Monday, February 28, 2011

Fields of Nether

Situated as it is in the backwoods with land to spare, it should come as no surprise that Netherfield has a relatively extensive demesne. Eminently suited for the cultivation of wheat and barley as the officious landlady Mrs Elton saw fit to inform me. If i recall, she even had a thriving chicken farm at the back.

Though I do have a reasonably green thumb, I'll admit the thought of slaving the sultry afternoons away under a burning sun just to raise a sheaf of corn isn't at all palatable.

And sadly for such an estate, Netherfield doesn't come complete with its own villeins or serfs.

Come trim my lawn!

Fortunately I still have several potted plants with me courtesy of the mother-in-law. Fear of harbouring poisonous seed has exiled those dubious pots to the furthestmost boundaries of the estate.

However leaving such fertile soil barren and empty obviously encourages the rampant development of invading weeds. Even regular trimming doesn't seem to have made a dent in their relentless growth. Tended by the recent monsoon rains, the interlopers have grown quite as high as the elephant's eye. A veritable savannah grassland breeding snakes, rats and all sorts of vermin to my mind.

A terrifying thought keeping me awake nights which has led me to find Jungle Jack. From the tempting advertorial placed on the community board, it seems the strapping fellow is an expert at combating such pesky yet persistent intruders. Landscaping, weeding, grasscutting and such - claims the entrepreneurial Jungle Jack. No doubt he has already guessed that the lords and ladies of the neighbourhood simply don't dirty their manicured fingers with such menial tasks.

Whether to raze the entire grassland, choke the intruders with weedkiller or to replant, I haven't figured out. Hopefully Jack is man enough to tame the intimidating grasslands. I may yet walk through my fields of gold.

Wonder if Jack would mind working shirtless.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ravens & Cranes

I'll have to admit that my new job has rendered me practically jobless.

A contradiction in terms but all too true - since essentially my working hours have shrunk drastically leaving me with plenty of idle time on my hands. Rattling about the vast estate of Netherfield, I've started coming up with dozens of hobbies to fill up my time from painting-by-numbers to glass etchings.

And lately to making paper mobiles.

So how do my DIY projects start? Well I came upon the idea after finding several forlorn paper cranes discarded on my Christmas decoration pile. Sadly drooping wings hoping to take flight again - and who was I to tell them nay?

After all what better place was there to fly than in our suitably Gothic dining room?

Shockingly cavernous, the dining room in Netherfield comes with lofty ten-foot ceilings, thick walls festooned with pink stalactites for tiles and the barest minimum of ambient light stealing in between darkened windows. For reasons better known to herself, the previous landlady - the inscrutable Mrs Elton, prefers to dine in relative darkness, blindly groping for her eating utensils while blithely guessing the contents of the main course.

How else to explain the lone dejected lightbulb flickering miserably just above the sober black dining table?

Always a pleasure having you for dinner at Netherfield!

No doubt offering some respite after the blinding magnificence of two chandeliers in her living room.

Our Mrs Elton always had questionable tastes.

Mrs Elton : See my lovely lovely dining room.
Paul : All it needs is a brooding black raven to complete the look.
Mrs Elton : You think that would make it look better, yeah?
Paul : Don't even think about adding to the haunted mansion, Morticia.

So at least I hoped the cheery pink paper cranes would help alleviate the profoundly dismal atmosphere. A tad less Goth. A little more optimism.

Well, maybe one black bird in the mix :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Army of Pails

People like to collect.

Me, I collect tchotchkes from all the places I've been to feather my nest. Carpet from Istanbul, clay statue from Beijing, lace hanky from Brussels etc. Since my house has turned into a veritable junkstore, it's truly the case of one man's junk is another man's treasure.

Which brings up the issue of my housemate Kool Kat's recent hobby. As it turns out my housemate collects pails.

OMG is that another pail?

Yes, pails. At last count, I could have sworn I saw at least ten pails. Seriously have no idea where they all crop up from. When the pails first arrived from out of Kat's moving boxes, I had them neatly arranged in rows behind a folding screen. Should have been about two or three at the most.

Then they doubled. Tripled. Multiplied. Till a few are threatening to spill down the stairs.

Even Felix is starting to wonder exactly what's happening behind the screen.

Paul : That's a lot of pails. What does Kat need them for?
Felix : Let me recite. One for her whites. One for her coloureds. One for her delicates. One for the really dirty clothes. One for her clean clothes after the wash. One for her shoes. One for her mop.
Paul : And one for that little boy who lived down the lane?
Felix : Possibly.
Paul : Tell me, are there more pails today than yesterday?
Felix : No, I don't think so.
Paul : Are you sure? There's one more right outside your door!
Felix : OMG. Where did that come from?
Paul : The pails are coming to get us!

Miraculously the pails are reproducing.

Seemingly exponentially since the pails started creeping out from behind the screen. Reds. Blues. Greens. Doubling and tripling in all colours of the rainbow it seemed. All huddled together behind the painted silk of the screen to plan their wicked stratagem of total world domination.

Beware. The pails are coming.

Monday, February 21, 2011

No Man is an Island?

I gotta admit I've always prided myself on being self-sufficient.

Always kept my own affairs zealously private. Back in university, seems like I spend half the time foolishly sneaking around the darkened grounds for secret assignations with my ISO. So desperately closeted back then that I even feared letting my roommate know.

Though I'm pretty sure he was dead curious about what was happening.

Roommate : You're off on your Wednesday bit again?
Paul : Wednesday bit?
Roommate : Yeah, you always run off after lunch on Wednesday. Sometimes you even skip lessons.
Paul : Umm. I do, don't I?
Roommate : Where do you go actually?
Paul : My... aunt's? An old aunt? She's real I tell ya!
Roommate : Sure it isn't a secret rendezvous?
Paul : Haha. Of course not. Haha. What do you mean by that? Haha.

Seriously lame I was. I'm sure my roommate had his own guesses. But of course in time I grew a tad better at scripting believable lies.

Therapy is in session! Alright who's next?

With matters being so clandestine for me then, obviously I wasn't about to offer any information on my relationship to anyone. Though surprisingly I have never been short on receiving information from others. Ever since high school - like every other stereotypical gay fellow - I've been the reliable shoulder to cry on for half a dozen heartbroken / heartsick sophomores. Easier to proffer consultation when you're busy watching from the sidelines.

Even been the sounding board for a few schoolboy crushes.

So yeah, giving advice is my thing. Getting advice in return is something quite novel for me. Never really tried it actually. When your erstwhile best friend fucks up a relationship with you, you tend not to trust as easily. Much less confide in someone else.

Which is why I've ended up being my own agony aunt. Usually I tend to have one-sided conversations with myself when I need help. The proverbial Lucy van Pelt with her lemonade stand offering psychiatric consults for five cents. Entire question-and-answer sessions with only me in attendance. Can turn quite lively sometimes.

Smacks of schizophrenia, I know.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Someday My Prince Will Come?

Or maybe not.

Turns out these days princes charming are in short supply. So acute a shortage that even my sister-in-law has made a remark about it. Planning a birthday party with a theme, she decided to shop the stores for costumes. You'd think a medieval theme would be easy enough to shop for.

Sister-in-law : Damn! There are no princely costumes at all! Don't the boys wanna be princes anymore?
Paul : Not really. Tough being a prince these days.
Sister-in-law : Looks like it is. Lots of princess costumes though.
Paul : Not a surprise. In fact I think some of the boys I know would prefer to be princesses.
Sister-in-law : Damn.

The princess is gonna be waiting in peril for a long time coming.

Damn. I hope she doesn't expect me to be a prince!

I guess that's what the world is coming to these days. With a dwindling number of suitors coming to save them from the metaphorical dragons, how can we blame the little princesses from turning to women's lib?

Prince : Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!
Rapunzel : Oh yes, my sweet prince!
Prince : Waitaminute, am I supposed to pay for your carriage fare after you come down from the tower?
Rapunzel : Umm. Yes? And maybe a new dress as well?
Prince : Damn. I was hoping you'd have spare change on you. Wasn't there talk of treasure in your tower?
Rapunzel : I've been locked up here in this tower for more than a decade. Why would I have a single cent?
Prince : Umm. You mean I'll have to work?

Not only don't the boys wanna dress in white armour to ride on knightly steeds, they'd much prefer to be the ones twiddling their manicured thumbs in abandoned towers waiting for the rescue. Seriously.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Carmen's First Coinbox

Think we all had them as kids. Mine was the generic stuffed pig. But whether made of porcelain, glass or even papier-mache, we all had those pretty little containers with slots ostensibly meant to teach us all the true meaning of money.

And financial frugality.

Subjects obviously close to the heart of my prudent brother. Judging his eldest finally capable of practising some financial restraint, he sat little Chatty Carmen down one night for a serious talk.

On small savings and investment plans.

Carmen : Good grief. You call this a cellphone?

But since Carmen has been getting her fair share of red packets this year, my brother figured it penny-wise to educate his daughter on the wheelings and dealings of the financial world. My brother has this irrational fear that his baby girl would grow into a frivolous spendthrift heiress. Not realizing of course that even bank presidents and trust fund managers frequently bungle such heady matters.

Carmen's just past six by the way.

The hour long lecture on stocks, shares and bonds resulted in my little niece Carmen getting saddled with a coinbox. Not just any coinbox mind you - but a makeshift DIY coinbox spartanly refurbished from an old jar of mayo. Obviously to doubly hammer home the idea of frugal economy.

Paul : The coinbox looks tragic. Can I get her a new one?
Brother : No problem. Make sure it's transparent though so she can see it.
Paul : So that she can cackle gleefully over her growing wealth?
Brother : Something like that.

Turns out my brother promised to double her investment earnings in a year. So to start Carmen off I popped in a red packet.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Gay X-Factor

Freaks. Aberrations. Deviants.

Vile epithets narrrowminded homophobes have used against us time and again. Surprisingly also terms synonymous with the genetic mutants in the X-Men. Is it any surprise that frequent comparisons have been drawn between the mutants' tense, guarded situation, including concealment of their extraordinary abilities and the age they manifest these powers, and closeted homosexuality?

Only friends?

Even as a curious schoolkid, the similarities were clear enough that I started devouring comics voraciously, particularly the books showcasing mutants. Hounded by the community at large. Hiding from their family and friends. Horrified by their astounding abilities. So yeah, I did empathize - though my powers extended more to fabulous window dressing than telekinesis or mutant strength.

Back then the dashing Jean Paul Beaubier - or more widely known as Northstar - had just only come out of the closet. Even then the controversial hero only appeared sporadically, more often getting butchered, sidelined or thrown off screen quite spectacularly. Seriously lame. Hardly a gay idol to look up - to so we had to make up our own. The curiously ambiguous Iceman? A wildly erotic Cyclops / Wolverine hook-up?

Of course we also had the surprisingly emotional, highly charged friendship between Rictor and Shatterstar, both junior leaguers in the X-Force.

Rictor - or Julio Esteban Richter - is a moody Mexican-born mutant who literally makes the earth move while Shatterstar is a genetically modified bad-ass gladiator warrior manufactured to perform for the audience of an extraworldly dimension. Both ostensibly best friends but with an undeniable chemistry so subtly homoerotic that the homo fanboys picked up on it and rejoiced with lots of speculation and dozens of steamy slash stories.

Rictor and Shatterstar

A hinted-about relationship that was only realized more than a decade later with a kiss - so earth-moving, so star-shattering - that it put all the previous gay rumours to rest. With the two boys brought back from publishing limbo to be cast in the admittedly fabulous X-Factor, a hard-boiled noir-styled mix of detective and superhero pulps.

I'll admit I squealed when I saw the long-awaited kiss.

Things have changed for the duo of course. Filled with endless angst after the loss of his mutant powers, Rictor has developed a cynical brand of humour while Shatterstar, with prolonged exposure to humanity and its many foibles, has morphed into a more fun-loving character far more eager to experience and enjoy the world at large.

Which also includes promiscuous sexual trysts for the limber fellow. Now how do you explain having a strictly monogamous relationship to a sex-crazed alien from another dimension?

Of course revealing what happens next with the boys would be a disservice to the spectacular work of Peter David, the writer of X Factor. Now, isn't it time you picked up an issue?

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Pemberley Jinx

If you find your relationship has hit a dull hum-drum stretch on the road with very few significant bumps on the road - and you find yourself wanting some excitement, there's no better solution than to get a damned apartment.

Don't think we've had quite as many petty disagreements ever since Charming Calvin signed the deal on Pemberley. From the chandelier conflicts to the paint swatch squabbles, we haven't been at such intent cross-purposes... ever. Added to the conflict is the fact that we're separated by a great body of water - the Big Puddle - so our heated conferences are only carried out on the cellphone / internet. Despite what our overenthusiastic providers like to tell ya, they are certainly not the best of solutions for communication.

Just try ordering kitchen cabinets on Skype.

It hasn't made me love him less. Though it has given me a crazed urge to repeatedly kick the solid wooden doors at Pemberley. I assume - or at least I hope - these are the silly little arguments couples have when they finally commit to a relatively hefty piece of real estate. Along with the mounting bills, bills, bills that come with it.

And I haven't even counted the blistering headaches caused by the lackadaisical ( yet shockingly exorbitant ) contractors as yet.

Paul : So you'll be staying at the new apartment after the cabinets are done?
Calvin : I don't think I'll move in till it's finished.
Paul : Finished?
Calvin : After everything is settled. When the last nail is knocked! When the last curtain is hung! When the last pillow is placed!
Paul : I love you but you're nuts. Unless you've hired a wandering witch with a wicked wand, Pemberley is an ongoing decorating process that's gonna take months.
Calvin : Nooooo...
Paul : Why are you in such a rush anyway? Have you joined a competition?

Obviously he still expects instant 24-hour makeovers, no doubt courtesy of the various home improvement challenges on television. Even then they usually manage to finish only one particular room.

Do we blame Nate for this?

Believe me, kids, short of sorcerous intervention, instant home redecorating simply doesn't happen! If you're anything like me, the house would be an ever-changing domestic landscape of pillows, sofas and bric-a-bracs.

Hmm. Then again, maybe I should have painted the walls of Pemberley a different shade of white.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Coming Out to Harold

Paul : Shit. Is that Harold?
My ISO : Sounds like him. Can't he just get lost for five minutes?
Paul : Just get your buttons done properly.
My ISO : And comb your hair.

That was roughly about fifteen years ago. And that was our old friend Honest Harold coming to knock on the door of my then-boyfriend and I.

With a name like Honest Harold, you can imagine how my ISO and I tried our best to keep our budding relationship hidden from his view. Back then, butter wouldn't even melt in Harold's sweet mouth. However secrets would spill easily so we tried our best to remain closeted when he was around. Granted a bit hard to do in our randy hormone-fueled youth where every shadowy corridor and darkened doorway seemed like the perfect opportunity for a quick furtive grope.

Not that I ever harboured a crush on him - God forbid - but Harold had shades of a little something that I later recognized in Charming Calvin. Quiet, reserved demeanour with a deeply conservative streak a mile long. So yeah, I never would have come out to him way back then.

Love-making or rough-housing?

Of course things are vastly different now.

Ever since he unexpectedly popped up on my computer screen two nights ago ( after a decade of disappearance! ). Our first conversation after fifteen years apart went something like this.

Harold : Moved over to the island with my wife and kids. Running a little farm now. How about you? Married?
Paul : Don't know if I've told you but I'm gay.
Harold : No shit. Really?
Paul : Really.
Harold : Are you pulling a prank on me again?
Paul : Gay as a three dollar bill. Fuck men, feather boa and all that.
Harold : Guess you won't be a fan of the feathered ducks on my farm then.
Paul : Not unless they come with cocks.
Harold : Huh.

Guess that's one way of coming out.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cousins in the Closet

Without consciously realizing it, we actually come out of the closet almost every other day. Hard not to when heterosexuality is considered the norm in most communities. In a conservative asian society, even the word homosexual is still held taboo by many - hush hush - which results in many of our peers remaining hidden in their closets. Out to a select few. Camouflaged to many.

Unlike our western brethren who prefer to live out and proud, the asian boys here prefer to live discreetly avoiding the pink limelight. Some even lead double lives, getting married with wives and children. Why bother rocking the boat they would say. With relentless societal and religious pressures bearing down on them, I can't say that I blame them.

For myself, I've gradually given up on the tiring pretense. Unless you're a fucking nosy bastard, if you care to ask, I usually tell. Reason why I rarely get asked the infamous question during the chinese new year reunion dinner. Most of the older cousins of my generation ( already in our thirties! ) have already guessed, questioned and gotten a definite confirmatory reply from me.

In fact those in the know have already begun pestering me for red packets. For the first time this year I actually obliged a few.

With my older cousins busy discussing Dow Jones and diapers, I joined the rapidly growing rugrats at their dinner table to listen to some salacious teenage gossip. Quite a rambunctious bunch led by a shockingly savvy Lanky Lacey, sister of Lispy Lori. All ribbons, lace and attitude.

Paul : You know?
Lacey : Like duh.

I wasn't disappointed with what I heard. Alas who knew the younger kids would have gotten so smart as well? I never would have thought that the junior high schoolers would have started guessing about moi. Obviously I'm far from being closeted but I'm not exactly sashaying down the lit runway with a glittery feather boa either.

In fact when I made a perfectly innocent remark at the dinner table about her classmate, Lacey turned and gave me a wry, knowing look.

Lacey : Ah, he's just my best friend.
Paul : Sure he doesn't have any interest in you?
Lacey : Seriously doubt it. I'm definitely not his type.
Paul : Guys do change.
Lacey : Not that much. In fact I think he's one of you.
Paul : One of you? Meaning?
Lacey : Well, he's definitely not a ladies' man.
Paul : Oh.
Lacey : Meaning no girls. Nuh uh. No way. Never.
Paul : Huh. Is he cute?

From the mouths of babes. Lanky Lacey is just turned 17 by the way.

So much for keeping it private and confidential.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Girls of Spring

The annual Chinese New Year is a time for favoured traditions.

And there's nothing quite as traditional as a proper Chinese paper-cutting. With the invention of paper traditionally attributed to the Han Dynasty courtier Cai Lun, it would make sense that the ancient Chinese have transformed the humble sheet of paper into a simple yet delicate art form.

One that my own grandmother practises to decorate the hallways and the altars. And a past-time I'm trying to pick up this year with my own amateurish attempts at papercutting. Finally managed a few simple symmetrical designs, from 喜 to 春 that I pasted up around the house.

Paul : More paper cuttings for you!
Lori : We could place them in gift bags!
Paul : And give them away in exchange for more red packets!

Even handed a few to my cousins to preen next to during their usual photo sessions. Which the girls, especially Lispy Lori, grabbed with boundless enthusiasm. Apart from the common peony blossoms and mandarin oranges, other seasonal props are always welcome at their annual photo shoots. Another cousin even brought a garish fuchsia umbrella festooned with roses.

Till grandma stepped in.

Grandma : OMG this is so bad!
Paul : The girls have always been bad.
Grandma : Stop! Don't let the girls hold the letter 春 up!
Paul : That letter?
Grandma : Young ladies are not allowed to hold it up! It's taboo.
Lori : Ooh.
Paul : Now you've got me interested. Why not?
Grandma : Holding the word 春 denotes... immorality!
Paul : Doesn't 春 mean spring?
Grandma : Tut tut. It all depends.
Lori : Did grandma just brand me a slut? I like.
Paul : Let's cut more.

春. Obviously putting way just a little too much spring in their steps.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Orange Peel Chinese Whispers

For my family, the annual reunion dinner is always a time to figure out exactly who goes where! Over here, we have two large tables in the kopitiam that should be enough to fit twenty easily - but unfortunately that's barely half the number of my rapidly growing relatives.

Once the dinner bell rings, imagine my cousins, uncles and aunts milling about searching for available seats in our very own version of musical chairs with the older generation zealously hogging one dinner table while the next generation grabs the other. Usually leaving the newest members ( think flabbergasted in-laws ) standing in the wings waiting for seats.

The seat's available! Let's go!

Taking turns to eat leaves the rest of us plenty of time to catch up with family gossip. Nothing like a bit of scandal - and some mandarin oranges to peel - to distract the lot from the usual questions of impending marriage! Unlike the years before, we don't only have mundane matters such as pressing housing loans and mediocre exam results to talk about.

There are whispers of adultery in the family. A damning accusation pointed at the most sloppy lackadaisical uncle I have.

Cousin : I heard he's having an affair.
Paul : Seriously doubt it. Have you seen how sloppy he is? Neither wealth, rank nor good looks to recommend him!
Cousin : One woman's tramp is another woman's prince.
Paul : Take a look again. He's everyone's tramp.
Cousin : Well his jealous wife thinks he is having an affair so in retaliation, she has decided to get a toyboy herself.
Paul : Ooh, tell me more.

Orange peels are tossed aside as we lean in for more. Obviously some folks are having double the prosperity this year.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Scarlet Letter

All you need is a little spark.

Like a blazing wildfire it spreads from men's envious hearts to the curious ears of those who would listen. Some of us have been tools to ignite the flame. Others have merely helped fan the burning blaze while the unfortunate ones succumb to the unforgiving heat.

Gossip and rumours.

Even saintly Hester Prynne didn't prove to be immune.

What's wrong with a little bit of gossip anyway!

Me, I never minded a little bit of both. Been the hapless subject of a few as well. Since I've been gossiped about well nigh since high school, I have actually gotten over the many epithets, falsehoods and slanders spread about me. Trust me boys and girls, if I have learnt anything at all from these unfortunate episodes, I do know that true friends never listen to such rumours.

And for the rest of the inconsequential fuckers, you shouldn't give a damn anyway.

Obviously not everyone learnt this lesson back in school.

Karl : People are talking about me.
Paul : So?
Karl : Spreading rumours about me.
Paul : So?
Karl : I don't like it.
Paul : Don't think that's gonna make them stop talking.
Karl : Still don't like it.
Paul : Why does it matter what they say? They aren't even your friends.
Karl : But I care!
Paul : What's wrong with a bit of notoriety anyway?

Hardly a help, I know!