Friends Will Be Friends? or will they?

My social life is nothing to brag about. In the history of my social life, there have been 4 kinds of people; friends (the people who actually do think of me once in a while), enemies (the people who will have nothing to do with me, or whom I will have nothing to do with), acquaintances (the people who couldn’t really care less), and family (the people that have no choice in the matter).

Also in the history of my social life, I have had to make quite a few tough decisions. We’ve all heard of breaking up with boyfriends and girlfriends, but has anyone ever broken up with a friend?

It’s a rare occurrence, but it does happen. I happen to see it on TV a lot, but in real life, most people just drift away, regardless of whether they are best friends or mere acquaintances (the latter seemingly more prone to drifting than the former, but all are just as susceptible).

I live by a set of principles presented to me at different points in my adult life, and thankfully, I am careful enough with who I call “friend” to not have to engage these principles often. But situations do arise nonetheless:-

  1. A friend does not stand another friend up (in local terms, we call it “let go my aeroplane”, for some godforsaken reason). It shows one is being taken for granted, and a friendship like that will not hold up under fire. once, twice, three times, five times, I would go, “Right, OK.” But if, of all the 50-100 times that a date and time has been set for lunch meetings, friendly gatherings, or even sit-downs for coffee, if you can only make good a meeting twice in the course of a 3 1/2 year friendship, please don’t blame me for giving up on you.
  2. A friend does not insult another friend (nor the people revolving around that friend, for that matter). This one, though, is quite subjective. I have laughed at people, and people have laughed at me, so surely I can take a lot of shit (I write a blog that’s enrolled in, for crying out loud). But here’s a tip for anyone reading this who’s a friend, courtesy of one ex-friend of mine that, earlier this year, broke this very rule (I could only take so much from that one, and I realised after our last meeting why I hadn’t called him for 2 whole years); don’t overdo the name-calling (pig-brain, jerk, stupid), and never, ever, joke about my decision to marry, much less make fun of my wife’s integrity in choosing me.
  3. A friend does not use his personal problems as an excuse to vent, snap at, or ill-treat other friends. As much as I would like to think I am close friends with someone, and as much as I would like to think I understand someone, I cannot claim to completely know what that someone is going through despite my own experiences, and hence will not tolerate being treated like an emotional punching bag when something untoward happens to this someone else. I can be there for you to share your problems, dish out advice, offer what I can as a friend. But if I am met with disdain, impatience, or even anger for something I didn’t even do to you, evidently you don’t require me as a friend, and so I will offer what I can as a friend; an end to this friendship, because you couldn’t care less.

As difficult as it is for me to call friends friends, the friends that I’ve called friends made it easy (except, of course, for situations 1, 2 and 3 above). These are the people who know and love me for who I am, and don’t mind me for all the shit I bring along with me. Most importantly, I am their friend as well. They have my utmost gratitude for being there for me, my sincere apologies for the inconveniences I have caused them, and any body part they require that will not cause permanent damage to my health (a helping hand, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, etc.).

And in the future of my social circle, I hope to never create any more new principles against friendships. But some things, as with life and death and many many other things in between, are inevitable.

Vampire Durian Puffs, Anyone?

So the Balestier Food Centre has finally reopened to little fanfare. my wife and I went to check it out earlier this week, and we found it’s being run by the Banquet people (which largely means no pork anything there, though we have yet to verify that).

My first impression of the place was laid upon me when this stocky gruff-looking man in a slightly dirty white t-shirt comes up to my wife and I asking if we want to try the durian puffs he was selling (this happens to be the first stall you will encounter when walking into the new food centre, a branch of 717 Trading, specialising in durian confectionery and other cakes and pastries). He then goes on to say, “I call these durian puffs vampire puffs, you want to know why? Because on first bite, the puff will drool into your mouth like … mmmm …” and then he was cut off by my wife’s uncontrollable laughter.

No doubt this was good stuff, but before I got down to dessert, I wanted to get through lunch first. So I told the vampire puff man, “We’ll come back. It’s too bright for vampires to be around anyway.” Upon hearing my indiscriminate generalisation of the vampire species, Uncle Durian Puff went on to add, “No, no! I only cater to Daywalkers,” prompting another interruption by my wife’s uncontrollable laughter. We started walking away from the stall, bemused and bewildered, as Uncle Durian Puff called after us, “You come back and buy now, ya?” (almost reminiscent of our Chinatown incident, actually).

Okay, that was not the weird thing. THIS is the weird thing. During lunch, we were constantly reminded of Uncle Durian Puff’s existence in this food centre. After I started tucking into my carrot cake lunch, I almost spat out my first bite when I felt a slight brush of air behind me, turned around and saw Uncle Durian Puff’s face saying to me, “I know where you sit now…”

… and then halfway through our meal, he came back again, this time tapping me on my shoulder and shaking a finger at me with a smile…

… and then towards the end of our meal, he was behind me once again, this time apologising if he seemed to be disturbing us…

If not for the fact that I was genuinely interested in the durian puffs he had to offer, I would have bolted from lunch and ran back to office to pray for Buddha’s blessings. No, Uncle Durian Puff, I don’t think “disturbing us” is the correct phrase to use. “Stalking us” would be more appropriate.

At any rate, we decided to head back to the durian confectionery stall to see if the vampire puffs were really all that bloody good (pun intended). We bought a box, and tried to sneak off while uncle Durian Puff was out of sight, but as we turned around, there he was, staring up at us (he was a bit short), asking us if we wanted to try his vampire puffs.

We raised our plastic bag containing the 6 little puffs we had purchased to his eye level, signifying that we had purchased said durian puffs, thank you very much, please don’t follow us home. He then looked at the bag for an instant and said, “But I just want you to try, I never asked you to buy!”

To the benefit of Uncle Durian Puff, as creepy as his appearances were during the course of our lunch hour, his durian puffs really are quite fantastic. On our way back to office, we opened up the box of puffs and each popped one into our mouths. The moment the puffs started “drooling into our mouths”, we stopped dead in our tracks. It’s just one of those things that can only be described as an “oral orgasm”. I wouldn’t say they could be described as vampire puffs, though.

Note: After doing a search on the Balestier Food Centre

You sold me at “Hello”.

Last night my wife and I went to Best Denki, Sengkang. Now, to pre-empt anyone reading this who finds my opening sentence remarkably mundane, I would like to present one of my life’s longstanding mathematical formulas:

Me + Electronics Stores = Me – Money

The other interesting point to note was that the last time I went into this particular Best Denki, one of the salespeople literally pissed me off with his wonderful lack of social experience (that would be another story for another time).

Last night though, one person managed to make me forget my previous experience enough for me to blow $800 on a home theatre system (incl. their 5-year warranty), AND convince my wife that we were spending good money. And he even made us pay for the damn thing without bringing it home!

To be fair to the guy and not label him the new hyper-charismatic cult leader of the Almighty Besty Denki Ukili sect, I have been eyeing this particular piece of audio machinery for a while now, having first heard of its launch through various audiophile websites and reading through reviews of the people who have seen or owned it. So I was immediately drawn to the Onkyo section of the store when I saw the model number displayed with a large $749 staring back at me. Then this skinny guy came in and turned all geek on us as we enquired on the set. (I mean this as a compliment; there has never been a Best Denki, Courts or Harvey Norman salesman I have ever encountered who even knows what they were selling, much less talk in-depth about the specifications of the products they were in charge of.)

My wife was suitably impressed by his sales talk, but I was ever skeptical of all who employ any kind of sales talk and asked to try it out. Of course, it being an Onkyo, the performance was nothing short of superb. The following monologue (roughly put) is what really impressed me about this person’s salesmanship:

“This is the kind of quality you would expect from Onkyo. They’ve been making high-quality audio systems for the

Christmas in Chinatown

The other day, my wife and I went to Chinatown for dinner and a little walk. She had wanted to get some more inspiration for our wedding and I just wanted to get some dinner. So we went down to the good old hawker centre just off Pagoda Street, and we realised a little trend in Chinese small business trading.

We chose a table right in front of a dessert stall, presumably run by a rotund little middle-aged lady dressed like a silverfish with a weight problem. She had thinning, light brown hair tied into a ponytail, silver spectacles encrusted on the sides with glimmering plastic diamonds, silver tights (oh my god), a similarly glimmering plastic diamond bracelet, and yet another glimmering plastic diamond encrusted clam-shell phone hanging around her neck.

As we sat down, Tinkerbell Upsized came up to us and asked if we wanted to have any dessert. Looking at her stall signboard, and getting vaguely interested in the peanut paste they had, I told her we would order later, to which she replied, “All right, but order from us, here OK?”, all territorial-like.

Later, when I came back from buying my food, my wife, who had ordered a Coke form this woman’s stall through a stall worker, told me Big Fat Silver Bullet came up to her and questioned her over her drink, saying, “We have Coke here too!” When my wife annoyingly clarified this Coke was actually from this woman’s stall, the woman then tried to make amends by making small talk with her, something I have learned (and am still learning) over the years never to do with my wife.

Come on, gimme a break, Madam Swarovski with the big silver thighs. I actually wanted that peanut paste until I heard your story. You’re wearing so much glittering plastic diamonds, one would wonder how anyone could see the signboard with all that light in their eyes. For that matter, you really shouldn’t dress like your Silver Jubilee White Christmas in June; one would think you earn more than enough to warrant anyone’s patronage.

But such is life in Chinatown. I reflected to my wife this may well be the business culture here, because Blingbutt isn’t the only person we came across that was so greedy for customers to the point of making ridiculous requirements such as “you sit here, you must buy from me”. All along Pagoda Street, tailors, Chinese fan-sellers, tourist shop salespeople, and dare I say even the customers in many instances, are all less-than-subtle when it comes to attracting customers, offering deals, forcing sales and showing their displeasure when things do not go their way. It’s a small business, for crying out loud! Passer-by traffic is so high in Chinatown on a Sunday afternoon, just get over it and head on to the next sale already!

In any aspect of life, even when distracted with the smaller details, one should never forget the bigger picture. And whilst keeping sight of the bigger picture, don’t ever forget to manage the details well either. Oh yeah, and don’t lay crap on the people you serve too.

Don’ch Touch Me!

Anyone catch that episode of Incredible Tales last night that ripped off the Exorcist script, Singaporean style? My wife and I particularly liked the part where the possessed woman look sat this man accusingly and snaps at him in her most tryingly menacing tone, “Don’ch touch me!” Never fails to make my wife roll her eyes, and never fails to make me wonder how come this woman (whom I have noticed on many bit-part TV appearances) still cannot shake off her Lian-ness after all this time?

Well, even after that spine-tingling, goosebump-inducing, oh-my-god-get-some-decent-acting-advice 3-second performance, I still managed to catch a bit of last night’s episode… enough to realise what it’s all about, and really wonder what the scriptwriter was thinking. The exorcism scene is a perfectly flawed rendition of the actual Exorcist scene. How does anyone of sound mind and body take the phrase “I am Legion, we are many” and translate it to “We are legion, there are many of us, too many to count”? I imagine the pained expression of the actress’s face to be the pain of actually having to say that out loud whilst trying to look convincing.

Oh, what I would do to put my hand in the pool of scripts in Mediacorp and change the way these stories are written…

Slavery of Choice

After all, it's only your face.

Every day, we are faced with choices. What to have for breakfast, what to wear to work, where to go for dinner, whether to just kill the lizard that’s been bugging you and your hamsters in your apartment for the last 5 days, and has just escaped from sitting comfortably in your sofa. Freedom of choice. Every day.

The funny thing about choices is that they become mistakes so easily. And then you start to think to yourself, why did I go and do that instead of this?

The even funnier thing is, sometimes, you get blindsided too. There are choices you make that can slap you in the back of the head without you even realising it can do that. Eating crabs, for example. Innocently thinking that your pregnant wife does not need help reading her father-in-law’s handwriting while compiling the wedding list and going off to eat cold flower crabs can earn you a cold shoulder for the rest of the night and the bulk of the next day.

I am convinced this is a very annoying genetic trait passed down from man to man, ever since Adam left Eve in the cold and went frolicking with the deer, leaving her to eat apples with snakes. We can be damn clueless when it comes right down to making choices that consider the sensitivities of those around us. Though most of the time we do all right, as careful we are at the best of times, we still manage to get in trouble in the not-so-best of times.

In this instance, my downfall is food. Every time I get even the slightest bit hungry, my brain starts this chemical reaction that will lock me in to the nearest available edible item, like a moth to a flame, only less fatal (well, depending on the situation). I am half-bulimic; I love to eat, but forget to retch.

Damn flower crab.

When choices become mistakes often enough, Pepsi is the last thing on your mind. You become enslaved by your choice, and then in standard once-bitten-twice-shy fashion, you are afraid of making any other choices that come your way. And the kicker is, life is all about choice. Every single turn you make, there is a choice to be made; slavery of choice.

Even writing about this might have been a wrong choice.

Damn flower crab.

Apologies may not be very effective at this point, but I would like to say sorry on behalf of the damn flower crab – and myself – for making the choices I made that led to my writing a totally incoherent, meaningless post.

The Brother Who Always Picks Up After His Sister

I find this story quite fitting of this blog.

So I was at my 3rd sister’s house having a family dinner in celebration of my dad’s birthday (and Father’s Day for that matter). It was drawing near the end of the night, when my 2nd sister lost her phone for some reason.

The entire family started a nationwide search for this missing phone (which incidentally 2nd Sis didn’t really like anyway but refused to admit it in public), beginning with looking in every bag, under every chair, inside every container, under every bed blanket, etc. in the house. We then proceeded to look around the swimming pool, in the carpark, in the car that was in the car park, calling multiple times and not getting connected (which led us to think the phone was stolen and switched off) before we decided to give up looking.

Having had a rather filling steamboat dinner, some of which contained half-cooked meat, I decided to visit my 3rd sis’ ivory throne before moving on home for the night. (At this point you will probably have guessed where I am going with this, but just carry on reading for the heck of it.) After about 2 or 3 efforts of concentration, I pushed down the flush button, and subsequently experienced a moment of every visiting house guest’s nightmare.

The toilet won’t flush. Not only that, it was choking; the water was rising up, with a floater threatening to jump at me.

While some of the water did go down eventually (thankfully bringing down one of my efforts of concentration down with it), I still had to contend with a floater and a wad of tissue stuck at the mouth of the bidet. Waiting a minute for the water to refill, I tried again. This time the floater managed to squeeze through the wad of tissue (?) and while the water rose up a little again, I saw something shiny peeping out from the wad of tissue.

That’s when I realised that was not so much a wad of tissue as it was a square of tissue with a mobile phone hiding behind it.

My first instinct was to pick up the phone, which I did with my left hand. Yep, reached right into the throat of my beloved seat of contemplation without a second thought… yet. It was later that I was informed my 2nd Sis had visited this common loo with the mobile phone in her back pocket in the late afternoon, and I had only found it after 9pm, during which time, my sister had cleared her bowels, the kids and cleared their bladders, and I had gloriously added to the fracas that short-circuited the mobile phone with my digested bits of the day. I endeavor to thoroughly disinfect my left hand with chlorine over the next 3 days.

As advised by my eldest sister (so we have established I have a total of 3 sisters only), I will end this with a philosophical thought.

The younger brother will always be picking up his older sister’s shit. But not without giving her some shit of his own first.

What Am I on Google?

On a very rare slow week, I have been skiving on my lappie at work and suddenly, in an idea almost as wacky as cross dressing for my wedding album, I googled my own name in Google, and here are the relevant results (relevant to my person, I mean).

  • Winston Tay | Facebook

    This is Winston Tay’s public search listing on Facebook. Winston’s friends can view photos, videos and more. Everyone can join Facebook. – 18k –
    (Who isn’t on Facebook nowadays, huh?)

  • the 18th edition

    Friday, 18 February 2005, Citizen Girl by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, Winston Tay, 1611. Saturday, 15 January 2005, The Family Way, Michelle Tan, 1184 – 54k –
    (Testament to a wannabe writer’s beginnings)

  • the 18th edition – The Live Xperience 2: Krueger

    Written by Winston Tay. Thursday, 07 April 2005. A taxi driver once struck up a conversation with me about John Molina. Claiming he knew his parents, – 41k –
    (A piece I did on John & Krueger. Overall nice guy, but can’t remember women’s names for shit.
    My wife still became a groupie though, that’s how powerful his attraction is.)

  • Cycling in Asia

    Singapore Mountain Bike Forum

Don?t you just hate it when?

  • … you get up to go to the toilet to take a shit, but halfway to the toilet, you lose the feeling?
  • … you wake up at 9.30pm and realise you’re frigging late for work, then you rush through brushing your teeth, taking your shower (cold water too, can’t wait for the water heater to start), dressing up, grab all your stuff, look at the clock and realise it’s a Sunday?
  • … you woke up thinking you had to work, but realising you didn’t have to work, and now you can’t go back to sleep?
  • … you know you have to go to work, but you just can’t wake up?
  • … you wake up at 8.30pm, giving you just enough time between leaving home and taking the commute to your workplace, and just as you leave the house, you realise your 3 hamsters have escaped from their cage?
  • … you are walking towards your bus stop on your way to work, and see the bus coming and start running, then suddenly realise as the bus passes you and stops a lot further than expected that they moved the bus stop about 500 metres down the road for upgrading works, thus rendering you unable to catch the bus anyway no matter how hard you’re gonna try?

These have been my mornings for the past few months, particularly after moving into the new apartment. I am sure this list will be added to, as I grow to learn more and more that I am not a morning person.