Hey. Hey you! Tumblr person reading this on your dash! I wonder if you’ve had a good week. It’s okay if you haven’t. I didn’t necessarily have one either. (The opinion is mixed on this.) I just wanted to say that, I browse a lot of blogs and they largely tend to have horrible followers — but I can’t even think of a single horrible follower on mine. That’s pretty special. You are cool and please know that at least one of your big dreams is going to come true in your lifetime because I sacrificed a child molester to Satan in your name.

the cynic

oooh, in this whole tumblr absence of mine, i find that a writing couple (one of whom i follow and like; one of whom i block and dislike) that got together thanks to tumblr appear to have moved out and quietly disintegrated their little romantic dream of binge together to make art together! and one of them moved almost twelve hundred miles to be with the other! i hope very much that misery is everywhere and there’s bad blood all around why am i cruel jerk who gets off to cynical realizations that tumblr is bad for your health


her name was May, like the month. I call her May 13th and she pretends not to hear me. May 13th, what an innocuous date, burned into our psyche. as if a splash of red paint on a history book. we bleed the same but we cut each other open anyway. May, running red like a broken heart through KL leaving a trail of blood in her wake. 

the instruments of heavy industry

The highways, with their four lanes and their yellow-tone streetlamps, are flanked by palm oil plantations, or a wild rush of jungle, or divorced hills that once knew a different slope than their current bisected form.

Whenever I drive past I wonder what they were like before, what this milieu must have looked just a couple of decades ago.

My country has an exuberant youth where it is easy to forget that all this was untamed and undomesticated no more than twenty or thirty years ago.

(As such, some highways still bear signs of freshness: from paint, to undented barriers, but most of all the lack of traffic that makes driving still a joy.)

On this very night I’m thinking of, though, the night of November 28th, I am driving south instead of north. In the sudden flash rain of the monsoon season I have somehow ended up missing the right exit (E20 on the Maju Expressway, which winds from the quiet college town of Nilai then to the airport and then towards the great city, past the artificial administrative capital of Putrajaya — glory and success to the princes, its name heralds) and I am mostly laughing to myself that I have absolutely no idea where I am headed.

It’s not even that late, around 10pm really, but the only other passengers are the instruments of heavy industry: all pickup trucks and logging lorries. Lucie is in the passenger’s seat. This is, in fact, the first hour in which she’s been in Malaysia.

Despite us sharing a the Commonwealth bond of instant familiarity thanks to the British Empire, where roads are all on the left and power points come with switches, I notice a little linguistic quirk that doesn’t seem to mesh. She says “truck” where I say “lorry”.

I’ve always thought “truck” was an Americanism, so it was always pretty curious to hear a New Zealander say it that way. I have a strange distrust for single-syllabled words in the language of automobiles. Maybe that’s just me. Car, gear, brake, road, truck, truck, truck.

Unwilling to appear so blatantly ignorant of my paved landscapes, I don’t admit to my mistake until much, much later, when I sigh out, perplexed, seeing exit signs with town names I don’t know.

Sepang and Seremban I know, but villages like Geching and Jenderam and Bahar-Lanjut all suggest a coarse ancientness to these locations. Nothing like my steel-and-glass city of Kuala Lumpur, with two hundred years of demolishing history and building on top of it with glee.

"We’re driving in the wrong direction," I admit to Lucie, adjusting my internal estimate for when we’d get to our hotel. I was hoping for a quick and easy forty-five minute drive, but this ends up taking twice as long. She holds my gaze while we drive the long, straight stretches past palm oil plantations and wild jungles and divorced hills, and although I have to drive a distance, I only ever reluctantly look away.

custard peach croissant buy three free one

I started working the morning shift at work. We’re a radio station, so this means coming into work at the impossibly early hour of 5am, and staying on until 1pm.

"Working mornings is crazy," a colleague tells me. "You come in and then it’s crunch immediately. 6.30am until 10am it’s just half hour report after half hour report, so you’ve got ten minutes to write the news, ten minutes to edit the news, ten minutes to… when it’s really slow you sometimes need ten minutes just to wait for news to happen. I can go crazy unless there’s an earthquake in Peru or a presidential abduction in Libya."

We do hourly reports between 10am and 5pm, by which time you, having mastered the amount of time needed to write a report based on the stories you’ve already queued to write (or repeat, in a slightly altered angle), find yourself with enough time to do something menial and unrelated to work to keep yourself sane.

At previous jobs I’d browse Tumblr, but I’m now on a work terminal and there’s generally nothing work-safe about my dashboard, so I don’t do that. I end up looking at watches instead. Old watches, new watches. My new dream watch is an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, but only if I can get it in 39mm — the 15202ST Extra Thin Selfwinding. Stainless steel, blue dial. Brand new that goes for about $25,000. There’s something neatly aspirational about wanting something horribly unattainable as that.

Truthfully, I end up looking at watches, just staring at them on a screen, even when it’s not the hourly reports. I do so during crunch too, when I don’t have the luxury of time to flick between tabs leisurely. It can be 6.47am and I could have less than three minutes to sculpt a radio story out of the AP market analysis report on the NASDAQ that just comes in. Still looking at the Royal Oak.

Driving to work at 5am is a rare pleasure. Nothing on the highway except the odd supply truck, some sleepy taxi swaying left to right to left in its lane, shivering motorcyclists wrapped in two jackets for the early morning mist, drizzle and cold.

I sing loudly in the car, a little too loudly, because if I sang a little less loud I’d start feeling sleepy in the twenty minute drive. It’s because of that I also greet workers just as loudly at the two toll plazas I have to pass to get to work.

But the greatest pleasure of working the morning shift is getting to plan your breakfast beforehand. On the afternoon shift (1pm-8pm) you’re rarely awake for anything earlier than brunch. When you work the morning shift you contemplate breakfast the next day in the form of fanciful pastries and imaginary hot beverages.

The evening before a morning shift day, I find myself visiting my favorite bakery more and more now, a recent find, and this means trying to predict my appetite for the rest of the week. One sugar donut. Two sugar donuts. A custard peach croissant. An apple Danish. No, no apple Danish. Looks just a little too big. When I present my tray to the cashier she smiles and says, “You know, it’s buy three free one. Why don’t you get another?” The apple Danish it is. Thank you.

always evergreen style advice to tumblr doms

No matter how much I try to help you you’re all going to wear ill-fitting suits with miserable cuts anyway (THREE BUTTONED SUITS? Who do you think you are, Aaron Doral from Battlestar Galactica?) so while yes you can fashion cloth sacks into blazers and fool people into thinking that looks smart just because it’s in a dark color, please remember that you cannot ever be stingy when it comes to a tie so buy a goddamn proper tie — always only solid color  and never with any sort of pattern — unless you want to look like your uncle Phil. Yes, the one with the thinning hair and the shitty golf handicap and the four sexual harrassment charges filed against him in his last three jobs. Thank you.

I have half an hour to get ready before I have lunch with the Prime Minister’s senior political secretary! I should dress up nicely, because I want to ask that man for a high-paying job as an intelligence officer. (Official letter goes: "Dear Mr x, Please Give Me A Job At The Research Division Of The Prime Minister’s Office") Never mind the fact that I don’t quite like that government, but then again all writers are cowards or prostitutes and I am both…

mee goreng memoirs (or, the stray cat parking lot ensemble)

The restaurant was unbelievably busy. Maybe because it was a Saturday night. But the narrow street that encircled it — although it was more of a triangle — was double-parked in the typical fashion found on Kuala Lumpur streets. It made city driving a game of microweaving in and out to stay dead centre, where your side mirrors skirt just inches clear of the SUV to your left and the mini-mini to your right.

So when I parked, I had to do it a goddamn block away, behind the restaurant and the small supermarket adjacent to it. Even there it was pretty full.

There was a strange sight there: I noticed six cats perched on top of six separate vehicles in the lot. It was just me and the cats. I stared, looking stupid in a t-shirt and shorts, before the majesty of these animals who had rather magnificently taken these cars for their thrones.

Dinner was meant to be takeaway for my parents, myself and my youngest sister. Mee goreng. It amazes me how wildly popular that dish is in the rest of the world: provincial old me imagined it to be a secret outside our shores, uttered by very few, and even then only when you wanted a surreptitious passcode at a discreet meeting. (“Mee goreng.” “And mee goreng to you too, brother.”)

Now, when my family wants mee goreng, we only get it from one place — Al Kader Curry House, where the waiters straight from India wear handsome green-and-yellow uniforms with emblazoned aprons. You dine at little four-seater tables that seem permanently coated in at least half a layer of oil from the open kitchen a few meters away. You sweat, but you do not notice because you are busy losing yourself in the various exotic scents of everybody’s food. The menu, in a brightly-illuminated sign on the half-wall over the kitchen, lists over a hundred items, most of which are variations on a theme (fried something-or-another). I’ll take you there some day.

When the food finally arrives and I pay — each massive portion costing three ringgit, or just shy of a goddamn American dollar — I start to walk back to the car. The smell of fresh mee goreng wafts up to me. I walk faster because I am hungry. It smells exactly like the particular form of the noodle dish I prefer: restrained where it would usually be obnoxiously spicy, and with kaffir limes separated in a little baggy rather than already juiced all over the noodles.

When I get to my car the cast of cats roaming the lot have claimed my car. I stand there, wondering what to do. “Hey cat,” I say. “Mew mew,” I add, just in case it didn’t understand English — you can never tell with Malaysian felines — “I have to drive home.”

The cat, a mangy grey stray with a bored gaze and clumpy tufts, ignores me with a sort of royal benevolence. “I mean, I could always just get in the car and scare you off, or hope cruelly that when I accelerate off you’ll stumble and fall to the road,” I continue, not really trying to threaten, the gleeful violence of my suggestion comically ignorant anyway. “But we both don’t want that.”

There are now seven cars in the parking lot with cats atop them. There are at least two other cats on the ground, perhaps waiting for the automobile of their preference before mounting, rather than claiming just any car they see.

What happens instead is that, with a patience acquired over the half-hour delay for my mee goreng, I stand and wait until the bored grey cat jumps off and prowls away. I imagine it is thinking there are far more comfortable BMWs out there: why settle for my ancient machine?