Happy(meal) Birthday!

October 29, 2007

As I crouch over in the carpark looking for the 4 damned dried leaves, a million thoughts run through my head.

I think about:

a) My place in life;

b) The 3 delivery boys in the corner, smoking and judging me at the same time; and

c) What a 31 year old adult male like myself is doing on his hands and knees, sifting through dried leaves in a car park in Kallang.

Of course – the weekend never started out like that – they never do. It started with an invitation to a MacDonald’s birthday party from my friend, Lydia Wong.

Now, mind you, the last time I attended one of these things, I was 9 years old and it was my party. My parents who had never given me so much as a Matchbox toy car for the past 8 birthdays, decided to let loose, throw caution to the wind, and throw me a party under those famous Golden Arches.

These are the 3 specific things I remember of that party:

1) A nice young waitress (MacDonald’s crew member, as they call them these days), teaching me that by sticking my straw into my Fillet-O-Fish patty to make holes in it, it would cool down faster and I would be able to eat it quickly.

2) A cool (okay, not so cool) Ronald MacDonald Birthday Boy cardboard hat that I wore around the house for a month after the party – huge bragging rights!

3) Emptying a coke all over Jing Shen, my then best friend, because he sat next to Wendy, my “girlfriend”, and refused to move. (We have not spoken to this day – Jing Shen, whichever therapist’s chair you’re on right now, I’m sorry.)

Aside from those 3 things, I also remember having a blast – hanging out with my friends, making lots of noise and playing musical chairs – it was a great time.

So, it was with these happy memories that I headed down to the Kallang MacDonald’s Restaurant; naturally, I was quite excited.

Upon arriving, I was struck by how much hadn’t changed since I was 9. The party room had pretty much the same layout, chairs and tables in a U-shape, boom box playing children’s tunes and stickers of Grimace, the Hamburglar, Birdie and Ronald MacDonald all over the walls. It was a blast from the past.

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The only difference was that I was bigger – I felt like Gulliver in Liliput. But that was just the physical difference – the mental difference had yet to hit me.

We placed our orders and after some griping about how we’d all essentially paid $15 to eat a $5 MacDonald’s meal, the birthday girl finally arrived. Obviously, she was surprised – it was a surprise party and she’d always wanted a MacDonald’s one since she was a little girl – awww …

So everything was peachy, Lydia was happy and we were satiated with Big Macs and Cokes.

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Until Top Cat came out.

And the games started.

(Yes, the games.)

Before we go into all that, I want to talk a bit about Top Cat. Now, this is a woman who’s name escapes me. I know she was Top Cat only because that’s what her nametag said. Being the smarty-pants that I was, I immediately begin quizzing her about how one gets to become Top Cat at MacDonald’s and if it meant that she had authority over Ronald himself.

I genuinely wanted to know.

Top Cat was not amused.

So, off to a rocky start with Top Cat firing MacDaggers into my back, we begin the games. First one was pretty tame – we all had to sing Happy Birthday to Lydia, as loud as we could – simple right? Second one was a slightly more involved version of musical chairs but with hula hoops placed on the floor – a bit like musical chairs meets Twister – we dug it. But the third game … you know how they say “3rd time’s the charm?”

I’d like the knock the teeth out of the guy who coined that phrase.

Top Cat handed us two lists and told us, in no uncertain terms, that we had to get all the objects on the list.

From people and places not involved in the party whatsoever.

Uh-huh.

Silence blankets the room as we all stare at each other – is she for real?

As if to answer our question, Top Cat chirps irritatingly: “So, what’re you guys waiting for? If you don’t do this, there’ll be no cake!”

So, like good, albeit inordinately large children, we head out of the party room to make complete fools of ourselves. Which is how I found myself on my hands and knees on the floor of the Kallang MacDonald’s carpark, scrounging for Item No. 16: 4 dried leaves.

To add insult to injury, I look up to the sky, as if searching for an answer and see a statue of Ronald MacDonald looking down at me with a big, fat smile.

Brilliant.

To cut a long story short, I managed to get my 4 dried leaves, the delivery boys got their laugh at me and with slightly bruised knees and battered ego, I went back into the party room and finished off the game.

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The next half an hour came and went with some other peripheral activites like Lydia singing “Baa Baa Black Sheep” in front of bemused MacDonald’s counter staff and us doing an odd conga-line of sorts to a cover version of the Eurhythmics ‘”Sweet Dreams” – quite the surreal experience. To top it all off, we had birthday cake (a cleverly disguised Sara Lee chocolate confection with MacDonald’s characters pasted on the top) and all ate with a sigh of relief when Top Cat finally left the room.

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So at the end of it all, did I enjoy myself? Yes.

Would I do it again? Maybe.

Am I Lovin’ It?

Only if Top Cat thinks I should be.

 

HAPPY(MEAL) BIRTHDAY, LYDIA!

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And the years shall run like rabbits …

October 22, 2007

A poet named W.H. Auden once said, “And the years shall run like rabbits“. Watching my 2 furry house guests, I can just imagine how those years might run.

 

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Yes, as you can tell by the picture, I am currently playing host to 2 rabbits, named Bright and Ginger. They were my wife’s pets before we got married and now, my sister-in-law (her sister) has inherited them. Due to an overly complicated situation which involved my sister-in-law heading out to China for a shoot (which never happened), we volunteered our rabbit-sitting services and bunny-napped the pair a week ago.

Now, I’ve known Ginger for about 3 years now and before I knew her, I was acquainted with her father, Rare-Bit, whom I also bunny-sat for about 2 weeks while his owner was saving the environment in Albania. As for Bright, I’ve known him for about 2 1/2 years, since the time we got him as a present / boyfriend for Ginger.

Ginger is a teh tarik-coloured bunny with a luscious shiny coat of fur, sharp nose and clean feet. She is athletic, wildly intelligent and highly curious. Having been fed off the milk of human kindness ever since she was a wee bunny, Ginger is a little bit of a princess and a prodigy at the same time. And she’s got the attitude to boot.

Ginger the Princess.

Bright, on the other hand, is truly a Mad Max of the rabbit world. According to the House Rabbit Society whom we got him from, he was found wandering around a carpark in Bedok Reservoir, his fur bleached from extended exposure to the sun and fending off random attacks from hostile grasshoppers gangs. He’s got a grubby coat of dark grey fur, a rounder nose and feet that won’t ever seem to clean up.

 

 

 

 

Bright the Survivor.

Both rabbits are toilet-trained (yes, they can be trained to poop and pee in a litter pan like cats and dogs) and are growing up on a diet of chopped vegetables, food pellets and rolled oats.

Observing Bright and Ginger for the last 3 years or so, I’ve come to notice that even in animals, there is evidence of human-like behaviour. One striking example is the fact that Bright always lowers his head as if to “ask” Ginger to groom him. In these moments, I swear, sometimes, Ginger has that look of “just because I groom you doesn’t mean I have to like it, you old coot” – but she grooms him anyway – just like an old married couple. Amazing.

The other thing I’ve observed about them is that Ginger has an innate sense of curiosity and always wants to leave the confines of the pen. Whenever we open it up, Ginger’s the first to dash out of there, eager to explore the big ‘ol wide world.

Bright, on the other hand, is more laid-back. He’s a rabbit after my own heart and he hangs back quite a bit, contented in the pen, chilling with his celery bites and oat bowl.

I’m not sure but I think it’s a case of that he’s seen how the world is – how the world can be – and he knows the good life when he sees it. In here, he doesn’t have to scrounge for food or avoid predators. In here, a grooming is just a bow away. It’s paradise. He probably looks at Ginger and her little “explorations” and thinks how she’s so naively wanting to get out – just because she doesn’t know what out is like.

As I sit here and watch the rabbits scamper over the kitchen floor, an old Eddie Murphy joke that I heard when I was 16 comes to mind in which a bear wipes his ass with a rabbit. I also think about countless rabbit foot jokes I’ve heard over the years, especially ones about how we can’t rely on them as lucky charms because they didn’t work out too well for the rabbit. And then I think about when I first got to know the little runts. And I think of the next ten minutes I’ll spend coaxing Bright and Ginger out of the dark corner between the wall and the back of the washing machine.

Auden was right – the years do, and will, run like rabbits.


Saving Face(book).

October 15, 2007

I recently got on Facebook.

Yes, you heard me. Facebook. Now, I know most of you are going: “What?!! He JUST discovered it?!!” Well, yes, in that respect, I am lagging a bit (to throw a little Internet jargon around like I know something.)

Back in the day, I remember being one of the pioneers of the email address, my first one being (ya’ll ready for this?):

leslie@pacific.net.sg

Isn’t that cool? To live in a time and space where you can actually apply for an email address like that and not have it get thrown back to you with suggestions of “how about leslie_1263 instead?”

Anyway, I remember how it all started. I turned on the TV one night and I saw this ad for a then little-known (in Singapore anyway) company called AOL. In this ad was a slightly average-looking man who meets a slightly above-average looking woman at a party. At the end of the night, he asks to see her again and she slips him a card on which is written her email address, along with a sly smile.

I was sold.

I mean, how cool is that?!! Back then, to me, that was like the wave of the future. Forget about telephones, if you wanted to be somebody, you had to have an email address. And I wanted to be somebody.

And so, it was with that in mind that I dropped 50 of my hard-earned dollars on an account with Pacific Internet – in return, I got a white dial-up 28.8kbps fax modem, a cool-looking Pacific Internet CD-ROM Internet Starter Kit, and , of course, I got the bomb – leslie@pacific.net.sg

I had arrived.

Of course, in the months to follow, I realized that I never had women come up to me at parties and give me cards with nothing but their email addresses on them (at least not of the sort purported in the AOL ad). In advertising, they call that perception. Reality is often the opposite of perception and, more often than not, falls short by quite a bit.

So anyway, the years passed, Napster and ICQ came (and went) and the Internet sort of became a bore – until Friendster! To me, it was and still is the de facto social networking site, the grandaddy that started it all. I got into it, poring over who knew who, who gave me a cool testamonial and what not.

Of course, as with all good things, it came to an end. I can pinpoint it down to the moment when I tried to delete my Friendster account and it just wouldn’t let me – that was when I knew that I had no choice in the matter. Friendster was evil.

So it was with great trepidation that I abandoned my Friendster account – thus began the lull in my Internet lifeline.

To cut an already long story short, in the next few years, inspired by the YouTube revolution, I upgraded my IQ (Internet Quotient for all you noobs, haha) to broadband speed and found whole new ways to waste time on stuff like MySpace, MSN and WhoLivesNearYou.com.

And now, my latest virtual vice is Facebook.

Yes, I am on Facebook – poking, writing, biting, drinking and taking countless but ultimately useless compatibility tests (who cares what George Lucas and I have in common?)

But no matter how many Facebook friends I have, however long my MSN list is and Whoever Lives Near Me, I still tear my hair out when I think about this:

Why did I ever give up leslie@pacific.net.sg?