Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Finding a Shortcut
In Malaysia. My feet have never suffocated so much in their whole wide lives, I think. I know it was all my fault for wearing woolly socks and black leather cowgirl boots on a 6-hr flight arriving to the tropics but you can't really take the Midwest out of the girl when it's February. (You do get some cred for wearing the boots back in January when you got locked out of Doom School in Portland at 4 in the morning when you tried crashing there, after you'd come back drunk from eating donuts and playing pinball, and had to sleep on the porch under the giant table umbrella canvas and a burlap sack.) First day out and had to find a pair of cheap shoes to air out my twenty baby carrots. Went to eighteen different stores, I swear, (either didn't like the shoes they sold or they didn't carry my outrageously giant size 10- sheesh) so I wound up buying a pair of flip-flops and I don't really like those either. Realized I'm running so low on money that I may have to find some work here in Kuala Lumpur just so that I can get home. Looked at an online jobs board and I'm going in for an interview as a kids TV show host tomorrow. The show is meant to be in Malay but when I get the job I'll make sure we do it in English. Staying at the Food Not Bombs house I'll forever be indebted to, they make me a home every time I breeze through on a whim. Despite the hard, cement floor I sleep on with a blanket, I enjoy spending time here.
It is, however, the type of town you really feel lonely in. You take public transportation a lot and you find yourself eating out because it's cheap and delicious. There are many tourist attractions like the zoo or museum or the marketplaces or Chinatown, but you never want to do these things alone, yet I do them alone just about every single time. So, I've been thinking of boys recently. Dreaming them up as I roam the streets in search of the most succulent Chinese vegan spring rolls and sweet soy milk dessert. I dream of boys I’ve loved, boys who’ll never love me, boys who I’ve only met once, boys who I’d one day be with forever, boys who I wish were there with me, to pull the hair out of my backpack zipper when I’m looking for a pen or some bubblegum. Sometimes I find myself dwelling in the wishes that I had a boy to love and with whom to share the exciting joys in the theatre of life. But none of those boys could ever keep up with me.
Last night, I slept at a decent hour and woke at about 9 o'clock. Seemed great. My body was on a track that I could work with. In fact, it was exciting- I thought, oh boy! I could really get used to waking up at this time from here on out. Alas, jet lag hadn't yet kicked in. I just looked at the clock. It's nearly 7 in the morning and I haven't croaked. It must be after 7 by now and I need to get in the swing of things. How am I going to fund this next leg of my journey? I've come so close.
Had a job interview today. The call-out was for those interested in becoming a host for a children's television show. The catch was that the show is supposed to be in Malay. The least I could do was scramble together a resume in 20 minutes, slap some blush on, take a few headshots against the white-washed brick wall, borrow a pair of decent close-toed shoes and pop on down to the photocopy joint. Okay, so I had to do a few other things, too. I hurried on down to the train station. Watched the cultured cross-section of Malay people get breathed in and out by societal gills, being loaded into one thin, gray tube on tracks. I saw the races in uniform.
The Indians all wear Indian garb, gold a must, wearing saris and whatnot. The local Malay Muslim ladies flaunt the long, flowered shirt-dresses to cover their womanhood curves, matching veil of course. And then there are the Chinese who have their own "traditional clothing" but who never rock it, you know the type, it was big in the nineties. The silks with that funny rope-knot on the side by your collar bone and a high slit up to the thigh. No, they never really wear those on the subway. Sometimes they rock the cotton nighties with prints on them like fake-quilt or strawberries or cartoon characters. Could be high-fashion to some, if a studded belt was added and a pair of ripped up stockings and a baseball cap and one feather earring or anything else congealing into an awkward mix that makes it seem so "high-fashion".
I'm thankful for Indians. They are like a breath of fresh air. They are so hairy I remember what it's like to be an animal and not a hairless freak like most Asians who may or may not grow just one white, wiry hair on the side of their chests when they are like 90 years old. Malaysia is like that old board game we used to play, don't you remember it? Like a children-of-the-world-type-game where each kid of each country would wear a traditional costume. (And didn't the US always just have a brown-haired girl wearing a dumb Betsy Ross outfit?) I like walking into that game in real life. But don't get me wrong, my oh my, do they ever suffer racism. And God forbid you ever encounter a darn Nazi punk at a show... I just thank the Lord Almighty I'm not wearing a giant American flag beanbag for a skirt.
After many hours and bucketing rain that dumped on me heavily during the train-to-train ride (that last train ride I caught I swore would go clear up to Thailand if I let it, and we were kissing the cargo train beside us that was not going much faster) and a taxi ride later, I arrive at the office of the audition. I was nervous walking in. I climb the narrow, carpeted stairwell to be enthusiastically greeted by a chubby Malaysian 21 yr-old guy with long dyed blonde hair and clear braces. He was carrying around a clipboard and handing me some papers. "You must be here for the audition?" "Sure am." I answer with a nice, full crocodile smile. He sits me down on a sofa that if your nose got closer to, you'd notice smelled of stale cigarette smoke.
The other intern at the agency, a girl, came and sat down right beside me. I pulled out my resume package with some washed out photos I was certain they would know were taken 2 hours beforehand. She looked at me and said, "I very impress your resume." Like a sprout during it's happiest days of growth, my eyes popped up towards her, then squinted in a smile. "Thank you!" I said, in an accidental false accent that could've been mocking hers. I look around the room while I'm filling out the information card on the clipboard. The Spice Girls are blasting. The blonde guy started singing along. "If you wanna be my lover...!" Then he looked down at my resume and said, "Wow! Cats on Broadway!" and I said, "Yeah, but if you notice, that's just the name of it. Cats on Broadway. Brooklyn, see? Not the real Cats, in Manhattan." I explained. "Oh, but that's still cool!" I smirked humbly knowing I wasn't fit to audition here.
They waddle me into the next room after my lousy attempt at memorizing a folktale in the Malay language, a language I butcher for the most part. When I get inside the room, there were cameras and lights set up and a bumbling crew of clean-cut, rich Malay dudes. They said to me, "We don't want you reading this story in our language. We want you to do what you want. Anything you want. But you have to sing." I paused. I was actually well-prepared to read a story in Malay from a piece of paper. I would blow them out of the water with my skills. Okay, done deal. I decide to tell them a good old American folktale instead. I choose, of all things, the Little Red Riding Hood (God, what thinking-on-your-toes does to a girl) knowing there would be a variety of voices and characters to bring to life.
Part way through the story, which was being filmed mind you, I forget the story and basically kept circling it around the climax of how the Red kept dropping her cookies from her basket and needed to pick them up. (What? Does that even happen in the real story?) Eventually, the suicide mission of retelling the forgotten moral was saved by the bell when the director yelled, "Cut!" He made me sing a song, a song of my choice. I chose Glory of Love, a cliché that would wash it's way out of the alleyway back home but was a cut of primo-choice for Southeast Asian virgin ears to be hearing. The director said, "Okay, lady," (though he definitely didn't add the "lady" part, it would've been awesome if he had) "We'll call you when our decision is made. Thank you." I shook his hand, smiled and walked out of the room to hail the cab that took me to the train that took me to the next train that took me through the bucketing rain that took me 2 hours later walking back to the Food Not Bombs house.