Screwing Around at Beach Road – A Gary Pride Story

Pink Dot may have come and gone, but the propagation of love has to go on. To that end, there is something I must confess. I’ve scattered hints about this little known fact about me on Facebook now and again, but it’s time I just came out and said it in no uncertain terms.

There’s someone else in my life.

For the days when things don’t go well at home, when the wife and I have a disagreement, or the children are just too much to bear, or even when work pressure drives me into a very bad place, there’s someone I go to, who is able to bring me to our very own secret place, and be there for me while I physically and mentally vent my frustrations and let loose my inhibitions for hours on end, most of the time with me straddling on top.

His name is Gary. He’ s about 12 years old, and we’ve been going out for 2 years now.

Oh, Gary. <3
Oh, Gary. ♥ ♥ ♥

I’ve been on and off the bike scene for a good 20+ years now, and I’ve always dreamed of owning a Gary Fisher. But when I finally got this old bike (second-hand off a Togoparts listing), it needed a lot of work, a lot of which I wished I could do myself.

That sets the foundation for why I’m writing about a bicycle mechanics school.

A fellow blogger whose husband ran a local outfit called Bike School Asia happened to be paying attention to my cycling-related posts on my Facebook account, and sent me an invite to try the school’s basic bike maintenance workshop. My first reaction was, “Got such thing meh?”

Then I was told the workshop would be conducted over two 9am to 4pm days, on a weekend to boot. My second reaction was, “Got so much to teach meh?”

When I was told how much this basic 2-day workshop cost – $350 – my third reaction was, “Got people want to pay meh?!”

But the offer made me think about Gary. How he was always there for me during the good times and the bad, making sure I forgot all my troubles after rubbing me in all the right places for hours. How he would be drenched in my sweat after a good 2-hour midnight session, bearing the burden of my body while my legs were wrapped around him. And how after 2 years of riding each other (because over longer runs, sometimes I can’t tell if I’m riding him or he’s riding me), how I still didn’t really know how to take care of him in return, and give him the loving care he so sorely needs and deserves after still being there for me despite the abuse he suffered from his previous relationship.

So I got permission from the Mother of Xander to get a weekend off, and wrote back to say I’d be happy to attend.

BSA-Entrance

And when I said the love for my bike would bring me to secret places, I wasn’t kidding. The Bike School Asia workshop is nestled in a non-descript backdoor unit of the Sultan Arts Village, at the end of a dead-end street leading to the Malay Heritage Centre entrance, with no signage whatsoever indicating there was anything bicycle-related in the vicinity. Fortunately, Kenneth Wee, the school’s founder, saw me roaming aimlessly about at the front gates of the Arts Village and ushered me in, just in time for the lesson.

Toys for boys - and there's a lot of them.
Toys for boys – and there’s a lot of them.

Camera-shy Kenneth (or Coach K, as he prefers) would later tell us that when he first started out, the school was obliged to maintain a low profile because the local bike shops felt he was a threat to their businesses, a feeling he said was unfounded because he felt teaching people how to deal with their own bikes would only bolster component sales for the bike shops while alleviating them of the low-yield, labour intensive installation, repair and maintenance tasks.

The workshop itself is cozy, with one side enough to hold up to 6 students on 3 bicycle workstations lined up to one side. Coach K jokingly called it his man-cave, for when he needs a time out from the wife and kids (man, does that sound familiar). With a roundtable introduction of my other five classmates, Coach K got down to teaching us the basics.

Or I should say, all the basics.

BSA-Hands-On2

When someone with a coaching diploma from Union Cycliste Internationale (the governing body for Olympic bike racing) and a bike mechanic certificate from the United Bike Institute based in Oregon, USA teaches you the basics of bike maintenance and repair, you can be sure you’ll understand and appreciate not only why it costs $350, but why it takes him two whole days, and why his classes (6 at a time, usually on the last weekend of every month) are usually fully subscribed.

Over the whole workshop, Coach K covers a crash course in the anatomies, histories as well as the evolutionary, design and functional differences of popular bicycles and bicycle componentry, complete with a nearly 80-page student’s manual and a good part of the workshop spent doing hands-on training, removing and reassembling headsets, inner tube replacements, brake tuning, calibrating drive trains, right down to precision Vernier caliper measurements and screw and bolt torquing. And if you own a decent foldie, fixie, roadie or mountain bikie, yet didn’t understand 3/4s of what I just said, then you should consider taking a weekend to attend a basic two-day bike maintenance workshop.

Its not to say the workshop is very cheem; Coach K is just really in-depth. He does put things in palatable terms for his students, and his candid demeanor, subtle ad creative’s humour (he ran his own advertising agency prior to starting the school, so his in-class on-screen graphic presentations also got a bit of standard one, okay?) do make his lesson plan easier to digest. More importantly, the professional all-round bike guy isn’t afraid to bring up examples of his own mistakes, thus inviting everyone in the class into a very open atmosphere where questions are never stopped, and never left unanswered. That’s also the reason Bike School Asia has ladies-only classes as well, so the womenfolk can release their inhibitions (so to speak) without worrying that a random guy might throw a wrench in the works.

BSA-Mantel
A grim reminder of past kills from previous students. Stop the cruelty!

That said, there are a few things you will need to take note if you do attend any of the school’s bike mechanic workshops. Firstly, you will get your hands dirty; it’s really the only way to learn. Second, wear comfortable clothing that you don’t mind getting a bit of grease on, and covered footwear, because a changing to the toe in the event of butterfingers is not funny. And thirdly, don’t bring your own bike with the premise that you want to use it for your own hands-on practice (I thought about it, too), because inevitably you’ll be doing cable replacements and recalibration, and you’ll be prone to drop your tools, scratch up your bikes and even break stuff (during the workshop, we’ve managed to break a number of bolts, mangle a rear derailleur and cut a cable too short on the shop bikes), and the school can’t guarantee you can ride home with a replacement part, because they’re not a bike shop. Besides, Coach K already has a collection of $2,000 bikes on hand, all set up properly for you to ruin. So don’t be vain, can?

On a personal level, I’ve come away from the workshop with a much clearer idea of why Gary sometimes does the things he does, and how with the right tools and knowledge, I can help make him feel so much better, whether he’s at home or when I have him straddled between my legs. But the certificate that comes with Coach K’s course doesn’t just pay lip service to a weekend of screwing around with 5 other strangers. The course has a potential commercial takeaway as well; Coach K’s had students come out of his courses to start their own boutique bike shops, too.

And as I asked around the class for the reasons why they were there, the family men raised a motivation for learning bike maintenance which, admittedly, the Blogfather also has a strong inclination towards, and one I am very sure is not lost in Coach K as well as a dad of two himself.

Xan-Cycling

Bike School Asia is located at 71 Sultan Gate, in the Sultan Arts Village compound, around the corner and at the back. If you’re interested in taking up their basic bike maintenance course or any other workshops they have on offer (Coach K also conducts ladies-only classes, and also does wheel-building courses as well as a full professional bike mechanic course), do check their workshop schedule at their website for registration and fees.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! The Blogfather will not leave you hanging without a little incentive, would he? For a little extra something-something (waggle eyebrows), use the promo code BlgfthrBikePorn (or click this link and select your preferred date corresponding to “Certificate in Bicycle Maintenance and Repair” to book) from now till 31 December 2014 and get a $35 discount (that’s 10% for those that like to do maths) off, only for Bike School Asia’s Basic Bike Maintenance & Repair certificate course! BlgfthrBikePorn only applies for the first 10 slots, and the slots fill up fast, so put some leg power in your pedal, can?

The Issue vs. The Problem

There’s been a lot going on in this little dramatic spot of an island the last few months. The Blogfather has been quietly watching from the sidelines without the usual commentary that I’d post up as I usually would the years before, primarily because as compared to previous years, these recent spate of events have been more… intense.

Consider this entry on Wikipedia on OB Markers, which notes then-Minister of Information and the Arts George Yeo as saying “that it is difficult to define exactly what the OB markers are in advance” (that very well-respected then-minister has since retired from the political scene, to administer information very artfully through his team of writers in alternative news website Mothership.sg), then lists topics (allegedly) long held to be out of bounds by state media – race, religion, homosexuality, and political criticism.

Topics which are no longer out-of-bounds by today’s standards, not because the state media is having a change of heart on OB markers, but because the local social media scene has very openly and vehemently slapped these very topics hard on the big green table known as our country without regard for what the state thinks. Look at what we have:

issue-problem

Certainly, our world has changed. I hesitate to say for the better, but it is a step forward nonetheless, seeing as we are exploring uncharted territory – whether we like it or not. But after a few years of wading through the stories, you realise the issues remain more or less the same, but the problem changes.

Wait, what?

One of the more poignant pieces of advice a parent can get in the modern age of child psychology is, “Scold the behaviour, not the child.” (Incidentally, I learnt this from another lesser-known dad blogger who can make a killer Teochew-style steamed fish.) As I experimented with the idea back when Xan was about to embark on his terrible twos, and I realised the idea behind it can be applied to pretty every aspect of life that involves problem-solving – personal, familial, social, work life, politics, religion, etc., because people like to take things personally, thereby messing up what could otherwise be a civil discussion.

Too often, the issue that needs solving has very little if anything to do with the people you’re trying to solve the issue with, but these last few socio-political incidents, especially, have gotten so personal it’s not only become more difficult to tell who’s right or wrong, but almost impossible to separate the unnecessary naming, blaming and shaming from the actual issue that needs solving in the first place.

You want to talk about homosexuality/homophobia? Wearing a certain colour, romping around in a big green field with your family and friends and shouting to the skies about how much you identify with your own beliefs with maybe a few thousand others is not going to gain you a better understanding of what’s outside the well you so proudly live in. Times like this really call for dialogue, not drama. So stop acting like children, all of you (no offence to my own children), and bloody talk to each other instead of around each other for a change, like these nice people are asking you to.

You want to figure out the CPF system? Bloody talk about CPF. It’s been more than a month already since this became a hot potato topic after Roy Ngerng’s series of unfortunate events, and now for some reason, we now know Roy is gay and jobless, the PM’s lawyer has his name immortalised into an adjective (“Haha, dude’s been Davindered, LOLx”) and we also have that elderly lady’s home address, but we’re all no closer to understanding what implications the new changes to CPF (or all of CPF) have on us simple folk on the ground.

You want to talk politics? Acknowledge the system isn’t perfect, and may never be, but don’t keep saying it’s good or bad when it isn’t entirely good or bad. All this rhetoric about who came up with the system, who should get credit and who should just join politics or shut up, doesn’t address the fact that audience that’s being forced to watch you fling crap at each other really just wants to get on with their lives, but can’t until you solve the issue you’re so expertly not talking about.

BF-SG-Scene

The Blogfather truly believes there exists a capacity in every individual to empathise with all sides in any given issue – religious, atheist, straight, gay, local, foreign, young, old, public servant, private citizen. But that doesn’t mean I would stand blindly with any of these groups, especially when I see that none of them are actively trying to solve the issue they have at hand. These people are the problem that stands in the way of the issues they’re trying to solve. They form the very trait that’s made us mockery amongst the brethren around us for far too long already – that all we know is complain.

Solve the issue without becoming the problem, can?

And now that I’m done complaining and trampling all over OB markers in the process, I’m going back to work now.

No Staycation, Crowne Plaza Changi? – A Breakfast Buffet Love Story (Sort of)

It’s the June school holidays. For most of us, it means family time, activity-hunting and possibly a vacation, now that the kids are out of school for a month.

For parent bloggers, it’s peak season. Especially for dads, since Father’s Day happens in the same month.

And so it is that The Blogfather has been receiving his fair share of event invitations all the past 2-3 weeks. But one particular email had my undivided attention for a good two days, for the fact that it wasn’t addressed to me. The email started with “Dear Xander,…” (you can read the excerpt now published there).

A little while after receiving the message, I responded to graciously accept the sender’s invitation, on condition that the sender also be present, because this was someone I really didn’t mind meeting.

Azur-Entrance

But that’s not the story.

A day after I replied to RSVP, I received a Twitter notification.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

I don’t know about you, but it felt a little like flirting to me. So I responded.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

I took things a bit further and posted it on Facebook, too.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_GB/all.js#xfbml=1”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));

Then a friend of mine caught wind of the conversation (you might know him from his blog, too), and decided to play wingman.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

It then escalated into a love triangle.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Given that I knew what Crowne Plaza had in store for the Cheekiemonkies (word gets around; there are only so many Singaporean dad bloggers, you know), I was understandably not too pleased.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Crowne Plaza Changi decided a threesome wasn’t quite enough.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

And The Blogfather welcomed the idea.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

But Changi Airport left us all hanging.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

***

Seriously, given what’s been happening the past few months (since I published what I now endearingly called The 6pm Post, I had to sit with my boss to re-evaluate my work situation; long story short, I’m now in the midst of transitioning to a new company), a breakfast at Crowne Plaza is nice, but a staycation would make a really, really nice Father’s Day gift, don’t you think, Crown Plaza Changi / Changi Airport?

Staycations notwithstanding, breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Changi’s award-winning restaurant Azur is nice. I give you The Blogfather’s word, and food porn taken of Azur’s breakfast buffet spread, in case you need more than The Blogfather’s word (which is not surprising, seeing as I’m no food blogger):

Azur's Intercontinental selection
Azur’s Intercontinental selection

Azur_Panorama

The Asian breakfast section
The Asian breakfast section

And from now till 30 June, up to four children (below the age of 12) can dine free with every two paying adults (at S$33++ per adult).

I was told this breakfast buffet is a perfect start of the day for families planning a full day of activities in Changi Airport itself. As for exactly what fun family activities the Airport has in store for the month of June,… go ask Cheekiemonkies later. They got the staycation.

All I had was breakfast. 🙁

Azur-Waffles

Disclaimer: Aside from the breakfast buffet, this post is not sponsored. At least, not yet.

An Unexpected Note

I received this in my email last week. It’s part of an invitation to a blogger’s food tasting session, but its introduction was just too sweet to ignore, so I wrote back to ask permission to republish the first paragraph of the note as a keepsake with all the other letters for Xander published here.

Dear Xander,

I recently read your dad’s very amusing blog (www.wordsofwinston.sg) and I was very touched by his love for you and respect for your privacy. I’m sure your dad will find a way to balance the pros and cons of being a parent blogger. I just want to say, I enjoy reading about your experiences as a family and I hope somehow I’ll be able to continue reading those great posts filled with wonderful photos.

***

Warmest Regards,
Carrie Sim

Read the follow-up post at The Blogfather.