Saturday, September 20, 2008

Discovering Yong Tau Foo

It’s dawn September 20th. That means it’s the 20th day that we are fasting and 19 days since I last posted anything here.

Beyond the halfway mark, I think it’s rather frivolous to wish Selamat Berpuasa now. So Selamat Hari Raya everyone! Chances are, I’m probably the first person to wish any of you this coming festive season.

It’s not that I didn’t want to post anything or just being lazy about it. Actually, laziness did play its part somewhere but I’m good now. Well, today, at least. That is, before my stomach begin to make funny noises.

I’ve been busy y’see. Believe it or not, for the past 20, err, make that 17 days (I did took a few days off, including today), every evening I have been present at Ampang Jaya’s pasar Ramadhan, not as a customer, but as a seller. Well, more of an assistant really. Cipoi, a former schoolmate aka fellow SASOB, is the pioneer. I just help out. And we are yong tau foo sellers! And yes, we have the best yong tau foo in the area. Because we are the only ones selling them. Ampang Jaya is our hood! Recognize!

Hard to believe isn’t it? Me, a stall trader? Tell me about it. Every day, as I stood behind the collapsible table donning my red apron and Che Guevera barret, I still think, am I actually doing this? But every time I still smile and answer myself ‘Hell yeah!’ because it’s a blast!

All this time I have been on the other side i.e. the consumers and now, crossing over as a vendor, I realized what a placid view I had all along. It is really an eye opening experience. I could not remember learning so much in such a short space of time like the past 3 weeks or so.

In the past, visits to PaRam have always been a leisurely excursion. I get there, I buy some food, I go home. But now, I began to get an inkling of what these small time vendors go through every single day. And we are only doing this during this Ramadhan. As yong tau foo sellers, our work is basically nothing to shout about. The raw materials are bought from a store and the sauce is prepared by the people at Cipoi’s grandmother’s home. Cipoi and me, well, we are merely the link to the consumers. Packaging and sales. He does the boiling, I ration the sauce. But even that took a toll out of us. I cannot even begin to imagine what the nasi campur people go through. The early morning trips to the market and the preparation for the multiple type dishes. Sounds like a nightmare for me. Suddenly I found a new level of respect for those makcik-makcik.

And another thing I’ve learnt which really gets my goat which never quite bothered me before are the RM50 notes. I used to feel a small amount of guilt every time I had to pay these little businesses using an RM50 note for something that cost below RM10, or worse RM5. Now, being on the receiving end, it’s turns out as one hell of an annoyance! I once had to give change to a lady who owed us RM3.60. And since the customer is always right, you can’t do anything but smile. But evil knows the torment that woman caused me. Small change, lady! We need small change! What are we? McDonald’s!? And if you think it’s troublesome for us to go to other vendors to ask for their change, it is! I could not describe my feelings last Monday when I had to deal with three RM50 notes in less than 30 minutes! I nearly blew my top off! It seemed everyone just had a visit to the ATM machine. But, of course, service with a smile. Besides, they are handing me their money.

Among the other things of being a vendor at a PaRam is that we are totally immune to the usual evening rush because, basically, we are the rush. As the crowd began to pile up at PaRams everywhere as the clock ticks past 5.30 pm, that’s when we roll hardest. We feed on your greed. Again, it’s an interesting perspective.

While some of you were unfortunate enough to get stuck in traffic when it comes to break fast or the ones at home during that agonizing feeling between 6.30 and 7.15, time flies us by for the vendors. When it is time to break fast, we simply snoop around between fellow vendors, getting food and drinks for ridiculously cheap prices or most of the time free of charge, pull out our stools and enjoy a cool and quiet evening.

After a few nights such as that, consuming meals which rarely cost above RM5 per person, I can’t help but feel ridiculous for all the money I spent in the past at fancy buka puasa spots. The PJ Hiltons, the Salomas, what a waste it has been. You don’t eat that much anyway. Was it really worth RM90++? I have such a function this evening at Seri Melayu, which will cost me a cool RM70++ and I am certain after weeks of breaking fast with nothing more than a piece of roti john and a big bag of air tembikai, there will be some awkward feeling later this evening. I’d rather spend my money at William’s. Now that’s food.

Lastly, Ampang Jaya is great spot to be operating in. It only covers a small area which means it’s homely and not as crowded and hectic like the one at Melawati but it also means it’s not as glamorous as TTDI’s. Apart from being the monopolist of yong tau foo, Ampang Jaya does have its own share of hot chicks and celebrities. Being a customer, even if Erra Fazira goes to the same PaRam as you do, it is still unlikely you’ll be there roughly the same time as her and crossed paths. As vendors, if there’s someone famous who comes along, we’ll definitely catch sight of them. So far we had Adlin Aman Ramli, Azwan Ali, Que Haidar, Linda Jasmine and Sasha Saidin among others but sadly none of them dropped by our store. That is, until last Thursday when Maria Farida decided to make a stop and ordered three pieces of kuey teow to go. It was a milestone. We had a celebrity customer! And an incredibly hot one at that too. I could easily say she’s the hottest mom I had ever seen. Surpassing even the Albas and the Jolies.

I do realize some pics would definitely make this posting much more interesting but we are working there. Time is of the essence. And not to mention if the weather would be digital camera forgiving. Maybe I’ll take a few shots this Sunday. Najmi will be there. You want to see how a metal band member tries to sell yong tau foo? Anything could happen. One thing for sure, it’ll involve lots of laughs.


Monday, September 01, 2008

Alexa, Not The Piano Girl

I thought it was just me. But, the truth is, E! is just so annoyingly addictive. Everybody just have to watch it. Including people who usually don’t watch TV. And I’m not just talking about my female friends here. They thrive on it, of course. But I mean adult men like me. And I didn’t realize the full extent of its influence on the modern man until a recently chance meeting with Caon, a former member of the now defunct (but maybe in line for a short comeback) metal-ly band DTR but now a happily married man who is still very much a clown and can’t get enough of fart jokes. I don’t know how the conversation turned out the way it did but suddenly he was suddenly enthusing about tanning sprays. The likes of Beyonce and Mariah are very fond of. He said something about catching 25 Celebrity Style Tips or something something on E! and boy did I not see that coming. I just gave him a perplexed look. Like a guy gives another guy when the first guy confessed about something that he shouldn’t have been doing in the first place. Like naming his favorite character from Disney’s Hannah Montana. Of course, it was all bullshit because I myself saw that show. It was not that I wanted to but I was hooked! Those E! shows grip your attention like a vice.

I don’t know how they do it but every time I stumbled upon E! News, the next 25 minutes of my life can be safely considered gone. I just can’t turn my head away. And it doesn’t help The Daily 10 comes right after. So that’s 50 minutes of my life, basically down the drain.

And Aritha wondered how her husband is familiar with the terms VPL and LBD (which translates to Visible Panty Lines and Little Black Dress to you un-hip people!) while she probably thinks they are abbreviations for newly discovered STDs. Newsflash Sweet Beetle, he and I are suffering from the same thing. And I don’t need to tell you how damn contagious it is.

However, despite my own disapproving taste of E! and especially Kimora Lee Simmons (who I think is no more fab than Leina Hangat on her worse days), I do find an interesting programme on the entertainment channel’s listing. And that’s the True Hollywood Stories (THS) series. So far, the worst I saw was Liz Hurley’s. I mean, I could not think of a reason why the people at E! went through all the trouble of making one based on her life anyway. The chunk of the show documented how she met Hugh Grant, how when they were together and how they broke up in the end. And now she spends her time wearing saris and practicing Hindi. It should be called TBS if you ask me.

But the one they did on Michael J Fox was certainly worth a watch. I never knew he had a tough time doing Back To The Future, because, it was revealed that while he was doing the movie at night, he was playing Alex P Keaton on Family Ties during the day. He was lucky to get any sleep at all during that period. And to pull it off on both fronts successfully was a testament to the man himself. And the revelation of his true motivation behind his work on Spin City and the aspect that he didn’t tell anyone, even the show’s crew, about his struggle with Parkinson’s until the show was well into running and his co-stars began to get disgruntled as his perceived lack of commitment while in truth some of the days, he just could not pull it together. And he had no choice but the let the cat out of the bag in the end. It was heartwarming. It made me all fuzzy inside.

On a lesser note, the most recent show I saw was of Christie Brinkley. She’s really not that famous on this part of the world but since she’s a former model who once made the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuits hers for three consecutive issues, I thought, this should at least be better than the one on Liz Hurley’s.

Truth be told, her life was not that spectacular. Aside from the fact that she was THE face of the 90’s and went through four marriages. But, most interesting point to note is, and this is what I want to share here, her second marriage was to Billy Joel. And, out of this marriage, they had a daughter named Alexa Ray. And she, is the stuff Hollywood dreams about.

Aged 23 this year, Aleaxa Ray Joel is blessed with her mother’s looks and her father’s talents. And something tells me we might be hearing a lot more of her in the coming future. She has already done a couple of shows in the US including a spot on Jimmy Kimmel. Although she has yet to refine her onstage persona, she’s quite the decent singer. And most importantly she writes her own songs. Like Alicia Keys and India Arie. If you’re intrigued enough, you can check out Alexa’s MySpace page yourself because, honestly, I think I have put too much video on my blog lately to offer a quick sample.

On it you can watch all her performance clips and hear her songs in which I particularly recommend you listen to Now It’s Gone which is about her step father’s (her mother’s fourth husband in this case) illicit affair with an 18 year old chick and, yeah, I know (18 hombre! Damn!)

She has an EP but according to her it’s sold out so fat chance of getting it here, even if it weren’t sold out. But in this digital age, as if that would stop you from finding other means to it (like me). Sorry, Alexa, but you do need to educate your distributors about markets outside the US (particularly SEA).

So, remember this name, Alexa Ray Joel and where you hear it first. As for E!, well, who are we mere mortals?