Riding High

I stood there perched on the tail-end of the boat, and felt the wind blowing aggresively against my already-dry skin. The wind was wicked, with a menacing black cloud hovering above the 24-footer. We are approaching death, I say to myself – as I whisper a silent prayer. The skipper’s deep panting did not move me one bit, in between the climbing waves and the pendulum swings, I was at one with the elements. Ah bliss, amidst danger. You cannot be more centred than this.

That would be the voice over if I ever have the guts to be on a clipper like that, documenting their round-the-world journey which is ending soon in a few months, with a camera in hand. But alas, I am no gutsy sea-farer, neither am I someone with a steady hand. In real life, Uja will be screaming in a tense situation like that, praying yes, but with my Ayatul Kursi all jumbled up as I repeat it over and over again. I would be panting too, but only because my heart is racing, and my mind tumbling 360 degrees thinking of when the KL studio apt will eventually find a buyer, and if DH will be able to find his missing socks.

I had lunch with KYC, my galpal from secondary school, and 2 other guys who are here to launch the Victoria-Jamaica leg of the round-the-world clipper race. KYC is joining them for only a month, but the other 2 guys – D and C are what STB (who is sponsoring the $1.2 million boat btw) call the round-the-worldlers. They have been on the boat since September last year, slicing the ocean waves from Liverpool to China, from Australia to New York.

The worst wave they have hit so far was apparently 6 metres high, They told of how there are days when their food was running low, and the 18 man crew survived on spaghetti and soy sauce. I don’t know how I would be if I am in that position, I get really grouchy when I am hungry.

They race 24/7. Even at night, the boat is racing. The Singapore boat is currently 7th in the race of 10 boats from various countries, not impressive to the competitive beast, but hey, it could have been worse. With months and months of being on the sea, I can imagine how much they really miss good lip-smacking food.

And so the Thai lunch yesterday was heaven. D, a Brit who has been living in Singapore on and off, even asked for ‘sambal’ from the Canadian waiter, who of course looked puzzled. I had wanted to pack for them sambal ikan bilis for the journey, but alas KYC had packed her own big bottle of sambal belacan for this leg. How heavenly that would be, when the waves are slapping against the boat threatening to capsize it with the next yank, you are trying to breathe in between hot, fiery sambal belacan and roti in your mouth 🙂

For some, it is the ultimate cool thing to be on this boat. KYC has always been one cool galpal, though I am nowhere near her cool factor. I know DH would be on the boat in a heartbeat if he is asked, he has this strange theory that his initials, which happened to be S.E.A means he is meant to be one with the ocean. He dreams of fighting the big wave, boat tilting close to 90 degrees, the same way how George Clooney did it (almost) in that unforgettable scene in The Perfect Storm.

We are lucky that we know the real guys who actually do this with such finesse. Not many people I know get to be so close to their dream like DH did yesterday. Too bad we didnt have time to pose for pictures on the boat.

Me? I would hum and haw if someone ask me to be on the clipper. If someone, anyone, can guarantee me fries and gelato while riding high on the oceans, I may, err, consider.

Of Sarah and Bathura

Once upon a time, in a galaxy not too far away, I used to only want to jam if the guys in the band let me sing Angel by Sarah McLachlan as the first song for the two hour session. The guys, all of Raoul, Carl, Melvin, Cheong Soon and the gals – Samantha and Sharon, would kindly oblige, broke into an acoustic drummy version of Angel and I will sing away. Only after that, would I start singing THEIR songs, often not doing justice to their beautiful melodies and insightful lyrics of course. Then again. Imagine Angel being sang almost every weekend that we jammed, sometimes two times a week, and that only made Melvin decided “Hey! Let’s do Angel in reggae!!”. And we did. We mutilated the song, that goes without saying. Yes Sarah, please forgive us.

I used to be so crazy over Sarah McLachlan. I still am. Her music, her voice and her soulful emotions when she sings beat any other singers I know. Including Natalie Merchant. Jamming with a band was a childhood dream, so when I got the chance to do so with the guys, the first song I performed publicly was Sarah’s – Building a Mystery. During my news journalist days, I used to tell people I would be the first to hand in my request to interview her, if she ever comes into Singapore. I have even campaigned for some other female journalists/colleagues to save money and come with me to the US, just so that I can attend Lilith Fair, an open-air concert hosted by Sarah McLachlan which features and celebrates female singers. I never did go to Lilith Fair, neither did I ever interview her.

Yesterday, something strange happened in between my roti and basmati rice at a rather subdued looking Indian restaurant on Main Street. DH and I just arrived from Toronto after a week-long documentary festival and we were tired and hungry after the five hour flight. MIL and SIL, who fetched us at the airport, suggested brunch mama-style, at a litle do called Himalayas Indian Restaurant in Vancouver’s own mama-town. The place was something like Singapore’s New Woodlands Restaurant at Upper Dickson St, run-down looking but you know the food is good.

We thought we were the only ones there, as it was pretty early (and a Sunday morning too) – about 11 am. There was however, a table of ten people next to us. I didn’t take a second look as to who they were – they looked like a typical mix of Indian and Caucasian family. My basmati rice and potato vindaloo were beckoning me, so I succumbed to it.

In between bites, I glanced at that table. Of all my years of admiring her talent and fantasizing how one day I would meet her backstage, interview her or even jam with her, I never thought I would have my first meeting with Sarah McLachlan with bathura in her hand. She did not have a mike with her, neither was she strumming her guitar or hitting the piano keys. She was just plainly, eating her mama food. She was with the Indian side of her family (her husband is Indian, in case some if you didn’t know) and they, like us, were enjoying their mama brunch too.

I didn’t do what I would have expected myself to do. I did consider going up to her, snap a picture, ask for her autograph, you know, that kind of thing. DH reminded me that it is her family time, and we should not be rude and disrupt that. I could not let go of my roti in hand, curry in mouth, as it was the only comfort I have now that Sarah is just a table away from me, and I don’t get to say hi. Our eyes did lock for a bit, and I figure she’d probably notice the colourful flower top I was wearing that I got from the Island Shop at Tangs. Yes, the one that made the Jalan guys called me a walking garden. If she asked, I would have gladly told her how much it costs. Affordable, Ms McLachlan, especially with the kind of money you are making with your royalties. If it is of any consolation, she was wearing something flowery too – a bell-sleeved pink top with large flower prints made of soft chiffon. If we don’t have a good singing voice in common, at least we like flowery tops. Hah.

We finished our meal and decided to leave. DH was hurrying us a bit, the moment he realised that MIL and SIL were excited too that Sarah was there. As we walked out of the door, MIL said, “Well, that’s it.” What a closure, albeit a painful one for me. We laughed at how we probably parked beside her car, and we should take a picture of her car instead. Yes, call us a family groupie.

It was only when we reached home and I excitedly shared the story with BIL and his wife, that I was told how celebs love to live in Vancouver because no one disturbs them in public. Canadians are apparently like that, very respectable of their privacy and their personal space. But hey, I am NOT Canadian – so technically I can be different, no?

I heard that Robin Williams, who has a house in Vancouver, has often been seen jogging along False Creek. Now, where are those jogging shoes? I can jog in style you know, if I sway my hips a bit more when I run.