Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One more reason I'm going to hell

Yesterday was a blast! The 32 kilometer drive from the office was a breeze, taking only 20 minutes or so, cruising along the expressway. Then, the "blast" ended, and I got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for the next 4 kilometers, for the whole of 3 hours. I tell you, it wasn't fun.

At first I thought, Hey, I'm close enough, what's a little crawl through the city? Then the first 30 minutes pass (or 200 meters, whichever you prefer), and I'm drowning in the irony of it all. I roll down my window and light up. After the first few puffs, the sky opened up and the rain fell, so much for a cigarette break.

Finally, I see the on-ramp to the main avenue which was the shortest distance to home. There should have been relief, this was after all a 5-lane highway, right? Of course, nothing was going to be easy, as the usually 2 lane on-ramp was suddenly transformed into a 3-lane parking lot. So I go the longer route, taking on an extra 3 kilometers, which took me another couple of hours to navigate.

Needless to say, the minute I got home, the bottle of whisky looked mighty fine.


As proof of my being a self-absorbed jackass, I texted a friend of mine about my miserable 3-hour ordeal that night, and when I learned that my friend was also stuck in traffic for the same amount of time through the same distance, I felt all the more bitter about it. No, this wasn't empathy, this was a case of feeling miserable for not being "the guy" who had the unique experience of suffering great odds and made it.

A bit vague? Well, let me put it this way, I'm the guy who would have felt miserable for not being the only hero honored with the Purple Heart. Yes, that is just how much of a sick, attention-seeking prick I am.

Here's how my twisted mind thought things would go: I'd text about what horrible injustices had just been done on my person by this evil, evil world, and my friend would feel terrible about it and heap praises upon me for putting up such a valiant fight and succeeding in the end. Facebook status updates would be put up on my behalf, the poets would draw inspiration from my victorious march into battle, and editorials would be written demanding that justice be given me for having to endure all this pain and suffering. They'd probably even rename the North Star for me, or maybe the Moon? Sailors from all across the oceans would look up in the sky and be guided by my name. Yes, all that ran through my psychotic little head as I fingered in that fateful text message.

Now that's vanity for you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A day in my non-working work trip

So here I am, at the summer capital, the city atop a plateau, freezing my nuts off in my hotel room. I'm supposed to be working, but whenever I'm here, I just lose it and go into vacation mode. I know, I should really be earning my keep especially since the company is paying for all my expenses while I'm here, but I just can't bring myself to function.

One thing that I've been doing plenty of since I got here, though, is watching the television. They've got the Discovery Channel, the one channel that has got me glued for hours on my ass while I'm watching it. (Of course, if there were a Playboy Channel here, then that would be an entirely different story) I've just watched an hour long special on World War 2 in Europe, and then another full hour on the Pacific Theater. After that, the guys from Mythbusters come along and before I know it, I missed a whole networking affair that I'm supposed to tag along to.

I wonder what my boss will say when and if he finds out?


It's a Friday night, I'm alone in a city teeming with bars and cheap beer, I've got a hotel room all to myself, and yet, I'm here writing this blog. Why? From my hotel room window, I can count 8 bars, in varying levels of sleaziness/classiness and my pick of alternative, pop, house, r&b, country (think John Denver) or classical music. (Classical is how I define the works of Elton John, Barry Manilow, Air Supply, et al)

Well, my first excuse is that I'm trying to detox myself from cigarettes and alcohol. I've only had like 5 sticks of cigarettes for the day and only 2 bottles of beer since Wednesday. Plus, those two bottles were half-heartedly drank because they were offered to me by my boss, a 73 year old man who could probably out-drink me. The second excuse is that the last time I went out drinking all by myself in this city, I ended up painting the town red with another dude who I had sort of picked up in a bar. Not gonna happen again, I hope. My last excuse, which is my least favorite, really, is that I need to lose a few dozen pounds.


This afternoon, after having watched too much television and realizing that I missed out on the cocktail party at the country club, I decided to don my running shoes and go for a walk. I didn't really know where I wanted to go, but thought that I just needed to get out of my hotel room for an hour or two.

It started out nicely, there's a little downward slope from the hotel to the park, which was a breeze. Then I tracked the jeepneys to the flea market and decided to take a look-see there. The whole building was occupied by these stalls of second hand or knock-off bags, shoes, jackets, shirts and various other stuff. I went around the market, then on to the second floor, then to the third, and was surprised that there was even a fourth floor! Of course, by the time I went up the third floor I had already decided that there was no way the city engineer would declare this building to be structurally sound and safe so I dared not go up another step.

So I went out and thought of going up the main avenue of the city.

Did I mention that the city was built on top of a mountain, and that all roads were either going up or down... steeply?

So I went up the main avenue, and found myself cramping up midway. This was just how badly out of shape I was. I tried to walk it off briskly, but it was really tightening up uncomfortably now that I had to stop and stretch out. This was when I realized that I had walked some distance and was now sweating. I had to make a decision, whether to go back or continue on to some random destination. I figured I might as well check out the mall, which was maybe a quarter of a kilometer ahead.

I limped up the slope and finally made it to the mall's entrance, where I felt the irony of craving for an ice cream when in the midst of the cool mountain air and while consciously trying to get my weight down. So I didn't get a cone, nor did I buy a smoothie which was the next best thing. I did grudgingly buy some bottled water and lit a cigarette.


The walk back to the hotel was quite surprising, now that I was finally able to sort of gauge how far I walked. It was probably a good 12 kilometers to and fro, not bad for an afternoon walk, without the ice cream. Of course, as soon as I got into my hotel room, I quickly slid into the familiar grooves on the bed and lovingly handled the remote control.

Some days, you just wish would never end.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fade to Black

Who remembers the movie "Airheads"?


I was scanning through the channels when the news came on, reporting that the end was nigh for DWNU-107, "The home of Nu Rock". That's just sad. A flurry of flashbacks suddenly swept over me, the earliest of which was being pressured by a neighborhood friend to listen to this rock and roll station because they were going to play some new wave music. Not really being much of a fan of rock music back then, (wow, the term 'rock and roll' just seems awkward, doesn't it?) I dismissed it as some trivial matter that was just there, in existence, with nothing to do with me.

Back then, I was listening to Elton John, Barry Manilow, Air Supply and the likes. Gay, I know. I was like 10, gimme a break.

Then, I discovered Nirvana. You know, Cobain and the other two guys. I could proudly say that I knew of them before anyone else in the country. This, I was fairly certain of because I was probably the only 14 year old who looked forward to getting his geeky hands on a copy of Newsweek magazine. There was this article, about a band in Seattle who was making a lot of noise (literally) and taking over the airwaves in American colleges and very possibly, drug dens. They even featured a photo of their album cover, a baby swimming toward a dollar bill. Cute. I wondered how they sounded like?

I was to know just under a year later, when I chanced on NU107 and serendipitously heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit", and freaked out our dog in the process. This led to my awareness of this angry new genre, something very different from Manilow, Introvoys, and a slew of bubblegum pop music and shoulder-pad clad boys that had been a staple of my sister's collection. I had found myself soaking in all this new music, provided by NU107 all day, and even back-tracked to acts like Metallica, Megadeth, Guns and Roses, Rage against the Machine, Skid Row, Led Zeppelin and ultimately the Beatles. Fights erupted, when my sister found that her precious Spandau Ballet albums had been recorded over with this "noise", directly laid down from the station's playlist. I'm pretty sure I was not the only kid who braved calling the station to request an Ugly Kid Joe song then patiently waited, with one finger on the record button, for them to play it 12 songs later so he could record it, complete with the DJ's intro and outro.

College came, and that particular station became some sort of anthem. There was this new found freedom, after all. To go to parties, get drunk until you got sick, skip class, smoke pot, hit on girls (which rarely went anywhere, though), and live life to the fullest. This was the time of our lives, and we all wanted to think that we were different, that we knew the secret to life, and that we were invincible. Wasn't this what rock music was all about? Going against the grain, being your own person, questioning the norm and rising above all those who listened to losers like the Backstreet Boys, N'sync and Westlife? NU107 wouldn't have any of these wimps, and neither were we. (Uhm, okay, so I did personally enjoy some of these wimpy songs as well. They're catchy, yeah?)

Then I hit the brick wall known as the real world, when the parents were no longer obligated to finance my penchant for alcohol, cigarettes, loose women, Top 40 t-shirts and acid washed jeans. I grudgingly took a job at minimum wage, and kept blaming "the man" for all my troubles. I went home to my tiny apartment, and found comfort in instant noodles and the words of the great philosophers: Coldplay, Parokya ni Edgar and Incubus at the temple of NU107. I was now part of the working class, struggling to survive and yearning for justice. Starbucks was a capitalist device to rid us of our birthright to cheap, honest coffee, and Apple was out to create mindless zombies with their iPods and other shiny gizmos.

Years pass, and I'm wearing leather shoes and chinos. Traffic is bad, so I pull over to a Starbucks to pass the time. I pull out my smartphone and check the news to see how far traffic is backed up. Then I hear the familiar call letters on the radio, it's NU107! I slouch further, relaxing while the aroma of a rich Amerikano wafts in the air. Wait, this song is familiar, it's one of those old Elton John and Barry Manilow songs from yore... only with harder riffs and a deeper bass. Then I realize, it's an "emo" song, being played by the "Home of Nu Rock". Then it's followed by another, and another, until I'm pretty sure the vocalist should have somehow killed himself already with all this tragedy.

Back in "the day", rock songs were about standing up to authority, sex, the odyssey of a hard life, poverty and injustice, and loads of sex. Now, some punk bawls and gouges his eyes out because his girlfriend didn't text him when she got home. Tsk tsk tsk. (Inside joke there, sorry dude, just couldn't resist! hehe) Compared to these guys, the Backstreet Boys looked pretty badass.

But who am I to pass judgement? I've sold out, and hardly listen to the radio these days. I'm back to playing Burt Bacharach and other standards, leaving all that rage and anger behind. Heck, I'd even go watch a Britney Spears or Kylie Minogue concert if they ever do come here, (not for the music, though) and I can sit through an episode of Glee! without having to squirm once. So I guess if I've changed, then the "Home of Nu Rock" would, too.


As I was driving to work today, I switched the radio to Channel 1 (yes, it has always been the first option when I do turn on the radio) out of curiosity. Faint static, all that's left of an era. Fade to black...

Is the sky falling?

Lately, there's this feeling of impending doom hanging over my head. Have you ever had that feeling? I mean, there's this pretty heavy chip on your shoulder but you can't put a finger on what it is, only that the shit is about ready to hit the fan anytime soon?

Right now, I'm officially attributing this ominous feeling to the "ber-months". There's just this inclination to make these times of the year the annual highlight that it actually gnaws at your being, pressuring you to make the most out of it. Don't get me wrong, it could very well be the case, if you're 8. The thought of your relatives handing you those big shiny coins (which are of no value at this day and age, by the way)and the adrenalin rush thinking about all those presents and toys you're about to get. But at this age, what's all the fuss about?

Then again, maybe it isn't about the holidays at all. Perhaps it's simply a case of bitterness.

What's to be bitter about, you ask? Well, recently I've installed this rad game in my PC. It works great, and I love it, but it keeps dying on me, the computer, not the game. My apartment's been having some electrical surges for a long time now, only this month, it seems to be getting way worse. It actually fluctuates so intensely that my computer reboots itself and all the lights go out for a second or two. That kind of intensity hasn't happened in the past, which makes me worried about the state of my electrical circuits for one, but more importantly, it's pretty frustrating when you have to save your game every 2 minutes.

Geeky huh?


Also lately, I've been thinking about getting into shape. Thinking about it, being the operative word, I haven't quite gotten around to doing anything about it. Things just keep getting in the way, like pizza and burgers and all sorts of sodium-filled, fatty, greasy food. The nicotine sticks aren't helping either. I'm all thinking about going for a jog when I get this urge to light up, so I do, and the next thing I know I'm reaching out for the whisky and plopping myself in front of this computer or the idiot box. It gets worse when there's something interesting on the boob tube, then the thought of breaking a sweat seems like a distant memory, almost a laughable suggestion by the few healthy cells I've left.


So my sister in Taipei has extended an invitation for me to crash over at her place if I'm indeed going there. This saves me a big pile of money for a trip there, money better spent in pursuit of cool electronic doodads which I hear are abundant and cheap in that city. So here I am, booked and scheduling an appointment at the embassy for a tourist visa.

If you'd recall, I'm scheduled for a trip to Hong Kong for the new year festivities. Then a month after, I'm set for another trip overseas. This is uncanny, as I've never even thought of getting a passport until 6 months ago. I wonder if 2011 will be the year of my attempt at circumnavigating the globe? Ok ok, I do realize that Hong Kong and Taipei are relatively within spitting distance when you say "circumnavigating the globe". Both trips don't even constitute a change in time zones! But you know, the farthest journey starts out with just one step, so I'm saying I'm on my way to actually going places.


Before you go on with your oohs and aahs... may I just say that I'm terrified of going out of the country. There's just this nagging feeling that I'm bound to make a mess of things and I might end up finding the bread crumbs all pecked away by crows. There's this special on National Geographic about being imprisoned abroad and it definitely isn't something that I should be watching when I'm about to go crossing borders for the first time in my life.

And another thing that's been on my mind, what the heck do I wear? Living in the tropics, all I've got is rain gear, at best. I've absolutely nothing for temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius, and traveling during winter might not bode well for me. I'm afraid of freezing to death, and then there's also the fear of bringing too much insulation. Fortunately, I've an opportunity to buy myself some really cheap pre-owned winter coats when I go up to Baguio in two weeks. I might as well snag myself some boots (with the fur) and a nice warm jacket. I wonder if ear muffs and gloves are necessary?

Monday, November 1, 2010

The universe is against me

It's almost an hour before I go out for a walk. Yes, walk. Sounds like something you take your dog out for on a lazy Monday afternoon, only during my walk, no one has to pick up after myself. This is the walk of a man who knows he's drunk too much alcohol and inhaled an awful lot of tar and nicotine. A feeble attempt to at least salvage an ounce of health.

Of course, I thought eating junk food and helping myself to some cigarettes before my walk is called for. Stupid, I know.


My walking buddy hasn't called or texted me yet if indeed, the walk is on. Maybe he's still asleep, after all he did consume as much alcohol and nicotine as I had this weekend. Or maybe he's just too lazy to. I know I would. I'm secretly hoping that he'd call the whole thing off, so he'd bear the guilt of reneging on our health deal. Then I could open a bottle of scotch and buy another half-pack of ciggies.


Hmm, in a serendipitous twist of fate, it rains. Surely this is a sign from on high that it's okay to cancel the walk. Somehow, it's all going to be okay so just lie down on the soft sofa, watch the idiot box and relax. There's nothing like the pitter-patter of raindrops to lull myself to sleep, and the sweet smell of the earth rises and blends in with the cool gentle breeze.

I'm pretty certain as to the walk's non-existence that I lay down in bed and snooze.


Now I'm all eaten up and guilty, because I promised myself a stupid walk and I couldn't keep it. I didn't even ask myself to jog because I know it'd be harder to keep, but back out from a walk? This is just pathetic, how lower could I possibly go?

And then I go call delivery. I guess it does go worse.

Well at least go for something healthy and all that, how about a salad? On the other hand, I'll bet it'll be all soggy and gooey by the time it gets here. Burgers? Pizza? Noodles? There just isn't enough healthy choices around here. Maybe I should just make myself some soup? However, I just realized how much preservative there must be in a pack of instant soup.

And in a stalemate, I text my sister to rustle me up some grub from the convenience store at the corner. She should be on her way home in an hour or so, might as well ask her to get a hotdog sandwich, hmm, maybe some dimsum while she's at it? That'd just be great with instant noodle soup.

Wait, why don't I walk over to the 7-11 myself? That's sort of a walk, all 50 paces of it, isn't it? Then I could also get my fill, right? It's just perfect, and a great way to multi-task! I'm just so smart!


If you guessed that I still didn't move, you'd be correct. I was going to, even made an effort to change my moth-eaten shirt, but the laws of inertia are just too hard to overcome, that's just how the laws of physics work. Who am I to go against the universe, right? So I texted my sister to just bring my food on her way back from work. And here I am, still in front of the computer, browsing through the fantastic collection they keep over at youporn.