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The chronicles of two Portlanders in Singapore

I feel like I’m running out of things to say without new trips taking us to far flung parts of South East Asia.  It’s not that there’s little to do here, or little that’s been done, but the new normal is starting to feel like, well, normal.  Patterns emerge, the unusual becomes usual.  Dinner out becomes a challenge not to stick to the same places, the same food.  These are good “problems”, signs of falling back into a routine after one was disrupted.  But the new normal won’t feel normal for some time, the adjustment period is far from over.

I contemplated these thoughts while looking out over a clear blue sky from the entrance to our complex.  White, puffy clouds flew overhead, the ever present threat of rain1seeded or otherwise just a picturesque scene, with a few high rise apartments twisting into the sky.


I’m in a town where I know nobody but my local writers’ group.  My neighbors are legion, but I know just a handful.  I see a few familiar faces at the gym or pool, but the most familiar to me are the maids walking their employers’ dogs every day, or the cleaning staff that greets me with a cheerful “Good morning, sir!”

A newly minted friend of mine here once referred to this place as Stepford.  Perhaps she’s right.

I’m starting to feel more and more like Vinnie Antonelli, the caricature of Henry Hill played by Steve Martin2apparently Arnold was first tapped to play that part.  Can you imagine?  Good god..  My experiences trying to use the myriad of payment devices in the supermarket self-checkout have been so comical, I could have been slipping around everywhere with a cart.  And though I do not think I could be able to get away with slapping 39 cents on every steak here, God only knows the temptation I’ve felt to do just that.  If only – we’d be talking a 99% markdown here, and that’s no exaggeration.

Bev & I have been exploring the local supermarket more and more.  Sticker shock kept us out of Cold Storage for a solid three months, but we decided that the best way to celebrate National Day was to have some good ol’ American fare, so I made macaroni salad and cooked some sausages.  Sure, there’s no brown mustard here, and I cooked the sausages in a wok, but for once, I cooked a meal here without rice, so that was an improvement.  We still had Tiger by the can3for $2 per, thanks Obam… LKY! but I suppose if I closed my eyes, I could imagine that it was Budweiser and I was back at the lake.

But why would I do that to myself?

This place is a far cry from Fryburg.  Or maybe not so much, if Fryburg were taken to its logical conclusion4and multiplied a few thousand times.  Fed up with the growing corruption now taking over its Little League Team, District Attorney Hannah Stubbs takes matters into her own hands, forming the Turtles’ Party and winning the City Council seats in a landslide.  Cameras go up everywhere in town, and the car theft/umpire bribing ring of the Little League Gang is broken up forever.  Baseball is outlawed, and Badminton takes its place, when Fryburg hosts the Southern Californian Internationals.

Okay so there’s not a direct parallel.

Perhaps its just the fish-out-of-water that I have in common with Vinnie.  Well, that and a certain fake-Italian charm and a love of mob movies.  I don’t have a fake name, though, I’ve been referred to as “Mr. Quenzer” a fair share of times, so maybe that counts?  I doubt I can get a fake wedding in the Marina Bay Sands, but I’ve been told that you can probably find anything for cheap across the straight in Johor Bahru.  I’m pretty sure though that something like that might invalidate my dependents’ pass, though.

I daren’t respond to the cheerful “Good mornings” in the same “New York” way as in the movie.  Saying “Fuck you!” to someone here is a Bad Thing.  Not that I would, and not that that’s a very New York thing to say.  Raised by movies, I thought New Yorkers were all rude sociopaths; turns out they’re the nicest people in the world.  Go figure.

I’d hate to think that Hollywood has lied to me all these years.

As it must in San Diego5HAH! another lie, the rain must fall in Singapore.  Currently the hot and sunny day that greeted me on my walk down to my local coffee shop has turned into a windy, wet day.  Words cannot express my joy.  This ain’t San Diego here, it’s Fryburg, and this place can always stand a little more rain, if for no other reason to cool everything the hell right down.  We don’t get those trade winds, the nice cold Pacific winds like the West Coast does.  Singapore is protected, surrounded perfectly, as one uncle smugly noted when I compared Singapore to San Francisco.  Sometimes you almost wish for the earthquake.

I’m like Vinnie in that sometimes the good and pure gets on my nerves.  I’ll bear anything with a smile and a good joke, but in my heart of hearts, I crave a little dirt now and then.  Not too much, mind you, as I think to Bangkok.   But the warm smiles and warmer days can make the new normal just a little off, just a little uncomfortable.  There’s no place to retreat to here in a sweater and jeans, at least none where the air con’s not blasting.  I don’t think I could stand outside in an Italian silk suit and mow, for fear of ruining said suit with twenty liters of sweat.  But none the less, if I’m a fish, I’m out of my stream for sure.

If I’m a fish, then I’m a salmon, my waters are the Columbia River.  I might also have three eyes by now.

I’m not like Vinnie in that I have no desire to return to my old career.  Granted, IT is hardly as fulfilling to one’s temperament as hijacking trucks, but the hours are odd and both apparently require a certain ability to “troubleshoot”.  Okay, IT is more actual troubleshooting and hijacking is more of what to do with three thousand empty water cooler bottles, but a problem is a problem.  No, I have no desire to go back to my old work; not when I can wax comedic for you fine people here6all fifty of you!  There’s little stopping me now..

I guess at the end of all this, there’s little that fits a Hollywood storyline, though the Fifty Dollar Dash might qualify.  Our habit of locking ourselves out of the apartment isn’t too far from Rick Moranis’ inability to take off a seat belt before alighting7great word that one, it means “to get your ass out of the car/train/bus,” Americans, and I’m dying for someone to ask me what a “bell pepper”8here, it’s “capiscum” is… shit, it’s a fruit, not a… you get the joke.

This might not be my blue heaven.  It’s not really a perfect match, but it’s a great city none the less.  Maybe less fish out of water, and more fish in a bigger pond.  But it isn’t heaven, mine is grey and rainy and filled with naked people on bikes, 40 degree Fahrenheit weather and great beer that doesn’t cost $15 a pint.

To each, they say, their own.

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