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The chronicles of two Portlanders in Singapore

Friday night was the Festival of the Ethereal.

What you’ve never heard of it?  It’s a big deal here in Singapore.  You’re supposed to get dressed up in your black clothes, wear gothy makeup and converse with the spirits of the astral plane.  You use a Ouija board.  It works best if you imagine the elemental spirits as a big black ball of earthly energy being summoned into the plastic planchette.  Spirit, we ask your attention, but not your presence.  We just need to know who’s going to win the US Election.  Start with ‘T’ and then ‘R’ and we’re breaking the connection.  But hey, that’s a ‘B’ and then an ‘E’ followed by an ‘R’.  Hell yes, feel the Ber- that’s a ‘Q’.  ‘K’.  ‘W’.

Go home, spirit, you’re drunk.

Okay, so I made some of that up.  Friday was actually the Festival of the Warrior Princess.

You show up to your best friend’s house with booze and snacks and watch a television show with dubious production values and a wonderful lesbian underscore – seditious stuff back in 1995.  Lubricate well with rum.  Try to forget that back in college, you thought the ‘Aiaiaiaiaiai’ war cry was pretty boss.  Remember fondly when this is what Sam Raimi was known for, along with Evil Dead, before he made kick-ass Spider-man movies.  Wince at the bad puns and Kevin Sorbo cameos.

Go home, Hercules, you’re a crazy libertarian.

I made some of that up as well.  Friday night was just Friday night.  There was no reason for our insanity, other than, well, this life isn’t permanent, is it?  But I’m not just speaking in the emotional realm, but rather the literal; by all accounts, Beverly and I move back to Portland in September.  That’s not far off, so those friendships are made all the more precious by their shelf life.  Of course, the friendships here won’t fade, thanks to the magic of the Interwebs, WhatsApp, Facebook, Name Drop Software Here, etc.  But come September, I won’t be wrapped up in a big bear hug with my friend from France while our buddy from India waxes poetic on the music of Rammstein1“Best sex music, period.” to the background of Xena the Warrior Princess.  I won’t be able to attempt to sit still while B works ungodly amounts of eyeliner upon my face, telling me, “just a little bit more” for the umpteenth time.

Emma just watches and laughs.  And films it all.

The makeup thing took on a life all of its own, by the way.  It started with an invite sent via email from Emma, done in her amazing style2this is what she does for a living, and she’s good at it, okay? requesting our presence and oh by the way, the dress code is “spooky”.

Well since I didn’t have any sheets to cut holes out of, I decided that I would “go Goth”, wearing the one black shirt I have here, put five pounds of gel in my hair and maybe, hey why not some eyeliner?  I thought I had done pretty well, a tasteful black line smudged slightly below my eyes.  Above, well, I have that whole thing where my eyelids tuck under my brow, so why bother, right?

Emma loved it.  B got there and went, “oh no. No no no no, you need more.”

So, I got more.

About this time, other folks started filtering in, and Emma’s spirit summoning/Xena Warrior Princess party had turned into a make over party.  She throws the best parties, folks.  Suddenly, Tom and Julian were getting the smokey eye look and scotch and rum were getting drunk, and “DRINK” appeared on the Ouija board between the numbers and the letters, and whatever entities we contacted from the astral plane, well, they were thirsty, I guess.  Or thought we were.  And then the spirits started to spell out ‘BERQKW’ and while I started totally feeling the Bern from that, said Bern was a temporary feeling, cut off by the 4-point-plus letters appearing.

The point isn’t the makeup or the modified Ouija board or putting a bird on a presidential candidate or even the lesbian subtext.  The point is, it was all bitter sweet.  Abhi’s back off to India in less than a month.  Some of us are staying here in Singapore.  Others – eventually – will move back from whence they came, or maybe on to the next adventure in some other corner of the globe, to repeat the process, to discover once again that we are all the same, have all the same desires, wants, loves, all of it.

The inclusion of the name ‘B’ might be confusing to some – B is not shorthand for Beverly, but rather one of my friends here in the writers’ group.  Said confusion, if it has been dispelled for you, gentle reader, is actually hilarious.  Allow me to explain.

The Singapore Writers’ Group has genre-based monthly critique groups.  Submit and be judged, etc.  B runs the poetry group, which I have been attending in an attempt to try to broaden my abilities and challenge my creativity.  This Monday, we had our monthly thing and then decided to stay out later afterwords, telling Jean Luc to just relax, already, and had a beer or two.

Well, that was the plan.  The plan got interrupted.

Next to us was a table with two white guys that drew our attention.  Early on, I had seen them holding hands, chalked them up to the rare openly gay couple in the Lion City and moved on.  But after a few minutes, the hand holding turned into one of the fellows with a lowered head, eyes closed, as if in meditation, or rapture, maybe?  The jug of beer next to them made me think that maybe they weren’t quite born-again.  One of the guys stands up, staggers off to the restroom.  His buddy, eyes now open, bleary, groggy, even, looks up in confusion and says, “Can you believe that?  He just hypnotized me and then ran off to the loo.”

Happens to me all the time.

Of course now we’re intrigued, and so when the hypnotizer comes back from the little magicians’ room, and suggests that we put some tables together and can we get another round, we do so.

Carpe Tiger.

So we meet our new friends from Michigan (the hypnotizer) and Manchester (the hypnotizee).  They’re golf pros, best mates, and suddenly we’re all best friends, said friendship sealed with “just one more round, please?” and since the restaurant’s license states no beer after midnight, we’re given plastic glasses to drink out of.

I don’t know, just run with it.

So the hypnotizee at one point notes that B and I are sitting next to each other, and I comes to the logical – I guess – conclusion that the two of us are husband and wife, and mentions something to that effect.  We laugh, and I’m about to say, “no, no” when B says,

“Josh has another wife.”


I have to quickly restate that I am from Oregon, not Utah, and no, we’re not… you know what, B, honey bunny dearest, why don’t you explain?

She fails to do so, and hilarity ensues.

There are friends in the Rose City that I miss dearly.  There’s work to be done on the social equality front, work to rediscover or invent, as I close in on the novel and start to look at making writing my career, not just this cute hobby.  There is a life in Portland that offers a great deal more permanence.

Or does it?  Carpe churro, after all.  I’ve taken it as a lesson on how to transplant roses – that is to say – how to survive as an expat.  It truly is a life lesson, however, one that I may hold much more dear than any other I’ve learned here.  I’m workshopping the title now;

Singapore, or, How to Make the Most of Your Time On Earth.

It’s not just the means for surviving as an expatriate, a fish out of water, a rose out of Oregon, but rather something that I have not often heeded in any regard.  There is much I haven’t done, words I’ve been too afraid to share, fears I’ve yet to conquer, and hey, we don’t have forever, do we?  Whether its the grave or just the expiry date on your Dependent’s Pass, this life is far too short.

Better make the most of it, then.

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