Saturday, December 31, 2011

Boxing Day

Fortunately that doesn't mean my burly cousins ganged up to punch my boyfriend out. Quite a relief since our redoubtable hero Charming Calvin stands relatively slight compared to my stocky corn-fed cousins.

Playing peacemaker on Christmas certainly wasn't in my immediate plans.

But with my indolent cousins unexpectedly taking me up on a long-forgotten standing invitation followed by Calvin's sainted mama making insidious plans to head down my way, I was starting to think that my own astute mother had concocted a baffling stratagem to confound me. Could the fact that I had come out barely a month ago be somehow linked to these unrelated visitations?

Were the Ghosts of Christmas Tea Parties Past coming back to haunt?

Here we have all the evidence we need.

Something had to be afoot. How else to explain the sudden mysterious convergence of mismatched relations? Not to mention the fifty-odd creatures my mother had seen fit to invite to the party. Toss in a long-lost sibling and we'd have all the makings of a Sherlockian mystery.

As expected my brother and sister-in-law couldn't be more pleased with the series of unfortunate events. Avid spectators waiting for this game of shadows, they were positively bursting with anticipation. Perhaps they have all come together to help organize an intervention, she crowed while my brother chortled unhelpfully.

Since I was the reluctant host of the coming festivities - and already had my suit perfectly pressed, escape seemed to be an impossibility. In any event it would have been base of me to abandon the phlegmatic Calvin to the baying hounds. All I could do was brace myself for the worst.

However in the nick of time - could it be a Christmas miracle? - Calvin and I were both called in to collect a misplaced sushi order for the Christmas soirée. Quite inexplicably saved by my mother's absentmindedness.

Paul : Let's go. We have to collect the sushi.
Calvin : Go where? I am hungry and I wanna eat.
Paul : That's what you think. You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.
Calvin : No it isn't!
Paul : Well let me paint you a picture. My loud, inquisitive cousins are all arriving here en masse. Your impetuous mama might be making an unwished-for appearance. My own mother might be relatively docile at the moment but who knows what she has planned.
Calvin : Surely she doesn't have anything planned.
Paul : How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?
Calvin : Hmm... so how soon can we leave?
Paul : Immediately. Though I am wondering whether the sushi party set could be a duplicitous diversion set by my mother. A trap?
Calvin : Your mind works in mysterious ways.
Paul : Quite elementary, my dear Calvin. Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.

Expecting on return to find a raging homophobic mob armed with flaming pitchforks, I was a tad miffed to find my guests armed with meatballs on sticks from the flaming grill instead. My earlier thoughts of pelting them with sashimi before making a run for it seemed ridiculous. Rather than talk of brutal ways to strap practising sexual deviants to the pillory, my cousins were rather busy tippling vodka while re-arranging the gifts under the tree. Even my mother had her hands full sorting out her mystery guests.

And despite all my fears, Calvin's disingenuous parent begged off at the last minute citing familial obligations.

Now that's a Christmas present worth waiting for.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gay Groom Gone to Ground

Look, I love weddings. Probably would be the first to sprint down the wedding aisle if I possibly could. Legally speaking of course. Judging by the endless hue and cry raised by the prudish conservative front here over a bit of buggery, I think legalizing homosexuality here is a long time coming.

So you'd think that I'd be pleased to note that a fellow gay countryman - an avowed Muslim to boot - has thumbed his nose at the homophobic religious zealots by publicly marrying the Irishman he loves. In traditional Malay dress complete with headgear. In what appears to be a chapel no less.

Faced with beautifully rendered shots of the wedding in a chapel with two men sharing an intimate kiss, I assume the hidebound clergy wannabes here had a collective stroke.

Briefly, our erstwhile hero - Ariff Alfian Rosli - received a scholarship to study medicine in Dublin but failed to complete the entire course. His father had advised Ariff to continue his studies back home but he remained adamant to graduate in Dublin and subsequently severed all ties with his family. Distraught with the sudden disappearance of his son, the father was then summarily slapped with an arbitrary summons to repay the student loans.

Only to have scandalous pictures of his son's recent marriage plastered all over the internet.

Till debt do us part?

We can only offer some conjecture on what had actually happened of course. No doubt Ariff had made some attempts to inform his family of his sexual proclivities, thereupon receiving a disgusted rebuff which hastened his departure and later disappearance. Possibly?

Dealing with irate homophobic parents, that I can't judge.

But to have such careless disregard for the consequences of his actions? Forsaking his parents to leave them in such appalling financial debt due to his student loans?

Though I enjoy watching the fussy religious prudes getting their proverbial noses all bent out of shape over the well-publicized gay wedding, I find Ariff's actions quite reprehensible. Saddling your frantic parents with your crushing debts?

Seriously, dude, you're making the rest of us look bad. We don't need more bad rep. Enough of getting tarred and feathered already. Not only do our homophobic naysayers already look upon us as aberrant sexual pervs, now they'll also think we're heartless deadbeats who default on loans.

Ariff, at least man up and shoulder your own responsibilities. With the luck of the Irish on your side, I'm sure you'll be able to bear the burden that much easier.

The latest addendum! Ariff has proven to be a man of his word and has this to say. Good for him!

"I want to continue to engage with Petronas in a private capacity, as I have been doing. I have no intention of running away from this responsibility or shrugging it off my shoulder."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hark the Herald Borgia Sings

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

Lo and behold, Madame Borgia came by,
With nary a hue, warning or cry!

Apparently Charming Calvin is the only one in the family who abhors surprises since his unconventional mother seems to relish leaving everyone in a perpetual state of astonishment. Rather than inform her son of her upcoming December itinerary beforehand, Madame Borgia obviously prefers the perennial gift of unexpected surprise.

So while Calvin was busy placing the finishing touches on his Christmas wrapping, this unheralded message came from his impulsive mother.

Calvin : OMG I'm quite certain you will not be pleased with this news.
Paul : Why? Has Christmas been cancelled by the religious mullahs?
Calvin : Even worse than that. My mother's coming over for Christmas.
Paul : Good God.
Calvin : Should we invite her for the party?
Paul : The scary part is I don't see why not.
Calvin : Would that be a yes?
Paul : If Madame Borgia causes a scene, I just might have to poison her.
Calvin : I would expect no less. So that's a yes?
Paul : How can I say no?

Who knew that we'd be receiving such unforeseen bounty this year! Not only have all my cousins decided to descend upon us en masse, now Calvin's mother has decided to join the madcap crowd.

Now what is she up to?

Engrossed as I am with thoughts of seasonal decorations and party caterers, I couldn't possibly fathom her perplexing reasons for coming. For all we know, Madame Borgia might have wicked motives up her sleeve intending to cause a huge commotion at my little soiree! Or does she come in peace with the sole object of discussing Calvin's wedding trousseau?

Or perhaps Madame Borgia has abandoned her lifelong atheism with every intention of attending midnight mass at the nearby parish church?

Maybe it would be safer to steer her towards a more cautious lunch on Boxing Day instead.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cousins of Christmas Future

Every year around this time, we have our usual intimate Christmas gathering with friends and family. Although we all groan, grumble and gripe about the tedious party preparations on the days before, it has become quite the tradition in our family. And one we all look forward to, despite our endless litany of complaints.

To forestall the annual Christmas whine list this year, I have decided to call in the troops - and by that, I mean our lovely caterers. No more slaving away in the heated kitchens getting that last cake frosting perfected, frying up that last plate of fried noodles or heaving the punch bowl out of the cabinets.

And certainly no wild-eyed madcap matron waving her hands frantically trying to ruthlessly micromanage every last detail of the preparations.

So yes, God bless the caterers. Though I have to say hiring them turned out to be a fortunate coincidence.

Paul : So what's it gonna be? You coming? Do I have to wrap one extra gift?
Cousin : Maybe I'll come, maybe I won't.
Paul : Maybe I'll toss you out the window.

Since quite unexpectedly a decidedly large portion of my extended family has decided to descend on the party en masse. Though I extend a cordial invitation every year - after the usual nagging prompt from my well-meaning mother, the reply is usually a firm repudiation citing other pressing engagements. Which has been the expected norm for the past five years at the the least.

So you can imagine my growing consternation when I received this call from one of the cousins barely a few days back.

Cousin : Your Christmas party is on the weekend?
Paul : Think I sent out the invitations on the family newsletter a while back. Dates and details all there.
Cousin : I think I'll be there.
Paul : You will?
Cousin : Yes. Is that going to be a problem?
Paul : No prob. Will get the gifts ready for you.
Cousin : Thanks. And also my parents, my husband, my baby, my sisters and their respective spouses.
Paul : ...Excuse me?
Cousin : And my little dog too.

That's not even the last cousin on the list. A few more left cryptic messages via email and messenger telling me that they might be able to make it for the party as well.

So many years of silent absentia and unexpectedly they all decide to converge at my place for Christmas? Starting to think it's some wild incomprehensible conspiracy? Are these kings of orient bearing gifts traversing afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Guess Who's Coming for Christmas Dinner

Could it really be a Christmas miracle?

Let's just say that things have been a bit... awkward between my mother and I after the recent coming out tea episode. While thankfully she hasn't freaked out and hired shady shrinks / wacky witchdoctors to rehabilitate my fabulous homosexual self, my mother isn't exactly embracing the entire alternative lifestyle plan either.

So whenever we speak on the phone, there's this wildly obvious pink elephant just left dangling up in the air.

Dang, am I feeling a bit of a chill here?

Perhaps it's like I've always said to everyone who has made a similar attempt to come out - my mother just needs time to fathom the metaphorical pink elephant swaying unmistakably about the room. Not to mention all the lies, deceit and duplicity that have been perpetuated over the years.

Since there was little mention of hiring a notorious assassin to decapitate our poor innocent hero Charming Calvin - the alleged seducer of her son - I figured all was well. At least she didn't call him up to regale him with an hour-long vitriolic diatribe like I feared!

Evidently it didn't take all that long for her to contemplate over the thorny issue. Or about Calvin's undisguised relation to me. In fact the wily woman coolly brought it up over a slice of banana cake.

Mom : By the way, please make sure Charming Calvin attends our Christmas dinner this year.
Paul : Any particular reason?
Mom : Was there any doubt of his invitation? Of course he should come. Why, he's almost family.
Paul : Well he should be.
Mom : And I have so many things planned for him this year.
Paul : Exactly what kind of things are you planning?
Mom : Why, all sorts of course.
Paul : That's not exactly comforting.
Mom : What do you mean!
Paul : Have you called up the homophobic villagers with the flaming pitchforks?
Mom : Goodness, what you think of me! I meant that Calvin could help out with our dinner plans. Why, he can even lend a hand with our giftwrapping as well.

From near-homophobic termagant to cordial society hostess in the course of two weeks? Affected by the palpable spirit of the season? Surely even my spectacularly evolved mother couldn't have made peace with the entire perverted my-son-is-a-homosexual situation in that short a period of time.

Something had to be afoot. Misliking the shockingly convivial twinkle in her eye, I immediately scrabbled for my cellphone wondering if I should warn Charming Calvin of the perils to come. Behold, there's poison? Things are starting to feel like an episode of Downton Abbey where matters of great importance hinges on the dramatic events that transpire over a fleeting meal.

Yes, I can't help it. Scorpios are always helluva suspicious.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dog Days of Winter

A few days back, a friend of mine offered this suggestion to my aversion towards the crowd at the local gym - Try getting up before dawn and hitting the lonesome trails around the neighbourhood - guaranteed no crowds.

Aside from the fact that I abhor getting up early, there's a simpler answer for that actually : The dogs!

I know what you're thinking. How could a fellow with my heft and size knowingly flee from the presence of pretty little poodles and snippy little shihtzus! But we're not talking about your simple friendly neighbourhood canines, my friends! What we have in wild abundance here in the untamed suburbs are monstrous cerberus-like fiends from hell with gnashing teeth and blackened claws ready to disembowel the unsuspecting runner.

And these bloodthirsty hounds hunt in packs.

Many an innocent Mormon eager to spread the faith on their ten-speeds has fallen prey to these beastly curs snapping at their heels.

Okay, let's not blame the pup. Hell, I'd like to take a bite out of that runner myself.

So far my one-man vendetta against these mangy mongrels doesn't seem to have succeeded as my vain attempts to have them summarily crushed as so much roadkill has only led them to revise their guerilla tactics. No sooner do they see my souped-up vehicle gunning for them, the entire wily pack seems to mysteriously disapparate into the looming darkness.

Leaving only their demonic unblinking gaze behind like the proverbial Cheshire.

Lots of possible theories why the suburbs here seem to be plagued by feral packs of wild dogs. No doubt an alarming number of canine-loving expatriates who find it nigh impossible to bring their pets along when they return home, abandoning their gently reared domesticateds in the dangerous streets to regress to their bestial origins. You need look no further than the Disney animated classic Lady and the Tramp for the perfect example.

Can you blame these deserted mutts for wanting to take a vicious bite out of the suburbanite joggers who go ambling by?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coffee, Currypuff But Not Me

Though it didn't exactly make the popular headlines of our increasingly unpopular mainstream newspapers, it seems that the infamous sodomy court case involving a venerable politician here has come to a close awaiting final verdict. As unlikely as it seems, the arthritic middle-aged politician allegedly forced himself on his much younger, much fitter boy-toy aide. Very telling how poorly perceived our sadly corrupt judicial system has become that everyone on the streets has little doubt that the accused will finally be convicted of the alleged crime, whether or not he actually committed it.

And yet some of the incongruous comments that have cropped up from the victim's testimony still baffles the mind. Apparently after the alleged rape, our victim calmly partook of a meal of curry puffs and coffee with his heartless rapist.

Talk about novel.

Debaucher : Surely you're staying for tea?
Stripling : After you tore my clothes apart and raped me?
Debaucher : There's curry puff.
Stripling : Oh okay.

Far be it for me to comment on such a dastardly act but surely after such a degrading violation, I would have assumed that the injured party would have offered some token of resistance at least! Perhaps some sign of emotional distress; a whimper or a whine. Or at least make a vain attempt to extricate himself from the highly perilous situation. Surely after being so vigorously defiled by the attacker, nothing could possibly compel him to remain at the scene of his depraved molestation!

I would be wrong since apparently a snack is all it takes.

Instead of snatching up his ravaged clothes to flee, from all accounts the much-abused stripling seems to have sat down for a civilized tea with his elderly debaucher. Nothing like a spot of coffee and curry puffs - evidently his secret weakness - to calm the fraught nerves after being peremptorily despoiled.

Stripling : Oh my, what lovely coffee.
Debaucher : Nice aroma. Goes very well with the curry puffs.
Stripling : Perhaps you shouldn't have buggered me that way. Very bad form, I say!
Debaucher : I didn't give you very much choice in the matter.
Stripling : So true. Quite lovely curry puffs though I have to say.
Debaucher : No comparison to your lovely warm buns I'm sure.
Stripling : Please, sir. At least let me finish my coffee before you attempt to ravish me again.

Imagine the untrustworthy debaucher twirling his wicked mustache. Talk about all the elements of really bad gay porn.

Coffee, curry puffs but certainly not me? Rather than insult our collective intelligence so devastatingly, the least he could do was dream up a more credible fairytale!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Feel the Cheese

Let's all agree that running on treadmills can be boring. Those poor tortured hamsters must be seriously bored out of their teeny little minds.

After all there's only so much you can do while you're intensely focused on moving forward. Try anything more complicated than concentrating on the thumpa thumpa disco beat and that would lead to a simple yet fatal distraction, a slump, a fall... and then, the inevitable slippery slide down the treadmill.

Ugh. Oh yes, I've seen it happen, even to the best of us.

So I have my somewhat trusty iPod nano - well somewhat since it did break down once! - to accompany me with dozens of highly informative podcasts at hand. Mostly historical facts and fiction cobbled together by ingenious savants online with a smattering of cool design stuff dreamt up by brilliant DIY gurus everywhere. Anything to keep me focused on the excruciatingly painful, extremely dull task at hand.

And also some Stuff Mom Never Told You which is where I heard this. Simply bizarre but as it turns out, scientists in Switzerland have claimed that men’s sweat after a hard day's work smells like pungent cheese, while women smell like onions when they perspire. Not exactly the sweat that smells; it's the bacteria on our skin that breaks down our sweat causing body odor. Don't worry, I'm not going to explain the entire scientific mumbo jumbo but to summarize, it has something to do with the way male and female sweat differs in the concentration of sulfur.

Hunk : I smell cheesy? Really?
Paul : No problem, I'm all ready to give you a rubdown.
Hunk : That's kinda a cheesy line.
Paul : Doesn't make it less true.

Interesting tidbit to find out while I'm apparently stuck in a locker room full of men's rank-smelling sweats and shoes. Yet it intrigued me enough to sniff my own sweat-soaked shirt after a brief workout.

Golly, do I smell Brie?

God knows those busy scientists might have something there. I would have thought that diet and genes would have played a factor in how stinky a person's body odour may be but the outlandish cheese theory does play out. Ever since I found out, every other buff sweaty gymgoer who bearishly stomps by has started smelling cheesy.

Maybe it's time I started coding the different dedicated gymbots by their cheese - and yes, I do have funny stories for most of them. Camembert Chris who loves to whine piteously through every arduous rep? Emmental Eddie who conceitedly snaps a pic of his guns each time he lifts a weight?

Since we do sniff out our mates, wonder whether gay men actually have a secret predilection for cheese.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gift of the Magi

The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the new-born King of the Jews in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication.

There are those who dread the holiday season - hiding under the covers gnashing their teeth in growing desperation as the fateful day creeps ever nearer while they bitterly contemplate the vicious unrelenting crowds on the very last few days of the Christmas sales. Faced with the barbaric hordes of desperate last-minute shoppers clamouring for that last perfect present, I would certainly find myself cowering as well.

Bet even the Magi must have had some problems securing gold, frankincense and myrrh at the last minute.

Which is why I'm the opposite of that.

It's a time for giving!

I usually finish my Christmas list weeks in advance. Hell, I sometimes find myself picking up a few choice pieces early in November. Sometimes even before if the item is eminently suited for the intended recipient at the right price. Yes, I am one of those obsessive freaks with a stash of immaculately wrapped presents hidden under the staircase all year round.

Think I should have considered a career as a personal shopper. Nothing pleases me more than reuniting someone special with the perfect gift that was invariably missing in their lives! Probably would do it for minimal wage even now!

Which is why I get calls like this on a regular basis.

Calvin : What should I get for Lanky Lex for his birthday?
Paul : All depends on the budget.
Calvin : Well he did say that friends get gifts around a hundred bucks.
Paul : Since he does like to read non-fiction novels, I believe a trip to the bookstore would be best. Something oddly blasphemous denouncing the existence of God?
Calvin : Think we got him a book last year?
Paul : If not, perhaps some of the tight tees that he wears. From NUM?
Calvin : Think someone is already getting him that.
Paul : Perhaps some cologne?

And the conversation continues. From miles away in the boondocks, I help so many others pick out the perfect gifts.

Makes me wonder if they'll find the same for me. Writing out the annual Christmas list helps of course ... but I've always loved the keen anticipation over the unknown. Some things are better left to the imagination, don't you think? Isn't that what opening presents on Christmas morning is all about? Giving the box a hearty shake to ascertain the secret contents, thoughtfully untying the knots on the pretty bow and then patiently peeling the wrapping paper open to reveal the bounty within?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas in Netherfeld

In what appears to be an ongoing tradition here in Netherfield, we held our annual Christmas party again. Albeit a couple of weeks before the actual date since all of us tend to head back home for the holidays.

So why not share some rum balls and egg nog in love, peace and brotherhood before the day itself?

Looks like it's time for a Christmas Party!

All three tenants of Netherfield, namely Kool Kat, Fabulous Felix and I, hate to get our hands dirty so of course we had the entire party catered. So much easier to have the professionals have everything perfectly prepared while we take our time leisurely getting ready for the party. However as it turns out most of the elderly crew of my trusty catering company had been called away to attend the haj so I had to scout around town for a new caterer.

Fortunately my dance classes came in handy since my erstwhile salsa partner actually was starting a new business venture. With a nod to local traditions and produce, we added local delicacies such as Laksa Sarawak and Kek Lapis to spice things up. Back home, I spruced up the tree, hung up some trim and laid out the welcome mat.

Uncannily enough on the day itself, work called me away. That's becoming quite a tradition as well. Somehow I have a feeling the wicked ghosts of hospital past seem to know exactly when I'm planning to hold a party since invariably something shockingly medically dire crops up from out of the blue. So my nurses and I fumed and fussed the entire morning over an entire train of ill, impaired invalids while we dreamt longingly of fruitcake and vokda shots.

So much so that I had to conceive a fictitious case just to halt the progress of poorly infirms.

Nurse : Good God, the surgeons are thinking of adding one more case in the evening!
Paul : They can't. There's a scheduled tonsillectomy in the evening.
Nurse : There is? When did that come about?
Paul : Just a moment ago.
Nurse : It did? I could have sworn there were no tonsillectomies in the ward.
Paul : Trust me, there is. So they will have to do the case now, not later in the evening. That time is booked already for the tonsillectomy.
Nurse : Oh, well we should check whether the tonsillectomy is...
Paul : Will you just let it go?

Sorry but there's only so much nose jobs I can do. Yes, the incidence of non-essential elective surgical procedures climb up during the holidays. Guess everyone wants to look especially attractive under the mistletoe for Christmas. And the Grinch surgeons are far too willing to capitulate to their inane wishes.

No, I'm definitely not on Santa's good list this year with my litany of lies. But yes, we had the sham tonsillectomy at my place at the end of the day. Finally informed the astonishingly oblivious nurse of my wicked duplicity and handed her some rumballs to ponder upon.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Crass & The Curious

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

So Sibyl's Matchmaking Mama mistakenly believes. Though no matter how misguided her scattered thoughts, I have gradually come to respect the harridan's shockingly dogged tenacity. Never ever underestimate a woman on a mission.

Despite the fact that I haven't set eyes on Scatter-brained Sibyl for almost a decade, Sibyl's Mama seems to have a fixed opinion that we were destined to be hand-fasted in marriage. On my word as a gentleman, I swear I never made any attempt to form an attachment with Sibyl but I believe some of her fanciful fairy tales must have influenced her mother's already mawkishly sentimental mind.

A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.

How else to explain the mindless perseverance!

Paul : Wait. Did your mom just say our wedding gifts?
Sibyl : Umm.. maybe?

For failing to convince my sister-in-law Sassy Sue, Sibyl's Mama has decided to plead her case before ... everyone else. She might as well have just put up banns on our impending marriage at city hall.

Sue : Sibyl's Mama has enlisted the help of my mother.
Paul : Good God. That woman is an unstoppable juggernaut!
Sue : Who knows, Sibyl's Mama might just appear at your doorstep soon enough.
Paul : Presenting her proposal to my parents for an arranged marriage?
Sue : I wouldn't put it past her.
Paul : At the rate she has been going around bandying my good name in connection to Sibyl's, the world must think that I had treated her shabbily, toyed with her tender emotions and then abandoned her in tears on the streets.
Sue : Bad gay man.

Gods, am I to be forever branded as the man who done her wrong?

Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief

So it's about time to nip this entire sorry affair in the bud. Time to track down the elusive Scatter-brained Sibyl and impress upon her that her matrimonial chances when it comes to me as the groom would be slim to none. Hell, it would be none - since even were I straight, I would think twice before considering an alliance with such a flighty scatterbrain.

Especially one with such a terrifying mother.

God knows I can be the only crazy bitch around here. Now how do I about solving this! Perhaps it's time to bring out the boyfriend. Vague threats of homosexuality might not do the trick but surely even the redoubtable matron would balk at the unwelcome sight of a male partner.

Time to come out to Sibyl this Christmas?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Christmas at the Post Office

Guess I can't help it but as a city boy born and bred, I've always associated PO Boxes with isolated rural hamlets where the civilized concept of door-to-door delivery hasn't quite arrived yet. Otherwise that suspicious lil PO Box would probably mean a curiously unsubtle cover for receiving nefarious illegal shipments.

Either way no one I knew ever had one. What would you do with a PO box when they deliver mail straight to the front door? Generally, PO boxes or post office boxes are uniquely addressable boxes rented from the post office either by individuals or by businesses on a monthly basis where the cost of rent varies depending on the box size.

Calvin : But we do have a PO box.
Paul : OMG Seriously, did your father run a secret online service selling contraband products?
Calvin : No. We lived in an inaccessible part of the country so every week my dad and I would journey to town to fetch our mail.
Paul : That's so Little House on the Prairie! Please tell me you travelled on a horse and buggy!
Calvin : We had a car!
Paul : How disappointing! At least tell me your ma wore her best Sunday bonnet to town.

Surprisingly a common practice over here!

Evidently Charming Calvin and his family actually set up a PO Box back home in the Wild, Wild East to receive their weekly shipments of mail, barley and rice. Well I'm only partially kidding about the barley and rice - though his family did have a weekly driving expedition to town just to stock up on goods.

Dad : Calvin, that's one hell of a Christmas hamper! Don't think we're gonna be able to load all that onto the mule.
Calvin : Aw shucks, dad, maybe we should have taken the buggy!

Since then the city hasn't changed much when it comes to the archaic standard of their postal delivery. It's almost Victorian, I swear. Rather than deliver parcels right to the very doorstep of the recipient, we get odd little requests to come collect at the local post office. No matter how small or inconsequential the packaging.

In the olden days the local post office would have served as the epicentre of the little town with the provincial denizens regularly streaming through its doors. Though I'd be hard pressed to name the closest post office back home in the west, the advent of modern technology and communication doesn't seem to have diminished the role of the post office in these parts.

Something I realized when I was forced to pay the local post office a visit to collect a Christmas parcel. Yes, frankly I do go a bit crazy with my online shopping this time of year. Seriously, gifts for everyone.

Once I stepped into the post office though, I found myself well commiserated. Not only is there an ancient bell to jangle on arrival at the post office, there's even a lowly timeworn bench to wait on while the friendly neighbourhood postmistress searches through the pile of packages in the store.

Such nostalgia. Forget about sending newfangled emails devoid of personality! All these old-fashioned postal methods still being practised here only makes me itch to send a quaintly retro telegram! Wonder if they still have the enchanting Morse Telegraph!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Christmas Grinch

Guess it's that time of year again when Dolores Doolittle, that officious lil admin drone, comes along to irritate us again. Jolt her hair, dye her green and she might pass as the Christmas Grinch. Rather than being nasty, wasty skunk with a soul full of gunk though, she more closely resembles the glorious angel on top of the tree.

And that's far more dangerous since her deceptively sweet looks hide a miserly coal lump of a heart that is two sizes too small.

Though of course she won't ever admit it.

Dolores : Come on, pretty please!
Paul : Being blond and pretty might work on the straight fellows but it doesn't sway me.
Dolores : I'm pouting.
Paul : Try again. Nothing short of broad manly shoulders will work.

Maybe it's the time of year but December always gets me irritated with her shockingly ungenerous nature. Not only referring to her remarkable skinflint ways but also the way she tends to nitpick on others instead.

With her endless oh-so-helpful hints.

Dolores : Oh Jane, the rubbish bin does look a bit full.
Jane : Oh yes.
Dolores : Such a mess!
Jane : Oh yes.
Dolores : Perhaps someone should empty the basket.
Jane : Oh yes.
Dolores : It could attract ants and all sorts of vermin.
Jane : Oh yes.
Dolores : Maybe you could...
Paul : If you find it such a damned nuisance, why not do it yourself?
Dolores : But Jane could...
Paul : Bloody fucking toss the trash yourself if you're so bothered.

Just an example of Dolores at work. If she ever gets married, I can already imagine her endlessly nagging her henpecked husband.

Yes, she nauseates me, Ms Doolittle, with a nauseaus super-naus! Over here we have a term for what she loves to do, which is subtly tai chi-ing the tedious drudgery of work to others more inclined. Otherwise known as work dumping. Like dripping water on stone, it wears away slowly but surely over time.

Of course most of us at work - for example the unflappable Jane - have grown astonishingly inured to her nonsense but when it comes to this time of the year, the relentless stress does get to me. School holidays bring patients galore. So I tend to snap easily.

Good God, maybe I'm the Grinch instead!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Body Step Pump Combat Attack Jam

Of course for me it's more of a mind jam.

Apart from the usual moan-moan-grunt of free weights and machines, most established fitness centers offer dozens of varied gym classes to suit, with astonishingly inventive names such as punk rope, zumba and spin. Obviously just plain sweating with weighted barbells doesn't kick it these days. Who knows, they'll probably turn classical ballet into a class one of these days.

By the way, I only just realized that spin class has absolutely nothing to do with needles and thread. Neither does it have anything to do with spinning mindlessly around like a whirling dervish. Only refers to the mundane spinning wheels of a stationary exercise bicycle.

Yeah, it was a bit of a downer when I found out.

Follow the leader?

Still I do have friends who passionately teach those classes whether Body Step / Pump / Combat / Attack / Jam. Stroll by the glass-enclosed walls of the local fitness center and you'll find the fanatical crowds of beautifully coordinated, sculpted gymgoers pumping and flexing to the driving beat of a thumpa thumpa disco number?

Dress in perfectly-matching branded gym couture, roll up their sequinned sleeves and boogie to the beat of Kylie's latest hit? How is that any different from the local gay nightspot? Not only do all my friends back in civilization fall into delirious throes of orgasmic delight when they learn of a new routine, it seems even the usually unflappable Charming Calvin finds no common delight in his classes as well.

So you can imagine how thrilled Fabulous Felix was when he found out that our gym was about to begin those classes as well.

When I heard, I couldn't quite contain my shiver of repugnance.

Tried not to judge too harshly so I steeled myself to enter the class without prejudice. Well, maybe a pinch of prejudice. Virtually impossible for a clumsy clod like me to imagine joining a class where members are expressly required to synchronize and coordinate their dance steps to the uplifting music.

Instructor : Come join in! Don't just stand there!
Paul : And do what?
Instructor : Just follow me! It's easy!
Paul : That's what you say. What the fuck did you just do with your leg?
Instructor : Like this!
Paul : Umm.
Instructor : No, like this!
Paul : Like that?
Instructor : That's the opposite.
Paul : Oh, wait, am I supposed to follow you or the reflection?

Yes, I'm marvellously uncoordinated. Already imperfectly showcased by my blundering performance in my dance classes. While my brain might have understood the movements made by the instructors, my arms and legs simply cannot imitate the actions! In fact I think my legs distinctly yelled 'WTF, we can't do that!'.

Much to the consternation of the ever-helpful instructor with his booming baritone.

Don't think group fitness is for me. I'll admit I'm a loner by nature and actually prefer to be by myself. All that collective energy and passion might drive the rest to excel at their classes but it serves as a chaotic distraction for me.

Unless they have a spin class of course.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Endorphin Rush

You know that natural endorphin high most budding athletes claim to get while engaged in some adrenaline-charged physical activity? That particular moment when the excruciating aches and pains tapers away to a glorious sense of euphoria?

Seriously I am beginning to think the endorphin rush is an urban legend developed to fuel the sweat-soaked dreams of many. Just the infamous placebo effect working its wicked wiles on the exhausted, light-headed, oxygen-starved jocks.

Till now I have never reached that high. After a miserable half hour on the elliptical, all I'm feeling is tired, sweaty and bloody irritated. Any amount of enthusiastic encouragement given by the friendly neighbourhood trainer would probably be unfairly rewarded with a barbell bounced off his sculpted head.

But yes, much to everyone's surprise - including myself - I have been visiting the gym irregularly for the past few weeks. And not only to drool over the shirtless patrons.

Feel the burn?

No, I certainly have no intention of developing the much-envied six-pack or even the seductive Apollo's belt. All I want to do is avoid falling into the sad cliche of the sedentary workaholic dropping dead from a sudden heart attack in his mid-thirties.


Several months back while doing nothing much in particular, I suddenly suffered a disagreeable spasm somewhere in the region of my chest. Like all intensive care doctors, we immediately leap to the worst possible conclusion. Tension headaches turn into brain tumours, mild coughs turn into raging pneumonias. Nightmarish worst-case scenarios, that's me.

So rather than hope for something reasonably mild like a gastric reflux, I promptly clutched a handful of aspirin thinking I was dying from an acute myocardial infarction. Otherwise known as a massive heart attack. The more I thought about it, the more I started to feel an ominous tingle running down my left arm. Even thinking that it might be a heart attack was enough to make me nauseous. Not sure which part of it was really happening and which part was plain psychosomatic - an unfortunate by-product of my wildly imaginative brain.

Thought of inserting a branula to run some reperfusion therapy but thought better of it. Especially since once I reached my workplace, all the results turned out to be within normal range. Even my ECGs looked fine.

Yes, it was a wild panic. But of course it pushed me onto the treadmill for starters. Blergh.

Still no endorphin rush though.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pity about Pythagoras

Seriously we do learn a hell of a lot in school.

Unfortunately it's a whole load of crap we never actually put to practical use in real life! At least not in my daily working life. Till now I have never felt the need to apply advanced probability theories or complex calculus formulas ever. Nothing about the earth-shaking movements of tectonic plates either. Fear not though, aspiring young students, perhaps all the needless information stuffed ceaselessly into our young minds does serve as a solid foundation for later studies.

Or at least I hope. Otherwise a miserable decade of excruciating Gradgrind schooling would have gone to complete and utter waste!

A definite conclusion Pirating Patty and I have come to after making the fateful decision to tutor our protege Lil Orphan Annie, who has been steadily flunking out of school. It has been a long while since we've looked through our textbooks - much longer for me - and after wading through the entire encyclopaedic lot, we realized not only are we clearly unsuited to the thankless job, we are clearly downright imbecilic.

Unfortunately our protege isn't an Orphan Andy who looks like that.

Did we really study all that much back then? The sheer amount of inconsequential information crammed into our textbooks seems mind-boggling - and I find it hard to believe I actually managed to revise, recall and regurgitate all that seeming triviality for the final exams! Ten subjects at minimum? No doubt I must have been certifiably insane as a pock-marked teenager to even contemplate that!

Nothing astounded me as much as the inscrutable mathematics textbook of course. Never been a devotee of Mathematics but I swear I used to pass muster at least. But now even the basic Pythagoras Theorem left me stumped for a moment. Seemed utterly impossibly alien! Wasn't there something about a triangle? You can imagine how amazed I was when I looked through the incomprehensible mathematical process of finding a derivative.

Patty : OMG Did we become stupid overnight?
Paul : I have no idea! Did we actually know so much?
Patty : We must have!
Paul : You mean we knew about organic chemistry and the laws of physics as well?
Patty : And history. And geography. At least I think we knew all that... didn't we?
Paul : I've never actually thought about it but fucking hell, we must have been fucking brilliant!

Unlike the present when the elementary times table leaves me dumbfounded. How far the mighty have fallen.

In our miserably incompetent attempts to teach Orphan Annie, we realized that we couldn't remember a whit! Might as well be unlettered rustics scrabbling on dingy cave walls since obviously we have zero retention on everything we learnt in our classes back then.

Guess it's back to school for the both of us.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Love that Dare not Speak

For once I don't mean the sort referenced by the infamous Oscar Wilde - but for all the secret lovers who hide their ardent feelings for reasons unbeknownst and dare not speak of their love. More fool they.

In this case the surprisingly reticent Lanky Larry. Normally shockingly outspoken with his booming earth-shaking baritone, our feral lion shrinks into a mewling kitten when it comes to sentimental matters of the heart. While we all initially thought he batted on our side of the pitch, it turns out Larry actually plays for both sides.

Which explains his crush on a certain someone we know.

Paul : Why are you telling me this? Shouldn't you tell the girl you love instead?

But rather than keep it private and confidential, it seems to have made the public rounds instead. In fact, as it turns out, everyone else in town already knows about his unrequited love ... except for the girl in question.

Girl : He told his best friend. He told his sister. He told his cousins. He told his aunts.
Paul : Surely not everyone!
Girl : I even heard it from the general storekeeper that Larry likes me.
Paul : So why hasn't he made a move?
Girl : I really have no idea why. I've certainly made my position very, very clear.
Paul : So you like him too?
Girl : Short of carving out a tattoo of his name on my gym-toned arse, yes.
Paul : Yet he dare not speak of it?
Girl : Well he screams of his love to everyone else in the world. Maybe even passing strangers.
Paul : You're single. He's single. Where's the hitch?
Girl : Maybe it's complicated. For him.
Paul : Oh God.

It's not exactly thatcomplicated. Aren't we all brought up with the notion that plain vanilla heterosexuality is just that much easier? You like a girl. She likes you. You get up and make a move to kiss the girl.

Which is obviously what Larry's afraid of.

Without ever making a risk in pursuing the relationship, nothing is ever going to happen. Other than overly sentimental Korean dramas, very few people actually wait forever - especially when there doesn't seem to be any hope of reciprocation. Only so much a good girl can do to show her interest before she finally gives up and moves on to the next.

Looks like Larry's gonna miss the girl.

Otherwise known as The You Snooze, You Lose Theory.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Outlandish Proposal

Poor fellows these days are under increasing pressure to dream up the perfect proposal to please their demanding ladies. Just a plain gold band offered on bended knee isn't going to impress the critical Miss Independents of today. Nothing seems to gratify them other than the most shockingly outlandish proposals from viral flash mob proposals to overpriced highway billboards screaming out marriage vows.

Let's be honest, most women just want bragging rights to say that their soon-to-be husband is wildly romantic and have her envious bosom buddies ( and most especially her frenemies ) squeal over it when she tells them how he proposed.

And then we have Virginal Vesper.

Vesper : I can't even look at you when I say it.
Paul : Couldn't have been that bad a proposal.
Vesper : Trust me, it was. What should I do?
Paul : Other than throw the ring at his face?
Vesper : There is no ring.
Paul : Now I know why you're at therapy.

After almost a decade of pining for the ring, her significant other finally gave in. But rather than opt for something wildly extravagant like a romantic carriage ride through the park, he proposed through instant messaging instead.

Till now we're not even sure if it's valid.

Vesper : He gave me a date, asked me I liked it.
Paul : A date for what?
Vesper : I have no idea. I think maybe a wedding?
Paul : Just like that! No whispers of sweet nothings? No vows and promises of love and commitment?
Vesper : No. Just a date and a message asking if it's alright.
Paul : I am a terribly unsentimental fellow with little need for grand gestures... but even I would have smashed the phone to little pieces.

Seriously what's wrong with some heterosexual men?

I fully understand that the wedding is only the beginning of a lifelong journey but surely even that deserves a bit of festive fanfare. Don't expect all that much but is it too much to ask for a candlelight dinner and some champagne? Sure it's a damned cliche but it's a far sight better than a 'hey why not we get married' proposal.

Might as well just head for the civil registry.

And most horrifyingly there's not even a ring. Even a cheap, tacky beer tab would have been better than nothing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Schism of Seksualiti

Seksualiti Merdeka is an annual sexuality rights festival held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia featuring a programme of talks, workshops, theatre and music performances organised by a coalition of Malaysian NGOs, artists and individuals. According to the organisers, the purpose of the festival, which has been organised annually since 2008, is not to change the minds of the public to embrace the values of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender ( LGBT ) community, but to consolidate the LGBT community, and empower Malaysians to recognise their rights.

Lofty ideals aside, the week-long festival is basically a time for the minority group to gather, talk and share with the rest of the public.

Of course, any mention of sexuality - especially in regards to alternative sexuality - gets the belligerent religious zealots in our country extremely riled up. Picket signs and pitchforks get waved about as the scholarly exhibition is erroneously labeled as a hedonistic sex orgy. The surprisingly efficient cops come along and the festival is summarily banned.

Case closed, you would say - except this time, the boys in blue seem to have bitten off more than they can chew since the highly vocal organisers of Seksualiti Merdeka aren't giving up all that easily.

With the potentially explosive issue being bantered about daily on the media headlines, there is a growing schism amongst the members of the GLBT community on how to deal with the unprecedented limelight. Even as the furore slowly dies down to become yesterday's news, I think the issue has unearthed an unsettling rift in the community.

Despite our relatively small number, there is a clear separation of ideas amongst people like us: on one side we have the aggressive campaigners who advocate stridently marching for their civil rights while on the other, we have the more complacent gentlefolk who prefer things kept on the down-low without attracting much unwanted attention.

Time for war?

A situation ripe for battle. Akin to the beginnings of a civil war, repeated volleys of taunts and ripostes have already been launched from one group to the other with little chance of a ceasefire in the near future. Especially since it's already clear that the two sides on either sides of the rift have vastly differing opinions when it comes to their sexuality.

Speaking from the position I am in, it would be easy to just keep mum, hunker down and refrain from rocking the boat so to speak. Things are actually going good. Home life is doing fine, even after my recent coming out. Same for the workplace. Homosexuality isn't a dire mental disease to be cured anymore and despite their own reservations, even the most conservative would hesitate to speak against it since it would contravene accepted medical practice. So publicly open homophobia amongst my colleagues is rare.

Being in a more fortunate place in life, isn't it time to help our downtrodden brothers and sisters who are being discriminated against? I think there is a need to have someone literally out there and proud - and yes, shouting our slogans in public as well. Though I don't see the need for twinkly pink parade floats careering down Bukit Bintang anytime soon, I think homosexuals and transgenders need a credible voice out there to make a gentle push for tolerance and change. Perhaps even an identifiable model to show that things actually do get better so that teens struggling with their sexuality would know for sure that a bright future is eminently possible.

And yes, though it would be a long time coming, I would like someday to repeal the damned antiquated 377A penal code. Having that particular Sword of Damocles perpetually hanging over our heads for the rest of our lives is a chilling prospect.

So yes, I am glad there are folks like the ballsy outspoken organisers of Seksualiti Merdeka who are willing to risk the painful brickbats of the conservatives to speak up for the issues close to our heart. People like these are the ones who made Stonewall happen. Though we might not have chosen these champions to represent us, that doesn't make their sacrifices any less worthy of our respect.

There is more than enough hate in the world for people like us, we don't have to add to it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lil Orphan Annie

Sad little orphans made to leave their cherished pastoral home in search of a better life only to reside with surly, unappealing relatives. The usual story-telling trope we're used to in stories such as the Secret Garden and Heidi. Even the tale of my favourite red-headed orphan Anne Shirley.

Who knew we would have an actual real-life tale unfolding before us!

Turns out one of my colleagues at work has a young niece, literally fresh from the farm, come down to live with her. Let's call her Orphan Annie for the moment. Brought up on a farmstead deep in the hinterlands where dairy products come fresh from the cows, vegetable dinners are plucked from the ground that very morning and fresh water is carried in buckets from the village well. Electricity is powered by the generator for only six hours a day, the nearest bank is more than a day's walk away and the postman comes once a week to deliver mail to the local school.

And I'm not even exaggerating.

Aw shucks, ya gotta be kidding me. Ya mean I gotta move to the big bad city?!

Of course for a dedicated city dweller like me, I was horrified to learn of all this. Postal address directed to the Paul who lives three stones down from the waterfall behind the schoolyard? No doubt a single day in Annie's isolated farm would probably have me running crazy amuck with a bloody axe.

Like all good stories, a severe lack of schooling opportunity in the country forced lil Orphan Annie to pack up for the nearest city. Or perhaps more like her aunt, my formidable nursing colleague, had her dragged kicking and screaming to the better schools in the inner city.

Paul : OMG It's just like the story Heidi.
Nurse : Who? My niece?
Paul : I have this image of your niece Annie coming down from the mountains with a travelling bag in hand coming to seek her fortune in the city.
Nurse : I wouldn't call it a fortune yet since her school results aren't the best. Annie was always a promising student back in the village but over here I think she is having some trouble adjusting to the new system.
Paul : Small Fish Big Pond syndrome?
Nurse : Something like that.
Paul : Takes a while to get used to something new, I guess.
Nurse : She's flunking biology and chemistry.
Paul : Ouch. Well there's always private tuition.
Nurse : True, but I don't think we can spare that much for extra tuition.

Really how could anyone say no to the heart-rending tale of Lil Orphan Annie? I've always had a soft spot for those wanting to better themselves. And isn't it just about time for a little giving and sharing?

So Pirating Patty and I, foolish dim-witted philanthrophists that we are, offered to give the girl private lessons.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fraternal Support

After months of dithering over telling my parents, my sudden coming-out over tea caught everyone a little unprepared.

You just might be wondering what the rest of the family were up to while such earth-shattering domestic disturbances were happening in the grounds of Netherfield. In every other noted family drama, you'd expect the nosy siblings to be furtively crouching behind closed doors trying to listen in on every fragment of the crucial conversation.

Paul : I need to tell you something.
Brother : Yes?
Paul : I'm gay.
Brother : Like duh.

Of course my stolid elder brother would not lower himself to participate in such puerile shenanigans.

Certainly doesn't mean the man wasn't desperately curious about the irregular goings-on here - since I sent him a brief notification informing him of the events transpiring. Rather than admit to a smidgen of inquisitiveness, he quickly dispatched his wife Sassy Sue as an emissary to ascertain the situation.

Sue : You came out?
Paul : I messaged you guys about it.
Sue : We couldn't believe our eyes.
Paul : But there was no reply for days.
Sue : We were out on a desert safari. Your brother thought the message had to be a desert mirage.
Paul : Oh, no wonder.
Sue : And you only sent us five words. 'I came out to mom'. Practically drove us insane wondering what happened.
Paul : Well that's all that happened. Mom seemed oddly calm.
Sue : Probably already knows for a while.
Paul : Or still shell-shocked by it all. I can't actually tell.
Sue : What fun we will have this Christmas. Your brother's already thinking of coming back early just to see what happens.
Paul : Glad to know my coming-out is a source of entertainment.
Sue : Better than television, I swear. Are you going to officially come out to your brother as well?
Paul : Officially? My brother already knows.
Sue : Well you never actually told him. Coming out over the Game of Life doesn't count.
Paul : So now he wants verbal and written confirmation?
Sue : You know how the man likes his facts.

Maybe a singing telegram?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Mother-in-Law

Those words are quite enough to strike the fear of God in many a newly married couple. Or even those who have yet to join hands in state of matrimony. All it needs is the sheer mention of the words to have wide-eyed panic written in their faces followed by an insane impulse to spring-clean the entire house before the monstrous harridan descends.

Let's face it, hell hath no fury like a mother-in-law scorned.

Fortunately mine - the aforementioned Madame Borgia - weaves her deviant machinations in the family country estate several miles south of Netherfield and rarely, if ever, makes any attempt to interfere in the everyday workings of my life. Every time Madame Borgia does actually insert herself into my orbit, I tend to prostrate myself as the sweet, obedient supplicant son-in-law willing to bend over backwards to gratify her. Butter definitely wouldn't melt in my mouth. Even as I write this, I already have the beginnings of a Christmas hamper waiting to be deposited at her front door in a month's time.

Paul : Watch your step.
Calvin : What step?

Unfortunately for Charming Calvin, my mother is a tad more exacting. Though she might not seem quite as unaccommodating, her charming looks can deceive since her critical eyes miss very little. Woe betide the unfortunate son or daughter-in-law who doesn't meet her intimidatingly high expectations.

So ever since I came out to her, I think my managing mother has been looking askance at Calvin, possibly anticipating the inevitable clumsy misstep for her to pounce on. No doubt to prove I'm heading down that dangerous path towards an appalling mésalliance.

Of course utterly unaware of the arduous tasks that lie before him, Calvin lives in charming ignorance. Such sly domestic intrigues would probably slip by him unnoticed!

Calvin : Your mother called to ask me for directions to the hospital. She's visiting a friend there.
Paul : And you just gave her the directions?
Calvin : Yes, I told her how to get there.
Paul : And she seemed lost?
Calvin : Well she didn't really know how to get there.
Paul : And she's going on a Sunday and you're at home?
Calvin : Probably at home yeah.
Paul : And the hospital's just next door?
Calvin : Well, maybe two blocks away.
Paul : Oh dammit.
Calvin : Why?
Paul : You're supposed to make an offer to drive her!
Calvin : I am?
Paul : Dammit! You missed the opportunity.
Calvin : What opportunity?
Paul : Hmm. Now how do I salvage this... What you have to do is call and ask her out for lunch after. Excuse yourself for earlier by saying you had pressing work.
Calvin : I must?
Paul : Just do it. Dammit, I think she's calling me now.

So the queen has made her move. Doesn't mean I don't have some tricks up my sleeve yet.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Aftermath of the Tea

Perhaps I heaved that sigh of relief a bit too soon.

In hindsight I should have been on my guard when my mother just coolly received the news of my homosexuality with shocking sangfroid. Not even the slightest tremor on the hand holding the teacup. In fact I was so relieved - since I'd expected a mild uproar to say the least - that I easily took it at face value her apparent acquiescence.

Or perhaps I saw the warning signs but found it easier to ignore them.

Keeping it cool, I guess. Should have known that I inherited that trait from my mother since we both like to keep our cards uncomfortably close to the chest. Unlike me though, it didn't take all that long for her to reveal some of hers. Crazed hysterics with an appeal to sentiment wouldn't work as well on me - in fact it would irritate the fucking hell out of me - but cold, hard logic might do the trick.

So the messages started coming.

Mom : Have you thought it over?
Paul : I have had almost thirty years to think it over.
Mom : Perhaps you have acted a bit impulsively.
Paul : When have I ever been a creature of impulse, if ever?
Mom : Have you tried? What would it be like not to know the love of a good woman?
Paul : Tried? It's not a choice and you know that. Do I have to explain it all over again?

Yes, you can sense the growing irritation in my voice.

Smile on my face but damn, I felt like kicking the wall.

And that was just the beginning of the interrogation. Gritted my teeth through while she delivered her speech. Tried my best to understand that what took years of painful soul-searching for me to finally accept my poor mother probably had to assimilate in the short space of a few days.

Grr. Didn't make me any less disgruntled when faced with the same cliched arguments made in every shoddy coming-out movie there ever was. Obviously she had plenty more to add - though nothing extremely novel since I've heard almost every justification against homosexuality there ever was with the poignant rebuttal to match. Won't bore you guys by rehashing some of the more salient points of her argument since it would induce a mindless urge to punch walls for me.

Unfortunately trying to psyche myself back into the closet didn't work back when I was an acne-scarred teenager - and it failed to succeed this time.

If anything it made me even more a staunch advocate of waving the rainbow flag. At that moment I probably would have leapt on top of a passing float if a pride parade went by!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Coming Out Tea at Downton


Mother : Perhaps it is time to settle down with a nice girl.
Paul : Dear God, not again. Surely you have another dead horse to beat somewhere?
Mother : I don't believe the subject is as dead as you think, my son.
Paul : What more do I have to add? I do believe we have discussed this at length, mother.
Mother : But surely one of the pretty young ladies that you have met?
Paul : I beg of you, banish any such misguided thoughts on matchmaking since I clearly do not feel the urge to seek any such opportunity. Any such well-meaning attempts in the past, I have obviously had little interest and have entirely repudiated them.
Mother : But have you even tried?
Paul : Mother, much as you would have it, I shall never engage in a romantic liaison with any woman. It is simply not in my nature.
Mother : Surely a phase of some sort?
Paul : Quite a peculiar phase to last through several decades and two boyfriends.
Mother : But what about a family? Don't you want children?
Paul : It would make it a little trickier but I haven't given up on that just yet.
Mother : Well it looks as if the pot is nearly empty. Perhaps more tea?

Followed by a shockingly smooth segue to an entirely unrelated topic.

Not a play, nor a farce but my very own drawing room experience in Netherfield. Since I found myself already at a loss for words with my mother's seemingly blase acceptance, I found it easy to just disengage myself with a mindless ramble of inconsequential nothings.

I have a deep sense of foreboding.

Some time back I made fun of a friend's coming out tea party - never knowing that I'd be the one inadvertently coming out over earl grey and scones. It had certainly never occurred to me that my mother's surprise visit to Netherfield would inexplicably alter my life thereafter.

After the exhausting mental and emotional suspense in the months leading up to this pivotal tea for two, I half expected - and admittedly dreaded - a wild, hysterical scene replete with wailing and weeping that wouldn't seem entirely out of place in a melodramatic Korean daytime drama. Or at the very least a broken tea cup flung squarely against the pink chintz wall.

What actually happened was seriously underwhelming to say the least. Though I hadn't set out to make my intentions known, I realized that it was my one opportunity to speak my mind. The love that dare not speak its name and all that. Made a bit of a push to get the discussion going but apart from a few brief sniffs and sighs from my mother, I could have been talking about the inclement weather in these parts. And as the final coup de grâce, my mother even offered to fetch me more scones.

I didn't know whether to feel relieved - or worried.

Of course my fortunate mother has had years and years of steady preparation for this unsettling revelation since I hardly kept my wayward sexuality secret from her. Or anyone else for that matter. Just a glance at my living room table with the shockingly wanton display of magazines geared towards homosexual men would be enough as proof.

Not to mention the always-present boyfriend in my bed.

No, it's not exactly a Sherlockian mystery to solve. Well at least I hope she is no longer in denial.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Excuse Me, Sir, Would You Like To Be A Porn Star?

We've all seen porn.

Boys, let's not deny it. Hell, even the most rabidly conservative religious zealot standing on his soapbox ranting wildly about the imminent destruction of society has probably gotten his hands on a dirty mag or two. In fact I believe the more repressed, rigidly moralistic fanatics probably stock an entire Smithsonian's worth of wildly illicit pornography.

Always the ones you least expect.

All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.

So it came as a surprise when I came back from my holidays to find that one of my friends had actually taken a star turn. A while ago I mentioned his plight as one of the pretty boys. Well it seems as if the Blue Boy has found another pitfall to being stunningly photogenic.

Obviously the cameras just can't get enough of his good looks. While we're content to just pay voyeur when it comes to porn, our Blue Boy has opted for a more active role so to speak.

Boy : I've been EdisonChenned!
Paul : Edison Chen called you? Isn't he straight? Well, he's cute so I don't see why the glum face.
Boy : I don't mean that! I mean I've been videotaped! In flagrante delicto!
Paul : Holy Bel Ami.
Boy : Oh yes.
Paul : Do you know who took the movie?
Boy : Sad part is I don't actually recall!
Paul : Well you look good from most angles at least. So what were you doing in the movie? Solo? Duo? Group?
Boy : I have no idea! I haven't seen the video clip myself but I have it on good authority that it has been featured on a porn site.
Paul : Hope you're getting paid at least!
Boy : Is that glee on your face?
Paul : Well I always knew you'd look good on porn.

Turns out one of his anonymous fuck buddies decided that a budding career as an amateur porn director would suit him. Any hopeful dreams Blue Boy might have had to run for public office one day obviously dashed to the ground.

Seriously. Talk about a good reason not to simply fuck around.

Of course the moment our boy left, I sprinted for the laptop and googled his name barely twenty seconds after. With his tacit permission of course. By some fortunate circumstance that I can't recall, I actually have seen his penis in the altogether - but I expect there's nothing quite like watching it in slow-mo voyeuristic action.

At least I presume.

Gotta admit it would be a bit weird to watch my handsome friend starring in a fuck flick but hey, I've always been a curious sort. And clearly my morals are fast slipping down the drain! Perhaps I might even pick up a few techniques!

Oh yes the links are there to find but much to my consternation however, the video has been removed from public consumption. Either a guilty conscience or a lack of publicity had the unscrupulous director taking it down. Dammit. And here we were thinking of charging pay-per-view.

Maybe I could ask the notorious Blue Boy for a blow-by-blow replay instead?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Oh So Wicked

Who knew a walking haystack could be so sexy I'd want to reach over and blow him?

Turns out all sorts of wonderful and magical things actually do happen in the fictional Land of Oz. The Wicked Witches aren't all that wicked, the Wizard isn't at all wizardly and Dorothy isn't that much of a heroine after all.

At least that's how they tell the tale in the musical Wicked.

A warm welcome to the theatre!

With theatres lining the block in the West End, surely there's no visit to London without catching a musical or two! Not forgetting the plays of course. So many to choose from but for me, it had to be a choice between the Lion King and Wicked. Although I would have loved to have seen all the rest, we had very little time on our hands with our packed itinerary.

And I'll admit the thought of taking the dodgy midnight train home always gives me the chills.

Thank goodness we started out early to the theatre since we found ourselves utterly befuddled somewhere in the West End after finding out that there were two theatres with the same name!

Calvin : Only one short day but are we there yet?
Paul : OMG I think there are two Apollo Theatres in London. An Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury and an Apollo Theatre in Victoria!
Calvin : What is this feeling? Does that mean we have to defy gravity?
Paul : Perhaps you will have to since they are both miles apart!
Calvin : Perhaps we need the Glinda to show us the way!
Paul : Not unless you have some ruby slippers lying around!

Didn't have a yellow brick road in front of us but we had our helpful wizard in the form of an amiable ticket tout who pointed us along our way. Even plodding munchkins and flying monkeys didn't hinder our way as we marched down to Victoria just in the nick of time before the curtains rose.

And quick we were to find our seats despite squeezing between portly matrons stuffing themselves full with sweet candy and warm beer. Didn't blame them for partaking in the meagre bit of consolation since the deliciously debonair hero of the show, Fiyero, seemed only to have eyes for the green-skinned Elphaba, the main protagonist of Wicked.

Seriously. No one has made tight leather pants look so good on stage. Even when Fiyero ( played by the sexy Mark Evans ) later turned into straw, even the witch couldn't stay away from him. I certainly don't blame her.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Only Way Is Essex

Real people in modified situations, saying unscripted lines but in a structured way.

Yes, sometimes my life does seem particularly scripted. My very own reality show, fortunately more in the vein of a light situational comedy most times rather than a hysterical tragi-drama. Let's face it, coming-out storylines shown on our television screens are usually fraught with drama, suspense and the occasional suicide pact.

Not exactly the walk-into-the-sunset happy ending we're all looking for.

Though I did toy with the idea of coming out to my mother on the crowded steps of Piccadilly Circus moments before sprinting into the tube station hand-in-hand with Charming Calvin, I figured that piece of wild fantasy would border on a silly farce the likes of Benny Hill.

Paul : Pardon? Were you inquiring after my friend Calvin?

So perhaps a change of venue to the pretty little cottage home of our hosts in the picturesque English countryside? Granted I already figured that revealing such a momentous though poorly hidden secret in the their presence would seem a tad ungrateful. Why, my hosts are English - a Mr and Mrs Smith no less - and they certainly wouldn't allow such a surfeit of unbecoming histrionics in their proper household! What would the neighbours think!

With Charming Calvin and I unobtrusively playing footsie under the dinner table every night, it didn't take Mrs Smith very long to ascertain the situation at hand. Racked with curiousity since we weren't inclined to confirm or deny any accusations, Sadie Smith found the time to have a spot of tea with my mother.

Mrs Smith : Oh so who is this friend of his? Calvin?
Mother : Yes, Calvin.
Mrs Smith : Quiet lil fellow. Have they known each other long?
Mother : Mother : Yes, he has been Paul's friend for quite a long while.
Mrs Smith : Comes over often?
Mother : All the time! Calvin's practically a part of the family.
Mrs Smith : That close?
Mother : Almost an adopted son.

Obviously not the answer Sadie Smith was looking for.

Not the one I wanted to hear either. Like any other soap opera out there, there was someone busy eavesdropping several feet away of course. This time it was me - and I leaned surreptitiously against the kitchen door with bated breath to listen to the conversation.

Of course with such pivotal moments transpiring in the next room, Charming Calvin remained oblivious, utterly engrossed with his feast of butter scones, apricot jam and freshly picked apples.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Racy Upstart of Savile Row

Hear ye! Hear ye! Oh gentlemen of London, you need look no further for a place where you'll feel woefully, painfully, tragically inadequate! Just take a step right here down to the posh district of Mayfair to find the shopping street Savile Row, renowned for its traditional men's bespoke tailoring!

And this time it's not the perfectly cut suits that would have you feeling sadly deficient in some manner.

No, the unfortunate lack of flawless six-pack abdominals would be the source of unendurable shame instead.

It would be hard not to notice the store just around the corner. Despite the staid, reputable front of the historical building, it would be impossible to overlook the ginormous risque poster of a muscular Adonis with his sizeable package placed conspicuously at the foyer. The theme of male near-nudity - and the inherent homoeroticism therein - seems to be the general interior decorating look they're going for with shirtless teenage boys cavorting blithely on advertisements and murals.

Abercrombie is here!

And how could we possibly forget the half-naked store greeters! Hunky male model wannabes with the prerequisite six-pack, sublime tan and beatific smile in low-slung jeans.

I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really good looking.

Certainly not in the eugenics utopia of Abercrombie & Fitch where the unattractive, the overweight and the disabled need not apply. Even the photogenic sales assistants are uniformly gorgeous with blinding white smiles. Not that they could actually determine anyone's looks in the grim subterranean darkness of the store.

Adjusting to the dim interiors had me blindly tottering down the wooden steps utterly disoriented - a fact not helped by the deafening thumpa thumpa club music and the copious amounts of fragrance in the air. Shades of a gay nightclub so hip that it actually hurts. Fortunately the store had plenty of shockingly photogenic store models ready to help.

Somewhere in the dark I saw a brightly luminous smile belonging to an amazingly sublime construct of human male DNA. Now I finally knew what Bel Ami pornstars did as a daytime job.

Sales assistant : Hey what's going on!
Paul : *cough* Is there something in the air?
Sales assistant : Oh yes that's our cologne Fierce!
Paul : What? *cough* I can't hear you over the pounding music!
Sales assistant : Fierce! Would you like to try some?
Paul : *cough* Definitely no.
Sales assistant : How about one of our jeans?
Paul : I'd rather pay to get you out of yours!
Sales assistant : What?
Paul : Nothing. What about this hoodie?

What self-respecting gay man could possibly fail to pay pilgrimage to such a holy site.

Didn't purchase anything though since the prices were shockingly prohibitive. With the exorbitant amount I'd pay for a pair of jeans, I'd expect at least a quick grope in the changing rooms with one of the exceedingly stunning models.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Foggy Day in London Town

Oh yes it is foggy.

Though the fog remained more in my throbbing head than around the city environs itself - despite its oft-repeated moniker as the Big Smoke. Apparently a jet-setting lifestyle - and the unsettling time differences between cities - would prove highly detrimental to my fragile health. Add that to my persistent insomnia during harrowing flights and you can imagine my distress.

Never one to give up without a fight, I turned to the one thing that would help alleviate my pain.


Nothing like the glorious ring of cash registers to get my senses realigned.

Quite a foggy day out there!

London is rightfully famed for its dozens of neighbourhood markets. Though very few quite as famed, kitschy - or as jam-packed with gawking camera-laden tourists - as Portobello Road Market. As you move from the wildly expensive antiques at the Notting Hill end, the stalls gradually evolve to display fruits and vegetables, cheeses and meats, cakes and breads; on to trendy boutiques selling vintage clothing and up-and-coming labels, only to finally end up in Ladbroke Grove with stalls hawking retro military memorabilia.

So you can imagine I went just a bit mental seeing the bargains.

Signs everywhere I turned brightly printed with the beguiling phrases of sale, bargains and prices down certainly cleared the disorienting fugue in my head. Siren calls for me, even a tiny yet enticing 2-for-1 sign propped up on a shabby stall drew my gaze. Yes, my poor wallet and I simply cannot stand to be near markets! No doubt I would have carted back dozens of antique stoneware water coolers, old street signs and even an ancient toy pull cart if I hadn't had Charming Calvin to shake me back to reality.

Calvin : What is that?
Paul : A lovely antique sterling silver toast rack?
Calvin : You don't like toast.
Paul : One day I might! Especially if I had a maid ready to make the toast. And look it has such pretty matching sugar tongs!
Calvin : For the dainty cubes in your sugar bowl?
Paul : We could always get a sugar bowl.
Calvin : Get it then.
Paul : Hmm. Wonder if I should get it.
Calvin : Well, you can certainly afford to splurge.
Paul : Damn. Now I don't want to get it!

Never underestimate the taciturn Calvin.

Similar scene repeated itself on the high streets of Oxford Street, Kensington and Piccadilly as well. Each time Calvin brought up the notion that I could actually afford the needless expenditure, contrary fellow that I am, I immediately backtracked from the frivolous purchase. Wildly unequal exchange rates displaced the bargain bin signs in my head.

Double damn.

Else I would probably have needed a 20-foot container just to ship my purchases home.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Autumn in London

Almost three years ago, we took romantic walks every evening down the crowded streets of downtown Beijing in autumn.

Though the streets were quite as crowded this time, the walks were far from leisurely and resembled more closely desperate marathon runs down cobbled streets into dingy underground stations and up again. Far too many sights in Londontown to cram into the paltry space of a short week. Yet we managed to cover quite a bit from the grisly secrets of the Tower of London to the hushed halls of the National Gallery.

Hand-in-hand. Shoulder-to-shoulder. Though twice as hurried, I found it quite as romantic as our walks in Beijing. With my mother as an ever-present chaperone during the trip, it occurred to me that not recognizing our relationship for what it was had to be the severest form of denial. How could she not tell? Calvin and I were far from circumspect that's for sure.

Though we did refrain from any serious hanky-panky since the expeditious nature of our jam-packed sightseeing meant we were both dead tired by the end of the day.

What shall I read next?

All that art, culture and history crammed into the space of only two days had me blithely wondering how Charming Calvin was taking it. Never a big fan of reading himself - especially when it dealt with such interminably tedious topics, I guessed the sudden unwelcome onslaught of trifling British trivia must have been quite bewildering.

My ISO : So how is the boyfriend enjoying London?
Paul : Endless museums, galleries and bookshops? I have no idea. Shell-shocked possibly.
My ISO : I never could make much sense of all that dull information either.
Paul : Think all the tales of kings and queens from the different eras must be jumbled up in his muddled brain by now.
My ISO : William the Conqueror marrying six wives in time for the Great Exhibition of 1851?
Paul : Something befuddling like that.

At least I thought it would confound him. Calvin however seemed to take all that in stride.

Despite the hours spent browsing in the behemoth bookstore of Waterstone's Piccadilly, I don't think he was inspired to reexamine the overflowing glut of information shoved down his throat by our enthusiastic guides. Not a single book did he crack open! Instead our dauntless fellow spent the time reviewing the pictures he took of everything in sight from the awe-inspiring marble casts of Trajan's Column to the boisterous fruit vendors in Portobello Road Market.

Just a note though but have you guessed that I simply adore the bookstores in London?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

London Calling

Plaster cast about six inches tall of a free-standing clock tower painted in bronze and gilded in gold.

Nothing much really but that's about all I could afford back then. Always been one for tacky trinkets - thankfully the loose bits of change I had in my woefully thin pockets as an impecunious student were just enough to justify the exorbitant purchase on an underwhelmingly minuscule replica of the towering Big Ben. Yet it was the most I'd ever squandered on a holiday.

So it was all I could do not to have my foolish blundering maid summarily executed on Tower Hill when she clumsily chipped it during an unfortunate dusting misadventure. To say I was livid would have been a severe understatement.

Where shall I begin?

It has been a while. More than ten years later I stood before the towering monument yet again, this time very much older, far from wiser and significantly more plump in the pockets.

And obviously more than ready to splurge.

Like an old trusted friend, the city remained much the same with the shopping streets written clear on the back of my hand. Much to the dismay of Charming Calvin - himself an ingenuous first-timer in the Big Smoke. No doubt wide-eyed with endless wonder over the treasures that the city of London had to offer, he found himself instead confronted with an irate boyfriend at the steps of the Green Park tube station early one October morning.

Paul : List down ten places you want to visit in London.
Calvin : Only ten? There are so many sights to see. I don't know if -
Paul : Didn't you make up a list on the horrific thirteen hour flight here with a monstrous 8 hour layover?
Calvin : I slept!
Paul : Well I never can sleep a wink on planes so I made a list.
Calvin : Would that be a shopping list?
Paul : Clever boy! Speak now or forever hold your tattered visitor's guide. My shopping spree will commence in about 24 hours!

Dithering between tourist sites, Calvin found it hard to make a snap decision when faced with such an ultimatum. Accustomed to such nervous agitation, I saw no other recourse but to drag him to the Tower. Lucky for him though no grim executioner awaited him at Tower Hill but a gregarious Yeomen Warder ready to show him the historical sites.