Friday, May 18, 2012

A Writer's Biography

I moved to South Carolina 3 years ago from Singapore. I always wanted to be a writer but never had a chance to seriously pursue the craft. So instead I write a blog – a way of telling (or fooling?) myself that I am a writer, to keep the dream alive; thinking that blogging is a way to practice the way a runner trains for a marathon.

But for years I struggled to complete a novel and some short stories, always blocked from finishing the work. Maybe I procrastinate too much; in between raising kids (both boys now in college), doing my day job, keeping my wife happy and having a decent family life. Trying to become a creative writer felt like a secret life, or a hidden vice like a drug addiction; going to work for a large company, working with computers but surreptitiously reading and enjoying books, practicing writing by blogging and attending short courses.

Now close to middle age, I feel time is running out, realizing late that writing is more about craft than divine inspiration; perhaps misled by writers like Ernest Hemingway who made it look easy; the first author I enjoyed reading, who led me on this path, soon progressing to other novelists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami, George Orwell, Yasunari Kawabata, John le Carre and Arturo Perez-Reverte among many others. Writers advise us to read widely and broadly as the first step, so I got that right but stayed far too long, neglecting to learn the writing craft; the clinical steps of revising or editing.

Recently I read ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield, one of many Do It Yourself books I read, as if writing can be learned like assembling furniture or gardening, like reading something like ‘Investing for Dummies’ , but this time it felt different. Inspired to be serious, to be a professional instead of an amateur, I was moved by the work, reading it while on a bus from New York, leaving Chinatown near midnight, travelling south towards rural fields, resolving to be a real writer by attending this course as the first concrete commitment.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Shooting Toronto

I spent three days in Markham, a new community north of Toronto - Canada; stayed with an old friend one had not seen for 17 years; meeting his children, his brother and sister whom we were close during high school days; having dinner, drinking wine, telling stories and catching up on the lost years. A good friend whom one shared many drunken nights long ago, from early school years all the way to college; someone whom I have spent more time growing up than anyone I can think of, except for my close family and siblings; now a family man with a delightful grandchild plus kids in their mid-20’s, adults themselves; amazed at how time flies and how we aged; ourselves included – not escaping the onrush of time. Earlier we took an overnight bus to Manhattan - New York, spent a day roaming China town, Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum before taking another bus at 11 pm for Toronto, arriving the next day at 10 am, arriving amidst new buildings and slick bustle of downtown (strangely similar to Shanghai), seeing my old friend come out of his Jeep, limping like always, his white hair receded back in his head, the old smile and happy eyes; it seemed the same as before but not quite – both of us family men now, weighed by responsibilities, no longer the single happy go lucky youths of yester years.

Nevertheless the old excitement was back, like we were kids again, rushing with his son to a firing range in the outskirts of the city, traveling for an hour until one was amidst rolling hills and fewer houses, talking about old classmates and how they turned out, arriving at the gun range which seemed like the American South; pick-up trucks and men with guns, but with a sprinkling of young Chinese men, wealthy offspring from Hong Kong, holding expensive but high caliber weapons. His friend came over, an old grizzly veteran but light and lithe; a killer from the way he moved, confident amidst the Canadian outback populated by Canadian ‘rednecks’; apparently a member of military intelligence back in the old country, a body guard of the infamous Ilocano Governor Singson, now retired and a big game hunter living in a remote cottage in the Ottawa woods. He brought a number of hand guns which he allowed us to use, consuming hundreds of rounds before trying the long range rifles, using reloaded bullets made by the old veteran; one is surprised on the number of weapons in the range, reminding one of those nuts preparing for the end of days, perhaps after a nuclear holocaust that will require the survivalist with his weapons as the only salvation, living off the land like trackers hunting deer or moose.

After a few hours, we fired six weapons, both handguns and rifles, the long range guns used for hunting game; shooting targets 50 yards away for hand guns and rifle targets at 100 yards; the empty shells scattered everywhere, our ear protected by mufflers, finishing our shooting by 4 pm when the range closed, gathering empty shells for reloading in the future. The weapons used were:

Hand Guns
.45 Colt, Vietnam Government Issue
.357 Smith and Wesson, short barrel
.9mm CZ Czechoslovakian, automatic pistol

.300 Browning Winchester magnum, ‘elephant gun’
.243 BLR White Gold Medallion Browning
.308 Winchester Wood Master

Soon we got home at about 5 pm, the old veteran joining us with his wife, bringing smoked fish; we drank beer while barbecuing steak, finally having dinner of grilled corn, fish, steak, rice and talking about hunting; the proud hunter showing pictures in his iPhone, beside dead bear, moose, deer; holding all sorts of rifles, telling stories of his life, the SARs epidemic in Toronto, stories of the dead victims, police shooting of an unarmed youth; telling them that I preferred the .45 colt but the .9 mm CZ handled well though not as accurate as the .45, amazed that gun culture is thriving in Canada, something one would not have expected, thinking that it was only in America that the love for weapons was great.