Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New York Invasion Pt 5

They call it the greatest city in the world, but it’s becoming increasingly clear over the coming three weeks that I’ve been in New York, that New Yorkers don’t really know about anything outside their island.

They say America is the home of the brave, but it’s also home of the ignorant, or does the entire modern world just assume that English is a language permitted only to those with blonde hair, hairy chest, 8 inches of meat hung below the waist and have potatoes as a staple diet.

So what language do people in Singapore speak?”

I’ve been asked this almost everyday on the first week I was here. And when I tell them that English is actually the first language, they are in such disbelief, it’s like telling them orgies were invented by a gay Mormon.

Is it that hard to believe that people on the other side of the Pacific is capable of stringing a sentence longer than “Hello’, “Can I helpch chew” and “noodles or rice”? And yes, we also English names and no, Chinese characters are not drawings, although it is so tedious just to write something, I’m glad they invented talking.

Just the other day, this old Irish lady at a restaurant started a random conversation with me. She was this chatty old lady that seemed like she was possibly a passenger on the Titanic and she had so many facial expressions going on for each word that was coming out her mouth, it was like her facial muscles were on Red Bull.

She: “What did yer say yer name was youn’ man.”
Me: “Shaun.”
She: “And where are yer from?”
Me: “Singapore.”
She: “And how do yer say yer name in yer con-tree.”

Like what the fuck? Am I being punked? Or it this some trick question? Or was there supposed to be a native way to say my name that my parents forgot to tell me about?

Me: “Err… Shaun?”
She: “But how do yer say it in yer native language?”
Me: “’s still Shaun.”
She: “Fascinating.”

I think I might have given her, her first orgasm from that conversation because she looked so satisfyingly confused to know that an Asian was capable of having an Irish name, it’s was like inventing the iPod and seeing a polar bear using it.

You see, in the US, anything out of the country, well, is out of the country and needs less attention. They have the geographical aptitude of a bat in a disco. All they know is that they have noisy neighbours to the North and neighbours from the South that come in useful as gardeners.

To them Asia is a conglomerate mass that centres around China, which makes Singapore and many other countries like Japan and Korea a dot within the greater domain of China. I don’t blame them, because locally we use the word ‘Americans’ frivolously to describe US citizens when in actuality it is an umbrella term that would include Canada.

Me:Singapore used to be a part of the British colony.”
C:Oh yea, almost every country is. Look where that turned out. They come in, they mess around with you and they leave and now you have to drive on the wrong side of the road.”

And because New York is such a mosaic community of ethnicity, even in Chinatown when I eat at a café called Singapore Café, the people there don’t take in assumption that because I am Chinese, I will know what every dish on the menu is.

Me: “I’ll have a Penang laksa.”
Waiter: “This is not curry based soup. It is a litte sour…”
Me: “Don’t worry I know.”
Waiter: “It’s a little spicy..”

Com’on, we invented Katong laksa, we eat pig’s inlets like it’s a daily staple and I have my Singaporean slang spewing out my mouth. Do you think I won’t know what Penang laksa is? Our lives are revolved around gourmet pleasantries even if it means not wasting any part of poultry.

Then the food came and I took a spoonful and nearly choked on the gratuitous use of lime. I was wrong. Apparently I don’t know anything about Singaporean food made in the New York..

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New York Invasion Pt 4 - Survival

Somewhere in Sun Tzi’s Art of War, there has to be a line that says, “If you wanna go to New York, then you better go in prepared, or die”, well if it isn’t then he obviously forgot to write it in because it’s as important as nuclear warheads is to North Korea.

I usually would save a survival guide for Rhythm Magazine, but I’m going to make an exception and save the lives of people who are going to be travelling 18 hours to a city that is not going to give you a refund or a decent laksa.

1. Bring a kettle

For some reason – unknown to the great minds of society and Nissin Corporation – hotels in New York do not provide you with a kettle. And we know that a kettle is paramount when cup noodles are supposed to be a staple diet for everyone.

There was nothing more torturous than having my cup noodles mock me from my table and knowing that I was never going to eat them unless I called for room service to bring me hot water, which will never be hot enough and it’s just blasphemous to have warm water in cup noodles. It’s like settling for a hand job from a buffalo.

We need hot water, you might not know it yet, but you do, because it’s also handy for sterilizing underwear if you need them for prolong periods of time. If you think a kettle is too bulky, then get a blowtorch, a Petri dish, magnifying glass or a socket that is capable of blowing a fuse and starting a fire. Don’t think, just pack it.

2. A Universal Plug

If you don’t already know, the United States has a history of non-conformance as seen with their continued practice to drive on the opposite side of the road and disregard for the metric system. As such, you can expect that your plugs are not going to fit into their sockets, much like how most Asian things would not fit nicely into theirs.

Electricity is one of man's most basic needs, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. We need it to keep our laptops charged and our iPhone's with enough battery to last a day, without either it would truly be a pointless day.

3. Insurance

There are times where we should never challenge consequences nor leave fate a chance to screw us over. Health care in the US is such a serious issue, I will not even attempt to make fun of it. The medical bills can amount to grossly insane numbers that you would think it comes with either a free blowjob or a Mercedes.

You can be admitted to hospital for a stomachache and by them time your bill comes to you, you’d be leaving the hospital with one kidney less because you have to pawn it. Don’t be cheap and get one, this is the only time an insurance might actually save your ass – literally.

4. Bullet Proof Vest

I know Manhattan is all about Jimmy Choos, Dior sunglasses and Burberry overcoats but did you also know that New York is a great place to put on your Kevlar vest that will save you from bullets and unexplained stabbings, although not from ridicule, punches to the face and dog bites.

It’s fine in Manhattan in general, but it’s a required item, like condoms, mace and a valid driving license, if you travel to the Bronx or Brooklyn at night. I didn’t make this shit up because people joke about it all the time in New York and they joke about Paris Hilton being a whore as well, and look how that turned out.

Everyday there is a news report that says, “Another Teen dies from gunshot” and you’d think that schools should have started giving out free bulletproof vest instead of milk by now. Sure, it’s going to be bulky, make you look overweight but nothing beats getting up from a drive by shooting and shouting,

It works!”

5. Basic Brains To Read Maps

The great thing about New York City is that they work on a grid system, so it’s pretty hard to get lost if you can count. The tricky part is figuring out which side of the subway you need to be on and most importantly, where the subway entrance is.

It’s so obscurely tucked in the shadow of the city’s impressive structures that I wonder why it’s never occurred to the authorities to make a more prominent sign indicating the subway entrance. It takes a keen eye and a lot of luck finding one, just like trying to find a Jew in Anne Frank’s house.

6. Buskers

It’s always good to be cheap at the appropriate moments, so before you start crowding around to watch a street performer execute his/their less than stellar prowess in the realms of entertainment, be it lighting a painting on fire, breakdancing or strumming a guitar in their underwear, remember, never to stay till the end.

I’ve not seen a street busker that has been remotely impressive to say the least. And when everyone round starts applauding for a simple forward flip, it felt like it was a celebration of mediocracy and it’s not even time for the Paralympics yet.

Pick your acts, don’t be coerced into throwing in a dollar just because you think effort deserves to be rewarded. Remember, giving people who are clearly unequal, equal chances is called communism. We are allowed to be cheap, it’s part of being Singaporean. I love it.

It’s a concrete jungle out here in New York, but we are from Singapore, so nobody probably sees more bricks than us. There really is nothing to fear as long as you keep to one simple rule.

When there is danger, run.”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New York Pt 3 - Memo

There are times when even I know when to draw the line between moderation and an open bar. It’s one thing where you can make fun of people and you know you’re breeching on a slap, but when you are in a city where someone can pull a gun on you, you learn to behave.

The weather in New York has been accommodating to say the least. It’s been raining, I’ve been drenched because carrying an umbrella just isn’t glamourous and my shirts still smell of a cosmopolitan mix of rain and exhaust fumes. Yet beyond it all, it’s never rained when I’m out clubbing.

It’s been rather tamed and uneventful over the last week, unless you count my touristy demeanour and insatiable appetite to soak up Manhattan’s finest offer of gourmet and movie sites and I have pictures of the apartment block they use in Friends to prove. My life is sad.

On Friday, to pop the champagne for a pre-mature celebration of our hard work in the Big Apple, we headed out to one of the top bars in New York. It was a roof top party against the setting sun and made ever more enjoyable with a cornucopian feast of vodka, champagne and Red Bull. And maybe a couple of blondes if it rocks your boat.

This was at 7pm and we conveniently skipped dinner because all great men in society do not need food to supplement their greatness as long as there is enough alcohol to last the night. We make unsound decisions in life, so instead of wading in regret, we overcome it with more drinking. Apparently, alcohol does lower our ability to think.

By the time we made the decision to leave for another event down on 3rd Avenue, we had cleared 4 bottles between 16 of us and I somehow felt that the night was going to be different, after all, I was partying with Mexicans, just minus the cocaine and their families.

The second place was packed with the familiar crowd that I’ve grown accustomed to see in bars littered across the island. There was the air of corporate slaves still tucked behind their suits, there were the odd group of women who look like their last martini was when Japan bombed Pearl Harbour and there were girls who looked like they would jump into a wet T-shirt contest.

So there was the ample parade of cleavage that is as staple a backdrop in any bar as the Empire State building is to New York. It is New York and the last I heard, not only did they invent the iPad, but they also did decadence and bar fights

The thing about being the only Asian in the group is that you inevitably garner more interest than you’d like because everything centers around how geographically ignorant some of them can be.

Girl: “You know, I just had my first joint last night, but I bet you guys do it all the time in China.
Me: “No, we smoke opium where we are.”
Girl: “Opium? What’s that?”
Me: “It’s what we grow in our backyard, which is Thailand.”

After awhile, I just ran out of things to lie about where Singapore was or explain in detail why I’m able to converse in English. I could have said Singapore was in Africa and I might have gotten away with it or just confess to that Singapore is actually the illegitimate capital of China.

Alex: “Guys, we are going to bail here and head to a real club.”

I glanced around at the place. I have the same interest in the music and crowd as I would at a Bingo draw with midgets. I was up for anything that was offering more drinks and music that didn’t include people rapping in it, even if it meant having to travel to Queens without my bulletproof vest.

When we got there, it was audibly obvious that this was the best club I’ve been to in New York and deaf people would have been rejoicing if they came. There was finally some decent Trance and enough space to appreciate it. The crowd profile was a surprising mosaic of sluts, douche bags, sleek professionals and suspected Italian Godfathers.

I don’t know what was worse, jumping off the roof top, or trying to squeeze through ripping biceps to get to the toilet. My liver was done for the night and there was no way my stomach was willing to accommodate another sip of vodka, but I was no where in the region of being potentially suicidal from inebriated mischief.

That role, was going to assumed by Memo, an individual that had as much self destructive propensity as Attila would have on his best.

He had by our decision to leave the club, smashed two glasses by accident and was just simply testing his limits. And if I thought that was bad, he took what felt like a lifetime to sign his credit card because he was staring so intently at it, I thought they had printed the latest Harry Potter book on the receipt.

Joey: “Memo! Sign the fuckin’ card already fer cryin’ out loud!”

We got so tired of waiting, we went out to the road side to try to hail a cab, and this proved to be the best decision ever because a fight broke out and I found myself being Singaporean again for gravitating to find the best spot to watch like, just stopping short of applauding and too slow to have it posted on YouTube.

It was brutal watching two men beat the crap out of a skinny Latin American, but the gravity of the matter soon became clear. This was going to exacerbate from a street fight to an all out gang war. Where is my bulletproof vest when I need one?

Alex quickly dragged us off because his spider senses was ringing off the hook.

Alex: “Let’s go. It’s not safe to stay here.”

Apparently, most drive by shooting starts with a collision of two – or more – voracious egos and ends with someone in hospital and another getting sodomized in prison for the next 20 years. It’s such an incentive I wonder why people are not doing it in Singapore.

When we finally managed to get a cab, he refused to take us back to Manhattan and since we didn’t have a gun to put to his head, we took out a dollar bill instead and it did so much wonders, magicians should no longer need to use wands, ever.

When we got back to the hotel, Memo started trash talking with random people on the street and it’s one thing to be able to piss off bartenders, but to be able to piss off drug dealers, it takes a whole lot of balls that not even Hitler had.

Guy: “You better get the fuck out of my face muthafucker!”

It was going down faster than porn starlet. One of the guys hurried over to break up the shoving, but I was half on my cigarette and it was the last stick I had in my pack, so between finishing up my cigarette and getting beat down by a group of drug peddlers, I think I made a pretty sound decision to stand rooted and pretend I was just another tourist.

Today is not a good day to die.”

That was my sober conscience calling out to me. Not that I needed it to, because as much as I am a hazard drunk, a revolver still scares the shit out of my inebriated consciousness. I was determined not to leave New York with a bullet hole.

Me: “I don’t want to be racist but it’s nearly 4 in the morning, we should not be messing with those guys. Midgets are fine, but not them.”

Joey: “I ain’t even headin’ o’wer.”

David: “What’s going on?”

Me: “Memo is trying to get himself killed.”

At that moment, a police patrol drove by, and it instantaneously dissolved any possible conflict that was going to explode 6 feet from where I was. This was the most calming sight I had all night excluding the first bottle of vodka I saw at our table in the evening.

Me: “Memo, you need to go sleep and calm your shit down.”

5 minutes later, we realized that Memo had disappeared. This was 4am in the morning, with the only possible places still open being the strip club round the corner and McDonald’s. And at both places, we couldn’t find him.

His phone was off and from the probable altercation that almost went down just earlier, I guess it was almost a safe bet to assume that he was now bound to his feet and in a car headed for the Bronx, Mexico or if he managed to get his last prayer in, Heaven.

You have to realize that at that point in time, I had enough alcohol in me to have my pee qualify as vodka. Naturally, the well being of Memo – dire, no doubt – had as much gravity as peeing on toilet seats or filing for taxes. I am not in a condition to give a shit.

An hour later, we found him back near the hotel chatting up with another group of drug peddlers trying to buy weed for $2. He was so wasted that he could not even sign for his card, but he still had a urge to smoke a joint or five. And I thought,

This guy has priorities. Everyone needs a friend like him.”

Friday, June 11, 2010

New York Invasion Pt 2 - Hello Manhattan

It’s raining in Manhattan and it’s been a familiar sight of busy New Yorkers briskly weaving between the traffic of firmly pressed Hugo suits and Burberry coats. Women in Manolo Blahniks are skipping puddles that should only be possible in Nikes. And right round my hotel, I have a drug peddler who’s been trying to sell me cocaine for the last 3 days.

I’ve been watching so much TV filmed against the backdrop of New York that I feel like I’ve been a local all my life, minus the fact that deciphering the subway is like reading Harry Potter in Sanskrit, looking the wrong way when crossing the road and having spare cash for tips.

It’s true. Being Singaporean meant that my life has been pampered with incredible public transport system that anyone from an autistic Yorkshire Terrier to an inebriated grandparent can find their way around. Not New York.

Being Singaporean also meant that if I need to cross a street, I should generally look right first. Not New York, not unless I want to get hit by monster truck or a fire engine because those beast over here have so much silver on it, I thought they all had a free Pimp My Ride makeover for their diligence in 9/11.

As I am typing this, I’ve heard three fire engines driving by with their siren on. Either they are practicing their drills or New Yorkers are in dire need of learning how to light their stove without blowing up the neighbourhood.

Being Singaporean also means that we don’t need to tip, ever, because it’s incredibly dumb when we are at an open bar, and bartenders expect us to tip. It’s a fucking open bar for crying out loud, I should be able to get drunk without emptying my pockets for change or you frowning.

But being Singaporean in Singapore also means that I will never get to see a guy in briefs and boots, playing a guitar and peddling for hugs, and not get thrown in jail within an hour. Either New York is incredibly tolerant on the margins of performing art, or the police force is just plain lazy.

I also probably will not have people coming up to sell me fake Rolex watches and drugs. Actually, no one has tried peddling me watches yet, but hey, I’m Chinese and we invented fake watches. And drugs that are offered so blatantly is amazing because back home, they have such sophisticated names to mask it, it sometimes sound like a 17 yr old virgin.

I also probably will be able to have the luxury of shitting in my hotel room without closing the toilet door, and this turned out to a bad idea. You see, coming back late most nights usually means that fatigue, alcohol and sometimes a bursting bladder can corrupt my judgement or simple precautionary practices, like latching the door.

And so we all know how dangerous this is because we’re daring consequence – or in this case your dear house keeping – to walk in on you jerking off to Sesame Street or in the shower with a member of the same sex or any other common embarrassing moments.

Or in my case, with my pants down.

For some reason, everything that has happened to me has a lot to do with being in the toilet. I don’t know if it’s God’s way of telling me something because it’s too expensive to SMS me in New York.

But there I was, just doing the routine morning deposit when I hear house keeping outside my door. The toilet is facing the door directly so where I was seated, I could see – to my horror nonetheless, like finding sweet popcorns in a bag of salty – that I had left the door unlatched.

It was a simple decision – of which by now you should realize that by now, I’m not good at making choices – of closing my toilet door or being optimistic about making to the room door in time and hope that shit doesn’t fly out my ass at the same time.


I got up, tried to stumble to the door with my boxers bound around my ankles that allowed me shuffle briefly but anything more and I was going to trip over – sounds like commitment already. I was not going to make it, and the door was already opening.


The door slammed so abruptly, I didn’t know if she had fainted from shock or ran back across the border.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

New York Invasion Pt 1 - Turbulence

Life is all about the choices we make and the time we make them. It’s about priorities and challenging consequences to catch up to our decisions. Obviously, I’m not very good at this aspect of life.

When I travel, the only thing I look forward to is the meals on board airlines. I like it. No, I believe I am in love with the idea of having airplane food. I know this puzzles you as much as homosexuality, but there isn’t anything better 17,000 feet in the air, unless it’s a complimentary handjob.

When I boarded my flight bound for transit at Narita Airport at 11.30pm, my primary concern wasn’t about the lack of decent in flight movies or that I didn’t get an isle seat, but rather if they were going to serve us supper. And when all we had was a bun, I decided sleeping was the best way to curb hunger and disappointment.

I woke up 4 hours later with an erection because they were serving breakfast. However, I also woke up with a slight stomach discomfort. Now, I weighed my options. I could,

a. Go to the toilet and delay my breakfast.
b. Hold up till I’ve had breakfast, then go to the toilet happy.

It was a decision that was so obvious, blind people all the way back in Singapore would have seen it. I was going to will my stomach into submission and celebrate it with noodles, a fruit plate and yogurt.

Half way through my course of noodles, I start having doubts about my decision. Perhaps, just perhaps I should have made the toilet trip before I started my foray into my consumption pleasantries.

The noodles are done, my stomach is in heavy protest but I ignore it anyway as there is a mixed fruit plate that awaits my attention. I take two slices of watermelon and look distantly at the yogurt. I might not make it to dessert. I need to take a dump.

Now, how am I going to get out when I’m at the window, have my tray still in front of me, and the guy next to me is munching away at his? I decide to wait, and pretend that my deep frown is from the movie I am pretending to watch.

When the flight attendant finally clears the trays, I make a dash for the toilet that already has a small queue formed. I am not too concerned, because if I can survive the rave club in Hong Kong, I will survive this with my dignity and pants intact.

Finally as I got in, my pants came off so fast I was decently impressed with myself. I don’t think I’ve had my pants off so fast without naked women to coax me. I give myself a pat on the back and fire away.

Suddenly, everything is shaking and my vision is in pandemonium. I think to myself, is this the feeling of liberation? Is this how it is supposed to be when you have a massive bowel clearance? Is this my stomach and anus rejoicing?

The shaking is massive, so great that I am thrown up from the toilet seat. Holy mother of Jesus, what the fuck is happening? I hear the trays shaking, I am being tossed from side to side, it’s so scary even my shit is refusing to come out.

It becomes clear now, we are experiencing turbulence, and from what it seems, very bad turbulence. I grip the handle to hold myself down, preventing shit from spraying everywhere. This is the only thing preventing me from clutching my hands together in prayer. Oh God, do you need to do this now?

The PA system comes on and it is in Japanese. I have no idea what the lady is saying so an entirety of possibilities race through my head.

What the fuck are you saying? Just fucking say it in English for once! Please! And is there a life-jacket under the toilet bowl as well?”

My mind was in places. You cannot imagine how difficult it is to be panicking and trying to coax shit out your ass at the same time, it’s like trying to kick a field goal in a wheel-chair. The only consolation is that she is reporting it calmly.

We are experiencing turbulence. Please return to your seats and fasten your seat belts.”

There is a knock on the door from the flight attendant requesting that I return to my seat. I am nowhere near done, so I ignore her. I assess the situation; if I head out, the overwhelming situation will terrify me and I will shit my pants anyway, hence, I am probably in the best place to be right now, with my pants down.

More knocks on the door follows, I respond with a mild ‘yes’. 3 minutes later, the turbulence has ceased but the knocks on my door has increased furiously. Maybe they are worried that I’ve passed out but I’ve diligently responded to their knocks have I not?

Sir? Excuse me sir?”

I am shitting!”

And then there was silence. Peace has been restored at last. When I got out, I saw the line had grown to about 6 other men waiting for the toilet. I guess they all shat their pants as well.

Friday, June 04, 2010

June Is For Change

June is going to be a first of many sorts for me and hopefully it heralds for changes to come - largely positive I hope because fate seems less cruel to me these days.

Fot starts, there is the Sg Blog Awards and I'm actually one of the finalist. That says alot because I sense a paradigm shift in conservatism in Singapore because for a blog like mine - crude, explicit but funny nonetheless - to be recognised in a mainstream media, it shows the maturing of society and also the due credit to literary merits, ME.

That's a long way from 3 years back when I was supposed to do something for Channel News Asia and they wanted me to tone down on my style and it culminated in, "Singapore is not ready for him".

I would rally you to vote for me simply because it's time for you to give back, after years of tickling you with tales of decadence, inebriation and disaster dates, it's time for you to show your appreciation. That includes all of you who have bought me beers or given me lap dances.

It's increasingly hard for me to keep up with new stories and even more so this month because in 7 hours, I will be boarding a flight to New York for the month and last I heard, data charges cost an arm and leg and a Ferrari steering wheel.

New York, ahh yes, the Big Apple, the home of Carrie, of high fashion, endless shopping, great food, hopefully cheap alcohol and the promise land of the vicarious TV addicts. So how will Butterfly, your self destructive, tequila shooting, toilet hugging, free puking, party addict fit into Manhattan's finest?

I have no idea, but I'm sure there will be stories about it...

Well, the only thing worse than getting drunk and thrown out the club there, is getting mugged while sober at a back alley. Can't be that bad I suppose..