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Gone Too Soon (Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Hong Kong) KUALA LUMPUR At Zeta Bar, in the Hilton in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Troy and LJ decided after dinner to keep the drinks coming and talk about life and work and the balance between. We ordered three Tiger beers and stood at a table as the live band, Shades, started taking the stage. “I don’t know how you do it,” Troy told me. “What do you mean?” “You are always on the go. You are never home.” And we did cheers with our Tiger beers and we all took a drink. Then Troy laughed. “Where is your home really?” “Hey, you know my philosophy on that: home is a person and not a place. I am trying to find my person.” “Is it Sophia?” Troy asked point blank. “Sophia has put up with me a lot for one year and she hangs on. Our anniversary of meeting is on Filipino-American Friendship Day.” “Fourth of July?” “Yeah, that’s our independence day in the States.” “How did you meet her?” LJ asked. “It was a week or so before she was about to move to South Africa. I was dating two women at the time. And she saw me with them and was disgusted. And one of her friends introduced us. And I thought she was a bitch.” We all took a swig of our beers. LJ spoke up first, “So you hated each other when you met?”

“Hate is a strong word. But she definitely was a challenge. But what got me was she was going to the most beautiful place on the planet – and it’s a place that is part of my heart – South Africa. And you know I just said home is not a place. Let me phrase it like this – if it was a place – it would be South Africa. More specifically, it would be Cape Town. And she was going there.” “Okay, and then what happened?” “She came to Hong Kong. And a spark developed. And then she was gone.” “To South Africa?” LJ asked. “Yeah. She was gone too soon. So I followed her to South Africa.” “And the other two girls you were dating?” “Sophia is two women, four women by herself. So the other girls and I lost touch.” Troy and LJ gave each other looks and rolled their eyes. “Whatever,” I said. “Sophia knocked me off my feet.” Just then the lights dimmed and the spotlights went to the stage, and Shades the band exploded into a rendition of Beyonce and Jay-Z “Crazy in Love”. Immediately, Troy, LJ, and myself were mesmerized. The two black women who were the lead singers had voices that seemed to not even need microphones. And the energy level was pumping. The whole bar seemed to rock to every note. I saw Troy lean into me, “This band is incredible!” I nodded. And we were finished with our first beer and ordered another round. Shades kept going and going. And the whole band was covered in sweat but still had more energy to spare. Then suddenly, one of the women leads said into the microphone, “Tonight is bittersweet. It’s our last night at Zeta Bar and Kuala Lumpur.” The bar let out a collective groan. “I know we are going to miss you too!” and the whole band smiled. “We are going to take a quick break but we will be back for our next set. So nobody go anywhere.” And just then the lights to the stage went black and the DJ took over. LJ was all smiles, “Man, great band.”

“Yeah, I have heard a lot of bands from the United States, Europe, to Australia, South Africa, and throughout Asia-Pacific – but this band has energy. They should bottle that and sell it.” I said. “It would probably be illegal,” Troy said. And the new beers showed up. We took them and clinked again. Conversation drifted to work and the insurmountable odds of all the customer situations we were facing. Suddenly, someone tapped LJ’s shoulder. “Hi, you guys enjoying yourselves?” It was one of the lead singers. Her perfume enveloped us. All of us guys were a little star struck. I tried to speak first. “You are mind-blowing,” I stammered out – because she was a fantastic singer and also I was feeling a bit of the alcohol. She laughed. “Wow, thanks. I don’t think anyone has told me that I was mind-blowing before.” She held out her hand. “I am L.A. And you are?” I held out my hand, “Jackson.” “Nice to meet you, Jackson. And your friends?” And we went around the table introducing everyone. “Where are you from?” “I am from Hong Kong.” Her eyes grew wide. “Yeah, we got friends who play at J.J.’s. Have you been there?” “Yeah, I was there for New Year’s Eve. Crazy night.” And I motioned towards LJ and Troy, “They are from Manila.” “Man, some excellent bands from Manila. One of the band members of my friend’s band is from Manila.” She smiled around at us. “I am trying to get Shades to Hong Kong.” “Please let me know when you get there. We are bummed this is your last night.” And I looked around the table to LJ and Troy. And they both nodded. “That’s so sweet,” and she started digging into her pocket. “Here is my business card. Add the band to your Facebook and you can keep up with us. And please come out and see us.” Troy spoke first, “Yeah, we would love that.”

“Well I need to make the rounds to everyone and thank them for being here. It was great meeting all of you. Hope to see you somewhere out on the road.” And she smiled a million dollar smile and L.A. was gone. Gone too soon. MANILA Sophia and I collapsed on our couch in the hotel apartment watching the Michael Jackson Memorial. She was on and off of the phone with her technical consultants having issues with their Proof of Concept with a bank in downtown Makati, and I was conceptualizing the solution architecture document that had a due date of tomorrow morning. Our brains were busy rotating its gears but our bodies were too exhausted too move. We sat propped up on one another. “Do you leave tomorrow?” Sophia asked as she put down her mobile phone. I looked at her and frowned. “Yes,” but I gave a hopeful grin. “But I will be back.” “This week flew by.” “Yeah this week seemed like we were a real couple, in a real apartment, with a real life together.” “Yes,” and she grew sad. “But then when we get comfortable, you are gone.” “One day that will change.” I said. “Will it?” she asked. I didn’t answer. That’s when the commercial was over and the Michael Jackson Memorial returned. And showing a panoramic of the Staples Center, seats were filled to capacity, and suddenly center stage was Usher. He began his tribute by singing “Gone Too Soon.” And at the end, while on the floor and touching the gold casket of Michael Jackson, his emotions broke. I turned and saw Sophia. And she was watching to see if I was going to cry too. Her eyes glazed with tears. And I leaned up a bit and kissed her forehead. “Babe, you okay?” She laughed. “Yeah and you?”

“Usher says it best, gone too soon.” HONG KONG I came early to Take Out Comedy but the seats were almost half filled already and Jami had put extra seats out to allow for over and beyond the sold out audience. I saw all my standup brothers and sisters standing here and there – striking up conversations with friends who had bought tickets. I moved to the back of the room towards the back balcony where most of the comedians who smoked did. But the exit door leading out to it had a wretched smell mixing the scent of a mangy wet dog and decomposing flesh. I stood in the shadows watching people enter and take their seats. Just then somebody bumped into me and I saw it was Vivek who was watching the people enter too. He was making observations of those entering and figuring out from the bits he had in his head which would work best. He turned and saw me, “What up Jackson.” “Hey man. Gosh this place is packed.” “Yeah, you should have been here last night and Thursday. Filled to capacity. Is this your first night?” “Yeah. I was traveling.” I answered. Vivek went quiet. And then he turned to me, “I am thinking of doing my bit where I combine English and Cantonese,” and he threw the bit out for me. I couldn’t understand the Cantonese but he followed it up with the punch line, “But those that only speak English probably only heard – blah, blah, gweilo, blah, blah, gweilo.” I laughed. Just then Adrian came up beside me, another fellow comedian, “Hey Jackson.” And then paused. “So what is your name? Gary or Jackson? I get confused.” I smiled. “Yeah, that’s the point. No, I am trying to use Jackson as my stage name. And my friends call me Gary.” He gave a sidways grin, “So I will repeat my first question – am I friend and can call you Gary or Jackson?” “You can call me Gary.” We laughed. “Last night was crazy. Were you here?” “No, sadly, I wasn’t. I was traveling.”

“You are hardly in town are you?” I sighed. “Yeah, it sucks. I want to be here but my job pulls me away.” “So Hong Kong is not even really home – eh?” “No right now its home. Or I try to make it that way.” Just then a larger guy showed up and moved into the corner with us. Adrian turned to him, “Great show last night Ted.” That’s when I realized it was Ted Alexandro – the main draw for tonight’s crowd. “How was the crowd been taking to your stuff?” I asked. He laughed. “I am very impressed. Great crowds. And very, very diverse audience. But it’s been a blast.” And then he looked at me for a second trying to remember me. “Oh sorry, I am Jackson. We haven’t met. I am a standup comedian here. But I was traveling so I didn’t get to see the earlier shows. But I heard you killed them.” That’s when Jami came to the back where we were. And he announced to both Vivek and Ted that he was going to get things moving. Every seat was filled. He then turned to look at the stage and eyed the sound booth. The music went to crescendo and Jami jumped to the stage and grabbed the microphone. “Hey everybody! Welcome to Asia’s only full time standup comedy club! Thanks for braving the typhoon to come out…” And the show was on. Between Jami warming up the audience, picking on a cute, but very drunk Thai woman, and Vivek going on stage killing with his bits – including the one he dropped on me earlier, and then Ted cleaned things up for an hour bringing the audience to tears from laughing so hard. When the show was over, all the comedians proceeded to Lan Kwai Fong for the Beer Fest. Our first stop was the 7-11 under the Pussycat Adult Store and we gave an open toast with two rounds of San Miguel. And there is no experience like being in a group of ten or twelve comedians going from bar to bar trying to break everyone into uncontrollable laughter. I feel paying audience members only get half of the experience by seeing the bits we have prepared for the stage. The real funny stuff is the raw material we come up while buzzing from alcohol.

So around three or four in the morning, our group of comedians broke up – and some went to Wan Chai and others just went home to be their wives and girlfriends. Jami turned and asked before we all separated, “We are going to meet for dinner tomorrow night for a final dinner with Ted. You are all coming right?” Everyone nodded. Jami noticed I didn’t. “You coming right Gary?” I shook my head. “I am going to India tomorrow. Sad man. I won’t be able to join you.” He put his hand on my shoulder. “Next time dude.” And the next day while on the Airport Express train heading to my flight, I got an SMS from Jami sent to all of us at Take Out Comedy with directions to the dinner with Ted. I sadly SMS’d back, “Have fun. See you when I get back to Hong Kong.” He responded quickly back, “Safe travels.” And I thought to myself, gone too soon. Again.

Written by GS Jackson, © 2009 LOL Entertainment Group, LLC (USA) Limited (HKG)

Gone Too Soon (Kuala Lumpur . Manila . Hong Kong)  
Gone Too Soon (Kuala Lumpur . Manila . Hong Kong)  

Home is a person not a place. And I find out the hard way.