333. Off Day

Let’s just get this out of the way: I slept the entire afternoon away like a bloody pig.

(not that the pig was literally bloody. Can literally bloody pigs sleep?)

Today, I woke up with the realization that first, this will be the first off day I’ve had in a while (last weekend was spend editing my submissions; and weekdays, are, well, weekdays). And second, I’m 15 minutes late for practice.

I had 2 practices to attend in all, which took up about 3 hours, with a 5-minute cookie break at the 1.5 hour mark. When I was done with the both of them, it was already 1P.M., and time for lunch.

With 2 friends, I had lunch at an Indian place nearby. As Indian meals go, if you’re not stuffing yourself, you’re not doing it right. I had rice on top of a banana leaf with dry mutton curry and a fried chicken thigh on the side. The rice was drizzled generously with chicken curry (but without the chicken).

(I offer no apologies for my appetite when it comes to Indian meals. The last time I ate banana leaf rice, it lasted me till breakfast the next day)

Arriving home with a full stomach, I went into my room to sort myself out and see what I’ll busy myself with for the rest of the afternoon. Somehow it led to me lying on my bed with a growing realization that I’m falling asleep.

And that was the last thought I had before I received a phone call at 8P.M. from mom, asking if I’d like her to pack some dinner for me.

Off days are rare enough as they come. I pity the folks who are so wound up at work that they just can’t bring themselves down, preferring to do their work on weekends too. Myself, I like to draw a line – a big, thick one so nobody misses it – between work and life. As soon as I’ve met my daily quota of 8 hours at work, I’m already out the door. If a call comes in for work-related things on a weekend or on an off day, if I do pick it up, I’ll have it pushed to my earliest convenience, i.e. when I get back to work.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no sloth: I get my work done quickly and efficiently (mostly because I want to get back to doing nothing as soon as I can, but that’s another story). But as much as I can, I’d like to get work out of the way so that I can get on with, you know, living.

After you receive your university degree, you will spend an average of 35 years working. If you don’t find time to live in between, you’ll realize that you’re 60 with no energy to do all the things you’ve wanted to do. Except maybe write. You’ll have plenty of energy and time to write when you’re 60.

And now for something completely different to end the post with: I’m presently craving for steak. Anyone has any suggestions for really good steaks in the Kuala Lumpur/Petaling Jaya area?


319. The Abusive Relationship I’m In: Curry And Me

When I got home from class yesterday, it was close to 3P.M., and I hadn’t had my lunch. Suppose I should have had it before I left for home, but I thought that I’ll visit the Chinese shop near my house for a simple plate of fried noodles.

Wonder upon wonders, the shop was closed. Hungry, I went home and found out that my brother was having lunch at the nearby Indian shop. No longer in the mood to drive out, I called him and asked him to bring home some rice with curry chicken.

It was everything I dreamed it would be. The salty, savory taste of the curry seeped into the rice, and it was fragrant and rich and satisfying. When I went to the gym some hours later, I even had the energy to run for 30 minutes.

(today the treadmill; tomorrow THE WORLD!)

It was a good day. I had dinner at home and retired to bed early, before midnight, because I intended to wake up at 7.30A.M. to do the essential breakfast-cooking and preparations for the new day at work.

I woke up at 7.30A.M. with a terrible pain in my stomach; a pain which persisted for the better parts of the day.

I was running off to use the toilet every half hour or so. And there was no helping the pain: no amount of fluids being flushed down my digestive tract or toast ingested or yoga therapy could soothe the pain. I’ll just be working on a piece of copy at my desk when the pain would just hit all of a sudden, and the next moment I’m already bent over with my hands pressed into my belly.

Why do you do this to me, curry? Why?

(why do the things we love hurt us the most? Why?)

This has happened before. The Chinese shop I was intending to go for fried noodles? They serve chicken curry too, but I’ve stopped eating the ones they sell for about 2 years now. Because every time I eat it, I invariably find myself waking up at 4A.M. with a pain in my guts like a demonic possession and bile in my throat like the time I watched Chucky for the first time.

(not that I know what an actual demonic possession feels like. I imagine it must be pretty close on the misery scale)

So now it seems that in the absence of the strong antagonist, my stomach has weakened and is now vulnerable to even the chicken curry from the Indian shop, where I have eaten happily and without problems hitherto (Except that time a couple of months ago when it left me bedridden). I am, however, not as eager to toughen up my stomach as I am with my character on Skyrim, and I do not think that agony is a fair price to pay in order to be able eat a very specific type of food.

And so, with a sigh, I now cross another item off the list of food that I can eat without feeling like I’m dying.

On the bright side, I can still have bacon.

304. Bad Day

It’s just one of those days when the whole world seems to have conspired to piss you off. Every idiot in the car in front of you decides to take his own sweet time as you run late; people make urgent calls to you for mundane things; and everyone and everything is just in your way. Even the bloody tea doesn’t taste right, and you had to pay RM2 for it when the price of a tea bag is 20 cents.

Some people argue that no matter how many bad things happen to your day, the good and the mundane still far outweighs the bad. And there’s no arguing with that. But also know that all it takes is one drop of cyanide to poison a glass of water, and mine is half empty.

So like I found myself a couple of weeks ago, I spent most of the day going around feeling quite rotten.

Nothing that sleep and a little forgetfulness can’t fix though.

296. The Thomas Cup

When I walked into the main hall in church earlier this morning, I picked up bits of conversations about “first time in 22 years”, “Malaysia”, and “excitement”. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know what was going on, and someone had to explain to me that starting at 5.30P.M., Malaysia was to go up against Japan, in the finals for the first time in 22 years.

(I pick up bits and pieces of conversations wherever I go. One of the most frightening things I overhead was a teenage girl talking about how it’s absolutely essential to slap your boyfriend at some point in your relationship to keep him in line)

I didn’t think much about it. I had a full day ahead of me: music run-through, church service, meeting over lunch, a second practice, and a full dress rehearsal. If there was anything I’d like to spend my time doing, it was sleeping.

Plus, I’m not much a sports guy anyway.

The World Cup is coming up this year, and I couldn’t care less about it. Anything short of my getting some form of monetary gain out of the sport isn’t going to catch my attention. But when I got home, laid down on the couch and drifted off into a nap and woke up about half an hour later, my mom had taken the liberty of switching on the TV, and the first match was already underway.

It wasn’t like I was going to continue sleeping through the sounds of the TV in the background. Besides, it was just right in front of me. If I got bored, I could always just go off to read The Fault In Our Stars or Game Of Thrones or something.

(if there’s anything I’m learning about the craft from reading these two books, it’s that your prose doesn’t always have to be lyrical and avant-garde poetry. It just has to tell what you need to tell, and that’s good enough)

The short version of the story: I used up my yearly quota of emotions in the 6 hours that followed.

I’m not qualified to comment on the playstyles – I don’t even know what the word means. As emotionally invested as I was into the game, I can’t say that I didn’t stand to get something out of it. Rumor had it that if Malaysia won the Cup, tomorrow would be declared a public holiday in celebration. Tomorrow also happens to be the first day of class back in university, so go figure.

But damn, wasn’t that an exciting thing to watch.

I experience the full range of emotions: elation, intensity, dread, hope, anger, shame, jealousy (I mean, have you seen how pretty the Japanese players looked?). And when the game ended in Malaysia’s loss, it wasn’t hair-pulling fury that I felt, but a little sense of melancholia for my lost holiday, and a measure of bittersweet happiness for Japan, for having won their first Thomas Cup in history.

I imagine that there will be much sushi eating.

And here I am, still reeling in the aftermath. What a game. What a game.

295. Life In Reverse, Micro Bits

I thought that I’d lie down on the couch and stare at the ceiling for a little bit while I thought about what for blog for today. I ended up wrapping my legs around a cushion and slipping off into an easy sleep that lasted all of 20 minutes.

Think I might have even snored.

The trouble with a sense of familiarity is that you create an imaginary boundary between you and the things you have never experienced. “This is my world,” you say after a while of being in a place, “This is what I know,” you say after knowing a person for some time.

But the world, and even your best friend, continues to surprise you in a million insane, beautiful, stupid ways. For dinner, instead of going to the Japanese place that I’ve always been to, I went to the Chinese restaurant opposite that I’ve always blown off as too expensive. I was right about it being expensive, but the food was nothing short of glorious.

Remember how, as a child, the world was your playground and every place, new and old, was a chance to explore? It still is. It still can be.

If you’d begin to see things in a new way.

Or even an old way.

There are days when you will begin to fail in the most basic of ways. You know the sort. You can’t even pull your pants on right; the phone refuses to cooperate with you; your fingers feel clunky; you’re just barely managing to lift the cup of coffee to your lips. You’re not even sure if you added sugar or salt into the coffee. You begin to curse everyone who could have put a label on the jars, but did not.

As I drove around the parking lot looking for a place to park, I suddenly lost the last 5 years of experience driving around, and my whole body became a confused tangle of nerves. I eventually managed a reverse-park with all the grace of a driver who just got his license.

Thank goodness I still have the P Stickers for the world to see.

Priorities: I have them.

I was supposed to transfer the first pages of Grounded onto the screen, from my handwritten script. I ended up writing 708 words of a new story, went and watched some kittens play in the backyard for a little bit, and then spent the rest of the afternoon playing Skyrim. I was supposed to go to gym; but by the time I peeled myself away from the computer, it was already dark and time for dinner.

People don’t want your help. People want a chance to prove themselves strong and capable.

I think we owe it to each other to leave others to their own battles. Because then the triumph, the glory, and the rewards will be theirs alone. So will the lessons and the wisdom acquired, if they fail.

I woke up at 8.20A.M. on my own volition.

I think I have this grown-up thing pretty much nailed now.

292. Rotten

For about half my waking hours today, I was caught in quite a spectacular rotten mood. One that pulled down the corners of my mouth, furrowed my eyebrows, filled my head with fuzz and my mind with a desire to flip things around.

(except skateboards. If I could flip skateboards, I wouldn’t have felt half as rotten as I did)

But why, Joseph? Why the rotten mood? Who made you so mad?

It’s not a question of who, but what. What made me irritated was a little booklet that, no matters how many times I edit it, just refuses to stay edited. What agitated me were some negative comments brought over from the previous Sunday. What annoyed me was that I wouldn’t get home until past 10. What infuriated me was that I still don’t understand what makes *good* writing good.

It was a certain kind of sour mood that made me want to leave work early, go home, and hide under my blankets with a funny book. Maybe Mr. Gaiman’s Anansi Boys. But remembering that I’ve already paid for a full day’s worth of parking in advance, it seemed like an awful waste to let all those extra hours go. So I stayed.

(also, and mostly, because I had to clock in the hours in order to qualify for my pay. Boo hoo)

I’m not sure if this makes me bipolar, or at least a minor form of it. I swing between rotten and sunny moods over small things. Someone more poetic might say that small rudders move big ships, or something to that effect. And for me, it isn’t the gales of trouble or high waves of life that gets me. It’s the little things that gets entangled in the rudders that really sets me off one way or another.

I thought that I’ll feel better after reading some. Unfortunately for me, The Writer’s Tower theme for May is “The Evil Within”, and so all I had to read were tales of darkness and revenge. I decided to read some recommended articles from Facebook, and apparently the hottest thing in the news is the 9/11 museum that had been built at ground zero. Reading a Buzzfeed writer’s firsthand experience there did nothing to alleviate my mood.

Also, work was trickling in at a painfully slow rate, so there was nothing to distract myself with.

Decided to make some fruit tea, which I received as a gift yesterday. Tea smelled lovely, didn’t taste quite as much. It tasted like the promises of politicians: tantalizing at first, but ultimately disappointing. I finished it anyway, because tea is tea is tea.

(also, and mostly, because there were only 30 sachets, and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I wasted proper tea. 29 to go…)

My options whittled away with time and activity. Social media wasn’t doing it for me. Image sites were a temporary distraction. All the reading I did had done me no good. Eventually, there was only one thing I had not done yet.

I pulled the notepad in front of me, and I began to write.

And for a little while, the rotten mood left me.

278. Grey Torrents, Lightning Bolts, Warm Lights

(no, I did not just name 3 Pokemon skills)

It was a fine first day at a new workplace, as far as first days at new workplaces go. I arrived in the area 2 solid hours before work of any sort was supposed to begin, acquainted myself with the Hobbiton tradition of eating 2 breakfasts, and then when I went up to the front door of the office and rang the bell 10 minutes before the official time for commencement of work, no one answered.

I peered in through the gap just wide enough to fit a face, squinted so I could see through the tinted glass door on the inside, and found the office completely dark and void of people.

(living ones, at least)

It took me a little while more (to the tune of half an hour) to realize that the folks at this office had a very loose sense of what “punctuality” means. In other words, people like me.

“You’ve been here since WHAT TIME?” the lead designer exclaimed, staring at me. I’ve received the same look from the citizens of Falkreath, Skyrim after slaying a dragon right before their eyes and absorbing its soul. “We usually arrive between 9.30 and 9.45,” the lead designer continued, “So just show up before 10. Don’t be so early next time.”

I think I’m going to like this place.

As first days at new workplaces go, it was pretty uneventful. I’ve been told that first days for interns in the accounting departments all across the corporate sphere are a lot more exciting, but I doubt that it’s the kind of excitement I’d like to have. I mostly sat around figuring out how to work an iMac (“intuitive”, my ass), reading blogs about science and the writing craft, clicked around facebook and twitter, and yes, I wrote a little.

(The Evilwith Inn is what the story is called. Because I’m punny like that)

At about 5P.M., the skies began to pour. Something with a deeper, more poetic soul would say that the heavens cried, but for me, it just rained. It wasn’t one of those clean rains that makes the leaves green and flowers refreshed – it was a pounding, roaring sort of rain that came like Armageddon, bathing the world in grey, gloom, and cold.

Kind of like this blog, I guess.

A particularly vicious bolt of lightning took out the power in the office along with, I suspected, about 30 minutes’ worth of designing work done on 6 computers, adding up to 3 hours of lost productivity. I, for one, wasn’t affected at all by the sudden blackout – except for half a sentence that I had typed into facebook chat when it happened. What can I say? I’m the new guy at work. I’m not supposed to be working.

What the storm left behind was a sight to behold. I witnessed it after I had driven out of the workplace and onto the incredible congested highways.

On the right, the skies were alive in vibrant hues of yellow and orange, the skyscrapers silhouetted in the foreground. Around the edges of this evening sky were tinges of pink and green, which faded into midnight black straight ahead, where blue-and-white lightning splintered across the sky like electric branches. Then on the left side of the highway, the skies cleared up a little to a deep navy color – the color of approaching night.

To say that it was “pretty” would be like calling Lily Collins “kinda cute”.

(I know I’m exaggerating her beauty; but this is my blog, and I shall allow myself to be as fanboyish as I’d like to be)

I arrived home long after the sky had turned dark. All in all, I’ve spent more time today out of the house than in it. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll try being as late as the rest of them.

Because when in Rome…