Body Art

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing: Being With You – Smokey Robinson – Billboard Top Hits: 1981

This week, the one true love said, ‘when I get into the money, I’m gonna get a tattoo of a snake, maybe somewhere on my ankle’.

I have a tattoo on my arm, a tribal-like thingie of a dragon, in black, but which is now so faded that people think I got it a long time ago.

I got the tatt done three years ago now, back when Karen and I spent every waking moment together. We were browsing around Queensway Shopping Centre looking for a cheap pair of sandals, as one does when one is there, and we walked past the tattoo parlour on the third floor. This was no ‘modern’ tattoo parlour, like the ones you’d see on Orchard Road and thereabouts. This was a Hokkien-speaking, chain-smoking, Kuan-Yin-Goddess-of-Mercy-tattoo-special-discount, simi-si-Celtic-design tattoo parlour.

Karen said, ‘Hey, let’s each get one’, while I looked at the second hand mobile phones in the adjacent shop window. Next thing I know, she leads me into the tattoo parlour and pores through the clear folder of designs. Next thing I know, she picks a dragon and says ‘let’s get this one’. Next thing I know, I’m sitting on a chair in pain and there’s blood flowing down my right arm.

The tattoo ‘artist’ comments in Hokkien that I bleed unusually profusely and says he has to use extra ink. Or something. At the other end of the parlour, Karen is going ‘Ow, fuck! Dammit! It didn’t hurt so much the last time. Fuck!’.

Half a box of kleenex later, we leave the parlour with bloodshot eyes and sport identical bandages which we lift and peek into every now and again on the way home, as if to check if the ink’s run. Her bandage is just below and to the left of her belly button, while mine’s on my right arm.

So, Karen and I have the same dragon tattoo. Much like how some people close to each other have same rings, except it’s a bit harder to take off a tattoo. I don’t attribute any other special meaning to that. I am just too open to suggestion.


Puff the Frivolous Dragon

Achtung baby!

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing: Cigarettes Will Kill You – Ben Lee – Breathing Tornados

Liebschen, dein ist mein ganzes Herz, Wo du nicht bist, kann ich nicht sein!

Why is it I keep thinking of trying to get my one true love out of her rut as if I didn’t have enough on my plate already? Something’s amiss. Amiss, amiss, amiss.

But never mind, another round with Scrabble Girl please, and hold the anchovies. But before that, I had a weekend of work and sound drinking. Not to the point of drunkeness, but sufficient to be high on the happy side for a bit. Enough to make you want to grab the girl next to you and give her a, um… warm embrace. We wuz skint, the one true love and I, so it was a good thing LMD came along, took pity on us kids and bought us both a round of tequila shots while we propped ourselves up against the wheelie bin.

I have a lot on my plate this week. But something’s amiss.


As Richie Benaud/12th Man would say, “Pretty piss-poor effort, that.”

I have been a-goin’ out

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing: It Feels Like Rain – Aaron Neville – Warm Your Heart

So I’ve been going out nightly even though I’m dog-tired. My brains are fried and I’m sounding like what I dislike. But there’s work to do on the weekend too. And I’m dog-tired. But I have to go out. Go out. Go out. Go out.


Drinking boat party, Sydney 1998. With Ron “My eyes and mouth are lines” Lee, Stevo the Yellow Samoan Fellow and Carlos the Dutch Jackal

Paddling the Seven Seas

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing: Sky and Sea – Cassandra Wilson – Traveling Miles

I tell people one of my favourite pastimes is kayaking, but I hardly ever get to kayak these days.

Back when, then and all that time ago, I didn’t kayak all that often either. So I suppose kayaking is a favourite in the sense that I remember liking it a lot when I did do it.

I like kayaking for the quiet solitude it affords, though I don’t mind having a companion kayaker who shares the same sentiment, and who might be able to help you out if you don’t execute a kayak-capsize-drill properly. I dislike any motorised water sport, which I think to be the domain of clueless landlubbers who think they love the sea. And don’t even get me started about wakeboarding. If you really love the sea, you’d love kayaking, and perhaps sailing. But…

A kayak can go almost anywhere in practically any weather. In the right hands it is probably the most adaptable and seaworthy vessel afloat. Kayaks have been paddled across the Atlantic and through the Caribbean and up the Alaskan Coast and down the Nile and the Amazon….

…There have been paddlers in kayaks at the (Cape) Horn for as long as there have been humans…. Four hundred years later the kayak is still unchanged in its basic design, because for its size it is as near as possible to being a perfect boat.

~Paul Theroux, Paddling to Plymouth, Fresh Air Fiend

I haven’t paddled even the shortest stretches of the Atlantic, the Caribbean or Alaska, but I have, with a friend, paddled from Singapore to Tioman in a double Klepper kayak, similar to the ones the British and Australian commandos used to blow up Japanese ships in Singapore Harbour. Made of maple and canvas, it is the most seaworthy craft I have ever paddled, even if I haven’t paddled many.

The trip took twelve days from Changi Beach to Pulau Tioman, and according to my kayak journal, which I fortuitously found while trying to tidy my room (and which prompted this post), we set off from Changi on Wednesday 7th of August 1991:

0700 Arrive at Changi Point. Ate breakfast. Bought water. Forgot bread.
0720 Changi Beach. Assemble Klepper. Load up.
0800 Leave Singapore.
0900 Paddle past Tekong.
1100 Arrive at Tanjung Pengerrang Immigration checkpoint.
1630 Arrive at Tanjung Datok, set up camp, dinner, rest.
Total travel 30km, 8 hours paddling. Current and wind against us.

The rest of the journal gets even more sketchy as tiredness and boredom set in:

9th August 1991:

1600 Land on unknown beach. Super seasick.

And then there’s one long journal entry about how Jason’s Bay (Telok Makhota) is extremely depressing. The whole beach is littered with cowdung. And our greatest challenge is combating boredom. , followed two days later by:

Most nervous moment of trip so far when storm blew up gale force 6 winds. Made it to Sibu after 8 hours non stop paddling.

That is a classic understatement. I remember shitting bricks when the storm hit. I remember throwing up on both sides of the kayak. I remember the sizable shark circling us after probably overdosing on the scent of my vomit.

The journal ends with these entries:

Pulau Tinggi, Thursday 15th August 1991:

…Have decided to push for Tioman tomorrow. Will be toughest leg so far (>50km) and will take 12 hours or so.

Friday 16th August 1991:

Woke up late. Decided to postpone crossing till Saturday 3am or later, maybe 8am. Bored to tears. Word has gotten around the island that we’re two Japanese commandos.

Saturday 17th August 1991:

Rained heavily in the morning. Have to postpone crossing again. Decided to slot midnight as departure time. Didn’t get to sleep last night because of the wedding party on the island.

Sunday 18th August 1991:

Left Pulau Tinggi at midnight as planned. Couldn’t see anything in the dark but our slipshod navigation skills managed to see us through till dawn, when a storm broke. Got terribly seasick. Barfed twice. Sighted the island at 0745hrs but paddled like mad to arrive at Tioman at 1300hrs. Total time in the saddle 13hrs. Sore bums, hunger pangs and physical exhaustion norm for the day. Booked into cheap resort (RM15 a night), relaxed. GAME OVER.

This is the one trip I’d love to be able to do again, for whatever vainglorious reasons which I won’t admit to. Why, me and my kayaking friend even wrote the leisure article for Straits Times Life [Saturday, November 16, 1991, Leisure, Page Ten] and got paid $200 for our effort – writing and the trip. Cheap adventure. But for some fucked up reason, the editor decided to omit my name from the story, so it would sound like it was an almost solo adventure but the adventurer decided to ask a friend along.

But these days, I find that a good kayaking day consists of two hours or so of paddling through scenic waters, and the only place available with kayak rental and scenery is Pasir Ris Park, where you can rent a kayak for $15 an hour and paddle to Pulau Ubin and back. There are creeks on Ubin which are worth exploring for their flora and fauna and grumpy fishermen living in huts with big dogs that threaten to leap into the water and take a chunk out of your paddles. Forget the sharks, these marine dogs can be real mean too.

Back in Sydney, I paddled Middle Harbour, where you have to fight traffic as if you were on the road. I once paddled in the middle of the channel without knowing there was this passenger ferry bearing down behind me. The ferry pilot must’ve thought it was funny to wait till the last moment to sound his damned loud horn, startling me to the point of my bum leaving my seat. Good amusement for the 100 plus passengers on the ferry. Later that same day, a deranged seagull attacked me while the same ferry was making its return journey through the channel, so the passengers had the benefit of watching me fight off the seagull with my paddle.

I think there’s something nagging me to return to the sea. (Duh. You think??) I want to do the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Alaskan fjords and maybe the Cape. I might start off easy again and go do the Pasir Ris to Ubin leg. But please don’t leave any comments about it being a mid-life crisis thing, all youse landlubbers.


Jason’s Bay


Laundry time, Pulau Tinggi


Dinner time, Sungai Ringgit


The Klepper Aerius double kayak


The Seagull Slayer, Middle Harbour, Sydney

Not quite Jamie’s kitchen

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing: We’ve Got Tonight – Ronan Keating – Destination

Just now I cooked a meal for the first time in almost two years. (Instant noodles not counted).

Cooking for someone else is always a treat. You take a little more care in preparing the stuff. If I were to cook for myself… actually, I wouldn’t. Unlike this chef and his one man three egg tuna omelette.

My timing was off, and I overcooked the pasta. The last time I made this dish was in 2000, in Sydney. Then, I was quick off the mark, juggling the chopping and cutting, sauteeing and boiling, so everything came together in a flourish in under 25 minutes.

Everything did come together in under 25 minutes this time round too, just that the sauce was a little underdone, not salty enough, bacon not crisp enough, and there wasn’t any fresh herbs in the kitchen.

Still, my Scrabble mate finished her portion, which was probably the biggest meal she’s had all month. I am flattered. But I need to practice cooking more to get up to scratch.


Upside down water. Holland Village Food Court