LOVE FOR BEGINNERS

Letters by Kenny Mah

• • •

Celebration!

• • •

January 3, 2009


Hey you,


Have you ever read Mrs. Duck and Mr. Bunny Have A Conversation by the celebrated children’s book author Nancy Nogoode? No? Well, let me share some excerpts from this classic with you.

Let me also tell you a story (and you may have heard some of this before, on account on your being present, if an advanced state of inebriation counts as being “present”) . . .

 

“How very queer,” said Mrs. Duck to Mr. Bunny. “I thought Snow White was a myth. A Fairy Tale. Something old drakes would tell the young ducklings. Whoever heard of a princess spending her buoyant and bosomy hours with seven swarthy, sweaty dwarves in a cave dark and dank? Unthinkable. Scandalous.”
“Well,” replied Mr. Bunny, “maybe this was a NAUGHTY princess.”

 
Snow White and her seven dwarves? A hot babe and her seven boys would be a more accurate description, really. How fortunate, such luck — ah, but for whom, one wonders? The maiden or her septuplet of adoring minstrels?

Of course, it didn’t begin this way. What turned out to be a marvellous and magical night one would remember for the rest of the year began only as a simple sit-down dinner for four to welcome two thousand and nine. Specifically, it was me relenting after several months of A Lil Fat Monkey and the Manly McCutie hectoring me to cook them a meal after inviting themselves to my latest rented abode. I had made the quite justifiable error in judgement when I regaled them with tales of my culinary endeavours back when I lived in Germany, whipping up a feast for fifteen — fragrant nasi lemak, rich ayam rendang, Szechuan diced turkey with dried chillies and tri-coloured peppers, simple stir-fry greens (bok choy, I believe, was the only Oriental leafy vegetable one could obtain at the local HL markt), handmade shrimp-and-waterchestnut dumplings in superior stock… and not to forget, a very Asian dessert of red bean soup (to which one friend from Milan exclaimed, “It looks like poo.”)

That was SEVEN years ago.

To say that I haven’t cooked much since then would be like saying Michael Phelps enjoys a bit of a swim. Oh dear. Time to panic, you reckon?

 

 

“This is not the way to cook it,” said Mrs. Duck to Mr. Bunny. “Frogs, like other amphibians, have a yin/yang nature and one must be careful not to upset its delicate balance. Stewing would brew all the nourishment out of their sweet, spindly bones, whereas roasting may burn and blister their moist and milky skin, so treasured for their liquid rainbows. Nay, the best way, the only way to properly prepare a frog is to follow the Way of the Nipponese Water-Heron. It’s sashimi or nothing at all.”
“What do I know?” offered Mr. Bunny, “I’m a simple rabbit. Carrots are good enough for me, thank you very much.”

 
No one actually requested the frog legs, though I did consider it for a second or two. Steve Steve had suggested braised abalones and sharks fin soup. I decided that was too Chinese New Year-ish, and could wait another month. Perhaps I’m becoming all green ad environment-friendly in my old age. The thought of those poor fin-less sharks being thrown back into the oceans to sink and slowly cease depresses me somewhat. Plus, it’s bloody expensive.

I mentioned wine jelly, the alcohol-only, zero-H2O sort that the Just Heavenly Boys do so well. This got Steve Steve very enthusiastic and the ensuing high expectations meant I promptly forgot all about it. A wonky memory does wonderful things for one’s ego, I have come to learn.

What I did do was leave all the preparations till the last possible moment, which meant there were none. By this time the quiet quartet had ballooned into an almost unmanageable eight. Do guests double in size when left alone and gleefully ignored like yeast, I wonder? Now I had to clean up the entire apartment so our friends wouldn’t be swamped by a symphony of Prada bags or trip over a stray pair of Louis Vuitton footwear. (Oh, the dangers of living with a brand Bambi!)

Fret not, true believers! When there is trouble, there is always a way… out of it! In this day and age, why fuss about the finicky details of crafting a home-cooked meal from scratch when you can outsource?

 

 

“You are a true friend,” said Mrs. Duck to Mr. Bunny. “You have always been here for me, through good turns and bad. Through times of tepid tadpoles and foul seasons of fowl hunters. When wild winters wash over us, when droughts and disease lash out at the land, I know I can count on you.”
“Sure, whatever you say” replied Mr. Bunny, “Didn’t we just meet yesterday, though?”

 
Superman saves the day? Well, we’re not exactly in Metropolis, are we, Toto? (Pardon the mixed metaphors, but I always think of Clark Kent and Dorothy as next-door neighbours. Surely Smallville resides in Kansas?)

I prefer a more practical rescue route. Here in the Big City, we call that Domino’s Pizza Delivery. Or, rather, we simply call them. Four large thin-crusts, assorted toppings. At your doorstep in half an hour, or else. A rather wolfish service policy for those of us with wolfish appetites. But this free advertisement for the American-Italian brand of flatbreads aside, I still needed more grub to feed my guests with. Wherefore?

Here, A Lil Fat Monkey makes the mistake of informing me he’d be at Pavilion, right around the time I was gonna drop by its Mercato mart and do some expedient eleventh-hour groceries. Let’s meet up, he says. Ah, A Solution Presents Itself.

Monkey assumes I have the entire night’s menu all planned out. I wink and merely mention, “Let’s see what they have here.” What do you think of this for a salad dressing, I’d ask and to which he’d grimace in disapproval or nod enthusiastically. A simple aglio olio, maybe? Oh but that would mean spaghetti and I loathe the stuff. I’d prefer linguine, really… and he’d suggest a pesto sauce instead, which I’d conveniently not know how to work with (“You just stir the stuff in and that’s it,” he’d moan to deaf-but-not-so-dumb ears), so he’d then offer to cook it himself.

It’s easy, this outsourcing business, if you know how to cut your cards right. And people, they don’t call me a player for nuthin’.

Takes less than an hour for us to cart bagsful of pasta, sauces, salad greens, ice-cream, ice-cream cones (mini ones, we’ll discover exactly how mini later), sunflower seeds, olive oil, a potpourri of potato chips (enough flavours to sate everyone’s tastes and allergies), etc. Heck, we even had time to get flowers too.

See, it’s not so tough to plan a dinner party after all, is it?

 

 

“I did this all by myself,” said Mrs. Duck to Mr. Bunny. “It’s not a lot, I must admit. There’s only that much one duck can do while taking care of her brood (such noisome and nefarious ninnies of ducklings the likes of you’ve never seen before, I’m sure), feeding the old drake (such a bum these days, he used to be more Ambitious, you know, could have been the President of the Pond if he really tried), and maintaining a very demanding career at Farmer Ben’s Egg Farm. Still, it’s not too bad, is it? Do tell me, Mr. Bunny, how do you like my nest?”
“What,” exclaimed Mr. Bunny, “you mean this pile of dead reeds and smelly feathers?”

 
Upon reaching the apartment (alone, for Monkey decided we must have desserts from Delicious; I couldn’t agree more), I surveyed my domain and found it pleasing to my eyes. Gone are the hideous boxes of unshelved books and cartons of various kitchen appliances we would never use. I had them quite nicely covered with the old, tattered tablecloth from the glass coffee table, now spick-and-shiny in its transparent, nude glamour. A round clear vase from IKEA sat on it, awaiting fresh flowers to be arranged in its honour. (This, also, Monkey offered to do, since I had skipped the class on floral arrangements back in high school.)

The carpet from my previous studio was unfurled across the living room in its brown-and-chocolate glory. The pygmy Christmas tree now has a home next to the Sony micro hi-fi system I won at my company’s Family Day (assembled by Monkey, of course, after he arrived with the desserts and cut/arranged/watered the flowers — I do like getting the best out of my buck in this economically trying times, even when I’m not paying a pretty penny for it).

In the bedroom, I have used multiple layers of dark-coloured quilts and bedcovers to hide the beyond-ugly leopard-spot bedsheets my landlady decided was the apex of fashionable homewear. The bathroom was scrubbed from wall-to-wall, every porcelain inch of it. (See, I did do some work myself!)

The whole place glowed.

Not quite the romantic, lush, sensual atmosphere my former bachelor pad offered, but let’s get real. We actually live here.

 

 

“This used to be such a nice neighbourhood,” complained Mrs. Duck to Mr. Bunny. “Now all you have are Chickens. Chickens, I tell you! Dirty, stinky, ugly, FLIGHTLESS chickens! The worst sort of fowl-feathered beasts! Not that we go by that moniker any more. These days, the politically-correct term is Avian Being, I believe. A tad too high ‘n’ mighty for me, to be honest with you. I much rather being referred to as a Flight-Enhanced Creature. Oh, I’m so glad there are still decent animals like you left, Mr. Bunny. Even if you can’t fly.”
“If I could fly,” mused Mr. Bunny, “I’ll be out of this conversation faster than two shakes of some demented duck’s tail.”

 
You don’t choose your family, they tell us. Family is sorta sprung upon you like some incurable disease. (You can’t get rid of it till you’re dead. Possibly from it, even.)

Friends, on the other hand, we are supposed to have better luck with. Friends, you can choose, they tell us. Friends you can get to know from the feeble ranks of Acquaintances, monitor and peruse their eccentricities and odd lapses of sexual misdemeanours, and then summarily approve or reject as one pleases. If one were Hitler, that is. I find that in reality, friends are a mixed bunch. Like nuts. They’re all crazy, you see.

So, if Family is akin to a disease, then Friends must be some form of pleasant psychosis. We hang out not because we are similar to each other and have common topics of conversation, as it is commonly believed to be, but rather because we manage to tune each other out and is deluded into thinking everyone else is paying complete attention to what we’re saying. Unlike trusty readers who devour every word one puts down to paper (or blog, as it were).

Uhm, you are reading this, aren’t you? Not just looking at the pretty pictures and then coming up with some random comment like “Hi, I like your blog. Please link back to mine! Have a nice day!”, right?

Ahem.

Where was I, again? Yes, friends and insane asylum runaways. Well, not exactly that, but close enough. As folks pattered in through my front door, I wondered about the mental well-being of people who would accept an invitation of someone they knew was gonna blog about their every move and motion the very next day.

(Okay, not the very next day. I needed at least 48 hours to sleep off all that booze.)

Friends. Crazy, I tell you. Quite craaazy . . .

 

 

“My back aches,” complained Mrs. Duck to Mr. Bunny. “It’s more than the cold and the rain, I tell you. It’s the sum of a lifetime of service and servitude to an ungrateful family. Oh what has Mr. Duck ever done for me, I ask you? And my lil duckings? The moment they get their second feathers, they’d up and away from the nest faster than you can dive and dodge an old bald eagle. Leave their poor mother all alone with their mad coot of a dad. Oh woe is me!”
“Well,” replied Mr. Bunny, “I don’t dive. I’m a rabbit. We don’t really do diving, or water, on principle.”

 
Don’t you sometimes wish someone would pamper you for a change? Offer to give you a massage, for once, one of those neat Thai massages with all those appendages allotted and applied aggressively? Decide, quite spontaneously, to cook up a storm, a veritable six-course Cantonese banquet, just cos you look like you need some feeding?

Don’t you?

Well, maybe not if you are already among those being pampered, in which case I totally hate you. There is no excuse for lazing around and having other people pander to your every whim and fancy when I don’t get to enjoy that. It’s very wrong, you see. I’m absolutely certain I was meant to have been born with a platinum spoon in my mouth. All I got was a stainless steel all-purpose ladle. (Which may explain why my smackers are so wide, but let’s not even go there.)

That is why the day before a new year is always great. One can look back and complain till one’s heart is content and then sit back and realize how fortunate one was, really. I have an adoring and supportive family and my friends are like that too (supporting, I mean; the adoring part they sure can work on). It’s a blessing. I can’t repeat that enough times to myself. Such a blessing.

I look at the faces of the folks around me, in their funny party hats and their glow-stick spectacles and balloons contorted into shapes both phallic and udder-like (again, don’t ask), and I continue to count them. My blessings, all of you.

 

 

“It’s getting awfully dark,” said Mrs. Duck to Mr. Bunny. “Soon, one wouldn’t be able to see much at all. Oh what if some scary predator comes along and eats us?”
“Well,” replied Mr. Bunny, “I guess we’d be eaten then, wouldn’t we?”

 
There is always a moment in any party where there is a lull. Usually it’s not noticeable and passes without comment, but the host would observe it. It’s the host’s prerogative, after all, to manage the flow and flotsam of a soirée and ensure there is no abrupt stoppage that would hinder maximum satisfaction. If this sounds like running a platoon of wilful soldiers, that’s cos there ain’t much difference, really.

But you can’t stop the lulls.

Sometimes it comes even when everyone is busily chatting (in various dialects and languages, to boot) and clowning around. You just pause and your mind is elsewhere. Your lips may move and engage in a heated debate — about how serious an actress Angelina Jolie truly is, her of the wholesome lips, and how President-elect Obama could bulk up a bit more, has he started quitting smoking again? — and you are really wondering if everyone is enjoying themselves. Would they rather be somewhere else, at another fancier party with a pool and finger foods served on trays by wandering waiters who then get molested later by inebriated dames and Datins… Are they entertained?

Maybe I should have planned a menu after all, you think.

And then you come out of your fug, and you look at the faces of everyone around you. They are happy. They are relaxed. They don’t have to dress up or speak in funny accents or brave the treacherous traffic on the roads out there. They even get to see the fireworks over the Petronas KL Twin Towers from your apartment (albeit having most of it blocked by that darned Citibank building). They smile and laugh and don’t ask for more.

This is enough. More than enough, really. Que sera sera. It’s high time you learn that.

And just chill, dude.

 

 

“Did you know I won a beauty contest when I was younger?,” asked Mrs. Duck of Mr. Bunny. “Such a long, long time ago. At least two summers past. That was before I met Mr. Duck and had us this darn ballyhoo of a duckling brood. O how I waddled, O how I flapped and flippered, Mr. Bunny. Without tooting my own hornbill, I was simply a VISION to behold.”
“Certainly,” replied Mr. Bunny, “A sight for sore eyes, even.”

 
“What is this?” McCutie demands.

“It’s called a calendar,” I reply, “I believe they are used to tell the days apart. So one doesn’t sing Christmas carols during the Hungry Ghost Festival or indulge in other odd behaviour you may be fond of.”

“What I mean is,” continues McCutie, disregarding anything that comes from my mouth (and quite sensibly too, one can learn much from the fellow), “why is there a picture of a half-naked man on it?”

“That’s Mr. January, a rather sunny bloke, wouldn’t you agree? It came free with that Chinese magazine we bought. They run a contest every year, if I’m not mistaken, and the winners get to be the twelve months of the year.”

“But it’s so tacky.”

“Oh wait till you see the rest. Mr. December is quite unmentionable.”

McCutie, being the self-confessed Curious George that he is (the sort that has to be updated on the latest gossip, for his health, apparently — he’d die if he didn’t know who was sleeping with whom and their mothers-in-law in Kay-El), flips to the last page of the year on cue and shudders.

“Ugh. I don’t know why you even put this out where human eyes can damage themselves seeing this, this, this… stuff.”

“Like I said, it came free. Plus, it is part of the whole Tell-Kenny-He-Has-Love-Handles campaign.”

“Now that you mentioned it, too many late-night suppers lately, huh?”

“. . .”

 

 

“The sun is coming up,” said Mrs. Duck to Mr. Bunny. “It’s a brand new day. Where has all the Time gone, I wonder?”
“The time?” replied Mr. Bunny, “I thought we had it here all the while. Didn’t we?”

Life is a celebration.

Let’s not ever forget that, however we age or how many years may pass. This one life, let’s make the most of it and cheer on ourselves and others as we track each day down, one at a time. There is still so much we can do, so much good we can share. We can make this a better world. The promise is still there still fresh as the year has just begun. As though as our lives have just begun, restarted, made anew.

So, what are we waiting for?

Let’s get out there and CELEBRATE!!!

 


Yours always and always,
K.




About | Browse | Connect