LOVE FOR BEGINNERS

Letters by Kenny Mah

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A tale of two Oktoberfests

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
October 13, 2008


Hey you,


I remember Oktoberfest in Munich, like it was yesterday. But it was 2001, seven years ago.

Barely a month since landing on German soil and already it was Oktoberfest. I had made fast friends with the Italians from Milan and the Americans from Chicago, two of whom were called Mike. We called one Blue Mike — not his real name, of course — after the colour of his hair, and the other Mike we called Mike Stone, because that was his real name.

We crowded into the beer tents and made sure we each had a Maß of Weißbier. Big Bavarian lads in Lederhosen scrambled past us, rushing outside to pee out a litre or two before heading back into the tents to drink some more. We found an available bench amongst the madness. Marco probably scared some Australian tourists away with his bread knife. A chemical engineer by trade, we mostly suspected Marco murdered innocents in their sleep for sport. We were glad to be on his good side.

The beermaids in Dirndls came flocking bearing prized gifts of hot roasted chicken, mounds of Brezl (giant pretzels) and naturally, Maß after Maß of good Bavarian beer. The bands started playing, alternating local tunes with American favourites like “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree’ — well, the Americans do end up paying for a lot of the beer consumed. Soon we were all merry (translation: drunk) and dancing on the benches together. People came and went, an enormous amount of food got eaten. We danced and drank and sang the night away. I felt like I was on top of the world with mad friends and fun like I never had before.

It was a good life.

Fast forward seven years. I am in Kuala Lumpur now, with you. We drive to the Spinning Hill to pick up a princess. Laotian royalty and a real lady at that. We had taken her and our Singaporean friends to some of our favourite spots around town such as Hajime and Palate Palette. Safe choices that never fail to delight visitors to the city. People aren’t all that different, no matter where they come from. Good food, good company, good atmosphere: that’s really all they need. I can only hope to provide always.

Her Royal Highness happens to be married to a German and thus our little group find ourselves invited to an Oktoberfest transplanted to Kuala Lumpur. Authentic Bavarian beer and hearty fare such as Weißwurst and Spätzle were promised. The climate is warmer, naturally, but we don”t let that impede our enjoyment of a real German band playing songs I last heard seven years ago. I am supposed to be young, aren’t I?

Why then, so much nostalgia? The food, the beer, it tastes like coming home again. Some places never leave you, even when you leave them. The crowd is as international and mixed as the original Oktoberfest. People start dancing… oh gosh, was that an ABBA song they were playing? Doesn’t matter. Everyone’s having fun.

The host just called a Punjabi gentleman “Ali Baba” in mock jest. Minutes later, Mr. Ali Baba beats all the Germans flat in the beer-drinking competition. Hurrah! People come and go, an enormous amount of food gets eaten. We dance and drink and sing the night away. I feel like I’m on top of the world with mad friends and fun like I never had in years.

It is a good life.


Yours always and always,
Me.




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