Still in Montreal, Tuesday, December 10, after clearing my truck through customs, I took the stamped paperwork to Ginger and proceeded to Cours Mt Royal to look at the apartment next door, which had come up for sale. It’s a little one bedroom, and it doesn’t boast frontage on three streets like mine does, but they managed to bill it as a corner because it is a notch and has a little look out on Peel, as well as Place Mt.Royal. It’s also $11/sq.ft. cheaper than mine. It’s a perfect apartment for a McGill student, in move-in condition, and I could keep it as a rental. But I am not sure I am ready to have all my eggs in one basket. And I had a plane to catch.
It wasn’t flying out until five o’clock, so I took my United One-Time Pass to the Maple Leaf Lounge, because my flight was a codeshare with Air Canada. There’s no rule that says they have to honor it, but all this grey hair is worth something, sometimes, and I got in. I used the time to order taps, shower heads, towel bars, etc. for the whole house, from Wayfair, in the only model that Andrée and I had liked at Home Depot. Etc. were TP holders. I’m partial to those.
By the time I was done with that, it was time to board and I was off to SFO. The plane touched down more or less on time, around nine, but the gate wasn’t ready, so we sat on the tarmac another half, three-quarters of an hour, got the luggage, got the car, paid an extra $40 to get the “Manager’s Special” down from a mini-van to something I might actually be able to drive. Won’t book that again. Couldn’t get the space ship of a Beemer into park or drive, couldn’t find anything on it, did manage to hook up blue tooth, but it was all very disconcerting. Finally got on the road only to spend an hour and a half crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, which merged down to one lane for midnight construction. It was about one thirty, when I got to Fountaingrove, where the long suffering Steve was waiting for me. Trish was in England for a funeral.
Steve and I can talk forever, any old time, and we did, over almost two bottles of Pinot Noir. That set me up for a very good sleep and I didn’t surface the next day until after noon. I took care of the necessary paperwork to get my FGL deposit back, help my clients, work with my Montreal Interior Designer, etc. and barely made it to a Wine Wednesday in memoriam for Ted Johnson, who had died suddenly a couple of days before. He was a good friend and Bridge-player, and I shall miss him.
Pat Gustafson had put together dinner for me, and Trish was arriving back from England. Besides Pat and Mike and Steve and Trish, Pat Finot and Sue and Carol were at the happy table. It was wonderful to see everyone again. I’ll be back for a longer stay late January.
Thursday, December 12th, I was back on the road at the crack of dawn, bound for SFO and KL. When I reached the Petaluma narrows, I called Ginger to see how the move was going. They had hit a major snag. My custom-made red ginger jar shaped cabinet wouldn’t fit in the elevator.
I guess I should have thought of that. It’s seven feet tall and six feet wide. Once again, I thank my lucky stars for having Ginger Petty for a friend. Who else has a four-car garage in downtown Montreal? So there it will sit, while I work out the logistics. I am still hoping we can get it in a window with a crane, but God knows what that will cost. Alternatively, I have to hope that Dennis Douglas, in Napa, who made it, knows where to take it apart and put it back together again. Not easy with the bent wood. Thank you, Ginger, I am your slave for life.
After that high drama, an eleven-hour flight to Narita, followed by a seven-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, was nothing. Vellu, the ride I had booked through Expedia, was there waiting, at midnight, and he was delightful to talk with. He was a karate teacher and twice all-Asia champion, when he wasn’t driving people around and managing the taxi/limo business. He had a solution for Linda, who had been robbed in her own driveway, inside her gate, last month. The answer is dogs. You get yourself a couple of rottweilers. I can just see Linda, in her wheel chair, and her 95-year-old father with those.
I was still lively when I got to the Cititel Hotel in the Mid-Valley Mall, at two in the morning. So, at 2:30 am on December 14, I had Nasi Goreng, before I went to bed. It was good, and I was able to sleep until 3 pm, when I got up and got ready for my dinner-date. Ulla’s daughter Angela, and her daughter, Arianna were picking me up and taking me out. Angela is in her early 50s, Ariana is 15, and we got along like a house on fire. On the forty-minute drive back to their neighborhood and their favorite restaurant, I caught them up with my move and how to live with Montreal’s miserable weather. Between us, we came up with “The Mole in the Mall”, which is what I’ll be, while I am unpacking this February-March. In the future, I have no plans for even being there, then. The Restaurant was Tamarind Springs, and it was lovely. We ate outdoors, with a roof over our heads, but no walls. The cuisine was an East-Asian blend, with a Thai chef, so it leaned that way, to which I had no objections at all.
We talked a lot about Arianna’s future. She’s a wake-boarding star, at the moment, at a crossroads. Does she pick her university to further that career or does she settle down and get some serious academics? How lucky she is to be in a position to even have that choice. She’s also lucky to be half-German, where university is free, but no wake-boarding to speak of, although she does compete under the German flag. Anyway, she’s charming and level-headed and I know she’ll do well, whatever she chooses. I am happy to have a young friend to follow, at this stage in my life. So, thanks, Ulla, for the “you must meet them in KL”. I am very glad I did.
The 15th was a Sunday, and it was about time I went to see Linda Chew, my partner in fun, from our Hong Kong days. Her nephew, Steven, with his wife , Connie, and children, Olivia, Edmund and Josephine, from New Zealand, were visiting at the Chew house, which is why I was at Cititel, nearby. Linda and Steven picked me up around 9:30 and took me back to the house for a breakfast of mango-sticky rice, my favorite. Yes, there is one fruit, I really love. I had had it for dessert the night before. I can’t get enough of it. Linda’s maid, Maria, makes a wonderful version and packaged some up for me to take back to the little fridge in my room. It made three more breakfasts.
Linda’s father is almost 96 and he is doing fabulously well. He’s barely frail. People ask him to what he attributes his longevity and good health and he says it’s because he never eats his vegetables. I knew I was on to something and here’s living proof. Too bad Ted just died. I’d love for him to be reading this. He was a vegetarian.
At noon or so, we all left, eight of us in two cars, and went to Aunty Irene’s for lunch. Aunty Irene is over eighty, herself, but it didn’t stop her serving a multi-course lunch to 14 people. Linda brought her maid, Maria, to help Irene’s maid, Annie, but sill. It was impressive.
The piece de resistance was Assam Laksa, which is a fish stew, to which you add five or six chopped things, mostly vegetation. I liked it well enough to have my bowl, without the veggie add-ons, but I probably won’t be ordering it, when there are things I like better on the menu. It’s supposed to be quite an expensive dish, if you prepare it right. Most restaurants cut corners nowadays, so the Chew family were happy to be eating the real thing. There were also noodles, called “Fried Bee Hoon”, which were very nice. Dessert was a sweet soup and a couple of cakes, which were really jellies. They were pretty and delicious.
This family speaks English, when it gets together. I gather that is the language of the educated class in Malaysia, which was under British rule, until 1957. The new Malay government would like it to be Bahasa Malaysia, but that’s not a world language and those who can afford to, educate their children in English. Smart.
Mid-afternoon, they brought me back to Cititel, where I planned to dine alone at Dragon-I, in the hotel, but with its entrance in the Mall. It was packed every time I saw it, but I was underwhelmed. It could have been I just made a bad menu choice, because my appetizer was excellent. It was about six chili won tons. The noodles were tender and the sauce just right. The main course, which was the restaurant’s specialty, fell short for me. It was hand pulled, hand cut, noodles with seafood. The sauce was thick, brown and unimpressive and there was no end to the noodles. The more I ate, the more there seemed to be on my plate. I guess they were getting fluffed up by my chopsticks, but it was depressing not to be able to make them disappear. I finally gave up.
Monday, the 16th, I was picked up again for a family lunch, this one at Trace, in the Marriott, overlooking the famous twin towers, on the 40th floor. Yesterday afternoon, and on the way to lunch, I learned a little about Malaysian politics. You see IMDB, all over the place, mostly on skyscrapers. It’s a government company, controlled by former prime minister Najib Razak, now famous for his troubles with the law. He’s currently on trial for money laundering, and there is talk in the papers of adding murder. He kind of makes DT look like a choirboy.
Linda’s friend Yonne was with us and took me shopping in Brickfields afterward. Brickfields is a suburban version of Little India, with less of a parking problem. It sure worked for my cushion cover purchases. With Lonne and Connie helping with the bargaining, I ended up with five wedding sarees in red, gold, turquoise and purple. I wanted red, gold, turquoise and black, as those are the colors in my latest art acquisition, an 80” triptych by Zabel. But you can’t get a wedding saree in black. It’s bad luck to wear black at a wedding.
They didn’t have any of the white Indian blouses I wear all the time. So Lonne took us to Amcorp Mall, one that no tourists know about, but, again, easy access and good shopping for locals. Within five minutes, I had three acceptable white blouses. Then we spotted the carpet store. After getting nothing for carpets I had loved, when we moved to Santa Rosa, I was into genuine imitation copies, this time. I found exactly what I wanted for my office, in what I think will be just the right colors. All we have to do is ship it to Montreal and get it through customs. Yonne knew where to have dinner, too. We went to a Japanese restaurant in another mall, called Edo Ichi. It was excellent and it’s part of a chain, so it can be found in Singapore, Penang and (would you believe) Connecticut. If it comes to your town, give it a try.
Full and happy, I went to bed around eleven, and, at midnight, the phone rang. The power had been cut off at my apartment in Montreal. Silly me. I had assumed it was part of the condo fees. I could have sworn I asked that question when I was buying the place and was told they took care of heating and air-conditioning. I suppose that could be true, but I have to run my own lights, stove and appliances. Anyway, Andrée told me it was easy and I would be able to do it from here, and she was right. The Internet and Hydro’s site were very slow, though, and it took me until one-thirty to get it done. It’s nice to have that crisis averted and nice that you can do this kind of stuff from all over the world.
Over dinner, the brilliant Yonne had suggested I get in tough with the carpet guy first thing in the morning to see if I could add the sarees to the shipment, because they were pretty heavy. I didn’t get up any too early after that night, though, so it was noon by the time I was back at the carpet shop with the sarees. While Salahuddin was working on packing, weighing and comparing shipping methods, I found a rug that would do nicely for my living room yoga mat. Then I found another and couldn’t decide which would work better, so I bought them both. By the time I was done, I had 40 kilos worth of stuff and a whopper of a shipping bill. I likely won’t have saved that much in the end, but it has been fun.
I had to hurry to get back to the hotel and change for Linda’s 70th birthday party, as I was being picked up at 5:15pm. The party was a big deal, a lot of food and a lot of fun. I took a few pictures. Here’s the menu:
And the wine flowed, and conviviality led to karaoke, as it has been doing since the nineties, when I was in Hong Kong. First the only other white guy in the place was tapped to perform, and, bless him, he did a canto-pop song.
More and more people volunteered, some better than others, until Linda’s 95 year old father joined in and stole the show.
And the paparazzi couldn’t resist. They were my two new friends, Yonne and Connie:
Dessert was served, we all had our pictures taken with it. There was a family picture and a friends picture. I was the honored friend, having come from farthest away, and got to sit beside Linda.
Gorgeous as those desserts were, I had to show you the dessert that was on the menu and let your imaginations go where mine went:
It wouldn’t be a holiday in Malaysia without a trip to Perlang, a famous local Port Klang restaurant, by the river. Linda’s friend, Dolly drove us there. I was pleased to see they had upgraded the washrooms to nice clean western toilets. Last time, we went to McDonald’s for that part. The food, however, has gone to the younger generation, I guess, as the chilli crab was sweet, and not as we remembered it. Next time, we’ll mention that in the ordering process. It was still good, and always fun.
Linda was ready for another meal that night, but I was ready to crash. Comcast had called me, at what was 1:00 am KL time, to collect the 56 cents it thinks I owe, and those miserable telemarketers in the US that tell you your social security number has been compromised, called me seven more times between one and seven am. I am answering everything because I have people working on my house in Montreal, who might need me, but that had been no fun at all. At ship’s prices, I’ll be declining if the area code isn’t 514. By the morning I was of the opinion that all telemarketers should be taken out and shot. I know they have to make a living but torturing people is not an honorable occupation. So, we just had tea and I went back to my room, packed and crashed. I didn’t need supper after that lunch.
Plus, on the 19th I had to get up at 6 again. Such is traveling. I was flying to Singapore. I got to my hotel by 1:00 pm, checked in and set out to find the full-service Chase Bank that Google promised at 150 Beach Road. I chose a bus and an 11 minute walk, which I thought would be good for me. Well, they don’t put numbers on skyscrapers anywhere where you can see them from the street, so it took a lot longer to get here, only to find out there was no Chase Bank in the building. JP Morgan still has a branch in Singapore, but they bank with OTB, because Chase no longer has a presence. It was important to find one because Fountaingrove Lodge has returned my deposit to my Chase account in Santa Rosa, and I need to get it to the Royal Bank of Canada to clear my bridge loan, before another month of interest accrues.
I took a taxi back to the Regent and had tea in the lobby, with the piano. Every so often I treat myself to a very nice Asian hotel with such amenities. I stuffed myself so I wouldn’t need dinner and went up to my room for a nap. I woke up, did my yoga, cleared my email and called Chase, when it was 9:00 am on the East Coast. I found out I could do it on the Internet in $200,000 tranches and set about doing that. Once I got all the forms filled out online, it told me that part of the site wasn’t working, and I should try again later. That’ll be tonight. Wish me luck. I’m not having too much. The US dollar is falling with the impeachment and I am getting less and less Canadian dollars, the longer it takes me to move the money. Oy.
Today is the 20th and I treated myself to The Regent’s buffet breakfast, reading the impeachment news from the points of view of the New York Times and The Straits times, Singapore’s paper. It’s four thirty and I have been photoshopping and blogging all day. This stuff doesn’t write itself. Now to go to the gym and off to Little India for dinner.