Thursday, October 27, 2005

Rivendell.

I jotted a few notes last night which I am now stealing a few moments during my lunch hour at my day job to write down. Fragments of thoughts. Snapshots. Vignettes. That kind of stuff.


***


Back in the getting-hazier past, I would work long hours at my job. Very long hours. As in Taiwanese-engineer-type long hours. The mobile phone would ring at all kinds of odd hours and on weekends and on my days off. And I would answer it.

Now I work two jobs. The hours are long. As long as, if not longer, than the hours I used to work. However I am nowhere near as stressed. And nobody calls me outside my scheduled work hours. Except maybe to remind me of the early morning meeting at the day job, or to check if I could come in a bit earlier / later depending on how busy the pizza place is.

At the end of the day (or night), I leave work at the workplace. The only work I take home with me is the fresh pizza for a late night snack or early morning breakfast. That sort of work I definitely do not mind bringing back with me!


***


I own a car. It has been quite some time now, but I am still getting used to the idea that I actually own (not a 10-year lease) a car. Granted, the entire car costs less than the notebooks that high-powered executive visitors to the day job would carry in. And that most Australians own their own vehicle and a good majority own multiple vehicles.

Still I am not sure I can get my head around the fact. Given that I grew up understanding that cars were luxuries only for the rich, and that we serfs are resigned to having to cope with whatever miseries the public transportation system would choose to inflict on us.

And I am learning to drive. To work around the idiosyncrasies of an old vehicle with a character of its own. Exploring and pushing the envelope of the what the car can do, in a safe manner without risking life or limb. Or endangering public safety. Mr C gave me a flattering compliment when he was surprised that "Oh, you do not have power steering? You drive like you have power steering".

And in the so-human inflation of expectations.. I am now setting my sights on affording a spare car. So that I will not be caught out when (when, not if) the Good Little Car decides to give up the ghost.


***


I live near the beach. I actually live near the beach! Wow.

It takes me less than 5 minutes to drive to the beach. On the few days that I am not working nights, I actually have the luxury to drive to the beach, watch the sunset and be back in a nice warm house in less time than it takes to do a load of laundry.

And the sunsets are amazing. No two sunsets are ever exactly the same, and no two sunsets ever calm your inner soul in the same way. Sometimes they put me in a quiet, thoughtful mood. And other times they just charge me with so much energy that I would be bouncing off the walls and startling my housemates.


***


Remember that scene from Disney's Snow White where the seven dwarfs are singing "hi ho, hi ho, it's home from work we go..". Often misheard as "hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go".

On bad mornings when it is hard to get going to work, I often hum the latter to cheer me up as I haul my ass off to work. The image of cheery dwarfs tripping over themselves going to work in the mines helps make the start of the workday more tolerable.

So one morning, I get intercepted by a neighbour greeting me as I am getting into the car to go to the day job. Without thinking, I reply his greeting with "Yeah, it is a beautiful morning. Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to the mines we go.."

I get a strange double-take from the neighbour. I totally did not figure it out until a few moments later driving away.

This being Western Australia where a good portion of the population is involved in the mining industry.. my neighbour was probably trying to figure out if I was being serious or sarcastic about "off to the mines".

Context is everything, I suppose.


***


Was online with a friend back on the small island just talking about the weather. I was commenting that we were getting beautiful warm days here with mornings in the mid-teens and afternoons reaching high 20s. Night were as warm as around 12 degrees. Very comfortable weather.

The reply: "28 degrees in the office and my calf muscles are already cramping!"

Context is everything, redux.


***


The Perth CBD skyline framed against a big blue sky painted by white clouds, is something I see almost every day coming in on the freeway. It still takes my breath away in unexpected moments. It invokes a strange affection in me. A possessiveness that I have never felt for the city where I grew up in as a child.

I have seen the skyline from the Benjamin Sheares bridge, the bustling city from the river nightspot areas, the industrial skyline from Tuas, and hundreds of other postcard scenes of the small island. They bring out feelings of awe and beauty and even pride. But not affection.

The Perth skyscrapers are not even that impressive, when you think about it. Central Tower looks like any generic building design that the architects pulled out of a reference book. The BankWest tower, although distinctive, is not likely to win any international design awards. And the skyscrapers are not particularly impressive either. Back on the small island, there are HDB residential blocks in the heartlands that are taller than the biggest buildings in Perth.

Yet I feel a strange protective affection for this place. And when idle chatter (in light of the recent unrest in the world) about terrorists flying a plane into the BankWest tower, or setting off a bomb in the middle of Perth CBD, I get this urge to tell all potential terror-mongers to go away and choose one of the Eastern cities for great impact. Listening to the idle office chitchat, it is a funny mixed situation. On one hand you can hear the residents swell up with worry about terrorism reaching Perth. On the other hand, there is this undertone of resignation that Perth is way too unimportant on the global scale as a city to warrant serious attention by potential terrorists.

How is it even possible to feel affection for a city skyline?


***


I miss D. Very much. The queen-sized bed just seems so huge and empty and cold. That is when I am not so exhausted to just topple into it and burrow under the quilt.

And I miss her presence.

And trying not to annoy my housemates by mentioning her in every other line in our conversations.


***


It's all good.

That expression gets tossed around a lot here by those who have lived here a bit. You could hear a whole litany of complaints or issues.. followed by a quiet "but it's all good" thrown in almost as an afterthought.

Not so much as an acknowledgement of goodness (especially not after a a whole load of negative outburst). More partly as an implicit apology for sounding like a whinging Pom, and partly as a defiance refusing to be defeated by whatever tough circumstances currently being faced.

It is like saying "Things are tough. Sorry for unloading on you. Still I am not giving up."

It's all good.


10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

gosh, you write like an aussie bloke liao! Amazingly rapid evolution!

It seems that you have given it a go and Perth had kinda accepted you....

Cheers mate....and see you later!

October 28, 2005 1:14 AM  
Blogger Calamity Man said...

nice, i'll probably start corresponding with you next week in preparation for my trip there in nov.

October 28, 2005 7:42 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Yes, the Perth skyline is beautiful, especially if you looking down from King's Park, near the flower clock. I believe a free bus service still runs from Hay Street to King's Park, and now they have open air cinema shows. Just to thing to have your lady friend at your side, taking in the scenery and fresh air. Chee, you making me jealous of you.

October 28, 2005 1:26 PM  
Anonymous Ted said...

Good to read that you are settling in quite well. Must be quite a feat.

Would sure like to vivsit Perth one day. Maybe I'll bump into you someday there, hehe.

October 28, 2005 3:03 PM  
Blogger bohemianlisa said...

me love beach, myte. :-)

October 28, 2005 3:41 PM  
Anonymous mel said...

so perth is your rivendell eh? i haven't found my rivendell yet, but your story has been inspiring, reminding me i should never give up on this idea.

October 29, 2005 1:47 PM  
Blogger Tym said...

Jealous! Jealous!

"It's all good" seems to have a slightly different connotation from how my American friends used it, which was more affirmative. But you know, dem Americans, always sounding so positive and cheerful about everything :)

October 29, 2005 3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello,

I just visited your blog ... first time.
I am Singaporean but living permanently for good in Perth.

I have fortunately stopped comparing Perth with Singapore anymore, because I love the lifestyle here ... and I dun give a damn about the materialistic values which still haunts Singaporeans.

Just went over to Matilda Bay over the last weekend and captured the changing light of the waterfront, with the skyline of Perth CBD in the background.

Not to mention a few kookaburras making their pressence felt.

Still missed the school of dolphins which visited the bay last month. Quite a spectacle in front of an appreciative audience.

Just wish to say something about acceptance ... I finally find it within myself. I used to be angry that Australians did not give me a go and I was unemployed for more than a year. Then, I decided to give myself a go, changed my take-for-granted attitudes that were hurting me and I found myself a job, and a life.

November 03, 2005 2:04 PM  
Blogger m2cr said...

I drive a little Hyundai Getz and the sense of awe does not diminish. Car ownership is certainly a defining moment in one's adult life. I too was a bus and occasional taxi serf.

November 04, 2005 8:26 AM  
Blogger KnightofPentacles said...

anonymous:
How do aussie blokes write? Has my writing style changed dramatically since my antipodean arrival?

mr loobz:
No email from you yet. I will try to get some time away to meet up with you when you get here.

david:
Yes. Perth has a quiet understated charm. I eagerly await the (permanent) arrival of my lady friend and soulmate.

ted:
Does not really feel like I am settling in though. See the next post. If you visit Perth, I would be that chink driving that beat-up unwashed Ford Festiva all over the road without any hand-eye-foot coordination.

bohemianlisa:
Me love beach too. Me love sunset at beach even more. Me think me can live in Perth.

mel:
Perhaps not in the sense that you may be referring to. For some like Bilbo, Rivendell was rest at the end of his long journey. For others like Frodo, Rivendell is but an resting place - an welcome oasis in the desert - to recharge before continuing his journey. And yet for others, Rivendell is staging point for even greater battles. And for some, Rivendell is and always have been home. In in a similar vein, this place may be different for me - depending how how life turns out.

tym:
You reminded me of something I once read comparing the Americans with the Australians. Looking at the history, North America is a very rich fertile land populated by free people, whereas Australia is a harsh desert populated by convicts. Hence the Americans celebrate success and achievement, whereas Australians celebrate the battler (a la Gallipoli).

anonymous:
Onya, myte! I have not had much of a chance to sample the quite beauty of WA outside the city - given my current situation. But in time..

m2cr:
Around here (unless you live in a place like Subi), having your own transport adds dramatically to the quality of life. Not having a car in WA would make life a lot more difficult here, compared to not having a car in Singapore.

November 05, 2005 2:20 PM  

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