Friday, 11 September 2009


“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” - Jack Kerouac

Friday, 4th September 2009: Climb Every Mountain

My buddy Mun Yee celebrated her 30th birthday on Thursday, and we made plans to meet up for dinner on Friday. It was to be my buddy's Saturn Return, and I wanted it to be special. Mun Yee was going to climb Mount Kinabalu, the highest point in Southeast Asia, the following week. I think that is a most meaningful way of stepping into one's third decade, and I told her so. I prepared a survival kit as a birthday gift for her, consisting of a brew kit, safety blanket, emergency light and whistle, poncho, oral rehydration salts and a number of other things I felt were necessary to make her trip safer and more enjoyable.

As luck would have it, she called me on Friday evening to inform me that she wasn't able to make it to dinner as she still had too much work to do. (She is still at the understaffed firm that I quit in June, where everyone is overworked and treated poorly). I swung by the Gardens mall, picked up two individual cakes from Breadstory, glazed doughnuts from Krispy Kreme, and some drinks and munchies and drove on over to Mun Yee's office.

Mun Yee was glad to see me and relieved to see food. We ate the cakes and snacks and she checked out the presents. Then we sat down to resume work. I tried to help her locate the drafts and minutes of meetings that she required, while she worked on the correspondence and cause papers that she needed to draft. We were finally done by midnight. There was to be no sleep for Mun Yee tonight, as she had yet to pack for her trip and her cab would be arriving at 0300h. She was so tired and sleepy that she could hardly drive, so I suggested going to Old Town White Coffee across the street for coffee and grub. We chatted over coffee and a hot meal, and I wished her all the best on her mountain-climbing adventure.

As I drove home that night, I found myself wishing that a better job opportunity would come along for my friend -- a job where she could get at least 6 hours of sleep a night, where she wouldn't have to forfeit her annual leave and where she doesn't have to come in to work while on sick leave. I wish that she would find a job that she could look forward to in the mornings. But most of all, I wish that she would be always be happy, healthy and have wonderful adventures.

Mun Yee and I horsing around in Fort Canning, Singapore, in 2005

Saturday, 5th September 2009: Brainstorming Sessions, SPCA and another Soiree

Woke up unreasonably early for a Saturday morning to attend the Malaysian Nature Society Branch Strategy Workshop at the Rimba Ilmu Auditorium. I picked up refreshments on the way, and James C. picked me up from the station. It was a productive session, facilitated by Bushcraft Ashleigh, and its purpose was to determine the priorities of the Society and the direction we should take to remain relevant to our members and those outside the Society. I was surprised to see quite a good turnout of 'ordinary' members and new recruits. Things got pretty heated during the discussions as everyone seemed to have a different view of the measures the Society should take. It was officially over by 1300h. I got a ride back to the station from May.

I went to the SPCA after the Strategy Workshop. Dr. Pushpa had more good news for me. Rafferty had been adopted on Friday. Only Tabitha was left, but she looked robust and was in good spirits. She shared a large 3-tiered enclosure with 5 other cats and was busy climbing up and down the different tiers with her new friends. She allowed me to pick her up and hold her but did not show any signs of especial recognition, which is for the best. I kissed her and told her how much I loved her and promised to take her home if she were not adopted by the end of the month.

Rose and several college-age volunteers had been washing the dogs and I joined them at the kennels to give the dogs their baths and tickwashes. I cleaned ears and treated small wounds as well.

Rose and I discussed what could be done for Chanel, a little mongrel who became antisocial and despondent after her puppy died. Chanel was a young mother and had loved her only child, Coco, to distraction. Coco died of distemper before she was old enough to be vaccinated. Chanel’s personality changed after Coco’s death and she became withdrawn and mistrustful of humans. For some reason, she thought we had been the cause of her baby’s death. I wish a good volunteer could bring her home to rehabilitate her so she could be rehomed. I would foster her myself if not for all the cats I have, who would not take to the introduction of a sullen dog very well. Roli (previously referred to in my blog as The Kindest Man In The World) was around on Saturday. I should have thought of asking him if he could do something for Chanel. It breaks my heart to see her so hurt and unhappy.

Rose and the other volunteers left around 1630h, and we shut the gate after their departure. Sugen and I stayed behind to clean the shelter. I made a big bucket of soap and disinfectant and cleaned the Front Office/Admin/Reception area, Cattery, Maternity Kennels and Puppy Kennels. Sugen and Mazni cleaned the kennels and cattery at the back of the shelter. Some visitors dropped by with inquiries, and I managed to persuade them to bring their pets for neutering at our Low Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic instead of surrendering their pets to the shelter. I finished my share of the work, took out the trash, cleaned myself up and left the SPCA by 1930h.

Went back to the BOQ to feed the Rowdies, tidy up and get ready to go out to our friendly neighbourhood pub for Corinne's farewell party. Corinne was leaving to join her fiancé in Melbourne, and close to 100 friends turned up for her farewell party. The pub was bursting at its seams. Jake, Jess and I were delighted to meet all our old friends again. Brian L, Mahes, Patrick and everyone else were similarly surprised to see me turn up like a bad penny. “Welcome home!” shouted the Balachandran brothers as they hugged me.

There were members of the legal fraternity at the soiree as well, much to my chagrin. The Bar Council office bearers actually came in office wear and one even had a surgical mask on. Hell, mate, if you’re that afraid of contracting Influenza A, you should have just stayed home! It served them right that nobody wanted to dance with them that night. Stupid lawyers!

Speaking of dancing, there was a man on the dance floor, who I am sure is a very nice man, who had dance moves that boggled the mind. “He dances like someone’s Dad,” I chuckled to Jess while we observed his hip-rolls and hand-rolls. When he got around to doing the Pulp Fiction, I almost died laughing. “Beyonce, Shakira, take notes!” I sputtered and wheezed, while the patrons around me giggled into their drinks. I wasn’t in the mood to be charitable with my comments that night, and it was a good thing that the King of Dance was out of earshot and the music was so loud.

Later in the evening, we viewed a little video tribute to Corinne, proposed toasts and wrote messages for her on cards taped to the wall. While we were happy for her leaving for greener pastures, we were also sorry to see her go. Now there'll be no one left at the pub to make us behave ourselves. I discovered later that Corinne had already paid for my vodka shots, and so I thanked her and informed her that I will spend the money I saved on drinks on groceries and provisions for Brian L's welfare homes instead. Corinne thought that it was a capital idea and a nice thing to do as a parting gift for her. (Note: As of Tuesday, I had delivered antiseptic solution and bath soap, as requested on the Homes’ lists, to Brian L.)

Jake, Jess and I went back to the BOQ, none-too-sober but in good cheer, around 0200h. It has been an exhausting Saturday but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Sunday, 6th September 2009: Driftwood

I spent Sunday back at the parental home, cleaning the house and tending to Amber and Chocky's needs.

RJ texted me on Sunday to see what I was doing. I knew he was still nursing a broken heart, and needed someone to talk to.

I informed RJ that there was a much-ignored mongrel at the SPCA that I had washed, groomed and tick-washed last Monday (31 Aug), and he was adopted on Saturday (5 Sept). Miracles do happen, I averred. We just have to create the right conditions.

"What I'm trying to say," I explained to RJ, "is that I am still praying that everything works out for the best for you, against all odds, and I'll be here whenever you need me, whenever you need anything done."

RJ told me that my blood is worth bottling. I am not sure what that means but I hope it is something good. It sounds rather kinky, in an Angelina Jolie - Billy Bob Thornton sort of way.

I was in the middle of cleaning the glass cabinets when I received a call from an unknown number. It was my best buddy in law school, Sumita, who decided to take a chance and call my 'old' number to see if it were the same. It is, of course. I was thrilled and touched to hear from her.

How had we managed to drift so far apart? We were thick as thieves in college, and always getting into all kinds of trouble together. We spent our weekends and festive breaks at each other's homes. When I took on summer jobs during the college holidays and she returned to her parental home in Ipoh, we would send each other letters in code (not everyone had internet access and e-mail accounts back then). We tormented our classmates and lecturers, cut classes together, copied each other's assignments (if we bothered to do them at all), and attended political rallies, art exhibitions and every event that came to town, as long as it meant not having to go for lectures. We spent all our money (I was receiving payment for the articles I wrote for the newspapers back then) on alcohol, tattoos and body piercings. We attended every party within a radius of 50 km.

In retrospect, perhaps it was just as well that we drifted apart in 2005. We were both too daring, too adventurous and too foolhardy. If we had remained partners-in-crime past graduation, neither of us would have survived past the age of 28. We were always getting into crazy scrapes together. Being together imbued us with a kind of insane courage and stubborn pride. We were like the Dukes of Hazzard.

The last time we spoke to each other was in 2005, when she had come to spend the week at the condominium I was renting then. She was doing her pupillage and had to attend the Ethics Course. I was already an advocate of the High Court of Malaya, and was encumbered with files, deadlines and unattainable billing and collection targets all the time.

Our different circumstances and responsibilities tore us apart. We lost contact soon after. She was called to the Bar in Ipoh and commenced legal practice with a firm that does mainly personal injury cases. I remained in the City and practiced with mostly banking and civil litigation firms. In the meantime, my responsibilities grew, and I became less reckless, less impetuous and less spontaneous in my adventures. I heard less and less from my dear friend, but did not treat our fading friendship with concern.

I am so glad that Sumita had taken the initiative to contact me after 4 long years, and I promised myself that I would never again let a good friendship die. It is true that we were both growing very different in personality, and that we occasionally had differences in values, but essentially, that is what a friendship is about: Friends give each other room and time to grow, and let each other make mistakes. And friends let friends be @$$holes.

Thank you for coming back into my life, Sumita, and I promise you, next month we will paint the town red, like we used to do!

"Home is where the heart is
But your heart had to roam
Drifting over bridges
Never to return
Watching bridges burn"

- Driftwood, by Travis


Unknown said...

What a great helping hand, you're! I know who to call when I am feeling down :)
Good friendships never die. Glad you've renewed one today. A toast to friends, far and near!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thank you, Keats! You are right, good friendships should never die. Sometimes our priorities and interests change, but if a friend is a true pal and not just someone we carry out certain activities and hobbies with, the friendship will stand the test of time.

Ellen Whyte said...

Your old pal sounds like lots of fun! Hope you have a blast catching up.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thank you, Ellen! Sumi is a load of fun, all right! In fact, we had so much fun together that we almost got into trouble with the law a couple of times! Oh and judging by the number of times we hitchhiked or walked home from the pub after nights out (we drank the cab money) and accepted lifts from complete strangers, it's a miracle we both survived past the age of 21!

Saya... said...

Careful the heartbroken one doesnt fall for you! Haha...

Saya... said...

BTW, I tagged you. read my blog.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Saya,
Aiyo.... tak bolehlah macam tu... Bahaya, bahaya.

Pat said...

Hi dear,

I came here days ago, and couldn't get in to leave a comment. So I balik hari ini, lah :)

About friendships: sometimes, that's the way it is. We go our separate ways and we just drift apart. You can't force it lah. Real friendships, somehow, can stand the test of time, distance, fights ;) and still be strong! It's heartstrings, I think. It's just meant to be.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thanks, Pat! I don't know lah, now that I've hit the big Three-Oh, I'm starting to reconnect with friends I haven't seen in years. Thanks to Facebook as well, no doubt. There are lots of FB Friend Requests that I've turned down, but there are also many others I was glad to see. Sumi and I go waaay back. I don't even remember why we lost contact anymore. Our classmates used to refer to us as the Siamese Twins.