Archive | voyage

Reminders

I only realised the Bee Gees were brothers days ago. While listening to Alone, HY commented, and that made the images in the video even more fascinating to me.

I have watched it several times, too many times, and each time I am very moved.

There is an eternity in the relationship of some. Perhaps in making memories for others the words eternity be-come. I read today virtue is a currency for our spiritual world, and in our present world order I am ashamed to say I only live under a leaf.

Not a day goes by I peak out from under.

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This is brief, for I am, however briefly reminded,

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Fridays with William #2: Glen Goei’s Ring

William was watching the Olympics 100m butterfly semi-finals on his iPad Friday morning, so we unexpectedly got to watch Joseph Schooling winning his semi-final race.

William has a man crush on Michael Phelps. He is bewildered as to how someone could collect a medal on the podium, then change immediately to compete in another race. He is only impressed with people who display stamina and determination, not just in one race, but over many years and many races. A man’s man. And this man’s man has to be NUMBER 1 IN THE WORLD, nothing less.

A Rugrats doll in a judo outfit. A man's doll.

New this week: a Rugrats doll in a judo outfit sitting on the cuckoo clock. A manly man’s doll.

Otherwise, he is mostly nonplussed and unimpressed with the rest of humanity, because the road he has had to walk to get to where he is was long and tough. You know that movie where Tom Hanks gets stuck on an island and makes friends with a volleyball? That’s the free download version of William’s life.

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A long, tough road makes someone appreciate the peace of a self-determined, unchanging routine. This is the discipline, together with Bridget’s unparalleled threshold for pain, that makes marathon 12-hour sessions possible.

It only looks painless.

Bridget drinking a pina colada.

This week’s session was all about colour. Sometimes, Bridget and William will get into an impasse where nobody can decide what colour is best to add to the mix. At this point, William goes out and puffs on a cigarette twice or thrice, after which the impasse magically resolves. I don’t know why this is.

Cigarettes are always unfinished.

Cigarettes are mostly unfinished.

Bridget tells William about meeting Glen Goei.

“Glen Who?”
“Glen Goei. He’s quite famous.”
“Ang Kong William is more famous! Ask anybody here who Glen Goei is. Nobody knows. But if you say Ang Kong William everybody knows.”

Nonplussed and unimpressed.

Tattoo staple diet.

Tattoo staple diet.

But there you have it: Singapore’s social divide in a nutshell. People Who Know Glen Goei | People Who Know Ang Kong William. Bridget and I, we’re the |, although we didn’t know Glen Goei was Glen Goei until he wrote his name 3 times in our almost empty email book. After he left we immediately felt ridiculous.

I think we are more Team Ang Kong William.

Team Ang Kong Willam

We have been sitting on building a pair of rings for Glen Goei for months. We said we wouldn’t take 6 months like we once did but it’s already been 3 months and Glen Goei’s Ring is still at the Haunting Stage. In fact, “Glen Goei’s Ring” has permanently entered the World Savage Lexicon as a descriptor for Things Permanently at the Haunting Stage (usage: OMG is this Glen Goei’s Ring again?!).

And then, while William is slowly plugging away, scraping away skin and inserting colour into small spaces on her shoulder, Bridget suddenly says, “I know exactly what Glen Goei’s rings look like. Write this down so I don’t forget. White – cross and sphere, black – cube.”

Eureka

The apple that fell on Newton’s head.

“Really? Can like that one ah?”
“You don’t believe me is it?!”
“So weird what!”

There is now a weird psychic connection between Glen Goei and Ang Kong William. And this connection has propelled Glen Goei’s Ring into the Unintelligible Scribbling Stage.

Glen Goei's Ring

Glen Goei’s Ring

And it might just stay there because Bridget says that maybe she was just delusional from pain.

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The Wind in July

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Greeeen…

 

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and with some action in the right light…

 

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it’s purple!

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Alexandrite, natural, a color hard to photograph, and harder to describe.

 

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A diamond with lines is firm. There are no facets to distract.

 

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Pared down to perfection. Mid century stillness.

 

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Plastic trees remind you of feelings. Everyone notices them at the store.

 

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The ficus tree outside our store is shedding. We used its bare sticks for these.

 

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Alexandrite, the princess, carried on a sedan, on her way to be crowned queen.

 

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Nature and nature.

 

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If it’s good enough to…

 

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Things made with soul look a way you can and cannot predict. Like the wind.

 

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A ring we are currently working on…

 

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… what if we use a dark stone, and platinum?

 

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Late 17th century. Raw and rough, a bare loveliness.

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Light begins life.

 

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The minimal instruments that HY cooks with. I looked at it one day and could not formulate an equation to my happiness.

 

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Our stove, and my delusion love cooks itself.

 

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The green thing is the newest addition. It makes soup without letting water evaporate! F&#k yeah science! Chinese cooking is never the same again.

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Two for my party.

 

Left to my own devices I would.

 

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Do you know who I am?

One of the reasons why World Savage (and all its orbiting subsidiaries) is so weird is because it is run by two extremely introverted people. We love our work and we enjoy meeting new friends, but people sometimes turn us into sad, wet rags. Over the years, we tried to mitigate this problem in several ways at our various stores – hanging a paper bag at the door that said “By Appointment Only” even though we weren’t, running away from our doorstep when we saw strangers peering in, charging a $20 fee for people to browse if they didn’t buy anything…

It actually takes a lot before people get it that YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE THEM. The thing is, most of us want to be gratified immediately. It’s some kind of biological, evolutionary instinct. If you’re instantly gratified, you will make more babies.

But the other thing is, World Savage is the opposite of instant gratification.

So after two years of being holed up at our home studio, we decided to take this shop space 5 minutes walk, 1 minute bike ride from our apartment. We used to look at this empty space while eating noodles at the coffeeshop right across and we’d be all, who would take this horrible space hahaha.

That would be us. We have wonderful frontage, but we are of course by appointment only because we are filled with self-awareness ok?

Somebody asked us the other day why we even have a store with frontage when we don’t want walk in customers. It’s really advertising in the only way we know how. Art and beauty speak for themselves right?

So the other day, close to midnight, our wonderful frontage attracted the attention of one man and his posse of three. We were in the middle of redoing our displays and I was making some model trees. Our door was of course locked so he knocked.

“We work by appointment only. Most of our items haven’t been displayed. Would you like to come back another day?”

“You will regret it if you don’t let me in!” he said imperiously.

I looked at the guy. He’s in his 60s. He’s with friends. We have to give face to old people, especially when they are with younger friends. I let the old man in. He came in with two of his friends, but the youngest man in the group stood outside.

I stood at the door and implored the young man to come in, but he didn’t seem like he could make a decision by himself and I’m not even sure if he could speak English. He finally came in after his friends noticed what was happening and asked him in, after which he just spent the whole time wordlessly standing by the door.

The first thing the old man said to us when he walked in was, “Do you know who I am or not? I AM XXX!!!”

In my life, only two people have asked me that question and both times I had no idea who they were. Both happened to be single men with unconventional proclivities. It’s as if they have no idea who they are outside of their proclivities, because no one loves them enough to hold up a mirror to show them how beautiful, how ugly, how strange, how human they are. And I suppose men are men – they always think they are entitled to an answer. So they go around asking people they think they can lord over if they know who they are.

What they don’t know is how transparent they are. And whatever grace they are afforded, comes from kindness and empathy, not weakness.

But of course they don’t see that since men are stupid.

Some choice bits of conversation:

“GIRL!!! You should be in Orchard Road!!!”
“But Orchard Road is dead.”

“Who’s your backer?? Who’s your daddy???”
“No backer. My father is a retiree with two dogs living in Marine Parade.”

“We auctioned one lot at Christies.”

“Who’s your craftsman?? Who do these things for you? WHO??? WHERE???”

“GIRL!!! You believe me lah! If what I say is not true I will buy you your shop!!!”

“I put cheongsam in your shop to sell you want?”
“I think it won’t sell here.”
“My cheongsam is $3500 ok!”

“SO EXPENSIVE! You naughty girl ah you!”

This went on for over an hour, during which he looked at many things. His friends did not say a word. In fact, I have no idea what they sound like. He did not eventually buy anything, probably because we refused to budge on any of the prices. He did not do anything that made me feel like he deserved it.

Did we need the money? Yes. Could we have made some deals that night? Yes. But one thing I learnt, and perhaps it only applies to gentle people like us, is that you should never do business with people who only want to win.

After he and his posse left, we immediately googled XXX. Who wouldn’t? I won’t share what we found out here, but if we meet at the store, you can ask me 🙂

We were supposed to meet him for something else but we decided not to. We sent him a text. It said, “We are ugly but we have the music.”

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Fridays with William #1

Bridget has been visiting her tattoo artist William, which means I have also been visiting William. Each session lasts all day, sometimes till late at night. Although Bridget might see him just once or twice a year, their relationship is close in a way that you can’t approximate to any other intimate relationship.

She would be lying there for hours and they would talk about everything. City life is fragmented and does not allow us to know people at all – who has 12 hours to just talk to someone about everything and nothing much? That hardly even happens when we fall in love. No one has the time, which makes our friendship with William anachronistic and wondrous and weird.

We visit William on Fridays because Friday is the only day he works late – other days he spends with his daughter. Today I’m here again and Bridget has been on that ink bed since this morning. I’ve been meaning to write about William for weeks. But when I’m not here I never have the time!

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This Guan Gong was given to William by his old neighbour. It is over 100 years old.

Bridget was alone when she first met William. She was looking for tattoo artist after having an unpleasant experience with the first one. She showed up at his tattoo studio while he was in the middle of a job. There was a whole group of Chinese men smoking cigarettes and hanging out there. He looked at her and ignored her, but she just stood there and said quietly, “Do you not want to talk to me? (你是不是不想跟我讲话?)”

William put down his gun.

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William is a tall, tattooed man. You can tell that life has happened to him. Bridget is small with no visible tattoos at that time. She looked about 15. She told William that she wanted a lily on her head, because it represented peace.

“Bring a friend when you come. (带个朋友来.)” And that’s how I met William too.

William’s studio has no pictures of his work, no folders of tattoo designs for you to choose from. On his wall are a newspaper article about himself from 16 years ago, and this cuckoo clock. He had to remove the cuckoo clock from his house because it cuckooed every half hour and he couldn’t turn the damn thing off.

But at work the cuckoo clock is ok. The cuckoos blend in with the buzz of the tattoo gun and our music and the smell of sandalwood. It is all very spiritual and peaceful.

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William’s studio has a resident lizard that lives underneath the statue of Ganesh. When William moved from a few doors down some years back, the lizard moved too. The lizard appeared in its usual spot the day after William unpacked the altar. We always wonder what the lizard eats; it’s been living behind Ganesh for more than 4 years now, so it eats SOMETHING. William bought small cupcakes to put in front of the altar once, thinking that maybe the lizard might eat them. But the lizard didn’t think the cupcakes were food – they were more like Earth obstructing its view of Venus, so overnight it moved them to the other side of the altar.

Bridget says that the lizard has lived so long without an observable food source because William has been offering prayers to him instead of Ganesh everyday.

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Lizard real estate

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You can only see a dark shadow here, but that gap between the wall and the wooden stand is where the lizard lives.

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Tattoos are commonplace now. One here to represent a break up, one there to represent a loved one, a quote you really like some place else. Tattoos like these are a reflection of city life – completely Self-focused and unexamined. Before we can give proper consideration to one thing, we’ve already already moved on to something else.

We don’t talk to each other, so tattoos don’t talk to each other either. I wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with this if I wasn’t witness to something that is the complete opposite.

The tattoos on Bridget’s body are different. Originally, Bridget wanted her body to be covered in flowers; that’s the way she would like to be when she goes back to the ground. But the tattoos now seem to have a life of their own. They are a cohesive, ongoing body of William’s work, a reflection of an 8-year long conversation between them about art and the artistic life. I don’t think either William or Bridget has that kind of conversation with anyone but each other.

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And that is why documenting Fridays with William is important to me. It is this unspoken conversation that I want to document. Most of the time, it seems like nothing at all, because, strangely, you don’t have to talk about art when art can speak for itself.

 

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Tales from a Fishwife

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Mortality jewels. Platinum.

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Forever apart-together. The tin soldier and the paper ballerina.

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Tiger in the green. Plus point: hardworking. Minus: the plant is now dying.

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The wheatsheaf signifies strength, because bound together the strands of wheat are strong, but singly, they will break and bend at the slightest touch.

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9 beads, a reminder. Live in the moment.

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Simple things are hard to make simple.

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Hi…

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…my name is…

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MACAULAY.

 

Every time I walk the aisles in supermarkets, I am amazed by how much packaged sauces promise success. I’d buy up most of my amazement, except HY stops me. Like a fishwife.

And like a fishwife, I go on admiring and taking packaged sauces out of the racks, like I have never been civilized. Perhaps I have not.

I cannot cook. I don’t particularly enjoy eating (not like a foodie). But it amazes me (for a long time now and still today) how love dictates how food is cooked, and its lack of how that food tastes.

Hunger is a desire. Desire is not hunger. Some will forever be fed by hunger. Some say desire is hunger.

I know the taste of answers, but I don’t know the answer.

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Storage

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The one who saved them all.

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Murmur.

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Super duper…

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…curious everybody!!!

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While the outside falls apart, these animals DON’T CARE.

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playing with the wheel of my skates

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I fear for them fish

 

Mad March. A month of dealing with developers, main con, building management, plumbers, electrician, and one or two taiji experts.

Of course our endurance must be tested (or we are not humans). March is also the month we had to bail out four strays from AVA. They were caught by the pest control company when one of the owners living opposite us lodged a complaint.

That day we heard a piercing meowing downstairs. So we went down to check it out. The rest is history. We had to do something. Didn’t see, never mind…

The thing is these cats were here long before they moved into this neighbourhood.

Hero is named for a reason. He is very kitten-ish, in spite of his overriding desire to not die.

The other is Murmur, named also for a reason. We think she must be very old.

 

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That will be us. When we are Finally Open.

 

When I moved from one house to another
there were many things I had no room
for. What does one do? I rented a storage
space. And filled it. Years passed.
Occasionally I went there and looked in,
but nothing happened, not a single
twinge of the heart.

As I grew older the things I cared
about grew fewer, but were more
important. So one day I undid the lock
and called the trash man. He took
everything.

I felt like the little donkey when
his burden is finally lifted. Things!
Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful
fire! More room in your heart for love,
for the trees! For the birds who own
nothing – the reason they can fly.

Storage, Mary Oliver

 

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Cigarettes After Sex

The way we live now only good music can save us.

There is good hipster music, and there’s painfully stupid memories. Fucking thin line.

It reminds me of a time when I’ve just fallen in love, and not know it.

Future music from the past. Did you get there?

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Business Registration 53068071L. Use this world but desire heaven.

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