Thursday, July 26, 2007

It's Beginning to end Back again

After 3 months of traveling on the Asian continent, I went back to the Philippines, spent a week in Manila and then flew north to see my parents. I didn't call before hand, I just showed up, which I used to do when I would visit them in LA. (sometimes noone would be home and I'd spend hours sitting in the backyard since I no longer had a house key.) I arrived in Laoag just before noon. From the Laoag airport I took a jeepney to the city center and then took a tricycle to another Jeepney that would take me to Solsona.

The last time I had taken a Jeepney, I was 12, just about to enter junior high school, the 6th grade, vacationing in the Philippines for a month with my mom. I remember accompanying my mother one afternoon to Laoag to find My uncle Ninong's second wife. My uncle Ninong was living in eagle rock and he could barely support his first wife let alone his second wife and her kids. On some street bustling with tricycles, some seedy looking building we knocked on a door that seemed so close to the street that an errant wheel would clip the door jamb. A woman in her forties came out and maybe I remember small children peeking out from behind her. I remember she looked sad and tired, telling us the eldest was sleeping on the streets. My mother gave her dollars. I remember afterwards her telling me, in response to some unspoken question "...if you only knew what it was like to be hungry, to not know where your next meal was coming from." She was 9 or 10 during the Japanese occupation. She never spoke much about those times. She had a hard life and would only tell me about when I did something especially awful and disrespectful as a kid. A different take on the usual parental posturing, "When I was your age we didn't even have a home, we had to flee the city because of all of the bombs..." I can't recall that my father had any harrowing war time stories. I just remember how he never forgot how to count in japanese.

When I arrived at the Laoag airport, the skies were overcast. It was coming on the rainy season. The rain began in earnest as soon as I got off the jeepney and walked the last 2 blocks to the house. My mom was alone eating lunch in front of the television. "Why are you back again," she asked.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I beckon to beguile again

my mother trying to stab my father with a kicthen utility knife from a 99 cent store.

I remember now that this anger had its roots years ago. I may still have been in school. my dad was alone in the philippines, either attending someones funeral or someone's one year death anniversary when the immediate family is required to wash in the river, signaling the end of black clothing and the ending of mourning, or maybe it was someone's wedding. my mom was calling him everyday to make sure he wasn't cavorting with some young thing, and I remember trying to calm her over the phone, she said she was so angry she could murder him, she asked me what she should do because so much anger wasn't good for her already high blood pressure. I told her to write a letter or keep a journal, which she did, I don't remember if this helped or just convinced her further of the righteousness of her murderous impulses.

While I was in the philippines this last spring, during the campaign speech of an incumbent senator, the photogenic young politician claimed that Ilocana women--his wife being from this province--are the most beautiful women in the country but don't get them angry because they are also the fiercest. Everyone laughed because they knew this to be true.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's Beguiling to be back again

One afternoon or maybe it was late morning, some day in January, Solsona, ilocos Norte, my mother made good on her promise to stab my father in the back. She was murderous mad, mad about possibly the money he took from her bank account, closing out the savings she began when she was a young single teacher in Manila, or maybe he was openly texting or calling his chix on his cellphone in front of her, in front of everybody, playing her for a fool. She took one of the 99 cent store knives we brought over from the states and waddled to the front yard where my dad was gabbing with the women helpers, maybe getting his swollen feet massaged. I followed along behind her to see how far she would get. When they saw her wielding the knife, at first they cackled and told my dad that he better flee, then they told me to get the knife from her. The neighbors across the street, one of them a policeman looked on--they'd probably seen this show before--I was amazed how strong my mother's hold was, she had quite a death grip on that knife.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Gray Gray Hereafter

Yesterday, I thought Spalding Gray spoke to me from the dead. The IFC channel that afternoon aired the 1991 film adaptation of his monologue, Monster in a Box. I had never seen it. Probably in the early nineties I thought I was too cool to see it, maybe I thought I was over his Jewy-Waspy salingeresque, breakdowns already then an echo of some other gotham fading into fiction, making way for Carrie Bradshaw and the Guliiani years; maybe I was feeling the pull of the nascent, newly branded generation x, thinking all baby boomers were souless vampires; most likely I was in the thrall of a polemical-hate-the-white-man mode, and who more to get ethnic-studies on than some neurotic new england transport spinning anecdotes about LA on the eve of the Rodney King riots. For whatever reason, I never saw Monster in a Box. But I remember liking swimming to Cambodia and the stuff he did for American Playhouse (remember when PBS really was a bastion of the left, trying to revive old lefty institutions like american theater?) I forgot how compelling his logorrhea, his blathering sublime could be. I was making dinner, frying up chicken and zucchini and eggplant for parmigiana, so was only half listening to the monologue when I caught the bit about some high school student asking him what David Letterman was like. I thought oh my god he's talking about Ms. Jester's guidance/career-counseling class I think my sophomore or junior year in high school. Ms. Jester, who looked kind of like Dianne Keaton and had the same penchant for drawing out her sentences in dreamily sibilant whispers, taught guidance and I'm not sure what else maybe social studies. She was schooled in the pedagogy of all aging-hippies and yippies turned teachers: she was your friend and confident first and your ill-prepared, burned-out teacher second, I remember her T.A. for our class was some pale, jet-blacked, punk, sporting suspenders dangling from the seat of his ass-tight dickies and probably had t-shirts for corrosion of conformity or econochrist. (To her credit, Ms. Jester was the only teacher who gave us the straight shit when Mr. Cholandria our history teacher took sick halfway through the year, she told us the truth, that he was dying from ARC as it was called back then) Ms. Jester as it turns out was a childhood friend of Spalding Gray's and so one day brought him into class. I think I was the only one in class who knew who he was. Later he had us write down question's on index cards. I think that was my question, what was David Letterman like, having just seen him on Late Nite plugging what I can't remember. To my question I remember him giving some curt, cursory response like "oh, yes, Letterman was great," and I thought maybe he was snubbing me for thinking I was better than everyone else in the class for actually being familiar with his work. In Monster in a Box, Spalding Gray says that he had wanted to tell the students that Letterman was actually really great, that Letterman treated him very well and made him feel important, like a real downtown artist. Turns out I was wrong, the reference wasn't to me at all. I rewatched the segment this morning when IFC re-aired it. I had missed the part about him being in Russia for a film festival, running into high school students from West Chester, NY at the Hermitage, and a few of them recognizing him and asking him about David Letterman. How disappointing. Then I remembered that that wasn't even my question. I had asked him a different question. That was my friend's question, probably Salvador Covarrubias who thought Letterman was the fucken funniest thing. My question as I remember it now was even more of an obnoxious, wise-ass, name dropping question: I asked Spaulding Gray what it was like working with Jonathan Demme who made his first film Swimming to Cambodia--and I do remember him glossing over my question, muttering "he was great" under his breath, as if to say "I drive all the way out here to the east side, way past the 110 freeway which itself is way out of bounds of my comfort zone, I expect to talk to some real LA kids who along with their parents probably have nothing to do with film or television, and you throw me another fucken industry question, balls to that!" Oh well, Spalding Gray, I hope the afterlife hasn't calmed your neurosis. I hope that you blather on eternally, forever digress discomfitingly , world without end.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It's Beginning to unbuckle again

1/9/07 Like most days, I stay at home with my mom and watch television. Periodically she'll wake up from her half-sleep and tell me to turn off the television--it's been on all day and there's nothing to watch. I wonder now if at the time I realized how much it was like regressing to being at home on vacation from year-round school, spending all day watching tv, or home for the summer from college, spending all day aimlessly with my parents, the comfort and the lethargy.

in the morning I watch news coverage of the 400th anniversary of the Feast of the Black Nazarene. In the Quiapo district of metro Manila today, there will be a huge procession, a replica of the black nazarene on top of a platform hoisted on the shoulders of maybe fifty men, all the streets along the procession crowded with devotees, pilgrims some from the states walking along barefoot in the streets, young men, impassioned and foolish in their youth trying to surf the crowds to get on top of the platform to cop a feel of the replica of the black nazarene--this simple act would enoble and charm the remainder of their ordinary lives.

I think to myself, how special, what serendipity, that I'm here in the Philippines on the 400th anniversary of the feast of the black nazarene, albeit 500 miles north of the action. I feel special for being here. Is this me trying to console myself because I don't want to be here?

They have changed the parade route anticipating even larger crowds. In previous years people have been trampled to death. I wished I was there, but then again not really, manila traffic is already a mess so I can't imagine what it's like today--hallowed ground where jeepneys fear to tread.

My dad left the house early in the morning for who knows where after a brief but dramatic scuffle with my mom--a routine argument probably over my dad's philandering, escalating to shoving and slapping and the help yelling for them to stop, aren't you ashamed, they scold my dad after he lamely boxes my mom with his fat hands and flabby arms, acting like this in front of your son, my mom just laughs sardonicaly and tells my dad to leave and not come back, maybe she also tells him she hopes he gets in a car accident and dies.

Later that afternoon on the local cable station they inexplicably air the first movie of the Russian vampire trilogy Nightwatch and I am excited because I remember reading an article about this very movie.

The next morning my mother, my father and I eat breakfast and happily watch Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina as if nothing out of the ordinary happened the previous morning.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It's Beguinning to and Back again

New Year's Eve 2006. Waiting at the Philippine Airline's Gate at LAX for our evening flight. It's already been a trial checking in all our fifty pound balikbayan boxes full of coffee, spam and kitchen knives from the 99 cent store and then getting my dad to waddle to the waiting area for an airport wheelchair to get him to the gate. I'm trying to mellow out, I call friends on the phone to wish them a happy new year and let them know I'll be out of the country indefinitely. My father strikes up a conversation with a filipino couple who, like my father, were brought in on wheelchairs by the airport staff, the husband is wearing a rather ratty knitted cap and looks like he's been sick and has been forced into early retirement, his wife on the other hand looks to be in good health, she's probably in her mid to late 60s but she could pass for someone in her late 40s (that radiant Moreno skin--no bain de soleil for this san tropez tan, bitches). So my father and the couple bond over their decrepitude-ness. Naturally they move on to the topic of their children. My sons, my father claims, refuse to send me money. The woman looks over at me, not quite a reprimand, her face doesn't change from the same put-upon, long-suffering look that she came in with, a favorite mask for many a filipino mother. I try to explain to her that me and my brother can't send money fast enough to cover my dad's spending. that's nothing, she says, you know what our son did? My son and his wife connived to steal our house. they convinced us to put the house in my son's name and then you know what he did, he evicted us, his own parents. talagang salvaje. So now we've had enough and we're going back to the Philippines.

In the Philippines old people are worshipped like saints, honor them well and your crops will not be ruined, your children will make lots of money, all your endeavours will reach a bounteous fruition.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

It's Beginning to and Back again

I've been back from SE Asia for a month now. Back in clusterfuck Los Angeles, the woolybully, local-slo-motion of Long Beach. According to a podcast of WNYC's radiolab I just listened to our memories are actually physical manifestations, a construction of proteins. Scientists agree that filing cabinets are terrible metaphors for the mechanism of memories. The act of remembering is an act of recreation, there is no pristine, endlessly retrievable databank. When we remember we reconstruct, an intepolation of things past, calling into play the vagaries of the senses and the imagination, so that with every act of recollection, the original experience is changed irretrievably

At the snout end of this year of the pig, when I was in the Philippines for a month and a half, I brought with me Proust's Swan's Way, an old linen-bound, yellowing, edition that I had picked up from the Oakland library's downtown book store. I packed this brick of a book, thinking that in my forced convalescence I would finally get through it (so I could read onward--I've been trying to learn delayed gratification-- to the books with the S and M that Maria told me existed.) I managed to read most of the book, but with a fevered incomprehension, having long since discovered that only a certain clarity of prose and the assistance of caffeine or nicotine leads to that optimal comprehension and retention, like watching an engrossing spot of television.

Did you know that Proust was a neuroscientist?

Now at the fulcrum of the year, the lowest point of the belly of the year of the pig, I will try to retrieve from across the ocean of water and time, some things both ghastly and wonderful that bear repeating, things that maybe I tried to record in my notebooks, almost illegible scrawls mostly reading things like: this fucken sucks or it was alright. I remember it like it was right now.