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Thursday, January 11, 2007
The Spiral Technique


We made it. Having slept less than 5 hours on the night before and waking up at 5:30 a.m. to dress up and comb my ever increasing mop of hair, Alex and I found ourselves thrown into the middle of Milan Train Station at lunch time. There were many people walking around the parks. Actually they looked as if they were Mat Rempits loitering on a weekend.

The place was filthy. Which is surprising when you really think about it. I mean, it is Milan. It is Mecca for the fashion gurus where fashion worshippers fork out more than they can afford on the latest Prada or Gucci. There were more than a handful of fashion logos per square metre in Milan and the only initials more than the fashion logos were the terrible graffiti, littering every available surface.

Doors on empty shops. Walls by occupied shops. Trains. Trams. Seats. Walls. Signboards. Every single flat surface was tagged over and over again. Alex asked me whether 2-inch marker pens existed. They surely did. On the walls of everything in Milan.

He held my hands and we began to walk north towards the hotel. I saw bits and pieces of the map, the point marking where the Central Station was and the point denoting the hotel. I found out 45 minutes later that Alex was cunningly trapping me into walking all the way to the hotel. That would be me, my backpack of fuck me boots, beige boots, super pornstar heels, 2 jackets and a few other bits and bobs.

I was cheerful. I tugged at my backpack and then smiled at him as he sang a little tune. He always sang a little tune when he thinks no one is paying attention to him.

I was at my very best. I promised myself that Alex deserved better than a 45 minute nag session as we spiralled towards the hotel, which was conveniently located far away from where we were. I remember a year ago when we walked one hour along Patong Beach…

“That’s the hotel, babs,” I said, walking out of the hotel lobby. We just arrived on Phuket’s busiest street after spending two weeks on the remote island of Ko Raya. Alex was standing by the roadside, with his khaki trousers and leather shoes that were washed by the same water that washed 227,000 lives on Boxing Day 2004. “It is the last room, for three but it’s within budget of 1000 bath. And I can have my warm baths and BBC.”

“We’ll go further down,” he said, then walking further down the road. This routine was to be our activity for the next hour. Each ride up the lift in every new hotel proved to be more expensive and less value for money. One of the rooms had the edge of the bed touching the end of the tiny TV cabinet. Our patience wore thin with the heat of the afternoon scorching on our backs.

I was grumpy and upset. It was sheer stupidity to walk down the road, into the abyss of the unknown when we saw the best room on the road (quite literally) and it was by then, an hour away on foot. I was angry and frustrated by Alex’s distrust in my instincts and was even more so as he walked grouchily with his backpack and mine on his back.

He made the mistake and he was punishing me for his mistake. I was absolutely flustered. Annoyed, I walked the silent walk as we walked down the street to more hotels and I rode up more lifts to discover tiny cubicles at exorbitant rates. After some time, when he finally gave up, Alex limped all the way to the hotel that I liked.

I promised myself that I would not repeat what happened a year ago in Phuket. All I can remember a year on is the sight of Alex, all six feet two inches of him walking and limping on Patong Beach with his backpack and mine. He did not complain a bit while I rattled on endlessly, resenting him for making me walk unnecessarily. All I remember is a very patient Alex. I felt remorseful last year for what I did, albeit complaining unconsciously and without malice. This year I will not do the same. I promised myself that Alex deserved much better.

We walked down a street, then we crossed a road onto road of grafitti filled apartment blocks. We walked with hands clasped and swinging across a park made of huge concrete slabs. A huge St. Bernard treaded gingerly towards a small Cocker Spaniel, who retreated under the shadow of its owner. The two owners laughed as the friendly St. Bernard tried to encroach the small canine’s space.

Ten minutes, then ten minutes more. We stopped at a square to rest and drank some water. Several pigeons crooned near us. Maybe they saw us as pigeon food. Their heads darted up and down, making that strange sound that only pigeons do.

“Bird flu,” I said as I gulped a mouthful of water, shooing the birds by flagging my right foot around. I finally took a good look at the map and to my dismay, I found out that we were walking two rows of streets, joined at 90 degrees, very much like the letter “L”. Obviously the shorter route was one that cut 45degrees. Might be more tricky to locate but much more tender on my well-exercised legs.

“Chicken, you made us take the long walk!” I rolled my eyes.

“It’s called the Spiral Technique. We walk in circles, each time a little closer to the target,” came his meek reply. My ten fingers squeezed my sore calves. Alex had a way to make even the most tedious tasks appealing, turning many chores into fun games that we played with each other. I always found that trait of his very endearing.

“Chicken, you do know that A square + B square = C square, right?” I took a deep breath. “You made me walk so far…” I pouted. “I’ve got this huge bag…” I added. It was a spiral alright. A spiral down the relationship blackhole called grumbling. I looked to my right and saw how his eyes were shining bright like a child’s on Christmas day. I sucked it all up and leaned over to kiss him on his cheek.

We walked some more. The place was a slum. There were signboards familiar to my eyes. Chinese signboards. We walked pass some small colony of Chinese shops, selling China made products from cheap clothes and shoes in badly furnished shops to video rental shops with bright posters on their windows and the customary Chinese take-aways. There were so many Orientals walking on those streets, I felt like I was on Petaling Street all over again.

I wondered where they were from. How resilient the Indians and Chinese are have always fascinated me. Where did they find the courage and strength to migrate to a foreign land in search of a better future for their family, I thought to myself. I wondered how they arrived in Milan and whether they were the first generation to do so. Some spoke with thick Mandarin accents while others conversed in fluent Italian. That was how assimilated these Chinese were in the Italian society.

My heart sang the moment my eyes spotted the signboard a short block away. Hotel Milan was tucked in the corner of a piazza with no other tourist in sight. We were the only two we knew. We walked into lobby, to the shouts of a foreign woman. She paced up and down the reception desks, shouting at the two men behind it.

“Call the police,” the foreigner shouted. Their squabble escalated as Alex and I took a moment to recompose. I stood aside, looked at a mirror and arranged some strands of hair from my face. Alex lowered his backpack. I looked into his eyes and we spoke in a language that only lovers understand.

“You think something’s wrong?” my eyes said.

“Dunno,” came Alex’s eyes reply.

Our eyes stopped conversing when the lady flung a Christmas ornament across the reception desk. The man handed us our room key just as I thought that perhaps we should view our room before confirming. Why should the lady scream that the hotel has cheated her?

Between handing the man our passports, listening to the lady screaming profanities and threatening to call the police, we shuffled across the lobby with our backpacks on our aching backs. The lift opened and we walked into our room on the fourth floor. It was simple, clean with a good-sized bed. The bathroom was presentable, with a shower cubicle and marble vanity.

I kicked my shoes and with outstretch arms I said, “Welcome to Milan, babs! Fingers crossed that the holiday will only get better," I kissed him on his cheeks. "We have to work on your Spiral Technique though...”

The cathederal on Piazza Del Duomo

One of the 3200 statues watching over Milan

A romantic look at the city

Miss Love is thinking of you

Feast your eyes on Milan's cityscape

"The spiral technique is when you decide where you want to go. You set in any random direction but keep taking right turns (or left, if you prefer, but always the same direction).

It's like you want to go to the yoghurt pot and you spiral towards it in a circle... You circle... Circle... Circle... Circle... Circle until you reach the spot...."

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Have fun over there :)

3:38 am  

Came back already lor.......

10:16 am  

Have to agree, Milan is rather filthy. It's worst in Rome though.

11:48 pm  

hey ! nice pics, were u in edinburgh in dec for new yrs ?
u just gotta se what xia xues latest article abt rape is all about ! ahaahaaah let me know what you think . enjoy t winter

2:32 pm  

Hey, I agree Milan is overrated but surely you can still have some fun like I did! You could have asked me about hotels, I went to a good and reasonably priced one the last time I was there. Well, if only I knew you were going..

I have the exact same thoughts whenever I see migrants in Europe!

4:38 am  

interesting! I will make sure I try the Spiral Technique the next time I enter a new will be too tough for me to try that in KL. The temptation to take a shortcut would win!

11:53 pm  

But then again, Rome had interesting stuff to see at every street corner. The only thing I looked out for in Milan was dog shit on the roadside.

I was in Edinburgh for a shopping day trip. There are photos of the city on the navigation panel. New Year was spent in a quiet little Scottish town near the English border.

Have not read XX for many months but I'll skip over later =)

Did I tell you about the policia in Milan? Hahahahha..... The hotel was great though. There was a porno channel *wicked grin*

Apparently girls are great practioneers of "Let's Stop And Ask Someone" technique while boys prefer to do the Spiral technique because they don't want to stop.....

11:07 am  

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