Freeway Love Affair

Freeway Love Affair

Call it  “Intercity Freeway Romance“. That  winding line, intersecting and connecting cities; an enduring ingress to the hinterlands and sleepy commune, where the olden way’s is still the custom and where the usual and bizarrerie cross. More than a stretch of Tar-creased pavement, it’s an invite to the frontier, a figurative Hallway pass to tuck away our Blue and White collars for another time.

Quite paradoxical to disconnect to connect and be centered; ironic how we had built urban comfort and security to keep us in; like we’re birds that came looking for a cage.

Then we settle down. Build something from the ground up to last our lifetime, only to catch ourselves lost in a stare; gazing out from the spotless window of a car we had just bought – casting a long look at the cusp of the city limit’s and remembering that long overdue roadtrip to the north of nowhere that keeps getting shelved.

In the aftermost, finiteness catches on. All the things our hands built, our “legacy“, will wear and tear eventually. The road they say may seem limitless, but it end’s somewhere. And time blew on the roots we had planted firmly to the ground we owned and just like that, we are gone and forgotten. The ground knows us not anymore.

With this waking, we yearn for dirt and grit of the outlands. What was it like to live on the road? Riding to make a living, hitting waterholes to sell a gig on the side. Moonlighting and bootlegged moonshine.

A rolling stone without a dollar to my name, singing about the county blues – preaching about love, loss and bravery. Carrying on with the common folks and seeing a story of toil and struggle unfold everyday. Languish for the old and golden days where men get their hands soiled, pushing through unchartered regions and redefining boundaries and building settlements – showing off their pretty scars and telling it’s back stories.

—–unfinished—–

 

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Pub St.

I take the last train every night. The cityscape changed by the blanket of night and lighted billboards. From the train car window, rolling grilles are pulled down. I imagine hearing the drag and screech of the unfolding metal. This city is crumbling, way past its heydays. It had seen better days.

Abandoned mid-rise buildings that became the dwelling of untouchables, the out of caste, the lumpen, the low lives. Sometimes you will see light flickering from the broken windows – druggies. Was it muffled screams from the condemned buildings or was it just the bombinating sound of a passing jeep at this witching hour? It will be a dogging question until tomorrows headline.

It hasn’t rained for about a month now. Looking at the puddles on the street and wrinkling my nose from the awful stench. Leachate or excreta? Could be both. You will almost find it in every gutter. Scum creeping out of the sewer. Seems the city’s septic tank is starting to spill to the streets, like a bad wound festering. Everywhere you will see and smell decay. Soon as the Sun goes down, its a different territory. The night people emerges. I call them “Nightcrawlers”. They burrow in the ground at day, never letting the Sun see them. From their holes they squirm out at night; the prostitutes, the hustlers. They hang out at the edges of town, nibbling their way to the center, until nothing is left of this city but decomposing pulp.

It is a bad neighborhood, but I am drawn to it; like a lady with a story to tell. Each night I see them. The Lolita’s with their platform shoes and manicured nails. They smile while they hand me their fake I.D’s.

“A room for two”, “Only for the night”. A different companion and a different name each night. They came from different provinces. It is the same story for everyone. The promise of a good life. That the grass is always green at the other side of the fence. And then things turn sour.

 

 

 

 

My Boyish Days

My Boyish Days

Half past 3’ in the afternoon, when I decided to grab my trusted pack of poison, borrowed a friend’s cheap disposable lighter and head downstairs for a quick nicotine fix.

I was feeling a bit off since early morning, not helped by the fact that I am drilled down with deliverables and could not think straight or get myself in the zone for most part of the day.

With black clouds hovering above my head, and my two trusted companion in my chest pocket; I looked for a strategic spot outside the building’s entrance were none of my bosses could see me, and where no one could spoil my alone time.

Settled in, pulled out a cig and lit it – its bright ember glowed as I teased it.

Breathe in and breathe out. Huffed and puffed. More than a vice, smoking is a self understood ritual for me. It exorcises my everyday anxieties and helps me get that semi crabby – semi focused state.

Watching the fumes hang gracefully in the humid air, my mind floated and bend. Recollections exhumed from the inner sanctum of my mind, were forcefully dragged into my consciousness; disappointments and mistakes in their lovely guise – gyrated and contort with fierceness, the message both beautiful and sad, persuading me to look back.

* Common knowledge views memories as events that had unfolded and came to pass. However, I would like to think that memories are realities that still exist outside of us. Although we believe that these events had concluded, it is still actually happening simultaneous with our conscious reality. It may very well be, that life as we know it and as we experience it, is already a concluded affair. Though still to be proven, we may just be ghost’s re-enacting series of events or a humble character in a collective reality.

Somehow, in between my musing and smoking; I found my right foot holding its ground to what I regard as apparent reality, while my left foot was caught over stepping in another reality – a hypothetical threshold to a vivid recollection, a parallel reality where an earlier version of me unknowingly participates his part without any idea that he is bound to repeat the same event, action and situation ad infinitum.

Inside that recollection, I had taken the role of a silent observer, and maintained my lucidity and balance while watching in retrospect how things had played out. Watching from the vantage of a trussed window of my former elementary classroom; Ms. Miranda popped the question “What’s in a name?” to her 5th grade class on the first day of school. Innocuous as the question is, my good teacher failed to think that the underlying existential connotation of her question would be haphazard to the mental health of my mop topped, chubby cheeked, boyish days version.

I am one of those that believes that everyone can’t be on the same page all the time, as factoids are subjective to our biases and interpretation; we find ourselves not more than once; confused, perplexed or simply having a different take and understanding on certain matters and concerns.

Following this train of thought, my teacher could just be simply trying to get a different message across to her student, which unfortunately was far from what my handy cerebral cortex had received and interpreted.

The question she had dished out had tipped me off, and although it was a slow dragging progression before I came to realize this; the inquiry Ms. Miranda had posited that morning had posed as the central conflict and theme of my growing years. Actually, the weary it gave me is comparable to a festering wound which refuses to heal or an accursed folk hagridden by an evil eyes’ curse, and it is only fitting that in a series of hazy serendipitous events, I was able to visit my former self from a former time. With the benefit of hindsight this time, I was able to digest the presented situation not with singularity and traced its connection to other events in my life

Where to go? Where did I come from? What will I amount to?

It seems finding meaning in a cause and effect world is futile, and any attempts to understand and give meaning to our situation and quandary will only result to further confusion and exasperation.  But like Sisyphus, we find meaning not in the world but in our day to day struggle and toil. Pushing our own boulders up that hill everyday would seem pointless at times, and we are left without choice but find passion to what we view as absurd – rage even if it is in vain, rage even if the lights had been put out.

For someone who is devoted to romantic ideals, accepting that the world is Absurd is a hard and difficult resolution, but one that is necessary in order to survive and remain existing. Though some may regard this approach as Philosophical Suicide, it would really depend on your perspective of things. At this point, I am still a work in progress, trying hard to impose my will and motivation to a world without reason. But I am no different than anyone, and that my only consolation is the thought that in an alternate reality; a version of me is living in a more congenial time.

For now, only 3 things are eminent; I have to quit my smoking habit, I had exceeded the allotted time for my Yosi break, and I need to get back to my station and quit day dreaming before my boss fires me.

Disillusioned

“I am Adrian’s short-circuiting Brain”. Sounds familiar? It is, if you happen to sit through the big screen adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s anti-establishment novel, Fight Club.

What’s with the retrospective episode? Pretty much nothing. Probably my proclivity to quote absurd movie lines is kicking in once more. I have tons of it neatly tucked somewhere between the ridges and wrinkles of my Brain. It does come in handy on certain occasions, like that conversational centerpiece in your yuppie Yin Yang coffee table. Just the right timing to squeeze it in your banter and people would think your high browed, interesting, and complex – much more effective than the borrowed Facebook status you post in your virtual wall.

On second thought, everything is at least inspired by something. In this case, that stimulus might be the movie’s closing scene. Tyler Durden watches in a vantage the choreographed demolition of financial buildings, his back at the camera with a big probability of a trip hop song drilling in his head. Actions conveys a certain depth of emotion and it was sheer brilliance letting the camera fade to capture in full screen a man watching the collapse of an idea in high definition.

So, what is the point elaborating camera focus and scene attack? Snob appeal and the opportune to rub into people’s psyche that you know things that they don’t, and that you can churn a narrative of concepts they babble trying to express.

Coherence and progression has been my itch these past months and that speaks a lot about the state of my mental health.

With a Zippo in my right hand, I flicked it in true Hollywood style. “I am Adrian’s dried well of originality,” said a tired whisper.

In front of me is what seems to be a representation of a thing my hand and heart created, doused and soaking in Gas, ready for the first kiss of tinder.

I was just waiting for the perfect angle, the same zoom out effect for y’all to see how my creation jumps into fire, while you watch to see my nefarious silhouette doing my jiggy.

An afterthought walloped me off guard. What sway or command do I have on what I had created? Can I cast my mind and heart work to ashen oblivion without a tinge of conscience or longing? Would it be arousing to hear the cursive wails while I stare down the beauty of combustion, reducing beauty to soot – pure disillusion.

Now that it has life of its own, what steadfast will must I have to neglect it and take away what I had given? Did I really give a part of me or am I just a mere effort to birth it? Would I miss that part of me, possibly haunt my sleep or manifest itself in the form of unbearable nostalgia? Must I shut my eyes and see forever its wanted visage? Oh my cruel spectre!

My fascination now has turned into the sourest of feelings. This creation of mine had just turned into an object I could look at without seeing. A mere shadow of its former self, the former self I am having trouble perceiving.

That 80’s Show

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It was but another scorching lazy afternoon, and I am itching and begging for something to do. My loooong college soiree’ is over and no more Childs play for me (sadly) and its time to do my own spring cleaning. Two months had already elapsed since I graduated from school (sigh of relief!) that fateful October day, still I can’t find anyone willing enough to compensate me for the labor I am selling (the lamest salesman of the world).

Most day’s I’m fine being an inutile frame, a gourmand tagged with a yellow neon sticker at my back, which says ‘NOT OPERATIONAL’ – passing time without a purpose, inactive and shiftless just like a breathing wallpaper. But today just doesn’t count, my Brain is ranting for recreation!

It’s amazing what dog days can do to you; first, you’ll hate the wearisome sameness, develop a liking for it (monotony), before you even knew it you’re a nutcase spending time at the Cuckoo’s nest. Being counter productive kinda grows on you; I just wanna do away with social circles and pointless chit-chats of gobbledygook, unlearn my own ethos and credos – and just shy away from Babylon. Come to think of it, nothing is wrong with laziness and boredom, it is after all an artists gift and an inventors inspiration (or am I just justifying my present quandary?), and besides being stationary I found out is a good way to conserve energy.

Can you blame me? Nothing is new and there is no alternative. I have already exhausted my means and dulled my thoughts. I ran out of stories to write and Kafkaesque plot to make – perhaps diagnosed suffering from imagery drought.

I’m down with my last cigarette and ineffably on my usual pensive and bored self, languidly staring at the blankness of our white ceiling – not in the mood for my existential qualms nor for metaphysical reasoning’s, no point sublimating my predicament. I was in this oblivious state, sitting on a reclusive repose while having an earful of Jeff Buckley’s lament, when something at the corner of my eye picked my attention. Turning my head sideways, I saw it innocuously silent, staring back at me. I was instantly enlightened (only thing missing is the Boddhi tree), under the spell of a century old mantra.

Then I turned on the Television. Pandora’s Box was opened.

Click. Noontime show. Click. Another Noontime show. Click. Home T.V shopping.

These days Television has sold out to banality and looking for something fresh and informative at the same time is nearing impossible – dull entertainment is not even entertaining anymore. Still unfazed in my relentless channel surfing (at this point I would even gladly settle for an African telenobela!), when I stumbled upon a local UHF station which airs Pinoy movies at Siesta time.

Click. They are playing a teenage adventure/thriller flick from the 80’s. It starred the young Herbert Bautista, in his typecast role as a high school student wearing his big round glasses in an anorak fashion – it also featured Lea Salonga (before the Miss Saigon fame). Inexplicably, it tickled my fancy and for reasons that elude me, the movie amused me. I was suddenly drawn to what I was watching, that is ‘POPCORN LITERATURE’ and in an idiosyncratic sense I was enamored with this visual stimulus.

‘I loved the idea, that what you see was taking place somewhere else at the same time’, me and Jim Henson share the same fascination and dumbfounded air with the Boob tube – how it capture moments in millimeter and perpetuate periwinkle skies thru negatives. Then, happening without a warning, I found myself lost in a reverie of bazooka bubblegum and flying Love Buses, falling into a hypnotic swirl of black, white, and nostalgia – I ended up waking in the 80’s.

FLASHBACK!

I practically grew up in suburban Manila and had a relatively normal childhood living with relatives, in our vivid community teeming with low and medium, shady and colorful characters – not a day passes without the hullabaloos of kibitzers and cheerful din of topless children running around, beating their sticks to a rolling tire. It’s a Wonderland! A wacky symbiosis of people subjecting one another to endless vexation.

Back then, I wake up everyday to the crackling sound of Lola’s A.M radio. Groping in the near darkness of our dim lighted den, I start my descend while being accompanied by the aroma of Kapeng Barako. Down the staircase is an idyllic picture of simple living, smorgasbord of scrambled eggs, Tuyo , and smoldering Sinangag (fried rice) under the faint light of an old Capiz lamp shade. I always find Lola sitting at the dinning table and reading scriptures, while she waits for my sleepyhead to and buy her ‘from-the- Pugon Pandesal’. Normally, I’m not fond of eating breakfast and being up at 4 in the morning! But I always get a lofty feeling whenever I think about the forthcoming buzz of the day ahead , of people suiting up for the rat race, and of lives existing in sync with mine.

The bakery (known for their Pandesal) is a good 3-4 blocks of cold walk. Tiring? Yes! But I won’t pass up the opportunity to see the first red streaks manifesting, slowly breaking thru the darkness – my version of a hand painted sky. It’s a Sociology class out there, a kaleidoscope of personalities, many are already working on their dream, some still asleep, perhaps still dreaming?

After heading back from my salted bread escapade, I would be listening to the morning news in anticipation of class cancellation – a good way to spoil your day is to wish for the improbable to happen, like a presidential decree suspending class to eternity or a signal no.5 storm on a Summer Day. After the agonizing wait, chances are these kinds of announcements never come, and it is a heart wrenching thing to pack my sesame street lunch box and be heading for school.

My naïf summer vacations are spattered and littered with tarnished photographic recollections of acid wash jeans, spray nets, topsiders, and banana yellow wardrobe – a cheerful reminiscent of things that had passed. During the length of the Summer Break, our uncles and aunties used to take us out (me and my cousins) for the scheduled weekdays ‘Pasyal’. The whole Luneta milieu was a big hit for kids at that time, as we spend the whole afternoon picnicking, eating dirty ice cream, frolicking in the fields, and watching balloons – awed by their freedom from the ground. At night we would take a glimpse of scenic Manila, the glimmer of the traffic and the glistening city lights, atop the Metro Co.Tour bus (a bus which only has seats on its rooftop). On serene and breezy evenings, we visit local movie houses in Paco and watch comedic B-movies (baduy movies, no pun intended) just for the fun of it. After the occasional late night story telling sessions, we would be heading to the nearest ‘Panciteria’ (for no reason at all) to satisfy our whims or just pig-out.

Shhhhhhh.The sound of the White noise crept into my consciousness, like water pouring into the drain, it seems that the network is having some technical difficulty – the Then was fast forwarded to the Now in a jiffy, 80’ to 2006. For hours I was transfixed to nothingness, apparently a vis-à-vis with that rectangular vacuum.

I found out that 80’s poop culture was just used to pigeonhole the market, and that era is just a Betamax tape lying in some novelty store. But I like to believe that the past is happening simultaneous to the present that in some time and space concurrent to ours, Herbert and Lea are still teenagers baffled with adolescent problems, dancing in the disco to a Kylie Minogue tune.

South Town

My wandering has led me south of Manila, in search of a temporary rural base. Far from the unforgiving heat and noise of the city’s busy quarters.

I like the gentle ease that is this town. The early morning and late afternoon drizzle and the moss that grows on the walls of small back alley houses. An old town where you take it easy. It is not uncommon to see children looking after small stalls and family stores. Sometimes going around town peddling rice cakes and garden picked vegetables. Sunday is a busy day. It is where you see folks sweeping fallen leaves from their yards at the crack of dawn. The weekly market fair opens early in the morning and it is where you get to see a wide variety of goods in the morning  haze; be it exotic honey combs taken from the mountains or your choice of air dried or smoked fish.

I am thinking of something to write home about. Life on the road is not hard as they say it is. I am no longer that dog who chases his tail around. Going in circles until it gets dizzy. I meant to talk about where I am at the moment. The solace I found. Where my tired feet led me this time. A curious place where the grass don’t grown high and the locals nibble Beetle nut that induces a state of idle stupor; making their eyes heavy – thoughts wandering.

The decision to nestle in the countryside was a step back. A retreat from the buzz of the inner city. A constant squally sweeping the metropolis, deluding it’s dwellers with a constant barrage of information and overbearing sound. Every patch of real estate, mounted with billboards – unmarked spaces are covered overnight with propaganda.

I had taken a job at a local radio station and holed in a studio like apartment, just above the owner’s place. A nice lady retired from teaching in one of the town’s school.

 

The Blue Note

jazz_trumpet_by_uraszz-d4ojw61The Blue Note

The Blue Note. A rustic bar reminiscent of Parisian street-side cafe’s and nooks covering glossy lifestyle magazines. A water hole for mid-earners with discriminating music taste; with just enough dough to spend on a weekend jam and booze. Endeared to its regular patrons for its old charm and liquid selection which a true blue Bon vivant would fancy. Rhum, Whiskey, Brandy, Beer and brewed coffee for the gentleman connoisseur.

A billing in the chalkboard with the featured performer of the night stands at the entrance.

“Performing Tonight!”

Pablo Comandante

Comandante is a sleeper. Always floating under the radar. His name is proverbial in the small circle of Jazz enthusiast in Manila. Seldom performs crowds and prefers hole in the wall joints where he can retire in an obscure corner after his set to watch the next musician; before quietly dissipating and leaving an emptied glass of brandy behind and water rings on the table.

He rarely sticks to a place, blitzing from one hub to the next in his vintage cream colored Italian Vespa. Cris-crossing traffic and making a bee line from gig to gig at his whim, and not without yelps and curses from irked drivers.

The enigmatic Comandante. A true boss. The face of a drifter. The chairman of the board. Just over the age of 30 but acknowledged by the old firm like he belonged to the same era of pride and glam. Of men wearing Fedora’s and brandishing varnished cane, fat Ilocos cigar and preened mustache. He plays wherever he likes, busking at busy streets and train stations or to wherever place he can park Rudy (his moped);  touting his Sax like it is a the mother of all Barrel Machine Guns.

Pablo is a regular at the Blue Note. A performance slot is open every-time he drops for a visit. Tonight, Rudy is at the usual allotted parking slot near the entrance; while Comandante takes center stage.

Eyes fixed and ears dusted.Glasses rested in coasters and clever fingers playfully circled whiskey tinged mouth. Lights were dimmed and the tepid stage light scrutinized Pablo’s every move. He only knows his own time and follows his tempo.That mechanical ticking he only hears, that off beat tiempo.

He start to play an improvised tune. His Sax transitioning from weep to moan.