Sleepless in Singapore
by Larry Colen

22 Jan 99

Sleepless in Singapore

I've never spent much more than a weekend anyplace that could be considered a city. I grew up in the suburbs, moved to a part of the Santa Cruz mountains that while not out and out rural, might be described as sub-suburban. I went to college in Davis, described by one of my professors as a good place for newlyweds and nearlydeads. Singapore is definitely a city. Housing less than 9 stories tall is the exception.

I have noticed that I have not been sleeping well since I moved here. I will wake up several times in a night, and not just for bladder maintainance. My suspiscion is that over the years my subconscious has learned which noises to ignore. A truck driving by on Hwy 9 doesn't bother me. Someone walking into the room will usually wake me up. The Singapore night is full of these unauthorized sounds, that my brain has not yet learned to ignore.

Risky Business

One of my favorite lines in cinema is from the movie "Risky Busniness". "Every so often you just have to say `What the fuck'". I was hungry, on Orchard road (tourist area) and it was about 11:30 PM. There weren't many places to eat open. When I saw the Denny's, I was overcome with curiousity. I know what Denny's are like in the States, are they the same in Asia? What the fuck, sometimes it takes a little of the rediculous to appreciate the sublime. The menu looked very similar to every other Denny's menu I've ever seen, except that the only cheese that they seemed to have was american cheese. I almost ordered the "superbird", a grilled turkey sandwich. Then I flipped the page and saw the local dishes that they offered. I realized that I had no option, I had to order Mee Goreng (literally fried noodles) at Denny's. What would it be like? Would it be bland and americanized? Would it be like the Mee Goreng in the food courts?

It was somewhere in between. By Denny's standards, it was by no means bland. By Malaysian standards, it was by no means spicy. While it was not actually bad, I'd almost have to describe the flavor as two dimensional. In hand drawn cartoons, each cell was a flat was of color. The colors in the artwork may have been bright and vivid, but there was no real depth to the image. Likewise with the Mee Goreng. It was recognizably Mee Goreng, and it was as spicy as some that I've had at food courts, yet there was a depth and complexity that was missing, as if it was a cartoon caricature of Malay cooking. The thing that I found the weirdest about it was the meat. I believe that it was beef. Anyways some small thinly sliced bits of some red meat were hiding in it as if whoever was in charge of the menu could not imagine an entree without red meat. In other words, it was just about exactly what you would expect from ordering Mee Goreng at Denny's.

Last modified 01/23/98

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