Dear Lu, who wants to be romanced with love letters:

I hope before you make your monumental move here — ‘cross your 5,419 miles over your oceans and your seas — you will get your driving licence done in New Zealand first. Have it all complete. That way, when you get here, you won’t have to take a Malaysian driving licence. There are many things great about this country, but our Road Transport Department is not one of them. The most romantic gesture I could possibly offer you, more than roses at the airport or kisses in monsoon rain, is to insist on your freedom of movement once you are here: because I don’t want you ever being like me, a criminal with a probationary licence that expired well over five years ago, who pretends to himself that he won’t ever get caught.


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…