Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
For those sad to see The Lonesome Chopstick’s final post, fear not! A new brand of insanity has started right around the corner.
So if you long for more sarcastically inclined weirdness, then get off with the rest of us at Exit 347.
The new blog chronicles the adventures of this socially awkward American bozon as he tries to repatriate to his homeland. It should be natural…but then again so should sex and yet we all seem to botch that up the first time or two.
My advice? Bring your headgear.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
I’ve hardly hidden the fact that I’m a huge Douglas Adams fan. And while I haven’t hitchhiked the galaxy, seeing 12 countries in 13 months while working 14-hour days is no small feat.
For all my bitching, for all the melodramatic introspection, I must admit that the good far outweighed the bad. The experience has expanded my mind, my palate, and my options for a post midlife crisis existence and for that I’m grateful. I haven’t made any decisions yet, but I’m getting closer and looking forward to the next great adventure, whatever it may be.
I was struggling for a way to end this blog and then my answer came in the most unique Singaporean / American way. On my last day of work I stopped by the local Subway with a gift of chocolates for the super cool staff (they are super cool for many reasons not least of which is that they unofficially renamed the Italian BMT after me).
Anyway, after cooing over the candy one of the older ladies offered a shy smile and said, “My English is not so good, but Bon Voyage.”
You know, if you’re open to it you’ll find that people are pretty awesome. Thanks Singapore. I can’t help but feel that despite my best intentions, I’ve received far more than I’ve given.
Till the next adventure….
Thursday, July 8, 2010
It’s seems that my time in Singapore has come to an end. This Saturday I’ll board a variety of aircraft that will ultimately lead to the doorstep of my adopted home in North Carolina. I’m not sure I fit there anymore…assuming I ever did. Still, they’ll be friends to see and errands to run so I’m sure my To Do list will buy me a little denial time. But that’s just an illusion.
The truth it seems is that I’m a change junky…a khaki clad nomad itching for the open road. I haven’t even unpacked and already I’m planning, scheming, twitching with the type of anticipatory energy bookies call the money shakes.
And so the question becomes: what’s next? There’s New York. There’s always New York. And as much as I’d love to revisit the Apple and the friends of my youth, I’ve never met a man who moved ahead by going backwards. There’s D.C. A flock of family makes that a tempting destination to be sure, but me in a government town is like a clown in a cardigan.
It’s sobering really, to have houses but no home, to have lovers but no loved one, to have clients and contacts, but very few friends. I’m not sure if that speaks to my priorities, my path, or the unrelenting influence of my past. In any case, the message is clear enough and it’s high time I got the point.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the last lines of the above titled, Billy Joel ballad.
“…I’ll drive into town
When this big bird touches down
I'm only comin' home to say goodbye
Then I'm gone with the wind
And I won't be seen again
Till that great suburban showdown in the sky”
Yes, it seems I’ve been running in the wrong direction for all the wrong reasons. I’m not sure where I’ll ultimately arrive, but one thing is clear, it’s time to change course.
Author note: Just kidding….I don’t wear khakis.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
In the past I’ve been viewed as somewhat of a womanizer, relying chiefly on wit, charisma, and a benign brand of attractiveness that neither makes nor breaks the deal. Get them talking and they can be gotten...or so the theory goes.
I’m not sure I’ve ever agreed with that assessment, but I’ll concede the point. Admittedly, the evidence is not in my favor: a string of half-hearted romances, office flings, and sophomoric conquests are more than willing to take the stand and honestly, I haven’t the strength to utter an objection.
Still, something’s changed. Since my arrival in Singapore, I haven’t had the taste for the chase. In fairness, during the first few months I was disentangling myself from a botched Stateside relationship and cheating, even when the lines are blurred, is simply not something I do. But it was more than that.
I’ve found that women here are dramatically different in both approach and intent. In essence, the roles seem reversed with females (at least as it pertains to white men) being the aggressors. Just this morning I was eyed hungrily by an attractive local lady, the likes of which would never offer so much as a sideways glance if I were home. I’m not saying this to be self-deprecating. If I can lay claim to a superpower, it would be acute self-awareness. It’s simply truth – here men are ogled and approached with the same lustful frequency as cute, college co-eds at an ecstasy fueled rave.
It’s exhilarating of course becoming a Clooney clone and many take full advantage. From the pasty, sixty-something executive latching on to a impossibly tanned, questionably legal beauty to the happy hour lounge lizard making time with an SPG*, everyone it seems is consumed with “yellow fever”.
I hear the adulterous antidotes. I see the self-satisfied smirks. And I feel lucky, grateful, and even somewhat superior in the knowledge that I’m immune. I have no desire to visit the FFW**, troll the clubs in Clarke Quay, or even return the come hither stares that are far too frequently received. Perhaps it’s because I recognize the illusion and the quiet desperation of my potential counterparts.
Having your way with a woman is a delightful thing to be sure, but only insomuch as it is a balanced affair. When its transactional, contrived, or worse yet, coerced (even indirectly) it loses its appeal completely and for me borders on the immoral, even the criminal. I’m surprised by my strong emotional reaction to the matter, but grateful for the dual lessons this year of romantic people watching has produced.
First, it seems that despite denials, I do long for a healthy relationship with a secure, self-reliant someone special. And second, I now realize that my tendency to bolt does not stem from a desire to leave or arrive, but rather to remain in motion. There’s nothing wrong with running of course, unless it’s endlessly upon a treadmill of ice. Perhaps it’s time to unplug the beast and find a jogging partner who can not only keep up, but push me onward toward a horizon we both desire.
Author note: I realize this post does not do justice to the majority of Singaporean women. During my time here I’ve known and befriended several who are the epitome of style, grace, class and intelligence. My hope is that they will forgive the limited scope of this entry and see it for what it is…a bit of introspection and nothing more.
*SPG - Sarong Party Girl is a derogatory term used in Singapore to describe a local woman who dresses and behaves in a provocative manner, and who exclusively dates white men often indirectly exchanging sexual favors for a variety of gifts.
**FFW - Four Floors of Whores, officially Orchard Towers, is an 18-story office building located on the corner of Claymore Road and Orchard Road. During the day it functions as a retail and office style building, but it is best known as an landmark entertainment complex featuring a variety of bars and clubs where “clients” are able to meet and pick up prostitutes.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Nothing’s perfect. Crimes get foiled. Storms subside. And that Jaw-dropping Jessica you met at beer o’clock in the morning often appears more Tandy than Simpson once the house lights rise. Yes, many a time I’ve eagerly vaulted the proverbial fence only to discover my neighbor’s been barbequing on Astroturf. These days I take longer to leap, often opting for a balanced perspective in all things… including my time in Sing-land.
On the positive side, you’ll never starve in here. The sheer availability and variety of culinary creations got this burger boy thinking beyond the bun. Also, Singapore’s transit system bitch slaps our antiquated “L”. And nifty websites like www.sbstransit.com.sg (Next bus) and www.gothere.sg enable newbies to transverse the Island with local-like efficiency. Finally, its geographic good fortune makes Singapore the ideal jump off point for regional sightseeing. Several countries are weekend doable and regardless of how rustically you wander, there’s always the comfort of returning to the nation’s neurotic cleanliness.
Of course it’s not all sunshine and roses. Sure the food’s phenomenal, but you often have to gaze into ghost eyes while enjoying the meal. Ever envision a king prawn doing a De Niro impersonation? It’s enough to make Hannibal Lecter a vegetarian.
And speaking of taxi drivers, what language do they speak? I’m thinking shorthand. Last week when I asked to go to “the Orchard Park apartments behind the Takashima shopping center” I was met with a confused grunt. However, when I barked, “Uncle, go orchard behind Taka,” I was whisked away with formula one speed. Of course, the whisking was intermittent at best seeing as how they all drive with two feet, often applying the break and gas simultaneously. But hey, on the up side you get that nifty Chinese top 40 music to take your mind off your impending doom.
But the bus drivers are worse. I’m sure lapping a manicured island fifteen times an hour gets old, but guys (and gals) you are driving a 10 ton rectangle, not a Maserati. Ease up on the hair pin turns, would you? Actually, you know what – strike that. Maybe you can jolt the grotesque toenail clipper to my left into a coma. Sure…. I can’t cautiously consume a covered coffee without fear of fines, but old-man Ling Wa can pedi-out his Wolverine talons on the #14 without issue.
And what’s with all the cueing, kung fu-ing your way into elevators, and sniffing incessantly like an 80s coke whore? Cultural differences aside, the tissue was invented for a reason folks –blow your nose already! But I digress.
On balance, I feel Singapore is filled with minor annoyances and majestic moments. Some of the latter is country sponsored, while others are due to the interesting individuals who call this place home. Last Saturday I saw a beautiful four year old Indian girl let go of her mom’s hand at the edge of an escalator. As the woman traveled nervously downward, the little girl calmly looked up at me and shook her head.
“What’s the matter, honey?” I asked.
“Stairs don’t move,” she stated emphatically, as her mother came rushing to collect the pertinacious pre-schooler.
Some do of course, but in fairness, it takes a while to wrap your mind around the concept. I guess that’s the same with a lot of things.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
New Yorkers are blessed with extra sensory perception. We feel vibes, catch drifts and seem to know the score a lot faster than our country-based counterparts. Some say we’re born with it, but more likely it comes from countless encounters that hone one’s fight or flight response into, well…a superpower.
I know. After a lifetime of dodging everything from schoolyard bullies and step-scumbags to bar room hot heads and the occasional criminally-inclined, I surprised I don’t sport a cape. And so when I moved to North Carolina, in 2004 I was concerned that I would loose my edge. It’s not complete paranoia. Vonnegut said something similar in reference to San Francisco. And Kurt knew his shit.
Anyway, I survived the south. Turns out there are enough dirt bags in Durham to keep you on your toes. Plus rednecks have an affinity for Miller-muscles…so there’s that. The long and the short: You can find your danger fix if you look around.
That’s not true in Singapore. The city is so safe that you can amble about an alley with a map in one hand, a fist full of c-notes in the other and ask a tatted up teenager for directions to a bible study without worry. Yeah, it’s easy to lose your edge.
It happened to me this morning. It was dark and I was decaffeinated - details, not excuses. It was nothing big, but as I rode the escalator from the tube to the street, a man was able to approach my blind side and get within striking distance without me noticing. This from a guy who would previously stir from slumber if someone walked passed my apartment wearing slippers in a snowstorm.
Maybe it’s good that I’m chilling out. Insomnia has me by the balls enough as it is. Still, I feel I’ve lost something and I miss it. I miss him, that guy I was before I got comfortable.
Maybe there’s just nothing wrong…nothing to tingle the brain. More likely, I’ve been slipping, slacking, sleeping away the last few months...God the last few years. But it’s wake up time. It’s been dormant recently for sure, but something tells me my spider sense is set for a scream fest and maybe that’s a good thing.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
I’m basically a nasty person. Don’t get me wrong. I give to charity. I’ll help a lady change her tire in the snow. And more often than not, I’ll relinquish my bus seat to a gimped up geriatric. Still, outside these parameters, I’m largely a prick.
Now this is not a realization one comes to or dares admit lightly. People don’t like bastards. They tend to rub them the wrong way and so forth. Thus, confessing your alignment with an overall dickish outlook can have some negative social repercussions. Luckily when you are in fact a jackass, you really don’t care about winning Mr. Congeniality.
So why the confession? Well, as my return home is just a few months away, I’ve been trying to come up with a summation for Singaporean culture. You know, something to tell the boys back home. Since they have the attention span of a coked-out ferret, I’ll have to keep it brief. And since brevity is often a medium for douchebaggery, I thought I’d give any local readers fair warning less I offend unintentionally. (How’s that for flexing one’s natural style?)
So here goes. Singapore is like Key Club in high school. Actually I can’t be sure of this since I was never much of a joiner and have almost no idea what Key Club is, but I’ve seen them prancing about the halls and so I’ll make my comparison on the most superficial of observations.
Key Club kids are happy, organized, cause-oriented and terribly terribly excited. About what I have no idea. They can often be found wearing matching t-shirts, holding placards and pleading endlessly for your signature on a petition of some sort. Singapore is, in the most stereotypical sense, a country comprised completely of Key Club members.
Yesterday as I attempted to tick off a Santa sized list of errands I was accosted by brigade of Red Cross collectors, a battalion of sign sporting cellular sales reps, and I shit you not, a squad of squawking simpletons draped in elaborate hawk costumes who, for some reason, were desperate to have me squawk along. It didn’t happen.
I weathered the storm respectfully, keeping my comments to a series of inaudible sarcastic mutterings. But then, as I rounded the corner toward my apartment, a group of perky co-eds rushed me professing that love could change the world. Their “free hugs” signs signaled their plans for global healing. Of course I was tempted to partake, “accidentally” coping a feel in the process, but I instead, in the most deadpan delivery I could muster, inquired as to where I could find the girls sporting the "free blowjobs" signs.
Being Singaporean, she missed the joke entirely and offered an apologetic admission that she had not heard of such a group. I sighed, passed on the hug, and marched onward… one has to keep hope alive and all.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
City slickers walk more than their suburban counterparts. Sure there are trains and busses and taxis galore, but the to and fro is largely Nikey-based and often it’s simply easier to forego mechanized transport all together and just hoof it around town.
I occasionally take these opportunities to soak up the sounds of the city, but more often than not, I’m disconnected, bouncing about to the various rhythmic wonders my IPod offers. It’s interesting to view the world as if it was set to music, and sometimes your choice of song determines what you see and how you see it.
Friends know that (Billy Joel obsession aside) my musical tastes are as scattered as a Tourette-afflicted Schizophrenic’s poetry readings. I’ll smash the heavy bag in time with DMX’s rants, croon along with Harry Connick while stirring spaghetti sauce, and then clean the garage while Linkin Park belts out some auditory motivation. Rock, rap, and R&B. Country, classical and cool jazz. You’ll find them all on my play list, awkwardly slam dancing about in ways that would make any radio DJ cringe. Ah the shuffle-feature, how it laughs in the face of format.
But that’s inside. My organized existence can handle the dissonance. Outside, our chaotic world screams for more consideration, a specialized, thoughtful, committed selection. And so my walks are deliberate, my accompaniment thematic. One artist, one work – that’s the rule.
Of course in this era of digital singles the art of the album is sliding quickly into obscurity. (Yes I’m album old, though not quite 8-track antiquated.) Regardless, my incessant ambling affords an ideal opportunity to breathe life into what may be destined for obliteration.
And so, as I walk I drink in the places, the faces, and all the spaces in between the where I was and the where I’m going. Today Sara Bareilles was my guide. They day before it was Alanis. It’s been a week of thoughtful, quirky women, the kind I hope to meet someday if only I’d unplug and actually risk a conversation.
Funny how I listen so fully when they are not around…not really real. I remember details, not just of what they said, but where I was and what I was doing when they said it – a feat I could never muster in the context of an actual relationship.
Just yesterday I was waiting for the #14 bus in front of Lucky Plaza, newly purchased yoga block in hand when I heard that an old man turned 98, won the lottery and promptly died the next day. For some reason the song got stuck in the moment and now I’ll forever equate that line with that location. I’ll be in New York next June, hear it, and instantly I’ll be in Orchard.
Sad really that I can’t recall even the most important events without such musical cues. The last words of my last lover…. gone. I recall only the click of the door and the silence that followed.
Isn’t it Ironic. Don’t you think? Maybe we needed a soundtrack. Maybe we needed a song.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Have you ever been set-up by a well-meaning friend? Of course it’s not your typical thing. No need, right? You do fine on your own. A guy like you…how could you not? Still, in my case, the friend was persistent. “It’ll be the perfect relationship,” he assured. “Easy set-up. No strings. Just what you’re looking for till you head back home.”
Again, I’m a pretty self-sufficient guy with a healthy ego, but after some badgering and few lone wolf stumbles, I reluctantly agreed. After all I was new in town, lacked a defined network, and well, desperately needed the promised services.
The first meeting went well, actually happened in the coffee shop downstairs from my office. I was surprised at such accommodation and thought if this were a sign of things to follow, maybe the rumors were true and I’d be a happy boy in Asia.
Sadly, what started as an all about me thing quickly reversed directions. In a matter of days a series of rules, procedures and dare I say demands were proposed, transforming this once attractive prospect to something as appealing as a hump-backed, plus-size rodeo clown decked out in a spandex skirt and hooker heels.
And that was just the beginning. Soon more ugliness was unveiled. Something analogous to: “Yeah, I got three kids, but they live with their baby’s daddy on account of I was in the joint till last summer and still need to call into my PO till I officially kick the crank. It’s all right though. Just another 60k to the bookies and I’m clear. I can probably work that off… if you know what I mean. Might catch the clap again, but that’s a fixer. Boy you’re quiet. Maybe I won’t need that ball gag after all.”
Yeah, it wasn’t pretty. Her name was Citibank. And after months of being manipulated, bamboozled, and flat-out cyber-stalked I just had to break free. Sure, by this time I was in deep. I had three accounts, four credit cards, and about 17 non-working PINs, the sum of which failed to allow me to book a ticket on Tiger Airlines or use a local ATM without being battered about by a series of international “convenience” fees.
Maybe I wanted too much. Maybe I refused to see the flaws, read the fine print. It’s all a blur really, like someone slipped me a financial roofie. One minute I’m sipping coffee with an articulate sales rep, talking interest rates, seamless wire transfers, and free checking. The next, I’m hopelessly cursing at a Bangalore-based customer service agent whose phone script may as well have described the operational procedures for a 72’ Honda snow blower.
Still I’m not bitter. Citibank may be the devil, but I got out of my deal free and clear. My accounts are closed, my cards torched, and my cash, while crinkled, will someday find the strength to bank again.
I heard of this new girl recently – D.B.S. I call her Debs. Maybe she’s the one for me.