KL Rocks! THANKS to Mat Salo

A call from Borneo Blues Mat Salo came in at 1:05 PM on that memorable Wednesday, 19 November. And he sounded like what I had imagined – his voice, that is.

There is this thing in our mind that “gives a voice” when we read material written by others – blog posts, comments, email messages etc. Or at least with me – I’d imagine what their voices are like and read their writings as if they are speaking to me. Sometimes – or maybe “Often” – I’d get it wrong when I finally hear them either on the phone or in person. And I do know that many others do this too – with the same results.

For instance, I had imagined “some other voice” when reading the writings of Sharifah Nor Jannah and her husband Nazmi (two people whom I’m now in most frequent contact with). And when I finally heard her on the phone, it turned out to be… How do I describe it?…”bubbly, and like a very young woman” – “like someone aged 21 or 22?.

To make things even, her imagination about mine had been wrong too. And I was amused by the fact that she was surprised “my loghat (dialect) Kelantan is thick”. Apparently she had somehow thought that I would speak mainly in English, with some Malay thrown in! However, my imagination of Nazmi was correct – his voice on the phone is just like what I had imagined.

(BTW Nazmi holds the record for “the longest time I’ve spoken on the phone with”, either local or trunk call – 67 minutes. Sherry comes in second at 46 minutes, while third at 44 is a senior newspaper editorial consultant whom Puteri Kamaliah and her son know; as do Kak Teh and Mohd Zawi).

Back to Mat Salo – His voice, tone and inflection somehow were like what I had imagined. And the warmth too. I was already elated with how that meeting with the two company directors had gone through and I was already well satisfied with that trip to KL. But it was one of those blessed days when Life rolled out the gravvy train, for there were more presents in store for me.

During the call, I was also fishing for “his real level of willingness” – of whether his previous SMS was “as it really was” or whether it was “Ajak-ajak Ayam” (not fully meant, half-hearted); in which case I could safely go back to Sentral and not feel bad about it. It was definitely the former (”Mat Salo’s truthfulness and honesty” – I remembered Elviza Michele Kamal had SMSed me something about this a few weeks previously).

Mat Salo said he would come over immediately and I told him where I was – it was the taxi-stand with a new building under construction opposite the road and which had a “Pondok Polis” close by. On the plaza’s side, there was a KFC restaurant. “I know it”, was Mat Salo’s reply. For good measure, I told him that he should easily recognise me – “a thin guy in white long sleeves wearing glasses and with a gaunt face”. The “muka cengkung” at the end had him laughing.

The “within 15 minutes” he had mentioned in the SMS – it was true and genuine. I didn’t know how he’d get there – car, taxi, motorcycle or by foot. But I just knew (ala Razak Baginda) he’d be there. A blue Toyota Land Cruiser with a unique plate number (which befits him, I should add) stopped near the taxi-stand to my right and the smiling driver sounded the horn to show that he’s the person I was waiting for and beckoned me to come over. He didn’t really have to – he looked exactly like the pictures I had seen at his sites.

The great Borneo Blues Mat Salo in the flesh!

BangsarVillage_small Even when I had climbed into the 4WD and shaken hands, it felt … unreal – like I was having a dream and it would all just go away in a moment. That was how I felt too when I had met Mohd Zawi last month – the very first person “from the Internet” I had ever met with.

On knowing that I’d be going back on the 8.30 PM train, he said “Oh, lambat lagi… Thought it was in an hour or two”. He suggested going to Bangsar; to which I agreed, of course. I didn’t know how far it was from Mont Kiara and Sentral and such things so it was best to just let him decide where to go and what to do.

And then he did something amazing – he made a U-turn on a very busy road, of which I am quite sure is not allowed. Another amazing thing was that no one objected to it and made their feelings known by blaring their horns – the Land Cruiser and the driver’s self-confidence must have been intimidating enough!

We chatted a bit on the drive there. I had confidently mentioned that it must have been Elviza who had given him my number. No, it wasn’t – it was Mohd Zawi. I didn’t know that he had Zawi’s number and vice versa. Mat Salo explained that he had known about that trip to KL from a comment I had made at his site – at the post concerning his artist sister’s first solo art exhibition. I was extremely flattered and touched with his statement of: “I just have to meet you”, for it’s not quite often to catch him in KL again.

And then his “By the way” floored me – He was taking me to Bangsar … to meet Elviza!

[Will CONTINUE “later”]

P/S To Malaysian Tigress/Tehsin: This post was supposed to be in at midnight last night. However, I was sidetracked by a very good friend of yours… No, no complaints:-)

KL Rocks! A morning at Mont Kiara

Wednesday, 19 Nov 2008 – I’ve had one of the most unforgettable days of my life. That should mean I have a lot to write about. Yes, I do – so much to the extent that I don’t know what to write about! So I’m going to do what I had done before and just hope that it will work – just write.

It’s more than a week since that memorable day; and only now do I think I have the time to write uninterrupted (Wrong – was interrupted and delayed four times! Now FIVE) The past week has also been quite `unfortunate’.  I’m now in a situation that I’ve not faced for so long – almost 10 years in fact – of things being so hectic! During “normal” times, this post would definitely have been completed and sent in last Thursday.

Anyway, many of you already know about my trip to Kuala Lumpur – the first since July 1999.  It had started from the Pasir Mas train-station on Tues 18 Nov at 7:05 PM; with a EKSPRES WAU train journey that reached Sentral, KL the following morning at about 9.15 AM – 14 hours. And later the same Wednesday, after I had undertaken what I had gone to KL for, it was back to Pasir Mas on the EKSPRES WAU at 8.30 PM. So, I had spent 28 hours on the train in the 40 hours away from home.

This post is mainly to fulfil the request from ArahMan7 who had sent me a SMS when I was on the return trip home, and also that of  Kbguy a few days ago. Both  had wanted to know about my meeting up with Mat Salo – something that I had not planned.

mtKiara_front_50 The reason I had been to KL was to attend a meeting at Plaza Mont Kiara. Okay, I feel it’s proper to mention a bit about this since I regard those who come to this site as friends.

Thanks to the efforts of someone in Petaling Jaya, I was given an opportunity to undertake a work-from-home project in writing and sub-editing through the Internet for an education-related company in KL. The meeting – scheduled at 11 AM – was to introduce myself to two of its directors, and to discuss various things expected of and hoped for by both parties.

Anyway, on reaching Sentral, I had SMSed Elviza Michele of my whereabouts. She had already known about my plan to come over to KL, and had wanted to meet me. She was in Kajang at that time and said she would try to come over to Sentral towards dusk. Well, that sounded like a lot of work for her, and I was not about to have her going through the trouble.

Actually, it was also due to me being saddled with this extreme shyness and fear of meeting others (especially of the opposite sex). Yes, that’s what isolation does to one’s self and it is something that I am still coming out of. Anyway, I messaged Elviza again – telling her to just give her plan a miss. I also `reassured’ her by insisting that “I’ll be coming over to KL again” – which might be 2017:-)

So, after a refreshing hot-water shower (which Sherry Nor-Jane in Kuantan, by SMS, had insisted on) and a change of clothes at Sentral, I was off to Plaza Mont Kiara by taxi – reaching the office’s building  right on the dot at 11 AM (BTW I was pleasantly surprised that the coupon for the fare cost just RM11. The travelling bag was stuffed into a self-service locker that required two 50 sen coins – it took a few minutes before I gradually figured out how to lock it).

There I was at that classy-looking area above. The directors (Chinese, of both sexes in their late 30’s/early 40’s) decided to hold the meeting at an upmarket cafe (everything  appeared upmarket here). I later remembered that the last time I was at a similar place was at Taman Perling, Johor Baru – in August 1999, with a director of a software development company. Anyway, the three of us clicked, with the 90-min meeting remembered as productive and stimulating – exceeding my previous hopes and expectations. (And it is also one of the reasons why this post is more than a week late!)

It was 12.30 PM, and I had intended to go back to Sentral and hang around the terminal until the train leaves at 8.30 PM. But the first thing to do at the taxi-stand was to `report’ to Sherry and her husband Nazmi. Then I saw a SMS with an unknown “non-East Coast number”. The message said:

12:09:51 pm Salaam Bro.. It’s me Mat Salo. If theres a chance, or if theres a break, I can be in mont kiara in less than 15 mins upon being sumoned. Got time 4 a coffee later bro?

Mat Salo!? But how did he know my number?… “Elviza must have given it to him”, I thought (it wasn’t, as I later found out). But that was not an issue – the issue was, “What do I reply?”. Remember that extreme shyness and fear I had mentioned above – it was real. But I knew I must meet with him. I immediately forwarded Mat Salo’s SMS to Sherry, to have her reply as confirmation to what I had in mind. Naturally she was supportive, and I replied in the positive to Mat Salo and waited… His message was more than 30 mins ago – maybe he now has other things to attend to? [TO BE CONTINUED] 

Elviza on RTM’s TV1 "Blog" programme

This is supposed to be a post about my amazing day in Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday, 19 Nov. I’ve been writing about it since Thursday but was/am sidetracked by WORK (the “paying” kind that I can’t neglect). But I’m setting the work aside right now because I just have to write this one, no matter how short.

It’s about Elviza Michele Kamal of the Write Away blog – specifically about her appearance on TV1’s Blog programme just now from 8.40-9.00PM. Yes, “others” have appeared here before. But this one by Elviza was SPECIAL – because she’s a special person in my heart.

How special? Well, see it this way – that was the first time in 3 months that I had watched TV. No, I didn’t even bother with the Olympics ever since getting an Internet connection in mid-July. I don’t have a TV set in this house, so I went to my sister-in-law’s house in front – it would be a sin to have missed seeing Elviza live.

TV1_Blog_Nuraina

CAPTION: This isn’t Elviza, but Nuraina Samad of the blog 3540 Jalan Sudin. She was the first woman to be featured on this programme – 11 May 2008. Click on the pix or here to see the post in Rocky’s Bru about it.

There was one thing I had worried about since knowing she would be on TV – that I might actually forget about it when the time comes! That’s a real problem with me right now, forgetting things. No, I don’t think it’s because of age – or “effects on memory due to previous drug use”:-) … it’s mainly because I’m FULLY occupied right now with doing so many things. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But more about this another time (have to complete this post, and then continue with “some real work”).

But I didn’t forget. For one thing, ArahMan7 SMS me at 8PM to confirm that Elviza will indeed be on TV (his Streamyx is giving him problems again). And so did Sherry Nor-Jane (she was eagerly waiting for it too) and her husband Nazmi in Kuantan.

8.40PM…and there was Elviza! And she looked so pretty too! Well, it wasn’t “the first time I had seen her” – in fact I had seen her in the flesh in Bangsar last Wednesday, 19 Nov. And I had met Borneo Blues Mat Salo. Plus Rocky Bru. Plus Nuraina Samad. Yes, ALL on that same memorable day! I’ll mention about this in my next post (the one that is sidetracked by work).

As for Elviza on TV1, there was something that I’ll remember. She had mentioned about “meeting former drug addicts through the blogs; and they write so well!…” For fear of being “perasan”, I hope she had meant me and ArahMan7 too…

Well, back to work.

TDSotM: Time

This isn’t “The dark side of the moon Part 2” which would have a neat and logical continuation of the previous post. It’s about something on my mind right now, and since it is definitely related to the theme of “Recovery”, I want to write about this one first. I hope you all will tolerate the idiosyncrasies here where I tend to simply jump here and there without keeping to a set of topics.

I’ve also realised that maybe it’s better to just write whatever comes out and not approach it like I’m writing a book. And most readers must have realised by now that the posts here won’t be “systematic” with new posts more or less continuing from previous – something like Puteri Kamaliah’s What Will Be, Will Be series, for instance.

The Dark Side of the Moon album by Pink Floyd in 1973: There’s a song called Time in this album which I first heard in 1978 when I was almost 18; in a place that deserves a few posts of its own (my next post might mention it). And the song too deserves its own post – a song that I must have heard hundreds of times, possibly exceeded a thousand (But have not heard it even once since my arrest in Aug 2005 right until now).

This post actually started as a second comment that I had intended to write at Mat Salo’s WordPress blog (his `other’ blog after the one at Blogspot) in Time flies and waits for no one. I had written about this before but I’m writing it again: Having followed his blogs and seen his interactions with other people there and elsewhere, Mat Salo has become someone whom I admire and whose words of advice I value highly. This is the second time I was spurred into making a new post; the first being Life is about choices when I had reflected on Mat Salo and Hisham of School of Tots.

madsalos_time_prtsc Mat Salo’s post is about his eldest turning 15. With Mat Salo here, each time I read family-related posts by him, I’d often remember and reflect on my own – especially my failings … which makes me respect and appreciate him even more. I had already made a comment in that post. But “something” would not go away, so I returned to it some days later. The following is my second comment for Mat Salo’s post AND a new post here (I hope you folks aren’t too confused)

[To brader Mat: The following is also to be regarded as a Comment for that Post]

I hope there’s no regulation about someone writing yet another comment after he had already made one here… a “Quota System” perhaps:-)

Actually, I suddenly remembered this immediately after I had clicked on the “Submit Comment” button … two of my four children have birthdays in November too. And there were other similarities with certain points of your post here. I’m a bit ashamed that I had failed to remember these at that time. In mitigation, I was very sleepy then (3:21 am) and had made that comment as my “last for the day”.

Or maybe it was in my not wanting to delve deeper into this aspect of living where I have failed miserably? Truth be told, I was/am thoroughly humbled by you with this post and a couple of others here previously.

Anyway, besides the mentioned “November” similarity, consider the following ones: (1) My son was 15 too in the 2005 story that I’m mentioning here. However, he was my youngest (as compared to your “eldest”).

(2) My previous comment on 5 Nov was his birthday. I didn’t remember that until; after I had sent it in. His elder sister’s 17th birthday is on 13 Nov.

[BTW she is undergoing a Degree in Education programme; as is her elder sister. Whatever the father’s problems with their mother, and whatever mutual hurt and bitterness harboured by each other, Thank and Bless the `lowly educated’ mother for her exceptional efforts in providing the tangible and intangible necessities for them (and with help from both sides of the families) during those years when the supposedly `intelligent’ and `talented’ father was sucked into and trapped in a morass of his own doing due to a moronic choice he had made.

Plus, he was also guilty of the inexcusable passivity and inertia “in not doing the right thing” by taking immediate and sustained remedial actions “as a responsible and right-minded person would have”.]

Well, that was something that I must bring out – as with a few other things in the previous post. How that come about is a combination of several comments made by different people not just at this blog but also “elsewhere” – other blogs, Facebook, SMS… maybe even Mohd Zawi’s visit to my house some days ago. It will require another post at least to state each and every influence.

But I’ll mention a few; just to show how “one can be influenced and moved into feeling and doing something when several factors or ingredients combine to create a reaction. Malaysian Tigress/Tehsin – her comments here, at Facebook, e-mails… This post was delayed because I was waiting for her permission to quote the following, even though it was “in public” (at Facebook). She had commented about this need to “bring things out”; which is what I’m doing with some of the previous posts and this one:

Any journey out of “hell” is inspirational in itself, Mat. Writing about it is cathartic, the final release. People like reading about it because it gives them hope too, not as mere voyeurs.It might strike something in themselves too that they never admitted to themselves.

Don’t worry about the past, just forge on. After all we can’t change it.

Anyway, I have one very happy memory when it comes to my children’s birthdays – for those two in 2006.

I was still under that court order, but was no longer at Pusat Serenti Gambang at that time. From mid-September 2006, I was among the selected 10 inmates “with exceptional records” from the other pusat serentis in Pahang (Gambang, Benta, Raub, Jerantut, Sungai Ruan, Karak) to become “residents” and undergo a special three-month pre-release programme at the Pusat Khidmat AADK (PKAADK) in Jalan Gambut, Kuantan.

People familiar with this town should know where it is – its neighbours are Sekolah Kebangsaan Teruntum and a shop selling kitchenware, with a government clinic in front. It is remarkable that two people who are now among my most trusted friends – in Sherry Nor-Jannah and her husband Nazmi – have their offices very close to it! Would have been GREAT had I known them then:-)

Anyway, I was thinking about these two children, and especially about their birthday – I wanted to give them something despite my situation. Well, God provided the way. Knowing that I “could speak”, “had an uncommon background” and “needed to be given some self-confidence before booting him home”, a couple of Kuantan AADK officers took me along for a session held for some 400 students and teachers at Sekolan Menengah Sungai Baging in Cherating on Nov 2. At the end of it, the school presented me with a RM50 note in an envelope (to be kept by the AADK until discharge).

That was it! I didn’t care that it was all I had – I wanted to give ALL to my children. And thank God for the kindness and helpfulness shown by the AADK officers… The following day, I mentioned this to one of the PKAADK officers – En. Alias – who helpfully offered to buy a Postal Order. And there it was the next day – a crisp PO for RM50 with the serial number J15763660 4 stamped “Bukit Ubi” and dated “3 Nov 06” (I still have the counterfoil; plus various other things from Gambang and PKAADK taken home as souvenirs for that most fruitful and memorable period of my life).

I stuffed it together with a short letter into an envelope and handed it to En Alias, with an International Reply Coupon (IRC) attached (David R in Seoul, Korea had sent me more than a dozen of them when I was in Gambang, God Bless him). A phone call the following week confirmed that it managed to reach my youngest (made out in his name) on Nov 5 (Sunday – working day in Kelantan). He then went with his elder sister by bus to the post office in Pasir Mas, exchanged it for cash, and bought a barrel of KFC to take home. It was indeed a most joyful and fulfilling moment of my life…

The dark side of the moon Part 1

This is the most difficult start to all the posts that I had written, for it will deal with that part of my life that I often look back at with a lot of pain, regret and shame – a major source and contributor for that “What might have been” thinking that would always lead to my being melancholic.

But it’s something that I must write about, for it will help explain some things – not just to the readers here but also to myself. There is this part of us that sometimes suppress, deny or discount certain incidents instead of seeing them “as is” – probably as a “defence mechanism” to prevent us from emotional pain. I’m no exception, of course; and probably even more so than the average person. When we write, hopefully we will be able to see with more clarity.

This is the continuation of the The powder of Joy post of almost a month ago. As with many of my posts here, I’ll simply write what comes to mind, based on a mental impression of that period. I’m trying to do what Mat Salo of Borneo Blues had advised me to; of “being true to yourself”.

By the way, the title isn’t too gimmicky actually. Yes, many will instantly recognise it as the title of that illustrious album by Pink Floyd (1973), and the phrase is quite apt for drug addiction too. But there is also a direct connection to me and this post here, as you will see later in the story (if not in this post, then in another). I’m continuing from the relevant post:

That “pulling a gag and conning Hisham” in 1976 when I was 16 was my first introduction to heroin – a substance that was to be the source of a lot of trouble, heartache and destruction for me and for those closest over the ensuing years. And even right until now. Despite no longer using it, I’m still paying the hefty price plus interest in one form or another for the encounters and trysts with it.

The pernicious thing about heroin (or morphine, and maybe opium too) is that you don’t realise you’re getting hooked. I didn’t even feel “anything strange” from that first encounter despite the body never having felt it before!

There were none of those “Warning! Something’s wrong!” feelings you’d get with most other substances – or at least those that I’ve tried. With ganja (cannabis/marijuana), you’d feel “something is happening” after a few minutes. With alcohol, the sensation or buzz is immediate and noticeable.

But I remember that I did feel good – a joyful and ecstatic “everything is A-okay and great!”. But I had thought it was because of “the successful gag on Hisham”! The next day, that feeling was gone. Innocent and naive that I was, I crushed a bit of chalk and spiked it into a cigarette; hoping for that same feeling again. Of course, all I got was a sharp pain in the throat.

I missed that feeling and sensation, and was quite unhappy that I was no longer feeling it. A few days later, I discovered from Zaki what it was – and I could recapture it again! To be fair to Zaki, he did apologise for the gag. But he said “You won’t ever get gian just because of smoking it once”; warning me that I will get hooked should I take it continuously. He said it was “three straight days”.

Zaki was right and wrong about these. Yes, one does not get physically addicted after just one smoke. But the mental addiction was started… And this one is of no less importance than “physical addiction” or dependance. From my own experience, it is more important.

In retrospect, with the knowledge and experience gained over the years, this is what that keeps one hooked to something – the desire to repeat a certain feeling and sensation … the same as that felt by those with obsession and compulsion for alcohol, gambling, sex, eating, impulsive buying and whatever else.

But with heroin, there was an added “motivation” of physical addiction – fail to feed it and you will hurt physically; with aches and severe discomfort in all parts of the body. Add the mental addiction – of ALWAYS thinking about it – and you’ve got a formidable monkey on your back to carry.

When it comes to physical addiction, you can get over it after detox of a few days – 14 should be the very most. Oh, let’s make it one month to be on the safe side. Within this period, and no matter how heavy one had used and no matter for how long, there WILL come that day eventually when the body is fully freed from any physical dependency.

The withdrawal that a heroin/morphine/opium addict goes through is terrifying, especially the first 3-4 days. It has been compared to “flu with severe fever, plus severe stomach ache” – something to help the normal person understand.

But there are two other factors to add – It’s “24/7” pains and aches, with absolutely no respite. At least a normal person with fever would be able to have some sleep. But not with opiate withdrawal – you can feel each second of it, and I’m not exaggerating. And the other thing is the mental torment – of knowing that all these pain and aches will immediately disappear within 10 seconds of you taking the substance again…

But the mental/psychological addiction – It will always be there. Yes, it does get better over time, but it doesn’t disappear completely. Because it won’t. Like a camera or harddisk, the mind has captured an image of it; that “Heroin gives a great sensation!” and remains saved in our bank of knowledge and experience. And this is something a recovering addict has to accept – and deal with it the best that he can for the rest of his life.

* Update 5 Nov 1:50 AM – Thanks to Malaysian Tigress for providing a link to this interesting explanation of the “mental image” above.

* Update 5 Nov 4:18 PM – There’s a new post by ArahMan7 at My Journey to Recovery titled Family Day 2008. He has started it with quotations from Narcotics Anonymous – the organization/fellowship that makes the most sense to me when it comes to “Recovery”. There is something about “Living with unresolved problems” ; the things that burden us unless and until we bring them out and have a look at them as what they are/were. And then leave them. Only then could we move on with life. This is one of the main reasons for this post, and for the existence of this site.

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