Monday, May 01, 2006

Introductory chapter to the book that I might never write

Whenever people ask about my hometown, my throat finds hesitation. “23 kilometers away from the city” is my default answer. I give them a distance instead of a name, a measurement instead of a location.

You see, it is pretty useless to say more of my town. Even to the locals, the town bears no significance but the food, food, and the cheaper food. We are the all-you-can-eat buffet, the 9 to 5 Yum Cha, the “see, you’re not that crap” of the country.

The town is furthest away south west from the city. We are at the fringe of the metropolitan civilization. We are the fake imitation of Rolex’s. We are the descendants of your grandmother’s cousins, your ugly but down-to-earth friends; we are your bored weekends. We have plenty, but not all. We are there, but not quite yet. We are enough to be covered in a day.

Perhaps the only thing we possess that others do not, is a port. The town’s official website states that it is the country’s “marine gateway to the world”.

American TV shows are foul-word sensitive. We know that because we have TV programs about American TV programs. A documentary of a documentary, a process of a process, a censorship of a censorship. We learn that whenever swearing occurs in a program, the TV station somehow manages to transmit a beep to cover up. For instance, “beep”, “beep”, and “mother-beep”.

Where I come from, there is no beep; the whole scene gets removed. Yet sometimes, you get a snippet of the audio. The industry calls them “dirty pipes”. For instance, “bullshi-”, “cun-”, and “fgh”. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you get a concise swear word after the whole scene is censored. Like a jigsaw puzzle, you have to insert the word in the previous sentence to make a complete different meaning out of it.

For instance, the country’s marine gateway to the world. ILLEGAL.
A peaceful, beautiful, and prosperous city. CORRUPTED.
A centre of economic and social activities. UNDERWORLD.
Fresh, beautiful and comfortable. BURNING TREES.

But don’t get me wrong. The residents are proud of the town. We don’t run away from the fact that we are the display case of human immorality. We do not believe that a perfect world exists beyond the borders of our town. We nod and smile when our grandmother’s distant cousins, our beautiful friends, the trophies of interesting weekends, snort discomfort. We are completely in the mood for Zen when you think you are better than us.

Nobody’s perfect, but at least we are not ashamed to admit it. In the Wimbledon match of denial, you are leading 2 sets to nil, serving for match point. And we are checking out the ball girls. In the final 100M dash of proving our decency, we’ve already jump started twice. Just to prove that we can.

Because the world does not revolves around the best out of 5 matches. We cannot determine shit in less than 9.79 seconds. It’s an on going thing until your heart refuses to pump blood. And our advantage, is that we start from somewhere really, really low. We are calm, because whatever happens from here will only get better. We are not afraid to fail. Your worst is our starting point. Our worst? Well, my beautiful stopping over for a weekend friend, you will not want to know about our ‘worst’.

To you it might be a distance, or a measurement. But this is my town. And we are what we are not ashamed of.