(Note: Click here for more pictures.)

I only had a couple of days after the Singapore Arts Festival to get my act together before I left for the US.

I was officially moving out of the Holland Hill condo because when I returned to Singapore I would only be there for a short while since I had intended to move to Bangkok soon after I returned from the US. It did not make sense to pay rent for an entire month if I was going to be gone and then just move out as soon as I got back.

Catalina Guys +1 (Todd, Case, Sim, Pon,
Eric, Joel, W and Andrew)

So several weeks earlier, I had asked around for ideas on where I might stay for a month. Fortunately, several swing people had offered to put me up for the short stay.

In the end I decided to stay with Nick and Ray (Li Hsien's sister and brother-in-law) because they lived very near my work and had an air-conditioned room. I think it would have been a blast to stay with Joel too, but his place was simply too far out.

I had two days after the Arts Festival show to pack up all my things and move them over to the new place. I also packed up a bunch of things that I felt I would not need in Thailand so that I could bring them with me to the states and leave them at my mom's house. Fortunately, since there were 15 of us going to Swing Camp at Catalina Island, there were plenty of people who I could send extra bags with.

So, I packed up, said good-bye to Keat and Henry, and left. Keat asked me to buy him a beanie baby from the states. Odd. But he seemed convinced it was a great investment. Er, whatever. Amazingly, I found one while there. A bat named, well, named Batty.

I was leaving a day earlier than everyone else since I had not booked in time and the flight with everyone had filled up. So I went off to the airport in the very early morning alone.

(Brenda, Erica, Li Hsien, Eric, Denise)

Fortunately however, I discovered that Krissy and Todd, two Swingin' Seattle expats, were also on my flight so I did have some friends to talk to in the waiting area. Further, they were flying business class so they could sneak me into the business class lounge where they had free food and drinks.

Krissy and I had a long talk about the development of the Swing community in Singapore that was quite interesting since I had never really been able to get all the inside info on things before. Like any scene, there are all sorts of stories between the lines, dramas, secrets, and complications, etc....

The conversation also made the lay over in Tokyo go quickly. Soon we were ready to board the plane bound for Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, the flight from Tokyo/Narita to Los Angeles was perhaps the worst flight I've ever taken. It is actually quite a doozy even under the best of circumstances. A full day in the air. And as we all know, on a flight like that any discomfort you feel is magnified by an aching back, claustrophobia, and a general zombie mental state.

That is why service is so crucial. A courteous, understanding, responsive flight crew makes all the difference in the world. If you are stuck with a bunch of rude slackoffs you'll be regretting the flight for the next few days when you should be concentrating on your work or vacation.

Catalina Buddies

Unfortunately for me, I had gone with Northwest because of price, instead of Singapore Airlines which is much nicer (including the Nintendo station at every seat). As it turned out though, the crew on this Northwest flight was way worse than usual.

About half way into the flight I put away my work and opened the bag of headphones to relax and watch the two movies playing on the flight. Unfortunately, the headphones did not work. No problem, I tried the headphones in my backpack. Unfortunately, those headphones did not work either, so I figured the jack was broken. Perhaps the flight attendant could help, I thought.

I was seated in the window seat of a three seat row so I looked over only to find my two aged row mates fast asleep. I did not want to wake them up so I hit the service button.

The chime went off and the little light above my seat lit up so I sat back and watched the soundless images pass by.

Ten minutes went by so I rang again. Another five, ring, five, ring, five, ring. The movie was now 25 minutes into the plot and though I could see the flight attendants mulling around at their station and talking, no one came over.

Fortunately, at about that time, the middle of the two people sitting next to me woke up and went to the bathroom. So I grabbed the chance to get up.

(Denise and Eric)

"Excuse me," I said to the flight attendant, "my headphones don't work."

"Why don't you use these instead," she said handing me another pair of headphones as she turned and continued her conversation.

"Nope, I already tried using different headphones, I think it is the jack."

Annoyed, she snapped, "There are no other seats available on the flight." And she actually turned her back to me.

"Uh okay," I thought, "A 'sorry' would have been nice or perhaps a deck of cards. It was not the fact that the headphones did not work. Hey technology sucks. We all have to live with that. It was her uncaring "too bad for you" attitude which really pissed me off.

Of course, it got worse from there. There were no drinks served during the movie or before the next one and nobody even came down the aisles to check on the passengers. I saw other service lights go on throughout the cabin at different times and saw as the people simply gave up.

Four hours had passed by and I had been told that it was important to take lots of fluids on long flights. My row mates were asleep again, lucky them. So I hit the button again and as you would expect waited in a now fuming state for 30 more minutes.

(Susan, Joel, Dawn, Fen, Brenda,
Case, Sing, Hsien

The second film ended.

And so I started hitting the button at 2 minute intervals. No luck. So I waited and waited until I saw an attendant come down the aisle. Unfortunately she ignored me until I started waving insistently at her.

"May I have a glass of OJ please?"


15 minutes passed by.

I woke up the two people sitting next to me to go to the attendant's station. A flight attendant was there and I asked her for an orange juice.

"We'll be serving breakfast in just a moment."

20 minutes went by.

I didn't say at the time because I did not want to make a scene. Instead I just started writing this nasty complaint letter which I gave to a Northwest representative at the gate.

Anyway, the flight finally was over and I was in Los Angeles. My mom was working so I was greeted by Stanny and my Grandma. It was very nice to see them and the Los Angeles weather felt good.

(Dawn, Denise, Krisy, Fen, W,
Sing, Li Hsien, Jackie, Jeannie)

We went straight to my grandma's house because I needed to get my car from her parking lot where it has been sitting since I left for Singapore. After that I had to pick up Linda in Westwood because we were scheduled to have lunch.

We ate lunch at Sanamluang Café, my favorite Thai restaurant in LA. As expected, the Phad Thai and Pad See Ewe were awesome as always. Seeing Linda was also very nice but after eating and hanging out a bit, I had to drop Linda off because I was getting exceptionally tired. Jet lag hit quickly and my eyes were pretty blurry by the time I got back home.

I had a little chance to do some email before I dozed off.

The next day I woke up early because I had a bunch of stuff to do. The Swingaporeans were arriving in the morning and I had to go to the airport to get all my luggage they had brought and to pick up Li Hsien who was going to stay the day in LA with me before going over to Catalina.

The rest of the crew went straight to Long Beach to get the ferry over to the island. Everyone looked absolutely horrible...Of course, I guess I was not too fresh after my flight either : )

Hsien and I made our way back to Silverlake and I dropped off my stuff at my house and waited for Sim who was arriving on a different flight. Sim finally called and happily for us, he was able to arrange to get dropped off directly at my house using Super Shuttle. This was nice because I did not want to drive out to LAX again. Meanwhile, I had plenty of time to finish answering my email and Hsien looked through my photo albums and make fun at the old pictures of me.

After Sim arrived it was about time to pick up Susan at Burbank Airport. Like I said, there was a lot of running around that day!

We found Susan easily, made our way back to Netty's and had a great dinner with my parents. I was happy that mom and Stan had a chance to meet a few of the Singaporeans so that they could have faces to the stories.

( Li Hsien, Jackie, Jeannie)

And then it was time to go to the Derby for Swing dancing to Steve Lucky and the Rhumba Bums. We were a little late so I hurried everyone along so that we would not miss others who I was to meet there. Unfortunately, as it turned out, I missed Howard who left about the time we arrived. However, we did find Linda, Adrienne, and Josh.

Swing dancing was very fun. Of course it is always nice to get a chance to dance with Susan again and plus the Derby has lots of attitude. The other cool thing was that there were so many people from San Francisco there who were on their way to Catalina like us, so the level of dancing was excellent and everyone was really primed for the weekend. There were several teachers cutting it up on the floor like everyone else.

However, I had to drive Linda back to West LA, so we called it a night around 11:30 and I dropped off Sim, Hsien, and Susan at my house and drove Linda back.

The next day we woke up bright and early to leave for Catalina. As expected the line on to the ferry was alive with dancing and swing tunes blared out of ghetto blasters on the ground.

You could tell that it was going to be a fantastic weekend already. We met Jackie and a friend of hers from Chicago named Jeannie (who tunred out to be quite a great dancer and who had gotten the opportunity to do a swing dance performance at half time at the recent Bulls finals game) in line as well.

We had booked ourselves on the fast ferry and sat in the cabin where it was warm. Susan felt a little sick near the end of the trip but by the time we were getting off the boat, she was back to her old self.

Because we had not gone with the others, we were a little bit lost when we landed however. We knew that we had to check in to the Swing Camp and also find the house where we were staying. Sing had booked two houses for the Swingaporean contingency. As far as I knew it would be something like a slumber party with people sleeping all over the houses. It sounded fun.

Anyway, we walked down the dock onto the main strand of Avalon looking for the real estate dealer who arranged for our accommodations. Fortunately, in less than 15 minutes we saw Joel walking down the road. He had just come back from registration and was returning to the pad.

So we followed him. It was a bit of a hike since our house was set way up on a hill overlooking Avalon Bay. In typical Sing fashion, a huge two-story Jitterbugs Swingapore banner flapped off the balcony.

The house was really amazing. Most everyone had a bed and a room to stay in and the view was awesome. Because we were the last ones to check in however, there were not enough beds for us, so Sim and I were left on couches.

At first I was kinda bummed until I found this excellent little spot underneath the stairwell where I could hang up extra sheets between the wall and the staircase to form quite an impressive cave. The width of the area was just large enough for a futon and as you can imagine, I piled up extra pillows and a futon at the foot to form the cave entrance.

I could not ask for more.

After everyone had settled in, we made our way down to the casino where we had to check in for the camp.

Did I mention what the camp is?

Well, Catalina Swing Dance Camp is an annual event put together by the Pasadena Ballroom Association. For four days, teachers from around the world hold two-hour seminars all day long (9-6) on swing dancing (and some ballroom).

(Terri, Pon, Hsien, Erin)

Classes range from beginning level material to seriously advanced stuff and cover such topics as aerials, dips and tricks, styling, patterns and routines, tap, East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, and Lindy Hop.

There is a two-hour dinner break and then dancing from 8PM-3AM in the casino and in the after hours locations.

There were some 900 attendees taking part in the classes and then several hundred more who did not get into classes but who attended all the dancing functions.

It was insane, a thousand people dressed in reto clothes, zoot suits, etc and swing dancing in the classrooms, on the streets, on the beach, in the casino, on roofs, in hallways...everywhere.

And the people there were really, really good. Attendees came from all over the states and in fact, all over the world so there were so many styles, moves, and people there to watch.

I took several intermediate/advanced Lindy and East Coast Swing classes, a couple of stylings and a couple of aerials and dips and tricks classes during the days.

Avalon Bay from Balcony

However, so that I did not kill myself completely I was careful to only take three classes per day. I tried to leave myself time for relaxing, lunch, and giving my feet, bruises, joints and muscles a rest. Though it was tempting to try and burn out, it just would not have been a good idea since I had a long month of work in San Francisco ahead. I also made sure to take classes from as many different teachers as I could as Sing suggested.

Dancing at the casino was also very cool. It was simply amazing to look out over the massive ballroom filled with swingers getting down to the tunes of several good live bands.

On Saturday I was happy to find that Stanny and my mom had decided to come over and stay for Saturday and Sunday. They would get the chance to meet everyone, see a couple of classes and then go to the big blow out final day dance on Saturday night where everyone was going to be dressed to the T's. They brought over my lime green zoot suit too which I had forgotten in LA!

They arrived in the late morning in time for lunch and then they came with me and Li Hsien to an aerials class where they could sit on the stage and watch everyone throw each other all over the floor.

While watching, they met some other folks from San Francisco who were so impressed that they had come to hang out with me. The Singaporeans were kind've famous at the camp so everyone knew us by then.

My mom noticed how strange it was that in the swing community, it is actually very cool to have parents around. It is almost as if parents are a status symbol. After all, my generation is still in the imitation phase. The resurgence of swing is new enough that the dancers are still trying to regain the level of competance which was achieved in the 40s. So, parents and grandparents are kind've considered the "real", authentic dancers.

It is nice that the scene is so intergenerational.

That night Pon cooked chicken rice and we had a bit of a birthday party. That was extra cool since my mom and Stan got to meet all of my friends and try Chicken Rice which is probably one of my most staple food items out here in Singapore. So I felt as if they really got a good idea of what life is like for me out here.

In all, I danced better than I ever danced before and pretty much burned myself out regardless of my intentions. I came home with several bruises, blisters and a strained wrist. But man was I happy to have done I this year.

And then I was off again for San Francisco....

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