Return Of The Matt

Matt is here for his 3rd visit! Almost exactly a year ago, he helped Alec throw me a surprise birthday party and firmly established himself as my favourite male karaoke singer. Six months later he did us the honour of co-MCing our wedding, and in another karaoke session, gave me the first sign from God (2 more signs soon followed but that’s another blog entry) that I must learn to sing Master of Puppets as the next crucial stage of my karaoke journey.

This visit, I’m really happy we’ve finally been able to relax and have fun with him without needing to juggle lots of other stuff. Also, I love taking photos of Matt because they always come out as great records of good times had. Conversely, when I take photos of myself and/or Alec, our presence manages to suck all life and spontaneity out of the photo, leaving a photogenic void nearly as repulsive as Lemon Blowjob Face girls.

Here is Matt in Singapore’s most ludicrously OTT bar.

They don’t let you take photos unless you’re taking photos of your friends, and my surreptitious photos really didn’t do it justice, but let’s just say the bar at Parkview Square has just earned its place on Michelle’s Tours Of The Singapore Lots Of Tourists Don’t See But Which Is Freaking Hilarious And Way More Fun Than Clarke Quay (estab. 2003 with rave reviews ever since).

Here is an action shot of Matt playing my favourite minigolf. (I WON YAYYYY!)

Here is the squid Matt MADE, which by sheer coincidence happens to be a perfect companion for Ugly. I have named him Squgly. (OK, this isn’t technically a picture of Matt, but Squgly and Ugly are also way more photogenic than Alec and me, so why not.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos during karaoke this time because it was very civilised. But you may enjoy this one instead from last year’s birthday karaoke chaos. (Photo visible only to my Flickr friends i.e. anyone who knows me in real life and adds me as a Flickr friend, because I don’t want people to recognize me through recognizing my husband. Though it is true that in the photo, Alec pretty much looks like Matt’s husband.)

Best. Souvenir. Ever.

My good friend is the sort of thoughtful person who always brings people a little something when she goes travelling. She recently returned from a tiring, stressful work trip to Panama, for which she couldn’t check-in any luggage and was subject to stringent cabin baggage restrictions due to her transit in LA. While in Panama, her duties kept her too busy to see much more of the place than the supermarket near her hotel.

Under such circumstances lesser mortals (i.e. me) just wouldn’t have bothered with bringing people souvenirs but my friend was clearly unfazed. I met her shortly after she returned and was presented with a sanitary pad. On the wrapper, she had written “Greetings from Padnama!”

Truly, we get the friends we deserve.

My Favourite Bald Chick

I deviate a moment from this blog’s regular (well, not so regular any more) programme of self-absorption to tell you that a dear friend of mine, Ng Mei Fay, is shaving her head to raise money for the Children’s Cancer Foundation.

This is obviously a pretty cool thing to do, but in itself, it isn’t the only reason I’m asking you to support her. I’m also asking you to support her because it’s just one out of many charitable involvements Fay has had over the years. And without going into details, she has committed herself to such efforts despite personal problems that would cripple many people.

Please consider making an online donation at Fay’s pledge page, no matter where you are in the world.

Darren Hanlon / Dave Pajo (Esplanade Recital Studio, 4 March 2006)

I’ve been meaning to write about the Dave Pajo gig for so long. To me it was the first and only indie gig in Singapore this year that I’d been excited about, and in hindsight I wish I’d bothered to promote it in advance on this blog. I guess I took it for granted that he’d draw a crowd, especially with the rapturous reception that the Tortoise gig got last year, but I was completely wrong. The turnout was abysmal, even worse than the Analog Girl / Konki Duet / Lovers gig the previous night. This upset me, as it always does. I almost wish I were jaded enough to be resigned and indifferent to it.

Darren Hanlon opened, and was pretty great in his own right. Being a good “guy-with-guitar” act is damn hard. First, you have to have good songs with good music and good lyrics, which approximately 98.5% of such acts do not. Second, you have to be able to communicate those songs to your audience, which for present purposes we shall assume are not rabid fans who have already spent hours listening to your album and memorizing the lyrics so that they can sing along conspicuously at your gig. Clear enunciation and lyrics that don’t read like pseudo-poetic stream-of-consciousness burbling really help in this, but personality zing and lack of pretension also tend to be a huge plus. Darren Hanlon has all of these.

Despite having to start off “cold” in a big, barely populated room, he managed to command everyone’s attention quite effortlessly, simply through sheer force of likability. He was good at introducing his songs in a way that got the audience interested in them, and then at performing the songs well. I realize this sounds like a no-brainer but it’s amazing how many acts I’ve seen that are incapable of this. It’s hard to really describe the songs themselves because they ultimately just sound like a guy playing his guitar and singing in a cafe. It’s just that if you were in the cafe where he was playing, you’d stop your conversation, listen until he was done, and even if you didn’t buy his album at the end of it, your day would be that much better for having listened to him. Perhaps this doesn’t sound like lavish praise but hey, there are bands who sell millions of albums that I couldn’t say the same for.

Then Dave Pajo started, and proved that almost everything I just said about “guy-with-guitar” acts was a load of bullshit. He gave so little acknowledgement to the presence of the audience beyond an occasional muttered “thank you” that he might as well have been performing in his bedroom. He had that sort of overly emo indie guy look that turns me off straight away. I had and still have no idea what any of his songs are about even though I’ve listened to them so many times. And yet I was transfixed.

One spotlight, everything else dark, the performer almost motionless except for his hands on the guitar. No introductions, no banter. Quiet songs for a quiet room, sung without the harmonies or other studio gloss of the recording (his solo album). He’d laid out about ten bells on the floor, and played them by tapping the handles with his feet. It wasn’t a gig for all people or all moods, but it suited me and mine just fine.

After the gig there was time for teh ping and catch-up with Benny, who happened to be in Singapore for the weekend to attend a friend’s wedding, and had come along with us to the gig. Even though the gig had been great, this was probably the best part of the evening for me.

Even though I attend lots of music events in Singapore and have gotten to know some of the people in the scene over time, I somehow never talk uninhibitedly with them about the music I’m into because I don’t know how my conversation will be received. With Benny I know that nothing I say will be taken as affected, snobbish or reactionary even though our tastes clash far more often than they coincide. I can struggle inarticulately to explain how something I’m listening to fills me with wide-eyed wonder, or line up all the pejoratives in my vocabulary and fire them at something that fills me with disdain, and even if he completely disagrees with me in either aspect, it’s all good. We discuss it, argue about it, level snarky insults at each other, but ultimately part ways with no less respect for each other’s music taste or knowledge than before. (Except the bit where he likes Serena Maneesh.)

Thanks for a good evening, Benny, and please come to Singapore more often – I miss you.

I Hope Brian May Was Wrong

Wakeboarding on Saturday morning – my back’s killing me.

Clubbing on Saturday night – my hips are killing me.

Cycling on Pulau Ubin on Sunday – my legs are killing me.

Karaoke screaming on Sunday night – my throat’s killing me.

Saw my best friend Russ off at the airport this morning, after a series of wonderful weekends with him, during which my boyfriend Alec and my entire family did their best to make our time together as lovely as it was because they knew how much this visit meant to Russ and me – my heart’s killing me.

Too much love for one person to bear, and I’ve never figured out what I did to deserve any of it.

Extroversion Is Exhausting

Meeting up with newly-returned friends like Yuping and Kelly. Meeting up with long-time-no-see friends like the twins and my old classmates. Meeting up with regular partners in vileness the Orgers. Hip-hopping at Phuture. Lindy-hopping at Jitterbugs. Lindy-hopping at Harry’s Bar. Helping the RJC debate team. Attending driving lessons. Attending lectures. The list goes on.

There is an imbalance in the Force. I’m spending too much time out of the house, out of my bed, away from my computer and away from my CD player. The more social life I have, the less inner life I have, because I’m just too beat when I get home to get started on projects like redesigning this site, retouching my digital photos, planning for Alec’s visit in October, and generally keeping up on thinking, reading and listening to music. I haven’t even watched Oprah with my mum for days. :(

I need a doppelganger. Then one of us could be out having a whale of a time with my friends, and the other could be in having a whale of a time tweaking my stylesheets and site code. I could never explain my strongly extroverted Myers-Briggs test result, and still can’t.

Home Bittersweet Home

Perhaps some of you may wonder if walking through the Heathrow departure lounge trying to stop sobbing gets any easier the second time round. It doesn’t. You can deal with it differently – I hid behind the Telegraph until the plane was well into the air this time, instead of pressing myself against the window shuddering – but either way, things get soggy.

* * *

I got home having had no or very little sleep due to the two louts behind me who spent most of the London-Bangkok flight loudly telling a Thai woman about their girlfriends in Thailand (Graham has two, Ashley only has one, I think), and later due to the need to not fall asleep in Bangkok airport and miss my transfer. My mother then informed me that it was my Sunday obligation to attend 6 pm mass instead of the solemnization ceremony later that day of the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends. Never mind that I had deliberately shortened my initially planned holiday just so that I could be at her wedding. Apparently, Pei Ee would “understand” me missing the most important part of the wedding since I would be present at the big banquet later which is usually far more meaningful to a couple’s parents than the couple themselves.

An argument, much stress, and a tearful call to Alec later, I took the drastic step of text messaging Pei Ee seeking confirmation that no, she would not fucking “understand”. Confirmation came in the form of Pei Ee actually sending her bridal car to pick me up from my home and take me to Sentosa. Within half an hour, I wriggled into my dress, threw stockings, makeup and hair products into a bag, and rode to Sentosa in the front seat.

* * *

Attending a wedding just hours after parting from Alec at the departure gates was never going to be easy. This poem was read at the wedding dinner, and I hope the couple will forgive me for co-opting it to describe my own feelings.

And in Life’s noisiest hour,
There whispers still the ceaseless Love of Thee,
The heart’s Self-solace and soliloquy.
You mould my Hopes, you fashion me within;
And to the leading Love-throb in the Heart
Thro’ all my Being, thro’ my pulse’s beat;
You lie in all my many Thoughts, like Light,
Like the fair light of Dawn, or summer Eve
On rippling Stream, or cloud-reflecting Lake.
And looking to the Heaven, that bends above you,
How oft! I bless the Lot that made me love you.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge

* * *

As I was leaving the dinner later that night, I shook Tjin Kai’s hand meaning to congratulate him and say something merry. All I managed was “Take care of her” before I started tearing up and hastily moved on out of the ballroom. It might just have been residual waters from what I had already shed that weekend, but I’d like to think it had nothing to do with me, or the man I had had to leave behind at Heathrow, or the old life I had briefly lived again in London only to have to abandon once more. I think it was just about Pei Ee, the gem of a friend who I have loved for 18 years and is now blissfully happy. Congratulations, Pei Ee and Tjin Kai. I wish you all the love and joy in the world.

One down, three to go

One down, three to go. Studying three topics for an exam where I had to answer three questions was probably not very clever, but let’s move on.

Life has been mildly more muesli, less Weetabix these past few days in that there have actually been enjoyable bits, and not everything has been dry, dull and turd-like.

I had four hours to kill between the exam and meeting people for dinner, and atavism took over – I went shopping. In the same way Gabrielle’s Greatest Hits is an inseparable part of the UK girlie shopping experience, market researchers here still seem to think tragic techno of the Forever Dance Anthems ’98! variety is what will get those halter-neck tops flying off the shelves. Other things have changed since I was last around. There’s nothing quite like a recession for improving quality of service – I was greeted and thanked in every shop, and it even seemed sincere. There’s also Dorothy Perkins here now, which I find difficult to understand given that it makes clothes for fat English frumps and Singaporean girls tend to be none of the above.

Dinner involved Luke, Vikram, Zakir, Luke’s friend whose name I shamefully can’t remember (it was Chinese) and parts of what must have been a scary mofo of a swordfish. I went home happy.

Today was one of those rare days where most things go right. I woke up early, got to NUS in time to meet classmates and prepare for a presentation, got a decent amount of study done, and didn’t fall asleep at all at any point. I met Terry, Yish, Yen, Don and Zak to smoke hookahs on Arab Street, and for another few blissful hours exams didn’t exist.

I won’t go into a long sentimental ramble about how special old friendships can feel when you realize you haven’t seen them for a while but you still feel comfortable, conversation still flows, and you’re having a great time, but I think these few days it has been exactly those inner sentimental ramblings, and the company that inspired them, that have pulled me somewhat out of the doldrums.

Moving Out

I’m hard-pressed to think of anything remotely entertaining about the final day of the move out of the flat, except that I went into Waterstone’s in search of a travel guide and instructed Russ, standing outside on a busy street carrying a hoover and its assorted tubes, to “try to blend in.” I could also mention his regular exclamations of “You know what I really like about cleaning? I really like _____” as he hoovered the entire flat with unbelievable meticulousness, scrubbed footprints off the walls, and picked up really gross stuff from behind Tamara’s couch, but that’s not entertaining, it’s just freaky. There’s also the way I packed the 3 little sheep in the box for the ghetto blaster that came at Christmas disguised as a big sheep, but on closer inspection the little sheep looked rather lost and sad.

In general, the day was one of those times where I realized how sheer personal will and capacity for exhaustion is sometimes just simply not enough for the task at hand, no matter how much you mutter “I think I can I think I can I think I can” and wear your superwoman underpants. Sometimes even independent Michelle needs other people. Russ to help me heft stuff to the charity shop, my shit to my new lodgings, a borrowed hoover back to the flat, hours of aforementioned cleaning. Alec to use up an entire bottle of carpet cleaner on our disgusting floors, return the hoover (carrying my laptop and a bag of random kitchen supplies at the same time), give me alcohol and sunflowers before I collapsed into bed.

We all had an 8.40 plane to Italy the next morning. Russ only got home after 1. He had to leave for the airport at 5. He got almost no sleep. He said it had been his pleasure to help me. The other night I was crying my eyes out at the thought of August 3, departure doomsday. Among other things, I was remembering this.

Something’s Going Right

There’s something wonderfully affirming about being able to spend quality time with three men you love over the weekend, only one of them being your boyfriend.

Apart from Saturday night/Sunday morning with Russ, I met Nick on Monday night (for those not in the UK, it was a public holiday here) for dinner at my beloved Sweet And Spicy before popping round the corner into Alec’s local pub for drinks (note to self: must pop down there some other time and clarify with Sue behind the bar that I wasn’t cheating on him). Again, the same feeling of happy companionable comfort, although it probably wouldn’t have been at all apparent to anyone else given that we spent a fair bit of the time disagreeing violently and interspersing this with hacking coughs.

After we parted ways, I let myself into Alec’s flat and settled down with In Cold Blood while waiting for him to return from Ireland, where he’d spent the weekend.

It’s been one of those clusters of days when I look at my life and think that despite my multiple faults and failings, I must be doing something right (for which I also credit God, who, incidentally, I really should spend more quality time with).