"I wanted to drive home real fast and get Rita and bring her back to see everything - the dogs, the brittle light, the fuzzy air - but I figured by the time we got back it'd all be gone." 
from Driver, by Frederick Barthelme

Brewing

Tonight: a cup of freshly brewed coffee. My son was playing around with his "laptop": a Leap Frog device for children, the letters corresponding to animals and sounds. My brain is hardwired not to forget a single work-related task or to-do, not to let an e-mail slip, or an issue forgotten. Now I've committed to myself to get one of two PowerPoint decks done. To remind myself about this, I've sent an email last Friday entitled, in all caps: WEEKEND WORK.

Homes

There is nothing beside the familiar
doormat to get excited about, yet when one goes out in loose weather
the change is akin to choirs singing in a distance nebulous with fear
and love. Sometimes one’s own hopes are realized
and life becomes a description of every second of the time it took;
conversely, some are put off by the sound of legions milling about.
One cultivates certain smells, is afraid to leave the charmed circle
of the anxious room lest uncommitted atmosphere befall
                                                    and the oaks
are seen to be girdled with ivy.

For ten pesos at Booksale Calamba I went home clutching John Ashbery's Flow Chart in a brown bag. I liked the fact that it was challenging enough to discourage me from finishing it. It needed patience. It needed a pencil, a cup of coffee and cigarettes. An afternoon. It needed to be whispered, read aloud, mulled over. It needed to be read and reread. I'm ninety percent sure I haven't gone past fifty pages, and a hundred percent sure I've read the first ten pages about ten times already. A lot of words and phrases stick: "mitred, glint"; "the sky milk-blue and astringent"; "oh my friend that knew me before I knew you"; "I never knew such happiness. I never knew such happiness could exist". A phrase even made it as one of those pretentious personal email signatures:

the world’s colored paths all lead
to my mouth, and I drop, humbled, eating from the red-clay floor.
And only then does inspiration come: late, yet never too late.

Experience

The first pancake cooked is the worst pancake.

Alaska



The time was around 5AM. It was one of those rare Saturday mornings when I woke up really early to catch the bus to Bulacan for the weekend. I was sitting by the bus window as it sped its way through SLEX. There it was: the glum sky, the scenes still and blue and cold, that slim limbo: the slow minutes that sits between after dark and before sunrise. When this song played on my iPod Shuffle (fourth-gen turquoise, the kind that can be clipped virtually anywhere: on my duffel bag's handles, on my shirt sleeve) I felt it was just perfect, a description of how every second unfolds: the distant echo of the guitars, the chill of the vocals, the tentative tempo, still undecided on whether to get up or sleep, stay or leave. (I close my eyes and imagine mugs on the apartment floor. My feet would feel the cold. I tiptoe and try not to wake her up. Or maybe she went home on a Friday night?) There were probably seven people in the bus, all lulled to sleep by the rough ride.

The answer

Somewhere in a conversation with my three year-old son he was making up a story about people dying in the pool where he was taking his swimming classes in. It wasn't morbid at all--he was just goofing around the way kids his age do. Then I asked him: What happens when people die? What he said was something simple and true: "They close their eyes... and then they won't see anything."

Local country teams

All wars are fought twice: once on the battlefield and again in memory.
- from Nothing Ever Dies byViet Thanh Nguyen 

Kimmari

At a quaint Korean restaurant we were served with kimmari: chapchae jammed in nori, dipped in flour, deep-fried and served with sesame and soy sauce. The result was crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Classic comfort food made out of leftovers. Delicious, and would probably go well with beer the way onion rings do. Then a plate of dongkatsu with pork-and-beans sauce, and omurice with banana ketchup playfully squeezed as topping. Typical banchan: buchujeon and homemade kimchi that's also sold separately, in a fridge with the sign KOREAN BEVERAGES, stacked with bottled juice and, surprisingly, face masks. Much later: sweet and spicy tokpokki served with sliced cheese originally meant for sandwiches.

The fare was mom-and-pop pedestrian, even anti-gourmet. The meals felt like they were fixed and prepped by a harried Korean mother for her kids, like these should have been in someone's lunch box tomorrow. The service, however, was warm and convivial: a kowtow as a sincere apology for a mistake in our order; three slices of cool watermelon offered as an afterthought. The funny thing was that the harried mother who ran the place also had the same watermelon slices at the other table, although hers were lined up in a long plate, all ten to twelve pieces, all the while talking on the phone in Korean, Pepsi within arm's reach, waiting to close shop. By then we knew we would come back, probably to try their signature rice burgers (which I thought were too indulgent) and ice cream in their chest freezer, or just to say hi.