Our secret history

‘A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that that patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.’

Jorge Luis Borges, Afterword, El Hacedor

I’ve used this quote before. And I’m doing it again because I don’t have anything else at hand that describes better what I feel right now.

I was quite pleased to find out last night that a letter I wrote to someone I fell in love with ages ago was still being kept. Why keep all your old love letters? Because. See above quote. And read this.

Same reason why we should document, narrate and journalise other things.

There is an especially desperate need to do this in Singapore, because our past is being erased so efficiently (try getting 8 day old Straits Times articles online), and I’ve been thinking that maybe that’s why there are so many of us who feel so alienated in our own country. I think there are very few people around my age who can say the house/flat they lived in for the first three years of their lives is still standing.

The other thing that precipitated this warm-fuzzy-serious sentiment was another conversation I had where I remembered I didn’t speak English for the first five years of my life, stayed in a house on Pasir Panjang Road, across from a beach that had a jetty, and where fishing boats would come in daily and unload their catch for fishmongers who set up shop down the road. I’ve kept notes on and off:

The shophouses on the corner of Pasir Panjang and Clementi Road are still there, but the beach is now part of the PSA, stretching beyond the West Coast Highway and how many kilometres before you can even smell the sea.

The same sea which my father threatened to throw me into when I had a fight with Grandma. (And he really looked like he was gonna do it when he put me in a wicker basket and carried me across the road to the beach.)

The car park at Cold Storage Orchard Road, where Centrepoint is now. There was a Milk Bar out front, where we’d pester my mother to buy us milkshakes after grocery shopping. We’d drink our shakes and then throw up in the car after, because the the road back home was a winding two-lane deal, from Orchard, to Napier to Holland to Clementi to Pasir Panjang Road.

The grand old airport at Paya Lebar. Where the departures and arrivals were two separate buildings, and where they had signboards telling male visitors to keep their haircuts neat and short. And where I fell off the airplane steps boarding my first airplane journey and where I bumped my head as a result.

There are more notes but there are also many of us who can make a much more coherent history of all the things around them. And many of you are blogging. I’d like for you to keep doing it and get around this contemptible policy of denying us easy access to our history.

Now, read that quote again.

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: Something – The Beatles – 1967-1970 Disc 2, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.

The suicidal feeling after you’ve come back from a really nice holiday

Today I met up with a friend who’s just returned from an almost-all expense paid diving holiday in Sabah, and she seemed a little down because things aren’t the same as they are in Sabah, because in Sabah, she met many nice and hospitable people. Simple folk with simple lives but big hearts, kids without Nintendos, but with expressions of kindness, compassion et cetera. It was easy to understand why she was upset about coming home to cold (no lor!), heartless, concrete Singapore.

My heart went out to her.

Then my heart came back. Because she spent the next half hour talking about the diving.

I know I’d like diving if I tried, but I do not like diving stories told by occasional divers. They are full of fish. And underwater group photos. And of this huge garoupa that was very scary and this huge clam that had no pearl. How the clownfish behaved like clownfish in Finding Nemo, and how the turtles behaved like turtles in Finding Nemo, and how the Dory, was it a Dory, behaved like Dory in Finding Nemo.

I know when I finally dive (and survive), I will also tell stories in this manner to non-divers. But in the meantime, yes I am envious of these underwater divers and their words which speak a thousand words with the help of some pictures.

…then we saw the elusive manta-hippo and it kept blowing bubbles at us through its arse!

Surf stop: HOTEL
iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: The Ballad of John and Yoko – The Beatles – 1967-1970 Disc 2, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.


I am on a roll, after feeling good about taking pictures and blogging about them, I checked and found a comment made on a blog post I made during Christmas, when I wrote about a friend who saw something in the car park at Thumper.

I’d have thought it’d be good for business to have things like that happening, but the manager at Thumper, she’s muy concerned:

Hmm.. why is it that, we at Thumper were not aware of such an explicit incident that had happened at our door steps? so the next time, you spot on something like that again, do come by the recep and ask for me. I’ll buy you a drink or 2 on behalf of the club.

I’m not sure if the offer applies to me only, or any Tom and Harry Dick who happens to happen upon people pucking in the car fark.

Not just wonderful
Not just wonderful

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles – 1967-1970 Disc 1, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.

Getting Monday fixed

Here’s a little recipe I want to share with youse all, which works well when you’re in a sorta deep blue funk about things.

When you’re in a sorta deep blue funk, focus on other things you normally don’t pay attention to. Some people call it escapism, but that’s too big a word for me. I call it focussing on things you don’t normally pay attention to.

And so, I made sure I had my camera handy (as opposed to having it in my bag, because I’d still be too lazy to actually take it out of the bag), and when I had a break in work, I looked around me and took pictures of the most striking things among the mundane things around me.

Here are the things I saw on Monday:

Use the correct tense
The importance of using the correct tense: Hook on Steamboat, you can attach it to your pants so you can walk around the beach on East Coast Park with dinner for the family following you.

When you grow taller you can reach for a mug
When you grow taller, you can reach for the mug

Flame of the forest
Flame of the forest HDB estate: You can see the red 10 football fields away.

Half the tiger in my tank
Elixir of the gods: Iced coffee shop coffee in a Tiger mug

I heart rubbish
I heart rubbish

Fat cat
Why the coffee shop cat is fat, and what happens to the chicken from the chicken rice stall when they can’t sell enough: Two pressing questions answered.

Beer lights up my day
Beer lights up my day (and night)

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: Fallen – k.d. lang – Hymns Of The 49th Parallel, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.

Sunday night, Monday morning blues

It’s Monday.

And maybe that’s why things that were supposed to have affected me a while ago are only doing so now.

My family and I haven’t had a very pleasant Chinese New Year. First up, on the eve, I drove my mother and a bag of oranges and CNY cookies to my Granduncle’s. I reminded my mother to call ahead to make sure they were home even though she kept saying ‘they sure home one lah’.

So she called ahead, and an aunt answered, and said Granduncle passed away that morning. Bummer. U-Turn go home.

Then my mother hosted a dinner on the second day of new year’s, and had received a phone call from a family friend a few days before that, saying he wouldn’t be able to make it because he was in hospital. He passed away on New Year’s Eve as well.

Or maybe it’s just too darn hot.

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen

Multimedia message

Surf stop:
iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: Hallelujah – k.d. lang – Hymns Of The 49th Parallel, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.