I posted about Honolulu but not in this blog

I charged through the double doors of one of the dozens of 7-Eleven convenience stores in Ortigas, and this song played on the radio was garbled by a poor audio system or faulty antennae. All of their sandwiches are soggy, and I was right with their ham and cheese sandwich: it doesn't taste like ham (more like thin bologna meat) and the ten-second trip to the microwave made it unbelievably hot and soggy. Not that I grew up eating good sandwiches--I actually mastered in toasting Ques-O and SM Bonus mayonnaise when I was a kid--but it's just one of the things you would likely notice and hold against yourself. Eating a really bad sandwich at 7-Eleven is an epiphany waiting to happen: it won't occur if I had contracted amoebiasis from company food, or if I'd eaten botcha near St. Francis Square. It's just not my personality to eat a sandwich, or any kind of bread, in the morning. I hate bread. It's a subtle thing to notice but enough to make you think of rechanneling your energies, whatever that is. It makes you think that something's quite wrong, or has changed. But just quite.

But it feels just as bad, and the pang of it feels like eating a meal right after a thirty-second gargle of mouthwash. 

My colleagues left me and went home on time, after having convinced them about this really important errand I have to run with one of our bosses. Clearly, it wasn't true. It's a very likely situation in the office, but not to the point of declaring an overtime. (By the way, our OTs are unpaid because our company's really lax, and we can sleep for three hours as long as you did what you're supposed to do, and we have minimal rules anyway.) I wanted to stay for a bit to stretch my writing muscles, and find some time to write what I have to write. Alone, because it's not a good feeling when you know someone's throwing glances at your computer screen while typing away something about... say, dreams.

Lately I couldn't get some privacy. I share a room and a laptop with my wife, the latter was because my laptop has to go to AppleCare or something and I'm having doubts if I should pay for its repair or just let it sit for months. I take care of my son during the weekends, and then some bills, errands, groceries with my Dad and my wife. (Writing "my wife" makes me feel ten times older than my age.) I'm not complaining--I'm having a grand time. I just couldn't find the time to write, or to put things down on a piece of paper (or in my iPod, which is really the worst gadget the humanity is using to type a story in). On a normal day I sleep for eight hours and wake up for thirty minutes of bike, then I cook dinner--I just love cooking meals--and watch Al Jazeera or this show on Asian Food Channel, Chef At Home.

Maybe tonight I'll be upstairs to finish a book review, but where to write it has been the biggest predicament, since I've adapted myself to write in that laptop, or in this work computer. My wife's desktop is anything but neat, with all the folders scattered around, in no visible order, at least for me.

My problems are very benign, to the point that I should probably check a psychiatrist, or beer. Or Batanes!

End of the world

I don't know what to talk about anymore. I've bumped into my Livejournal and realized, after clicking the archives section, that I've been blogging there for six years, and they're all about the useless stuff. I've skimmed through a lot of my first few posts and they were all about the mundane: sleeping patterns, choir rehearsals in High School, dreams, conversations lifted from chat, Gunbound all-nighters. (When I typed Gunbound, the theme songs played in my head right away.)

What I've been doing these days: reading. Almost every New Year's Eve I make it to a point that I'm reading something. Some four years ago I was reading Chuck Palahniuk's Rant and finished it an hour after the clock struck twelve: it was such a vivid memory, wherein I put down the book and for five minutes I was hearing what seemed to be the sound of the New Year's aftermath, as if a ceasefire had been implemented, the relentless shelling dwindling and everybody closing their doors and people preparing their blankets and piling the spoils of the medya noche near the sink for dishwashing next morning. My friend and I biked our way to another friend's house for what became a tradition for five years : drink beer until 5AM. (We had to postpone it last year due to our busy schedules.) On our way was this really thick fog of smoke from the fireworks--we are five minutes away from Bocaue, the Fireworks Capital of the Philippines--and we had to dodge tons, just tons of brown pulp fluff shredded into pieces and trompillos nailed on trees and makeshift kwitis stands.

Hopefully I could finish John Ashbery's Flow Chart and write a review of Frederick Barthelme's Law of Averages before the New Year's Eve, the latter I've been blabbing about for six months and running. It's a magical work of prose and I just couldn't talk about it as a whole project, partly because it's comprised of twenty-something stories, but more importantly is because almost every single story has its own glimmer, the product of sparse details and oblique dialogues. It's just hard to take notes by merely putting dog-ears on pages and hopefully the corners of which would pinpoint the uh... points.

I am painstakingly doing this dog-ears style because I don't like the idea of scribbling on any kind of book I own, since I find reading with notes as a sort of a walkthrough that it shelters you from reading the book and ending up with fresh perspectives. It's very inconvenient to use highlighters in the bus, and writing notes on Post-Its in MRT is just not recommendable. (I did a Post-It note on a book once in my entire life, in Kurt Wenzel's Lit Life. Earlier I had been mesmerized by Salinger's writing that I circled and underlined every single word I didn't know with a pencil. My first attempt to widen my vocabulary was writing each and every word I found on a book and its meaning meticulously in a notebook. It's the most tedious job I ever did, and I didn't even finish writing on a single page.)

Life is a humdrum these days. I wasn't able to attend the Christmas Party because of this soirée with the in-laws (sorry, I just want to use soirée in a sentence). From the Monito Monita I've got the perfect gift of all: Php 1,000. (In the wishlist I indicated a Php1,000 gift check on any bookstore, but I guess they don't really offer one!) I shall splurge this on various Booksale branches next week.

With the so-called end of the world prediction the Mayans reportedly did eons ago, and how the modern-day preppers, among various other groups of people, think about the end of the world, cheers! I think the time has come that these concepts should become nothing but ordinary, "shards of common crockery", as Ashbery puts it.

The year of wondrous thinking

I've found a way to justify my fatigue with the Holmes-Rahe scale. You take the test by clicking check boxes and the website calculates your stress level. The pop-up answer feels like a fortune cookie! "FROM 200 TO 299 POINTS: Moderate life crisis. 50% chance of illness such as: headache, diabetes, fatigue, hypertension, chest and back pain, ulcers, infectious disease etc."
  • Marriage, this coming December (50 points)
  • My girlfriend's nine-month pregnancy (40 points)
  • Gain of new family member in the form of my son, Pierre Leon, born August 30 (39 points)
  • Change in financial state, of course (38 points)
  • Trouble with in-laws--what do you expect with this entire shebang (29 points)
  • Change in living conditions, especially since we're cramped in my bedroom--for now (25 points)
  • Change in residence: I've lived in five houses in the span of two months, and it's awful to find switches of rooms I barely know (20 points)
  • Change in social activities, duh (18 points)
  • Change in sleeping habits--this is very drastic, and the worst part since I've been sleeping for three, four hours a day (16 points)
Life sucks when you stare at the list and think of other people's checklist. My girlfriend's parents got separated last March (though it's quite unclear if her position as a daughter would entitle her to 73 points); her semester has just ended (26 points), and she's about to start to work (26 points)--that's aside from the one I've listed above: incoming marriage, pregnancy, Perry's birth, in-law troubles, change in living conditions, residence, social activities, sleeping habits and financial state as well. This makes her fortune cookie pop-up say that she's OVER 300 POINTS, the score which most probably ensures that she's living in the crisis of her life and is highly predictive (80%) of serious physical illness within the next 2 years.

I know, I've always been painfully honest with tests in more ways than what I (don't) write in my blog. Spare me the questions and let's move on, and if you personally know me, let this be our secret. Otherwise it would be ten times more stressful to tell you what really happened this wondrous year.

P.S. This was a draft I made two weeks ago in the office. I figured it's time to disclose things like these in a personal (but public) blog. How this draft panned out was probably debilitating, as if I've offered an image of a downward spiral for a blog post.

Clearly, I must have missed my shot on optimism. Though it wears me down to offer a timeline of some sorts on how things happened, but personally, I'm contented with my little family. My girlfriend and I make it to a point to date somewhere at least twice a month. We've cooked a dozen things for the past three months, from soy-free vegan bitter black brownie truffles to roasted honey-mustard chicken with spinach salad on the side. We ate in this cheap Indian restaurant at U.N. Avenue, and in this vegetarian restaurant somewhere in Maginhawa, among others. It clearly isn't the parenthood we've thought which majors in bottle-shaking and diaper-changing, and I'm way too happy. She's reading Francois Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse while I'm two months delayed on the Martin Amis' Night Train review which should have been finished two weeks after this review (posted three days before my girlfriend labors in the hospital).

P.P.S. I didn't publish it back then. I was waiting for the right timing. Now I'm four months delayed with that Amis review.

Twin sisters

At times like these I think of Ridgefield Park and how my sisters would tune to Adele's CD and my father and I would roll our eyes with the songs. My niece sincerely loves Adele. My sisters, too. At some point, though, you get to know the lyrics and it grows in you. The car windows are rolled down and it's May. It's not that warm yet. I would have worn a long-sleeved shirt. At this Korean mart my father and I enjoyed a lot of free tastes of different kinds of kimchi. My sisters would buy the right kimchi for the right dish--say, seaweed for fried chicken, or cabbage and oyster kimchi on slow-cooked pot roast. Then at home my sisters have this television which seemed so advanced, the kind which can record television shows where you can pause and play any time, so even if we get home at 9PM we can still watch the 630PM Jeopardy and answer the wrong things and wished we won the Daily Double question; or the NBA Finals where I really tried not to care but even my father cared, and my sisters were fans of, and my niece cared a great deal about, where we rooted for Oklahoma City Thunders and cheered for Kevin Durant. I've never been that interested with NBA. It's viral enough when everyone watches the same thing on our sofas in our pajamas nibbling at Girl Scout cookies, which I absolutely liked. I would stroke Emma the three year-old pomeranian until she rolls over and begs my hands for a massage. It would smell like dog coat and fragrant shampoo. Then I would search for good museums to go to in Manhattan, and trace on the laptop screen with my fingers the right subway stop. I love the subways. I adore the alphabetical system, and the thrill of getting lost, and the guessing game it entails. In the mornings I would climb uphill with my father to the bus stop for the 955AM bus to New York. At Port Authority we would go to the subway, would traipse through Bryant Park and West 4th and Fifth Avenue without spending anything save for Sabrett or a fancy sandwich on a coffee shop next to Strand's Books while watching everybody spend everything, take pictures of everything, and take note of how the city breathes at daytime. We would wait for 5PM where my sisters would call it a day from their offices. We would dine in relatively cheap but good restaurants, some Turkish, some Korean, and almost all the time I feel my guts stretching from the bulk of what I've eaten, and the table would be all about the sushi and the tea and stories from college and graduation and what's next, how's the Philippines.

On reading deeper

A TRUE symbol is substantial, not accidental. You cannot avoid it, you cannot remove it. You can’t take the handkerchief from “Othello,” or the sea from “The Nigger of the Narcissus,” or the disfigured feet from “’Oedipus Rex.” You can, however, read “Ulysses” without suspecting that wood shavings have to do with the Crucifixion or that the name Simon refers to the sin of Simony or that the hunger of the Dubliners at noon parallels that of the Lestrigonians. These are purely peripheral matters; fringe benefits, if you like. The beauty of the book cannot escape you if you are any sort of reader, and it is better to approach it from the side of naivet? than from that of culture-idolatry, sophistication and snobbery. Of course it’s hard in our time to be as naïve as one would like. Information does filter through. It leaks, as we have taken to saying. Still the knowledge of even the sophisticated is rather thin, and even the most wised-up devils, stuffed to the ears with arcana, turned out to be fairly simple.

--from The Search for Symbols, a Writer Warns, Misses All the Fun and Fact of the Story, by Saul Bellow: The New York Times, February 15, 1959