Sunday, May 31, 2009

Plight of the Ah Longs

Pity the Shylocks of today!

Following the latest reports that unscrupulous moneylenders here have chained and imprisoned three men in Bukit Serdang for failing to settle their incurred debts ( reminiscent of Abu Ghraib ), the entire moneylending community - otherwise fondly known here as ah longs - have been targeted by the vengeful media and the far more outraged public.

Poor fellows are getting some mighty bad press these days. Doubt even clever Portia and her cheating ilk could heap any more abuse on the hapless moneylenders.

If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

Not only do they get villified by the public, I even know a couple of moneylenders who have been beaten by their clients as well. A sad role reversal, I know! So as much as I should raise a pitchfork to join the bloodthirsty mob, I beg to differ. Can we actually blame them?

Victim : That's all I have! Take it!
Paul : Not really. Hand me your clothes too.

So far we've gotten so used to the far gentler image of the ah longs with their bleeding pig heads and vandalizing spraypaints proclaiming vengeance ( the infamous O$P$ - Owe money, pay money ) on their loan defaulters - suddenly gone MIA - that we've actually forgotten that these shady strongfellows can actually back up their bark with some bite. Make a quick escape with the money that you borrowed from them - after making a ceremonious blood oath no doubt - and expect to get away scot-free?

Seriously. Imagine the chagrin of the ah longs. What would happen to their sorely earned reputations! Surely you can't expect these macho, tattooed brutes ( with ties to the underground ) to hang around twiddling their thumbs patiently waiting for the return.

And let's not forget that some of the borrowers aren't exactly upstanding pillars of the community.

If someone owed me a huge bundle of cash and disappeared suddenly without repayment, I'd be pissed as well. Probably furious enough to punch a few things. And that's putting it mildly.

So what would you expect the more physical ah longs to do? Is it any wonder that these modern-day Shylocks want their pound of flesh as well? Not saying the ah longs are right to mistreat their loan defaulters but hey, sometimes you gotta look at things from their point of view.

Of course if I were an ah long, I wouldn't mistreat my defaulters in the infamous Abu Ghraib method. Mindless physical and mental torture would certainly be going against my principles ( and my vaunted Hippocratic Oath! ). Anyway how would I ever gain back my deposit in that way? Depending on how good the cheating miscreants look, I'd probably demand repayment in the form of sexual slavery on their part! And if they're not as well endowed physically, surely they have reasonably attractive brothers and sons willing to work off the loan :)

Monstrous, aren't I?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bureaucracy in Action

Turns out working in Miri is the least of my troubles.

Getting to Miri itself is turning out to be quite a feat all of its own. Just like the first time I started work way back when, starting out again on this new phase of my career has become another test of jumping through bureaucratic hoops.

Another form?! Another department?!
Are they trying to drive me insane?

Ever been given form A to insert in slot B? Only to find that you need permit C to get form A into slot B - but you need form A to get permit C? Crazy complex eh?

Paul : Do I send in the red form here?
Receptionist : You've got the right department but you have to walk down this corridor and take two lefts to find receptionist B.
Paul : And that's all I have to do?
Receptionist : No. The other blue file you have is for Department C which is two storeys down.
Paul : And that's all?
Receptionist : No. Once you get to receptionist B, you will get a pink form to be sent to Department F which is in another building.
Paul : Next door?
Receptionist : Uhh. No. It's an hour away.
Paul : WTF.
Receptionist : And you will get a form that you need to hand back to us by 4 this evening.

And that's all from the same department. Figures that the office on the right doesn't know what's happening just next door.

That was only the beginning of the day. And I haven't even started on my busy run-around of the administrative buildings in our capital. An impromptu tour of the deepest bowels of the ministry!

Only to find later that receptionist B had taken leave ( of her senses? ) and wouldn't be back for the next few days. Worse, no one else in the office knows how to perform her shockingly imperative tasks. You'd have thought that this particular indispensable office drone had been granted the secrets of the universe to keep rather than a little chop as a glorified pencil pusher.

Though the rest of the staff were appropriately apologetic ( probably because I looked ready to run amuck slaying innocent bystanders ) and promised to get the work done as quick as possible, you can imagine how furious I was at the end of the working day :)

Bureaucracy. Damn. Certainly reminds me of the place that sends you mad!

Seriously. Haven't they heard of something called e-mails and a fax machine? What about a multifunctional one-stop centre?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Heading East

News of my recent posting to the East certainly didn't come as much of a surprise to anyone in the medical fraternity. After all, I'm essentially a footloose, fancy-free bachelor with no strings attached. In our medical speak, that's an almost sure bet to get transferred as far away as possible without much further ado.

Given a choice between the various cities in East Malaysia, I obviously opted for one that seemed familiar by association. In my case, that means Miri - otherwise known as the town of HomosexOil. Figures.

For everyone else that I know, it simply means I've practically been banished to the back of beyond miles away from known civilization. Typical bias of the well-heeled urbanites from out West! Much to the indignant cries of the proud natives.

Paul : OMG. I've been banished.
Calvin : Why do you all have such ideas? It's not the back of beyond.
Paul : Do they have malls? Do they have cinemas? Do they have roads?
Calvin : Of course we do! And we have kolok mee.

Not exactly a recommendation. Someone who looks as fine as this might be though.

Friendly treefolk?

Frankly I'm starting to think the same as my friends. Despite hailing from said city, Charming Calvin doesn't have much to say to recommend the place apart from wildly enthusiastic exhortations to savour the renowned kolok mee. I'm half-expecting to be greeted by grunting treefolk swinging on vines from their jungle homes.

Crazy prejudices of mine.

Fortunately I have the internet to prove otherwise.

Isn't it amazing that I'm far more interested in dressing up my apartment in the local Orang Ulu style ( bead baskets, pua kumbu throws and reed baskets? ) than starting work? That I'm more curious about how I'm going to fare in a new city with my erstwhile in-laws living barely a stone's throw away?

Hell, it seems that fate has already decreed that I should spend some time getting to know my reticent mother-in-law Milady Borgia. Not sure what we'll talk about but I'm sure I'll hit on a shared topic of interest. With the leisurely lunches I'm planning to have with her, I think it's time I stocked up on my drugs. :)

Certainly somewhere beyond the sea.

BTW if you haven't guessed already, that old enemy of mine called exams? By some miracle, I actually managed to take it down :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Catching Victoria at Midnight

Definitely a change of pace for our usually plodding Charming Calvin as he had to rev it up a bit to catch up with me during our recent trip down under. No doubt he needs a few days to recover from this exhausting ordeal.

It wasn't all mall-hopping of course since I actually took the time to catch a movie. That just happens to be in a mall. Don't you just love how they casually lump all our modern conveniences into one place?

Found myself transfixed by the enchanting poster tacked on the wall even whilst sprinting through the dozens of nameless underpasses crisscrossing Orchard Road - and I simply knew I couldn't possibly leave without watching Young Victoria. A movie that actually tells the the tale of the iconic Victoria's early reign and her youthful romance with Prince Albert.

Young Victoria
Victoria and Albert

After all, it must take quite a man to have his widow lay out hot shaving water in his room every single day after his death for the next 40 years? What makes her wear black thereafter to mourn him?

Certainly makes you curious about Victoria and Albert, doesn't it?

Since I knew Calvin kept unseasonably early hours, I offered to go alone for the midnight matinee. Going to the movies alone used to be one of my guilty pleasures after all. And it certainly wouldn't do to have him snoring away in the cinema ( since despite his protestations, historical period dramas bore him senseless ) while I kept my head down trying to avoid the frowning stares of the rest of the disapproving audience.

Thought it quite reasonable of myself.

Paul : Really. You should go back to the hotel. I could draw you a map.
Calvin : Never! I will follow you. Follow you wherever you may go. There isn't an ocean too deep -
Paul : I get the point. You will be bored.
Calvin : I will drink coffee!

But Calvin can be quite doggedly stubborn at times.

So after dragging him back to the hotel room to freshen up - oh yes, another hour long soak in the tub - I hurried back to the cinema with him in tow to catch the life of the Queen Victoria in the 1830s. Not the frumpy, prudish biddy in sober black we're all used to in her recent media incarnations but a vivacious young royal ingenue out to set the British Empire on fire. Quite enough to catch Prince Albert's roving eye.

Although I wouldn't recommend this slow-moving period drama for everyone, I think it suited us both very well since it played out our differences very well indeed. Me and Calvin. Despite the fact that we have our dissimilarities, turns out we're quite evenly matched. Since I saw quite a bit of the Calvin in the quiet, steady charms of Prince Albert.

While I seemed to favour the far more volatile Victoria. Always an imperious queen, I guess.

Monday, May 25, 2009


High school can be cruel.

Just witness the number of tragi-comedies set in that particular milieu with catty cliques from different orders of the social hierarchy declaring war on one another.

Not sure where I would have fit in. Never was the most popular frat boy in school, not the brash jock nor the artsy freak in black. Just a regular joe with my own clique of friends. As the token fag in an all boys school, you'd expect that I'd be humiliated, taunted and spray-painted by the homophobes but I wasn't. No doubt due to my general likeability factor - and that streak of mean underlying it all :)

Now who should we stuff in the locker?

Oddly enough I was even voted class monitor.

Had me wondering whether I'd be friends with the ones I know now way back in school. Or would we all be sworn enemies glaring balefully at each other across the tables during recess?

Or would I have ordered a hit and had them flushed with a swirlie in the toilet?

Think I'd probably have tons in common with Janvier - since we do share similar backgrounds and experiences. I might have passed as a mean boy though. No doubt Jaunty Jared would be the perennially helpful, perky goody-two-shoes involved in every event in school - the one who'd probably offer a mild scold over the nasty remarks I make. Especially when I keep making fun of the saving-the-world antics of environmental green freak, Lanky Lex.

And Charming Calvin would definitely be the nerdy band geek I'd filch lunch money from.

Somehow I seriously doubt we'd all share a table during recess.

But I guess we would all have something in common. The choir club :)

Terribly gay but true. No doubt music would be the one thing we all had in common despite our outward differences. Kinda like the kids on Glee.

Think of every cliched stereotype you have in high school - from the dumb jock to the screeching diva - and lump them all together in one glee club. If you haven't seen this fab series, make sure you catch at least the excellent Rehab remix - done by a rival glee club - shown here.

Hmm. Would still have stuffed Calvin in his locker if he had one. :)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Journey of a Thousand Miles

That must have been what Charming Calvin thought as he tiredly trudged his way in his battleworn shoes through endless neon-lit corridors filled with miles of merchandise, men, merchandise and mayhem. Did I say merchandise twice?

The journey of a thousand miles might begin with a single step - but with me, you'd better hurry up on those steps if you'd want to catch up with me. Especially during sales time.

Ooh doesn't the word sales just put a spring in your step?

Obviously not something Calvin thought of when he decided to come along with me on a celebratory trip down under to Singapore. No doubt ten minutes in a nature walk would leave me exhausted - but leave me in a street full of malls and it's quite possible that I can walk a full 12 hours nonstop. Becky Bloomwood - that infamous shopaholic - ain't got nothing on me.

A fact that didn't impress Calvin very much.

Calvin : Are we there yet?
Paul : There is no there. Ooh, look 50% for that Tibetan stool!
Calvin : Where?
Paul : To your left. Let's go there. Oh wait, look there! 70% for that paisley shirt!
Calvin : That is on the opposite side of the five-lane freeway.
Paul : Yeah, let's take the underpass.
Calvin : Too far. Leave me to die here.

And that was while he still had breath enough to make a decent reply.

After several hours of rushing in and out of stores, I turned around to find Calvin looking somewhat close to a shocked trauma victim. Poor fella. Almost felt imperative to shoot some high-dose adrenaline into him.

Reason enough for him to spend an hour resuscitating himself every night in the bathtub.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Beauty of Pork

I'm obsessive with pork sometimes.

You can blame that on Charming Calvin. His legendary appraisal and sonnets to the beauty of pork should already be bound into a meat bible for sure. No doubt a mission that would terrify our kosher friend, Lickable Luke.

So Luke, you'd better look away from this pork-laced heresy!

But I digress. Back to the meat. So this afternoon I actually met up with Beercan Boy and his missus Damsel Dimwit for lunch.

Well not exactly his missus but close. At least she hasn't dumped him for something better as we predicted. Sometimes miracles really do happen.

Time for some pork?

Since the fastidious Damsel claimed to be suffering from serious hunger pangs, we gave her the pick and she chose - surprisingly - an orgiastic meat feast. Shocked me even more when she ordered a whole thick slab of pig flesh. Certainly gave me a better opinion of the gal since I always imagined she survived by munching on dew-moistened alfalfa sprouts as a source of energy.

Then she sacrificed half her hog.

Paul : Is it too tough?
Damsel : No, it tastes good.
Paul : You just sliced three quarters away.
Damsel : Oh I can't take that. It's fatty. And that oil. Urgh.
Paul : It's pork.
Damsel : Ooh but it's so fatty.
Paul : That's the point. The beauty of pork is that thick gelatinous layer of cholesterol-laden fat dripping with oil.

I think she almost choked.

I know I shouldn't be this mean to the simple forest animals but I can't help it sometimes. At least I didn't give in to my sadistic urge to stuff the slice of pork into her mouth.

Seriously. Why order pork then? Stick to green grass and lean chicken, ya anorexic socialite! Taking the pork but hating the fat? That's kinda like undecided folks who whine over low-fat ice-cream and decaffeinated coffee. What's up with that? You wanna sin, you take the entire blazing pathway to hell dammit.

The pig died for you. Show some respect!

Of course our Beercan Boy was too busy forcefeeding himself at the trough to offer an opinion.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Modern Fairy Tale

Things were simple way back then in fairy tale world. After the dazzling ball at midnight, Cinderella certainly didn't expect to pay the mounting bills for the savoury canapes, her rat-like attendants and the rental for the magical pumpkin carriage.

Even her ugly stepsisters probably managed to score a free meal off their unfortunate dates.

But these days, modern-day fairy tale princesses should probably hide some spare change in their purses. And a credit card. Just in case Prince Charming feels like welshing on the date.

Hmm.. should I pay?

And expecting to go cheap halfsies on dinner.

Cinderella : Such a wonderful magical night it has been. Just everything I've dreamt of.
Prince : Umm, Cindy?
Cinderella : Yes, oh sweet prince?
Prince : The bill is here. I'm a lil short. Could you help?
Cinderella : And how would I do that? Does it look like I have a magical purse in my enchanted skintight mini?
Prince : Borrow from your rat-butlers? Maybe pawn off your glass slipper?
Cinderella : Ooops, look at the time. It's close to midnight. I gotta run. Have lots of sewing, cleaning and washing early tomorrow!

Seriously. Is that how straight men wine and dine these days?

Back in the heterosexual day, I was actually brought up to treat ladies like a gentleman - and unfortunately that involves forking out the payment ( despite the fact that they nibble like anorexic socialites ). Well at least in the beginning of that beautiful friendship. Possibly one of the reasons I freaked, turned tail and went down the gay road instead.

Supposedly in these enlightened times, modern-day princesses are expected to split the bill. Gonna be hard digging through those magical ballgowns to find the enchanted purse spun out of gossamer dreams. Even then the purses usually come up empty.

Flighty fairy godmothers don't exactly plan for such unprecedented eventualities.

Thought only gay men would find themselves in such a dating conundrum since it's hard to decide who's to settle when two guys are at the table. Doubt even Miss Manners has a gay guide to that. Then it usually comes down to a complex calculation involving age, financial standing, incipient sugar-daddyism, bottom-top status etc. Oh, and the ever so simple question of who actually initiated the date.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Make a Push

Are you a Pusher or a Mover?

That's the question Chris Evans would like to ask - if he wasn't already too busy avoiding screaming triad gangsters, lollipop-sucking bitches and shady military-sponsored psychics in the crowded back alleys of Hong Kong.

Ooh, look at what I can do with my shirt on!

Comicbook superheroes seem to be crawling all over the silver screen these days and in the movie Push, psychics seem to be the focus. Runaway psychics that is - trying to escape from the clutches of a shadowy quasi-governmental organisation called Division. These psychic abilities are rooted in Nazi experiments to transform humans into biological weapons, and the movie is chock-full of clairvoyants, mind controllers and telekinetics.

Cue Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning as the runaways.

Obviously the self-sabotaging producers didn't expect anyone to see the movie since they didn't spend a dime on the promotional poster or the trailers. Seriously lame. Really.

Obviously with my expectations set so shockingly low, I actually found the movie surprisingly good. A solid movie though it smacks more of an extended generic television scifi drama rather than a summer blockbuster film. Think two hours of an overly complex Heroes with the prerequisite cliffhanger at the end. Of course having hunky Chris Evans on board as a resident telekinetic helped some - though he remained unsatisfyingly fully clothed almost throughout.

And can I say I love Dakota Fanning as the cynical clairvoyant ( with a bad dye job ) who simply knows they are both gonna die.

Of course I came to realize that I'd never make it in a superhero movie since I'd be undoubtedly cast as a cackling villain rubbing his hands with glee. Not only would I want to be a telepath / telekinetic, I'd probably nudge some dirrrty memories of us canoodling into Chris Evans' handsome head and make him believe we were torrid lovers.

And then move that wimpy ne'er-do-well girlfriend of his off the edge of a cliff.

And that's all after using my telekinetic powers for evil gains at the nearest roulette table.

Villain for sure.

But seriously. Which anti-beefcake publicist actually told Chris Evans to keep his shirt on in the movie? Idiotic bitch. Some fellas should be half-naked all the time. Obviously this deluded agent believes that he needs to keep his good looks camouflaged by an ever-present stubble and a grungy tee. Recommending his shirt stays on is tantamount to heresy!

Now that lady I'd push off a cliff as well.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lucky Amnesiac

I'm a pretty fortunate fella.

My memory's always been adaptable. Turns out as time goes by, I tend to forget the bad but remember the good. Hard to turn bitter over painful memories when I can hardly recall what happened then.

Even now I can hardly recall the slammed doors and terse arguments I had with my ISO - seems so sepia-toned and far away these days - but I can certainly recall the chilly autumn evenings we walked in London hitting the stores for a bargain. Trying to make it for late-night shopping just to get cheap, almost-expired chocolate pudding at M&S for a discount. Lying around sharing Haagen Dazs in the park under the early summer sunshine.

Endless summer days.

When I think of Paris, I don't recall the cramped closet-like room I shared with my fellow nomadic travellers. I do remember waking up every morning to look out a flower-strewn balcony where chic Parisiennes slinked by on cobbled stones to whatever awaited them that day. I remember the tantalizing scent of fresh crepes liberally mixed with Nutella.

And though Charming Calvin remembers the grime, the dust and the pollution that is all Beijing, all I can see are the windy streets, the falling leaves and the long quiet walks we took going home after our regular Hakka dinner.

Thank God for selective memory.

And thanks to Lanky Lex, I now have a theme song for my trip to Beijing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spock Me

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.

Oh yeah, that should be my new motto. Especially when it applies to friendly visiting aliens such as Spock.

And I certainly wouldn't mind getting friendly with Spock. Rave all you might about the new Star Trek movie - the excellent script, the pulse-pounding action, the amazing side effects and yes, about the new Captain Kirk... but hell, I only find myself wanting to boldly go where no man has gone before with Commander Spock.

Seriously. Zachary Quinto has managed to put the sexy back into the Vulcans. Ignore the unfashionable bowl cut hairdo. Finally. I haven't had a Trek character to drool over ever since Lieutenant Tom Paris left with his monstrous PMS-ing half Klingon.

Spock, the final frontier. Endless. Silent. Waiting.
Oh yeah, and the fella to his right is Captain Kirk.

Which of course prompted this brief discourse with the Legal Beagle - otherwise known as Mrs James T. Kirk ( who is a dead ringer for Chris Pine ).

Paul: Seriously. What's with the obsession with brash pink-cheeked Midwest farmboy-turned-good Captain Kirk? I'd take Commander Spock anytime, freaky pointy ears and all.
Beagle : He's a cold, emotionless freak.
Paul : I like the quiet, sexy, cerebral sort. Captain Kirk is only good for sweaty one-night-stands with green girls.
Beagle : Vulcans only have sex during mating season. which is probably every 7 years or so.
Paul : I have enough sex drive for twenty Vulcans. All he needs to do is just to lie there.
Beagle : He'll give you a Vulcan nerve pinch and you'll be out cold.

Ah, but doesn't the Legal Beagle know that doctors have all the best drugs? I'm sure I can find an exotic Venusian Spanish Fly to entrap the cerebral Spock. Maybe add in a lil aphrodisiac into all his meals by daily increments. Push him into an early Pon Farr? I'm always logical.

But seriously move away from my man, grabby Lieutenant Uhura. I can definitely take that uppity universal translator on heels. Bet she wouldn't see my bacteria-filled needle shot coming!

Till then, live long and prosper.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hating Mr Happy

Take a moment and think of your closest friends. Depending on how the relationships have developed over time, we all have our own views on their personality and character - and also that one defining word to describe them. Certain qualities that make them stand out from the rest of the bland faceless crowd.

Just like the eponymous Mr Men and Little Miss. :)

Despite the fact that we'd probably have to pore through an entire dictionary just to find that elusive word - since we're not all one-dimensional cartoon characters. Just that one word. Thought of it? Fortunately I already had a word even back in school coined by one of my closest pals - and that word was exuberance. Don't fall over on your seats, folks. Decrepitude and cynicism might have dimmed the shine a little but you can still see a glimmer if you look hard enough.

Does he really love me as I am?

Just like the word placid describes Charming Calvin to a T. And guileless would briefly sum up Lanky Lex.

So what if that particular shining trait is the one your loved one dislikes? Isn't that an ouch at the very least? The one thing everyone else loves about you - turning out to be the one thing he dislikes the most?

Kinda like hating Zany Zinedine for being fashion-forward. Or disliking Statuesque Sarah for being honest to a fault. It's just so much a part of who they are. Can you actually love someone while hating their defining quality?

Just doesn't work for me. It's like hating Mr Happy because he's happy. Or dumping Mr Messy for being messy. Isn't it kinda futile?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tombstones and Epitaphs

Take a detour along the crooked streets in our older cities and you'll find quaint little cemeteries tucked in behind fragrant frangipani trees. Perfectly serene alleys of endless white-washed marble tombs with finely carved statues of angels weeping over the dead long buried.

That is if some of the more reckless ( and mindless ) religious zealots haven't come by to vandalize the place by aiming potshots at the carvings. Fools they are for not appreciating the beauty of a timeless cemetery.

As I do. A funny hobby ( kinda like my mother's penchant for skimming through the daily obituaries ) but I've actually walked through a few cemeteries in my time - despite the fact that I actually know none of the deceased inhabitants within. Even took a detour through Paris just to look for the infamous cemeteries there. Yet I find it interesting to note some of the more interesting personalities that lived in the past - marked by the loving epitaphs written by those they left behind.

My friends didn't enjoy my thoroughly macabre hobby as much but they certainly chipped in plenty of their own ideas when we started talking about epitaphs. A couple even started waxing lyrical with overly sentimental poetry about themselves.

Thinking epitaphs

I wouldn't want any weepy soliloquies on my tombstone.

Me, I'd like a pair of ripped hunky angels - with more than a little resemblance to Chris Evans - adorning the top of my marble tomb. Possibly draped in sheer skimpy togas that leave nothing to the imagination - just to horrify the puritanical visitors who'll hurry by indignantly.

And coated in a layer of unbreakable adamantium just to frustrate the wicked vandals!

Of course I'll have flowers on my tombstone. My angels would be delicately framed with calla lilies and deep red roses like drops of blood. I'm not a fussy sort who needs a dozen sonnets in praise of myself engraved on the tombstone. Simple and sweet, I think all I'd want is the name and the date.

It would make people stop and wonder, wouldn't it? :)

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Isn't it funny how we have words for bibliophobia ( fear of books ), didaskaleinophobia ( fear of school ) and even atychiphobia ( fear of failure ) - but I can't find a Latin word for fear of exams? Surely someone has coined a phrase for this particular phobia! But examophobia and testophobia just seems far too trite.

Fear of exams?

You might say that I've gradually grown inured to exams. In the past, desperate last-minute mugging for school exams certainly gave me cause for plenty of sleepless nights - but the older I got, the less affected I seemed to be by the mounting pressures of a coming exam.

Nightmares in pyjamas!

No doubt because I've fallen into a state of denial by internalizing my growing fears instead. Hence my recurring nightmares of being seated in a cavernous exam hall with nothing to write on the exam paper. Fancy me being thrust every damned night into a Mandarin linguistics exam! Staring at an empty answer sheet with loads of confusing Chinese gobbledygook.

Enough to give anyone the shivers. Or at least a speechless Chinaman like me.

Reason enough to take a break from it all. Seriously. While wading through piles of dusty textbooks, I made a quick scribbled note of the numbers of times I've had exams. Obviously the number increased exponentially once I joined medical school. Came to a bitter conclusion that almost half my life has been spent either anticipating, sitting for or desperately avoiding exams.

Hell, I might as well take up a career as a professional examination candidate. Surely I can darken the multiple choices, draw mismatched diagrams and scribble unintelligible rubbish with the best of them!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Fathoms Below

It has happened again.

Google Jedi mind tricks and you just might find my mother's face over there.

From the way she's graciously accepted Charming Calvin into the fold and included him in family gatherings, you'd expect that she has some slight inkling about our unconventional relationship. Eventhough I've never breathed a word to confirm or deny. That hasn't stopped my mother from practically adopting Calvin. To cap it off, my mother even suggested I bring him for a wedding dinner as my plus-one.

She knows!

At least that's what regular folks would think. But while I'm still reeling over the bizarre suggestion to have two fellas attend a church wedding together, my mother suddenly turns the tables on me again by pestering me to get married. To a girl.

Obviously she hates complacency.

Okay. What's her score now?

You see, a friend of mine just started a fledgling relationship and already her boyfriend has started dropping loaded hints that he wants her to move in. After only a month. Talk about fast and furious from zero to hundred. Commitment-phobe he certainly isn't but the shocking speed of the engagement is giving my friend just the wee bit of jitters.

So when I briefly mentioned the brisk pace of her relationship's progress, my mother suddenly chips in with a surprising comment.

Mother : Good for him. At least this fella takes a chance. You should follow his example. Make a move instead of waiting forever.
Paul : Huh?
Mother: Don't think so hard. Don't overanalyze. Make a move.
Paul : And who should I make a move on?
Mother : With a girl. Any girl. You know so many.
Paul : And you seriously think I'm the kinda guy who waits forever without trying?
Mother : Yes. Waiting isn't going to net you that girl.
Paul : And you think I don't know that?

Good God. She's preaching to the freaking choir!

Doesn't she know her own son? I'm not particularly well known around these parts for my Buddha-like patience.

I see something I want and I go after it with a mindless vengeance. Seriously, I'm the sort crazed, drooling stalkers are made of. I see a guy I like, I zero in and I hound him till he accepts me - or at least till he gets a restraining order. I'm devilishly persistent that way. Sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting for providence to arrive isn't my style.

I'm more the kind who'll travel far and wide to find providence and drag it kicking and screaming ( in chains! ) home.

And my mother thinks I'm dragging my heels?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Lok Lok Man

You wouldn't believe it if you looked at me now but I was a scrawny lil runt way back when.

Blame it on my particularly finicky tastes when it came to food in my schooldays. Not for me the grubby little roadside stalls creeping with rats and roaches frequented by my far more adventurous brother. He even went as far to visit the lok lok man almost daily! No doubt he had a cast-iron stomach back then. Oddly enough I seemed to have a marked predilection for tubers such as yams and potatoes. From mashed potatoes to yam rings, I had them all. Perhaps a failed past life as a disgruntled country farmer coming back to haunt?

Of course my appetites finally kicked in at the end of puberty. In fact if my medical history's clerked well, I'm sure there's a definite correlation between my voracious eating habits and my rising stress levels in medical school. Pseudovegetarianism with the occasional miserly dash of meat wasn't going to do it for me any longer.

Hence I ate.

Where's my lunch!

Certainly widened my culinary choices by a mile. Even the roach-infested eateries I eschewed vehemently in the past didn't seem quite as taboo anymore. Hell, it wasn't long before I was squatting on the rickety three-legged stools gorging on barely steamed cockles beside the other grungy commoners at the steaming drains of Melaka's infamous makan places. All dramatically lit by the unreliable flicker of the sole incandescent bulb.

Not for the faint-hearted.

So when I had the craving for a bite after attending an evening staging of Bottom Top ( great show by the way! ), I immediately thought of the lok lok man on the way back. Not sure where the name cropped up from but think of it as a communal cooking pot bubbling with unknown substances ( left behind by the previous patron ) surrounded by a wide range of fresh foods such as meat, seafood, fish balls, vegetables etc placed on little skewers ready to be dipped in.

Kinda like the stone soup story told to us as children.

And I haven't talked about the hidden treasures generously left behind at the bottom of the pot.

Been a while since I made a visit ( actually almost never lately! ) so it was to my surprise that they'd actually expanded their repertoire. In these trying times of late, even the lok lok man has decided to diversify his resources. Offering not only the usual run-of-the-mill boiler but also a barbecue and a fryer ( with a dubious oil slick bubbling suspiciously within ). Still I braved the evident flesh-eating bacteria and plunged the stick laden with cockles into the fire.

Only to find the lok lok man's choice of sauces had also expanded exponentially. Seriously. Wasabi sauce with braised pig's ears anyone?

I'm still alive. No stomach grumbles yet so I assume all's well.

Hey guess my friend's plan to cater lok lok for her party doesn't seem that bad after all.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Fraternal Bonding

Although it's very much exaggerated, sudsy soap operas actually draw inspiration from the gritty real-life dramas happening around us. As I grow older ( and much less wiser ), I find myself inundated daily with tales of cheating spouses, wicked stepparents and even long-lost siblings. Seriously. It's not all salacious fodder for the desperate housewives tuning in during teatime.

Even I have an uncle with a penchant for polygamy - and a minibusload of stepcousins ( legitimate or otherwise ) to show for it.

No surprise then to find that two of my friends actually have secret step-siblings finally creeping out of the family closet! Which is why the question of a hunky long-lost sibling came into play ( aen't they all required by soap opera law to be gorgeous? ).

Jared : It would be nice if my step-brother was really handsome too.
Paul : You want a handsome brother? But why? You can't tap that fraternal ass!
Jared : That's not a problem. Well I'd be proud to have such a good-looking brother!
Paul : Proud?!

Seriously. They broke the sweetie pie mould when they made Jaunty Jared. Such a nice fella that it tickles me each time I recall he actually has a mortal enemy actively planning his demise.

But a hypothetical stepbrother for me?

After the initial shock and anger wears off with the prerequisite hysteria and doorslams, I think I'm of an age where I'd be somewhat tolerant of any past extramarital affairs on my parents' part. Hey I was never a saint so I doubt I'd cast any stones. Hell I'd probably be the first to extend a hand of friendship to this unknown stranger. Would probably be damned pleased with the fact since I've always yearned for an inordinately large family.

Chris Evans
In case you've forgotten what Chris looks like!

Of course if my baseborn stepbrother turned out looking like Chris Evans, the first thing I'd be would be frustrated as hell. Certainly wouldn't be as pleased as Jared to have a hunk for a brother - since I'd be pretty damned mad that the gorgeous genes actually passed me by without a glance! Swimming in almost the same gene pool, he turns out looking like something out of a glossy magazine and I look like week-old recycled newspaper dragged in by the stray cat?

Proud? No, I wouldn't be that generous if I were suddenly relegated to being the ugly stepbrother. But since I've lived with that Cinderella nightmare for years, I'd get over it I'm sure.

Then I'd be doubly frustrated by the fact that I'd be effectively barred from laying my dirty lil hands on my brother, the hottie Chris-Evans lookalike. Sex with a stepbrother? Flowers in the Attic fantasies aside, I doubt I'd seriously consider indulging in an incestuous relationship.

Hmm. Then again, it's Chris Evans. I'd risk hellfire to tap that ass! And as two guys, we wouldn't risk giving birth to any inbred mutants anytime soon. It could be like a kinky family initiation rite. Fraternal bonding night.

Chris : You mean it's usual for guys to sleep naked together in your family?
Paul : Yeah, it's tradition. And we save electricity - help save the world and all that. Dad's pretty big on that.
Chris : Like the hot shower you insisted on sharing with me?
Paul : Yeah.
Chris : Alright, if you say so.
Paul : It gets pretty cold too so we might have to cuddle and share body heat.
Chris : Don't we have a heater?
Paul : Family tradition? Save the world?
Chris : Okay.

Wonder whether my dad has any illegitimate kids stashed somewhere.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Trusting Sheep

Common enough to find such sensational news in our papers. Young, naive ingenues tricked into flitting abroad only to be sold into sweaty whorehouses. Innocent working girls fooled into parting with their hard-earned savings to fund dubious investment schemes. Endless tales of woe usually read out by Michael Chong, our local politician / social crusader who regularly helps save teenage runaways, child brides and molested women.

Usually the minatory fingers are pointed accusingly at the ertwshile boyfriend who supposedly led them astray. After all it's easy enough to believe the tale of the charming wolf out to fleece the trusting sheep.

But each time I glance through such articles, I only find myself wondering what sort of girls actually fall for such simple tricks. Are the sheep really all that innocent, wide-eyed and trusting?

In the company of wolves?

Then I met Wild Wanda.

The post-teenage daughter of one of my older colleagues, our wild rebel Wanda wants to leave school prematurely to venture into the world! Growing impatient with the shackles of family and authority, she wants to be free to lead her own life - leading to weekly threats of running away from home to flee parental opposition. The dull humdrum of small town life isn't for her and she wants to head for the bright, seductive lights of the big city.

Paul : So you're quitting school?
Wanda : School's boring. I feel like running away.
Paul : And how will you survive in the big city? With barely a school leaving cert?
Wanda : I'll find a job. Maybe get a job a waitress.
Paul : How enterprising. And live where? A grotty little flat in the gritty tenements ekeing out a living?
Wanda : I have a friend of a friend who has a place.
Paul : How promising. I can see you already have it all planned out.

Dim naivete much?

Walking straight into the trap. Guess she's desperate to join the leagues of sheep just waiting to be fleeced out there. Might as well just hang a sign for the wolves waiting to attack! Then again I shouldn't be at all be surprised to find that Wanda already has a sleazy ne'er-do-well boyfriend stashed somewhere in her getaway knapsack. No doubt she also dimly believes that he wants her to run away because he loves her truly.

Hell, you know what! If I were straight and passably good-looking, I'd probably apply to join the company of wolves as well. Plenty of easy prey to be found after all.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Days of Wine and Tosses

Being a prince charming isn't as easy these days.

Not only do you have to contend with the increasing complexities ( and increasingly high-maintenance! ) of distressed damsels these days, the gauntlets run to win the fair heart seem to get ever more hazardous to the mind, body and the heart.

And yes, to the wardrobe as well.

Certainly no easy task for Lissome Lorelei's new beau, Stubbled Sam. Especially since one of the labours laid out for him requires that he gets liberally splashed with wine by a wandering socialista bitch.


You know how hard it is to get wine out of a white shirt?

In the single bars, there are plenty of irreclaimable bastards you'd consider a clear candidate for being doused in Sauvignon Blanc - but somehow wine showers seem to be few and far between. Hardly anyone takes the trouble to splash vintage wine in your face to make a point these days. Such hysterical melodramatics - with warring bitches slinging cocktails - seem better confined to the realm of third-grade Venezuelan soap operas!

At least that's what I thought.

Even then tossing wine on someone should only be deemed socially acceptable if the bastard has done something absolutely unforgivable such as adultery. Certainly not something as inconsequential as an accidental nudge.

Sam : Terribly sorry. I apologize.
Bitch : How dare you push me. You bastard.
Sam : I apologize.
Bitch : I don't care. You're lying. Take this wine!

Seriously. You'd have thought that Sam had gone between the sheets with her best friend - and her sister.

Obviously unintentionally bumping against a lady in a bar bears far more disastrous consequences than I imagined. Though I think calling her a lady is actually stretching it.

The wine toss always seems like a particularly feminine trick. Fellas don't go around christening their erstwhile foes with wine when a fist to the eye does the same trick. With far more satisfaction. I'm just amazed that the lady had so little regard for her own safety ( to confront Sam who's easily twice her puny size ) since she could have easily gotten a black eye herself. Liquid courage no doubt.

Seriously. It would have served her right if Sam accidentally walloped her.

Sam : Oops. Was that your face? I thought it was the back of the chair.

You don't always have to be a prince charming after all.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Stop and Stare

Really. That's all I could do.

Especially when a friend of mine told me so in such matter-of-fact terms over a cup of coffee. Methodical Marie has been away for a couple of years - working as an au pair surprisingly enough :) Been a while since we'd shared a cuppa at a cafe while watching the boys go by.

Paul : Damn. That fella's cute.
Marie : Oh yes he is.
Paul : Too bad he's married.
Marie : Not a problem.
Paul : You're going to have an affair with a married man?
Marie : All I have to do is wait. Give him three years. He'll be divorced by then and I'll get my chance.

And she said it so coolly, so calmly, so confidently. No room for argument really.

I listened really hard for at least a hint of sarcasm but there wasn't any. Nay-sayer Marie was in earnest. Seemed like her time abroad had not only given her a spectacular dye job but she'd also gotten an entirely cynical outlook on life. And marriage in particular.

Casualties of Marriage?

When I balked over her depressing pessimism, she only climbed on the proverbial soapbox.

Not only did Marie start expounding on the shockingly high rate of divorces, she also started giving me the names of the divorcees I knew personally ( and even a handful I never even knew had gotten divorced! ). A couple bailed on their marriages barely months after the solemn I Dos. Some even scrambled for the Annulment Forms on their hasty way out of City Hall.

Did a quick mental calculation and was taken aback. Just in my early thirties and I already know folks who have been divorced. Twice?! Possibly heading down the Elizabeth Taylor multi-marriage trail.

OMFG. Really. Is divorce getting to be that common?

Guess gay relationships aren't the only ones plagued with shocking brevity! Has it actually become a Seven Month Itch? What happened to for better or for worse? What the fuck happened to happily ever after?