I was at loose ends. Meaning I had time on my hand. Now just because I was in Johor didn’t mean I couldn’t duck over the causeway into Singapore. I could do it five times a day, couldn’t I?
No, said the Malaysian Immigration officer. But if you can prove you are only on a day trip and have a receipt at the hotel you are staying at, we will let you back into the country.
He said normally I’d have to be out of the country for three days, ‘before we stamped you back in. But being Johor, we pride ourselves on offering a few extra liberties for our tourists who prefer to spend their tourist dollars here.’
I got it, I said. I’ll only be a few hours.
‘Don’t worry,’ he says as he stamps me out. ‘Now when you get stamped into Singapore, just ask my brother Abdul, and tell him you only want to stay a few hours.’
Everyone had a brother called Abdul, I just couldn’t believe it.
The Ambassador’s Wife is vintage Tay, the Singaporean detective, the offspring of a Chinese American and a Singaporean Chinese mother. Now that I got that out of the way, I got on Google Maps. Border Books in Wheelock Place seemed to be as good a place to visit. I could have visited the Brewerkz Brewery down by the Singapore River near the Merchant Court Hotel. Hell, I might even give that place a visit next time.
I was feeling like an old seasoned traveler in Singapore. I’d almost come across as local, I was that immersed in Singapore.
I like browsing books. I’d look at them wistfully, saying one day I’m going to buy them. I’d open up the books and read. I’d read until those hunger pangs forced me back on the streets. Those Buddhist shrines with offering to ancestor spirits kept me from completely starting on the streets of Bangkok.
I was snapped out of my Valium Daze, another title I wrote in another Malay city. Private Dancer looked at me. I wasn’t so concerned who wrote it. It’s just that a Thai girl was gyrating almost off the cover. Next to it was another book, Bali Raw. Interesting, I thought as I looked at the publisher. A Singaporean outfit. If they were publishing trash like that, then I wondered why they wouldn’t pick up Garuda’s Travels.
A quick phone call to the publisher.
‘We only like sex in our books, threesomes good, even orgies are permitted in our publishing house.’
There went my future in the exciting world of Singapore publishing.
The owner had a South African accent. He said basically a book that doesn’t talk about fallicio or cunnilingus every second page, ‘isn’t going to sell in Singapore, or airport bookshops we supply them.’
I didn’t even bother to see what was inside Private Dancer. I could only imagine. Boy meets bar girl, fucks her. Then he figures out how he can do it again without paying for it, one way or another.
They didn’t stock any of Jake Needham’s books, Pussy’s, I thought, as I ordered a coffee at Border’s Cafe, the outside area of the bookshop. They served a cappuccino in a giant mug – an excuse to charge me double the price no doubt.
A sign said no smoking.
I had a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees card printed up. It pays to join those UN forums. I figured if anyone asked questions, one I could flash the card and say, ‘I’m keeping all the Muslim refugees out of Singapore.’ Or if that failed, I’d just run.
I lit up a Marlboro with a blue plastic lighter. It was the same color as the Comfort Taxi I took back to the causeway and into Johor. It was just a quick trip over the border to flagrantly smoke in a public place and to check out what books the Island State stocks. But somehow it clarified a few things. I still hadn’t lost my traveling mojo.