03 | D is for…

Maple and Market
“1919” from Maple and Market

To say the very least, the past week has been “eventful”. Finding out how stomach-turning the allocated modules will be wasn’t a great way to start a new semester. Having two days’ worth of kitchen work, on the other hand, was consolatory. A hectic beginning and sleep-deprivation left me in a semi-mortified state, but friendly encouragement and hypnotizing myself that “every bit counts” keep me going, as always. I have complained too much about my business modules, so I’ll just mention how fortunate I am to have opted for a philosophy module. Reading Plato’s dialogues and navigating the ethical fog never seemed so interesting, and just maybe, credit goes to the bleargh modules.

“Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”  Woah… sounds like a General Paper topic. (Actually it was, they love Wilde don’t they?)

Let’s move on from the mundane stuff… to more mundane stuff? I passed by Ion Orchard yesterday night, and there was a series of charity advertisements on the walls which caught my attention. I can’t find the name of campaign on the internet (there, there… the elusive everything means nothing concept), but it pictured children sleeping in their elaborately decorated bedrooms. They had blankets printed with the figures of doctors, basketball stars, firemen etc. superimposing on their tiny growing bodies. It said “every child deserves the right to dream”.

Now… There is absolutely no bones to pick on that, but it brought me to a line from one of Neil Gaiman’s poems in Fragile Things:

“If I were young as once I was, and dreams and death more distant then,”

It’s bizarre how we regard the act of dreaming as a prerogative of the young. They would if they could and they should (this is what taking a philosophy module does to you). What I meant to say was that children dream and we don’t, or that we no longer believe in them. Some of us still do, but then there are duties, drudgery, disappointments, decay, disease, death… you get the point.

I was in a quaint café (everyone seems to be saying this these days) – Maple and Market, sitting by the window with a piccolo latte and a Kaya-Gula Melaka-Coconut cake. This pâtisserie was opened last April by Sarah Khaw, a friend of a friend. My friend told me to check the place out almost a year ago, when I was back in Paris, and I only managed this spontaneous visit until now, guilty as charged. Still the place was lovely, sitting right beside a hawker centre under the flats, seemingly out of place. The glass windows overlooked a small road alongside a patch of open green, such rarity in this sardine-packed concrete jungle. It’s not a grand surprise, but intriguing still, that cafés like this are popping up in the most unlikely places. We can learn that from ecology, about niche specialization, or something like that. Anyways, it’s a dream-come-true in that tiny ‘niche’, with her dedication and penchant for details translated into the small little things and the food. The coffee wasn’t extraordinary but the cake, it was surprising balanced. Le gateau was more amercain than français, but still I liked it. You can go really wrong with those flavors – I’m not a big fan of this combination, but it was made just right that it doesn’t run you over like a truck would.

And then it did. A truck hit me. An 80-over-year-old lady was trying to cross the small road with the help of another two. She had a walking-crutch on hand, but she didn’t use it. She was trying not to use it. Her helper and the other stranger presumably, were all hands and legs, and she herself was in pain, beyond reasonable doubt. The glass of dreamland’s windows didn’t protect me. It struck me hard, especially so when I’m having a cake and a cup of fancy coffee, with the company of a kinfolk magazine.

These days, when I see the elderly reverting to taking baby steps, or the handicap in some sort of discomfort, I am reminded of how real and how close pain can be. Not that my back hasn’t been giving me some sort of problem already. Increasingly, it is difficult not to despise how people paint lives in such romantic, dream-like ways. I never liked kinfolk. Then again, I never hated it.

Now, some of you must think that I’m not making a lot of sense. The person who writes about pursuing some dream more often than not, who composes photographs with more care than necessary, who loves Paris still despite all its grunge, is now putting down romanticism a.k.a kinfolk-iness?

It’s a love-hate relationship.

In retrospect, she was trying to walk, without the crutch. Perhaps she still dreams of walking by herself one day. Dreams, they may be luxuries for the rich, but they are also sustenance for the poor, and motivation for the rest of us. Everyone deserves the right to dream.

P.S. I really don’t mind receiving a kinfolk issue as a birthday present.

Maple & Market
34 Cassia Crescent #01-82
Singapore 559160
T: 6348 8068

http://mapleandmarket.com/

02 | All means necessary.

Necessary ProvisionsIt was just a day like any other. Roads are paved and re-paved. Buildings climb without rest. Yet it also marks a step into a new year, ushering in a new beginning of renewed expectations and rekindled resolutions. Parents studiously pack their children’s schoolbags and iron their uniforms, once more pinning their hopes for the future in the generation they have brought forth to nurture.

It’s the time of the year again, journalists, bloggers, and just about everyone else become strangely obsessed with making lists. I have found it perplexing how we readily accept and find comfort in such lists.

“5 things you’ll learn being a waiter,”

“10 ways to change your life for the better,”

“100 best places to find The One.”

I can’t say I’m the least interested to glance through such articles, but it intrigues me how rarely do we question their provenance, and by association, their credibility. Perhaps it isn’t necessary, especially when we find ourselves in satisfying agreement with some, if not all, of the points expressed. I’m not pointing to particular websites like Thought Catalog; besides, if responsibility was to be sought, readers shouldn’t be taking any less blame than writers, for it’s simply an issue of supply and demand.

This market of encouragement, borderline self-delusion, and eager persuasion is a testament of our taste for injecting meaning into the most mundane things, not excluding ‘special’ days like yesterday. While I can’t bring myself to enjoy such comfort with full conviction, I am no less guilty of following the fad by associating life as a pursuit of dreams.

Dreams, they can be such powerful symbols of our persistence, yet they can feel so hollow at the same time. After all, they are mere figments of thought, perhaps wishful-thinking. Embracing them is an implicit recognition that the future is ‘less’ pre-determined than the past (because our present actions are capable of driving us to our intended destinations), or that there is meaning in any form of pursuit, regardless of the actual destination. The former reason calls for pure faith, believing that what we do now will get us there some day. The latter demands more, because it means for us to accept that hollow as the very nature of dreams and strive endlessly into the future.

Whatever the reason is, we will continue our tireless march towards our ideals; it’s the only way forward. And along this grand arrow of time, there is little harm in finding sanctuary, ascribing meanings to the tiniest details in those brief yet special moments. The turqoise cups atop the Spirit Duette, the aptly imperfect tulip on my latte, and the expressive sour tinges of the blood-orange yoghurt cake. The setting of Necessary Provisions inspires the idea of a transient breathe in a dying gasp peace in the relentless chaos, with its lengthy glass windows overlooking the quiet neighbourhood and a vintage fixie-bike surviving the passing of time. Hospitable service, nutty bread, and untamed mustard made my beef pastrami sandwich ever more delicious. Add a chance encounter with a formal colleague, and you have the recipe to concoct a work-free day without complains. What a great way to start a new year!

Hojicha Karigane Cold Brew
Hojicha Karigane Cold Brew

Necessary Provisions
21 Eng Kong Terrace
Singapore 598993
T: 9231 7920

http://necessaryprovisions.com/