Saturday, November 28, 2015

Niece & Nephew

There are days I'll admit to missing my niece and nephew, the aforementioned Chatty Carmen who is growing up far from chatty these days due to a near pathological obsession with the technological wonders of the tablet and Rambling Raoul who oddly enough now rambles on all day long chattering utterly dispelling our initial fears during his stubbornly reticent rugrat years.

Used to have the Big Puddle separating us but nowadays it's more like the Big Pond since they are also schooling thousands of miles away on that other giant island Down Under. Internet messaging and Facetime can only get us so far - and I am notoriously brusque on telecommunication devices ever since I started work - which is why each time they are back, I try my best to obtain leave so as to spend some time with them.

There was even that memorable December last year when I dragged the kids unwillingly down the sweltering streets of Bangkok. With Charming Calvin trudging sluggishly even further down the line. Doubt he remembers it with such sweet nostalgia.

Nevertheless one of the brilliant highlights of the year.

And yes, I make my niece and nephew dress for dinner. 

Something I've always wanted for Calvin as well. Just like me, he also has a niece and nephew of comparable age. In fact his little nephew is practically the spitting image of Calvin himself though he would deny it vehemently!

Being oh-so-adorable, you would think he would be scrambling to spend time with them. However that doesn't seem to be the case as Calvin - oddly enough - doesn't find a need to be particularly close to them. Perhaps it could be the distance since the children have been under the care of his sister-in-law after his brother's untimely passing a year ago.

But what about when they are staying over for the school holidays? Or when we are over there on their side of the Big Puddle?

Paul : Maybe you should take the kids out for a day. Spend some time with them. 
Calvin : Too difficult. 
Paul : It's not that difficult. I do that all the time with my niece and nephew. Give your sister-in-law a break. 
Calvin : Too tiring. 
Paul : It's only half a day at most. 
Calvin : Too dangerous. 
Paul : Surely you can keep an eye out for two small kids!
Calvin : Too -
Paul : Are you going to come up with another lame excuse? 


Though I've spoken about it at length with him, I find it hard to comprehend this baffling detachment. Basically for the Borgias, these kids are their next generation, in line to watch over their lands and whatever evils lie beneath. In an older time and age in Confucian China, those two kids would undoubtedly have come directly under his care. Probably shipped right to his doorstep with sister-in-law in tow regardless of his wishes since he's the only other male sibling in the family.

Well maybe things will change this Christmas since his niece and nephew are coming here again for the holidays. Time to start nagging him about duty, responsibility etc.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Retro Feminists

With career options here - from timber plantations to oil & gas operations - decidedly favouring the men, suburban life in Miri remains very much the blissful ideal of the 1950s with the earnest husband out earning the bacon from 9-to-5 while the cheery stay-at-home wife supervises the mundane chores at home, organizes the groceries and ferries the squabbling rugrats around. Sounds almost quaintly archaic these days but it's all true. In fact all my coworkers have pretty much the same sweet deal.

Not to mention the ongoing affaires

Rather than honing whatever intellectual skills or hobbies that they have, the increasingly desperate housewives here prefer whiling their hours away shaping their razor-sharp nails at the exclusive salons - or canoodling with their dance teachers. Otherwise extremely promising activities but over here it seems to be slowly sapping them of their brainpower. 

What little there was of it originally. 

Before the raging feminists take up arms to defend their erstwhile sisters, let me present a usual everyday conversation with one of these marvellously manicured moms. 

Paul : Are you here for the surgery today? 
Lady : I think so. 
Paul : What will they be doing? 
Lady : I don't know. Ask my husband. 
Paul : You don't know what surgery will be done? 
Lady : Not sure. Ask my husband. 
Paul : Do you want to know what surgery you'll be doing?
Lady : No. My husband says it's alright. 
Paul : Do you have any medical problems prior to surgery? Any admissions to the hospital before? 
Lady : Not sure. Ask my husband. 
Paul : Any surgeries done before? 
Lady : Not sure. Ask my husband.
Paul : Any allergies? 
Lady : Not sure. Ask -
Paul : Your husband. Yes, I figured that. 

Imagine my growing exasperation as I tried my best to restrain myself from shaking what remained of her rapidly diminishing brain loose. Fortunately my nurses know me well enough to hold me back when I'm close to throttling tiresome simpletons. 

Obviously she didn't come in for an urgent lobotomy since that antiquated procedure was probably carried out on her wedding night when she voluntarily signed over her freedom. How else to explain the severe lack of intellectual capability? I don't know how anyone with a rational, competent mind could allow someone else - even someone so dear - to have so much power and authority over themselves. What happened to their own autonomy? Leaves these subservient women barely more than negligible chattel forever shackled to the whims of their husbands. 

Let a mere man hold that much authority over myself? It's already the 20th century. 

Does she ever, ever form an opinion of her own outside of the home? 

Wouldn't surprise me if some day not very in the future, her ever-loving husband schedules a made-up surgery with consent conveniently signed just to get rid of his dimwitted spouse for a newer model. 

Yes, that was intentionally mean

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Secret of the Borgias

Family. Honour. Tradition.

Those were the words he lived for. His father had done the same; and so had his father before him. Ever since his ancient forebears had first set foot on the fortgotten island and offered to shoulder the heavy burden, that sacred duty had bound the Borgia family to their demesne lands. As a reminder to all who might shirk their responsibilities, the family crest imprinted above the fireplace even had the motto 'Leave Not The House Unguarded' emblazoned as a faint warning across the familiar shield and pitchfork. 

Advice he had repeatedly recounted to his children as the patriarch of the Borgias, though he feared their dedication to the noble cause was not as steady and unfaltering as his own. Did they even know what lay beneath the lust fertile beauty of their farmlands? Did they even understand the importance of remaining always at home as the eternal guardians? Though he had hinted more than once on what might happen if they left, his children still didn't understand fully. 

What lay beneath...

Even the chilling rumination had him shuddering though he had been sure to have the metal gates securely locked tight and double checked - as he had done every night for the past few decades after he had taken on the role of guardian. 

A job that seemed to get more difficult every year. Even now he occasionally felt the ominous rumble when the monstrous evils below made another hopefully futile attempt to break out into this world. 

But the hellish creatures were getting ever more inventive each year; finding the little nooks and crannies in between the worlds that would be just enough for them to slip through unbidden. Fearing the same, his wife had boarded up all their mirrors at his behest. After the last appalling incident, they certainly couldn't risk another demonic outbreak.

At least this is what I assume is happening over at the Borgias.

For a very long time, the reluctance of his family members to leave their land even for the briefest of moments has puzzled me endlessly. Surely there's nothing all that precious in the impregnable Forteresse de Borgia?

Till the other day when it dawned on me suddenly that they must have been guarding something. Since boundless treasures of gold, gems and gee gaws didn't seem to be all that probable, the only other reason should be something far more sinister.

Calvin : You sure those doors will hold them, papa?
Father : It must, my child. For all our sakes, it must.

Like the portal to another hellish dimension. Perhaps their family home was built on the nexus of magical ley lines of which they are the eternal guardians.

Paul : So is it true?
Calvin : No. 
Paul : Well I expected you to deny it vehemently of course. 
Calvin : No!
Paul : That's what the true guardians are supposed to say! 
Calvin : No!
Paul : You can tell me! I can keep a secret. 
Calvin : There's nothing to tell. 
Paul : It explains the mirrors!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Peranakan Memoirs

As much as I've grown to love the simple bucolic life over here on this side of the Big Puddle, it's hard not to miss certain aspects of our life before. The varieties of food available at all hours of the day for one thing.

For another that would be a bit of personality in the city. Coming from a heritage city that boasts of several centuries of history, this town here seems almost ludicrously new. Compared to the seasoned grande dame of Malacca, the town of Miri seems almost like a callow ingenue. Hardly any of the buildings here are very much older than fifty years at the most so it's hard not to stifle a smirk whenever the locals here talk about the glory days of yore.

Wonder if they know that my own alma mater was established several decades before the town had even gained a road to its name.

Hmm... when do I tell her that I might be gay?

Yes, I miss the weekends browsing through the little antique stores, rifling through everyone else's junk hopefully to find my own treasure. Picking through dozens of chipped ceramic Peranakan tiles to find the perfect one - with an eye towards making a coaster. Digging through piles of serveware just to piece together a passably reasonable porcelain tea set.

Over here anything vaguely antique would have to be made slightly more than a decade ago.

Being here has certainly given me more of an appreciation for what I left behind which is why my last few days here have been spent sketching up a storm. Not only am I researching various materials about the Straits Eclectic shophouses back home, I've also started looking up designs of traditional costumes such as the nyonya kebaya.

All of which has given my inspiration and ideas for Christmas which is coincidentally not too far off. Perhaps little hanging beaded shoes for the tree? Or maybe several colourful kebaya clad ladies adorning the tree?

Or maybe I should make an entire diorama of a Straits Eclectic shophouse?

Friday, November 06, 2015

The Molestation Theory

I'm not a narcissist.

Most especially when it comes to my looks. Though my unprepossessing troll-like features rarely causes mirrors to break into pieces these days, I do know that I'm hardly the best looking fellow in the room, not unless the place is utterly deserted. Which sufficiently explains why unexpected compliments on my looks seem to trigger a deep-seated suspicion of the hapless benefactor and their hidden intent.

I've seen some really handsome Adonises, even dated a couple, and I can easily confirm I'm nowhere near the same plane of existence. Oh those supremely godly beings worthy of daily Instagram worship! Well at least when it comes to superficial beauty.

So when I do get the rare admirer, I find myself utterly non-plussed. You see, I decided to frequent a hairdresser a bit closer to where I work as a matter of convenience. Nothing like just running down for a quick haircut without muss or fuss.

Was he gay? I never really thought about it. After all whatever I sussed out with my broken gay-dar would probably be biased by the fact that he is a mildly fey hairdresser. Stereotypical, right?

First time it happened, I chalked it down to a figment of my overactive imagination. Second time, I wondered whether it was his own novel barber chairside manner. By the third, I didn't think it was shared delusion anymore. In fact, it bore close resemblance to the premise of bad gay porn.

Really it had me getting just a little bit concerned! Is it really all that usual to spend all that time washing my hair at the sink? No doubt the time he spends playing with my cropped hair has to be almost twice the time he spent cutting it.

Umm. Did you just flick my nipple? 

And that still wouldn't explain the curious need to unbutton my shirt halfway down my chest. Really, I might as well just remove it. When you wipe my chest with a piece of cloth, that's cleaning. When you wipe my chest without even the veiled pretence of a washcloth, that's bordering on inappropriate groping.

Then today I could have sworn I felt an oddly predatory nipple flick. Hmm. Turns out the molestation theory wasn't just a theory anymore. Followed by the oddest proposition I've ever gotten.

Hairdresser : Are you rushing for time? 
Paul : Not really. 
Hairdresser : You know I also give some really good massages.
Paul : You do?
Hairdresser : You should try them out.
Paul : What? Like right now?
Hairdresser : Sure, why not? Just take off your shirt. 

There was a raised eyebrow at that. Since he was gesturing to what seemed like the appropriately dark-lit backroom, I felt just a bit... apprehensive over the invitation. Sounded almost like an indecent proposal, albeit a really bumbling attempt at one!

Fortunately the hairdresser didn't seem to have his shearing scissors close by so I judged it a good time to make a speedy getaway. Mumbled a farewell, dumped the cash and flew out of there faster than he could even repeat his come-on.

At least I think it was. Was it?