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.