Hedged My Bets On A Hatchback

It was my first “proper” car after driving a couple of junks that were not not much younger than I – the Mazda 323 Hatchback.  The two-box design was all the rave in the late 70s/early 80s, and I thought it would put the “unexciting” me into the chic league!

It claimed to be miserly on fuel, with 40mpg, but I soon found out that Mazda had simply put a gearbox that was in overdrive. If one went around corners at below 20mph on 3rd gear, the whole car would shudder.  I had to insert pieces of sponge here and there to overcome the vibrations.

Many sweet memories though. It was the car in which I took my first girlfriend for a date, … and drove with her all over Malaysia,…until we got married. Gave it to my sister, when we migrated to Singapore.

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All’s Not Lost On My Copy-Cub

Prior to early 1970s, all Cubs in Malaysia were sired by Honda-san.  (Our family owned a series of Cubs in succession). Then Yamaha and Suzuki decided to bring forth their own Cubs – copies of the Hondas.

In 1978, my father bought me a new Suzuki FR70. With great joy, I rode off this 2-stroke 70cc bike for the final year of my MU studies.

My late uncle remarked that we should not have bought Suzuki, since in our Hokkien dialect it sounded like “lost it all” (输输去). Nonetheless, it served me well and I did graduate.

The 2-stroke engine’s domain was in the mid-to-high rpms – at low rpm, torque was poor, unlike the rugged Honda kapcai’s. The “zhng-zhng” sound was very different from the “put-put” sound of the 4-strokers. Overall, it was a fun machine.

Close Encounters Of The Gooey Kind

I have forgotten now exactly when the first encounter took place, but I do remember how that black, gooey (some say ‘smelly’) stuff made inroads into my favourite food list.

It came in the form of a slightly viscous sauce that was generously poured over the white rolls on a plate of ‘chee cheong fun’ (猪肠粉) together with the maroon-coloured ‘sweet sauce’ (甜酱).  But initially it took much persuasion to get me to put that stuff into my mouth.  The rest is history.

Of course, this Otak Udang was also an inseparable key companion and enhancer of the famed Penang Asam Laksa.

Looking back, it intrigues me how folks can be hooked onto eating the mashed-up brains of some lowly crustaceans (don’t ask me how they died – that’s a no-brainer)

Gripping The Nail By The Head

Many years back, my late uncle operated a small import business.  Shipments of bicycle parts came in from China, packaged in wooden crates – these were boxes constructed of wooden planks which had been nailed together.

To un-crate, firstly we had to remove the nails. Gladly we had that awesome Nail Puller. A simple “Bang-Bang & Yank-Yank” and out came each nail, from head to tail, no matter how stubbornly it clung on, or how deeply it was rooted. 

Now that those days were long gone, I have not seen any specimen for the last 40 years.  However, every time I see wooden crates anywhere, the sound of that “chitty-chitty, bang-bang” song would ring in my ears.

It was the solution that gripped the nail by the head, but today the younger folks may not know what this tool is for.

Weighing In On The “Dacing”

Before the advent of spring-activated weighing machines with dial faces, the “dacing” in varying sizes, was universally used in all kinds of retail business.

It was also widely known that sellers sometimes manipulated the implement to cheat customers either through deft handwork while shifting the counter-weight, or by stealthily pre-loading the weighing pan (a favourite technique was to coat the underside of the pan with assam paste – thus gaining several tahils’ worth for the seller).

Our family used to have one set at home, with which we re-weighed everything we bought.  The neighbourhood sundry shop knew we had this Weapon of Mass Discernment and wise enough never to have tested its awesome power. In fact, the proprietor always added a little bit more to what we asked for, as a “safety margin”.

Sweet & Sour Memories

A recent shopping trip in  Johor Bahru brought me into eye contact with a childhood delicacy that I have not savoured for the last 30 years or so.

Yes, it was the Sweet-and-Sour Pickled Leek.  In my native colloquial Penang Hokkien, we call it “Lor Gio”.

Without hesitation, I bought a kilogram, and finished half of that within 10 minutes. Ooh, the sweetness accompanied by a tinge of sourness, in 80:20 ratio – my taste buds came alive again, and saliva glands went into overdrive !

Alas, that awesome childhood memory re-run was so overwhelming that I did not realize the seller had ripped 30 ringgit off my wallet in 2 seconds. 

Upon reaching home, reality set in – and the 80:20 ratio became 20:80, and I felt like wanting to pickle that seller 00:100

The Nutty Professionals

The attap house of my youth “squatted” in the midst of a coconut plantation, surrounded left, right, front and back by flora of the towering kind.

Once a month or so, teams of climbers came round to harvest the nuts.  Unlike the learned academic* who was brainy and chubby, these professionals were invariably brawny albeit skinny and could out-climb a monkey.

A kind of sarong-like cloth was bundled into a rope-like configuration and used as a tensioner between their two feet.  That was all they needed to zip all the way up to the top where the nuts beckoned, “Come, get me !”

Of course, those plucky pros had to get picky.  Only the mature nuts got to be man-handled —  they would plucked and dropped to the ground, to be collected and sent for ripping apart.

* referring to the movie, “The Nutty Professor”