The Karaoke/Jam Session World Of Expat@Large
E@L told Bjorn his Taiwanese Sumo wrestler story and he was very amused. Roared laughing. It IS a great story. I haven't told you peoples this story yet because it's for the book. The infamous wish-I'd -never-mentioned-it, ball-and-chain-to-my-self-esteem never-even-started fucking fuck of a book. I'm saving my best material. But for WHAT? For WHEN? For WHY? So I can join the statistical median of writers who sell 500 books worldwide and never recoup the expenses of publishing?
You might be getting the impression that I have been trying to become a writer by a process I call Proximity-Osmosis(TM). Last week I went to Bjorn Turmann's book launch in Q-Bar in Bangkok and got caught in the floods on Sukhomvit. There are two thousands words on that experience somewhere on my hard drive. Descriptions of E@L wading barefoot through the rising water, the poor shop owners, false starts down too deep Sois, and lots of bathetic observations. You're not getting it. It's either for the book, or too tediously detailed or for the scrap-bin, I can't decide. Bjorn was 2 hours late due to the rain and floods so we had free flow vodka until 11pm and so I got pissed, was chatted up (or so I believe) by a very large woman, larger than me, and so I was almost tempted because she had some unique ways of making herself interesting. Plus, like I said there were all these free vodkas. So I fell over on the way back to Sukhomvit, drenched my signed copies of both Bjorn's books, smashed my watch and stood dripping and starving at the door of a restaurant, because there had been no food at the book launch, only - did I not mention it? - free vodka.
Just as Soi 18 joins Sukhomvit the water started rising.
Last night I went to Bjorn's Singapore launch at "ultra-hip" Bar SaVanh, part of the Indo-Chine group. Gerrie Lim, poor struggling writer who wants to be a porn star, was there. Simone Heng, poor struggling writer for NewPaper and Banter who desperately wants to be a TV presenter, was there. Stu Lloyd (a.k.a. Colonel Ken of the hugely successful Hardship Postings series), not so struggling writer who wants to be a World War II tour-guide through Changi to the The Burma Railway, was there. E@L, bored medical technical support person on a huge salary who wants to be a poor struggling writer, was there. Phil from Monsoon Books, wishing he was home finishing off that Christmas ham left over from his wife's photo-shoot for Cold Storage rather than hanging out with poor struggling writers, was there. Edmund Cheng (I think it was him), Chairman of The National Arts Council and who has probably had poor struggling writers up to (chops at throat) here, was there.
Gerrie was pressing me for an opinion on his book In Lust We Trust, particularly the ending. I thought it might be a trick question, like in Sideways. It wasn't raunchy enough for you was it? "Well you're trying to sell it in Singapore..." I guess he really is waiting for a review here. Hey, am I that influential? Is this the purpose of blogs, to be viral marketplaces? Good a use as anything I guess. Watch this space. Nutshell: Porn stars are not hookers (necessarily), they are interesting and genuine people (mostly), getting ripped off (often), getting in control of their lives too (all too rarely). Written as a gonzo-like personal journey, having to watch these people perform on and off screen as a reporter for magazines like Penthouse and Screw! Definitely worth reading!
Bjorn however wasn't pressing me for a review as I told him I hadn't finished The Karaoke World of Cortous Haire yet (just realized how much that sounds like 'coitus hair'), but that I was really enjoying the verbal inter-play and the humurously portrayed sexual tension between the characters so far. However he called today and asked if I was free for drinks tonight, making me wonder if it might be a trick question. Like "Isn't it your shout Expat, after all those vodkas in Bangkok and those red wines and snacks (there was yummy food) in Bar SaVanh last night?" Fair enough question it would be too. But I thought I was working back late and then the customer cancelled but I was just too shagged after all that red wine last night... So instead I am here blogging at midnight when I promised myself I'd get to bed for some catch-up sleep at 9.
So... I was chatting with Stu Lloyd and he convinced me that he WAS a poor struggling writer after all, despite selling 63,808 copies of the Hardship Posting series, and so I ended up buying a copy of his book of travel writings, Gone Troppo. I had zip Singapore dollars, so I gave him Bht1000 (I find it useful to have some local currency on hand in the 4FoWs). That should get him a blowjob and a beer in Bangkok next week!
Stu was talking to Bjorn and Phil from Monsoon and getting all serious for once. He was saying how you really need to be disciplined to make it as a successful novelist or even a travel writer. You have to get up every morning and just write, for Chrissake. There's no way to do it without the actual writing and he laughed his boisterous Rhodesian farmer with an Aussie accent's laugh. He didn't mention anything about proximity or osmosis.
A writer friend from Hong Kong said this to E@L the other day: "It's easy to write. You just sit down in front of your computer and open a vein..."
Ah dear. Veins still intact, as usual E@L was about the last to leave the party and when Stu said he was going to Actors Pub in Boat Quay to catch up with some friends at a jam session E@L was pissed enough to say he might as well join him.
Amateur night, jam session.
Oh. My. God.
People, guys exclusively, were swapping in and out of playing the guitar, the keyboards, the drums, tambourines, singing. It was amazing how some people's enthusiasm is inversely proportional to the square root of the their talent. And they were SO square and SO rooted. Some were shockingly untalented, me for example, doing backing vocals on "Leaving On A Jet Plane." Appropriate, huh? Stu has quite a good voice, on-key if a tad inexpressive after all those wines. Me? I was WOEFUL! Yet it was great fun, and E@L was having a ball. No-one cared about the quality, it was all about overcoming shyness and inhibitions and letting rip from wherever it rips from for you. No-one was even watching. The group up the back were playing cards and screaming over the top of the music whenever somebody won a round, fuck the music.
But E@L was intently doing some serious people watching, when he wasn't
singing squawking himself.
This guy has to be SOOOO gay and not aware of it. This other guy is so lonely and anti-social that he is brilliant on the bass guitar from all those years and years of practicing at home alone, thwacking and slapping away to his own inner set of high standards. This other guy, short, bad skin, awkward carriage, has no other friends so he is here 4 nights a week, getting slaps on his crooked back and cheered on for his criminally bad singing. Most of them come once or twice a week, I was told by Stu's buddy.
But they were either unaware of or undeterred by their limitations. Sure some people could sing and play very well, but most couldn't. However no-one judged or criticised. Everybody who was into it was cheering for everybody else. There was no negativity at all. All were buddies letting off steam, living childhood dreams of being someone, doing something that was never going to happen.
Failed dreams. But fucking fuck it, that doesn't have to stop them having fun and showing people what those dreams were, no matter how unachievable they were. Because if I kid myself that I can sing and no-one tells me otherwise, hey, it's *as if* I really can sing!
The important thing is to have dreams and be proud of them.
Maybe the family was right back in the early days, when the time came for a choice, they said, "Be conservative and safe -- stick to your studies, keep your options open by getting that steady career under your belt. Look after the family, pay the bills, upgrade the car, have enough health insurance, get a massage chair you've earned it." Hey who knows, even if they had "made it" for a while, they'd probably be broke by now or desperate for something else to do anyway. Those shooting stars burn so briefly.
Stu looks like he has turned to stone but that's how he stands when he sings. Note that the other guy has moved the mike well away from my voice!
And then it struck me. Karaoke and amateur night... What the fucking fuck is blogging if not this embarrassment-free public display of all my skill's failings and the enjoyable shell of my emptied aspirations? Flaunting my failure for a laugh. Fucking hell. The pale shadow of real writing. The karaoke of writing.
Karaoke is to The Music Industry Star Maker Machinery as blogging is to the... the what? The Pulitzer Prize, the Booker Prize, to having your novel marked as a study text for high school...
It was an epiphany, one of the strongest feelings of sudden understanding I have ever had. An "aha! experience. A "Eureka". These guys get up and play a mean slap-bass or sing and dance like an freaking idiot for their own amusement. The professional world of musicians circulates somewhere above them way out of reach, aware maybe but uninterested.
These guys in The Actor Pub and the hundreds of others like of them around Asia, they didn't have the time, talent, family support, soul-felt dedication or desperation to make it in the real thing. They have a serious real-life elsewhere. But they have this, it's 100% fun, they love it and it's going to have be enough. Fuck you, stop intellectualizing, it IS enough.
And E@L blogs, putting his untrained, unprofessional words out there for all to laugh at, maybe admire, most likely totally ignore. Except by other bloggers. Other amateurs out for their cyber-karaoke night of writing jam sessions. (No offense intended dudes!)
And unless this company of mine stops paying me to travel so much - Taipei and Pattaya, then Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Johannesburg by mid next month - without affording me the opportunity to develop a routine to sit down and just write every morning, like Stu said, that Taiwanese Sumo wrestler story is never going to see the light of day. It's OK. The blog's enough for now.
When the shine wears off this blogging thing, when I stop meeting nice people from it... When people start telling me to shut the fuck up and stop feeding my ego's craving for the occasional snippet of faint praise I get here and there... Maybe then I'll start to write the book...
When Phil from Monsoon calls with a book deal...
Chapter One I know this guy. He is a Sumo wrestler from Taipei.
[p.s. tommorow I'll put up some photos - they are my laptop at work.]
[p.p.s. sorry for slipping in back and forth between 3rd person and 1st person. Too tired to fix this tonight. I want the post up no matter what so that a) I can go to bed and b) you'll have something to hang shit on me about, and I'll feel all rejected and unloved so I'll stop blogging and start the freaking book.]
OTHER MONKEYS SAID
The Man and I saw Bjorn today, at Borders, doing what looked like a book promotion? Can't be too sure. Tall man.
That'd be Bjorn, a shade under 7 foot. He is 6'7". Watching him talk to Gerrie, at 5'5" in heels maybe, was interesting.
He is doing the circuit pretty hard, trying to sell books to make some money.