the first part of this post is here
To review, from about 1999 to 2002, I was very involved with researching and promoting a medicinal and gourmet mushroom called ABM, Agaricus blazeii Murrill. As part of this, I wrote my first book. I did this in Tokyo, Manhattan and around Toledo, Ohio. I established many relationships and enjoyed being involved with a healthful food item in a positive community, and creating possibilities. However, I entered the world of VR and, after that, returned to the world of books and art. I don’t feel as if there are huge differences between the different areas in my life.
Everything is about human relationships and data/information. Efficiency and planning are the keys and I am always working to improve in these areas, without becoming closed-minded. I've been told that the Japanese word for “busy”(isogashii) means “no heart”. Something like that.
So... Johor Bahru, Malaysia. April 2017. Sacha inchi oil. When you are around people who are really healthy, you notice it immediately. !!!! As a writer I have to be careful here! Sometimes, when one describes one’s interactions and activities that are associated with healthy foods and practices, it is easy to across as purely a salesman, sincere or otherwise. Yes, there is an economic aspect, but it is not the main reason that I am thinking about sacha inchi. Sales can lead to an awareness of the powers within plants and humans.
Sacha inchi reminds me of ABM very much. I am considering getting involved with it because I now have experience in sharing nutraceutical information, and interest in sacha inchi is already starting. It seems that Singapore, Malaysia and China are growing markets. America and Japan have potential.
It would be interesting to come up with some idea that combines art with sacha oil. A year ago, my partner and I performed the Iron Fire Riceball Tour, which combined performance art with food art. Meaning simply, we just marched around to all of the organic food stores in Singapore and asked any of the staff if they would like to try an organic riceball flavored with organic miso with permaculture grown ingredients. It was not a commercial project, it was about communication and connecting;art. We didn’t talk business, though it was clear where the miso and rice came from. We had been living in Bali and had worked on the permaculture farm that produced the miso. That little tour was beautiful.
So now; it is an amusement for me to think of how to connect with saha ishi in a way that is personal. What I have thought of so far:
-a book on sacha inchi, but one that is a collection of short stories about everything from the history of the plant to the growing to the processing to the person who is using sacha inchi as a treatment for a serious diseases.Fact-based fiction with emotion.
-a 360 short film that documents a room full of longtime saha ichi users. The setting would be naturalistic and simple. There would be at least 10 or 12 actors and actresses. These people would not have to do anything, but they would be aware of the fact that they are being filmed. The person who sees the film would, simply, sense and observe the healthy bodies.
-the sacha inchi game. Something interactive, of course.Exciting and based on how scientists think sacha inchi empowers the immune system, it would be cool to make a game something like this:
I will think. Sacha inchi is good stuff!
Unexpectedly, I now find myself in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. I have been here for two months, during which time I started to write a book called Touching JB. It is about Johor Bahru, Singapore, food, AR/VR, people, game development, history; many things. It is also self-reflective, but hopefully not in a narcissistic way. My past experiences connect me to the present and future, of course, as they do for everyone.
The most recent example of this involves something called Sacha Inchi Oil. I was just introduced to it here in JB, and I am very interested in it. First, some background information. The first book I wrote was called the Agaricus blazei Murrill Notebook. It was print-on-demand, but I never marketed it. I believe in that book, but it needs to be revised. Paul Stamets, one of the world’s top mushroom scientists, wrote to me soon after I informed him of the book. He told me two things and then suggested I stop publication.
I don't remember exactly,but first Paul told me something like the taxonomy (the way that scientists classify things) for the "ABM" mushroom had changed. Agaricus blazeii Murrill had become cultivated and improved so much that it was considered to have be a new species called agaricus subrufescens.Or something like that; even now the taxonomy isn't straightforward. That happened weeks before I finished the book, and I was unaware of it. That by itself was not an absolute game changer, as most of people would continue to use the old name or would be aware of both. The other complication was that a test result that I referred to in the book had been found to be inaccurate; falsified.So, despite a great deal of interest, I didn’t get the ABM Notebook in the hands of readers.
At the time of the book’s completion I had moved to Singapore to work for a startup doing 3D gamemaking/VR, which I was thrilled to be doing, but which also took up all of my time.I didn’t revise the book.
Before the move to Singapore, I was working with an amazing woman who was a pharmacist and a mother of two boys. We were both living in Japan at that time, and it was there that she introduced me to the company that grew and produced very high quality ABM. We sold their product on the internet as well as at health fairs in the US.The challenges: we were both new at selling something like ABM, the internet was new to us and our freeze-dried ABM was extremely expensive. We seemed to be pioneers as very few people knew about ABM. In short, we learned a lot, made some great connections and didn’t sell much.
However...there are very few things that can compare to playing a small part in a process that results in a person regaining some, or all, of their health.
However, the partnership, the international network and the lessons learned became dormant. But... a few days ago, I discovered sacha inchi oil.
Part two of this story is here.
re: Paul Stamet; This is his company.
This TED talk by Paul is full of mushroom/cancer facts and hope. Go to 1:20
We were sitting on the chairs in front of the wood burning stove when they materialized. Their arms were like Japanese Easter eggs. Finally, the young man stopped with his thumbs and looked up from his phone. On top of his peppery skull was a filet of pink hair. Circular wire eyeglasses, yellow irises. He moved his head a little, then reached for the curry puffs. Started eating before he paid. The girl took hers without looking up.
The man behind the counter smiled sincerely, thanked them. Behind him, a wall was full of photos and newspaper clippings, most from when the man’s hair and beard weren’t white. Near the cash register: two playful photos of him and his wife at the Taj Mahal. Once, at the 123 Cafe, he'd told me that theirs was an arranged marriage. She passed away. Lung cancer. He didn’t say more.
The chairs we are in are comfortable. I am eating a piece of cream bread, she is chewing and studying her red bean puff. Saluddhin’s bakery has an authenticity that would usually capture my attention, but now I cannot help thinking about a game called Firewatch. It’s about a man living alone in the forests of Wyoming, a man whose wife may have early-onset dementia.
I am on target to finish a 50,000 word book by the end of May.The setting is Johor Bahru, a city that borders Singapore. There are other excerpts on this blog, but if you'd like to see the latest edited draft, drop me a line. I am excited about this and determined to stay on schedule.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asks.
The back room of Galicier, the pastry shop on Tiong Bahru Road. Rain taps the tin roof as Pricilia and I stand near the shiny, tube-like contraption.
“Let’s do it!”
I lower my head slowly; I could be scalded. Pricilia quickly lifts the lid. Flavored steam rushes at me. My open mouth, my nose, my chin, my eyelids, even my forehead; all suddenly become one happy tastebud. I gulp the delicate, narcotic vapor. Immediately I become an angel in a heavenly cloud of butterscotch. I become a warm knife gliding over soft pancake butter and maple syrup. A streetlight in a tropical mist of caramel, a kite in a windy molasses sky. I am steamed gula melakka.
Pricilia smiles. “That is why I like making fuat kueh.”
Gula melakka thrills me. It’s organic – yes! Produced in the countryside, it allows people to develop their own businesses without moving to cities – yes! It’s full of vitamins – yes! It tastes great – double yes! Gula melakka is a traditional “medicinal sugar” in the Ayurvedic tradition and one of the world’s first spices. Long produced throughout Southeast Asia, gula melakka is known by many names, including jaggery, gur and palm sugar. The word ‘sugar’ is derived from the Sanskrit equivalent of gula melakka.
Strictly speaking, gula melakka is made only from the Palmyra palm. However, gula melakka is often made by small independent producers, each likely having a different production method. Some producers, for example, include refined sugar or add sap from other types of palm trees. Interestingly, the pure, fresh sap from the palmyra palm tree is also the basis for the alcoholic drink known as toddy.
The owner of Galicier, Mr. Y.S. Tan, grew up in a kampung where gula melakka was made. He often saw men quickly shimmy up trees to then slice and smash flowering buds with mallets. The men would then affix a “Mongolian pouch” or clay pot to the wounded buds and climb back down. The next morning the sap was collected, boiled and poured into bamboo tubes or glass molds. After the water vapor evaporated, the hard pieces of gula melakka were wrapped in paper and sold.
When Jenny was a child, gula melakka came wrapped in coconut leaves. Over eighty years ago, her grandfather, utilizing the skills he’d learned “from the Europeans,” set up a bakery named Ton Lok Wee. After he returned to Hainan, Jenny’s father took over the bakery. Mr. Tan began working for Jenny’s father in 1969, when he was eleven. Eventually, Tan Lok Wee closed, mainly because of the expansion of Orchard Road. When Mr. Tan decided to set up his own bakery, he had a partner: Jenny. The two were married thirty-three years ago.
Half of the people in Galicier gathered around me, trying to explain its Chinese name. To write something like ‘Ga-li- cier’ in Chinese, three characters are used: ka li jia. Ka means something like ‘invitation to an event with the feeling of a wedding or family get-together’. Li could mean ‘power’ or ‘profit’ and jia means ‘family’ or ‘good’. Something like that. Mr. Tan also told me that Galicier is a city in Brazil.
On the wall behind the cash register, are two photos of Ton Lok Wee. The largest, a black and white street scene of Orchard Road, was taken in 1975. Behind the bakery is a wallsized advertisement for the “natural living color” of Setron TV. Also in the photo is the famous parking lot that, at night, became filled with food stalls, strings of lights and people eating and drinking, all surrounded by colonial architecture.
Jenny moves her finger over the photo, remembering the Cold Storage, the bottom of Emerald Hill Road, Centre- point and her father’s bakery. Taped onto the photograph’s white sky is a faded color photograph of Ton Lok Wee. In front of the bakery a young girl smiles at the camera. Her name is Soh Kee Soon and she’s Jenny’s eldest sister.
Soh Kee Soon is now seventy years old and sitting next to me. She is methodically cutting blocks of gula melakka; shaving and crumbling it. The shop uses as much as three kilos a day. The radio plays Madonna and Eighties dance music, but the rhythm of Galicier is the tapping of Soh Kee Soon’s knife against the cutting board.
Mr. Tang is not at Tony’s.
Tony’s is not yet busy.
Tony’s wearing one of the pale yellow Izod-like shirts he always wears. He moves back and forth from the cooler in the back to the tables on the sidewalk. He takes someone’s order and brings out somebody’s kaya toast. He does little things by the cash register. He ignores me, like he always does. I don’t mind. It’s a compliment, I guess. An inexplicable one.
Finally, he whizzes by. I barely hear him.
“Kopi C kosong?”
I give him the slightest nod possible.
“KOPI C KOSONG,” Tony blares out.
In the back, by the stove, the potbellied and nearly bald magician shuffles up to his stage. Wearing a white cotton T-shirt, shorts and sandals, he begins to make magic with brown powder, water, a long-nozzled silver pot, a well-used cloth strainer and a blue ring of fire.
Tony! He leaves my coffee and slides away his coins. Instantly he’s taking another order, talking with someone.
Good coffee in a thick, white ceramic cup, the faded orange poster from the Seventies explaining the ‘new’ money of Singapore, the simple pattern of the blue tiles on the floor, the ambience of fifty years ago... Not even a radio... Just the sounds of conversations.
I enjoy this, but I’m neither naive nor nostalgic.
This area used to be cluttered with trash of all kinds. Pigs were raised everywhere. Trucks filled with gangsters armed with big knives and steel bars used to roll by, almost daily. The kampungs were so dangerous that the police only entered in pairs, guns drawn. The newspapers were full of crime stories: acid attacks, suicides by hanging, rapes, extortion, stabbings, “intent to traffic heroin,” and all kinds of counterfeiters and thieves. Arrests were made because someone had “waylaid a compatriot,” or “committed an affray by fighting in public.” There was once a “strangling with a black negligee.” In 1986, one of Malaysia’s most wanted criminals was in his sister’s flat in Block 78. The police surrounded the place. He took a hostage. He, the hostage and his accomplice made their way to Kim Pong and Tiong Bahru Road. They boarded a bus. Shots were fired, the last being that of the fugitive ending his own life.
Crime was not the only danger. For decades newspapers and the government had warned that the kampungs were fire hazards. In 1961, it happened – again. The Bukit Ho Swee fire, Singapore’s biggest, destroyed 60 acres and left 16,000 homeless. Over 8,000 people took shelter at the Kim Seng Road School. The kampungs were completely erased; photos show pigs roaming amidst piles of tin roofs and little more. Within nine months the HDB built five public housing flats, the start of the Bukit Ho Swee estate.
I’ve ordered mee pok and no matter where the auntie sets it on my table, it will be picture-perfect. Yellow noodles and fishballs in an orange bowl, two well-used wooden chopsticks on top. Next to this a tiny bowl of cut chillies soaking in a mixture of soy, sugar and spices.
Tony and the magician who makes coffee have worked hard for a long time. If they want to sell the shop, then more power to them. (I assume they own it – who knows?) It would be nice, though, if the new owners knew a bit about history, had a sense of taste and contributed to the local and global community. (Yes, I am naive. Indonesian, Australian and Japanese speculators don’t usually have this mindset. Not to mention Singaporeans and mainland Chinese.)
My table is like the other round marble topped tables, my chair like the other red plastic chairs. The man with the long moustache is here, smoking his pipe as he checks the race results. His tobacco smoke is always sweet. Maybe the woman in the blue skirt will be here.
And, perhaps it would be nice to have a big coffee chain here, one with comfy chairs and jazzy, slightly ethnic music; an edgy, cool place for hipsters and the wives of expats to chill in the hood. Perhaps not.
Hey! Thanks for reading this far! One of my other books, Bali Wave Ghost is a free download today on Amazon...