“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” – Salvador Dalí
Miami and Boston
I’ve always looked at going on vacation as an opportunity to discover things outside of where I live, explore new places, and learn about different cultures and histories. But my latest vacation, to Miami and Boston, was more of a chance to get away from my ramshackle personal life, pretend that the drama of Empire: Lebanon doesn’t exist, and attain some peace of mind.
Española Way, Miami Beach
The blood moon eclipse, as seen from Collins Avenue, Miami Beach
To a certain extent, it worked. For an entire week, I was alone in South Beach, Miami, doing nothing but lying on the beach and by the pool to work on my tan, walking along Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Lincoln Road to do some shopping, visiting museums, and catching up on sleep. I barely talked to anyone, except for two girls who were staying in my hotel, acknowledged those who complimented my latest tattoo, and felt, for the first time in a very long while, completely free. The following week, in Boston, where Shirley flew out from Buffalo to meet me, I relived some of my younger days, going back to familiar places and meeting familiar faces.
Newbury Street, Boston
Boston Public Library
Boston Public Garden
It was one of those vacations that, were the circumstances of my life any different, would have concluded in me coming back to Malaysia well-rested, at peace and missing the life I have here. Instead, it has left me with a feeling of total surrealism, as though waking from an extremely long, extremely beautiful dream — and worse, waking up into the nightmare that I had waited five months for a reprieve from. I used my time there, especially the weekend in Boston, to forget that my life here — and the ruins surrounding it — existed, and when it was over I was left wanting more.
Providence, Rhode Island
My old neighborhood on Beacon Street, Boston
My greatest teacher and mentor, Cora Higgins
My sister from another mister
Two good things to have come out of this vacation, however, are that I now have a fabulous tan, and that I have a clearer vision of what I’m going to do next summer. I know now, without any doubt, that there is so much more to life than what we see within our own four walls, and it can be ours if we just have the balls to reach out and take it for our own. This trip has helped me regain some — definitely not all — of my courage, and I hope it will only be a matter of time before I can snap out of this funk and concentrate on what I need to do for the future.
Regent Street, London
Piccadilly Circus, London
St. James’s Park, London
The Net-a-Porter hackney cab! Oh, and Buckingham Palace
When I first started as a writer for HELLO! magazine back in 2011, it did not occur to me just how much of my job involved attending events practically every week. My days were a blur of putting pages in the office, writing my features in the middle of the night at home, and running from one brand or product launch to the next. Within my first six months, I had learned the basic logistics of planning a launch event, complete with fashion show.
As the years went by and the events and fashion shows became bigger and more ambitious, I realized that there was so much more to planning such events than just getting the audio, lighting and outfits together. There was the ambience to think about, wrangling the models, and figuring out the seating arrangement — the last of which is probably the biggest nightmare of all.
So when Cho asked me back in March to help her produce her June 11 bridal fashion show for PU3, I had my reservations, thrown in and mixed in somewhere with my excitement. I had never really produced a full-scale fashion show on my own before, and a small part of me was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Also, I was fully aware of what a single-mindedly demanding person Cho can be, despite her laidback exterior, and the pressures of putting on a show which her entire family would descend en masse to witness.
But pull it off I did, and definitely not before I came away with some things to remember:
Fashion shows are like political arenas, if not worse. When I was working for HELLO! and had to work on featuring personalities and celebrities — two terms which I use very loosely because there is no such thing as a real celebrity in this country — the one question I avoided like the plague was “Will I be on the cover?” In fashion, the question to avoid at all costs, on pain of death, is “Will I be in the front row?” Malaysians have an astoundingly false sense of entitlement that plants in their heads that they somehow deserve to be in the front row of a fashion show. And to both questions, I’ve learned to give the ultimate in noncommittal and diplomatic responses: “I’ll see what I can do.”
Someone has to be the bad cop. Putting together a fashion show is literally akin to putting together a circus. There are many different acts to be put together to form one seamless production, and more often than not, at least one of said acts will somehow drag everything down. And when one act threatens the efficiency of the entire production, someone needs to be the circus wrangler, put aside all personal relationships and address the issue head on before the malcontent festers. In this case, I had to write in our WhatsApp group conversation that unless people got hit by a bus, there was no reason for anyone to be an hour and a half late.
Wrangling the circus giraffes
Creativity vs practicality. While it is perfectly understandable, even expected, for fashion designers to have very strong ideas about what they want and what they think they should have in their shows, it is also of some help if they recognized that not all of it may be feasible. In a city as limited and an economy as throttled as ours, it would be completely irresponsible to not be realistic about certain things or manage one’s own expectations, because when said expectations are not met, it only makes everyone involved feel, if not look, extremely foolish. The good thing about working with Cho was that she got to be the creative half of this production brain, while I exercised every shred of common sense I possessed into talking her down.
A support system is vital. In every endeavor I’ve taken on ever since I left my last job and started working on my own, I was fortunate to have the one constant that kept me sane and grounded and from wanting to wring a few necks: Dani. No doubt the man has received more than his fair share of grumbling and whining from me about all the projects I’ve worked on and all the people I’ve had to endure, but he has always managed to be the voice of reason — with a working printer and an impressive network of people whom he somehow manages to strongarm into giving him whatever he wants.
My biggest supporter
Front row ain’t got nothing on the producer’s chair. This depends on which view you actually like. Over the years, designers have been kind enough to give me a seat in the front row of their shows, and it’s an experience that never gets old. To see someone’s hard work and passion stomp past you in more than one direction (usually) leaves you in quiet awe because you realize that some people really can be talented. But to see someone’s hard work and passion surrounded by and infused with your own hard work and passion, and knowing everything that you went through to get to that moment, leaves you in something far beyond awe: gratitude. Gratitude because you were given this opportunity to be a part of something so significant in someone else’s life, gratitude because you were given what it took to see it through to the end, and gratitude because there were people around you to help you along the way.
Over the weekend I finally had the chance to try out the Skytrex Adventure Park, as part of Farah’s birthday celebrations. It was a good thing she actually initiated the trip (well, I say ‘trip’; it can be quite the drive depending on where you’re going from), because none of us would have made the effort to truck out to Shah Alam otherwise. For practically all of us, it was our first time going to Skytrex, so naturally, Farah did the only logical thing to do: book us all for the Extreme Challenge.
Extreme. As in advanced. For people who are almost definitely fitter than most of us.
Aside from the incredibly unflattering harnesses we had to put on (cameltoe party, anyone?) and the very heavy rain making everything more slippery than usual, it was extremely fun, and obviously extremely tiring. It took about 18 hours, but when the muscle aches finally set in, I had to topple into bed straight and stiff as a board, because it hurt to sit down and sit up.
The thing about the Extreme Challenge route is that it’s really in everyone’s best interests to not be afraid of heights. A flying fox obstacle 72 feet in the air pales in comparison to bungee jumping off a bridge, but even I felt that little flutter in my stomach not unlike the stage fright crawlies I get before a performance. Having a harness and pulley that the park employees guarantee are safe did help some, but not when said harness and pulley kept getting in my way and I had to hang on to the ropes for dear life, try to make my short legs reach the next rope/plank/pipe, and keep the harness and pulley out of my face all at the same time.
At one point, when I was wobbling insanely on one of the suspended rope bridges, I thought, If your foot can’t reach the next rope, you will either wobble here forever, or hang here forever. Then when I was pushing my harness and pulley away from my face while wobbling insanely, I thought, If you somehow manage to knock the carabiners off the cables, you will probably be the only person to fall to her death from trying to cross a rope bridge.
The weird thing is that throughout every single obstacle, I imagined what it would be like to plummet down through the trees, and I wondered if it would hurt at all even if I died on impact. And I thought, If you fall to your death from trying to cross a rope bridge, then everything that you’ve been struggling, drinking and crying for will be over. All of it would just be over.
It was so easy to think about. Too easy. But then I thought, If you fall to your death from trying to cross a rope bridge, who’s going to take care of the kitties?
People are always so quick to condemn those who take their own lives. Hundreds of years ago, it was thought that people who committed suicide were doomed to end up in Hell. Today, people who commit suicide are just called selfish, cowardly and weak, but the thing is, to be selfish is to be sane — sane enough to do something to deliberately hurt other people — and suicide is the act of someone who is clearly struggling with mental issues that they feel they can’t talk to anyone about.
I won’t deny that when I think certain situations in my life are so irreparably damaged that even getting out of bed seems pointless, I’ve entertained the thought of putting an end to it all. But then I think of all the things I’ve yet to finish, the cats I have to care for, and the skeletons I have to personally keep in the closet, and I know that it is for most people’s benefit that I keep myself alive, at least for now.
But back to the point: I would definitely do the Skytrex Extreme Challenge again. Only this time, I suppose I will try not to wobble too insanely.