Stan loves to hog the limelight. On stage, he luxuriates in the spotlight and disco lights. He is as attractive as a live lobster in the aquarium of my local Chinese restaurant. Big and big-headed, its movement emperor-like, and terribly expensive. Unaffordable, he’s the exact opposite of the slippery eel squirming around in the adjacent smelly, mud-filled aquarium. His movement on stage is as smooth as the eel’s though, not that the stage is his mud. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with mud, for that is where the water lilies and lotus spring out from to dazzle us with their colour and beauty. From where I sit, the microphone appears to be a bionic extension of his hand. It does not leave his hand all night. A slick performer, natural and totally at home on stage. Some people are like that, some are born to lead, and some just love to talk and talk, and talk some more. Stan is both, he exudes leadership and loves talking, all night. He commands full attention from the stage. He is not short but appears to be due to the girth of his frame. Solidly built, the tenacity and steeliness in his eyes deter many from disagreeing with him; it is safer to defer to his command. The party of over one hundred revellers adored his performance earlier in the evening, but he could never be a good stand up comedian unless he borrows some punch lines from somewhere. A very poor imitation of Dave Allen with a perpetually replenished glass of whisky in his hand, I got to witness first-hand the rumours of his tendency to be inebriated whilst reading his script on stage. But, he has my full respect, not everyone can speak publicly so well and with such clarity. The confident man speaks the loudest. As the evening progresses, it becomes obvious it is time for Stan to leave his stage; his grip on the restless crowd is slackening, they begin to talk over his lengthy speech. So, he raises his voice to be heard, and the microphone begins to screech in protest at the increasing decibels. Luckily, the microphone is often held against his mouth, the smoker’s melanosis that he suffers from is mostly hidden from view. Likewise, it offers us partial relief from his nicotine-stained teeth. Stan loves anything and everything blue. He is often seen in mid-blue shirts, or dark blue ones with white polka dots. The tight short sleeves reveal a pair of solid full biceps which show the brute strength that Stan obviously possesses. His body-hugging shirt does not hide the man’s solid physique, but with his shirt tucked into his executive style trousers, and his ample waist decorated with a Pierre Cardin black leather belt, he appears corpulent and bulky rather than fit and strong. His demeanour is exaggerated and his swagger deliberate, accentuating his portrayal of success and prosperity. His 18 carat gold ring harbours a huge piece of green jade, enhancing the subliminal message he teleports to his audience. Stan’s the man. No one is allowed to outshine him, not that anyone wants to or can, as he will have you believe. Any perceived threat to his dominance in the sphere he resides in, will be stomped into oblivion. That is the nature of the man. Some describe him as arrogant, bombastic, unforgiving, a fake. He owns a patch of rather sparse hair. Combed meticulously, the crop on his head is thin and balding. The follicles are still unusually black despite his age, it is fair to suspect they were dyed only a few days earlier. The strands of hair are so sparse they appear to form thin black lines that barely cover his scalp. A receding hairline exacerbates his impending baldness. To be fair, the one positive about his hair is that there is only a faint trace of dandruff. Beads of sweat grow and swell from his forehead and cheeks, his constant action to wipe them off with his damp blue handkerchief seemingly unproductive. His brows are a small replica of MacDonald’s famous logo, the arches grey instead of golden and less tidy. The brows caress his once bright shining happiness-laden eyes. Now they appear as droopy as his heavy jowls. His prominent chin so proud it has grown another, a sign of abundance in his life.
When Stan is not on stage, he packs away his joviality and frivolity. He becomes assertive, less friendly but still loud. Unknowingly or purposely – I am not sure – he loves to celebrate his football team’s successes loudly and heartily even to the degree of “rubbing salt” on the supporters of the vanquished opposing teams. He loves blue. So it is easy to guess that he barracks for Chelsea Football Club, a great EPL club that calls Stamford Bridge their home. Every Chelsea win will be accompanied by loud hollers and ridiculously lengthy and rowdy celebrations from the man. It’s perfectly fine of course; we do not begrudge a man his fun and happiness. Stan lacks any inclination to comfort his subdued friends when their team loses. I suppose that is why the sports is a religion to many. There is no middle ground, either you’re a Chelsea believer or you are the anti-Christ. And since some of us are not Chelsea fans, we begin to bear the brunt of his taunts and torment the more our team, the Red Devils, lose.
Last weekend, my team did not lose to Liverpool. Another old friend, with the Greek name Stevros, had predicted we would be clobbered. Why Greek, you have to wonder. When asked for his prediction, he said 0-2. That is either the extent of Stevros’ understanding of the word “clobbered”, or a two nil defeat is a heavy defeat for him. “Hey Stevros, we didn’t get clobbered!” I invited him to pour scorn at my team. Sure enough, Stevros took my bait. “Aiyah..so eaten up by such nitty gritty..yes..they should have clobbered them.”
“Like sand, it’s the nitty gritty that makes us grit our teeth ” I replied.
“You can grit for all you want….your team should have been clobbered last night ..maybe the next return match..then you can GRIT YOUR TEETH even more.”
Uh oh, words in capital letters indicate Stevros is raising his voice. But in my moment of silly playfulness, I did not notice it. And then I made a mistake. “Yes, we supporters are the TRUE GRIT. Let’s hope your teeth have not receded from the grit.”
That’s fatal, Stan explained later. Too late! Stevros has begun his personal tirade at me.
“Why so personal ah..my teeth..? Why does it matter to you..you want to talk about your ASS..huh..?
And when you talk..talk in SIMPLE ENGLISH.. lah..many do not want to hear your gibberish talk..ok..??
If you want to be personal..I CAN be personal too..but I think it so CHILDISH to do so..
No need to SHOW OFF..keep it humble and simple..maybe that is all you have to show..?”
Quite taken aback, I meekly offered a quick apology. “Anyway, we are supposed to have light hearted banter here. If I somehow, somewhere offended anyone, let me be the first to apologise. I do not know when I showed off to you ….. anyway, life is short, bro. To some, sharing is showing off. I’m only sharing, there is nothing to show off from my side. I already publicly declared I was once almost bankrupt. Is that showing off ? Let’s refrain from judging others so readily. Friendly banter amongst brothers should be ok, right?”
Yes, we 61 year-olds call one another brothers, this is a legacy of the Lasallian and Xavierian education system. We all hail from the Irish connection of Lasalle Brothers but the supremo who began the schooling system in Penang was Br Charles Levin aka Br Karl Wolff, a grandson of Germany’s 19th century “sugar king”.
Stevros had not finished his bombardment. “…. you mentioned about my..receding teeth..that is not personal..? If you attack me personally..I WILL retaliate appropriately..yes..we can share and bant (sic) all we want but refrain from personal attacks…its ok..I hope we are good..just be mindful of our statements moving forward..I apologise too for any personal attacks..that’s something we should avoid..keep it simple and humble..thats my motto..”
Privately, Stan told me to shut up. “Don’t egg him on. He will want to have the last say. He always thinks he is right. Why did you attack his teeth anyway?!”
Sorry!! How was I to know someone will get upset over nothing. Such a tantrum over a set of teeth? Maybe he suffers from teeth erosion, but gosh, there is no such thing as receding teeth! He made it up but accused me of saying it. “Receding teeth” is more fake than dentures. I said I hope his teeth have not receded from the grit, i.e. TRUE GRIT guys do not shy away or retreat from the grit. We do not need reminders that at our age, it is common to experience features that recede. Gums, hairline, even self importance. In today’s society, the aged sadly recede into the background, they (sic) no longer command attention, they (sic) are hardly visible, often unnoticed and unheard. But teeth do not recede! So, why would anyone feel personally aggrieved over something that is fake, that doesn’t exist in their person? Urghhling!
This morning, I was woken up by the noisy birds in the park opposite. They must think it’s a market place to trade in worms. The furious tweeting and chirping are not conducive for non early risers. As I opened my eyes, it suddenly dawned on me that Stan the man could simply be a figment of my imagination. Maybe Stevros does not exist either, as fake as his “receding teeth”. But, I want to cling on to the romantic idea that all is true and well with the “Lasaints” brotherhood. A truly caring and friendly brotherhood of the boys from Penang’s Lasalle and St Xavier’s Institution.
I was advised to add the following disclaimer:
Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.