Thursday, March 30, 2006

Love Thru' Thick And Thin (Have I Really Really Loved Someone?)

Catherine had been drinking for three days I wondered if she would dehydrate, wilting into a heap of carcass, its bones all dried and bristling in the desert wind. She did this to hurt me. To get back at me, to prove a point that I was wrong and by all accounts, she was right. I didn't want to get the message. It wasn't necessary for me to understand all this when all we needed to do to get back to being a loving hubby and missus again was either one of us making the first move to say sorry. At the moment sorry is a big word to both of us. Maybe even bigger than Australia itself, and much harder to say it clearly, letting the word out of our chest through the throat. We held on to our stance, as if it was a big deal to win this. As if there was a prize for winning. For defending whatever it was that needed defending.

For three days we lived like enemies, speaking to each other only when it was absolutely necessary like, it's for you, whenever there was a phone call for either one of us. Sometimes I made a stupid move like asking her, are you alright? All she did was looked me in the eye, full of hatred and remorse that I might as well be Ronald Reagan, the man she hated most on earth at the moment for reasons that had something to do with one of the rallies she had attended organized mostly by the hot-headed radicals on campus.

And she continued drinking as if to forget about every little thing connected with her presence on earth. As if nothing mattered to her anymore. By this time the apartment took on the smell of a medium-sized Irish distillery, made worse with the sourish smell of her puke that splattered the bathroom and the kitchen sink. This I cleaned the best I could coming home from work tired to the bones after standing all day at the meat factory. In less than half an hour she'd puke again as if she could do that at will. To make me mad. To make me see a point. Or something. But I didn't want to see what it was she wanted me to see.

Because I saw something else.

I saw the prettiest woman in the world turning into an ugly creature right before my eyes. In the morning I'd go into the bedroom to watch her over, sleeping like a child, her head on a soft pillow, breathing all innocent and white like an angel. She'd open her eyes to smile, only to retract it back into her throat. I was burning inside to hold her. To make love to her like I really mean it. But it was getting late and I needed to catch the 8.30 to be on time ahead of a busy schedule to rush an urgent shipment. And I left feeling like a useless being.

In the evening I got home to find her on the couch, drunk. She got a full bottle of whisky down to a few drops. I cleaned the bathroom. And then the kitchen sink. She moaned like a minkie whale that had gotten shot in the belly. For the first time in a long while, I cried a little. For being helpless to see her like this. To let her go this far down. She was ugly now. The ugliest a pretty woman like her could get.

I sat on the couch. Her feet on my laps. I played the moments I first saw her. Not exactly Elizabeth Taylor but she was the next best thing I could ever get to the real thing. Didn't think I would find another and so I worked hard to fall in love. Really really fall in love. And we got so deep. Deep enough to forget we came from two different worlds. And so we stood in front of a downtown judge named Baker to exchange our wedding vows, you may kiss the bride.

In her ugliest moments like these, she is as pretty as the morning sun on a prairie. I reckon when you really really love someone you don't mind one bit to live with her ugliest side.

Like storm clouds, it'll pass. When it does, the sun will come out again. Just as bright.

Will Love Change When You Marry Someone?

It isn't that difficult to see that most male bloggers who are hubby and father, don't write as often about their missus, or children compared with female bloggers who are missus and mother. Except for Count Byron whom I consider a great guy who never runs out of nice things to say about his family, there aren't that many male bloggers who devote a paragraph or two every once in a while to writing about their family. I confess. Entries written by female bloggers who are mothers are a great read. It describes a mother's joy for her children's success in getting through SPM or a school concert, or passing through another grade in the piano exam. At the same time I read entries that can touch you real deep about the frustration, and anger, of their children's failure to do well in sports, music recital or UPSR or PMR. Sometimes they write about their children's health. Cough, fever, or injuries to the knees, elbows and other parts of their children' body. I like reading about these. They teach me something, although I don't quite know what it is that I have learned from these entries. And how can I not enjoy reading about how they discuss pregnancy, bersunat and sex, talking about it gently, being very careful not to encourage their children from getting too inquisitive to experiment with the real thing. It ain't easy being mothers. I was lucky in a lot of ways. Maybe unlucky if you look at it from a different perspective. You see, I learned about sex in the brothel, right where the action is.

I believe a lot of people out there more or less could have guessed that I don't do much in a day except surf the Internet to read blogs written by people from all walks of life. From students to senior citizens, from housewives to single fathers, from straight men and women to homosexual and lesbian. From interesting, sometimes downright weird individuals highly knowledgeable in their respective religions to atheist. I read them all. Some of them have become people I interact with through emails, or phone. But if there's one thing I notice is that husbands don't write about their missus or children as often as their counterparts do. It is only natural therefore that I come to the conclusion that love changes when you marry someone. Or could it be that men have the tendency not to write about their missus because of some reason I am not aware of since I ain't no hubby myself, except for a brief period which didn't amount to anything worth talking about.

There are women who write about their troubled relationship with their hubby. About their husbands' romantic affair with a colleague. About keeping a tight schedule juggling between their life as professional, and housewife, mother and everything else that comes with the job. Maybe men are not comfortable to write about this sort of thing. Maybe it is too trivial since as men they should be more concerned with bigger things like making policies to make this world a better place for people who mean something to them, which is their missus and children. Maybe they are too occupied thinking about things related to formulating a policy that they can't be bothered with things like onions, the price of fish, detergent, a faulty pipe, or their children's bicycle that needs a bit of fixing because the chain doesn't sit too well on the sprocket.

I confess feeling very small reading entries written by men about big issues like religion, government policies, or things I have little or no knowledge of. At times I wish my thinking is more aligned towards theirs instead of finding joy in little things like laundry, or going to Tesco to look up for someone I want to love with everything I got, and more. Someone with whom I want to have children so I can worry about them when they run a temperature in the middle of the night. I read every blog faithfully to acquaint myself with different styles of writing but most importantly, to keep myself abreast with the line of thinking which I know I will never attain because I haven't been reading all that many important books compared with the kind of books they read. Most of them are smart, brilliant people. People who went to boarding school and university to earn a Ph.D or at least a Masters' degree. I am quite embarassed to talk about my academic background other than I didn't do very well in school. Maybe this is the price I have to pay for being such a playful fellow when I should have paid more attention to the books and the lessons. It's too late to regret so I have to go from here with what little knowledge I have and hope no one out there is making fun of me for being such an ignorant fellow. Oh well, this is a free country. People can make fun at anyone they wish.

Sometimes I get to thinking maybe I can't quite comprehend the concept of being a man because I had no role model of a father with whom I can use as a general guide to hone my maleness, if there's such a word. Maybe this is the reason why all my life, I am crazy about being macho, as if to prove something to someone that I am as male as a male gets. Maybe as a child I needed to prove to the boys in the village that eventhough I was raised in a house where there was no male, I am better than all of them put together. Maybe that's the reason why I did the things I did. To prove that I am braver, bolder, and wouldn't think twice of doing something crazy like diving head first right into the deepest end of the water because I am a man, inside out.

Maybe it is a macho thing to do, not writing about your missus and children. Maybe it is the male thing that I need to understand better. Looking back, I know my friends only within the small environment of a rig, far away from the domestic setting of a home, a family unit comprising a missus and children. I didn't get to see them with their family. I wouldn't want to do that because I may be an ignorant fool but when a man is away from his missus for two weeks he doesn't need the company of a friend from the rig. He'd need sometimes alone with his missus. I know that. It doesn't take a man, or a woman to understand this biological fact.

Let me take a break from this to figure where I should be going with this subject. Maybe this is too big for me to attempt to write. I should know better that I don't have the brain for this.

(This entry expires 4 April 2006. It will be deleted to make way for entries typical of the writing style and thinking format associated with Bergen. Thank you.)

Let's Do This.

Next time I see this woman of my dream I'm gonna walk up to her straight up and break into a song, Kuch Kuch Hotai Hey, or Grease Lightnin'. I am gonna do the dance, the swirl and the twirl spinning like a top so fast the world around me will flash in a blur until I got really dizzy with lovin', jump on the gondola to sing a few lines of the song from this vantage position, and then roll down to land on the trolley pushed from behind by three chorus girls in the supermarket uniform, their hair all done up in the 50s style complete with cats' eye glasses. They've got pastel color skirts with matching shoes and bright nail polish, fiery red lipsticks on.

The whole of Tesco wil turn into an elaborate stage performance with downlights flooding the entire floor area into a luminous riot of colors, making me look no better than someone who has survived an accidental dip into a vat of paint, the kind you use to add life to an otherwise mono-color lollipop. Or a clown suit.

Half way into a song, I go over to this woman of my dream to take her hand. She will refuse at first, playing hard to get. I look into her big brown eyes. Her eyelashes flickering like SOS blinkers of a ship going down in a storm. I roll on the floor like Dewey of Malcom In The Middle. She walks slowly towards the main door. I get up to stretch my arm as far as it can go. She stops midway. Turns to look at me and comes running into my arms.

I gotta do this or else I'm going crazy.


Let's not write about why they called it brainstorming, or analyze the connection between storm and brain, or what does storm got to do with brain, or what good will the brain do to the storm, or why brain it with a storm since the whole thing won't amount to anything to win you a Mitsubishi Storm. (You can rap this if you are good speaking very fast likeyoucansayastringofsentenceinlessthanasecond.)

Whatever it is, I gotta storm for a brain to understand this whole thing about a guy from Putrajaya, a Terengganu native, who paid RM45.00 for gulai ikan aye nasi dagang. According to reports coming in daily for as long as this whole thing is still newsworthy until the newspaper editor says enough is enough, the guy wanted to buy it so bad that he was willing to pay whatever amount Makcik Ngah put the price on her famous gulai which she has been selling since 1961. I wasn't even born yet when she got into business and that's how long she has been in this nasi dagang business that I have nothing but salute salute salute for Trengganu women, famed for their business acumen. I know, I was raised by Grandma and Aunt. By Michelin restaurant standard, she is fully qualified to charge whatever amount she wants for her gulai, taking into account her 45 years experience, skill, and creativity. And so this guy bought the gulai for RM45.00. He was fully aware of how much it would cost him. He was told before he handed over the money. And he went home and told everyone that he was being overcharged by Makcik Ngah.

Makcik Ngah got so worried and has been under a lot of stress. You would too if you were 70 years old and have to deal with a platoon of pegawai from some important government department in charge of price. They came in a convoy of Pajero, swooping down on Makcik Ngah's stall like a SWAT team, probably frisked the poor Makcik in the process. They also took away the gulai, probably to analyze it in their CSI lab. I won't be surprised if these goons acted like a bunch of CIA agents looking for a suicide bomber hiding in a nasi dagang stall. According to the newspaper report today in the Star, they are going to charge Makcik Ngah in court for not displaying the price of her famous gulai. She may go to jail, or pay a fine. Or both.

This is history as far as nasi dagang Trengganu is concerned involving a 70 grandmother who has been selling this dish for 45 years. All because a guy in Putrajaya thought RM45.00 is too much for gulai nasi dagang. Of course he didn't mention that Makcik Ngah gave him isi ikan and telur ikan as well. Next time if you figure a dish is too expensive, do the society a favor, don't buy.

At the moment I have only one theory. The guy from Putrajaya has had enough of being a city folk, what with rising cost in everything brought on by the 30 sen petrol hike. So he decided to leave the city and go into nasi dagang business. The only way he can position his business for a good start is to get rid of Makcik Ngah. And so he cooked up this RM45.00 story to set the government machinery in action, doing the dirty job for him. Being in Putrajaya has the advantage with connections all over the precincts.

Too bad, dude. Your plan backfired. Makcik Ngah was on front page in the Star today. She shares the headline news with Abdullah Badawi 'Get Cracking', but if you look carefully, the editor didn't carry the picture of the PM but instead, ran a quarter page, large sized picture of Makcik Ngah. Now THAT is excellent mileage as far advertising goes. Since the Star is also ONLINE, the world now knows that nasi dagang Trengganu is a delicacy, very much like gourmet food featured in travel magazines and travel channel, the kind Ian is good at. Or Anthony or Flyod. I think Trengganu government owes Makcik Ngah something. She deserves a medal, man.

I don't know the moral of this whole affair. I am still trying to storm for a brain, or brain for a storm so I can win meself a Mitsubishi Storm. Fat chance.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

This Has Gotta Work.

I have got me a plan to win over this woman whom I hope to become Mrs Bergen Von Jurgen Abdullah. With a bit of luck, and hardwork, she shall be the mother to our children you see running about in the yard playing with a trishaw. Don't worry. Having experienced playing with the trishaw myself, I would have removed all the three tyres from the trishaw so the kids won't take it to a spot where they can run it downhill. Now THAT is what I'd called a foresight. Almost clairvoyance.

Anyone knows a plan should be simple, straightforward, and requires minimum gadgets for it to work like a charm. With this in mind, I have developed a fool-proof plan which may,or may not require security clearance from these guys:

Ministry of Defence
Gagasan Saksi Nikah Kawin Selangor
Fire Department
Ministry of Local Housing
Department of Civil Aviation
Consumers' Association of Mutiara Damansara
Residents' Association of Damansara Perdana
Persatuan Penjaja Jalanan Bergitar
Gagasan Penjual Besi Lembah Klang
Persatuan Doktor Gigi Wilayah Persekutuan
Goldsmith Guild
Yayasan Kadhi Malaysia

and other non-profit organizations who have a direct interest in this thing called Tesco Kinda Love. It isn't easy trying to keep a plan simple, straightforward and execution-friendly if you take into account the geographic factors of Damansara Perdana. For one thing this location is under the jurisdiction of Petaling Jaya Selatan, a district in Selangor. The area around Tesco, I believe, is under Kuala Lumpur. This in itself presents all kinds of administrative problems that may require a specialist familiar with this sort of thing to weave in and out of this territorial labyrinth. It simply means I may have to hire a consultant to get around this. Hiring means money, but money isn't something I am willing to invest at this point in time. It's just too early in the venture to be thinking of paying hard-earned money to total strangers who don't appreciate what is it that I am trying to achieve, or where this romantic adventure is going. He, or she, may not know how long I have waited for this golden moment to finally happen. Of course I can insist to include a clause in the service contract that he, or she, should read all my entries about Elizabeth Taylor to acquaint themselves with the concept of Tesco Kinda Love but that is no guarantee that they may, in the end, work very hard to making my dream come true. In fact they may charge me triple now that they know how much this Tesco Lady means to me. In the end, I have decided to go for it alone. The way I've always do it. It's more Clint Eastwood this way. More cowboyish. Minus the horse. And the cheque.

Say I am on aisle 4, looking for olive oil. I scan the gondola shelves to look for the brand I am familiar with. And then boom! There she is. In her dark green baju kurung, reading a label of a guacamole sauce. I push my trolley towards the general direction to close in on her position, right at the gondola end, a T-junction flanked by the cold cuts section. Music playing in the background, maybe a Chopin, or a Bach, or Dancing Queen by Abba, or Ma Baker by BoneyM. Doesn't really matter although I'd prefer something more appropriate like You Set My Heart On Fire by Tina Charles.

I pretend to look at the top shelves. Put on a face as if Tesco hasn't replenished the stock of a brand I am looking for. Ish Ish Ish. I figure out what to say. Check the grammar. And the spelling, I mean the delivery, trying very hard not to sound like a voice-over for a radio commercial of a fire sale. And just when I am about to deliver the line I've rehearsed and practised all my life, she has to go over to the next aisle.

Music change. Maybe Rasputin by BoneyM. Make that One Of Us Is Crying by Abba. Wait the minute. This is no time for crying. Change that music to something like Dance Little Lady Dance by Tina Charles.

End of Plan A.

Gotta work out Plan B, which deals with how to handle the situation in aisle 5.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tesco Kinda Love

Aunt Su called around three in the afternoon to ask how I was getting along being all alone in the apartment. I said I am doing alright. No, I am not getting married next week. If I was I definitely need to go to Tesco first.

Awat kat Tesco depa ada juai bini ka?

No, they don't, Aunt Su.

Habih tu yang hang kena pi Tesco nak caghi bini apsai?

How am I going to explain this to her? People that age won't be able to understand why I keep making trips after trips to Tesco, sometimes as many as four times a day for every little thing I may or may not need, hoping, really really hoping, that I'd bump into my Elizabeth Taylor. There's no turning back this time. I am all prepared to lose everything I got, my dignity, pride or whatever still left in me. I just need to walk up to her and ask if she'd marry me. Just between you and me, I even bought the ring just in case she may think I am out playing pranks for some reality TV show.

As a matter of fact I am seriously considering purchasing a spot, about 10ft x 10ft space at Tesco so I can move in there with my camping gear, to wait for this lady to appear. I know it's a bad idea because TV3 is just right across. Who knows, one of them nosy reporters might decide to run a story on me on national TV. It's too much of an embarassment. I've got nothing much left but I still got this 'malu' thing in me to risk something like that. But the whole idea is quite tempting though. Anything as long I get to her, to express my one and only desire at the moment and that is, to be married to her. Only her. Anything, as long as in the end, I get to ride into the sunset with this lady whom I have only met once but her images has stayed on my mind, my heart, my ears, and my head for weeks on end. This can't go on, I need to do something about it. As far as I'm concerned there are only two ways this can go. Forget about her. Or try to look for her and say what I've got to say once and for all. Who cares what may happen after that. It's something a man gotta do for a woman he has began to love.

I know this is too fast, I mean from a chance encounter moving straight to love. But that's how it is with love at first sight. You see something you like and that's about it. It was like that when I first saw the movie poster with Elizabeth Taylor on it. Didn't even realise Richard Burton was right next to her. All I saw was Elizabeth Taylor and that was it. That experience was enough as a motivation in itself to make me look for someone like her from one end of the world to the other. I have been to a lot of places and whaddaya know, she's right here. At a place called Tesco. Whoever this guy is, I mean this Tesco guy, I love him. I hope one day he will move into our neighbourhood so I can shake his hand. This is of course if, only if this whole thing ends in me saying something like, aku terima nikahnya dengan maskawin ..., and people around me say 'sah' 'sah' 'sah' so that I can say to them, now will you please get out of here because me and my missus are busy right now. See you folks tomorrow, I'll buy you each a month of groceries at Tesco but right, that's the front door. Thank you for coming.

That's why I'm calling this whole thing, Tesco Kinda Love. It's even better than Phil Collins' Groovy Kinda Love. Of course I don't know which way this is going to go.

Until I meet her again. I'm putting on me Night Vision Goggles. And I've got me a scanner that can automatically detect a red proton with the licence plate WLY ....

Excuse me, I'm going hunting for the love of my life.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Laundry Day For The House Of One.

Monday can be as moody as a horse five month pregnant, but Tuesday is special. It's the day I get to feel like Einstein's cousin, the half-wit circus clown who unlocked the mysteries of eternal love. The kind of love that can make married couples who have been living as strangers for more than twenty years to suddenly look at his or her spouse in a different way that will make them want to get away from the kids to go live on a deserted island as lovers who can't get enough of each other. Tuesday is the day my lonely apartment comes alive with the domestic sound. The sound that means a great deal to me. The slow rumbling sound of a washing machine in full cycle, turning and swirling the laundry in a merry twirl. It's the sound that can make me feel like Bill Clinton. Or George Bush. Or Martha Stewart.

For two and a half hours, counting from the minute I carry the laundry basket from a section of the kitchen to the washing machine, putting in the laundry piece by piece, mulling over a decision which type of detergent to use, and finally turning on the dial to set the machine going. All this makes feel me so important. It makes me feel like a military commander, a big guy with a mission that can determine which way the economic future of the nation can go. Of course I know all this ain't much of anything to a lot of folks out there. Especially the housewives. They do this everyday and have probably gotten sick and tired of it. But not for me. Give me laundry to do and you'll see me all fired up ready to go, complete with the laundry dance which is a half circle dance around the washing machine, and the fabric softener.

TV sound doesn't count. It's artificial. It is not connected in anyway with the actual act of living. The sound from a washing machines, however, is the real thing. It has a direct link with life itself. Without this sound I don't get to wear fresh clothes smelling all nice and sweet. Of course this is the closest deal I can get to the real thing of having my laundry dried in the sun. The kind you hang on a long clothesline in the middle of a prairie, or by the beach. I can be anywhere in the world but the images of laundry on clothelines blowing wildly in the wind under a bright afternoon sun will always reminds me of home. Wherever that might be. It reminds me of the existence of human. And life. And laughter.

I don't dry my laundry in the sun. Not in this apartment. I want to do that but I'd better not because it will only make this whole apartment complex looking like a giant laundry factory. I have a lot of respect for this building that I am inclined to believe that it is morally wrong for me to turn it into Sam Ping Flat equivalent.

Instead of sun dry, I got my laundry machine dry. Which is not so bad. Especially the towels that will come out all fluffy and warm. I like folding these, making them look like pastry dough left overnight ready for baking. I also like folding away the laundry in a neat stack. My clothes are boring. There are only three dominant colors, black, blue and white. Maybe beige. I liked it better when Aunt Su was here. Her laundry had a bit more color to my otherwise boring set. She's got bright colored batik sarung, brown and purple ones from Ceribon and Eastern Jawa. I'd say my laundry is macho but it is nonetheless a stack of laundry that reminds me that I'm home. And it's Tuesday. Until next week.

Something So Stupid

It just ain't right
for something so stupid as love
to last this long

It just ain't right
when all the loving's done
I'm still hurting

How can something so stupid
can last forever
didn't we kissed for the last time
didn't we throw away the memories
on the road to the airport
I remember tearing your pictures to pieces
but how stupid can I be
don't even know how to get over
something as stupid as love

It just ain't right
that I can't move on
when all I need
is to get you off my mind
but if only it's that simple
something this stupid
ain't that simple
something this stupid
is gonna last

I've got someone
but she ain't the same
she's not the real thing
maybe I am not the real thing to her
it's a stupid situation
there's nothing I can do about it.

Will you help me get over this
I don't think I can do it alone
maybe I don't want to
why should I anyway
when something as stupid as love
is pretty anyway I look at it
as pretty as you in the morning.
It's stupid
it's okay
I ain't that smart
so it's okay.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Nama Mu Di Hatiku Selalu.

Namaku tidak lagi bermaustatin di bibirmu
tapi namamu
tetap bermukim di hatiku.

Beribu kenangan
lupus ditimbus tahun berlalu
harum rambutmu
masih bermain dihatiku
mengusap malam disebuah ruang tamu yang sepi.
Dada sebak dihimpit cinta yang tidak kenal padam
cinta yang bernama
nama yang bermukim di hatiku.

Mungkinkah dikau
melihat awan yang sama
berarak malas.

Pernah suatu ketika
kita bermalas-malas mengejar mimpi
kita bermalas-malas menikmati sa'at bersama
agar waktu bergerak perlahan
supaya cinta bermalas-malasan
supaya genggaman jari-jarimu
bererat-eratan lebih lama.

Namamu dihatiku.
Mungkinkah kita bercinta kembali?

This Is No Way To Live.

It's gonna get worse on Monday. This loneliness. When everyone gets into a car to go work in a downtown office. There'll be a long line of cars on the ramp going towards the city. All I can do is watch from the balcony thinking what a nice life it would be to have something important to do first thing Monday morning. People to meet. A meeting to attend. A phone call to make. Monday is not my kinda day. It's the day that reminds me that I am totally disconnected with the rest of the world, not participating in any way in the economic scheme of things that make this nation a great country. Used to feel important working on a rig on a night shift when the rain beat down your back like sleet of needles, the waves roaring as if ready to swallow you up if you are not careful with your steps. It felt good. The responsibilities. And the kinda work I did. It felt good to work real hard to bring up the crude oil so someone onshore can process it, sell it to bring in money for the country. It felt good to contribute something for the good life of the people who will never know what is it that you gotta do to get to the crude oil. Or how dangerous it is to work on a rig. Or what kinda men who can do this year in year out, every rotation is like a trip to Disneyland. Every helicopter pick-up is like a joyride on a stolen trishaw downhill.

Right now, I feel like signing up to go work in the North Sea where the danger is. I don't have anything to look forward to. I don't want to see another Monday. All I want is to do what I used to do. Pack a duffel bag to head for the airport to get on a plane on a one way trip to some place like New Zealand where I can live in a house with a nice kitchen with someone. Someone who means something. Someone who stole my heart and never gave it back. Someone I used to quarrel with over every little thing. Someone I used to take a stance on every little issue. Even the brand of a toothpaste. Someone I suddenly miss like crazy.

I don't want to see Monday.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Things I Don't Wanna Talk About.

There's a town north of the border where women will laugh silly at your dirty jokes if you pay them good money so they can keep going with the charade way past midnight until your eyes droop into a deep slumber that nothing can wake you up. Not even if your missus is standing right next to you pointing a machine-gun right up your face, the barrel right into your nose. I don't wanna talk about this town. It's the kinda town where men wanna stay for another night, have another drink, draw another Ace from a stack of cards fresh out of a box. It's the kinda town a man can stand on his good feet feeling like a million dollars, tall as a mountain, his head in the clouds, the brains in the gutter.

It's a border town where you don't ask too many questions about how come there are more Mitsubishi Storm Evo than the male population put together. You don't go around asking questions pretending to be a hotshot investigating officer hired by some rich missus who has a luxury apartment in downtown KL so she can find out for sure if hubby is out here riding superbikes with the boys, chatting up every waitress with too much lipstick too much perfume that it clogs up your nostrils like nerve gas to paralyze your senses, thinking to yourself that in the end, the world is a room no bigger than your cupboard with a single bed and a table lamp.

It's not Las Vegas but close enough to be Tijuana. It's not Bangkok but as good as the real thing if you don't mind the sad eyes of every girl you meet. It's not my town. But I'm staying for another day so the boys can repeat the dirty jokes they told the night before to a motley bunch of women dressed in jeans two sizes smaller and shoes caked with mud.

I don't wanna talk about it.

There's a tight corner in Kampar with my name on it. It curves to the right with wild bushes on both sides that past by you in a fast blur before the road straights up to a run about two miles before you meet another curve. I love this corner. It's the kinda corner I know I can handle very well coming in at full throttle before I need to downshift to fifth gear, bringing down the bike in a hug to watch the white marks on the road past by you in a straight line. Half way the corner you bring the bike back up to race a full throttle before shifting up to sixth gear. Half way on a straight run, I turn the bike back to where I came from so I can take this corner again. I'd take the corner the third time in a row if the boys weren't in a hurry to reach the border town before dark.

I play this over and over in my mind hoping that one day I can just take off on my own so I can go to this place called Kampar where the town has a tight corner with my name on it.

I'm home now thinking about what if I had a missus. Will she wait for me by the door feeling annoyed for having gone missing to ride the stupid bikes that cost too much. Or will she say something like, dinner's on the table.

I don't have no missus so I won't know for sure. Maybe it is not a good idea to be imagining things especially when you are all alone in this apartment.

A Woman's Place Is...

A woman's place, when hubby is out riding superbikes with the boys, is in the living room watching Korean or Spanish serial on plasma TV the size of a billboard highway.
And she can curl herself up on Homelife or Ikea couch thinking and missing her hubby like crazy now that she's all alone in a nice house in a middle-class neighborhood where every home is fitted to the roof with sensor alarm, every window barricaded with enough iron grille to built a medium-sized derrick barge. She doesn't know what to do. She doesn't have to cook. Or does the dishes. Or the laundry. She can call one pizza parlour after another if she's hungry. She can even ask the kids to walk or hitch a ride to school for a change. A little sunshine, rain, haze, smoke and diesel won't kill nobody. She's confused because hubby ain't home.

Of course she can call up old friends from the good old boarding school days. They can go eat a nice lunch at a fancy restaurant. Maybe flirt a glance at the maitre'd to break into an innocent laugh like they used to when the world was a nice place to live with only three channels on TV. But she's confused because hubby ain't home.

A missus wouldn't be a good idea to have at the moment when all I need is to be in bed for at least two hours to get back to being a resident of an empty apartment I used to share with a wonderful person I called Aunt Su. But she's not here right now. She has probably had enough of me and decided to walk out and not come back to this place ever again.

I hate this feeling. I hate it when all the fun is had, all the laughing done, and all the riding over with. After all this you are left with nothing but a big empty feeling that you have no one in the world to even talk about a town north of the border where every women looked the same as if they had all came from a biscuit factory.

I am so lonely.

And so you sit on a couch until the sky is all dark and heavy with clouds. And then it rains. Every drop is like all the tears you have ever cried, coming down hard from behind the hills as if all the memories of why you ever cried are coming back to make you cry even more. But you can't cry. Aunt says, real men don't cry. You believe her. You don't want to let her know that you are weak. You always want to be strong and tough. Remember, you are the only man in the house. We depend on you so you had better don't ever ever cry because when a man cry, he is as good as a sissy. Useless. A weakling. And you forget what's so good about wanting to cry. Besides, you can't. Even if you want to. And so you forget about it to go make a list of things you need to get from Tesco first thing tomorrow.

Tough men don't cry.
I ain't cryin', Aunt. I won't.

A macho talk won't get me nowhere.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Takin' Time Off.

(Not my bike.)

Me and a couple of guys from the rig are gonna be on the road for a couple of days. We gotta do this to renew friendship. To fight. To laugh. And have a good time.

World Without Men.

Chapter III
A Summary

(A difficult patient.)

Let’s say you like ribeye steak a lot that you eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day, for a week. I’m willing to bet everything I’ve got in my pocket right now that by the fourth day you’d be so sick of ribeye steak that you’d say yes, yes, yes right away to a guy if he comes up to you with an offer to buy your head for a little more than fifty cents plus plus. You'd do anything, or sell anything as long as you don't have to eat another slab of ribeye steak.

To begin with, I don’t like rice porridge. Can you imagine how I feel when I have to eat this and nothing else for five days? On the morning of the fifth day I told Aunt she had better do something about this because I am not going to eat a teaspoon more of this stuff, not even if the fate of Dungun depends on it. How about if I add fried tenggiri in there, will that make you happy? Heaven knows how much I miss fish, or solid food for that matter, and so without thinking twice I say, yes that’d make me very happy indeed.

I see a huge slice of fried ikan tenggiri looking so nice and juicy perched on top of the porridge. Aunt must have put everything she got to fry it into a nice golden yellow, its flaky flesh all moist and white. I take a big gulp, tilting my head sideways to guide the fish into position in between my teeth. It’s painful enough to swallow rice porridge but the taste of the kunyit and garam blending in a nice mix make me forget about the pain for a second. And then it has to happen, right after the first gulp, even before the fish is half way down my stomach.

A bone got stuck in my throat that I say to Aunt, look what you’ve done! I got bone in my throat and this is going to kill me. Why must you do this to me? What have I done to you?

It’s a probably a small bone, drink some water, you’d be alright.
No, I ‘m not going to be okay with this bone. What’s wrong with you?
Serve you right for eating without saying Bismillah.
And please tell God to leave a small kid like me alone. Can’t He just let me have my meal in peace? Must I be punished with this for taking Mamood Botoq’s trishaw for a spin? There are men who commit bigger sins and women who commit even bigger sins but how come they don’t get bones stuck in their throat? I am going to die! I am going to die!

Aunt says, oh a small bone like that won’t kill a strong boy like you.

But I’m dying from this bone, can’t you see?
Shall I call Bilal to recite the Yassin for you?
I can read it myself!
Why don’t you just be quiet for a second, I go get something for that bone.
Where are you going? Are you going to leave me die here?
My goodness, this boy has wild imagination.

Here’s a banana, swallow it whole, don’t chew.
You have gone crazy, haven’t you?
I say swallow it whole, don’t chew. It’ll get to the bone to drag it down to your belly.
How do you know this is gonna work!
Will you please shut up and swallow it?

It’s painful enough to swallow a teaspoon of watery rice porridge and she wants to me to swallow a cylinder of banana whole without chewing? First she got the bone stuck in my throat and now she’s going to choke me with a banana. She’s gonna kill me. She doesn’t like me. She hates me.

I hate you, I hate you!
Shut up and swallow this, will you?

She pushes half the banana through the gape no bigger than a fifty sen coin, and I swallow it, hard, without chewing. It slides down the throat like a cylinder pushing itself in a shaft, dragging the bone along.


You shouldn’t have done that! You should have fried the fish without the bone. What is wrong with you? What if it got stuck and can’t get out?
Oh it’s just a small bone.
No, it was bigger than your thumb!
You’d be half way to heaven by now if it was that big.
Why halfway?
For telling such a big lie.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

World Without Man.

Chapter III
A summary

(Recovering from the misadventure with Li Bulb Lampu and his sisters.)

Dip a coconut bun into a glass of teh 'O'. Leave it in there for five minutes, next thing you know tea all gone, the bun swollen into a dough triple its size. For three days my face got so big I felt like slicing off the extra flesh to prevent the swelling from spreading upwards to the area just below the eyes. It hurt to keep the eyes open, it hurt to keep them closed. It hurt even more in the morning after a difficult night, the eyes layered with sticky gel, probably a mixture of puss and blood. I don't know, I'm no eye doctor.

I have been on porridge diet for three days and it's making me pretty restless having to suck each spoonful twisting my mouth sideways now that the lower-half of my jaw is almost useless for chewing. Aunt says we are going to Kuala Terengganu to see a Bomoh Patah there to fix my shoulder. But this has to wait until I am strong enough to make the journey. Both Grandma and Aunt haven't started on me with their long-winded lectures. Not yet. At the moment they are more concerned with my recovery. In the meantime it's best that I behave like a real patient, moaning and complaining every now and then so they can see how much I have to suffer for my sin. This way I can send them scampering for things I need like apples, toys, and wallets with a picture of Hong Kong actresses in bikini in the side pocket. All I need to do is ask and next thing you know, I got them.

Mok Song Gigi comes in a dream every now and then, smiling a toothless grin looking down from among the clouds up above straight at me in bed, blanket up to my chin. Sometimes she speaks in a voice I can't make out. One time she comes down on me like a dragon chewing me up to pieces in between her giant gum, making so much noise grinding my chewy body that I woke up feeling so scared thinking it's true what the boys in the village are saying that she has a polong. They know for sure because one time they made funny faces behind her back. She turned with a scary glance that sent them running in all directions of the compass. It's true. Kapir serani.

She's here in the living room with Li Bulb Lampu's and Biding Hidung's mommy talking hush hush with Grandma and Aunt. They are coming into my room now to ish ish ish me, and mmm mmm mmm, caressing and massaging my feet as if peforming the last rite before sending me off to alam barza'. Mok Song Gigi reads something, her lips pouting into a twist that I'm sure she's casting a spell on me for sending her husband's trishaw into an open grave, front tyre rolled into an '8'. Li Bulb Lampu's mommy gave me twenty cent which she put in the palm of my hand. I manage to muster a thank you Mokmek. She smiles but I dare not smile back, not with Moksong Gigi right above my head that I can see her chin and neck as clear as I can see her in my dreams.

Aunt says Li Bulb Lampu and her sisters are recovering too but they didn't hurt themselves too badly. Just bruises. They jumped in time before the trishaw rolled over mid-way when the front half of the carriage got jammed in the drain. The jerk must have catapulted them like a projectile half way to heaven before the three of them landed on the grass. Lucky for them. I haven't told Aunt that I held on to the handle bar right through it all, right through the moment the trishaw nose dived into the drain. Don't ask me why I didn't let go because I can't remember. But I do remember my leg, jammed in between the sidecar and the pedal that I couldn't get it off fast enough before the whole weight of the trishaw rolled over to slam me against the concrete drain.

Good thing Biding Hidung decided not to come on board. He was the one who ran for help. We owe him something. Sometimes a decision you make at the last minute can mean something to someone, or to you. Sometimes it's good to be a coward at the last minute because you will never know that the next minute everyone will call you a hero. In this case, everyone says, mujo gok ada Biding (Hidung).

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

World Without Men

Chapter III
A summary

(A joyride like no other.)

Unless you are totally at sea with the nuances of Trengganuspeak, you shouldn't have any problem pronouncing his name correctly. You don't have to be a native of this state to perform a simple act of adding a nasal sound after the letter 'q' in Mamood Botoq. You see, 'botoq' in Trengganuspeak is an adjective, a device to describe a noun. In this case the noun is a man called Mamood, which is Tregganuspeak's version for Mahmood. This is not an exceptional case in Terengganu where 'H' appearing in the middle of a word is usually understood among the native speakers as not an important sound because Mahmood, Mamood, Mahbood, Mahut, they all mean the same thing. Afterall there's only one Mahmood in this men's town and everyone knows him as the trishawman who has a missus in every kampong. His missus in our kampong lives in a house among the coconut trees behind Ayoh Wang Nyior's house. Everyone calls her Mok Song Gigi since heaven knows, how much she needs a row of front teeth having to live all her life without one so the name Mok Song Gigi, to me, is actually a prayer for a miracle for her to be blessed with a set of fine teeth one fine day when she wakes up in the morning. Back to her husband Mahmood Botoq.

Botoq, in Trengganuspeak, simply means a character with a balanced combination of being short, plump and jolly. With a bit of imagination you should be able to construct him in your mind as someone who resembles a jolly penguin.

I know Mamood Botoq is in the village on account of his trishaw, left unattended under pokok saga. He can't take it down the slope to Mok Song Gigi's house because the track leading to the place is sandy and full of pelepoh nyior. Like always he has conveniently left the trishaw a good distance from the house knowing very well no one in this man's town would make a career stealing trishaws. To outsiders every trishaw looks the same but this is not the case. Each trishaw has a painting at the back of it, a sort of very personal identification code that works like today's SIM card on your cellphone. You can tell by the paintings in the back to know for sure whether the trishaw belongs to Encik Musa or Encik Bong Galah or Awang Suna (for serunai). A painting of a padi field for example, belongs to Awang Suna. Mamood Botoq had his painted with a scene of a tranquil fishing village at dawn.

One hot afternoon Mamood Botoq parked his trishaw under pokok saga right next to our house. It was a mistake. A big mistake.

I said to Biding Hidung and Li Bulb Lampu, will you push harder! These two hopeless imbeciles are not doing their job too well that in the end I said to Li Bulb Lampu to go get his sisters to help out. The sisters come running, gigling like firecrackers, towards us but they are useless too because the trishaw is still not moving. Just then I notice Mamood Botoq has clasped the brake lever with a keeper made of cloth coiled into a ring and that all I need to do is slide it to the front towards the handle bar to release the clipper brakes on the tyre. They push real hard that in the end we manage to get it moving while I steer it towards Jalan Lembah which is a downhill run all the way to the junction of Jalan Sungai Udang and Jalan Kubur. I can't pedal very well but it's not a big deal. All I have to do is sit on the cross-bar, pushing my legs as far as they can go, letting the pedal to come back up to catch it on the upward cycle now that the trishaw is moving by itself at the start of the downhill run. Biding Hidung doesn't want to come aboard, which is fine. I don't need a coward. Li Bulb Lampu is already sitting like a maharajah on a country tour while his sisters are all over the place screaming and yelling as if this is an open top MG sports car.

Our trishaw now is on a full run downhill, handle-bar vibrating in a violent shake, left right left right, but I got a good hold on it to keep her steady. Jalan Lembah is a long stretch of downhill run that curves to the left before it intersects at a four-way junction. It's a simple curve to handle with a bicycle but it is a totally different story with something this big with three tyres. I know I gotta guide the trishaw real nice along the curve but the trishaw is moving too fast for me to know any better what to do when it banks too much to the left. I try to yank the handle-bar to the right but my arms are too small to handle a job meant for a man with a pair of strong arms. We are heading straight for the drain at full speed. I don't know what happen, I can't hear anything except the sisters shouting their heads off. I am caught in between the handle-bar and the cross-bar. The trishaw has a mind of its own to kill us all for this ride, a sin we now have to pay with something big.

We crash into the drain, the trishaw tilted like the stern of the Titanic before it went under. There's a sharp pain around the shoulder area that I can't move my arm to get up. The sisters are crying. Li Bulb Lampu is running in circle crying like a madman.

Aunt paid for the damage. I lost a few teeth my name might as well be Awangsong Gigi.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Honeymoon Trip.

We are running river deep in the heartland of Kalabakan. Only the two of us, a honeymoon trip we had planned for months. Three-days-two nights on a rubber boat to see if we can handle being together long enough, not to take a stance on every petty issue to give us a reason to quarrel, bickering like the Irish to leave us black in the face for days, not talking to one another as if it would make either of us a loser saying sorry for starting the fight.

It took us a day to cover the winding path on a landrover, and an hour's trek to get to the starting point, a small beach by the river that you had to scale down a steep bank to get there. It took four men to get the boat down to the beach, two men to a rope on each side. I've got the fire going while she cursed and shouted herself to high heavens trying to drive the stakes deep enough into the sand to hold down a simple factory-designed tent. I watched, not wanting to interfere with a woman having a quarrel with a tent eventhough deep inside I wanted her to hurry up with it now that night is approaching fast and it bloody looked like rain. Fifteen minutes on I told her to come eat a simple meal before it got cold and soggy. I went over to re-knot the cord to the stakes with angler's loop, driving the stakes deep with a rock, checking them for the last time before tightening the tent into position with double fisherman's bend. Mosquitoes made their way into the tent that I had to spray the repellant to get them out. It rained a little around nine but outside it might as well be three in the morning with the jungle sounds to remind you that you are not in downtown Tawau.

In the morning I got the fire going to heat a litre of water for coffee that went pretty well with the food we've got in the first breakfast pack. We'd have beef for lunch if we made good time going downriver. It was an easy run to the first stop-point with mild drops in between. It won't take much of an effort to negotiate the rapids based on a map that looked out of date but it was the only one they've got to give us as a general guide. I got the gear tied down and ready to go but she said she needed to change into another shirt. It'd take me five minutes to untie the gear and another five to re-tie the whole bloody thing again that I asked if she was sure about this now that we are two hours behind schedule. All she said was, either you get that shirt out or this trip ends here. I untied the bundle to get the damned shirt and it took me more than five minutes to re-tie the gear into position, checking it for the last time before she changed her mind.

We started downriver on a good run, paddling slowly to feel the water connecting with the boat. It's a nice boat with inflatable tubes around an open metal frame allowing the water to run right through. It's expensive but it's worth the money. It's light but sturdy. The gear looking good in its position to keep the boat steady between us. We got the hang of it, feeling the water underneath the hull in a smooth flow to paddle her through these waters. There's a rapids about twenty yards down coming up fast enough to get us excited.

Put on that damned helmet, will you?
It's bloody uncomfortable.
It's going to get a little rough, there's logjams everywhere and holes to rock you out of the boat so put on that damned bloody helmet!
Don't you talk to me that way, mister!
I ain't talking to you I am ordering you to put it on, woman!
Don't you woman me that way!
Either you put that damned helmet on or you are out of this boat, y'hear me?

She was in the back of the boat paddling like a moron, quiet as a corpse when we decided to punch into a hole on the left, avoiding the one in the center that looked pretty mild but I didn't want to take a chance on a hole like that with the backwater gushing in a violent stream from behind it.

Will you keep her steady!
I'm trying! Will you please shut up!
Keep left! left! left!
Are you crazy? There's a logjam in the centre!
Logjams my foot, it's a baby rapids!
Why don't you bloody run this your way!

We argued so much until we got lost trying to figure out what it was that started us arguing, fighting every inch of the way to win a point, as if it meant something to win, to be one up. She disagreed with everything I said and I never ran out of things to say to make her feel even mad for saying things she shouldn't kept quiet about.

A little after mid-day we made the first stop to unload lunch from the bottom of the gear. She started on me for being so foolish to set the gear that way not knowing the basic principle of loading the gear into a boat, first out last in. I said it's not a big deal because I have to get the whole load out anyway to get the fuel tablets and I can put back altogether again in less than five minutes with four points tie-downs but she said, I'm married to moron. Well maybe you set the gear this time if you are so smart.

We got the gear re-packed to head for the second stop of the day before dark. It was a smooth run all the way until she spotted a beach wide enough to set up camp but I said it was no good in high-tide. We paddled down about a quarter of a mile before she spotted another site we both agreed because there was no point arguing now that it began to get too dark to know the difference between a crocodile and a dead trunk. She got the fire going pretty quick with the fuel tablets and started dinner right away. It was a warm night with stars above flickering into a million blips filling our hearts with joy that we held each other's hand real tight knowing deep inside we were meant for one another on a night like this when all we could hear was the sound of the jungle.

In the morning the sun came up real pretty that we sat for hours on a log with our feet in the sand, arms locked in an embrace not wanting to let go for a second feeling so good to be together somewhere along a river in Kalabakan. All of a sudden she was the prettiest woman in the world with sleepy eyes, hair in a mess looking domestic and homely and motherly that we decided to stay another hour before the sun got too hot to be sitting like retired couples spending their last few moments together watching the sun in Florida.

It was a smooth run all the way to the campsite marked 'X' in the map where the guides who had left us two days ago stood on the beach arms flapping like a bird, shouting and screaming at the top of their head as if surprised to see us together in a boat, husband and wife. There was no way of knowing then that in less than a year all this ended in a bitter divorce.

Romeo And Juliet
By Dire Straits / Mark Knopfler.

A lovestruck Romeo sings a streetsus serenade
Laying everybody low with me a lovesong that he made
Finds a convenient streetlight steps out of the shade
Says something like you and me babe how about it ?

Juliet says hey it's Romeo you nearly gimme a heart attack
He's underneath the window she's singing hey la my boyfriend's back
You shouldn't come around here singing up at people like that
Anyway what you gonna do about it ?

Juliet the dice were loaded from the start
And I bet and you exploded in my heart
And I forget the movie song
When you wanna realise it was just that the time was wrong Juliet ?

Come up on differents streets they both were streets of shame
Both dirty both mean yes and the dream was just the same
And I dreamed your dream for you and your dream is real
How can you look at me as if I was just another one of your deals ?

Where you can fall for chains of silver you can fall for chains of gold
You can fall for pretty strangers and the promises they hold
You promised me everything you promised me thick and thin
Now you just says oh Romeo yeah you know I used to have a scene with him

Juliet when we made love you used to cry
You said I love you like the stars above I'll love you till I die
There's a place for us you know the movie song
When you gonna realise it was just that the time was wrong Juliet ?

I can't do the talk like they talk on TV
And I can't do a love song like the way it's meant to be
I can't do everything but I'd do anything for you
I can't do anything except be in love with you

And all I do is miss you and the way we used to be
All do is keep the beat and bad company
All I do is kiss you through the bars of a rhyme
Julie I'd do the stars with you any time

Juliet when we made love you used to cry
You said I love you like the stars above I'll love you till I die
There's a place for us you know the movie song
When you gonna realise it was just that the time was wrong Juliet ?

A lovestruck Romeo sings a streetsus serenade
Laying everybody low with me a lovesong that he made
Finds a convenient streetlight steps out of the shade
Says something like you and me babe how about it ?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Let's Get Married!

I saw someone today pretty as Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra that I said to myself, let's get married! (If only it is that simple to marry someone you like). I say 'like' because at this point in time this 'like' hasn't grown into something big enough to become love. Not yet, and chances are it will never grow big enough to become something I can associate it with love. Besides, the possibility of meeting up with this pretty woman the second time is as good as getting a job interview with Osama Ben Laden for a vacancy as a writer to pen down a memoir on his childhood ambition of becoming a red indian. (If only meeting up someone you like, but don't know the name of, is as simple as turning on a switch to run a blender to mix garam masala...)

I met her again. The second time. In the carpark. It wasn't entirely lady luck working in my favor. My car was on the west end of the carpark while hers on the east end. In between is a space wide enough to fit fourteen aircraft carriers. Thinking on my feet, I figured it didn't take much by way of strategy to turn this rare opportunity into something that could lead to majlis risek merisek, and then followed by hantaran, kenduri kendara, and I get to slaughter maybe two or four buffaloes at one go with my favorite German knive, and then majlis bersanding, and then majlis suap menyuap pulut kuning which I'm sure I can get my in-laws to agree to change this with something more appropriate like a whole leg of roast lamb so I can have the whole leg to myself, followed by things married people usually do like taking a stand on everything so we can start fighting right away over who has more right to sleep on the right side of the bed, or the left side.

By this time she had put away all the groceries in the trunk to drive away passing me by without looking in the general direction I was standing holding on to a trolley full of groceries for a full-grown man. Sometimes it is good not to think too much or turn everything into a television commercial.

30 sen Vs RM90.00

You don't need a Ph.D in Economics to figure out that an increase as little as 30 sen on the price of gas will hit the poor in a big way. Don't go jump the gun accusing me of trying to appear smart talking about economics when you know very well that I have never been to a university, or have ever seen a breathing professor in real life to know any better that I shouldn't go over to take off his pair of academic glasses to pick up a fight with him just because I believe I can take him down. Some professors are silat exponents, this I know for a fact.

If there's one thing I notice about the poor in this country is they don't like to re-cycle things. They'd rather buy things brand new and run big monthly instalments with furniture giants like Courts Mammoth. Maybe I'm wrong to say this but I've been to enough houses around squatter areas to know better that most of them own huge TVs, DVDs, subsribe to Astro, and own a nice set of living room furniture. I've been to a lot of houses in the ghettos in Chicago, New Orleans and small towns Mid-West America to write this with confidence that most poor folks there don't mind buying second hand sofa, or restore a dining table, or putting on second-hand winter coats. They also repair things a lot more than the folks in squatter areas around this fine city.

Now you may ask how do I know all this? I do a lot of voluntary work during the weekend for an organization to help the poor get by, fixing things for them, or distributing food items that we got from generous donors. Some of these donors are big names in the corporate world but I don't have the permission to mention them because they want to keep a very very low profile.

I've been cursed, even chased a few times for suggesting to some of these poor folks that they should restore some of the furnitures they considered useless eventhough I know for sure that all it took for a dining table to be good as new was a new spine . Instead they'd rather order a brand new dining set from a glossy catalogue and work hard to meet the monthly payment. And they don't know any better about furniture design to see the dining set they've just bought is totally useless when broken because it is built in such a way that it would be very difficult for a craftman to repair. Mass produced furnitures are like that. They are not meant to be repaired. They are meant to be replaced when broken because it's purely economics that you keep the consumers buying new things instead of restore, refurbish and rebuild. I guess that's why they have made tools so expensive these days so that it will discourage men to pick up skills how to repair things. And those tool-makers are smart too. They've come up with cordless screwdrivers that cost as little as RM50.00. But any guy with half a brain knows that you don't need this because all you have to do is calculate the number of times in a month you screw or unscrew something to really need something as superflous a cordless screwdriver with built-in MP3. A manual screwdriver Made in China is about RM3.00. It works just fine except you have to use a bit of muscle power to get it going. Any man with a quarter of a brain knows that a bit of muscle power is good for the bones in the long run. Go figure.

You may find this funny but I find it pathetic. Once I was at this house of a poor family to fix a kitchen cabinet about to crumble itself from too much weight. It took me about 3 hours to get it done, and through-out this time, the man of the house, able as an ox, strong as a professional wrestler, sat through it all watching a soccer game on tv, not wanting to lift a finger to learn anything about basic carpentry. I could tell the missus was embarassed but I have experienced cases like this once too many to form my opinion about the attitude of the poor in this country who is very quick to complain about something like 30sen petrol hike, but never give it a serious thought about paying RM90.00 monthly to Astro.

If you wanna do things I do during the weekend, you need to bring your own set of tools and take my advice, please keep your eyes on the tools because there's somekind of sick people out there who like nothing but to steal tools of a volunteer who is there to help them. It's a sick society, but I've got used to it. That's why I don't bring my Stanley or Snap-On tools with me. I've got another set, Made In China that they can steal all they want.

One time I walked by a squatter house and had a chance to peek into the living room of a family laughing as if that's the only thing they know since birth watching Senario on a humongous plasma TV. I need a tv like that but I don't think I can afford one, unless I go over to Aramco to work and get paid in US dollars. The poor in this country ain't poor. It's their insatiable desire to spend away their money the way a middle-class family do that's making them poorer and poorer. All this is made worse by their attitude towards not wanting to pick up new skills that can earn them money like restoring furnitures.

And those guys are going to hold a street protest after Friday prayer today? All that for 30 sen. Go home, fellas. Pick up a hobby, learn how to fix things.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Pick Up A Hobby, Learn How To Fix Things.

He figured it will go this way. People getting angry now that the price of oil is up 30 sen.

You can bet your right arm that the citizens of this fine city is angry but I think there's nothing to be angry about which is why I feel like going over to the table right across where a couple of guys drinking jugs after jugs of beer as if they are trying to forget something, cursing and swearing over the price of oil that got me thinking, why don't you guys go home, pick up a hobby, learn how to fix things instead of spending your hard-earned executive money drinking and feeling sorry for yourselves, wasting good time instead of doing something that can save you a couple of bucks like learn how to bake a cake, or fix a toaster, or rebuild a bathroom. It's better than complaining about 30 sen when you guys don't seem to mind paying ridiculous price for a piece of cake. Lemme me tell you, for the same price, you can get a cake bigger than your head at Tesco. Trust me because I love supermarket, man. I know this thing. Ever since I've been away from the rig, I have developed this domestic ability that has enabled me to think like a housewife who can get the best deal on a detergent, or a ketchup cutting supermarket coupons from Thursday papers. Trust me.

You gotta pick up a skill other than knowing how to work the numbers, or a computer programme. I don't know, there's a host of skills you can pick up. Go look up in the net. Google what you want. I've learnt how to fix a gear shaft of a Volvo 240 from the net. All you have to do is read, man. And you can even learn how to cook fondue if you want to. Or learn how to bake a cake, and harness this baking skill of yours that you can sell the cakes at a family carnival. There's so much you can do instead of complaining about this 30 sen thing. And you can also save so much if you stop coming over to this side walk bar to drink jugs after jugs of beer, complaining and lamenting about 30 sen as if the world is coming to an end.

Of course I know this 30 sen thing will hit big transport companies in a big way, and prices of food will go up. But you can always learn how to cook so you don't have to go out as often as you used to now that the price of cooking gas has gone up and restaurants are going to charge you more. Maybe you should learn how to cook pineaple chicken real well that your missus will fall in love with you all over like the first time you met, and your kids will adore you as you are Jamie Oliver. It's better than having them love that Ronald guy or that Colonel guy or whoever they've got as the spokeperson for their burgers or chicken. Don't you think it is better for your kids to look up to you as their very own Ronald, or Colonel or what have you. Learn something useful, man.

Lemme tell you what I've picked up. I've learnt how to cook from the net. Fix and rebuild the whole bicycle from the net. I've learnt how to write from the net. I've learnt how to work Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, In-design from online tutorial. I am learning how to restore furniture now because I found out from the net that it is a big business in Florida and California. Next I'm going to learn how to repair air-cond because the weather is getting hot, now that it's March and it's gonna get hotter and hotter, and it's gonna be more and more difficult to get the air-cond guy to come to the house to service all the units I've got in the apartment and you can bet they are gonna charge me more and more money. You see, there's nothing to complain about this 30 sen thing.

Go home, man. Pick up a hobby. Learn how to tie knots for all I care. Or how to convert your sandwich maker into a satellite, or a digital camera. There's so much to do and you are worried about 30 sen?

Excuse me, I gotta home. I think I need to look up on the net on how to do Turkish coffee. But first I need to find out where I can buy an ibrik.

The Sultan Of TV.

Ours is the second house in the village with a tv. You know for sure about this since no way you can miss the steel pole almost as tall as a coconut tree right outside the house. It holds the antennae big as the ribcage of a dinosaur. You may have a father or a mother who love you very much but it's not the same as having a tv in the house. A tv will make you more important than Tunku Abdul Rahman that your friends will say yes yes yes to everything you say about anything that comes to your mind.

You can say something like, your brother is stupid.
Your sister is stupid.
You are stupid as a cow.
Your mother sleeps with Daud keling.
Your father sleeps with a whore.

You can even say, your father and your mother will to die tonight.
Sometimes they cry. Which is better because you can threaten them with, you are not coming to my house tonight to watch tv with the rest. You see them wipe their tears to cry even more, silently, body jerking violently like a fish out of the water.

And you feel so powerful. As powerful as the Chinaman who works the projector of the cinema. Maybe even more powerful than the guy who owns the movie house, or Cik Wei who runs the government movies from a landrover of Jabatan Penerangan. Besides Cousin, I am the only person in the house who know how to turn on, and turn off the tv set. Nothing is more powerful than this in the whole wide world. Even DYMM Sultan Ismail has someone to turn on the tv for him because he doesn't know any better how to do it himself.

The whole village will troop to the house from as early a little after Maghrib that Grandma has nothing but complaints about the house being turned into a movie theatre with music blasting at the holy hours, children not performing their evening prayers now that they are not afraid of hell because the tv is right before their eyes to entertain them with Malay movies about some stupid ghosts coming out of a grave. I perform my Maghrib before she can start on me. Of course she doesn't know that I perform it the fastest I can, not reading anything in between the rukun, hurrying through it all standing and sitting, standing and sitting, standing and sitting to complete the 3 rakaat. I don't pray behind Grandma anymore because she takes a long time to finish the 3 rakaat that in the end she says, you are coming with me to the masjid tomorrow for jemaah. I wish she just die and shut up but Aunt says, either that or she will return the tv back to the Chinaman. It's hard not to feel angry especially when both of them talking in turn, complaining about you right in front of the whole kampong folk who came in to watch Hantu Jerangkung. Of all the time in the world they have to do this now when the movie is playing and everyone is trying to be scared hiding inside a sarung, peeping through an opening no bigger than a matchbox.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Men's Town Like No Other.

'In The Brothel' by Van Gogh
Uploaded by Bergen.

Chapter 1

You gotta have a good mix of boozing, gambling and womanizing before you can call a choice location a first-class men's town like no other. What you won't be needing in a town like this is a high-class institution like a country club, or an opera house to give a reason for genteel folk to put on their fine clothes, black tie nice shoes, women in high-class berkemban dress, the way housewives in the village put on kain ssahang going to the communal telaga to bathe themselves into a mermaid talking about silly things you and I shouldn't be concerned with at this point of time.

An opera house won't do the male citizens of this town any good. What they need is a whorehouse. And we've got one on Jalan Besar, a stretch of road that starts from the three-way junction where the pasar is and it goes all the way to Sura Gate where the train crossing is. It can go further to anywhere for all I care. The road has got several names since then. One time it was Jalan Yahya Ahmad but PAS changed it to Jalan Haji Abidin as part of their image branding exercise. I don't know enough about local politics to know for sure if they have changed the name of this road to something more appropriate like Jalan Hadhari or something. The point is, we've got a whorehouse and this is a good thing for a men's town like Dungun, a thriving location with enough of everything to send a man straight down to hell, or up a flight of stairs of the whorehouse to do business with the pretty women brought in by a guy who knows inside out the logistics of inviting the women from all over the country to come for a grand tour of this side of the state. Whoever that guy is, he don't need no advertisement other than word of mouth to start a parade of men heading toward the whorehouse, eager to be the first in line to chat up the women who don't know any better how to speak the language other than abang!abang!abang!

So this guy Usop B***t (his real nickname) goes around the drinking shop talking hush hush with a group of men sitting at a table drinking down bottle after bottle of Guinness that leave them red in the face, eyes drooped like a flabby cheeks of a very very very old grandfather going to die tonight. Whatever Usop B***t has to say evidently doesn't please the women or the Chinaman sitting behind a counter because everyone knows that Usop B***t is the appointed regional representative of the guy who runs the whorehouse whenever there's fresh women come in to town, and he's obviously here to perform his official duty spreading the good news to the male citizens of this town face to face, nose to nose, eye to eye. And everyone knows this technique works like magic on the men because no sooner than he says something, they will quickly get up, leaving the women in baju kebaya and kain susun, their face black with anger, and disappointment now that customers are scampering like rats on a ship taking in water, sinking faster than the captain can say, where's my hat and my pants?

At the whorehouse the good citizens of this town miggle about smoking one cigarette after another at the entrance leading into a long passage-way, ending all the way at the back of the ground floor. To the left, a steep flight of wooden staircase opens up to a lounge where more men loiter about puffing more cigarettes than they can inhale. A Chinaman in a pair of shorts and singlet goes about busy as a bee talking hey ho hey ho like a school headmaster ordering the students to line up or they won't get no free ice-cream on a hot afternoon of a sports day. You walk towards the corridor to peep into the rooms at women fat as dolphins wriggling about in bed looking at you with a pair of eyes that go right through your heart that you go over to Usop B***t to hand him the cigarette he asked you to buy and run out of there real quick because you don't want to be struck by a lightning that can come down from the sky to punish you for being so brave to come to this heaven of a place that smells of soap, talcum powder and sweat all mixed real good in this men's town like no other.