#2066 | #LAdiaries – One Cold Night in DTLA


The Broad Museum, Los Angeles
Wearing: Her Velvet Vase

My time in Los Angeles was very short, and very sweet. My first time in the city of angels, and for only four and a half days. And no Disneyland! That’s how you know I’ll be back, no disneyland. Ha. I am so predictable as a basic girl in her twenties. I was there on a work trip, as mentioned before, and in my Griffith post I mentioned us not actually having any scheduled free time. But what free time I did have, I made the most of. Consequently my short sojourn in Los Angeles felt like a good block of time spent doing many different things (half of which full credit goes to Airbnb’s wonderful itinerary). Today’s story revolves around this one cold night I had alone in DTLA, after my half-day Airbnb Experience with The Adventureman had ended. I’d found myself back in the city feeling the soft lapping of jet lag and skin kissed by salt and sun. I thought to myself, four days in LA. No time for naps. I can nap when i’m dead (a sentiment I actually heartily disavow on a regular basis, me being a girl who loves my sleep). And so I showered, changed, and headed out again.

My remaining half-hour of sunlight for the day was spent in an uber with a lady driver who had a personality bigger than the sum of our carseat space. She sang ditties nonstop, had no idea where she was going, and then told me that it was sad, real sad! that her GPS was full of shit! A real tragedy, she said again, shaking her head at me, in between breaths of singing along to Bruno Mars. It was like living in a reality tv show. I didn’t really know what to say, so I shrugged and smiled. It’s sad, she said again, then dropped me off outside The Broad.

Im not someone who loves to spend my entire day indoors in a museum when traveling, but I have to say, some of the best museums Ive seen have really blown me away. I snuck into The Broad on my media pass (dubious looks from the guard, but he waved me through anyway) and it was a nice, easy museum that was also very enjoyable. It’s small, for one, just two storeys, and each exhibit is properly explained in real-speak. That is to say, the way a friend would explain it to you, and not in some highfalutin art speak. I wandered around on double speed, moped a bit about having to skip the Yayoi Kusama exhibit (a 1.5 hr wait was too much of a luxury i couldn’t afford), and left after slightly over an hour.


“Contemporary Art”

When I emerged it was dark. Dark in LA is not like Dark in Singapore. There are dense city lights you chalk up to light pollution, but the stars shine so bright you forget for a moment everything you think you know about science and the sky. From The Broad I basically ran down the road to the Frank Gehry Walt Disney Concert Hall, something I’ve wanted to see for almost five years now. Architecturally it’s a wonder, but you forget all that then you’re faced with the hall. You just stand before it, overwhelmed. Touched? Is it too silly and cheesy to say I felt my heart clench? But it did, and so I will. Some things just take your breath away. Though fair disclaimer – I’m the type who cries at everything. The first time I saw the Eiffel tower at twenty one, I sobbed. Little girl dreams come true and all that.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall was everything I hoped it would be from the outside. People slowed as they passed it, to look up in wonder. Sighs were heard. Other people smiled. The occasional tourists brushed by me holding everything from iPhones for selfies to huge DSLR for mood shots. I gave myself ten minutes to gape at the Hall – I had agreed to meet the rest of the Singaporean media at In-And-Out for our first iconic burger experience in half an hour. But ten minutes was all I needed. When something is as innately beautiful as that, you don’t need much skill. You just need to be impressed, let yourself savour the moment, then snap once.


the beautiful Walt Disney Concert Hall by night

One day, I told myself, I’ll watch a concert in there. My uber driver honked.

Half an hour ride. It takes half an hour to get anywhere within the city, it seems. I have to admit that the ride there was cold and disappointing. Where was the bustle of the movies, the charm of the streets? Outside the car it was quiet and dark. The stars shone on. The pavements did not. I wondered where all the people were, and something floated back to me as if from another life: a friend casually telling me that you party in LA, at the house of someone if you know someone who knows someone.. bar culture isn’t as strong as it is back in other cities while I looked on in envy. Well, I thought. This is me, looking in from the outside. I know no one, and so the city turns from me.

I do have a flair for the melodramatic, if you hadn’t already guessed.

In and Out appeared so suddenly I must have dozed off in the car. A yellow and red neon monstrosity! The famous Sunset Boulevard. Still feeling mildly underwhelmed, I went in and got seats for the four of us. Somehow defending an empty booth as a single asian girl against hungry Americans seems every bit as iconic an experience as any other. Glares all around! I kept my head down and looked at my phone. I act big when I’m on home turf but abroad I’m always so afraid someone will come and punch me for no good reason. I watch too much TV, I think. And the rest arrived, and we had the famous burgers they talk about, “animal style”.


In-n-Out Los Angeles

I am heartbroken to be the bearer of unpopular opinion. The burgers were alright. We all stared at each other while eating, making eye contact, waiting for the first person to whimper or moan. It’s always a strange and communal experience, eating messy food with people you cordially know. We got much friendlier later, but these were early days, hours. Finally, Adele spoke up. They’re.. okay.

What a relief! We agreed that they were neither the best nor worst burgers of our lives, and I volunteered my own experience at Shake Shack in New York – mindblowingly average. Do I just not have the right kind of taste buds? Who knows. In-n-Out was really cheap for what it was though, and the old school American diner experience was enjoyable if only because we (I?) pictured myself in a different time, different age half-subconsciously when munching down on my chow. I told my friend this later and she looked at me in disgust. You’re crazy, she said. Those are the best burgers in the world. Ah, well.

Walking down Sunset Boulevard post-meal we all seemed half hopeful. Herein lies the avenue people write songs about. Make movies about. Herein lies the avenue where things seem dead past 7pm. What was going on? We made small talk, wondered where all the people were, agreed that there had to be more to LA than this. Privately I felt personally let down by the city, let down by pop culture, let down by what hollywood had led me to believe. No lights, no bustle. Druggies on the road, neon signs indicating a special kind of ‘pharmacist’. Cause and consequence. The most exciting thing we saw was a 24/7 grocery store – because everyone loves grocery stores. What kind of peanut butter can you get in America that you can’t get elsewhere? Is what i’m saying.

On and on we walked. It felt like we were afraid to give up and go home, because to do so would be to give in to the city’s rejection of us. We could be fun. We could be exciting. Why wouldn’t it open up? At least, that’s how I felt. Only four days in LA, and I’d be damned if I were to waste a night and go home early just because i couldn’t find something new to try.

We passed a comic book store and a couple of people lingering outside, smoking, laughing, and talking. Again I felt the sense of being left out wash over me. I walked over and asked them where they were going, what they were waiting for. There’s a comedy show starting soon at the back of this comic shop..

Lo and behold!

But the comedy show was sold out. Next door, however, had yet another show that had started fifteen minutes ago, that still sold standing room tickets for five bucks. Yes? Yes? Obviously. We went in.


Enter: the best five dollars I spent in LA. The Nerdist School Stage, which was the name of the comedy improv club we went to, was fantastic. I personally love comedy shows, but I know they’re not necessarily for everyone. A lot of people are adverse to comedy shows because of the heckling, and Improv both eases that fear since the comedians use their own material, and grants you access to comedy anyway.

Three shows, we watched, and the last of which was performed by this group called Beyond The Disney Vault. Where the rejected disney movies live is their tagline. They consist a group of improv actors and musicians (pictured above), who start the show by asking the audience for a word. They then improvise an entire MUSICAL, complete with original song, harmony, and actual character script, on the spot.

It was incredible. I could not even begin to comprehend the kind of talent an individual would have to possess, as well as the kind of insane chemistry with the rest of one’s troupe, to be able to invent, harmonise, and stitch together a coherent piece of work on the spot. And in case you suspect the musicals were pre-written, the audience word thrown out for our show was “Boomerang”. How do you anticipate that?

An hour later, we stumbled out of the club and into the cold, raving and amazed. We were down to two: Kenath and Adele had left earlier, citing jet lag. Serene and I wandered around a bit more, me half reluctant to call it a night, ready to go some more, her wanting to get back to the apartment to Skype her kid. We settled on a workable compromise: called an uber, and asked her to detour and drive down Hollywood Boulevard so we could see it from the car on the way home. It was like a free tour – the old lady who picked us up was so excited to explain the history of the different buildings up and down the avenue of the stars, we couldn’t imagine a better way to have seen the Boulevard. And things were actually happening on that street, people were snapping photographs of the stars on the floor, there were movie theatres, shopping malls. But we sped past them all, gaping at the lights and people, semi-grateful we were able to relax and admire from the darkness of the car.

A left turn onto the freeway. Hollywood Boulevard over in ten minutes and behind us. As the freeway opened up to fluid traffic and the harmony of car sounds, I felt, rather than saw, the city dim around me and cleave to the star spangled sky. Amazing, amazing. Still high from the comedy show rush of exhilaration, I thought of the evening and what we’d done, what we’d seen. Moments of highs and lows, the emotional arc of discovering downtown los angeles. And I thought to myself: not bad. Not bad at all.


#2065| im a slave 4 u


It was our favourite little monster’s fifth birthday last weekend, not that she cared. As evinced from her facial expression. I can’t believe i’ve been a slave to her moods and cravings for the last five years. Did you know, cats can knock on doors? This one time my sisters and I were home alone, chilling in our bedroom, and we heard this incredibly human like knock on the door. Rap-tat-tat-tat-tat. There was no one else home; our parents were out dating or something, I don’t know. We stared at each other slowly. What the actual – ?

After a lot of egging, I was nominated as tribute (sacrifice) to be the one to open the door and face whatever intruder was out there, vengeful ghost or murderous burglar. Jeez. The door was opened, the hallway was empty. I looked down. Something brushed against my ankle and I jumped. When I turned, Athena had taken over my spot on the bed, and was currently stretching out happily. That cat has the worst case of FOMO, did I mention? She can’t stand it if people are congregating behind closed doors. She needs to be in on the action, is what I’m saying.

We couldn’t for the life of us figure out how she managed to knock on our door until one evening we watched her trail my mother to her bedroom, where my mum promptly shut the door on her face (they have boundary issues, its an ongoing debate). Following which she turned her ass to the door, leaned on her front two legs, and kicked the hell out of that door with her hind paw. Rap-tat-tat-tat-tat.

It was genius. Actually genius. For months i’d been checking with my cat owner friends about the knocking, but no one else had a cat who knocked. Athena must have invented her own way of knocking, the way she learnt to sit on my chest and extend just one claw to pull the edge of my sleeping mouth open when she wanted food at 445am in the morning. We were conflicted about this new development. Is it better to have a dumb cute cat who’s also affectionate, or a snobby cat who spends all day sleeping and puts her ultra-intelligence to use only to intrude on your personal boundaries? It’s hard to say.

Either way, what stands is that life is a perpetual equal parts joyride and equal parts annoying af with her around. Happy birthday, you twit.


#2064 | feng he ri li


Neon sign from Hello Confetti Dreams, available for purchase or rental. Website.

Well, well. Day four and the chinese new year festivities seem nearly over, the dust settled, so on and so forth. How was everyone’s festivities? Sufficiently awkward, I hope. Last year a friend and I were groaning about the impending visitations, more because it seemed the fashionable thing to do than anything else. I don’t really suffer from the extended family meet ups the same way most people do, and when my friends complain that they face strange and inappropriate questions from the fam, I privately thank God that my family is more or less chill with most things. Besides, four, five (?) years in the media has kind of rendered me immune to strange and inappropriate questions. You know what I mean. Welcome to the new reality, is what I am saying.

But anyway. Back to it. Said friend had procured a newish girlfriend and she was to meet his family for the first time. His family, unlike mine, loooooved to ask questions of the childbearing hips Mulan-matchmaker variety. So he claims.

How ah.
How what.
I’m putting together a list of weird things they might ask so I can formulate funny comebacks ahead of time.
Good luck with that. You know it’ll be useless right? In the face of an awkward question you’ll just –
– shrivel up and die. Yes i know.
I hope your chinese new year is awkward as hell.
Shut up.
It’s a blessing in disguise, my friend. Awful scenarios are a gift –
– to creativity? You always say that.
A gift ripe for the pickings.
Ugh. The worst part is you’re right.
I hope you have the worst CNY ever.
I hope you have the worst CNY ever.
Thank you.
I know.

Afterwards he came back and said that the visitations went well. Too well, in fact.

Is that disappointment I detect?
I asked. He shrugged. And i thought to myself, how human we all are, to secretly hope for shit to hit the fan, just to lift us all out of this predictable boredom masquerading as happiness. Is that too pessimistic for the new year? I don’t think so. Alternative storylines to follow, and all that.

This year’s storyline didn’t differentiate that much from the norm. There were visitations, just the right amount of weirdness, and a lot of napping. So much napping! The exhaustion of the last half-year has returned with a vengeance, and again I am reminded of how my one superpower is being able to fall asleep anywhere. Couches, trains, buses, under your dining table. Last night we were playing charades at another friend’s place and i just barely managed to pretend i was imitating something when i had actually dozed off for a hot minute. I laughed about it later, in the car home, about my super power. My boyfriend looked at me and said, stop romanticising narcolepsy, Jem. And that was that.


#2063 | #seabugged


We have reached the age where we obsessively document everything via the cloud. This is in part a millennial preoccupation and in part a subset of Apple’s plan to cheat us of our phone space with ridiculously large iOS updates so we’ll have to purchase their cloud plans. Half of our memories now exist in lower resolution shadow copies online, categorised by hashtags and photo albums. We tell ourselves that this, too, is okay since it’s really the memories that count. We tell ourselves, we tell ourselves.

Mid-december a bunch of us did a day dive trip in the name of practice and buoyancy. Both metaphorically and literally. Morning in, night out, yada yada. In reality it was just an excuse to get together and splash around. We all knew we’d see no fish. Visibility in Bintan is a nightmare, it’s like swimming in milk. I think it was my first refresher dive after the Survivor Episode that was Tioman’s PADI open water, trying not to drown, and so there was a mix of excitement and panic there, and a lot of hand holding.

The dives themselves were awful, a mix of bad organisation and unprofessionalism. But at the end of our three dives we sat by the hull, feet dangling off the edges, drinking beer and watching the sunset, and we talked a lot of sentimental bull about how life was good to us and how friendship was the golden elixir of life, etcetera. Georgina, being Georgina, started asking for a group hashtag. After ignoring her for two hours failed to work, we started throwing up a couple of names. You know the basic requirement for hashtags – they have to be catchy, cute, and no one else in the world must have used them before. No biggie. It was a nightmare. Obviously the job of coming up with one fell on Marcus and I (both of us being English TAs in NTU) and yet every suggestion we had was shot down by the others because they do not know what they want. Suddenly my life in advertising dealing with clueless clients came all rushing back to me. PTSD! PTSD! And another flash: Seabugged?

Sea Buck?
NO. Seabugged. Like the little seabugs that bite you in the water, except we’re the one’s who’ve been bitten. By the meta seabug.

Everyone loved it and I was revalidated as a useful English graduate. Yet another thing to add to my ever growing resume of useless abilities and skills. Nobody is allowed to joke about this except me, of course, but it is what it is. And from there that’s what we settled on: #seabugged. What millennials we are. And how wonderful.



#2062 | life buoy


Male, Maldives

The new semester has begun, as has my rubber-band launch back into the seesaw balance between my academic and professional life. Writing my thesis on a liveaboard in my head was one of the many ways one doubles up social and work life, an efficient use of time, if you will. Dive by day, write by night. I’m sure this wasnt what Papa Hemmingway had in mind but it works, for now. Surprisingly it’s been wonderfully productive. You’d think that an arrangement like that would never work, and it probably wouldn’t long term, but something about the mix of sea air, waves with a chance of dolphin, and literature, makes for a fantastic combination. The beer doesn’t hurt too, nor the dozen Blackmores Travel Calm pills I take per day. What’s a girl to do when she loves to travel but is deathly afraid of plane rides and gets sea sick at the slightest rock of the boat? Not sure if this question were ever asked, but if so, the answer is right here.