Wednesday, November 02, 2005

diary fo a stone monkey lxxiii

Dear All,

...and I am in Prague.

I know, it sounds like I just magcically slipped here from London as in between a partition of two screen doors. Not the case: I have oodles and oodles of magical moments to relate of my voyage thus far: London-Oxford-Canterbury-Dover-Calais-Lilles-Bruxelles-Amsterdam-Munchen-Dresden-Praha, but that will come in dur course. I hope. There is so much time in the wrong places, when you are travelling, which is why our scientists have invented the Blackberry.

Big open spaces of the time, like my first night in Praqgue between 0430 and 1300 hours.

You see, I was overnight in Dresden, in a lovely, noisy bar-hostel that charged only 15 euros a night, but they'd only room for that one night because of a big celebration they were havign that weekend; the reopening of the Frauenkirche, the Cathedral of our Lady, restored finally sixty years after the fire-bombing that levelled the city, cf. Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, cor, you'd thin they could have done it sooner, but something came along called Communism. Men in leiderhosen and masks of robot harlequins, women in white debutante dresses, hawking sweet memorabilia, calling up the past like a friend at the next table. Room only for that night, because all the world was coming to Dresden's day of glory. No room for me? Small potatoes; I was off to Prague.

Praha. Zakir had told me of its enchantment, as had every other young Singaproean who'd gone to England to study and foudn cheap holidays only in Eastern Europe. Marko, a 7-foot-tall painter I met in Amsterdam, said it was a fairytale come true, to stand in the town square and see the mountains and the castle almost touching the bit of sky on your forehead.

Well, that was utter rubbish. 7-foot tall people may enjoy a different horizon than we, but the town square in Prague is composed of the following:

1) No skyline to speak of
2) A large piece of historical statuary
3) A hundred gift shops and expensive cafes, and
4) Ninety squizillion tourists.

There are so many tourists in Prague. Being newly accessible, cheap and pretty afetr the Cold War caused tourists from Western Europe to swarm there in the hundreds, and now from America, China, too, fair weather or foul, cold weather but especially the summer months, but it's chilly now and everyone will be in Dresden, so I thought...

First rude surprise, waking up afetr an hour's nap in the train from Dresden. An old German man and an old American woman with a terrible stammer rumble into my cabin, telling their fellow conference presenter that we're not stopping in the main train station. Hopelessly confused, they mumble to each other about this for a good ten minutes before I regain sufficient cosnciousness to retrieve my ticket and map and clarify to them that yes, we are getting off at Holsewice train station in the north, yes, you'll have to take the metro.

I've said it's easy to love a city with a subway system but in the case of Praha this is challenged by other elements.

Second rude surprise, after emergence from the station, now having to recover my bearings to determine how to direct myself to my hostel. I need money, so I will withdraw it directly from my mother's account (HSBC is too half-assed to send me my PIN information, so my mum lent me her spare ATM card for this trip).

There are to Bankomats in the station. I try each of them three times.

No dice. ATMs in the Czech Republic do not recognise HSBC visa.

Luckily I've euros to change (it's Saturday, so the banks are shut, so I get a lousy rate and pay a hearty commission). I muddle my way through the metro, eprturbed that Czech prices are pretty mcuh the same, no, worse than Singapore ones, and the trains are much less clean without the patina of say, New York or London grime.

Rude surprise number three when I get out of the train station. Prague is one of the least linear cities in the world. The dtreets snake and swivel, and change names halfway. My map simply won't cut it.

It takes me 45 minutes to find my hostel. Rude surprise number four: it's fully booked.

Well, I'd tried to book beforehand by phone (some of the thrill of backpacking, like random sex, is the risk of never quite settling on a schedule), but the Let's Go number one choice Dlouha 33 had told me to check again the morning of, and the morning of had been booked solid, sorry. So I went to the numebr two choice, which had been unreachable by phone, De Appel hostel. And that was full, but they had a map of hostels in the city center.

So I marched to the Tyn Hostel. Did I mention that I'm crrying my massive duffel bag and haversack while I'm doing this? And I am not an army boy anymore? And that a man at the station ahd offered to book a room at Tyn Hostel for me, but at 400 koruny = S$27.40, I declined, hoping for something cheaper? And that because of rude surprise numebr three, I am bound to get hopelessly lost once again?

No room at Tyn. Try the new one down the road. No room, but it's warm in the corridor and I keep on buzzing up to the woman to ask for directions and advice and to be annoying, and people keep on passing meand opening the door for me in the corridor, so I can complain about how evil the receptionist is, and how sore my back is. One cute American boy gives me money to make a phone call. It's about 40 koruny. I enter it in my accounts book.

And he tells me about the Traveler's Inn, just down the road, and thereey take pity on me, because yes, they're full for the next few days but I can make a phone call, hell, use our phone, make all the phone calls you like.

Every single fucking hostel in Prague is full. Even those outside the city center. There's a hotel room somewhere, but that will cost S$145. My comfort isn't worth that much. An American girl walks in and asks for a room for five people. I experience a brief burst of schadenfreude. Five girls, in the cold streets in Eastern Europe? What are they going to do?

Me, I'm going gay clubbing. The hostel says I can leave my shit in the luggae room. I grab my sleeping bag and have a hot dinner.

I'll have to make a little cofnession. When I was in the army, there was this gay clerk in my unit named Kenny Lim. Almost-chubby, squat, pimple-scarred fellow, later admitted he'd stolen someone's handphone and let another clerk get blamed, liked to joke about his X-men special power being the ability to absorb someone's dick up his ass.

He lent me my first gay porn. I didn't surf the Internet for it at that stage.

I watched Bel Ami's "The Chain Reaction", involving a daisychain of simulated sex (no erections, even!), between Johann Paulik and Dano Sulik and Lukas Rideston and a couple of other later celebrities, a narration of how young, beautiful Johann's gay desires eventually come into fruition, with the energy of his first interrupted sexual ecnoutner passed on from rentboy to soldier to leatherman to builder to waiter to gymqueen to photographer and back to himself, these beautiful bodies with their msiter softies engaging in a strange mime of almost-love, all filmed in the night streets of Prague, all a beautiful sordidness.

And I'd heard since then, from the Bel Ami webpage of course, of the beautyof Czech boys and their affordability in the sex trade (cf "An American in Prague", "Czech Mating"). I hadn't believed it, of course; why take the face value of a nation from its covergirls?

But I stpped into the Friends club and bar on Bartolomejska, and my god.

The boys were stunning. A few in Halloween costume, but moslty in T-shirts (Halloween is not observed in teh Czech Republic.) Proud noses, firm jawlines, minimal attitude. More happy than fabulous. I talked about this with the anglophone expatriates I met: they were the grizzled old ones, the fat ones, the fag hags, usually. There was Naomi from Sutton, Jason from Austin, Chris, from London though his family was black in Barbados. Chris complained to me about the brain drain and the rise of economic opportunities in the third world; eventually I perceived he was worried about the poor native youth in England, slack at their studies while the Third Worlders abroad and invading grabbed the best jobs from under their noses. People in Barbados apparently speak better English than the English. He'd moved after coming to Prague for a busienss trip of three weeks; the London pubs alienate, the Prague bars told him eh was at home. And this, from a man who says he has trouble getting sexual acceptance because he is coal-black (he was also round and on the shorter side, but he wore it well, a shaven head and a friendly face and a British accent as fine as butter. Naomi picked him out in the crowd; she was a lovely, fat Englishwoman a few blocks away who'd come here for only two weeks so far, a logn-term job in the sciences, doing epidemiology, yes, there are a lot of women in epidemiology, a lot of gay men as well. She says she'd take me home out of the cold, but she's stayig with a friend, she could find me a place in Berlin if I like. She agrees with me that Mikhil is very handsome.

Mikhil is a tall, lean, strapping youth with close-cut red-gold hair who lookls frightening like my ex-lover Ryder before he quit smoking and got fat. I exchange words with him in the toilet.

YS: Are you from Prague?

Mikhil: Yes. Why?

YS: You look like an american friend I have.

(He breaks into a charming, guileless smile, and holds me by the waist for a moment)

Mikhil: You are from?

YS: Singapore.

Mikhil: Okay. (walks out of the toilet)

YS: It emerges that boys in the Czech Republic will simply touch you because it is their custom to touch people when they talk. Not because they like you.

On the other hand, I have better luck with a tiny skinny stubbly boy named Tomas, or maybe Radek, I have no idea which, who catches my eye of his own accord.

YS: Are you Michael Jackson?

(Tomas/Radek is dressed in white shirt, white jacket, white pants, white flat cap which he hides his dark eyes beneath)

T/R: Prosim???

YS: Michael Jackson.

T/R: I no understand! You from Japan?

YS: I dance with Tomad/Radek. I dance with others, on the tiny dance floor where a small portion of the maybe thirty of us in the bar choose to dance from time to time. I enter a ring and leave it, afraid to enter the centre an do stunts because I'm interpretivelyacting up all the time, anyway. I court the women, because they're the ones without risk. I grind hips with a very short Czech lesbian in a fedora and dark plastic glasses; later she tells me she is studying photography in Berlin while I tell her the legend of St Margaret and the dragon.

I hip-grind with Chris and Mikhil, briefly. I notice that Mikhil allows me to grope his ass ceremonially (this is made civilised by ensuring that equitable groping occurs on Chris's ass) but he never positions himself so that he has to look in my face. I take a risk when we have broken our chain and join another sequence of hip-grinders, behind another tall, lean youth who looks liek Ryder, only this time with decidely red hair and greenish glasses. He strikes my hand away, not violently, but with purpose. I try to accept this with grace.

I return to the bar.

Tomas/Radek: I am gone.

YS: You're going home?Tomas/Radek: No. I am dead. Finish. (Slumps on a divan, eyes closed)

He is extremely drunk. He has a beer in his hand. He keeps on drinking. I am concerned, and ask him if anything's wrong. He kisses me. I kiss him back. He is small, bristly and not quite in this world. It is not sexy at all.

I make more conversation with Chris and Jason and sometiems Mikhil, who's good friends with both. I'm tired, but I have to stay up till 5 am, when the bar closes. Jason buys me another drink, a multi-vitamin this time, since he says I shouldn't have just Pepsi. I'll save the Red Bull till the end of the night. Maybe Mikhil will take me home out of boredom.

Jason: I think it's a lost cause.

YS: Pardon?

Jason: These Eastern European boys aren't into Asians. I've got the advantage of being from America, so the colour of your skin just isn't an issue for me.

YS: Okay...

Jason seems a little soused himself, but he's buying me drinks, so I shouldn't knock it.

Jason: I'm into you.

YS: Mm.

Jason's also quite fat and bearded, neither of which turn me on. Still, I do need a place to stay tonight.

Jason: I know Mikhil's not interested in Asian men, because I've been home with him.

YS: (to himself) Okay, I hate you now.

This continues for the rest of the night. I dance, for incrementally shorter spans of time. I hold a very drunk Radek/Tomas. Mikhil starts dancing on a table and invites Chris up. Chris ascends, but has to go down again soon because he is frightened of heights. I am unafraid of heights and join him, as Mikhil descends. I dance with a Spanish woman, on holiday with her maybe-boyfriend. I notice that even when Mijhil is looking in my direction, he is only looking at my legs not up toward me. When I descend, he ascends again and starts doing those funky para para dance moves with his arms, which seem designed to display athleticism and alertness of mind int he small hours. My repertoire is starting to fade. Mikhil comes down. I ask him if he's alright. He makes a motion with his fingers to his mouth.

YS: You want a cigarette?Mikhil nods.

YS: I'll get you one.

I'm about to buy him a pack from the machine but I think better of it and ask Jason.

Jason: You smoke?

YS: No. It's for him. (points)

Jason: (exploding) That guy? Why would I want to give a cigarette to that guy? He's an asshole! He's a prick! He's -

YS: Mikhil?

Jason: Ohh. I thought you meant the guy in white.

YS: Tomas. Radek. Something.

Jason: He's one of those guys who likes to look for foreigners and feed off them.

YS: There's nothing wrong with that.

Jason: There are guys like him. They don't ask for money for sex, they just ask for money for other things, like they need a new computer. I tell you, he's an asshole. Just now he tapped my body and asked for a light, and I said why, and he said because I'm wonderful! And...

I notice that as Jason gets excited, his voice gets higher and more shrill.

Jason: I know Czech society. I know this place. You don't.

The club closes early at 4.30 am. I speak fluently with the Spanish couple, the girl says she has approached Mikhil and he says he doesn't go for Asian men. I go to the coatroom and miss the exits of Jason, Chris, Mikhil, Tomas/Radek, whom I last saw hugging a British middle-aged man who was completely uninterested.

I tell the sad story of my fortunes to a handsome gay couple in the doorway, in a mixture of English, German and mime. They commiserate but offer no help.

I consider wandering to the city center but at the next turn there's an old street with arches and a concave step toward a lower doorstep to accommodate for the slope. I unroll my sleeping abg, put on my coat, and lay my head on my guidebook on the doorstep.

Two hours later, 0630, I wake and my teeth are chattering like machine-gun fire. I try to direct myself to the town square, but my hands shake so mcuh I cannot hold a map. I locate a church and try to find an entryway. Eventually I see a 24-hour pizzeria in a side-lane. I order a tea for 30 koruny, because they have no more food.

I stay there an hour, reading the autobiography of Andre Gide. I get the message when they take the placemat from under my elbows.

I find my way to the hostel. Surprise, someone has checked out early, and I can check in there the same day and stay as long as I like, as per hostel policy. I can only check in at 1pm, though, so I take my dirty clothing and walk to the Prague Laundromat, way off the map, in the next postal district. It's 140Kr for self-service, only 10 Kr less than what the hostel was offering, but this way I'm somewhere warm where I can sit down and read while I wash my only coat, and the 18 year-old mouse-haired high-school boy who manages the place looks unsettlingly like my ex Charles. I go into the bathroom and whack off hard. Unsurprsingly, during the drying cycle, I fall asleep in the daycare creche.

In the afternoon I'm in a gay sauna, where only old men go, but I was prepared for that, though still perturbed by the very samll jacuzzi and the grabbiness of the clients. Czech men seem to age extreemly poorly, making a brisk progress from svelte boy-nymphs to Jabba the Hutts.

And I return to the hostel. And I sleep sixteen hours. Today I watch the first striking of the Astronomical Clock after its recontruction for four months, and miss daylight savigns time, and so believe the Kafka walking tour has abandoned me in the square.

I forgot to mention, earlier on, that by a happy coincidence Traveller's Inn is the oen and same Dlouha 33 under a subtitle. It houses the cheapest Internet access in the city for 24 hour stretches, and will give you cash back on credit card payments, only 5% commission (ATMs charge 4%). Breakfast is included for 340 koruny = S$23.30 with ISIC discount, not buffet, but a selection of two between salami, sliced cheese, ham, muesli, cornflakes, yoghurt and la vache qui rit; milk, apple and orange juice, tea, coffee, margarine and jam all on the side, plus two rolls to rub them around in.

And I am content. And when I got up today Prague was the magic city, airwashed and delicious, jsut as they said ti would be.

Of course, tonight I went out again. After the Don Giovanni marionette show, to a bar named Pinocchio, ostensibly a gay centre but in reality a strip joint and den for male prostitutes. Quiet on a Monday, of course. Here it was all old men, domestic and international, and a bevy of boys, from the uncertainly legal to the wiltering, for 2500 koruny to 3000 a go, their terms.

I talked to Bernard, a New Yorker, not an expartiate but a regular visitor, who introduced me to Libor, a young man whose slight baby fat was no longer quite as endearing as it once must have been, Bernard joking about how much he'd fetch himself ont eh market, with his massive flab and white hair, 5000? 1000? 50? Or would he pay for it, as he'd always done? And I asked Libor, whose Englsih was good, whether he was gay, and he said he didn't know, becuse he liked girls. His friend Eki, whose English was next to nonexistent, was 18, starting work three months before, and was straight. These were men in sports jackets and baseball caps, hip-hop fashion for the Euro banjee boy. A tall brown-haired man called Peter called it the Shit Republic, no money from his day job, which he'd be doing on Tuesday. Libor didn't have money, he asked me for 200 kourny in trainfare, but he had been to Londona nd Berlin and a client had flown him to Ibiza once, how pretty, he told me as he rolled me a joint of marijuana and played tough-boy footy games with Eki in the cellar. He blew rings and good-naturedly showed me his unremarkable cock and a Christmas card from his client in Chicago, early but thinking of him already. I told him I had only my 100 koruny note left in cash, but I would have only 50 koruny after paying for our iced teas. The cied tea bill came to 120 koruny; I denied the thrid order and it came to 80, so I got back 20, which he took. Then it turned out the man at the coat-room charged 10 koruny for a jacket, and I had only 3.

I went back to Libor, who was playign video games in the cellar.

YS: I need 10 koruny back for my jacket.

Libor: I don't have it. (He gestures at the game machine)

I am grumbly but philosophical. All are appeased when I give the old coatroom man a 1-euro coin. And I walk back into the domain of the map in the cold, muttering to myself about my plans tomorrow to catch the midnight train to Krakow.

I notice I've spent way too much money on the Internet here, half enough to buy a bed fro another night, and my style's dampened throughotu the fatigue of the story, never enlivened by the American blues played by the street violinists of the relgiious scultptures on Charles' Bridg or the grease of a potato pancake in the cracks of my palm. No matter. On to Poland, where I have less expectations. One museum I never got ot today was the Museum of Communism, which features interrogation rooms and simulacrum supermarkets filled with only two prducts. I read the brochure; it's dividied into three sections: The Dream, The Reality, and the Nightmare.

Prague was the dream. Visiting Praha's a reality, thick and crusty around the edges. Libor can keep those 20 koruny. To live here, that would be the nightmare.

Yours with love,


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

es muss sein!

Dear Father et al,

Simon Jackson is amazed that you don't think I've better things to do on vacation than render expense accounts to you. Still, this is the same bloke who asks me not to call mobile numbers on his land line, because they cost so much, so you may take that with as large a pinch of salt as you like.

Since Sunday's technically the first day of the week, and Monday's a day for office work, I'm giving you expenses up till Saturday. I've only used credit cards twice, by the way: Mum's card once to withdraw money because I'd forgotten to put any in my wallet (there are HSBC ATMs *everywhere* here; real reverse colonialism) and just before that, with my own credit card, when I bought my 7-day public transport saver card.

Anyhow, let's have a run-down:


Tuesday 04/10:
Heathrow Express = £14
1 X Tube = £2.30

Wednesday 05/10:
2 X Tube = £4.60
\r\nThursday 06/10:\r\nOystercard 7-day saver = £21.40\r\n \r\nFriday 07/10: £0\r\n \r\nSaturday 08/10: £0\r\n \r\nTotal = £42.30\r\n \r\n*Sightseeing and Miscellaneous*\r\n \r\nTuesday 04/10:\r\npublic phones to get hold of Simon = 60p\r\nFreud House = £3\r\n \r\nWednesday 05/10:\r\nMap of London = £3\r\npublic phones to get hold of gay youth groups = £1\r\ntoiletries from Boots = £8.11\r\nBritish Museum = FREE!!!\r\nBritish Museum Walking Tour = £4.50\r\nBloomsbury Walking Tour, detailing the scandalous lives of intellectuals "who lived in squares and loved in triangles" = £4.50",1]

Thursday 06/10:
Oystercard 7-day saver = £21.40

Friday 07/10: £0

Saturday 08/10: £0

Total = £42.30

*Sightseeing and Miscellaneous*

Tuesday 04/10:
public phones to get hold of Simon = 60p
Freud House = £3

Wednesday 05/10:
Map of London = £3
public phones to get hold of gay youth groups = £1
toiletries from Boots = £8.11
British Museum = FREE!!!
British Museum Walking Tour = £4.50
Bloomsbury Walking Tour, detailing the scandalous lives of intellectuals "who lived in squares and loved in triangles" = £4.50
\r\n \r\nThursday 06/10: \r\npublic phone to get hold of youth group again = 40p\r\nfabulous walking tour of gay London administered by gay youth after the meeting = FREE!!!\r\n \r\nFriday 07/10:\r\nWalking tour of South Bank (Self-guided)= FREE!!! \r\nOne hour at the Design Museum, looking at the stuff in the gift shop because we\'re too stingy to pay to go in = FREE!!!\r\nTate Modern = FREE!!! Suggested donation my Aunt Matilda!!!\r\nClubbing at Popstarz = £8\r\nCoat-check girl = £1\r\nCoca-cola for sugar and caffeine to keep me awake = £2.30\r\n \r\nSaturday 08/10:\r\nall-male "Measure for Measure" in the Globe Theatre standing stalls = £5\r\nPleasuredome sauna = £10\r\n \r\nTotal = £51.41\r\n \r\n",1]

Thursday 06/10:
public phone to get hold of youth group again = 40p
fabulous walking tour of gay London administered by gay youth after the meeting = FREE!!!

Friday 07/10:
Walking tour of South Bank (Self-guided)= FREE!!!
One hour at the Design Museum, looking at the stuff in the gift shop because we're too stingy to pay to go in = FREE!!!
Tate Modern = FREE!!! Suggested donation my Aunt Matilda!!!
Clubbing at Popstarz = £8
Coat-check girl = £1
Coca-cola for sugar and caffeine to keep me awake = £2.30

Saturday 08/10:
all-male "Measure for Measure" in the Globe Theatre standing stalls = £5
Pleasuredome sauna = £10

Total = £51.41

*Food*\r\nTuesday 04/10:\r\nBreakfast platter: sausage, bacon, fried br\r\nead with egg, fried tomatoes, baked beans, and black puddings. (They resemble little double chocolate biscuits with gristle insides, and they only taste of anything on the outside).\r\n\r\nBlueberries = £1.50\r\nSalmon and fried rice from Simon\'s fridge = £0\r\nAlso soymilk and cranberry-blackcurrant juice = £0\r\n \r\nWednesday 05/10:\r\nOrganic peanut butter sandwich from Simon\'s larder = £0\r\nCornish pasty (ugh) = 3.50\r\nBlackberry-apple lollipop from Visit London office = 60p\r\nHot dog from Iranian man outside British Museum = £2.50\r\nToffee apple from Sainsbury\'s = 52p\r\nYoghurt with vanilla crunchy bits = 59p\r\n",1]
Tuesday 04/10:
Breakfast platter: sausage, bacon, fried br ead with egg, fried tomatoes, baked beans, and black puddings. (They resemble little double chocolate biscuits with gristle insides, and they only taste of anything on the outside).
Blueberries = £1.50
Salmon and fried rice from Simon's fridge = £0
Also soymilk and cranberry-blackcurrant juice = £0

Wednesday 05/10:
Organic peanut butter sandwich from Simon's larder = £0
Cornish pasty (ugh) = 3.50
Blackberry-apple lollipop from Visit London office = 60p
Hot dog from Iranian man outside British Museum = £2.50
Toffee apple from Sainsbury's = 52p
Yoghurt with vanilla crunchy bits = 59p
Simon\'s unmarinated beef with fried plantains and gooseberry preserves = £0\r\n \r\nThursday 06/10:\r\nLoads and loads of organic peanut butter and gooseberry preserves sandwiches while I used the Internet in the house = £0\r\n\r\nScampi and chips with vinegar= £4.30\r\nClementines and chocolate digestives with passionfruit cordial = £0 courtesy of NRG gay youth counselling servies, heheheheheh\r\n \r\nFriday 07/10:\r\nBurmese meatballs with spring roll and banana fritters = £5.90 lunch special\r\nSlice of fridge cake, composed of crumbled digestives, maraschino cherries, raisins, almonds chocolate and butter melted then allowed to congeal from the Tower of London Café = £2.50\r\n\r\nOrange ice lolly = £1\r\nChicken kebab in pita in Leceister Square = £3.80\r\nChewing gum while walking home to save on cabfare = 60p\r\n \r\nSaturday 08/10:\r\nHot coriander and carrot soup with egg and cress sandwiches during intermission at the Globe Theatre = £5\r\n",1]
Simon's unmarinated beef with fried plantains and gooseberry preserves = £0

Thursday 06/10:
Loads and loads of organic peanut butter and gooseberry preserves sandwiches while I used the Internet in the house = £0
Scampi and chips with vinegar= £4.30
Clementines and chocolate digestives with passionfruit cordial = £0 courtesy of NRG gay youth counselling servies, heheheheheh

Friday 07/10:
Burmese meatballs with spring roll and banana fritters = £5.90 lunch special
Slice of fridge cake, composed of crumbled digestives, maraschino cherries, raisins, almonds chocolate and butter melted then allowed to congeal from the Tower of London Café = £2.50
Orange ice lolly = £1
Chicken kebab in pita in Leceister Square = £3.80
Chewing gum while walking home to save on cabfare = 60p

Saturday 08/10:
Hot coriander and carrot soup with egg and cress sandwiches during intermission at the Globe Theatre = £5
Cookie = £1.50\r\nChicken norjahaini with onion and coriander rice from Thames Tandoori at Waterloo Station = £10.90\r\nBrandy at Simon\'s = £0\r\nTotal = £48.71\r\nWeekly Total = £142.42 = S$421.86 at current exchange rates\r\nHope that\'s satisfactory, considering how I\'m deliberately avoiding going to attractions that charge admission (Madame Tussaud\'s? We went there ten years ago; the statues don\'t get older, do they?).\r\n And I\'ve still got £180 in notes in my suitcase that I haven\'t spent yet. Will probably be going to the Midlands for a bit to visit people, so might not be converting that.\r\n\r\nMust try to sponge off Simon more. Wonder if he\'ll notice if I start selling his furniture?\r\nSincerely,\r\nB).\r\n \r\n\r\n",0]
Cookie = £1.50
Chicken norjahaini with onion and coriander rice from Thames Tandoori at Waterloo Station = £10.90
Brandy at Simon's = £0
Total = £48.71
Weekly Total = £142.42 = S$421.86 at current exchange rates
Hope that's satisfactory, considering how I'm deliberately avoiding going to attractions that charge admission (Madame Tussaud's? We went there ten years ago; the statues don't get older, do they?). And I've still got £180 in notes in my suitcase that I haven't spent yet. Will probably be going to the Midlands for a bit to visit people, so might not be converting that.
Must try to sponge off Simon more. Wonder if he'll notice if I start selling his furniture?

Monday, October 17, 2005

diary of a stone monkey vol lxxii

Dear All,

It’s Black History Month in England. I visit the British Museum and I’m directed to the obsidian bust of Caesar with disconcerting white irises, brought back from the Sudan.

Yes, I know. It’s become a cliché, how I soliloquize on the strange transculturalism of the world, but who needs to know that about London, of all places, where less than 50% of residents are white and censuses state that over 300 languages are spoken in homes, behind closed doors? The churches, the Anglicans and Catholics and Protestants of other flavours, are jumping on the bandwagon with their evangel, offering Soho services in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, French. It’s the homeless people who’re white here, trodden down by class and Thatcherite politics; the Johnny-and-Jahan-come-latelies of colour have more of a chance to hop the escalator of upward mobility, freed from the shackles of history.

And history runs so deep here; runnels and trickles itself into every cobblestone and microcircuit. Their faces and fingerprints on every corner: Victoria, Elizabeth, the six wives of Henry VIII, on video, on fingerpuppetry, on the cold rush of air that sweeps beneath the antique bridges into the neon signage of Leceister Square. The portraits of the National Gallery stare down at us and paint their names.

And against migration, somehow English culture still holds itself together, sells Cornish pasties and scampi and chips at the same teashop where you get doner kebabs and curry on your jacket potatoes. You wander into the Tube, and everyone’s *reading*. Noses buried in newspapers and bestsellers or doing su doku, which is even more English than crossword puzzles in its unlingual reserve. When you hear someone talking it’s often tourists from an American high school, discussing the benefits of a lowered drinking age. And then the children in those ridiculous uniforms outside my flat, grey sweaters and vests and miniature ties like a toy recreation of an Edwardian wonderland. Their mothers come to greet them in their afros and hejabs at the ice cream truck for choccy wafer.

History and globality, smashing each other like violent lovers. Pausing to avoid each other’s bruises, a space of compromise. The guide at Cleopatra’s Needle explains that on Hadrian’s Wall, records exist of the Syrian craftsmen brought in for the masonry, so even today, amidst the rubble of Scots and the giftshops, some blokes have surnames from Syria. A book from the Globe Theatre explains how Shakespeare’s three-dimensional treatment of Othello was probably influenced by the fact that several thousand Africans were living in London at the time of his height. They were musicians, servant-girls, ironmongers, grand and luxurious courtesans. His Dark Lady, Emilia Lanier, was an Italian Jewess who wrote odes to Cleopatra.

The world came together, came so many times that they shut their eyes and stopped counting.

Yesterday, incidentally was also the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. Co-ed brass bands in uniform on parade. The guide explains how British nature demands a celebration whenever England really kicks France’s arse. We all need walls, don’t we? But channels run both ways. They sell biographies of Nelson and Napoleon in every bookstore, advertising them on the subway, and their faces are so close in profile it seems as though they kiss.

The first time I went to Trafalgar Square, it was night, after the Waterloo Gay Youth Group meeting. I’d spent the night gorging myself on chocolate digestives and clementines, flirting with a scruffy-haired stripling named Keith with green eyes and a misspelt e-mail address, and arguing with a teenage black bi-girl named P2, who claimed that the Internet was Evil for promoting gay promiscuity in spite of its dramatic success, I asserted, in connecting otherwise remote members of an invisible community. She said the dirty old men and young men should all die and I call her Mrs Thatcher. Then out across the Millennium Bridge, yapping in our teenage way, gawping at heterosexuals holding hands, and into an arena of Jacobite architecture lit from below in tinted lights, all neoclassical heroes and Corinthian capitals, and I said, Gawd, this is like CGI, this is like Myst.

When they hoisted Nelson onto his column they did so in a bucket rigged to a pulley elevator. The night before, twelve men who had engineered the statue ate roast pheasant on the top of the column, attended by waiters and French wine. In recent years the pigeons shat on the statues so corrosively that authorities were obliged to buy off fthe licence from the bird feed man in return for a hefty pension, and to hire a falconer to let loose an eagle twice a week from his little white van. All the birds reckon there’s a natural predator and stay away, the eagle returns to her master who can feed her Sainsbury’s organic squab, and everyone’s happy and humanely dealt with. The plinth left empty by a bankrupt William IV is now open to a rotating cycle of modern sculpture. There’s currently a rather unremarkable portrait cast of the artist Alison Lapper, born without arms and with shortened legs; the next body up will be that of Nelson Mandela.

All that history, all that currency, washing up into a little circle of brick. Singapore should hold similar walking tours; Singapore should dig into the dirt of its concrete. How can a city so old be so young? But that’s what cities do, because they’re renewable. Europe can manage that; they’ve had time to grow and change sizes while everywhere else just bursts its knickers.

I ride the London Eye and take pictures of Westminster Abbey in the rain; my best shot of the Blue Gherkin is from the balcony of Christopher Wren’s Monument to the Great Fire of 1666. I chew my Krispy Kreme and eat my lentil dhal with rice and photograph the graffiti on the walls in Hebrew and Korean, the ammonite spiral of stairs below me and the yuppies munching their sandwiches in churchyards. I ask Simon Jackson what kind of a Jewish surname Jackson is; he says his grandfather had it changed when his father was four, fleeing their Ashkenazic roots. The father takes me for croissants and chocolatines at Paul’s the best French patisserie in England, and tells me of his boyhood trekking across Spain, his senescence as his retirement plan to manage the tourist office at Stonehenge fell through. They are out of orange juice; I have milk and he has a cappuccino. He rescues children of friends from bad overseas work, but only if they degrees in science or economics. He regards me with pity. I stay in all Thursday and work on my SQ21 book on Singapore queer biographies, only eating once, at the Rose Café, fried bread and fried mushrooms and bacon and black puddings like coal-dark cookies with white chocolate gristle. The waitstaff were Turkish, and the young, pretty lady with the mop approaches me and asks me why I am reading a book about India. So far I’ve ransacked Simon’s house and read Hermann Hesse’s “Siddartha”, “Steppenwolf” and Rabindranath Tagore’s “Gitanjali”. This one is about militant Hinduism in India, I tell her, the cult of Rama despite even Hanuman’s descent into the underworld to retrieve the ring of his master and meeting a thousand, each from a different aspect. Are they are Christians in Turkey, I ask her. It turns out they’re Muslim, but even back home, they will eat pork sausages.

There is no cogent way I can piece together my two weeks here already. No golden thread. My mother gives me her credit card for Hongkong Shanghai Bank of China; they have raised sponsorship for the largest Frida Kahlo exhibition in twenty years at the Tate Modern due to their Mexican connections and are now employing Prince William as an intern. What a master stroke of the colonised, to be boss to the future king of your old slaver! But who holds the chips, and how well do they function as buttons of power?

You know, I somehow remember there being more Asian people than black people in London the last time I was here. Somehow I’m seeing rather few of them outside the restaurants; perhaps it’s an assimilation pattern, or maybe some big boom from the islands happened after I left. P2 is dead against it of course; she says her father had every right to come here because he had a job, but what’s the business of bringing another uncle over? I call her the bloody Baroness of Kesteven.

I’ve clubbed here a couple of nights. It’s a very white gay community, that’s the feeling I’m getting. May be the whitest clubs I’ve ever danced in, and I have been in Frankfurt. A bit of a difference from Asian gay clubs, which will often feature at least the token expat. The ethnopolitics of pleasure. I’m reading Graham Greene’s “The Quiet American”, and chasing a Eurasian boy at Oxford via text message.

I was discussing globalization with Simon the other night. We had good chats, despite his gross neglect, because he is an extremely intelligent man, simply lacking in many social graces. He was wondering how much globalization really takes place in China if no-one moves there for the long run, since even the black and white faces of Shanghai are only there for a business deal or an education or a tour of the Colonial District.

Singapore’s got it, he says. There are some people who come to Singapore and won’t be going home. I tell him I think my Eurotrip is conducting the same kind of runaway odyssey that’s supposed to drive white kids to the Himalayas. He suggests Lourdes, or Santiago de la Compostela. Next door to Simon’s is the Freud House. Here he took refuge from the Nazis with a chau-chau, a Pekinese, a lesbian daughter, his antique array of ushabtis, avatars and bodhisattvas, and a cabinet with a Lutheran inscription of love, writing them all into a theory of the primitive and the unconscious in his ergonomic armchair, his mind was like the meat of a snail, said Salvador Dalí.

In the Egyptian room at the British Museum lies the famous mummy of Ginger, with red hair. What drove that migrant, a head like the phosphorus of matches, to leave his tribe for one of the few first cities? Hunger, probably. Travelers’ tales couldn’t have spread glamour much in those early days. Who knows, he may not have liked it, and only death might have made him decide to stop running.

Need sleep now,


P.S. Am in Oxford now. Bicycle city of gargoyles and subfuscs. Gorgeous Eurasian boy not replying, so am at liberty to make fun of his name, which is Lexus. May hit Canterbury next, and convert to Anglicanism, since it might let me be a priest.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

a passage to england: photo edition

Images from around London! Such as a fridge cake, composed of cocoa powder, raisins, almond flakes and butter melted and reconstituted for elegant consumption at the Tower of London teashop!

Also, fetching young lads and lasses from the Waterloo gay youth counselling group!

My second meal in London. Leftover salmon and fried rice in Simon Jackson's pantry. The salmon required a healthy slosh of soy sauce to render it edible.

Two drunken lads showing off their wares on the Millennium bridge, much to the Waterloo gay youth group's approval.

The curtain call after an extremely good (and funny!) Measure for Measure at the Globe Theatre (yes, that's a man in a dress)

Skanky clubbers at Popstarz. The man was Australian and grew up in between the surf and the cattle farm, which was a glorious life for a boy until you're 15 and you're dying for the fabulous lure of the city. He does video, with a special interest in movie trailer design. The girl's a dance student, with a particularly unreceived tipsy proletariat brogue. Neither of them seemed to be gay; certainly the man was fierce enough, but they were tonguing. Blugh.

Indian restaurant. Chicken norjahani with lovely coriander bhasmati.

This is London. Au revoir, hail and farewell.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

diary of a stone monkey lxxi

YS: Dear All,

I think I must tell you about Simon Jackson.

My mother and father used to invoke his name, as other parents might call upon the noble examples of Qu Yuan and Cai Wenji. My father told me of how when he was working in London, he visited this sage old colleague of his, Anthony Jackson, and gifted his youngest son with a volume of Asiapac’s “Fun With Chinese Characters”.

Baited with the thrill of the Orient, little Simon Jackson was to grow to become a great Bridge Across Cultures, yea, fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, performing grand feats of transcaucasian diplomacy between British Industry and Chinese Enterprise, with a Chinese girlfriend at his side (they are somewhat compulsory) and a tendency to irritate waiters in Limehouse when he ordered spring rolls in Cantonese, and said, “Cor mate, I don’t speak a word o’that rubbish.” Even when he visited us as a skinny teenager in Hong Kong, his gusto in culture consumption famously overrode his Jewish heritage:

Father: So he told us, “If it’s made of pork, don’t tell me!” And then he jia gao beng!

Mum: Someday you’ll meet an angmoh like that, who’s better than you at Chinese, and then you really think you’ll be better than him in English?

(Pregnant, bitter pause)

YS: Anyway, since we put up Simon back then, they felt it’s only fair for him to put me up right now. But the question is, how well does my family know the real Simon Jackson?


Q1. If you were Simon Jackson, thirtysomething East Asian business whiz, and your Singaporean friends rang you to take care of their son on his visit, would you:

A) offer to pick him up from the airport?
B) e-mail him your address and directions?
C) do neither until he called you panicked the day before departure?

Q2. Having established that you won’t be at home when he arrives from the airport, would you:

A) Leave your keys with a neighbour?
B) Leave your keys under the doormat?
C) Leave your keys in the recycling bin?

Q3. Having asked Yi-Sheng to call you upon getting out of customs at 6 am, would you:

A) Make sure you were awake by 6 am?
B) Make sure your phone was set to outdoor profile overnight?
C) Leave your phone on silent mode and sleep through two calls from public phones (which cost 60p = S$1.20)?

Q4. Once awake, you would you meet Yi-Sheng by:

A) frantically calling him on his mobile to make sure he’s alright.
B) responsibly leaving a note for him at the door.
C) coincidentally bumping into him and his giant duffel bag as he treks the long way round from the Tube station to your house, both recognising one another despite not having met for eight years.

Q5. Though already on my way to work, you would ensure Yi-Sheng’s safety and comfort by:

A) Walking 50 metres back to my house and letting him in.
B) Explaining to him carefully where to find the keys.
C) Mumbling affirmation when Yi-Sheng asks if it’s in the “green and black thing”, and rushing off to work in a non-cellphone-accessible area while Yi-Sheng empties the recycling bin several times in a desperate attempt to discover the keys and gives up after trying to call twice and stops to read heteroinsecurity magazines about “Being A Bloke’s Bloke” in the garden while the neighbours stare at him, and luckily, calling back just before your meeting to explain that the keys are in a white envelope tucked into the side of the bin (though with all the reshuffling, it’s at the bottom already, and a trifle grimy at that).

Q6. On discovering Yi-Sheng at 8pm that night sleeping on the living room couch because he wasn’t sure if the extra bed was vacant or not, you would:

A) apologise and go out for dinner.
B) have dinner indoors and chat.
C) get him and your septuagenarian father Anthony to help you move out your old refrigerator down three flights of stairs and then leave him alone in your house while you went out swimming.

Mostly A) => Wow, you’ve really managed to combine Western and Eastern (and Middle Eastern) hospitality into one seamless finish! Give yourself a hand!
Mostly B) => You are gracious, yet casually efficient. Not bad either!
Mostly C) => FAN-F**KING –TASTIC!!!! You’re SIMON JACKSON!!!

YS: Oh, but it makes it sound like I dislike Simon. He’s rather distant, but he’s alright, definitely, and he’s not quite what our parents thought. For example:

Q7. How old was SJ when he first started studying Chinese?

A) 6
B) 11
C) 16
D) 21

ANSWER: D). He said he’d have liked to begin when he received the Asiapac book at 11, though.

Q8. In what order of fluency does SJ speak the following languages?

A) French
B) Italian
C) Chinese
D) Latin

ANSWER: A, B, C, D. He started Latin before any of the others, though.

Q9. When SJ’s Chinese teacher speaks to him in Mandarin, he addresses her in:

A) Mandarin
B) Cantonese
C) English.

ANSWER: C). I’m sorry, mumsies.

Q10. Simon Jackson knew I was homosexual when I was

A) 5
B) 10
C) 16
D) 24

ANSWER: A). He only mentioned it to you when I was 16, mum, because he thought anyone with eyes would have known already.

YS: I thought I was a rather butch 5 year-old, really.

SJ: No. You weren’t. (Goes back to his washing)

Q11. Simon’s present job involves business linkages between the UK and:

A) China.
B) Southeast Asia.
C) India.

ANSWER: C). He’s tried to study Hindi, but he says it’s way too difficult.

Q12. Out of respect to the guests, all the meat at Simon’s bar bitzvah was:

A) Kosher.
B) Halal.
C) Porkalicious.

ANSWER: B). Most of the meat he buys now is halal, too. He works with loads of Muslims at the office, and shops where they do. Also loves his pork and shellfish.

Q13. Simon owns the Lonely Planets for:

A) Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei.
B) Egypt
C) China
D) Brazil
E) Indian Himalaya
F) South India
G) Vietnam
H) Central America on a Shoestring
I) Cuba

ANSWER: All of the above. You’ll notice there’s nothing on Europe. Bugger.

Q14. In Simon’s kitchen, which of the following varieties of tea will you find?

A) Earl Grey with Bergamot
B) Assam with Kerala spices
C) Green tea
D) Kwong Sang superior brand
E) Eight-treasures-covered-bowl

ANSWER: All of the above. There’s a trend here.

Q15. Elsewhere in the kitchen, which of the following will you *not* find?

A) Plantains
B) Gooseberry jam
C) Bhasmati rice
D) Soya milk
E) Pate de foie canard entier
F) Marmite
G) Three different kinds of soya sauce
H) Kicap manis
I) A gelato machine
J) Jamaican jonkanoo seriously hot pepper sauce
K) Organic peanut butter
L) Champagne
M) Turmeric, cumin and green cardamoms
N) French rock salt
O) Hovis wholemeal
P) Thai lemongrass and coconut powder
Q) V8
R) A six-pack of Coca-cola
S) Chicory and coffee essence
T) Melatonin
U) Sainsbury’s arrabiata and tomato and mascarpone sauces
V) Courvoisier
W) Costa Rican coffee
X) Welsh goat cheese
Y) Tahini
Z) A toaster

ANSWER: Z). He does, however, have a big ol’ grill, which he was using to fry Portobello mushrooms last night. He has cookbooks on Caribbean, Sylvia’s soul food, Sichuan, Singapore, and various fusion cuisines.

YS: I think you get the picture. I could talk about his library (Leadership Lessons Learnt from the Panchatantra? The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier?) or his DVD collection (2046? Doctor Who?) or the music on his electronic keyboard. But I think it’s pretty clear that I’m delaing with a kind of comfortable cultural polymorphousness that’s been seriously reduced by my parents’ representations of Mr Jackson.

I’d developed a comeback for my mother whenever she told me about SJ. I’d talk about mother tongue and lover tongue, how we’re drawn by the language we choose instead of the language we’re born with. If you really want to make comparisons to my Chinese, I’d tell my mother, ask Simon how good his Hebrew is. I wouldn’t bet on anything, now though. He’s got a mezuzah on his front door, and Jewish magazines in his recycling bin.

He’s still pretty distant. Got home last night late, and he tries to teach me how to do cryptic crosswords while marinating beef. I’m never quite certain whether he’s looking down on me, putting up with me, or just being reserved.

Anyhow, better not leak this mail to him. That’d confirm his attitudes toward me rather solidly. Nosy self-centred trollop that I am.



Wednesday, October 05, 2005

diary of a stone monkey volume lxx

Dear All,


Gateway to Europe. Same way as Singapore’s supposed to be gateway to Asia: sober government, civilised hygiene, and at least they speak your language.

This is an unusual vacation for me because I’m running less towards a place than away. I’m frankly frightened of the weight of adult responsibility and the duty to win bread. Nor am I encouraged that I haven’t produced any great oeuvres in my four months dallying about the city being a writer: a poem every week, a play in 24 hours, a microbiography; no screenplays, no operas, no bildungsroman.

Odd thing about London is how it lies both inside and outside you. Americans won’t get this, because they weren’t suckled on a diet of Enid Blyton and Conan Doyle the way us Commonwealth kids were. And of course, there’s the dark imprints of the Raj on our architecture and recent history, and the prodigal’s return, the yellowing and browning of London itself, the clash of global union that sounds and gets reimported home all over again. Jamiroquai. Ishiguro. Meera Syal.

I boarded QANTAS on Monday at 10pm. Father’d been being fractious, told me I still didn’t know how to travel because I’d planned to leave the house too late, I’d packed my jacket in check-in luggage instead of carrier. To dispel the tension, Yi-Xian taught me close combat moves in the kopitiam, an odd bodily ballet of slapping the breast, grabbing the offender’s knuckles and locking his thumb and twisting the tender joints with a foot between his to prevent him from kneeing you in the groin. Mum said be careful, don’t let anyone cheat you, and I’m terribly puzzled, of course, because whyever shoul they have such concern over what can happen to me in Europe?

Wild Europe. Virgin Europe. Darkest Eurofrica.

Mum’s been commenting that I keep American time while I’m in Singapore: I write till 6am and I wake at 2 in the afternoon. My contrary sleep habits persist in the plane: I’m asleep for the two hours that the lights are on, then when everyone’s gone to sleep I read “Absalom, Absalom” and “Let’s Go: Europe 2005”. I watch “The Simpson’s Halloween Special IX”, “Beyond Tomorrow: Australia Edition”, a cooking show on tempura oysters and “Faking It”. After twenty-eight days, an insurance salesman is able to fool two out of three movie critics into thinking he’s a professional stuntman, whereas a maestro can point out a 25 year-old punk rocker conducting the Royal Philharmonic because he does it too damn well. It’s heartbreaking when he shaves off his pink and daffodil Mohican fringe and swaddles his tattoo. For the next few days he wears a brunet wig and coat and tails.

The lights come on and they run out of Continental Breakfast. I go to sleep. Heathrow airport is cold. In the line for immigration I put on my jacket, despite my pride against my father for not having needed it through the nightlong flight.

The West Indian woman tells me to step behind the line. She snaps at me when I hesitate on how long I’ll be in London; I haven’t decided, maybe ten days, maybe two. I tell her I’ve graduated and I’m doing the Grand Tour, next maybe Munich for Oktoberfest, then Vienna? She asks to see my Eurail pass, but already she’s looking at me nicer, unjealous, living vicariously in my wanderlust.

It’s 6.30 am. I’m the only man in the street dressed in red. Red windbreaker, red shoes, green army duffel bag of my chattels. It’s daylight, but hardly anyone’s on the Underground yet. Heathrow express to Paddington. Circle Line to Baker Street, Bakerloo to Finchley Road.

The West Indian woman asked me if it was my first time in London. First time in eight years, I say. There’s a bizarre, horrible sense of homecoming to this city. Of course I am glad to be here but there are certain words which already describe it.

London is limbo. The celestial regency of Sheridan and the inferno of Aphra Behn. The court of Marlowe, the boat of Kipling, the oblivion teahouse of Carol Ann Duffy. But empty.

Today there’s been a curious peoplelessness to it, no doubt because it’s Rosh Hashanah, or possibly because I haven’t stepped beyond my borders much today.

Will write more, once my thoughts are collected. Chag sameach, my Hebrew friends.



Monday, October 03, 2005

Yeah, I'm gonna miss Singapore... Posted by Picasa

MRT coming home so late after Saturday night with paolo and Samir that I could ride with the Sunday morning workers. I was in clubbing clothes, they were going to work. The ambient advertising was about a golf course. Posted by Picasa

Sometimes I think ambient advertising should be classified as a merit good. Isn't it marvellous how his bellybutton appears to coincide with the latch of the rear compartment? Posted by Picasa

Maxwell Hawker Centre with Paolo and Samir Posted by Picasa

And this is a picture of my goodie pack at the 24-hour playwriting competition. Posted by Picasa

I'm uploading pictures of home before I leave. This is what the interior of my refrigerator looks like. I'm not kidding about the mutton by-product; it's in there. Posted by Picasa

Me in a recent stranger's house for New Year's Day, 2005, Buenos Aires Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 30, 2005

just me

Just bought my ticket to Europe! Oh joy.


DEP CHANGI 2255 3 OCT2005
Duration 13:35 nonstop


ARR CHANGI 1835 3JAN2006
Duration 12:35 nonstop

Actually scared stiff. Often am about things I've always wanted.

In other news, have just bought Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends", ostensibly as a gift to my cousin's 6 year-old daughter.


Sweet Marie, she loves just me
(She also loves Maurice McGhee).
No she don't, she loves just me
(She also loves Louise Dupree).
No she don't, she loves just me
(She also loves the willow tree).
No she don't, she loves just me!
(Poor, poor fool, why can't you see
She can love others and still love thee.)

Thursday, September 29, 2005


In fact, my semipublishable corpus includes a sonnet, a villanelle, a sapphic ode, a sestina, and a halfhearted attempt at a ghazal. Plus I'm reading Blake independently.

Songs of Innocence, Introduction
You are 'regularly metric verse'. This can take
many forms, including heroic couplets, blank
verse, and other iambic pentameters, for
example. It has not been used much since the
nineteenth century; modern poets tend to prefer
rhyme without meter, or even poetry with
neither rhyme nor meter.
You appreciate the beautiful things in life--the
joy of music, the color of leaves falling, the
rhythm of a heartbeat. You see life itself as
a series of little poems. The result (or is it
the cause?) is that you are pensive and often
melancholy. You enjoy the company of other
people, but they find you unexcitable and
depressing. Your problem is that regularly
metric verse has been obsolete for a long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

this is happy

On the plus side, today I discovered how make male orgasms last for fifteen minutes. A professional Tarot card reader in Yio Chu Kang demonstrated. Twice.

this is sad

YS: I just got a rejection letter from Monsoon Books. A very nice rejection letter, but I'm peeved anyway, cos no-one else seems to be interested in publishing my 20something college memoirs.

Dear Yi -Sheng

Thank you for submitting diary of a stone monkey to Monsoon Books and sorry for the slow response, we've been flooded with manuscripts these last few months. I though your manuscript was a breath of fresh air compared to the usual offerings and I found myself reading it on my own time, which is always a good sign. Unfortunately I just don't feel I can take it on for publication. Although we did publish a similar (in terms of style, not content) title recently, I just don't know how receptive the local market is to diary/email/blog-style books. Your writing reminds of Christos Tsiolkas in his gay coming-of-age book Loaded. I would love to see a hard-hitting coming-of-age book from Singapore and diary of a stone monkey is part way they although it was probably not intended to be so.

Have you had any luck with other publishers? I'll KIV this manuscript and take another look early next year but I don't think we will be able to publish it. Are you working on anything else at the moment?

Thanks and regards
Phil Tatham
Publisher, Monsoon Books

YS: The similar style book he refers to is "My Kiasu Teenage Life in Singapore", an epistolary account of a Malaysian Chinese girl's ASEAN student life. Haven't read it, but I'm certain my memoirs are cooler. I bet she doesn't end up losing her virginity in the back of an East Village Club.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

after photography class

I seem to be going to the old national library area every day. see show lah, see museum lah, towel club lah, library@esplanade lah...

Thursdays it's always my photography class. can't say i'm crazy about my teacher, but at least i'm taking photos.

and i like the place. it's where my old primary school was u know? ACPS. And all those fun days reading alphabet book at the library and getting cutouts of little boy dolls at MPH and then getting ice kacang at the hawker centre before it became S-11 (I actually hated ice kacang. who the hell would put beans in a dessert? peanuts don't count).

Raffles City used to be major cruise central, anyway, so it's important to my culture. Back in the day there were also a bunch of transsexuals who bummed around SJI, so the statue of the friar guiding the way for the little boy with outstretched finger (still visible at SAM) is reputedly saying: See? If you don't study, that's what you'll become.

Back then, kids couldn't major in queer theory. Heheh.

Lucky me to be born when I was.

after photography class

I seem to be going to the old national library area every day. see show lah, see museum lah, towel club lah, library@esplanade lah...

Thursdays it's always my photography class. can't say i'm crazy about my teacher, but at least i'm taking photos.

and i like the place. it's where my old primary school was u know? ACPS. And all those fun days reading alphabet book at the library and getting cutouts of little boy dolls at MPH and then getting ice kacang at the hawker centre before it became S-11 (I actually hated ice kacang. who the hell would put beans in a dessert? peanuts don't count).

Raffles City used to be major cruise central, anyway, so it's important to my culture. Back in the day there were also a bunch of transsexuals who bummed around SJI, so the statue of the friar guiding the way for the little boy with outstretched finger (still visible at SAM) is reputedly saying: See? If you don't study, that's what you'll become.

Back then, kids couldn't major in queer theory. Heheh.

Lucky me to be born when I was.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


Finally uploaded my pics!

Let's get to know the family:

Little brother Yi-Xian, big sister E-Ching, mother and father, all looking suitably disgruntled.

Huangdi the dog, and Ruyi the cat!

Okay, still trying to figure out how pics work on this. Seeya

Thursday, July 14, 2005

hello there

Dear All,

How wonderful. I'm finally part of the blogging generation. Also, my Decameron paly is going quite well.

Alibech: Oh mercy me, what is that lump
Of flesh on the opposite of your rump?
Rustico: He’s the devil! Grasp him by the stump
He torments me so! But please don’t pump.

Alibech: I am blessed to be free of the devil’s curse
Rustico: But alas my dear, you’ve something worse!
See between your legs like a velvet purse?
That’s the hell that Dante set to verse!

Now we’ll put the devil back into hell
It will please God in heaven and me very well
Now before we allow his sin to swell
We’d better put the devil back into hell!

Quite cheesy lah, but fun. I'm glad Choon told me to use meters. I'm rhyming all over the place and it's so calming.

Writing some poetry too. Whoop-de-doo.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Saturday, April 16, 2005