A couple weeks before I left for Singapore, I cut back on alcohol and street drugs. I went to a psychiatrist for tranquilizers and to my doctor for pills to calm my stomach. I was justifiably concerned about my sanity and body functions while I was gone, not to mention concerns about ending up in jail.
The flight was 27 hours from JFK airport to Singapore, so I was able to drink, eat a meal and sleep three different times on the flight. The time difference was 12 hours, causing me serious jet lag for a few days. I arrived at 4 a.m. Singapore time, so I was dazed and spaced out as the limo drove us through the choking humidity. Just the warm air was pleasant after leaving New York in January.
During the hour ride from the airport to the hotel Shangri-La I was mesmerized by the surrounding jungle vegetation, most of which was manicured and lit up from lights in the ground and in trees. The scent of the tropical atmosphere took me to a world I never imagined. I felt as though I stepped into a dream.
First thing the next morning I headed into the city to buy a bottle of gin. For the next 24 hours I tried to shake my jet lag to reset my biological clock, but the next day I still felt strange and disoriented. I wandered around the hotel grounds feeling the heat from the equator and enjoying the lush tropical trees, flowers and gardens that made the landscape spectacular. If there was a Shangri-La it had to look, feel and smell like this paradise.
Every morning the Asian plant manager picked me up and drove us to the manufacturing district on the outskirts of the city. The car’s steering wheel was on the right side and there were hundreds of mopeds that zoomed in, out and around cars and trucks. The trip to work looked like death defying acts at a circus. Most days during the commute, one or more locals crashed their mopeds, so we had to wait for somebody to drag the body off the road and out of the way before the traffic could continue. The victims lay where they were dragged as we drove by. My panic attacks were as bad as they’d ever been and I couldn’t calm myself. I’d sweat through my clothes before we reached the office. I felt trapped in the car as there was no place to run or hide with a swamp and snakes on one side of the road and obvious killer traffic all around.
Because the work was complicated, I spent most nights working in my room drinking gin and tonic. The locals I befriended at work took me on a tram ride over Singapore harbor that landed on the island of Sentosa where we stayed for the weekend. They spoke in their Chinese dialect so often I felt as though they’d forgotten all I spoke was English. When I realized we’d be staying over-night I felt panicky because all we had was a 6-pack of warm beer but I downed it that night. The above ground train had open cars and went slowly as we circled the island through fairly dense jungle. The above ground rail made it easy to pick fruit from the trees. After a short walk we reached the lagoon which was like a scene from a movie and we all went for a swim.
Even the day-to-day life left me wide-eyed and asking questions about the bizarre society. The sights and culture went beyond the descriptions and snap-shots of travel brochures. I had clean and sober fun while I lived there. I felt good physically and mentally.
Next: No one could take the Singapore trip out of my head but my body landed in the same steps I used to leave. Nothing had changed but it was a turning point in my life.
The articles published here by babyboomers.com are small excerpts of a 268 page manuscript titled “The Courage to Surrender” that I would like published. Call 678.361.4709 for information on the manuscript.