Friday, July 19, 2013

Three weeks in Singapore, June 27 to July 17.


1 Visit to Gardens by the Bay. I took parents to the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. We were rather underwhelmed, I think. Much more enjoyable was our visit to the Botanic Gardens, where a Talipot Palm in its 80th year was flowering for the one and only time before it died.

2 Parties. Pink Dot party at Park Royal Hotel, and a party at KA’s lovely home in Tiong Bahru. Met CCYC for the first time at Pink Dot. She took me to a party in Park Royal Hotel, one of many gay parties that night that overlooked the mass gathering. The host N knows CW from university days when they sang in the same choral group. Met there a number of young Singaporean artists, and a curator DC from the Singapore Arts Museum, who just returned from the Venice Biennale. He was trained in Goldsmith, in London. Met a cute couple there, H who is Malay and a civil servant, and V who is Chinese and an architect. Also was introduced to KA, who heads Heritage Conservation at the URA. It was a queer arty circle, quite new to me.

3 Plays. The Finger Players’ The Book of Living and Dying, and the Wild Rice productions of Alfian Sa’at’s Dream Play: Asian Boys Volume One, and Cook a Pot of Curry. DC invited me to join him for The Finger Players’ performance of The Book of Living and Dying, at the Esplanade. We had a nice dinner before that. The production was magical. The core story was about the fraught relationship between a dying white transvestite and his adopted African American daughter. Framing that story was a reincarnation tale about the theft of a holy lamp from a Buddhist temple. The lamp turned out to be the African American daughter, taken from her roots. Throughout the production, actors drew props and patterns on the floor and walls with chalk, and then erased the chalk marks to form patterns of absence. Paper cutouts in the form of skeletons and dinosaurs paraded before a bright lamp threw enormous primeval shadows on the walls. All the elements of the production came together in a really absorbing way. I thought that the show was as good as many things that I’ve seen on Broadway or off-Broadway.

Dream Play: Asian Boys Volume One, and Cook a Pot of Curry, both part of the Wild Rice Theater spotlight on Alfian Sa’at, were performed at LaSalle College of the Arts. Asian Boys was campy with an edge; it could have been better written and edited, but it had its moments. Cook a Pot of Curry, a docudrama, organized into a collage monologues by actors representing a cross-section of Singapore society interviewed by the playwright. The monologues were loosely joined together by ironic songs-and-dances. I thought that the play tried too hard to be even-handed in addressing the issue of the huge influx of foreigners into Singapore. I would rather know, or better, feel, the playwright’s stand. I think the play will date badly.

4 Art Shows. The Picasso prints show at Singapore Tyler Print Institute was very focused and well organized. Four series of prints exhibited different aspects of Picasso’s artistic process. The series with the two nude women was especially interesting to me. The prints became increasingly abstract in a way that does not simplify, but complicates instead. The works on paper, small and intimate, done near the end of Picasso’s life, reminded me of Matisse’s cutouts. One finds a way to continue, even with reduced physical capacities. At the SAM, I saw with R the interesting Arab show “Terms and Conditions.” The films were particularly compelling. There were also a number of pieces that appropriated other art traditions for political protest. Also saw at the SAM the work of Boo Junfeng for the first time at the President’s Young Talents show. I liked his bifurcated film “Mirror.” DC and I also went to Singapore’s first hotel art fair, at Park Royal. The fair was quite dreadful, except for some Singapore watercolors of street scenes, which were delicate, even anxious.

5 RJC friends. SS, TY, SW and HW. DL came for my reading. SS is now married with two boys, living in Belfast, and teaching at a Waldorf-Steiner School. TY just graduated from the SE Asian Studies program at NYU, and is still rock-climbing. SW is making a kind of peace with Singapore, and is freelancing as a writer and editor, mainly with URA. HW is still leading the NUS Science School as VP.

6 New Friends. Yes, now I count as friends CCYC, KA and bf N, and DC. I also had a very pleasant coffee with TXW at the SAM extension , and then a beer with him at Boat Quay. He was nice enough to come for my reading at Select Books when his meditation retreat was canceled. I also met HF of Ethos Books at the reading. KA and N also came.

7 Fellow Travelers. AP, JW and DC. I had dinner with CW, his bf S and his roommate D, in Clementi Avenue 2, where they now live. YSH came for the reading.

8 Former Students. HY, LG, PF, G, PF had dinner with me at the Jewel Box on Mount Faber. JN, YZH and W came for my reading, as did PF, and HY and her husband CK.

9 Dinners With My Parents. Barbecued Stingray and crayfish were delicious at Alexandra Village market, but the best meal was actually chicken porridge in Chinatown, with fried fritters and raw fish. That was lunch, however, not dinner. We ate a lot.

10 Dollars for a Glass of Wine. Reasonably priced drinks at Tantric Bar. One reason, among many, why that was my gay bar of choice in Singapore. The other reasons leave little to the imagination. Tip your servers, peeps!

11 Old Friends, Including Their Children. The category can be subdivided. 1 Foundation Course mate: HM, who turned out to be the Director of Select Books. 3 Former Colleagues: RK, FT and KC and their little girl T. 4 Church Friends: SL, TCH, EY and ET with her two children at the Science Center. There were others whom I wish I had time to meet, but didn’t. Still, I feel very lucky for keeping these ties.

12 Books I carried from New York to Singapore. My poetry books are now sold at Select Books, Singapore. Buy them for Christmas presents! It’s never too early.

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