I made it to Singapore on Friday night to visit Philippe.
Philippe and I have been friends for many years. eee and I had seen his twin brother Stefan in Paris in February, and it was nice to see both brothers in a span of mere months.
We rise early on Saturday and it is raining, hard. So we decide to plan our day around the rain.
First, breakfast. An English-type cafe, where I order scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. We linger over tea before heading for the City Gallery.
It is similar to the urban planning museum in Shanghai — all city models and urban architecture. All city history and national pride. As we make our way through the gallery, we stumble upon the idea of the Bird Singing Corner. This is a place in the city where people go to hang their bird cages, outdoors.
Let’s go! Philippe says.
I hesitate. I hate birds. But they are generally a symbol of positive things, so I should be more open to the idea. I relent. As the weather begins to clear, we make our way out of the gallery and to Ang Mo Kio.
Do you want an ice cream? Philippe asks on the way. We have, by default, begun a culinary tour of Singapore.
Next stop, America.
We walk, and we eat our ice cream, as we try to find the birds in the gardens. We have very little luck, but we do find some swings.
As we swing, I share my observations of being a childless adult who chooses to participate in or observe child-centric activities.
When I was in Melbourne, I discovered that there’s no way not to be a creep while taking a photograph of a carousel. They have this beautiful carousel at Luna Park on the beach, and I got a vicious side-eye when I tried snapping some photographs of it.
So, we’re the creepy middle-aged couple on the swingset? he snorts as he pumps his legs to go higher, unfussed by our status in the park.
(For the record, we are a few years shy of being properly middle-aged.)
Once drenched, we hop off the swings and resume our search for the birds. It is getting hotter in the mid-day sun and we are sweating.
I don’t hear birds.
I’m going to be upset if they’re not singing…Simon & Garfunkel or something. What are some bird songs?
Neil Young’s “Birds”? I quickly offer.
He counters by singing the refrain: When you see me fly away without you/shadow on the things you know/feathers fall around you/and show you the way to go. It’s over/it’s over.
Bird’s the word. We walk and talk and sweat and try to one-up each other with bird-songs. The trump card is The Byrds.
Finally, after miles of walking through the Singapore sun, we find the Bird Singing Area.
It is a series of cages, hoisted on posts, where avian afficionados congregate.
Do you think they’d let me join if I were just, you know, interested in birds but didn’t have one? Philippe asks me, Maybe let me be a junior associate member?
I roll my eyes and flop backwards into the grass, which I am certain is going to get me a) shit on, or b) caned, but at this point, I do not care.
We sit still for a while to cool off before beginning the long trek to Orchard Street to find lunch.
We go for dim sum, continuing our culinary exploration. The tiny parcels of perfection are delicious.
We finish our meal and then source some macarons. In context, it makes sense.
Then we head back to Philippe’s house to sit by the pool for a few hours. A weekend for me would not be complete without water.
After swimming, we shower and change and head to Arab Street for dinner.
Philippe and I consume Middle Eastern food in the fading light, drinking beer and holding crumbling, greasy falafel in our hands.
After dinner, we decide to walk back to his place, stopping on the way at Raffles Hotel because Philippe thinks I should have a Singapore Sling.
This looks like that one hotel at Disney, I say. As if Disney were the gold standard in capturing the colonial experience. As if Disney were representative of anything expect Disney.
Except it’s real, he says.
And so we drink our sugary drinks, and he eats some peanuts, and I watch the faux frond fans move in an ineffective, jerky tandem on the ceiling.
It is all real, and it is all happening.
We finish our drinks, and step sleepily back into the soupy equatorial evening to savour the last of the Singapore Saturday night.