utterly shell-shocked by the entire proceedings. Maybe the man actually can be an actor :)

Obliviousness probably one of the reasons Shane dragged his poor biological brother along for the show. Poor Scrappy Shep who sat mouthlessly agog as he stared at the fabulous gay brethren gathered before him, no doubt silently wondering what kinda perverted hell-hole we all crawled out from.

Shep with the motley crew!

Shep : God, make me brave for life; much braver than this!

Not sure what Shane could have been thinking of! Our mindless PG-rated banter ranged from Shane's scandalous penchant for dropping trou ( due to a malfunctioning zipper he claims ) to Jaunty Jared's shocking hunger for man-cream. Even Adik's awe-inspiring hoovering mouth was mentioned. Certainly not suitable for gently-reared innocent boys.

After being subjected to an hour of unprincipled debauchery with so many depraved gay men, Shep that poor impressionable boy has to be irreparably scarred for life. What if he inadvertently gets infected by the gay bug dammit? What if he buys a pink feather boa and takes up interior decorating?

Then again if he turned gay ( though I seriously doubt it ), I'd probably hit on him in two years. :P

Or even worse after a fit of gay panic, our straight Shep develops passionate homophobic rage with repeated exposure to such deviant influences - morphing into a rabid fag-hater mouthing rap words such as 'though I can freak, fly, flow, fuck up a faggot / I ain't down with gays, I don't understand their ways'.

So before either disastrous eventuality happens, I believe we should all chip in to safeguard the boy's innate sense of heterosexuality. Hell, we need some cute, hopelessly straight boys around after all! Who else are we gonna lust thanklessly for?

Umm... but that's not what I ordered!

Which explains Operation Straight Shep!

And what better way to restore his manhood than to get him a whore. Now conservative creatures, don't faint on me... I mean, it's a time-honoured tradition, right? Of course we wouldn't get him some pox-riddled street tramp from the grimy backstreets of the inner city so we'd need to hire some upper class courtesan types ( hopefully with safer sexual habits and regular medical exams ).

A nice, sentimental yet big-hearted ( amongst other big attributes ) gal who'll show him the way to... heterosexual righteousness.

Care to name a few?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Flights and Fancies

Quite shocking really but I do declare that my latest flirt can be almost insufferable perceiving an endless amount of difficulties in the way of his goals. Spending my time convincing him of the futile nature of his endless worries only leaves me half-fagged to death. I swear I sometimes wonder if he has windmills in his head.

Heavens! I seem to be running on endlessly about nothing in particular, no doubt sounding quite as fatiguing as Lord Calvin. A lowering reflection indeed.

To be sure, I adore my tiresome beau but of late he does seem to worry needlessly about sadly trivial matters such as the tickets for his imminent return. Sincerely hope it's not the initial symptoms of the ague.

When shall I be quit of this tiresome duty!

Since he has been seconded to that barbarous northern capital of Peking till the end of winter, I steeled myself knowing that I shan't see him till January at the earliest but in his last missive - delivered ventre à terre by the intrepid dispatchers, it seems that Calvin has managed to manoeuvre his way to a return ticket on the next steamer bound for the Malayas. By rights, one would imagine that Calvin would have been cast into delightful transports but instead he finds himself worrying instead over the quality of steam ships bound for home.

Unable to purchase last-minute tickets from our national carrier ( on account of some colourful local festivities, I believe ), he finds himself balking at the thought of recklessly casting his lot with a relatively new native company, quite certain that the shoddy substandard steamers would sink forgotten to the watery depths of the deep blue sea.

Calvin : Lost at sea! Oh woe is me! Is that to be my final epitaph?
Paul : Good heavens, my man. You're simply trying to hoax me! Now, pray tell me the whole!
Calvin : Me on an inferior tawdry carrier? God forbid! Almost shabby-genteel!
Paul : Then I believe you have no choice but to depend on the common ferryboats, m'dear. Excessively uncomfortable, I'm afraid, and certainly a step down for you. Quite beneath your touch, I'm sure.
Calvin : Blasted ferryboats!? You're shamming me!
Paul : Economical, I assure you! And it certainly would help lighten the load of your crushing debts.
Calvin : But why?

Back and forth we went - and I'm sure I haven't heard the end of this discussion. At the end the volatile fellow insisted that he'd rather throw himself off in a barrel rather than lower himself to the likes of ferryboats patronized by dowdy provincials. We shall see.

With autumn inching its way into the streets of Peking, I believe the chill in the air has infected his brain. Rather than participate in the orgiastic jollifications in store for an adventurous bachelor over in the wild uncivilized north, our brooding gentleman prefers instead to ruminate over wine and books in his solitary apartment.

No doubt counting out the numerous ways to hate Peking. :)

N.B. As you can see, this is a requested post by Charming Calvin after falling into the charms of Pemberley. Yes, I do requests :P Haven't written in this vein in quite a while so you can blame the oddities on him. And for those who haven't a clue what I've said previously, what it means is that Calvin's gonna be back in the next few days - if and when he finally gets his hands on a plane ticket.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hometown Idol

Haven't been back home since I came back from Beijing so my Tibetan stool's still sitting at the corner.

At work, we usually get swamped with a mountain of onerous work after taking some amount of time off. Kinda sweet revenge from the rest of our colleagues still slogging pitilessly at the grind :) Still I do get messages from my merciful friends back home. Had a very funny message late at night from an inebriated Big Bicep Barry no doubt back from one of his drunken weekend revelries :)

Barry : I won! I won!
Paul : The wet t-shirt contest?
Barry : No! I won a singing contest! Well, admittedly in a lil village concert but still... some of my gym friends put my name down for a singing competition and I won a trophy!
Paul : Your Gymbot Gang? With no warning?
Barry : You really call them that? Yeah, they just suddenly pushed me to the stage. I sang a Mandarin song - some of the rest sang Hokkien songs.
Paul : You didn't unbutton your shirt and shake your moneymakers, I take it.
Barry : Not much need to. I doubt the judges would have been impressed. Two uncles and this lady.
Paul : GASP. Just like American Idol! Did the lady comment on your pitching? Did the uncle in the tight tee say rubbish in a posh Brit accent?
Barry : No nasty comments. They wouldn't dare. My friends - the Gymboy Gang as you say - were sitting close by ready to throttle them if they commented.

Can you possibly imagine getting on stage in front of everyone and belting out a Hokkien song? Much less with the judges' committee frowning critically right in front. Certainly no dazzling Tracy Turnblad who can burst out into song at cue so I'd probably freak out the moment the spotlight hits me! Stage jitters, always had them! Minute the director calls on me, I find my knees turning to jelly and my throat literally choking up.

But I am trying to overcome that weakness :) Would love to perform on stage sometime in the future but that doesn't mean that I'll be ready for an impromptu performance anytime soon. Of course once you've got me started on stage and warmed up, it's almost impossible to tear me away from the mike :)

Me, sing in public? Oh but I couldn't... I'm so ... so... shy!

Some boys though adore the spotlight. Barry himself isn't immune to the nigh-irresistible lure of the stage, our versatile man has been up there a couple of times since I've known him and obviously shown himself quite adept at holding an audience captive. Well at least without getting brickbats or rotten tomatoes tossed at him.

Then again if I had a hulking, silently threatening Gymbot Gang close by ever ready to deal with unpleasant reviews, I'd be all too willing to strut my stuff as well.

Judge : What was that ear-splitting caterwauling? That was utter rubbish.
Neanderthal : You make fun of friend. Hulk thump you now. Break bones.
Judge : What are you talking.. oww oww oww oww...

Always good to have a friend.


Hey look out for that moving van
Driving down our streets
You better lock up your man
Before he meets
The new mall in town

Been to the spanking new mall in town, the Pavilion ( was there any doubt? ) and I believe it rocks! Amazing design, endless plazas, airy wakways but shockingly low balconies just perfect to send that persistent enemy of yours plunging down seven floors. The mall's not fully open yet but it shows such sweet promise. And btw there's a small cafe in the basement level that hasn't opened yet but you'll find me there soon since it shares my name :)

See ya at Paul's.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Breaking & Entering

Feel all macho this morning.

Guess my criminal streak isn't over yet since you see I just broke down a door.

Don't worry. Haven't gone insane. It wasn't Zac Efron's door and his virtue is still intact, I think ( lest a certain Miz Hudgens had her way ).

We heard you needed help with a door?

Earlier this morning, one of my more ... obtuse colleagues accidentally locked herself out of the female oncall room - effectively locking in the one and only set of keys needed to open the door in with her belongings. Imagine her wild unconsolable hysteria at 6 in the morning. Curiously, no one else seemed to be around the general vicinity but me - no doubt frightened away by her accompanying keening banshee wails at such an ungodly hour.

Took me a moment to survey the surrounding area looking for vulnerable spots. To guard the unimpeachable virtue of the sainted ladies in the department, a door has been placed made of solid oak ( unsurprisingly you can imagine the flimsy cardboard one they have on the boys' side ) - no doubt a chastity belt sponsored by the department for the virginal maidens.

Seemed like a little daytime B & E was warranted in this case. My initial clumsy attempts at lock-picking didn't seem to do the trick - apart from highly taxing my patience - so I finally gave up and decided to get tough instead.

Took a deep breath, told the little lady to step aside and let this man do his work. You know in the movies when the big tough guy encounters a locked door and rams the immovable object with his tough-as-steel shoulders? Never imagined that it would work ( Charming Calvin claims it has been summarily disproved by Mythbusters ) but I decided that it was worth the old college try so I did just that.

And shockingly enough it worked - and the flimsy door locks came off its hinges. And I didn't dislocate my shoulder as I feared. Obviously their locks were of sadly inferior quality. :P Wouldn't you know they have a door that's quite as solid as the Great Wall yet the hinges are barely hanging on?

Still, I feel so manly out of a sudden. Wanna roar loudly and beat my chest, I swear. Feel like going out after this to swagger down the street whistling lewdly at the chicks, maybe spit on the ground a few times before heading to the bar for a warm brewski.

Maybe I'll even hunt down some wild animal tomorrow, fry it over a spit and eat it with my bare hands.

Five for Fighting

Already been tagged twice for this famous five meme so since I've been trying to wean myself off the entire recent Zac Efron obsession, I've decided try this out.

Luke McFarlane
You wanna know all these about lil old me? Aww shucks, you're making me blush...

Five Things in my Bag
1) My faithful tho barely serviceable stethoscope! Need to get a new one
2) A thumb drive full of my mini lectures
3) Several mystery novels to while away the time
4) Hairspray Soundtrack
5) Umbrella so that when it's raining more than ever, know that we'll still have each other... you can stand under my umbrella

Five Things in my Wallet
1) Usual paraphernalia of identification cards, driver's license, credit cards...
2) Every favoured client membership card you can possibly think of from Isetan to Parkson... to Rock Corner to Papier...
3) Bunch of old chinese coins strung together with red thread for esoteric feng shui purposes...
4) American dollars surprisingly hidden in the flap - ever ready
5) Medical Association Membership Card - for proof of my secret identity in case I wanna run around resuscitating drowning folks or rescuing accident victims

Five Things I Like most in my Room
1) My glittery, shiny posh Indian peacock blue bedspread with silver threads...
2) My carved deep green cabinet from Bali - that I bargained hard for and got it for dirt-cheap by our standards. Bet it's even cheaper for the locals
3) The Burmese teak cabinet my ISO and I dragged back one antique-ing weekend
4) My laptop of course - and the internet connexion
5) The desperately cute lil television I bought to match the cabinet - barely larger than 20 inches but I purposely chose a small one

Five Things I'd like to Do
1) Chris Evans / Brandon Routh / Zac Efron - whether singly or all three together, I don't mind either :P
2) Travel to the places on my Blue List
3) Learn how to dance - somehow never got the finishing this!
4) Attempt my scrapbook by the end of the year
5) Perform on stage ( no equus-like dirty dancing with horses or other assorted farm animals though ) with the spotlights with an extraodinarily lenient audience :P

Five Things I’m Doing Now
1) Well typing this blog obviously
2) Reading through journals for my presentation - possibly something on bacterial contamination
3) Listening to Hairspray
4) Drinking my rationed cup of coffee and some croissants
5) Chatting to a sleepy Charming Calvin in his Beijing office - isn't technology amazing?

Luke McFarlane
Life's too unpredictable to look too far into the future. Who knows, I might even be in the army!

Five Things I'm Looking Forward To
1) Tomorrow when my workday ends at 8 in the morning! Hallelujah!
2) My movie date with the nicest kids in town - possibly a replay of Love and Honor
3) Christmas!! Well my tree's still up embarassingly enough since I've been too lazy - and far too tired - on the weekends to take it down. Gonna switch the ornaments though
4) Calvin's return from Beijing - hopefully none the worse for wear
5) Finishing my exams in another two years - and then taking a long, long break

No tags. It's a cute meme. Do it if you want to, no strings attached :) After all, it's always interesting to find out what's actually going on in your mind. Would force Calvin to do it but he's just gonna cry about being overworked by the mainland Chinese. As it is, he's already dying to get back home.

Calvin : Can't wait to leave Beijing.
Paul : Ooh get me the Hairspray 'Shake and Shimmy' Edition DVD for Christmas!
Calvin : Get me a condo for Christmas!
Paul : No problem, sugarbuns. I'll get you Barbie's Li'l Beachside Condo with swaying palm trees included.
Calvin : Then you get Barbie's Hairspray DVD.

See. He does dry humour in Beijing.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Criminal Obsession

Zac Efron has turned me into a criminal.

Seriously, by rights I should be placed behind bars possibly awaiting the grim executioner - or the more lenient life imprisonment. Not guilty of love in the first degree but of something far worse...

Or maybe not.

Out in the field
These icy blondes mean nothing to me, dude!
So come here and get me with my cool 'tude...

Whatever I say next would be totally hypothetical ( possibly wildly imaginary ) if you're somehow affiliated with the law - no matter how tenuous - but if you're not ( and perhaps sympathetic with inadvertent lawbreakers ), just read on.

You see, after work today I stole away to catch an afternoon screening of Hairspray ( only my second time really! ) pleased to find the cinema relatively empty apart from a gaggle of giggling schoolgirls, two lovey-dovey couples and a handful of musically-inclined fags scattered around. How else would you explain solo bachelors who scurry into cinemas with manbags to watch a song-and-dance?

If you'd been there this afternoon, you might have chanced to see me shimmying and twisting at the back aisles - embarassingly enough. Fortunately it was really dark, the music was really loud and no one noticed ( I hope pray to God! ) me clumsily re-enacting scenes showing on the screen. Like the kids say I just couldn't stop the beat, I swear! Might even have twisted my ankle with the mashed potato. Not that it was particularly criminal. Don't worry, I didn't kill anyone in the audience with my off-key warbling.

However later inspired by the musical, I took a stroll down to one of the chain bookstores cropping up in the city to check out the Hairspray Companion Book - a collector's album chock-full of delicious information about the singular phenomenon. A tad pricey I'll admit but it looked totally worth it with surprising little inserts between the pages such as handy booklets, postcards and leaflets here and there. Almost as good as being at the movies. Even small WYZT envelopes full of treats such as collector cards featuring the white-bread Council Kids, and of course the coolest cat of all, Link Larkin.

Zac Efron
Please please Tracy babe, don't have a cow!
Forgive me, I belong to Paul now!

While browsing through the pages, somehow or rather Link's card slipped out of the pocket envelope so I placed it aside hoping to look at it later. Didn't think of it at the time but later after I'd returned the book to the counter I found that I'd forgotten to check whether I'd placed the picture back in the pocket.

Slipped my mind honestly. Assumed that it had been clipped safely between the pages and blithely wandered out of the store only to find the incriminating something fallen into my bag during dinner. Colour me surprised. Took me awhile to register the fact that I might have committed grand theft larceny since I was too busy staring at Link ( ... oh my Zac Efron ). I could hardly believe that the picture could have somehow fallen into my bag.

What are the chances? Bloody hell. It was destiny. I figure it was simply God's way of showing that Zac and I were possibly meant to be together. Yes, I can hear the bells. Doesn't stop me from feeling like a juvenile delinquent though.

Now assuming that the fictional story I just spun was somehow true, how do I return it?

BTW last post about Hairspray, I swear! You know Scorpios either love it or hate it? No wishy-washy in-betweens? Well I've gone right off the bend with this one. :P Even Charming Calvin is starting to complain about my rabid fixation. Maybe somebody get me the Two-Disc “Shake and Shimmy” Edition Gift Set! That would certainly help.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

High School Musical

I think I must have missed something in high school.

Tends to happen a lot with gay boys, I'm sure. While our classmates are busy struggling with burgeoning hormones, suddenly hairy chests and a curiously growing obsession with the happenings in the convent next door, we find ourselves increasingly alienated from the rest of the herd - not for any other reason but the fact that we find ourselves far more interested in what actually goes on between the boys in the showers. Hard trying to join in on a heated discussion on Miss Thang's distinctly expanding bosom when I really couldn't care less :)

Teen DreamsFunny part was while the boys were busy wondering how a girl felt like in their arms, I'd already experimented before and casually dismissed it as a phase :) Nothing too wild though, just a friendly cuddle and a quick peck on the lips. I obviously much preferred rough tumbling a ready stud ( say something like Chris Evans ) onto the ground.

Still for the others, high school must have been an exciting whirlwind of teen rebellion, endless parties and tentative forays into the dating scene. Floundered and stumbled through all that as well but there was also another side that I kept hidden behind lock and key. A secret world of budding though confusing mancrushes, secret glances and inexplicable yearnings for boys to remove their kits :)

Seeing a couple of the teen dreamboats snapping towels in the changing rooms certainly got me all hot and bothered but it never occurred to me to actually make a move. Not only afraid of the disastrous consequences if they took offence but also terrified of what would actually happen if they actually acquiesced. What happens then!

Took a while for me to realize that my ISO had similar leanings since he seemed to breeze without a care through high school. At least that's what it looked like superficially ( could be his awesomely gelled-up curls :) )since on the inside he was wracked with just as many teenage doubts and dilemmas. No one's perfect after all.

So I figure if my high school life was made into a musical, it would go something like this.

Girls! Girls! Girls!
No doubt the obligatory opening chorus with a view of the entire suffering all-boys school lamenting the lack of companions of the female variety in the testosterone wasteland - and an a cappella trio mooning over the wall at the convent next door. And there's me leaning at the wall totally blase wondering what's the matter, hardly fazed by the oestrogen shortage.

The Bane of my Life
Which would be exams. I think almost every high school student facing the terrifying thought of exams would be able to write an entire rousing marching song fervently protesting the injustice of state examinations.

Get Me Out of PE
This would certainly be a solo in the changing room as I start dragging on my sports shoes while whining about the sheer imbecilic plan of dragging everyone off into the muddy fields just to run around mindlessly after a single ball.

Out in the field
Out on the Sports Field!

Changing Room Blues
And then later after the football game, you have me again singing a wistful paean while stealing lustful glances at some of the better-developed boys. Randy, virile teen dreams covered in perspiration... certainly a vast change from the crude, skinny runts I ran with back in primary school. So when did I start having such wicked intentions?

Tuition Time
Finally with the convent girls on the scene as well as they come in all prim and proper in sleek skirts and dainty heels while the gangly, clumsy boys ( certainly underdeveloped mentally ) slouch at the back of the room in their flip flops and ratty shorts muttering. Not sure if this would be a charming duet but most probably it'll be a give-and-take between the two.

Someday My Prince Will Come?
Standing with my back to the wall at the prerequisite weekend teen party drinking from the punch bowl while avidly watching the couples twirling on the dancefloor ( with a few practically attempting the lambada ), I start questioning myself with a song - don't they always? - while my ISO stands on the opposite end watching. Am I actually hankering after a prince? And is it me or does my ISO look especially becoming tonight?

High School Musicals certainly aren't always what they seem :) So any hit songs that I missed?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mission Impossible

Pretty much been labelled a shocking deviant by most of my friends. Not for the raunchy reasons most of you are thinking up at the moment though.

You see, a number of my friends are amateur photographers, keen enthusiasts all armed 24/7 with their trusty cameras wildly eager on getting that perfect shot. Hell, a single well-placed lamp-pole could garner fifty digital shots at the least. Lanky Lex even spends thousands on his supermagical photolens thingamajig. Even Big Bicep Barry practically worships his curiously accident-prone camera.

Zac Efron
Damn I look good!

For me, I'm the total opposite. Don't get me wrong. I do have a camera purchased shortly before my Turkish Expedition though I hardly snapped any pics apart from the awe-inspiring Hagia Sophia. Without my brother's regular nags ( himself also an enthusiast ), I doubt I'd even snap a single picture. Western Europe barely registered on my camera with only fifty shots - mostly the duly required shots of myself cheesily grinning at the Eiffel Tower, the Notredame and the Big Ben. Even the entire Australian continent has been summarized into fifteen pictures for me.

I always assume there are better pictures than the ones that I take ( hence my obsession with posters, postcards and souvenirs ) and hell, anyone else would make a better subject than me. No doubt if I looked like the impossibly perfect teendream Zac Efron, I'd have an encylopaedia of photobooks already. Probably with life-size posters to give away after each trip as well :)

Hairspray car ride
Pictures! Pictures! Pictures!

But times are a-changing and so am I. So this last trip to Beijing, I made quite an effort in taking photographs as Charming Calvin would surely attest, absolutely determined to return with at least two dozen pictures. Did the victory sign at the Great Wall, squinted at the camera at the Forbidden Palace and even duly waved a miniature flag at Tiananmen Square. Terribly touristy!

Succeeded in getting the numbers I wanted but only barely. Try going around begging strangers to snap a picture - while wondering suspiciously if they're gonna make away with the spanking new cam.

Still it's already quite enough to fill up a scrapbook especially with the numerous mementoes I dragged home. Calvin has been charged to bring back some extra Mao badges for me to pin. Anything heavier and he'd probably cry. So no hunky muscular Chinese soldiers to clip to the pages though. But yes, I've found a new craze for myself and I've already gotten my work scissors, epoxy glue sticks, sheet protectors and other basic tools for scrapbooking.

I know. A friend told me I'm turning into quite the Midwestern suburban housewife.

Monday, September 17, 2007

You Can't Stop The Beat

You know that particular tune you can't get out of your head? Hear it once, twice - and then it keeps repeating in your head no matter what you do? Stroll down the sidewalk when suddenly it hits you again like a ton of bricks and you feel like dancing to the beat?

bop-bee-ba, ba-ba-ba-ba, bee-ba

Well, now imagine that you have an entire fuckin soundtrack playing in your head. Certainly more variety but it's driving me mad :) Not that I mind it. Always good to have a little bit of insanity going around in our dull mundane world.

Zac Efron
Shake it!

Ever since I purchased the soundtrack to the musical Hairspray, I've been playing it on constant rotation - even smuggled it into the operating theatre just the other day where I shimmied and jived to the traffic-stopping Link Larkin as brains were cut open on the surgical table. There was even a rumour going around that a cool cat in blue scrubs was doing the mashed potato whle raving about Ultra Clutch Hairspray in the empty theatre at one in the morning.

Which explains how I almost broke out into song singing about the New Girl in Town when I met Beret Bill today ( I already sang Good Morning Baltimore as I woke up in the morning though I didn't manage to hitch a ride on a dumpster truck on my way home ). Fortunately he managed to overlook the musically manic look in my eyes and shook my hand quite amiably - despite the fact that I was visibly tapping my feet to a brand new beat.

Since Bill was obviously new in town, I brought him for lunch with some of the nicest kids in town. Oddly enough when they finally arrived, there was no roll call as they walked in to swinging sixties music.

bop-bee-ba, ba-ba-ba-ba, bee-ba

With work calling, Lanky Lex and Jaunty Jared couldn't stay long though so it was back to the daily grind for them. Which left me to take Bill for a cool ride around the city pointing out the pretty sights ( a few outlined in his handy guidebook! ) blithely wondering whether he could hear the bells. Was a little afraid it was all in my deranged lil head so I declined asking whether he could actually hear them chime.

Wouldn't do to scare the tourists away!

Hairspray car ride
Why is she grinning away? Can she hear the bells too?

Yes, I do get occasionally obsessed. Can already imagine getting my words all tangled during the early morning meeting with my colleagues.

Colleague : Any questions on this latest procedure? Do you think we should implement this?
Paul : You can't stop an avalanche as it races down the hill, you can try to stop the seasons, girl but ya know you never will!
Colleague : Huh? You really think so, Paul?
Paul : Yes, after all... you can't stop the beat ever since this old world began. A woman found out if she shook it, she could shake up a man and so I'm gonna shake and shimmy it the best that I can today!

No doubt a psych evaluation will be forthcoming.

Note : Of course, this entire bizarre rant would not make much sense unless you've seen the movie Hairspray so what you waiting for? :)

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Starting to think that most guys I know over here are pretty much undersexed. Is it something in the water over here? Or a general prudishness amongst well-brought-up Chinese boys?

Despite having adequate opportunity, multiple safe havens for wicked trysts and a fair number of generous offers, the handful here are practically ascetic monks on a strict sex fast. Late-night supper orgies are alien to them, latex gloves are only meant for dish-washing and leather's strictly for briefcases. Sex is practically an item-to-do listed down on the weekly schedule for a half hour after dinner on Saturdays :P

Gale Harold
No sex? Fuck, then I might as well leave then...

Why the sudden hysteria on my part? Well today a chaste friend of mine claimed that he doesn't necessarily think of sex with his boyfriend all the time! :O

Shockingly a couple of virile, active bachelors can actually lie together in bed chatting about mundane daily events - without having their discarded briefs end up hanging listlessly from the ceiling fan. According to my virtuous buddy ( who shall remain anonymous ), they can even spend hours talking about godawfuldull birdwatching.

And this is the regular mynah and pigeon appraisal we're talking about. Just talk. No sultry eye contact. No hand-touching. No nipple-pinching. No leg-rubbing. Nothing of the slam-against-the-wall-and-fuck variety. Knowing the other guy to be all too receptive, I'd have at least risked a quick crotch grab.

Are testosterone levels falling due to chemical pollutants? So much for guys thinking of sex every nine seconds - the ones I know only think of them every nine days.

Nine days of celibacy. I'd go crazy.

Probably start humping innocent trees.

My motto is simple enough. Anytime, anyplace, anyhow - don't even need that God-damned flat surface. No doubt I might have been an insatiable nympho whore in some decadent Roman bordello in a past life. Hell what am I saying? Still pretty much a screaming 'ho even now :P

Always assumed that my sexual appetites would mellow with age but it doesn't seem to be any different from my randy teenage years. Heck if Chris Evans / Brandon Routh were to walk into the room right now looking all available, I'd be jumping his bones right in the middle of the cafeteria in full view of the astonished hoi polloi.

Shameless, I know.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Domestic Goddess

Sometime's a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. And sometimes that means looking for a woman.

Search through my blog and you'll see that it's just about time that I hired a new maid - since it's been two years since then. Since my agent called up just last night to set an appointment ( and I had a packed back-breaking schedule next week ), I had to extend my eleventh hour apologies to my mates who had planned a karaoke lunch today.

Hot Chinese
Hire me, sir. Work hard, I will!

Let me tell you that it's no easy job rifling through dozens of cookie-cutter applications with Stepford maids all dressed in frilly nondescript aprons with freakishly similar painfully smiling expressions. All amazingly versed in multiple languages ( despite only having primary education! ), able to present an entire imperial banquet with mouthwatering dishes straight out of a cordon bleu cookbook and able to juggle the geriatrics, the paediatrics and also the ability-challenged with one hand tied behind the back.

Wonder women, I tell ya.

What I usually resort to is an ad-hoc version of Pin the Ribbon on the Maid. Left to my own devices, I'd have stubbornly shut my eyes, waved my finger about and blithely chosen one of the applications at random - praying hard to the gods above that I don't accidentally pick some raving psychotic lunatic. Fortunately I have what has to amount to the most demanding agent ever - no doubt a rigidly exacting, persnickety Chinese matchmaker in a past life.

Sneaking looks over the pile of applications in front of me, the agent shook her head and tsked over some of the choices, nodding over some amiable gals while forcefully tearing some of the untouchables out of my hands in disgust. Our conversation went something like that.

Paul : So hard to choose only from a picture!
Agent : No, no. Trust your instincts. This one has the shifty-eyed snitch look. Not that one either, far too promiscuous fox looking girl. Look at her plucked eyebrows!
Paul : How about this one?
Agent : Too fat. No good. Probably thinking of food all the time, hardly work.
Paul : Poor maligned Tracy Turnblad.
Agent : What you say? You like this girl? No, sir. Far too young, too pretty. She might tempt you into dirty deeds.
Paul : Highly unlikely, trust me. How about this? Well, she's not hefty nor is she young so you can't possibly raise any objections.
Agent : No, much too thin! And not married some more.
Paul : And being married guarantees a harder worker? No wonder I'm a lazy bugger.
Agent : No, sir. Single they will look around, thinking of boyfriend all the time. Married also no good. They will think of lonely husband at home running after other women.
Paul : So I'm stuck with the lithe aged widows?
Agent : Yes, see this!

Seriously, I doubt I'd have had such stringent criteria even for a bride had I the inclination. Almost wished I'd picked the more attractive ones but I changed my mind after noting the horrified expression on the prudish agent's face, no doubt imagining that this suspicious bachelor was up to no good with her virginal foreign maids.

Hell, unless the pretty maids all in a row looked anything like Zac Efron or Chris Evans, I find it highly unlikely that I'd be tempted into a sordid dalliance. Unfortunately they only hire out male foreign workers for industrial odd jobs so there goes my faint dreams of having a private harem of dark-skinned Burmese Adonises.

Which is how I got landed with Java Jane. A merry widow past the marriageable age of uncertain means with two kids to bring up.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Big on Personality

Forget about torturous diets, rigorous gym routines and fabulous designer wardrobes. If you really wanna land that awesome clean-cut hottie next door and get him down on his knees begging, all you have to do is weigh a ton ( or two ), love your sweet mama's country fried lard-filled chicken and have a whole load of sparkling personality.

Oh. Don't forget to have tons of hairspray on.

Zac Efron
Getting down on his knees!

No doubt the hapless hunk would get intoxicated by the overpowering alcohol scent from your bouffant hairdo and fall heedlessly right into your lap. Listen to the advice of the plus-sized ( and guilelessly big-hearted ) sophomore Tracy Turnblad whose cherished dream is to dance alongside the other telegenic, white-bread Stepford teenyboppers on the Corny Collins Show. And to land the resident dreamboat Link Larkin of course. And if possible to have everyday be a Negro Day in a vaguely utopian dream of racial integration.

Big dreams for this whopper of a gal but Ms Turnblad ( played by spunky novice Nikki Blonsky ) certainly carries it off with style and enthusiasm! Didn't expect much from this good-hearted celebratory musical when I heard about it but I found myself falling in love with it nonetheless.

Yes. I am THAT gay.

What can I say? Crinolines and hemlines, shiny spitcurls and bouffant hairdos ( are they flammable? ), the twist and jive - you just gotta love them. :) The end of the fabulous fifties leading to the swinging sixties and also a take-home message from the engaging heroine to be proud of being different, no matter whether it's size, shape or colour. Of course since it's a musical set in the innocent naivete of the fifties, darker sociopolitical undertones such as racism, segregation and teenage sexuality are liberally sugarcoated with bright toothpaste smiles and cheery showtunes.

Me, I'm not sure if my personality would sparkle and shimmer as much as the effervescent Ms Turnblad - so I recklessly took the plunge to find out. After all, we all know Scorpios simply can't resist delving into the watery depths of their inner souls, maybe wallowing an hour or two to investigate every dark hidden crevice marked keep out to trespassers. Who knows what kinda buried childhood trauma could be unearthed with some digging.

Click to view my Personality Profile page

The Examiner it says. Bloody hell, turns out I'm a distressingly dull dependable inspector sort who's indeed suited to being a medical doctor :P Unless something drastic changes, definitely no dancing and singing on stage under the spotlights for me.

Though it does seems as if that would be a perfect match for the Entertainer sort kinda like Link Larkin ( played to perfection by a suitably Elviesque Zac Efron )? Damn, how did a kid that young look so good? Not sure whether I want to punch the hunky near-jailbait out of green-eyed envy or slam him against the wall to suck on his tonsils. I know, I know, he's young enough to be my ... kid brother ( I'm not ancient yet! ) but hell, a man can dream, right? Till then I can be satisfied watching him shake his moneymaker.

Come over here, boy!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Beijing VII : The Long March

My last morning in Beijing was a mad-cap rush as we both hurried through getting read - Charming Calvin for work and me for my journey home. Took a while before we realized that we weren't going to be seeing each other for some length of time, at least till he comes back for his break at the end of the year. No tearful farewells though. :)

Still I will miss seeing his goofy smile every morning.

Made my way to the capital airport in record time - thanks to a particularly insane taxi driver - but was held up at the ticketing counter due to a shockingly slow agent who pored through each and every travel document before issuing the boarding pass. To make her speed up the process, I could have knocked her pretty little head with my Tibetan stool but I was half-afraid that I'd exceeded the baggage limit.

Which I did. By a smidgen. Or four. That happens when you have 3 painting scrolls, 2 water-colours, a lacquered Tibetan stool, an ethnic drum, illustrated books, wooden carvings, porcelain statues and other souvenir paraphernalia ( from magnets to mugs to scarves ).

Thankfully she overlooked that little misdemeanour in her hurry to hand me the pass ( with the other ten in line behind me glaring daggers at her ).

One thing I noticed the minute I got on the plane was the serious lack of man-candy. Sure the ladies looked their immaculate best as usual but the standards for stewards have slipped tremendously. For some time, I've held delicious male stewards as the standard for regular man-about-town hotness but I believe I'll have to find another yardstick.

Huang XM
Cute stewards

Usually half an hour into the flight, I'd be easily having instant orgasms fantasizing about checking out the cockpit of an especially luscious male steward - or even shoving the hapless hunk into the toilet for a personal inspection of his cabin ( for mile-high wannabes, not to be recommended since you bump onto every edge on the tiny space, believe me ). One memorable flight to London I even caught the scrumptious sight of a buff crew member changing.

On this particular flight, not a single one caught my fancy surprisingly! They all looked like me. Ugh. I can barely pass for human.

So this flight home I preferred instead to drool over the beefcake sitting next to me. Seriously a totally HAWT DILF ( Dad I Like to Fuck ). Piercing eyes, a square jaw, biceps of death and unfortunately a bright cheery toddler resting on his broad, brawny shoulders. Man-candy enough to keep me fascinated for the entire six hour journey while I recounted the things I learnt about the folks in Beijing.

1) Personal hygiene issues

Privacy issues and open toilets aside ( why the shocking aversion to toilet doors? ), what's with all the spitting? Do they carry so much phlegm? Do they find it particularly cultured to hack, cough and spit at regular intervals? Time they carried personal spittoons around.

2) Traffic madness

Forget about bungee jumping and extreme sports. You want adrenaline thrills? Go for a drive in Beijing. Inching between other irate drivers, crazed bicyclists and valorous pedestrians crossing en masse regardless of traffic signs will surely be enough to raise the blood pressure.

3) Allergy to queues

Obviously queueing is a purely bourgeouis Western concept. I like it. Unfortunately the millions in China don't seem to grasp that concept. Why else do they push and shove to the front of the queue just to throw their money at the till? Regardless of who's standing at the front. Not only does this happen in uncivilized railway stations, it also happens at the regular McDonald's. You wouldn't believe the number of death stares I've given to these rude vermin. Unfortunately after shrinking from my stare, they only look back in utter confusion not realizing their faux pas.

4) Walking chimneys

Old World
Smoking trails

Despite the regular health warnings, Chinese men and their cigarettes are not soon to be parted unfortunately. Hence the prevalence of smoking trails wherever their men go. Paired with their predilection for alcohol during celebratory dinners ( with mini kanpeis at every other occasion ), I doubt healthy lungs / livers are all that common amongst their men.

5) Fast food

The poor mainland Chinese are being taken for a ride by Western conglomerates. Just take a look at the itty-bitty chicken drumsticks served up by the Colonel for nearly double the amount we're paying for. Small enough that I mistook it for a damned fried pigeon! And I haven't even gotten to the burgers and pizzas yet.

Little gripes only though. Doesn't mean I'm not happily contemplating my next trip to China again :) Although hunky Huang Xiaoming moneyboys were pretty hard to find, there were so many other things to buy - and damned cheap to boot. Already given me ideas to open a curio shop of my own. Come on, 50 bucks for a stool that I can easily sell here for 400 bucks with a practised spiel? Now to look for a silent partner :P

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Beijing VI : The Sun Also Rises

Well that's what I expected this morning.

Unfortunately what I saw out the apartment balcony this mornng was a faint glimmer of light obscured by dense yellow-tinted clouds of pollution. Even the towering steel-and-stone skyscrapers of Jianguomen were hidden from view. Obviously a brief reminder of the annual sandstorms that regularly sweep over Beijing in spring.

Old World
What should I do today?

Still, a bit of dust and sand failed to deter me on my last day in Beijing. After all I still had some shopping to be done - and hell I needed an extra bag to keep all my goods. :P Tagged down every major department store on the map, wrote them all in Chinese and covered them all in a shopping marathon reminiscent of the Amazing Race.

In between ancient pharmacies, tourist traps and touts yelling in broken English, I managed to find time for another bite of Peking Duck. Came with an extra side of hot chrysanthemum tea that I struggled to finish even as the friendly waiter practised his stammering English with me ( after spending some time trying his best to understand my pidgin Mandarin ). I didn't mind though. After all I had the entire day, free flow of tea and the Beijing Boy was cute enough.

Waiter : You come from out of this country?
Paul : Yes.
Waiter : Singapore? Australia?
Paul : From Malaysia actually. How about you?
Waiter : I come from Liaoning Province. East of Beijing. You hear of this place?
Paul : Hear of it? No matter where you come from, right now I'd like to pack you in a delivery box and fedex you home.
Waiter : What? What did you say?

Nothing too wild. I didn't even try hard to proposition the earnest boy - though I was half-tempted to do so after learning the wicked decadent ways of the ladies from the Peony Pavilion. Certainly an interesting ( and highly seductive ) way to play Chinese poker.

Isn't the actor delicious? WHo wouldn't want to get him naked? I could just bite him.
Someone tell me who's the cutie!

Just a leisurely afternoon chatting with a pretty boy from Liaoning. Seemed like the perfect way to end my last day in Beijing.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Beijing V : Toast of Tientsin

When I mentioned a short trip down south, Charming Calvin repeated this oft-repeated joke that war-hungry invaders once intent on dropping bombs in China changed their minds after looking at Tianjin. Seemed like someone had already ravaged the city before their arrival.

Well Tianjin isn't all that bad :) A walk down the tree-lined avenues of downtown Tianjin is like being transported into a vaguely European city in the early twentieth century. Old Tientsin as it was known then with its elegant townhouses and French-inspired chateaus, prominent banking institutions lined with glorified Roman columns - albeit all covered with a layer of construction dust and an inimitable dash of Chinese evident in the gazillions of signboards plastered randomly over the edifices of the historical buildings.

The Chinese love their signs evidently.

Since pre-revolutionary years, downtown Tianjin seems to have stood frozen in time until recent years with the arrival of overzealous wrecking crews intent on demolishing each and every historical quarter in sight for the erection of new-fangled avant garde metal monstrosities.

Old World
Old-world elegance?

A fine example would be the hotel we stayed in for an evening, the dignified Astor Hotel - certainly the grande dame of hotels in days long past. Dignitaries and princes, emperors and songstresses have all made their way to this premier hotel in the glory days of Tianjin. Handsome marshals charmed their refined debutantes in the grand ballroom while Tibetan monks chanted in a special room upstairs. Rather than focus on the charming old-world decor of the original interiors with the vintage elevators and the aged wood-panellings, the hoteliers added an entirely new wing - an ostentatious and overdone generic block with little charm nor elegance that seemed oddly out of place with its surroundings in the European Concessions.

I found it well worth it just to soak in the old world atmosphere but I'm sure Calvin would argue otherwise. Poor guy didn't find much to admire in dusty colonial buildings, I'm afraid.

Still for those intending to travel out of Beijing by rail, be warned. The mainland Chinese thrive on chaos. Not only are their restaurants stereotypically mad and chaotic, their railway stations are doubly so. Touts and tourists, hawkers and commuters alike shove and jostle their way while yeling at the top of their lungs in a mindless melee through the thousands milling around the railway stations. Just picture the last American helicopters fleeing Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War.

And for those who don't read a word of Chinese ( or only know a bare few like me ) you'd find yourself utterly lost in the glorious tribute to communism - otherwise known as the Beijing Railway Station. Sure they have raucuous crowds leading the way to the dozens of ticket booths selling fare to God-knows-where - but every damn thing is in Chinese. Still it's a sure-fire way to fix the words Beijing in your head. 北京.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Beijing Part IV : Cultural Revolution

I've found a place to love in Beijing. Though I'm sure an exhausted and thoroughly bored Charming Calvin would beg to differ.

Somewhere just outside the ancient city gates lies a shaded glen where beleaguered households down on their luck assemble to shamefully hock their family heirlooms in the relative anonymity of dawn's early light. Hardly any pines or cypreses left, jam-packed highways zip across on either side but the reputed thieves' market survives and thrives especially with the recent onslaught of revolutionary Chinese commerce. Not to mention mad tourists like me.

Early morning
What can I sell today?

After trudging wearily ( and almost reluctantly, poor fella ) behind me today, Calvin would readily assure anyone within hearing distance that I collect utter rubbish. And I'm proud of it too. Happily for my unusual hobby, what seems like the entire accoutrements of centuries past in China has been collected and presented for sale at the infamous Panjiayuan Market.

Or at least a perfectly made reproduction of said thingamabob.

If there is a particularly trinket - the tackier the better - found anywhere in China, rest assured you will find it here. From Ming pottery to Mao-memorabilia, from Jingdezhen teacups to jade bracelets, from military binoculars to miniature deities, Panjiayuan has a little bit of everything, including oil paintings, lacquered Tibetan altars, opium pipes, Miao headdress, wooden puppets... I practically went stir-crazy wondering what to buy.

As usual, locals would warn gullible foreigners to be wary of overly priced fake antiques. All I have to say is this... if you've seen similar statues in multiple stores with various sizes even, is it even remotely possible that it's a Tang Dynasty antique recently dug up in a fortunate farmer's backyard? Seriously. Not even if the overly enthusiastic salesman swears on his sainted mother's tombstone.

For me, I always make it a point to set an acceptable price range in my head ( in China unfortunately usually 1/10 of the unscrupulous dealer's price ), remain firmly unchanging despite the pleas of the conniving touts and later steadfastly refuse to compare prices after the purchase ( unless you can return it, why bother? ). Rarely have regrets that way. Which is how I came back with a lacquered Tibetan stool, a painted ethnic drum, a pair of embroidered bound feet slippers, multiple carved wooden panelings, a couple of paintings - and a disgruntled boyfriend in tow.

Then it was off for a bite of Kentucky Fried for lunch though I found myself astonished by the minute size of the pieces. Seems like spring chickens in China are only about the size of house pigeons back home - or could that be due to an overdose of hormones on our part leading to oversized poultry? Small enough that even Gulliver would have found it microscopic - which made me wonder at its evident popularity since it seemed that everyone and their grandmother had popped over to that particular franchise for lunch.

Liliputian drumsticks could hardly satisfy our hunger so we trooped off to a restaurant for the famed Peking Duck. Though I've had the duck quite a number of times, I've gotta say that the original in Beijing certainly lived up to its legendary premise.

And may I say the heart of the duck has the texture of a well-cooked sausage surprisingly enough.

Our feast certainly wasn't over though since Calvin and I met up with my hitherto unknown relative - who actually turned out to be my third cousin surprisingly enough. Warned prior to our meeting that we were already stuffed to the gills, she promised to keep the order to a minimum. An understatement if any. Soon the table was filled with dishes - fortunately of vegetarian delight - which managed to underscore the amount of dripping cholesterol we imbibed with the duck earlier.

But through it all, I could only think of going back to Panjiayuan. :P

Friday, September 07, 2007

Beijing Part III : Storm the Gates

No matter what I was in my past life whether virgin or whore, I'm pretty certain I wasn't a conscripted Chinese soldier serving in the rugged northern borders. Surely there was no way I could have made it up and down the precipitous stairways and corridors of the ancient Great Wall on a daily basis - at least not without expiring halfway in the safehouse of the mighty watchtower at every turn. Or perhaps unfortunately stumbling down the uneven steps to dash my head on the edge of the wall before I could give warning about the Mongolian invasion.

Love story
Fucking exhausting...

As it was, barely made it up the steep forested hills of Mutianyu and if I wasn't dead stubborn, I'd probably be simply dead at the top of the wall. Add my sorely aching feet to my rapidly depleting cardiac function ( and also the sweltering heat ) and it was a deadly combination. Believe me, it's quite an arduous climb and I salute the smiling communist geriatrics skipping along the corridors of the great wall like happy children with red book in hand - no doubt heeding the strident call of the late Chairman Mao.

Still the breath-taking views were worth it. The Great Wall as the demarcation line between the civilized southern regions and the wild barbaric unknown beyond has blurred with the centuries but here and there, you can still see the difference.

Like with every old monument well-trodden by decades of state-sponsored tourism, the Great Wall has hidden quarters scratched with bits of graffiti. Somewhere deep in an isolated watchtower, Charming Calvin and I found the best collection on the wall by the talented Carroll Sisters...

We've done the wall
Now we do the mall

Seriously, I doubt even Chairman Mao could deny the sheer poetry in their pithy verse.

Other than that, it was a dull ( semi-conscious? ) trip back to the city - without even the benefit of a hunky sweaty farmer sowing his oats to enliven the proceedings.

Still more than half a day left so we took a detour to the New Summer Palace. Beautiful scenery. Magnificent architecture. Historical sites.

But there was another hill - Longevity Hill that sat right smack in the centre of the park. No matter which way I turned, it was a terrifying trail going steeply uphill. Really, I started feeling as if I'd accidentally stumbled into one of Jaunty Jared's mountain-climbing / hiking tours. Took half a dozen stops at multiple restful pavilions while endlessly bemoaning the peculiar inclination of the Chinese for climbing up endless steps. Hell, I was made for sedate sedan chair rides not tromping up hills and vales in search of ancient temples.

As if in repayment for my laborious climb, the gods saw fit to reward me with a shopping street at the other side of the hill. Situated along the banks of the Back Lake, the street design imitates the ancient style of shops on the riverbanks of Suzhou - thereby allowing the Emperor and his cloistered concubines to feel as if they were strolling down a commercial street.

No doubt the Carroll Sisters must have shopped here as well.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Beijing Part II : Hall of Eternal Sorrows

After watching numerous Chinese serials on the hilarious antics of one enterprising Qing Dynasty princess, I'm sure many girls ( and some boys, I'm sure ) wish they'd led similarly charmed lives with all that elaborate pomp and pageantry.

I think the girls had better rethink that.

Huang XiaomingAfter several hours of wandering through every nook and cranny available to visitors in the Forbidden Palace ( and even some quite obvously not open but I snuck into them anyways ), I seriously doubt anyone would want to step into any of the ladies' dainty bound-feet shoes. Chances of gaining the royal favour of the besieged emperor to be chosen as his concubine are slim enough - chances of everlasting happiness in the glittering palaces of the Inner Court even less so.

The dissolute geishas have nothing on the femme fatale concubines of the Forbidden City. Whereas the cherry blossoms of Kyoto have to find work from time to time, these seemingly genteel peonies of Beijing have absolutely nothing to do other than plot, scheme and inveigle their way into the emperor's heart. Far from promoting supreme harmony as royal concubines, deception seems like stepmother's milk to them. And that's not even counting the thousands of wily palace eunuchs counter-plotting their personal strategems in return. From what I hear, there are higher chances of being tossed willy-nilly into a garden well, executed randomly or even poisoned over elaorate private feasts.

And those are the more fortunate ones. Even one tragic innocent who after a half dozen dramatic turns in her promising career reputedly cried herself blind.

Concubine Such lovely pastries you've made for this supper, Lady Paulina. So wonderfully fragant in the shade of this early autumn's evening.
Paulina : Made specially for you. You wouldn't believe how hard I slaved over the heated stove. I don't think even Tongrentang's remedies could possibly smoothen my pearlescent skin.
Concubine : I have just the thing in my medicine cabinet. Secret crushed pearl powder from my grandmother in Suzhou.
Paulina : How sweet of you. Unfortunately after eating that fried taro cake, you'll probably choke on your vomit and die on the way back to your chambers before you retrieve them.
Concubine : What? You.. you.. Urgh... Ack...
Paulina : But you could be right about my skin. I'll send my maid to get them.

No doubt in that particularly iniquitous past life, I was summarily poisoned myself after spending too much time trying to achieve imperial supremacy. Seems like very few of the occupants of the palace ever managed to receive joyful longevity.

Seriously. Much better to be as far away as possible from the devilish intrigues of the palace! Rather than try to achieve celestial favour with my manifest virtues, I'd rather be the sole governor of some far-flung God-forsaken ( yet shockingly hugely profitable ) province. That far away in the back of beyond, Í"d be practically a little emperor of sorts and I could have all the delicious specimens of manhood brought before me to genuflect. Bow to me, Huang Xiaoming lookalikes and show me your divine prowess!

How evil am I!

Oh yeah, some of the gardens ( Garden of Benevolent Tranquility methinks ) on the West side of the palace aren't meant to be open but during one of the construction workers' breaks ( they are busy renovating / upgrading the palace this time of the year ) I hurriedly sneaked in and out. Don't tell those sexy PLA guards. Still had time to marvel and wow over the glorious treasures of the palace even after covering every open space in the map. Though my left ankle gave out somewhere over the Hall of Mental Cultivation.

Didn't mean that I was one to give up so easily since I was on my path to spreading righteousness straight to the lake district next to the palaces ( aftr a brief stop to run up Jingshan Hill and stare at the tree where an emperor reputedly hung himself ). Namely Beihai Park and the lakes beyond - Qianhai Lake. Supposedly the original capital of Kublai Khan, there's hardly any trace of Mongol Yuan culture in the aftermath of rigorous Chinese cultivation and gardening.

After spending my time trying to ( and failing to succeed ) attain central harmony by gazing over the tranquil lake waters, I gave up and hied myself to the Hall of Ripples in a bid to nourish harmony instead. Fangshan Restaurant lies in the midst reputedly serving pricey dishes once served by imperial cooks to the courts. Bear's claw intriguing though I was much more a fan of the baked sesame buns with meat filling.

Nothing as pecular as the crunchy fried seahorse I had in Wangfujing yesterday though.

Night hunks
The boys are out to play...

Then it was off for a mocha latte at Starbucks over at Lotus Lane while I tried my best not to ogle the Beijing hunks - who magically reappeared in the night. Beijing Boys. Hebei Hunks. Obviously curfew was over for the handsome lot - and they were out in their shirtless tee best. Curtailed my visit there though since I plan to drag Charming Calvin to one of the chichi designer bars down Lotus Lane tomorrow.

For some odd trivia, look closely at my passages and you'll find the highly descriptive names of the palaces I visited.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Beijing Part 1 : Peking Opera Blues

I don't travel well.

Never have. Each time I take an extended trip abroad, I tend to develop all sorts of mysterious maladies with hardly any cure but persistent bedrest ( and stubbornly I refuse to submit to such lily-livered behaviour! ) during the journey. I'm alright in the cities but any fleeting contact with transportation to and fro whether it's plane, train or autombiles and I tend to fall into a plethora of indistinct illnesses.

From my terrifyingly pneumonia-like symptoms in Turkey to my peculiarly aching back in Scotland... and obviously now to baffling stomach cramps in China. Not sure what it was that overtook me before I boarded the plane but somehow or rather I was definitely down for the count during the flight. Add that to my usual insomnia and inner ear disorder - and it was a thousand-mile misery.

Cheered up a little in the morning when I noticed the verdant fields of the famed Yellow River spread out before me with endless stretches of farmland and orchards. Amazing to note that Chinese civilization actually began from these fertile loess plains. Then slowly and inexorably they disappeared bit by bit beneath a thick damning cloud which led to ... the Northern Capital.

First thing I noticed ( and most probably everyone else ) about Beijing was the smog. Seriously. Even from only a few kilometres up in the air, you can hardly see anything but an all-encompassing enveloping yellow dust pollution. Not a single building or monument - and certainly not the vaunted Great Wall!

Daunting thought but then again, Beijing managed to save herself by stationing the most chipper young gentleman at the frontlines to greet us with a chirpy Ni Hao. Certainly the most charming Immigrations Officer in the world. Bar none. He totally made my day and I was this close to hugging the fellow!

Finally made my way to Charming Calvin's apartment after struggling through a series of complicated gestures and broken pidgin Mandarin. Took a nap after my eventful flight before starting out on my journey.

What will this day be like? I wonder...

Covered Qianmen and Wangfujing today. And learnt quite a few things while getting sore feet navigating the maze-like alleys of the shockingly odorous hutongs ( think Amazing Race, I was practically running ).

1) Shirtless Uncles
For some reason despite being known as a conservative communist country, the men in the hutongs don't seem to able to keep their shirts on. Seriously. Especially when the weather's turned a bit sultry at the end of August. Don't get too excited. These aren't hunkalicious Huang Xiaoming lookalikes, more like the ah pek cina types. Men who fall into the category I would pay to keep their shirts on.

You don't even want to know my horrific experience with a half-naked uncle in the public toilet ( with no doors btw ).

2) Missing Hunks
What about the bitchin' Beijing Boys we all hear about? No idea where they all went seriously. Seemed to be all in hiding until I realized the clean-cut hunks had all been conscripted into the service of the military / security. So look no further than your regular communist propaganda monument for the closest fresh-faced hunk standing guard.

3) Crazy Traffic
Peculiar to the city, motorbikes are scarce - unfortunately replaced by amazingly tenacious cyclists who terrorize the roads. This in turn has enraged the drivers turning them into wild road maniacs who pay no attention at all to simple road civility. Really. Think of the barbaric attack of the Mongols with the Huns and the Tartars all joining in the fun - and you have their traffic system. Seems like traffic lights here are merely ornaments to be followed at whim.

Guidebooks usually suggest renting bikes. I would say do so only if you have an insane deathwish.

4) Sardine buses
Think 1 billion Chinese. Think of their capital. So you can imagine their buses. Nuff said.

5) Naughty Net Nanny
Odd thing I just found out. Seems like China's madcap net nanny simply can't make up her mind what to do about bloggers hence the fickle-minded blocking and unblocking of blogger sites. Almost a monthly guessing game here ( do they place bets? ) to see whether the blogs actually come to life. Obviously confused netminders are still unsure about the lasting effects of such decadent western bourgeouis ideas.

Me, I like being decadent.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nuke This

What to do on the eve of a travelling day - especially when the flight's at some ungodly hour of the night? Don't say pack my bags snce I'll get it done later - probably be ready in ten minutes or less after throwing everything in randomly. Been a while since I travelled all by my lonesome. Thought of going out for a brief brunch earlier with Jaunty Jared but changed my mind ( sorry, man! ) when I realized that my bed looked all too irresistible on this chilly, cloudy morning.

Jake Silbermann as NoahNot to mention I had hunky Noah Mayer under the sheets to keep me company.

For the past few weeks television addict ( and shameless soap opera fan ) that I am, I found myself following the latest episodes of Luke Snyder and Noah Mayer on As The World Turns. Online. Thank God for youtube.

For folks who are staring agog at the mysterious names, Luke and Noah - otherwise known as the cutesy Nuke or even Loah - are two characters involved in a budding gay romance storyline on the iconic neverending soap, As The World Turns. Coming out of the closet recently, Luke finds himself looking for love in all the wrong places! Bet most gay men would easily sympathize with his singleton plight.

Lately though things seem to be looking up for him after he takes up an internship in a station with Noah. The storyline has been building up slowly but surely for the duo as the unlucky-in-love Luke finds himself increasingly smitten with the desperately closeted I-can't-be-gay Noah.

And in true soap opera style, the hunky military brat's also dating Luke's best friend Maddie in an old-fashioned love triangle ( though with a modern homo twist ).

Dum Dum Duuum...

Of course that doesn't stop Noah and Luke from taking fumbling steps in their ongoing courtship - starting with several clumsy attempts at slippery hormonally-charged clinches ( with wet towels! ) and progressing to this.

Now, aren't you hooked? Of course since it's a soap, anything goes so alien abductions, dream sequences and weekly comas are par for the course. Thankfully these days gay storylines are treated the same as any other dramatic plotlines on daytime soaps.

Next time I write, I'll hopefully be sipping dragon well tea in a shaded Chinese palatial villa overlooking the Back Lakes of Beijing with mynahs chirping on the trees while elderly gentlemen cheat at draughts and play the erhu. If I get lost, we only have Charming Calvin to blame - though I can't see how that's possible with the multitude of detailed maps and instructions that he's helpfully sent overnight to me. Seriously. There are drawn arrows in bold. Only a mentally challenged dingbat could lose its way.

Is the man a methodical engineer or what? ;P

Monday, September 03, 2007

Men on a Mission

Today I received another sign that God actually exists. All ye doubting naysayers ( and I do mean skeptical Lanky Lex ), read on.

Common enough here to see zealous Christian do-gooders out on a mission to save the decadent, unprincipled majority. These squeaky shiny missionaries come knocking door-to-door on lazy Sunday mornings all equipped with the Holy Book, squawling infants and pastel pink umbrellas. Unfortunately their methods aren't met with much success since doors are continually slammed in their faces.

Figuratively. And literally sometimes.

I believe they should learn a lesson or two from the Latter Day Saints - otherwise known as the Mormons. What can I say? Fresh-faced corn-fed boys from the Midwest - perspiring heavily from cycling on their ten-speeds in our sultry weather to deliver the good news - are greeted with much more warmth by desperate housewives in these neighbourhoods. It's that natural mothering instinct, I believe.

Steve Sandvoss
Bringing the news...

And ever since the success of romantic flick Latter Days with the admittedly inspiring Elder Aaron Davis, I'm sure many a drooling gay boy would readily fling open their doors, no doubt fantasizing about finding a missionary position of their own.

Now don't go running around town searching for salvation yet. For some inexlicable reason, these boys rarely make an appearance in these vaguely heathenish parts.

Thought they only existed in my wicked imagination... well, until last weekend when I managed to catch the eye of a samaritan duo while I was out sharing a friendly meal with Big Bicep Barry.

Of course the Mormon boys weren't both demigods. Endless streets peopled by hunky barechested Adonises only happens in Studio Hollywood after all :) There was a small younger twink who looked barely out of high school, still struggling with his sophomoric bashfulness along with a moderate attack of acne / sunburn. Would have patted him on the head if I hadn't been too busy staring agog at the Other.

Yes. There was the Other. Hereby named Dashing Damascus for blinding me with his streaked-blonde clean-cut collegiate Abercrombie & Fitch magnificence at first glance.

After my gaping like a fish for a space of ten minutes or so ( puzzling over how a plain white shirt and boring corduroy black pants could make me wanna jump him on the grimy floor of the eatery ), even the seemingly more confident Damascus was starting to feel a tad discomfited over the unwanted attention. Recognizing the signs, regular heterosexual folks would throw a hysterical gay panic and swing violent fists my way. Fortunately these boys were made of sterner, holier stuff and wandered over to say a pleasant hello.

For my leering efforts, Big Bicep Barry got an eye-opening sermon on the sacrifices of Jesus Christ ( and also the mission of the Mormons to help the poor, feed the hungry, teach English, build schools and homes ) while I got a small holy book.

Obviously I looked the more irreclaimable of the duo - possibly because I kept ogling the older guy in the duo, imagining Dashing Damascus in all sorts of lewd unchristian acts not seen since the glory days of Sodom and Gomorrah. No doubt fearing for his prized chastity ( since they are to abstain from any premarital sexual act ), the blushing Damascus quickly thanked us for listening, shook our hands vigorously and made a prompt getaway.

Barry : First time I see bikes raising dust as they get away.
Paul : I bet he looks real good naked.
Barry : They can still hear you.
Paul : Not when he's chanting prayers to ward off my evil. You think he didn't know?
Barry : Honestly, do you actively picture every man naked?
Paul : You want me to have daily nightmares? Only a select few. Like Damascus there.
Barry : I should be relatively safe then.
Paul : Never imagined you with clothes actually, even now. See. Naked.
Barry : Ooo-kay.

That shut him up but good.

Of course then a few days later, I get back and see this. Wishful thinking works dammit. Mormon boys exposing themselves in an eye-candy calendar.

Mormons Exposed
Now tell me, my brothers, do you believe!!

Come on, is that sheer coincidence or God answering my prayers? Hallelujah! Poor Damascus might not have known it but he might have inadvertently turned me into a believer! And he didn't even need God speaking from the heavens.