Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In Someone's Good Graces

It's days like these that I thank God that I'm a flaming faggot.

Surprisingly Graceless Grace - usually the niggling pebble in my shoe - is only partly to blame for the revelation. As a matter of fact our ordinarily abrasive Grace hasn't seen fit to drive me up the wall in ages. With the Big Puddle thankfully acting as a dependable buffer between us, our decade-long relationship has been undergoing a brief freinassance with nary a bitter quarrel instigated by either side.

Which leads me to the epiphany above. Blighted with misfortune in her search for love, Grace has been our very own Carrie Bradshaw come to life. Super-scum-magnet we termed her once and that has turned out to be quite the unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy. From hotheaded wife-beating Chris Browns to fearful doddering dandies, she has seen all the freaks on the horrific merry-go-round of dating disasters.

David Gandy
Grace : I like bad boys and I cannot lie.

But nothing has quite prepared her for the latest beau in her string of screwball suitors.

Grace : He's nearly perfect.
Paul : How so?
Grace : He dresses really well, calls when he says he will call, picks me up on time etc. Generally a perfect gentleman. Even sent me flowers for Valentine.
Paul : Sounds like a real catch. So what's the problem?
Grace : I don't know! I think he is too nice.
Paul : There is no such thing as too nice.
Grace : There is. He is too nice.
Paul : You'd prefer if he hauled off and walloped you like your ex?
Grace : Umm...
Paul : WTF.

Obviously a bit of bad boy misbehaviour is fine by Grace. Perhaps another serious black bruise over her swollen eye would be nice as a reminder.

Puzzled by her incomprehensible logic, I asked around and found out from the rest of my girlfriends that it's actually true. Turns out for the ladies there really is a thing as too nice. Violent physical battery would be going wildly overboard - though still acceptable for some - but apparently it wouldn't be a bad thing to stand your date up, behave like a douchebag or forget anniversaries once in a while.

The poor Mr Nice Guys are really getting the short shrift. With all these mixed signals from the indecisive debutantes, no wonder the boys are getting all miserably confused. No wonder the good boys go bad.

Seriously. What's wrong with the girls? Barmy hormones aside, why would you not want a Mr Nice Guy? If a nice fella treated me that thoughtfully, I'd probably have him hog-tied in seconds and dragged back to my cave. There is no such thing as too nice when it comes to me.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bunking in a Jimjilbang

Mother of God.

There must be literally hundreds of hotels / inns / B&Bs just within the Seoul metropolitan area itself. Going through and evaluating the entire list online has only left me with the disheartening impression that even minuscule guest rooms the size of my bedroom closet would cost a pretty penny in outrageously pricey Seoul.

Seriously, if I were to fork out more than a thousand bucks for a measly room, it had better come with a reasonably satisfying lap-dance from a hot muscled Korean boy the likes of Choi Siwon.

Contemplating the different alternatives for temporary hostelry has made me look at the jimjilbang in a different way. Basically it's a large public bathhouse in Korea. If you've ever sat through a Korean drama, chances are you'd probably catch the protagonists relaxing in quaintly color-coded gender-specific garments in a jimjilbang.

Siwon : You want me to give you a lapdance?
Paul : Yes, is that going to be a problem?

And occasionally you'll see the protagonists struggle their way there after falling desperately into sadly significant financial insolvency. For a meagre sum, you get a place to lay your head for the entire night. Seems the have entire cinemas, cybercafes and restaurants in there.

And a hot bath, don't forget that.

Unfortunately you gotta get totally naked for that. Hmm... I'm a bit iffy about stripping down in broad daylight and then parading au naturel in front of a whole bunch of staring strangers - especially in surprisingly homophobic Korea, where a whole room of naked virile men doesn't exactly translate to full-scale buttsex orgy. Honestly I'd be a little more understanding if it did lead to a little naughty bump-and-grind.

But no, apparently they actually head to the bathhouse purely for what it says on the door. A bath. So nothing kinky going on there despite everything flapping in the breeze.

So getting naked.

Hmm. Unless I looked like the aforementioned Korean hottie Choi Siwon, I doubt I'd be able to shed my inhibitions as easily as my robes at the door. If all Korean men are genetically slender yet sculpted with military-trained muscles, I'm going to have to decline. Definitely a stumbling block at the jimjilbang. Fortunately I haven't reached such dire straits yet when it comes to looking for available rooms but with the sinfully expensive prices they're charging at the hotels, it's worth keeping in mind.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Confession is Good for the Seoul

Thrown by my unexpected decision, even my sister-in-law Sassy Sue could hardly believe her ears.

Sue : You're seriously going?
Paul : Yes. Booked the tickets already.
Sue : I can hardly believe it.
Paul : Honestly neither can I.
Sue : Thought you'd never head to that corner of the world.
Paul : Why don't you pack your bags, come along and see what's there?
Sue : Umm.... no.

Even a brief yet highly detailed itinerary of the coming expedition failed to ignite her waning enthusiasm. Faced with such unstinting disdain, I still found it hard to blame Sue - since just five years ago if you'd told me I'd be thinking of going, I'd probably have laughed it off calling you an inane lackwit. Hell, just two years ago, I'd still be making fun of it.

Paul : So we're agreed? I'll go book some tickets.
Calvin : Waitaminute, did you say Seoul?!

No, I'm not gritting my teeth grimly preparing for a Médecins Sans Frontières mission to some God-forsaken war-torn country. Though the place I'm going is technically still at war with its cantankerous neighbour - since I hear a peace treaty has never been signed - which places my next destination within decidedly dangerous range of a nuclear trigger-happy megalomaniac to the north.

Thought only the profoundly delusional, highly fanatical Kdrama devotees would head that way after being irresistibly swept off by the mighty hallyu wave. After all when you think of South Korea, don't you have this dismally generic image of skyscrapers, shrines and super-skinny samsoons? Apart from enviously quick broadband, what do they actually have to rave about in Seoul?

Which is why it has never been in my Blue List of places to go. Ever.

But somewhere between a weekend rerun of Sungkyunkwan Scandal, replays of the infectious Girl's Generation Hoot and a steaming bowl of kimchi ramyun, I found myself with an irresistible urge to find that out for myself. Since I was looking for a short vacation break that's relatively undemanding, I figured Seoul would be the perfect ticket.

And yes, ever since someone mentioned that Seoul is the perfect shopping destination, my mother has been raring to go.

Mother : Someone did say Seoul is the place to go.
Paul : Good God. What will we do there?
Mother : Well they do have malls that open 24 hours.
Paul : Is April soon enough for you?

Yes, I can't resist malls. And retail therapy that lasts the whole 24 hours is practically like the freaking mother ship calling me home.

According to the gourmands who have visited and returned with glowing reviews, Seoul also has lotsa pork dishes. Reason enough for Charming Calvin to be convinced.

And yes, I'll find out whether it's true that they actually ship unflatteringly overweight outcasts to the hidden depths of North Korea for extreme crash course diets. Or have the unfortunates summarily executed depending on what you hear. After all Koreans can't all be ridiculously thin, genetically gifted, ethereally handsome fellows, can they?

Wonder if they'll allow me to bring one home as a souvenir.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Perfect Job

Look, there are no perfect jobs.

As much as it hurts, it's really simple! If there were any, the term job or work wouldn't be burdened with all its subtly negative connotations! We'd probably call it a paid vacation.

At least that's what I used to think. But in recent times I look around and find many of my own peers - even more so when it comes to our disenchanted juniors - endlessly bellyaching over the apparently horrific conditions at their hellish workplaces with a handful daydreaming about opting out to find that elusive dream job where the grass is decidedly greener.

Goldilocks : This job doesn't suit me.
Paul : This is your fifth job.
Goldilocks : Just doesn't challenge me.
Paul : The last one challenged you too much.
Goldilocks : That one was far too stressful.
Paul : Now this one has too little pay.
Goldilocks : Yes.
Paul : So what will you do?
Goldilocks : Maybe I need a break from work.
Paul : You tried that already! ANd it's only been six months!
Goldilocks : I don't like it already.
Paul : So when the going gets tough, you get going as well?

Seriously? We're not even talking about slaving away 24/7 in reeking, rat-infested basement sweatshops but a couple of hours tapping away on ergonomic keyboards in air-conditioned, perfectly appointed offices. And their megalomaniacal bosses might be watching over them like a hawk but at least he doesn't wield a big stick.

Fucking hell! I can do better than this!

Perhaps that's the pragmatic part of me that's Asian. Haven't they heard of swallowing a bit of bitterness? Although judging by their high-flying, well-paid positions, it's more like swallowing that teaspoon of bitter with a whole Noritake jug of pure Manuka honey. Has our generation become so effectively pampered that we can't even stomach that little bit?

Or are these rolling stones just incapable of remaining in that one steady job since they seek the impossible?

Far be it for me to stop these modern-day Pollyannas from chasing their sweet electric dreams! I'm not saying keep drinking that bitter bile of dejection forever - some workplaces can be really horrible - so there's no need to simply accept that miserable lot in life.

But while chasing that illusory mirage of the perfect job, some misguided perceptions have to change.

Accept that nothing in life is ever gonna be perfect. There are no perfect jobs - even fairytale princesses can grow tired of waving charmingly to the adoring crowds. Every meal ticket has a price tag. That crummy miserable job you're holding now isn't going to change but you can certainly turn that around to make it suit you. Find something worthwhile in what you're doing and love it. There's some truth in the power of positive thinking so make yourself adore it even if it kills you.

Think of me as Harry Poppins doling out that spoonful of tough love.

If even that's hard to swallow, then take my advice, head back to college and take up geology. It might not be perfect but from what I've seen, it's as near to perfect as any.

Friday, February 17, 2012


As the murky mists of morning clears away, all that lingers behind is the faint acrid stench of sweat and tears left by the warriors the night before. Gone are the horrific cries of men roaring in constant battle with steel and bronze clashing. Gone are the weeps and moans of those lamenting their fallen comrades. Structures of steel broken and torn, weapons of war left neglected and abandoned, gauntlets and armour left to rust on the messy battlefield; ironically tossed aside like the toys of a schoolboy carelessly discarded after play.

Except this isn't the Battle of the Somme.

In this furious battle of man and machines, few victors walk away from this shocking mess and the only humbled losers here would be the cleaners who come by in the morning to face the carnage left behind by the gym members the day before.

Yes, the mess is my gym early in the morning.

I'm bored. Let's break some stuff.

One would almost expect the fallen corpses of forgotten bodybuilders trapped behind rusty barbells. Wouldn't surprise me to have the unsuspecting few tripping over the forgotten dumbbells left haphazardly all over the floor. Let's not even mention the horrific condition of the showers and the lockers after the entire rambunctious herd of buffalos barrels through.

Yes, it irritates me. Why are boys always so messy? Haven't they heard of the simple phrase putting it back where it belongs? Hell I could have sworn there were reminders posted all over the gym walls. Even the dumbbell rack has tags to simplify placement and organization.

Perhaps there is some truth in the stereotype. Though there's very little empirical evidence, even I'm starting to believe in the overblown myth that gay men actually are neater than their straight counterparts! Left to the gay boys, no doubt the dumbbells would be arranged according to height, weight and colour if that's at all available. Definitely no utilitarian grey that's for sure.

Maybe it's time they elected me gym monitor with a badge so I can spank all recalcitrant gym members. Now that's a dom role I'd certainly relish.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Valentine Apart

Despite the usual outcry from the moronic religious clerics over that disgraceful celebration of perverted Western debauchery called Valentine's, cheesy cards, stuffed bears and floral bouquets are still being hand-delivered all across town.

Yes, even to hapless Muslims.

I'll admit it's hard not to get just a tad envious at work when the giggly nurses are being showered with chocolates and roses for Valentine's Day. Though such overly public displays of affection would surely embarass me to bits, that doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy that teensy bit of attention.

Calvin : OMG The candles.
Paul : Isn't it romantic? Did I bring it or what!
Calvin : It's a freaking fire hazard! Do they even allow this in the apartment grounds? We should put it out before -
Paul : Babe, you're killing the mood. Just shut up and kiss me.

But alas, it's been a couple of years since Charming Calvin and I have actually spent time together on Valentine's! The sweet times we'd wine and dine over carefully prepared Valentine courses at the restaurants - with the waiters agog and the diners aghast at the shocking spectacle of two men sharing dinner on that special day. Surprisingly satisfying to see the scandalized dinner guests choking over their desserts as I lick the chocolate fondue off Calvin's finger.

Yes, the celebration of love has been sadly cheapened, heavily commercialized and desperately publicized by the likes of Hallmark and Blooms. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take a moment to think of our loved ones.

And yes, that includes family, friends and loved ones.

Last year I went the traditional route with the bouquet of roses - despite the fact that we were then both busy wrangling over the problematic renovation of Pemberley. Sure I wanted to strangle him back then but that didn't mean I wouldn't do it without love. Ingeniously managed to pull a quick switcheroo with another couple similarly separated by the Big Puddle. Helped each other out so I purchased roses for his wife here while he brought similar blooms to Calvin on the other side of the puddle.

Decided to be a bit more practical this year since I figured Calvin would probably just let the roses wilt in a sadly forgotten vase. Doubt the man would know how to use the petals for a pretty potpourri! And for me nothing says love like a basket of baked goods :)

Butter cake, pretty cupcakes and macarons! Full of warm buttery goodness that I'm sure Calvin would be able to work off with this inspirational dance track!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Crispy Chicken Charmer

You gotta hand it to the savvy marketing guys, they really know how to sell their products. Whereas in Malaysia we get rowdy KFC staff who physically assault their irate customers when orders aren't sufficiently fulfilled, in China - of all places - they have actually perfected customer service.

Over there, their crispy fried chicken actually comes with a delicious side order of a local finger-licking good hunk.

Now wouldn't you prefer a taste of succulent chicken?

And no, he doesn't look like the portly Colonel Sanders in the least. As it turns out, the enterprising KFC China has started rolling out a handsome delivery man service. At least according to all their highly satisfied customers. Of course KFC China fervently denies catering to lascivious requests to have aesthetically pleasing fellows deliver food for their customers, stating that KFC only runs a 'normal delivery service'.

Though with the exponential increase in orders of delivery, I'm sure they'll find a way to provide cuties to charm. Perhaps have a joint venture with the local modelling agency? Or even the neighbourhood gigolos?

But how exactly does the order go?

Counter staff : KFC Delivery, how may I help you?
Paul : Could I have a bucket of fried chicken? And possibly a bottle of coke?
Counter staff : No problem, sir.
Paul : Add one attractive delivery fellow. Maybe 6 foot 2? Fair-skinned? Brown doe eyes? Relatively well-built?
Counter staff : Not a problem, sir. I'll see what I can do.
Paul : Thanks.
Counter staff : I'm sorry but if that item's not available, would you mind exchanging that for one with blue eyes instead?
Paul : Even better. Make it piping hot, yeah!
Counter staff : The chicken or the delivery man?
Paul : Preferably both.

Certainly makes me hungry for a bit of chicken.

Gives an entirely new meaning to the term chicken hawk. Though you gotta love the excellent delivery service! Not only do you get a cute guy, you also have fried chicken. Now that's G-Double-O-D Good. Makes me wonder when they are gonna start offering such services in our country.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Anti-Chinese

Fear not, this isn't going to be a raging diatribe against the shocking likes of Perkasa, the infamously bigoted pro-Malay supremacy non-governmental organization! Though they are quite obviously anti-Chinese no matter what they might steadfastly claim.

This is all about our very own Malaysian Chinese.

Or at least those unfortunate enough to land in our hospitals as sickly invalids. Let's just say, their sheer reluctance to speak in the national language irks me greatly. Comes as no surprise that my nurses frequently mistake them for mainland Chinese immigrants since most of them flatly refuse to speak in the local Malay language.

Much to the distaste of the local natives, some don't even bother trying! So much for our vaunted national integration!

Nurse : Why are you here today?
Patient : 请给我挂个内科.
Nurse : What did you say? Are you in pain?
Patient : 我肚子疼了两天了,有时候很厉害,有时候不疼.
Nurse : What? I don't understand Chinese. Do you speak Malay?
Patient : 救命啊!
Nurse : Translator!
Paul : Good God. Not me again!

Faced with their cantankerous refusal to reply in form, you can imagine my nurses' growing frustration. To my conscience-stricken nurses who are barely conversant in the different Chinese dialects, obviously what they hear is an unintelligible gobbledygook of rambling ching chongs and ling longs.

Enough to make them turn anti-Chinese.

You talking to me?

Look, I'll readily excuse elderly China-born immigrants for being unable to converse in simple Malay. They still get a free pass despite the fact that my own surprisingly well-versed grandparents would probably chide this unschooled lot with a disappointed tsk tsk. Since the rest of these old folks weren't brought up in this country - nor were they educated in our gradgrind schooling system - it makes sense that the common Malay patois they picked up along the way isn't quite the best.

But what about the obtuse citizens around my age? Malaysian Chinese born and bred? How do we explain their unforgivable lack of comprehension? Surely after more than a decade of compulsory education in the Malay language - with a smattering of mediocre English classes, there should be a small dint of retained knowledge, no matter how paltry. Perhaps not enough to publish an instant literary classic but certainly enough to answer the simple straightforward questions posed by my nurses.

Barely past the usual greetings, these befuddled patients would be crying out for a competent Chinese translator. Pathetic as my lamentable grasp of the different Chinese dialects may be, I'm still the closest they can find.

Has our education really failed so badly that a significant number of our population can barely converse in the national language? Or do the people just not make the effort to learn?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Hos Before Bros

Turns out the bro code isn't as common as I thought it would be. No doubt Barney Stinson would be horrified to hear of this. Obviously the all-boys schools these days don't inculcate those fraternal values in their susceptible young students anymore.

Fabulous Felix amongst them.

Even back in school, we had rule number one 'Bros Before Hos' practically drilled into our impressionable heads. Basically it means placing your close buddies first before the significant other. An unwritten law amongst goodfellas that has puzzled, mystified - and also exasperated - tenaciously clingy girlfriends everywhere.

Bros Before Hos! Remember that!

And seemingly a couple of gay boys too.

Felix : Yeah I had a date.
Paul : Good God, you ditched your friends for a date?
Felix : Well the date came with sex!
Paul : So?
Felix : What do you mean so?
Paul : Bros before hos!
Felix : I can see you would have given me lotsa grief.

Never getting that particular memo of the bro code, Felix is apparently baffled by my seemingly unwarranted peevishness. Fortunately I wasn't around for the aforementioned dinner so I didn't make much of it other than a brief cuff to the back of his head.

Surely the rule isn't that hard to follow. Popular media keeps touting torrid romance as king but seriously, doesn't bosom friendships even have a place? Ditching friends who have stood by through thick and thin for a cute trick you just picked up on Grindr? Honestly, till the wild merry-go-round of endless dates start to slow down into something steady and true, shouldn't our friends be more of a priority? If Lancelot had remembered that familiar adage, perhaps Arthur wouldn't have found himself cuckolded and Camelot might still be standing.

Or is that just plain old-fashioned chivalry speaking?

Of course I'm guilty of going overboard with the bro code at times. Charming Calvin can certainly attest to the times I've abandoned the quiet intimacy of our dates for a more crowded party of five. Or ten. Something I've been working hard to correct - but then again I count him as one of my closest confidantes, more bro than ho sometimes, so the line that separates the two has gotten a bit blurred.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Other Borgia

Though the little spring idyll we just had was wonderful, I am pretty sure Charming Calvin's mother isn't too pleased that I monopolized her precious son's time this entire week. Even the festive hamper of oranges I brought over wouldn't mollify her for sure.

Which is probably why Madame Borgia stared at me balefully each time I merrily waved to her from the driveway of the estate. Favourable or not, at least I actually managed to get a reaction from her which is more than I can say for the other members of his family.

And by others, I mean his sister Benedicta Borgia. If I thought Charming Calvin was the reticent sort, his sister is practically the enigmatic Sphinx. Compared to her silent highness, Calvin's practically garrulous.

Even my taciturn brother chatters more.

Paul : Hey, such a lovely morning. How are you?
Benedicta : Morning.
Paul : You're certainly up early.
Benedicta : Huh.
Paul : Had some work in town I bet?
Benedicta : Yes.
Paul : Worked up an appetite?
Benedicta : Yes.
Paul : Breakfast it is!
Benedicta : Humph.

Chatty she certainly isn't. More inclined to indistinguishable grunts and humphs with the occasional mumbled syllable or two. Sister Silence I dub her.

Hopefully it's the language barrier since my Mandarin's barely serviceable!

Yes, Benedicta is that scary!

Of course I'm already inclined to like her since Benedicta, for all her haughty aloofness, pretty much stood by poor Calvin through his entire harrowing coming-out nightmare of pawangs and psychiatrists. Calvin repeatedly assures me that she's perfectly lovely - though I am sure she's a lot less accomodating when it comes to homosexual brothers-in-law.

Though I am sure the saintly Benedicta harbours no homicidal notions towards me, she would probably prefer that I not be in the picture. Certainly not in the very same town she's living. At least I assume that's what she's thinking since it's hard to discern from a smattering of mutterings.

Hmm. Maybe I should have gotten her a gift basket as well.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Staying in the Work Closet

Perhaps it's me but has there always been such a high preponderance of gay men in medicine?

These days when I walk through the hushed halls of our medical schools to find my erstwhile classmates turned professor wannabes, my rusty gay-dar pings like crazy every which way I turn. Shirt sized just a bit too tight, sleeve upturned just a bit too perfectly, there's always a small tell. Perhaps there is some truth to the urban myth of the obedient, studious gay son? After all without the distractions of emo high school angst, we actually don't have much except our dusty books to sustain us back then. Or maybe it's true that enterprising gay men venture into the medical field in droves to justify themselves.

Or perhaps our work environment makes it that much easier for us to be a little more open about who we are. After all we're supposedly in the presence of a more enlightened assemblage than the common rabble so vulgar prejudices such as homophobia are usually kept concealed.

Though more likely whispered covertly behind closed doors. Still it allows us free rein to be a tad more fabulous - within our preppy dress codes - at work.

I bet they don't know...

Till now I've been pretty out at most of my workplaces. Perpetual bachelors are always an oddity in a hospital, which gives rise to plenty of gossip fodder. Something Brian Kinney once said in the oft-lamented series Queer as Folk; "Unless I'm fucking you, it's none of your business." So though I don't come right out and say it, I've never denied the charge when asked point-blank.

Any wild schemes of dissembling usually falls through when I realize the perceptive nurses are even better at distinguishing the straight boys from the gay boys than I am.

Nurse : Sigh.
Paul : Why the sigh?
Nurse : This handsome doctor from Ipoh texted to say hi and how I'm doing.
Paul : That's good news, right?
Nurse : Yes, he's terribly handsome, wealthy and single. Very eligible.
Paul : So why the sigh? Sounds like he's interested. Grab him quick.
Nurse : He's no more interested in me than you are.
Paul : How so?
Nurse : Well obviously he has no interest in women.
Paul : Oh. Hmm.
Nurse : Yes.
Paul : Can I have his number then?

Yeah, she knows. Looks like I didn't even have to clip my gay pride badge onto my white coat.

So boys at work determined to remain firmly closeted? That door isn't as tightly shut as you think. There's no use denying since trust me, the nurses always know. The rigors of endless ward work with dozens of patients from all walks of life passing through have made them keen observers of the human condition.