Maybe we should start saying the things we really mean. – Marianna Paige

Maybe we should start saying the things we really mean. - Marianna Paige

When it’s in my hands I can feel her life force curl around my fingers. 24 handbound pages of her notes. There is a lot that is special about this.

I don’t buy many things for myself anymore. I think its because most of what I desire these days cannot be bought. And then I ran into this on Etsy. And I said, hmmmmm, ya I think I deserve a Christmas present from ME. I often run into the work of other authors that I wish I could be more of. But I’ve long learned not to chase these things. Originality cannot be imitated, only appreciated. I shall be me, she shall be she, and the world shall be more colorful for it.

Too soon

Victor Gutierrez and Jeremy Chin working on a school science project.

I no longer could see through my tears and pulled the car off to the side. “I told you to reach for the stars dummy, not become one.” A crushing sadness closed in on me and I shuddered uncontrollably.

Victor and I go back 11 years. He was 8 at the time, and we were matched through the Big Brother, Big Sister program. From the moment we met I knew, I knew that this kid was worth investing in. He had a kind soul.

Yesterday, I received news that Victor had been taken in a car crash. It hit me like a wrecking ball. I felt like I had lost my own son. The last few hours have been a mix of sieving through memories, looking at old photos, struggling through the tears… and lots of smiling. Oh, the good times we shared.

The photo above is us working on his science project. It’s one of my favourites because I think it encapsulates the person he was:  a shining light, beaming.

I look at this and immediately I feel that I’m right there with him, in that same room, at that point in time, smiling. As the hours creep by, many things have been revealed to me. I’ve learnt that when you give a person your all, you are left with no regrets. I’ve learnt that lights don’t die but are passed on. And I’ve learnt that crying will not bring him back, but smiling will.

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
– Thomas Campbell

Things that require two hands

My carpal tunnel-stricken hand wrapped in a medicated bandage

My carpal tunnel was like a playful dog begging for attention.

“Look at me, look at me.”

I looked away.

My wrist finally went into a complete lockdown. It became impossible to even grip a toothbrush. I was forced to stop everything I was doing. And it is in these moments that you start to think of all the things you’ve taken for granted.

Things that require two hands:

  1. Wearing socks
  2. Opening a jar of spaghetti sauce (unless you have thunder thighs to grip the bottle)
  3. Cracking half boiled eggs (I can crack eggs using one hand, but not when the eggs are piping hot)
  4. Using a can opener.
  5. Buttoning jeans
  6. Ctrl-Alt-Del
  7. Tie shoelaces
  8. Driving (gotta grip the steering with your teeth when you have to flash your indicator lights)
  9. Pulling off the protective strips for my medicated wrist bandage.
  10. Buttering bread (you end up chasing the slice around on your plate.)
  11. Can’t wash the armpit on the side of my affected hand.
  12. Open sugar that comes in paper sachets (gotta use teeth for this)
  13. Hit airborne mosquitoes (or mosquitoes that have landed on my left arm)
  14. Use scissors (I now know why they make left handed scissors)
  15. Hammer a nail
  16. Iron clothes (yay… have finally found my excuse)

The Pause

Pause by Jeremy Chin

This wreckage that is my life. I just want to throw my hands in the air, but I lack the strength to even do that. The void around me presses inwards, pins me down. How is it that emptiness can feel this heavy. This feeling… it is not new. I have been here before, and it will pass. I just have to wait it out.

I play the guitar. Write some poetry. Down a beer. Nothing works. I blame the moon, the alignment of the stars. I rationalise it all. Surely there is something to be learned from this pain.

I wait for the universe re-arrange itself. For life to deliver its lesson. For time to move.

The weight lifts. I am released. I burst forth with new resolve, cutting and slashing. The stagnance; it was not merely a pause, but a breather.

Bro, I’ll get you there.

Kathrine Switzer running through a barricade of men at the 1967 Boston Marathon

For the purpose of the story I’m about to tell you, we’ve to go back to 1967, back when the Boston Marathon was a male-only event. History was changed that year, when Kathrine Switzer ignored the rules of the competition, and broke through a barricade of men who tried to stop her. Born from her act was the iconic image I’ve posted above, which till today, is a symbol of the courage and willpower begging to come alive in each of us.

Yesterday, I received word that she was here in Kuala Lumpur. No book on the planet conveyed the power of the human spirit more than mine did. And I knew I had to get Fuel into her hands.

My friend Joshua said he could pass it to her, so I drove it to him the next day, over lunch. We then learned that Kathrine was already at the airport and on the next flight out. I was downcast at the missed opportunity.

Josh then made the absurd suggestion that we chase her down.

“Dude, we’ll never make it on time.The airport’s an hour from here.”

He looked me straight in the eye, “Bro, I’ll get you there.”

We got to the airport, and like a scene from a romantic comedy, zeroed-in on Kathrine as she headed to the gate. I will not go into detail about what happened after, for that has little to do with the reason for my post. Plus, I trust that your imagination is vivid enough to conclude the scene for me.

In my tumultuous journey to become a bestselling book author, I’ve had many turn up in my life with false offerings. Many who extend and later retract their hand.

There have been many days where I’ve looked at myself, a thousand pieces strewn on the ground… but still connected, strung together by the few who have pulled alongside me, not just to watch or counsel, but to say , “Bro, I’ll get you there.”

Querencia by Jeremy Chin

I sometimes sneak in to play the piano when my parents are not at home. Of my siblings, I was the only one without piano lessons, so I’m probably doing it all wrong. :)

When the heart is turbulent, to the piano I go to find my calm. This is a song I wrote many years back, and I named it Querencia, a spanish word that points to a place from which one’s strength is drawn, where one feels at home; the place where you are your most authentic self.

 

No to LITerature

Protest in KLCC Park against the burning of Bibles

So, I guess I did make the news after all, hahaha! I have protested on many issues before, but only on the page. This was the first time I had actually gone out and joined the masses, and who better with than alongside Marina Mahathir.

I met Marina the day before, and she told me of the small group that was to gather at KLCC Park to protest Perkasa’s threat to burn Malay language Bibles. Bring any book she said. All we’ll do is read.

When I arrived, there were only six people, on picnic mats spread under a cluster of trees. I walked up and asked if this was “the book thing”… and they welcomed me in. There was a stack of books at the center and someone told me to help myself to one if I had not brought my own. At the top of the pile was an English translation of the Holy Quran. This will do, I said to myself, and I reached for it.

Jeremy Chin and Marina Mahathir at Book Protest
Marina arrived 10 minutes later and plonked herself next to me. As a result, I became the second most photographed person at the park that day. She and I spent half the time reading, and the other half chatting about the most random things… as you’d expect from weird me. The gathering ended peacefully, though there was a split second of tenseness when a small band of security personnel rode up on their motorbikes.

“They’re here for you,” I joked, “I’m just some small ikan bilis no name fella.”

“If I’m going to jail,” she paused, “I’m taking you with me.” She pursed her lips, trying her best to rein in her smile.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~
For those of you not subscribed to MalaysiaKini, here it is:
Malaysia Kini Article on Protest Against Bible Burning

I’d like two lattes please

Starbucks coffee takeaway cups

I was glowing ‘happy’ all day, and I thought I’d share with you this secret of how I made it happen.

It started with me running late for an event, and I felt a little flustered, flustered that my life had turned into a series of being late for events. But still, I badly needed my coffee.

Rather than walk around the mall till I ran into a Starbucks, I decided to stop at the information counter to ask for directions. I was attended to by a very friendly young lady, and she pointed me to a Starbucks outside the mall, which conveniently was where I was headed. As I turned to leave, she smilingly joked, “Satu kopi yah”, one coffee please. I grinned at her and said “ya”. 5 minutes later I brought her a latte with a stir stick and two packs of brown sugar.

First she looked surprised, then elated, then in disbelief. The transition of features was worth a million bucks, and from her face I knew this… that every person she would deal with that day would receive a piece of her happiness from the morning.

“I’m really late for something. I’ve gotta run. Enjoy your coffee and have a wonderful day!” And I left, like Batman.

12 bucks… to carve a lifelong happy memory for a person.

I’m always of the view that Starbucks charges too damn much for their coffee, but not on this day.

RAPE: A prison without bars

Against Rape
Rape is not about sex. It is about power, and degradation, and breaking a person’s spirit. When you kill a person’s spirit, you kill the person.  And such crimes have to be dealt with accordingly.

Real Men Don't Rape
Everyone has the right to live free of fear. One who takes away that right from another should have theirs taken away too. Don’t shelter them in prison, with other rapists who would laud their sin. Instead, have them tattooed from head to toe with the word, “RAPIST”, and set them free.

This way, they too will know what it is like to look over their shoulder for the rest of their life, and truly experience what it is like to be trapped in their own skin.

 

 

 

One of you


I hit a parked car in a very questionable neighbourhood. So I got out and bought a mango.

The rule of thumb when you hit anything in a poor area like this is to not stop. Just head to the nearest police station. I decided not to do that.

You see… no one stops to buy a mango here. Not unless you’re one of em. And if you’re not one of em, they’ll hunt you down if you hit anything of theirs with your car.

After I paid for my mango, I asked the owner whose car that was, and I explained that I had hit it. It was his.

“Tu tak pe,” he replied with a reassuring smile. No worries.

This is where I run each morning, and I’ve learned some things about the people here. I’ve learned that smiles don’t always get reciprocated, but may keep you alive. And because the lives of the people here are physically demanding, I’ve learned that running is viewed as a waste of energy, and those who run  have usually done something wrong and are making a getaway.

Of all the lessons I’ve picked up about this place, the most important could perhaps be this, that friends buy friend’s mangoes.

Estella

The charity worker, a collection can in his outstretched hand, took a step forward to stifle my path. I adjusted my course, and shot past at full tilt.

“Donations for single mothers,” he called out.

My synapses lit up and I froze on the spot.

Everything I had in my wallet, I gave to the man. I think it was about a hundred and sixty bucks.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.

Most days I ate by myself at the work cafeteria, my mood usually sullen. I was in a new work environment, and had no friends. And I didn’t feel the need to recruit any.

Then there was the day Estella asked if it would be okay if she joined me. I was quite sure she had cooler people to lunch with, but I think she felt I needed the company. I don’t remember a thing we talked about that day. I only remember how I felt: NOT INVISIBLE.

I passed Estella in the hallway a couple months ago. I congratulated her on the birth of her first born, and she flashed me that tired-mother look. I responded with a knowing smile. Happy times.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.

Today, I offered Estella my deepest condolences, for her husband who passed away.

“Donations for single mothers.”

Before this day, those words may not have registered. But not anymore, now that my friend has become one.

Hands sometimes emerge from nowhere and stop you from falling further

This is a hand drawn sketch that was mailed to me a few months back, all the way from Finland, by  a one Miss Madeleine Midtskogseter. Inscribed on the back are the words, “At last I see you. The boundless ocean of you.”

On a separate note to me, she conveyed that my book Fuel had inspired her to produce this piece. My mind could not compute this, that I was holding in my hands, a person’s raw emotion.

This welcome surprise came at a time when I felt I was going nowhere with the book’s promotions. But something else she said in her note made me feel differently about my nowhereness. “I understand your discouragement about the tough book market. You probably already know that nothing is impossible and that you will receive everything you desire, but let me tell you again; you have already succeeded. Hearts have been, and continue to be touched by you.”

 

Anima sana in corpore sano

The plantar fascia is the connective tissue in the foot that strings all them toe bones together… to make sure they don’t drop off. And because of its finger-in-every-pie role, it is like the nerve centre for the foot. So what happens is… the minute your PF gets inflamed, which mine often does, you end up limping like a duck without its webs.

My feet, after I had it appraised by a running expert, is flat as a trowel. This zero arch situation makes me very susceptible to Plantar Fasciitis, a condition that I’m now trying to correct with maximum stability shoes (there’s a hard rubber bridge in the middle of the shoe that gives me the arch I don’t naturally have).

The brand I finally elected to use was Asics. Somehow, I feel safe in their shoes. They costs an arm and a nut sac though. My running consigliere calls it the Mercedes Benz of shoes.

Yesterday, I discovered something very interesting. The acronym for the latin term “Anima sana in corpore sano” is ASICS. Translated it means, “Healthy Soul in a Healthy Body”

A fifty dollar cake for a thousand dollar smile

A fifty dollar cake for a thousand dollar smile
One of the perks of working at AMP Radio Networks is that you get two hot beverages delivered to your desk each day, prepared the way you choose to have it. The woman who makes this happen? Auntie Mallika. And she never gets your drink wrong.
Each day, Auntie Mallika prepares over a hundred cups of tea, coffee or milo. All you need to do is give her your personal mug from home and answer some basic questions she’ll ask you.
1. Would you like a drink in the morning or afternoon or both?
2. Would you like coffee, tea or milo? (You are allowed to pick a different drink for a different time of day)
3. Milk?
4. Level of sweetness.
Over the first few days of receiving your brew, Auntie Mallika will query you on it so she can make the necessary adjustments to get your beverage DNA right. The amazing thing about all this is that she doesn’t take notes. She just stores it all in her head.
There are some house rules. If you are not going to be in, you have to tell Auntie Mallika beforehand. She has the ability to remember multiple dates. So you could just tell her, I won’t be in Monday morning, Thursday afternoon and all of Friday, and she will remember it.
A sea of mugs. Hundreds of drink combinations. Changing schedules. How does she do it? She just does. One face at a time.
~.~.~.~.~
This morning, I had a real bad toothache and had to make a last minute trip to the dentist. I got told off quite badly by Auntie Malika when I got into work–for not informing ahead of time that I would not be in. Picture a large Italian grandmother doling out choice Italian while chasing you with a rolling pin… yeah, it was kinda like that. She even threatened to not make my afternoon drink.
I tried to keep my cheeky smile in, but some of it escaped as I pulled out a birthday cake from the box I was carrying. I got smacked in the arm. She could not believe that someone had remembered. A couple other people happened to be in the pantry at the time, and we sang her a song.
“So auntie… petang ni? Ada kopi?” (So aunty, this afternoon? Got coffee?)
“Ada, ada.”
You should have seen her smile. So glad I was, that on this day, I had remembered the lady who never forgets.

One of the perks of working at AMP Radio Networks is that you get two hot beverages delivered to your desk each day, prepared the way you choose to have it. The woman who makes this happen? Auntie Mallika. And she never gets your drink wrong.

Each day, Auntie Mallika prepares over a hundred cups of tea, coffee or milo. All you need to do is give her your personal mug from home and answer some basic questions she’ll ask you.

  1. Would you like a drink in the morning or afternoon or both?
  2. Would you like coffee, tea or milo? (You are allowed to pick a different drink for a different time of day)
  3. Milk?
  4. Level of sweetness.

Over the first few days of receiving your brew, Auntie Mallika will query you on it so she can make the necessary adjustments to get your beverage DNA right. The amazing thing about all this is that she doesn’t take notes. She just stores it all in her head.

There are some house rules. If you are not going to be in, you have to tell Auntie Mallika beforehand. She has the ability to remember multiple dates. So you could just tell her, I won’t be in Monday morning, Thursday afternoon and all of Friday, and she will remember it.

A sea of mugs. Hundreds of drink combinations. Changing schedules. How does she do it? She just does. One face at a time.

~.~.~.~.~

This morning, I had a real bad toothache and had to make a last minute trip to the dentist. I got told off quite badly by Auntie Malika when I got into work–for not informing ahead of time that I would not be in. Picture a large Italian grandmother doling out choice Italian while chasing you with a rolling pin… yeah, it was kinda like that. She even threatened to not make my afternoon drink.

I tried to keep my cheeky smile in, but some of it escaped as I pulled out a birthday cake from the box I was carrying. I got smacked in the arm. She could not believe that someone had remembered. A couple other people happened to be in the pantry at the time, and we sang her a song.

“So auntie… petang ni? Ada kopi?” (So auntie, this afternoon? Got coffee?)

“Ada, ada.”

You should have seen her smile. So glad I was, that on this day, I had remembered the lady who never forgets.