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Burghers, dim sum, and... Chapter 10

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

Let’s call her Tak- not her real name. Tak was open, spontaneous, creative and adventurous in many ways. It’s what attracted me to her. It is also why we eventually tired of each other after a rollercoaster relationship of varying emotions lasting around 4-5 years.

I finally woke up to a large dose of reality one morning when I saw Her Craziness serving me breakfast au naturel. Nothing at all wrong with this. What was this being a silly almost daily ritual as I had been forced to sleep in the living room. My snoring was driving her nuts. This was to be the deal breaker- sleeping separately. On this particular day, the weirdness of what had become a dysfunctional relationship screamed out to me. I don’t really know what it said, but those voices in my head were going off like grenades. They seemed to be asking me, “You want to continue down THIS weed garden with Psycho Girl?” Tak was Danish, divorced and who had been married to a fellow Dane in Vegas by an Elvis impersonator.

She was in her mid-late thirties, and attractive in a very Sandra Bullock way. She didn’t have the best taste in shoes as far as I was concerned, but this was forgivable. We were introduced to each other by a pair of Danish twins living in Hong Kong, one of whom who had apparently enjoyed the pleasures of being with basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. They would attend the opening of an envelope. Nice enough girls who were networking so fast and furiously that many of us didn’t actually know what they ever did. They would bat their eyelashes and give the impression they were “available” when they were nothing of the sort. They were nice girls with long blonde hair looking for something better like many other foreigners who ended up in Hong Kong in the early 2000s thinking the streets were lined with gold. The twins were kinda confused about many things, and who, when excited, spoke like the Swedish chef in the Muppets.

Tak had met the Danish tootsie rolls when she was in Hong Kong for a few days and working on an architectural project for her head office in Dubai. The twins told me they had known each other for almost forever. In the real world, they had met Tak- where else?- on Facebook a few weeks before she arrived in Hong Kong and were just showing her around. Whatever... A dinner was setup for me to meet their “longtime” friend. This dinner almost didn’t happen as Tak called at the last minute to cancel but was cajoled into coming. It was a nice polite dinner with nothing happening to make neither of us think we wanted to get to know each other better. In fact, I was taking out another girl later that night and once she arrived- someone from Prussia who looked like Myla Kunis and was wearing hideous white go-go boots- I left the twins to bat their eyelashes at whoever was around and a kinda lost looking Tak. We exchanged numbers. She was having stomach cramps that night. Maybe the shoes she was wearing were too tight. Both of us being free the next day, we met up for dinner, and ended up going for karaoke with a couple of friends. We shared a joint, Tak and I sang “Big Yellow Taxi” many times over and I dropped her off after having one for the road. She left Hong Kong the next day. Tak was living in Dubai with a group of friends at a time when the city’s streets were paved with gold and nouveau riche tackiness was very much in vogue. The place was a magnet for those from everywhere with a story to spin and needing easy money, and then, more money in any industry. She and I continued to stay in touch. As the texts and phone conversations became more, well, interesting, we made plans to meet up in Colombo for some Christmas stuffing. She and her friends had already booked their holidays in Sri Lanka, and if our relationship was to go anywhere, I was told that we had to see how well the stuffing went in the place where I was born. I hadn’t been back in over twenty years. I don’t respond well to taking orders from anyone, and agreeing to travel halfway around the world to meet someone I hardly knew over Christmas while “Que Sera Sera” played in my head, said much. There was something addictively attractive about Tak. Things went up, down and up again very well in Colombo. Fireworks , and rockets went off that night at the beautiful Cinnamon Grand Hotel as we drowned ourselves in vodka with Red Bull.

When the Red Bull ran out, there was the local equivalent called Elephant, which wasn’t unlike inhaling amyl nitrate. It certainly had the desired effect on me. BOOM!

After meeting up again in Dubai to kinda seal the deal and make sure that the fireworks in Sri Lanka weren’t duds, it wasn’t long before Tak moved to Hong Kong. My friends liked her, we had fun nights out, and when back home, we would rock each other’s worlds. By this time, EMI Music had pretty much collapsed under the weight of the buyout by private equity fat boy Guy Hands.

Many of us key executives at the music company, except for the “Keyser Soze” amongst us who had made sure his pension plans were in order, had to double down and work on future plans. The problem was that the future of the music world wasn’t clear except for those who had played it so they could glide financially on auto glide into retirement. I tried managing a singer-songwriter from the UK who believed he could be the new Robbie Williams. I really wasn’t sure he had much going for him except for relatively good looks and having once been the opening act for Bon Jovi. Still, I got him and his band to Taipei for a gig, they got well paid, got some good press and recorded a single that had us all excited when it got almost 40 million streams. This kumbaya moment came crashing down when the royalties received was around US$7,000- and to be split three ways. It signalled to me the end of what was the music business. As always, Tak had that gypsy in her soul and independent spirit. She could have worked here as an architect, but gave up that opportunity. She seemed to have a problem dealing with a steady job. She also didn’t like the way Chinese people chewed their food. There came the time when she wanted to do something different though she didn’t know quite what. She didn’t need the big apartment and superficial enablers. She loathed living at the service apartment at Convention Plaza which Irina enjoyed so much. To the great Dane, it reminded her of the old television series “Dynasty”. It probably also reminded her of Irina and me living there together, though she didn’t seem the jealous type. But who knows? We moved out and she introduced me to a lifestyle in Hong Kong I never knew existed. It was called poverty. Tak was into downsizing everything and wasn’t the least bit interested in keeping up with the Joneses, the Wongs and the Chans. She was a Bohemian Rhapsody open to anything. Nothing was her first rodeo. She’d been on that bucking bronco several times. Financially, things could have been better, but this didn’t matter at the time. It was about being with someone who loved enjoying the adventure of life and not being stuck somewhere with no room to manoeuvre.

Tak and I moved apartments a few times. It’s something she seemed used to doing. Maybe that’s why her marriage didn’t last. Everything was transient to her. We met new people. She cut off all ties with the Danish twins. Some we met were extremely odd, others very nice. They added to the adventure. I felt I was back at Arts Mansion and a teenager trying to figure out career plans. Tak was a brilliant cook of especially Asian cuisine, and we enjoyed exploring every aspect of our lives together. It was making up for lost time. There were no boundaries to keep us out from doing anything. Nothing was taboo. Life was one non-stop Sade song and I was like Mickey Rourke in an ongoing kinky thriller.

She was creatively frugal and somehow found brilliant hole-in-the-wall restaurants that I never would have if with anyone else in Hong Kong. She also had me living a more healthy lifestyle by going on walks and giving up alcohol- completely. Tak had seen how “the demon drink” changed me. How the anger and jealousy boiled over. She wanted no part of that person. We broke up the first time after about a year together as, for one reason or another, Hong Kong wasn’t working for her. She returned to Copenhagen. Frankly, I needed a break from her. I needed to work on whatever was going to happen next for me. Tak could be hard work and unpredictable. Still, I missed not being with her. We kept in touch, I worked on myself until I could honestly tell her that I had changed. She saw the changes that sobriety had made when I flew out a few months later to see her and meet her family in Denmark. She was proud of the efforts I had made to improve myself. I was also proud of my efforts. Upon returning to Hong Kong, we were perfectly happy being a couple and entertaining friends at home- home this time being an old walk-up on High Street that she had found. It really was my first real home. It was everything we wanted it to be.

When things with Tak were good, they were excellent. Money was the furthest thing from our minds. What we enjoyed was following “American Idol” along with having regular sessions of afternoon delight and nocturnal journeys of discovery. Because of her, I visited the fishing town of Galle in Sri Lanka for the first time in my life, and where we stayed in a tiny guesthouse in a village she had found.

This was also where she learned to make a traditional Sri Lankan curry from a family living there in a couple of hours one afternoon. The lunch was superb.

As a birthday present one year, she took me to Macau for a weekend where we stayed in an out-of-the-way ramshackled hotel on Taipa island. I really wasn’t used to this way of living and didn’t quite know whether this was for me. It was a major mind shift. In Copenhagen, she forced me to walk and walk and walk and walk. She introduced me to her friends who were all very nice and accepting. We ate lots of herring and cheese and went for more walks.

It was very different to what had become the uptight married Amanresorts type lifestyle I had come to lead with Trina. She was travelling more and more, Taryn was in university and there was just Nipper and me. When Trina would return home, life was like walking on eggshells. It was her home, she decorated it and I was a guest. It’s probably why I strayed. But that could just be an excuse. I might actually have wanted to be found out. Being with Tak and thinking one had no responsibilities eventually catches up with you. You suddenly wake up and realise that you’re no longer Marty McFly. Though living with a thirtysomething backpacker type was fun, some important time had been used up doing absolutely nothing career wise. Having a girlfriend trying to be an entrepreneur with a couple of daft ideas didn’t help- like trying to be the new Lego Queen. When that plan crumbled, there was the idea of designing and making dresses in Hong Kong for little girls and which could be sold for higher prices in Denmark. With another Dane staying in the same building with her Chinese husband, they started this business. It didn’t exactly get off the ground. By now my friends were going off Tak. They found her behaviour erratic, and maybe even unhinged. Someone from my past- a German girl who was once in a band- got in touch and was wondering if I would like her back in Hong Kong. I did, but there was Tak and it wouldn’t have been the easiest of breakups. I was also very fond of her despite weirdness like going onto Twitter to follow Conan O’Brien and then getting tired of this after two days. There was the time I got her the latest iPhone and which she started kissing and bringing to bed with her. At the start of moving in with me, she went into a rage because when watching some entertainment show on television, I mentioned that I found actress Scarlet Johannsen’s legs to be “dumpy”. She thought I was describing her legs. Go figure. When experiencing her first typhoon in Hong Kong, she went into a foetal position and started trembling when the windows started to rattle when feeling the force of the winds. I tried to calm her down saying it was a mild typhoon and how I had pointed out that this could happen when she chose the apartment-on a high floor because she enjoyed the view. You already know about her not liking the way Chinese people chewed their food.

Tak and I broke up soon after she returned to Hong Kong from a holiday in Copenhagen. I had left a few weeks earlier and knew things weren’t heading in the right direction. There was the very strong feeling that she was trolling the online dating world like her divorced elder sister and looking for Mr Goodbar.

Reality must have also finally slapped her in the face. The woman who returned to Hong Kong was not the person whom I thought I knew. She was in a constant state of panic. Apart from suddenly worrying about our age difference, she desperately needed money to pay off different loans going back years and knew that I was not going to be her financial caretaker. I had my own priorities. We broke up before her mother, sister and two of her kids who had made plans to visit us in Hong Kong arrived. Unfortunately, it was too late for them to cancel their holidays, so there we were for around two weeks being one unhappy family living under one roof and trying to make the best out of an awkward situation. She returned to Denmark shortly after and very quickly met someone whom she wrote to say was “VERY rich”- a divorcee in his fifties with three kids of his own. I held onto the outside chance that we would as usual get together again. But it didn’t happen. She lost that gypsy in her soul and quickly married the “very rich guy”.

It was disappointing to receive that email about this “very rich” new man in her life and the sudden importance she placed on wealth. This wasn’t the person I knew. I told her that. She didn’t care if I did or not. It was about survival and her financial security. It made me question many things about Tak- like what really drove her, was she exorcising her own demons, and if she was living out her own “Eyes Wide Shut” fantasies. Maybe we both were. Maybe we should have also made the time to get to know each other better... I heard that the marriage to the “VERY rich guy” fizzled out in less than a year, she had moved on with someone else, and I went back to enjoying nights out where there were more than a few Mr Toad’s Wild Rides along the way.

These were what might be described as PKT-Post Tak Fallout. I had to get her out of my system and fall head over heels in real love even if I tripped over myself in the process. I needed the thrill of the chase and also the time to really romance a career woman who shared my interests in the arts. Gypsies, tramps and thieves had run their course. First, however, came a year of living dangerously and carelessly with a group of acquaintances going through the same journey in their own different ways. Some of the extremely long nights we went through weren’t pretty, and neither were the women we met along the way, but it was what it was in order for things to become what it is. There were heavy bouts of drinking and stumbling from one day to the next and inheriting the lifestyle of a bloated and empty Wanchai loser. It was a whirlpool I never thought I’d enter and in which I almost lost myself.

Some of us from those dark days still keep in touch and look back with absolutely no regrets. It’s something we had to go through and which gave us some amazingly off-kilter times. It was taking a funny dance on the wild side with Nepalese bouncers looking after us and different women taking us in. Working on the Happy Wednesday brand for the Hong Kong Jockey Club changed my life.

Apart from rebooting my interests in all things creative and inspiring me to return to writing and recording my own music, I met a new group of people, learned about a new industry, understood what it needs, and where I could fit in and score a global home run.

Some intelligent, grounded and financially independent women with very nice shoes came into my life. I had returned to the security of Convention Plaza. Through some simple twist of fate, I met a woman who beat the odds, we won each other over, we beat the odds and she’s stayed longer than I thought she would.

She knew business, she had the height to carry off wearing flats, knew real Jazz from the pop of Norah Jones, hadn’t forgotten how to have fun and didn’t need online dating sites to find company. Staying home or going out for dinner with no mobile phone is enough. Self-confidence in a woman wearing flats is helluva attractive and exciting. I had forgotten just how attractive it is. I do now.

........ THE LONG PS

The beginning of the end between Tak and I started when plans were underway for the marriage of Taryn and Jason. I could understand why Tak wasn’t invited to the wedding, which was at the luxury resort Amanpuri. After all, Trina would be there, and this was the wedding of our daughter. Tak being there would have been awkward. I also understood why Tak was hurt about not being invited. She and I were living together and Trina and I had been divorced for almost twenty years. She had also met Taryn and Jason once and thought that the four of us had got along well. It was at a Thai dinner just before the wedding. When Tak was away from the table, Taryn made it clear that she was not invited. There were red flags waving in the sunset ahead. Though hurt, Tak showed maturity, stayed in Hong Kong and I flew to Bali for the wedding. I was glad Tak wasn’t with me. She would have loathed everything about it. Especially the shallowness of it all. Everything had been planned to what they saw as perfection by the two mothers and I was a guest who had to be invited. There were moments when seeing the putting on the glitz of it all, I thought of Peter Sellars in “The Party”. I had stepped on doo doo and lotsa birdie num num. How the hell did I arrive here?

After the wedding ceremony where I was never asked to walk my daughter down the aisle, I didn’t even have a seat at the family table. No, I was seated away from where the family was and with a few of my friends, some of whom had been invited grudgingly. I took all that though everything was tearing me up inside. I felt I had been setup. This became even more clear when I was suddenly asked to make a speech. I have made plenty of very successful speeches in my time, especially at large music conferences- and never has anything being scripted. Like writing a story, there’s a beginning and this leads to wherever your heart and honesty takes you. It does to me, anyway. Guess too much honesty cannot be accepted by some who are unable to face some home truths. It says much about them. Midway through verbalising my thoughts, I mentioned how I wished Jason’s father- John-was looking down. He was a decent man. A straight shooter. I was by his side in hospital with Taryn, his partner for ten years, and Jase when he took his last breath and left us a few months earlier. I guess mentioning him was off limits. I was bum-rushed offstage by the new mother-in-law. I had outstayed my welcome. This was off limits and not on the script. Those at my table and others couldn’t understand what had happened when I rejoined them. I sat there and for some reason thought about my mother. How what had just happened to her son would have affected her and how out of place and confused and disappointed she would have felt sitting there seeing. Not to add to the drama, I quietly left the celebrations and returned to my villa. I received a barrage of text messages from Taryn, one ordering me to “DO NOT DARE” attend her second wedding in Hong Kong at the Members Only Hong Kong Country Club. There was another order not to return on the same flight as everyone else. No worries. “Blame It On Bali” was enough. Everything had become petty, terribly pretentious, fake and tedious. It wasn’t for me. I just wanted to get back to Tak and our apartment on High Street and mentally regroup.

What happened at the wedding lingered and some who weren’t even there had their own Facebook stories to share. Everyone loves a damn good family drama, especially at a wedding- and a funeral. Me, well, I don’t even have one photograph of that wedding. I doubt I was in any of them. Frankly, I have no photos with Taryn. There’s also one photo of Trina and myself and nothing else of my life with her. It’s like those years never existed. Someone went and pressed the Delete button. Though it would be nice to have photos of those Married Years, I would love to have memories of our pets- Kitty, Mini and Nipper. They kept us together and were very much part of our happiest times together. They kept us honest. My relationship with Taryn had its stops and starts after the wedding. It also played a major role in ending my relationship with Tak. I let things be about how I had been treated at that wedding in Bali even after Taryn had given birth to her daughter Riley. That is until running into her mother-in-law at a friend’s restaurant a few months later. I tried not to, but words that had been going around in my head for months were finally said. Let’s leave it at that. I don’t forgive and forget easily and never blow air kisses.

Taryn took sides and we don’t see each other though she lives around ten minutes away from me. As she put it the last time I saw her after my altercation with her mother in law, I was driving “a wedge” between her and her husband. That’s the last thing I want to do. The final nail had been driven in. Her daughter has no idea who I am or even if I exist. That’s okay. Maybe one day she will. There is enough of a breadcrumb trail. As Billy Preston sang, that’s the way God planned it and He must have had something in mind. Any regrets? No. I would gladly do it all over again. Am I sorry about how things turned out between Taryn and her family and myself? Sorry, no. Disappointed, yes. I think of Taryn every time I watch the video where Lanie Gardner sings “Dreams”. She and Taryn could be doppelgängers.

The Taryn I remember was the shy little girl who accompanied me on film shoots and recording sessions, and learned from watching and being around editors, musicians etc. This was my daughter.

I don’t think about Taryn nor have any idea about what she’s doing or anything about her family. I haven’t seen who’s supposed to be my granddaughter since that day when she was born. I rarely see Trina. She’s hard to get hold of. She is something I miss as Trina can never ever be replaced. She’s a wonderful and good person though, as I keep being reminded, that Good Ship Lollipop has sailed. The past is back there with everything else left behind in the Lost And Found. In many ways, I am back being that only child in Ceylon, but orphaned. I could have taken the wrong turn and lost myself forever, but someone was looking over me. It must have been those happy little bluebirds who fly over the rainbow with Peter Pan.

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