interrogation

Featured

Image description: A little brown poodle dog lies sideways face front, smiling relaxed and open mouth towards the camera. Behind is someone’s knees under a light turquoise quilted blanket with pastel pink and yellow flowers. A yellow and salmon pink window curtain is in the background.

Hello, there! Do you know my name? What is my favourite food? Guess who this is behind me in bed? Who is her very favourite person in the world? Why, me, of course! I am Tiny, but I am mighty too! And that is my Granny hiding under the colourful blankie, because she doesn’t want to smile for the camera. And my favourite food is … CHIMKEN!!!!

Oh yes, Gran likes watching telly too. Do you know what shows she likes best? Guess which movie Granny has watched eleven times?

Do you know what Gran loves to drink? And her favourite ice cream?

Gran likes to listen to music. Do you know what is on our Spotify playlist every day?

Oh, you don’t know any of the answers?

Well, I’ll tell you something very sad. Gran is gone. Gran went to a place she called ‘home’ to be with Bizcuit Boy, my big brother. I miss her very much. But mummy says we’ll all see her again some day. So, I will be a good boy and wait.

But now you have so many questions to ask about Gran. This and that and this and that and that and this and that and this! You know what, you should have asked all your questions when Gran was still around. Why didn’t you ever come over and hang out with Gran and me? She had plenty of time to tell you everything you want to know. Why didn’t you ask her then?

Or maybe Gran didn’t tell you because she just didn’t want to?

circles

Featured

“Till We Meet Again” – image description: A little brown poodle dog lies curled up facing right, on a blue-green flannel blanket laid over a bed of lilies, seen in blue-green hues due to the lighting.

Vultures are circling
Flesh freshly dead
Swooping and hovering
Muscles flexed

Baby is crying
Doesn’t know yet
Doesn’t know why
Beloved has left

Blood games begin
Evil stirring
Menacing smiles
Cauldron bubbling

“Don’t cry, little Baby,”
The Broken Heart says,
“They shall never know your memories
of such Beautiful Days.”

dedication

Featured

This blog is dedicated to:

My canine angel, Lucy Like-a-Charm.

My baby sister Althea, her wonderful hubby Robin,

and her two furry boys Bizcuit & Tiny,

and now also Mini-B, the prettiest sweetest little girl.

My loyal friends YS, Rick and Minh.

Without you, there would be no adventure, no narrative, no amazing tales to tell.

anti-vaxx puzzle

I am perplexed at people who are anti-vaxxers. Some of them actually went to school, and many I know are university graduates too. I am amazed at the number of them who prefer hocus-pocus cures, rely solely on herbs and powdered concoctions originating from unknown and probably questionable sources created by persons with unknown and questionable qualifications. I wonder about their strange, bizarre distrust of modern medicine and qualified medical doctors (ok I don’t really blame them, I’ve met my share of incompetence but that exists in any profession, yet, hey, haven’t they even heard about “second/third opinion”?), and mind you, all these powdery herby watery stuff are not cheap either.

I have no issue with herbs and alternative medicine, but only to a point. These are for otherwise healthy and quite well people who want to try things out, and maybe maintain a ‘wellness regime’. They are not for acute illness. Would you ask your herbal practitioner to operate on you? No, right? I rest my case.

Covid19 has got the entire human species churning in its giant bog. Out come the anti-vaxxers and suddenly your so-and-so former friend, colleague, distant and not-so-distant relative and the hey-there friendly neighbourhood petrol kiosk guy are all giving the vaccine their stink-eye.

Well, I’ve registered. Twice. The first time, they rejected me, told me to wait till there was more clinical data that it’s safe for people like me. I waited. Now they say I am good to go. So I’m gonna go go go. The way I see it, it’s a risk too, but better to risk being vaccinated than risk getting Covid19 from some unhygienic inconsiderate “I’m-not-infectious-lah” arsehat, right? And vaccinated or not, I am going to be masking (not the autistic type, the literal surgical mask) and insisting on physical distance when out in public. And, yeah, I am aware that there is such a thing as vaccine breakthrough, and one could still catch the nasty virus even if vaccinated, but what are the alternatives?

Don’t use the puzzle piece on autistic folks. Use it for the anti-vaxxers, more apt. Puzzling.

trash stress

One glaring example of the fragile nature of autistic existence: crashing into the swirling abyss of physical sickness after a couple of hours of intense ‘masking’, politely listening to a self-declared ‘expert’ spew utter gibberish about themselves, grandiose false claims and all, and then watching another person being made into a cute little token while left alone to flounder in choppy waters, all taking place in the Grand Disabilities Circus, and being unable to do anything about it (because of that “social training” thing about knowing your political place even if it means allowing other innocent folks to be harmed).

Fever, vertigo (dizziness, nausea and vomiting), mouth and throat ulcers, arthritic swelling in every weight bearing joint in the body, neural pain and muscle inflammation, IBS fire, and terrible anxiety and depression.

At this point, I hear the familiar utterances, “Cannot be that bad?”, “You’re just imagining it!”, “You’re just prejudiced!” and “It’s really not that serious, you’re overreacting!”

Dear humans, I’m not imagining it nor overreacting. Do you really believe that I would purposely conjure up three full days and nights worth of suffering and incapacity just for the heck of it? You are the balmy one for even thinking it! Laugh or cry? There are people who do still react like this, some of them close relatives too, who’ve witnessed my suffering at trigger moments for years and years, and still say I conjured it all up by sheer willpower. How “empowered” do they really think I am? Educated folks too, mind you. I shake my head in despair at all those wasted years in school being school darlings and their long distance ‘higher education’. Sigh.

Self-care time. I cannot save the world. My ideas may be groundbreaking, but my fellow humans around me may not be ready to grasp them, or execute them properly. My fellow humans may also just take my ideas and use them to advertise their own ‘woke-ness’ in some really bad ways. So… time to leave the circuses to the circus folk – the good bad and ugly all (my hopes of course are on the good doing the good stuff bravely, I know a few), be kind to myself, spend more time on what is truly important to me, with those who are precious to me (Lucy first of course) inside Clement Space.

Oh, and I cannot resist leaving you with this favourite repeat repeat repeat autistically, from Laurie Anderson (love love love):

angels and demons

I used to have recurrent nightmares of demons pressing in on me, sitting on my chest, asphyxiating me. The white hot fear of being engulfed in that aura of foreboding and terror is still tangible upon recollection.

Another thing that used to appear repeatedly in my dreams and nightmares was my running away from something or someone so malevolent that it had no physical shape or form. Sometimes, I was able to fly away and soar towards the vast expanse of the sky, but it was always fraught, and the sensations of fear and dread all pervasive.

And here is the mystery, or maybe not really a mystery after all, depending on how one perceives such things: these recurring dreams all faded away when Lucy came into my life.

Nowadays, I merely get the normal nightmare here and there, reactions from my day and the happenings around me. No more demons, because I have an angel in my bed.

too-too

I’ve watched this video, I think, about six times now. And I will be watching it again and again until my brain is satisfied at having captured as many details as possible. Sumita is one of my very favourite autistic researcher-artists. She very kindly narrated the duckling story in my rearranged digital version of the very first Scheherazade’s Sea from 2010, Scheherazade’s Sea: stories and songs from a hidden world, 2020.

What I love about Sumita’s work is that there is so much packed into a tiny space, so much to uncover, so much to ponder, so much to tease apart and look at from different angles, it seems to me always to be new, even when I am supposedly hitting the repeat button. But I do know that the way I see, hear, think, taste, smell and embrace the world puts me in a very tiny minority, even among other autistic people. Perhaps I feel a certain kinship with Sumita, she buzzes resonantly in one part of me, an intense, sometimes dark, yet somehow joyful space that few have ever managed to activate.

Watching and listening to this video again tonight has led me to ponder a separate but in my brain related issue that I have had to grapple with all my life, something that many autistics face (though not all, of course).

Our brains can fire rapidly and there is just so much going on that we tend to spew our thoughts at super prestissimo – not giving anyone the chance to put a word in edgewise. When we do that, our thoughts and words are usually unfiltered. All this brings along censure, sometimes even excoriation, depending on the person or persons you ‘offend.’ “You speak too fast, I cannot catch up with you, you give me a headache!”

Then, other times, our brains go on slow motion mode, I am not sure why and it is hard to predict but during these times, I find it difficult to hurry my speaking muscles along and my usually rapid-fire brain feels like it is moving in a lake of mud. There is a goopy kind of feeling, I can almost hear it go squelch with each slow step. This heralds a different kind of disapproval, and I am castigated again, for just being Me. “You speak too slowly, you’re boring, hurry and say whatever it is you want to say, for goodness’ sake!”

Too fast. Too slow. Too this. Too that. Too Too Everything. Protocol, politics, and all the incarnations of tics and ticks you can conjure. It’s all too much .

Extreme States of Being vs Extreme Human Farce.

It is exhausting, really, having to accommodate all and sundry, at such horrifying cost to intrinsic, organic Beingness, when all you want is to Be, and do it in peace and tranquility. You know you’re in the minority of minorities when this happens. It’s a Circus. Humans are the ultimate Circus-makers. Humans exhaust me – autistic, non-autistic, disabled, non-disabled – all humans, including myself. What merry-go-rounds we make, all the bitching, twitching, hitching, snitching, itching – why are we not tired of ourselves as a species? I am amazed and appalled at the same time.

How is it that humans are upset when being compared with animals? For goodness sake. Lucy is a far superior being than I could ever be. So, don’t insult the dogs or pigs or rats or whatever by using them as disparaging remarks or comparisons against your fellow humans. “You’re such a HUMAN!” Would be the ultimate, sad put-down… because… it would be true. And truth hurts, but hey Truth also sets free. It’s a package deal. And I prefer to be set free, even if it hurts.

So…

Bleugh! Scribbly, squidgy, goopy smattering, splintering bloob bloob bloobingness to youz! Go, meoweez, we shall sally forth with spatula and wheelbarrow! Wave that grubby smelly flag then, I’m bouncing in the opposite direction anyway. I don’t give a human’s pimple anymore.

Beep, beep!

happy feet

Greyhounds tend to be extremely sensitive about their paws. When she was eight years old, I began to notice that she started to walk just a wee bit differently: her rhythm and flow, the way she placed her paws, the sway of her majestic Greyhound butt (rump and upper thigh) and even her breathing etc. Her vet in Sydney did Xrays and told me that the wear and tear was pretty harsh for a dog of her age, attributed to her having been a racing dog when she was younger. Overworked, was the word the vet used. Humans are appalling, they should gamble on each other instead of the poor dogs.

Coincidentally, I too am very sensitive about my feet. They are not beautiful feet at all, in fact, the way I see it, somewhat unusually formed, and I’ve been enduring considerable sensory pain in my feet for as long as I can remember. As a result, I developed a persistent focus on footwear, collecting as many as 200 pairs of shoes at one stage of my life. (No, I don’t have that many anymore, I’m trying to travel light!)

Well, both Lucy and I have sensitive ‘feet’ and we much prefer the bare-foot / bare-paw way of life, but living in the city means we must dutifully put on our shoes each time we venture outside into the concrete landscape. The lush greenery and large old trees around our neighbourhood have all been mercilessly cut down and hacked away, replaced by a humongous wide road, and construction sites. Pathways exposed to the full forceful glare of the tropical sun become uncomfortably warm or even hot by 9am, and by noon, our bare feet or paws will begin to burn if we spent more then 5 minutes walking around unshod. Then there’s the debris to look out for too, we don’t want nasty things to become embedded in our paws, do we?

To make matters even worse, Lucy developed corns around this time in 2018. Corns are a scourge to many Greyhounds, and I was hoping that she would escape this, but unfortunately it was not to be. Since then, I’ve been trying all kinds of ways to alleviate the discomfort, because corns keep growing back after they are hulled, and walking becomes uncomfortable or even painful.

The combination of corns, lack of grass and hot concrete pathways meant that Lucy needed shoes! And what a struggle it was to find shoes that would fit Lucy nicely, that she would deign to endure. I tried the whole range of doggy footwear, from the super expensive to the cheap ones. We tried Neopaws, which I liked because they extend further up like high-tops, but the first order never arrived and I had to make another order, which cost me a pretty sum, only to find out that Lucy hated them. Then I tried Therapaws, but they were so round and flappy that we both hated them – Lucy because she didn’t like the feel of them obviously, and I am guessing also because they were a bit heavy. So I gave them to a friend to try on her Greyhound. Then out of desperation, I ordered near to a dozen different cheap Made in China ones. Ironically, the best ones – well crafted and not using cheap material – did not meet with Lucy’s sensory approval and she settled for the cheapest of them all. Sadly, they did not last, and she went through three more sets before the seller ran out of stock.

After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and a great deal of frustration and even tears (mine, of course), we finally found Hunnyboots, a company that makes special booties for the long and narrow Greyhound paws, which are very different from other dogs’ which are rounder and bulkier. They’re not cheap at all, but very reasonably priced for something one just cannot find anywhere else in the world. Then, they didn’t have the colour I wanted, in fact, they didn’t have any other colour in Lucy’s size apart from the bleh “Passive Fawn”. Sigh. I so much wanted the Hot Pink or Red. Anyway, I made do, so long as Lucy was comfortable, the colour didn’t matter to her anyway.

Then, guess what, they produced a brand new style called V3, and the Grand Greyhound Booties Circus started all over again. I pre-ordered a set of red ones this time, and waited an age for them to finally be ready to ship. When they arrived I found to my horror that they were too small for Lucy! They’d changed the measurement chart and I failed to notice that in my enthusiasm. So I sent them back and ordered a size larger. Hunnyboots uses DHL for delivery to Singapore, so they arrived pretty quickly. But, sadly, Lucy hates them. Well, I don’t blame her, because the front ones keep falling or twisting off no matter how tightly I pulled at the velcro straps. In fact, I hurt her once when I pulled too tight and she let me know her disapproval with a sniffy squeal of displeasure. Since then, she would balk each time I tried to put them on her paws. I did manage to get them on, determined as I was to try and make it work, but each and every time, the front booties would come off. I realised that I was distressing Lucy and it was counterproductive because I didn’t want her to develop a horrible phobia for shoes.

So, we are back to wearing the old Hunnyboots, which are now becoming quite grubby. Well, I did kind of create an acceptable compromise: I painted them red at the mesh area with fabric paint so that I could at least have the satisfaction of looking at red booties instead of the bleh fawn colour, and Lucy is happy with these old grubby comfy booties that don’t fall off as she walks. She can even do a bouncy trot in these ones. Pity they don’t make them anymore. I’ll have to try and figure out a way to alter the new ones to fit Lucy better… or find another kind of booty, which is a terribly daunting prospect – aaargh then the Grand Greyhound Bootie Hunting Circus will have to begin all over again. Sigh.

For now, as long as these ones last, we are Happy Feet!

destruction

I know we will never see our lovely Paddo neighbourhood in Sydney again together. In fact, I am not sure I ever will myself. Covid19 has plunged the entire human world into a maelstrom of tragedy. The walks we enjoyed, the smells, sights, sounds and the sensory joy, can never be replicated.

When I first returned to Singapore, our neighbourhood was a peaceful, genteel one, a little dog-eared at the edges but there was lush greenery and a variety of birds around that provided a beautiful soundscape every morning. Tragically, it has been turned into a horrible mess of massive construction. Noise and dust all day and night envelopes the entire area. All the beautiful, shady old trees have been mercilessly cut down. I wonder where the cockatoos have gone, I hope they managed to find another place to nest. I remember walking with Lucy and standing under their tree, just around the corner from my place, listening to them calling to one another. Other bird songs filled the air and it was a very pleasant cacophony.

Then they started to mark the trees with numbers, and I knew even before the notices were sent out to residents about the huge construction that was to take place, that these beautiful trees were being marked for destruction. One by one, they sawed them down. The expansive grass verges along the main road have transformed into a monstrosity. There is hardly any greenery left. When the deafening soundscape of hydraulic drills, cranes, hacking and banging of construction is over, it will be replaced by whirring, rattling traffic.

It is a strange phenomenon unique to humans, where crass extirpation is performed in the name of progress.

topsy turvy

It’s such a topsy turvy world. Human habits that are supposed to denote sociability and friendliness are also those which put us all at great risk of spreading deadly diseases. And the bizarre thing, to me, is that it is all so superficial, and yet so utterly rigid in its insistence. And the normative say that autistic minds are inflexible? We need to make some drastic changes, “draconian measures” even (quoting from Professor Gabriel Leong, HKU, when he gave that impressive speech about COVID19 on 27 January 2020), but the human world – whether NT / autistic etc – is so entrenched in our human navel-gazing that we are unable to navigate our way through. In my small microcosmos, I am exhausted and weary of constantly being told that I am committing social travesty when all I am trying to do is to take better care of myself – my physical and mental health and wellbeing. The normative social realm demands of me not only what is unnatural to my autistic function, but also puts my body and mind in harm’s way. And for what purpose? Pray tell. Well, COVID19 is definitely kicking shite into the face of normativity right now.

This was my Facebook musing today:

As the body ages, it deteriorates. Mid to high levels of pain is becoming more and more a regular feature of my days. Not exactly great for mental health. Ironically, lockdown and all its ‘inconveniences’ and lack of ‘normal’ socialising (which is abnormal and unhealthy for me) that regular healthy people are complaining about has been a blessing for me. I hate that it takes a pandemic so horrifying as COVID19 to create a world that I am actually more comfortable to live in, where keeping a healthy physical distance, not touching, hugging, kissing as a social greeting, and wearing masks to keep your spit to yourself are all suddenly not taboo anymore. I can hold out my hand and tell people to stay 6 feet away and nobody will lecture me, I can say I don’t want to go out for meaningless chatter and nobody will give me the stink eye.

I am so so so tired. Seriously. The normative social world has drained me and I need this isolation and peace. I am just very sad that it takes place in the midst of probably the worst pandemic the human world has known?There is something very very wrong with our human systems. But because it has been created and policed and followed by the majority, nobody wants to change… Well, nature is hitting back at all of us now. Well done, human species! Very well done.

olfactory thoughts

Lucy and I have resumed our morning walks. It’s a pleasure that I look forward to in the mornings now, all over again. The heat and humidity is daunting, but I try to get us outside as early as possible. Lucy and I set forth every morning at around 6.30am like intrepid adventurers, making the best of a bad situation. What matters most is that we are together and we both treasure our little sensory sorties. I let Lucy take the lead during our walks, as I always have done, as long as it is safe for us. She likes to create subtle variety, sniffing at slightly different spots every day. And I take photographs. Each photo is different, if one has adequate powers of observation, that is.

Repetition is neither meaningless, nor absolute, if one has hyper senses and ability to detect and appreciate minutiae. Within the comfortable realm of what non-autistic people describe as ‘sameness’, this autistic and her dog is able to find joy in the tiniest shifts and revolutions of each da capo. We walk almost the ‘same’ route every morning, yet it is so refreshingly new to us. Lucy has shown me how to rediscover and embrace autistic joy.

I pay close attention to Lucy when she sniffs around, not merely because I adore looking at everything Lucy does, but to protect her from potential hazards, like snakes, cigarette butts (another thing I detest about humans), rat bait, or bits of discarded food, broken glass beer bottles, plastic bags, and nowadays there are the abandoned masks to watch out for too.

While Lucy sniffs, I watch, and in my inferior human way, I notice my own world of smells in the air. I smell cat poop (blame it on the neighbourhood cats then), the smell of the ground being dug up by massive machinery is heavy, but if we are early enough, I can still smell the dew on the grass and leaves. This morning, the friendly elderly lady living in one of the houses we usually walk by was frying radish cake in her ‘wet kitchen’ in the back. She waved at us and I said good morning. On our way home, as we passed the block of HDB flats, there is the smell of roti prata – the stall opens at 7am. As we enter our apartment block, bacon and eggs dance towards us. Lucy looks up at me for a treat, then we’re home again – and it’s time for Lucy’s breakfast!

Today, I was washing our breakfast dishes in the kitchen when I suddenly realised that I am able to detect the change in smell of the washing up sponge at the point when the dishwashing liquid becomes ineffective at removing grease. It is high pitched, flat and heavy, reverberating just beneath the diaphragm, sometimes triggering nausea. Very useful, I guess. It tells me when I should rinse out the sponge and add fresh dishwashing liquid to it.

I am reminded of my series of three videos, An Olfactory Map of Sydney, 2017, commissioned by the Big Anxiety Festival. I don’t think I could do a similar one for Singapore, the weather is so humid and hot here, I don’t dare get into a bus, the smells would be so much stronger and harder to cope with.

noisome jangling

A second wave has hit us. So, everyone is back in semi-lockdown, the authorities call it “Phase 2”. We’ve all been ordered to stay home, no more eating out at all, and we can only go to the shops in pairs, no more than two home visitors at a time and limited to two visits per day etc. The media is regaling all and sundry with news of this or that cluster popping up almost everywhere, and of course a good smattering of dramatic encounters with various mask-resisting miscreants.

OK, this isn’t about whether or not one should be exempt and the various arguments around sensory challenges etc. I live in Singapore, where everyone is ordered to don a mask when outside of the home. Full stop. That is that. Anyone failing to do so, risks high fines and even a free staycation in prison. I, for one, am glad. But I speak as one who is in the minority – yes, I do have sensory struggles with things like masks, but I am also extremely vulnerable to whatever infection may be lurking around in spaces where there are other humans spreading their stuff freely like Santa Claus on a gifting frenzy all year round. Even in non-pandemic situations, I wish people would don masks as a mark of consideration to others who may be immunocompromised.

Well, all this staying home is stressful to many people (myself excluded – I love staying home!), and having to put on a stuffy smelly mask in this tropical heat can be quite a horrible sensory challenge. So, it isn’t surprising that apart from daily reports of increasing case loads, there are stories of humans exhibiting bizarre behaviour in public spaces as a direct result.

Lucy and I had an unpleasant encounter during our morning walk a few days ago. I haven’t been able to elucidate the experience till today, because that is my autistic brain functioning or malfunctioning (whichever way you may choose to look at it, I care not), it takes me some time to properly process certain types of information, especially disturbing ones that take me by surprise. This is why I hate surprises. And I find practical jokes absolutely horrifying.

When I walk with Lucy, we are in our little bubble, she is sensing everything, and so am I, yet we are experiencing this together. Like a parallel-play date. That morning, we were walking along a row of shophouses nearby, when I saw a large, burly man walk towards us. I usually avoid humans anyway, and since this terrible pandemic came upon us, I am additionally anxious whenever I see any human forms looming or hovering too near. I quickly walked on, to get to the other side, giving the chap a wide berth as he passed. Then, a few seconds later, I heard a voice behind us.

“Hello, excuse me! Hello! Hello!”

I turned around and saw the same burly man bearing down on us. Hey, I thought he was walking in the other direction? Why is he now following us? What’s worse, he had his mask lowered below his nose and he was walking very fast. I stood there stunned, but somehow managed to hold my arm out and told him to stop and keep his distance, and gestured to him to pull up his mask. No, I wasn’t afraid of being mugged, no mugger would call out to you so politely, would they? He wasn’t rude, but he was making me very anxious.

Anyway, he did stop and pull up his mask. Then he proceeded to try and lecture me, “You should not make your dog wear shoes in the morning because their feet…” I stopped him there, so I didn’t get to hear his theory, though maybe I should have? I told him quite curtly because I was already nearing anxiety overload by then, that my dog has a problem with her paws and she needs these shoes, thank you. He apologised and we scuttled away in opposite directions.

It wasn’t that the chap was nasty, it was the shock of an unexpected encounter with another human, a random stranger three times my size, and the way his mask was dangling down as he was coming nearer and nearer me. What are humans thinking, don’t they understand what a PANDEMIC is?

Sigh. And my dog? Couldn’t he see she is a perfectly happy dog in her Hunnyboots and very well cared for one at that? Sigh, sigh, sigh.

Stay safe please, everyone!

sacrificial lamb

Missing Tiny
Wrenching pain
He waited and hoped
Innocent victim of human shame

While humans manoeuvred
In seething heaving darkness
Needless evil
Sad pathetic games

It was my gesture
For human peace
That drove this small creature
To his death

When I left, I took his hope
His Clement Space
Ripped away
Torn apart

All there is now
Howling silence
Emptiness
Broken hearts

I didn’t think
About Tiny
I didn’t know
He’d be the sacrifice

Was it worth it?
Did I achieve peace?
Do they even care?
When will this end?

I can only hope and pray
He is now with his beloved Granny
No one loved her as he did
Humans disgust me

Shame, shame, shame!
Shame on you
All of us
Humans

I’m so sorry, Tiny…
I miss you, little one.
Run free with Gran…
And wait for us, please!