Saturday, December 27, 2008

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Grown Up Dear Santa Letter

Dear Santa,

I never believed you existed. You see, I'm Pinoy. We do not have you or the idea of you until we were colonized by the Americans. Even then, I couldn't believe in you. Here is why I thought you could not be real:

1. You go down the chimney to leave your presents. We never lived in a house that had a chimney.
2. You ride a sleigh that flying reindeer pull across the sky. No known species of reindeer can fly.
3. You deliver all the gifts on Christmas Eve. Well, in the Philippines we stay up all night on Christmas Eve. We never see/hear you come.
4. I've been deliberately bad some years, and I still get presents at Christmas.

I'm seeing a lot of your movies again lately. It seems to me that if you are real, you only go to the US. Maybe if you spent less time hanging out at the malls or the street corners outside of the malls in the US, you would have more time delivering your presents and not cram all of it in one night. Don't you think that makes sense?

There's more than 2 billion children all over the world. Take away the ones who've been naughty, and you might still have about a billion. With that many children to shop for, you must get the presents mixed up a lot. I have personally received gifts I never asked for and therefore, didn't like.

Now that I'm all grown up, I don't think there's anything I want that I can't buy for myself. Nope, what I want can't be bought. So what's the sense asking you, right? It's not something that you can wrap up and a put a ribbon on. It's not something you can stuff in a Christmas stocking.

But still, it's worth one more try. Dear Santa, I'm in the US this Christmas. If you only have time to get around here, then maybe you can squeeze me in. I've been bad this year, but I've been good too, so maybe we can just call it quits? And say I've been OK?

Hope you'll have time to check your email for this letter. Maybe you should get yourself a Blackberry this year...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Remembering Coffee

I sometimes have to fight the temptation to move all my other writings from The Coffee Chronicles to this blog. But let's leave to coffee what is meant for coffee rantings, and to Bum-ism what is to Bum-ism.

Feel free to take a peek, though, at my earlier attempts at personal discovery.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


We have attended at least one Pinoy Christmas party every weekend for the last 3 weeks. SN1 makes us go to these parties because, well since we (Ma and I) have no lives here, we get to live hers too.

She means well. This is not one of her spur-of-the-moment outings that benefit only her. There is nothing else to do at home anyway, and the weekends are the only time we get to go out. But, I guess, what SN1 doesn't realize is (and this is, by no means, her fault at all) that I do not do well in unfamiliar social functions. Read: "If it's not a party with my firends, I don't enjoy it."

The party tonight was extra painful. It was a party for the local SFC (Singles for Christ) members. And if there are 2 things I do not talk to strangers about, it's my personal life and religion. Especially if Ma is there (
Cabin Fever to the Infinite Power for reference).

There was this one girl in particular who decided to adopt me as a charity case. As soon as she found out from SN1 and Ma that I was in my 30's, single and not dating, she zeroed in on me to talk about not losing hope. GAG!

How can she just walk up to me and immediately assume that I was losing hope? What, if any, kind of sign did I send off in the 10 minutes that she's known me to say that I needed a pep talk about the current status of my personal life? And why would she think that she had any authority to talk to me about it? I don't even listen to my friends!

She, on the other hand, starts talking about her ex-boyfriend; that they broke up almost a year ago; that he is now engaged; that he sent her a text message just last week; that she thinks he's a loser; that she's grateful they didn't end up together; that she is now asking God for a sign; and that she has a list of what she wanted from Him. All that in 5 minutes!

I so wanted to walk out on her, but I did not want to embarrass either of us. I thought I was saved when our hostess' father joined our conversation (if you can call it that). But he started talking about (drum roll please)... religion. Oooooooooooooooh no. This was going to be a long night.

I was lodged between them -- the obsessive Single for Christ and the stubbornly opinionated hostess' father -- for a good part of an hour before I could think of an excuse to get up and leave. Some guests arrived -- with booze! Aaaaaah....salvation. From that moment on, I held on to my paper cup like a drowning person held on to a log. I did not put it down. I nursed each drink. I drank constantly so I didn't have to talk to anybody.

To entertain myself, I sat down in front of the TV (which was on mute) and tried to understand the dialogue by reading the actors' lips. It was very challenging. There was maybe 30 minutes left to the movie when they turned the TV off to play games. During this time, I amused myself with BIL's iTouch. I updated my
facebook and friendster accounts, checked my email, looked at some pictures, music, videos, finished half a bottle of wine, stayed in the toilet until someone else had to use it.

It was no one's fault this time that I did not enjoy the party. SFC girl certainly tried her best to make me feel welcome -- a little too much, though. The rest of them invited me to join the games, but I declined. I just wasn't comfortable around these people. We had nothing in common. We had nothing to talk about. I was the only outsider in the group, and I had no clue who or what they were talking about. And I didn't care anyway.

I have always had a fairly small circle of friends, and lately I haven't been very good at making new ones. These friends that I have are the same people I go out of my way to see whenever I'm home. These are the people I can bare my heart and soul to. With these people I have no problems talking about religion or politics, even if they are my least favorite subjects. Because with these people I can be funny. I can be honest. I can be sarcastic. I can be rude. I can be crass. I can be myself.

I miss you people!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cabin Fever to the Infinite Power

For the last 10 years, I have been living on my own away from home. Back in college I stayed at various dorms during my first 2 years before eventually moving into an apartment of my own in junior year.

Since then I have moved to several other fairly-decent apartments, sh*tty room rentals, cheap condos, and small houses . Except for maybe a total of 2 years when I had to move back in to Ma's house (on and off) for a variety of reasons, I have pretty much lived on my own. And I loved it, for the sole reason that I get to not live with Ma.

My relationship with Ma is difficult to explain and even more difficult to understand. Believe me I have tried both, with no luck. Very simply said, I don't like her. No, that's not such a bad thing. "Not like" is not as harsh as other negative emotions like, let's say "hate", "abhor", "detest". It's more of a NON-feeling. You get the point.

When, one time, I tried to explain the dyamics of my relationship with Ma to BIL, this is how I phrased it: "If I didn't know her, I wouldn't be her friend." Imagine having a roommate whose habits, whose noises, annoy you. Imagine having a roommate who does not respect your privacy, barges into your room anytime she wants, reads your mail, goes through your stuff, and does not apologize for it. Imagine being stuck with that roommate forever. That's how it is living with Ma.

I was glad to be out of the house and living on my own. When I was living in Manila I would drop in for Sunday lunch or dinner occasionally. The good thing is I can always leave when I want, so we don't get to the awkward portions when we start to annoy each other. When I moved out of the city, I would call occasionally and our relationship got a little better. At least we were always civil to each other, owing to the fact that we never see each other anyway.

Now, here in the US, we are snowed in. SN1 is out of town for the whole week, and BIL is at work all day. There is no car. The train station is too far away to walk to (and in this weather?). There is no one else to see anyway; I know no one here. I am holed up in the house day in and day out...with Ma.

I looked up cabin fever in the dictionary, and there was a picture of us! Its symptoms include restlessness (CHECK), irritability (CHECK), and excessive sleeping (aaaaaaaaaaand CHECK). I have taken to eating my meals in front of the computer here in the basement just so I can avoid sitting down at the dining table with her, and saying nothing. I duck into the bathroom when I hear her come out of her room. I have resorted to taking longer walks with Scooter (in the snow!) so she's done watching the evening news when we get back.

SN1 is due back home tonight. I hope she's not too tired to go out. Please, please, please let us go out tonight, and tomorrow, and the day after that. It's funny how having SN1 around seems a lot more fun now in light of being stuck here with Ma. I know when she gets home, SN1 and I will definitely think of something to fight about. But for now, she is my only hope against going insane!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Finding Anais

To salvage what was left of my Sunday (see previous entry), I decided to go with BIL to the airport to drop off SN1. I knew we were going through Chicago, and I was waiting for a "new found friend" to call me if we were having coffee. So I wanted to be "in the neighborhood" when he did. But he didn't.

Anyway, BIL and I went driving/walking around the city. Given it was not the best weather to walk around in, but it's not going to get better anytime soon. And I have been asking him where I could find old and used books. So we took this time to do a little in-law bonding, and he took me to some of the places he knew in town.

In the car, on the way over, he had lined up 3 places for us to check out:
North Ave, Evanston and somewhere else I forgot. We hit Myopic Books on North Ave. first, and we hit the jackpot!

As soon as we entered the door, I was in heaven... book heaven. When I imagine myself opening a bookstore/library/reading room/coffee place, this is what I see. I want to own one of these joints just so I could live in it, and read until my eyes pop out!

Right inside the door there's a display case which features some of their rare collections. On this night, they were featuring burlesque literature and coffee table books. On the counter top, a lot of loose old photos are on display along with a new book they were promoting entitled "
Who We Were, A Snapshot History of America". Obviously it was a photo-historical account of American life as recorded on film. Ergo, the photo display on the countertop. And if I really wanted to get it, I could have had all the authors sign a copy because they were all there that night. (Note to self: should I have gotten one anyway, just for the signatures? hmmm.)

One look at the whole store and I said out loud: "I could stay here all night". Even with its size, it was not intimidating nor imposing. It was what it was -- a 3-storey building of floor-to-ceiling shelves filled to overflowing with books. The shelves could not contain all of the books they had that all available space has been used for storage: table tops, the floor (except for a tiny strip to walk on), chairs, on top of the refrigerator, by the display windows, everywhere. I was in heaven!

If all of that wasn't beautiful enough, they mostly carry used books. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not buy brand new books. I find that old books have so much more personality. The personal history of the book adds to its value and its story, I think. I find it interesting whenever I see notes on the margins from someone who has already read the book before me. I get a glimps of what they were thinking while reading the exact same lines I was/would.

Browsing through the many titles, some of which I cannot see because they are too high up (too bad), I noticed there are many odds and ends tacked to the shelves that kind of re-inforce the book sections I was browsing through. By the MUSIC section I saw an old Metallica concert ticket from 2006; along the shelves of GEEK, there was a punched-out data card circa 1970's. It was so much like the stuff in
FOUND!, it almost gave me goose bumps.

A little FOUND! piece of my own -- an erotic bookmark tucked
between the pages of my newest Nin acquisition with a
very apt title.

When I walked in the door, I knew exactly who I was looking for. But like the last of a favorite chocolate, I wanted to save her for last. I took my time starting on the top floor, going through all the fiction books, through the classics of Dante Alighieri to the more modern take of Anthony Hecht. Then skipping the ground floor to look at the biographies and suspense/horror books in the basement.

An hour and some change later, because I had nothing else to look at and nothing else could hold my interest as much as what I came here for, I came back up to the ground floor. I ran my finger on the edge of the shleves as I passed, making my way to the "N" authors. I read each title and author on the spine of each book carefully, savoring the suspense (and maybe the disappointment, IF I don't find her). Finally, at the very bottom shelf, the first 7 books on my left read:
ANAIS NIN. I found her!

My first introduction to Anais Nin was when I picked up an interesting looking book, quite innocently enough -- *wink* -- at a very small used books tiangge back in college. It was a nondescript book, just a little bigger than a standard Post-It note. There were several of those small books, with black covers and stark writing for titles and I was intrigued. It turned out to be a series of excerpted works from her diaries --
erotic diaries.

To a college kid, erotic literature was just fancy porn. My dorm roomies and I had a laugh over it, but I was intrigued to find out that most of her work was published post-humously because they were too randy for her time. Learning that she started writing in the early 20's made me all the more impressed by how bold she was to write about her sensual experiences as honestly as she did.

Then a movie entitled Erotica: The Diary of Anais Nin came out. But for the life of me, I could not find it on
imbd or anywhere else. (I swear it exists; I have a clipping of a movie review back home.) She was primarily a diarist, writing more for herself than for anything else. Much of her writing for public consumption came later, and this was still separate from her personal journals. I must have been drawn to her because of this. I, too, have kept journals since I was young. And reading about her made me realize that I had so much to learn about writing.

My journal entries have always been so shallow. Even knowing that they are private and no one will ever read them without my permission, I hold back. So when I re-read some of my entries, I get confused with vague allusions, and forgotten codes that I used. I am, by no measure, heading the same path that Anais Nin took. I can never be as great, and I do not aspire it.

I only hope to find myself in my writing, the same way I found her in that bookstore.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pink Salmon Sinigang to Save the Sunday

It's lunch on a sunny Sunday -- a welcome break from all the snow this whole week. My sister is home from a week-long business trip, and is due to fly out again this afternoon for Oklahoma. To make the most out of her weekend at home, she had the whole morning planned out. Only none of us knew it.

First was church at St. John's, where we were late coming in because we stayed up late last night watching movie after movie (again part of my sister's grand make-the-most-out-of-my-weekend-home scheme). At ten this morning, she was hurrying everyone out the door to try and catch the 11:00 mass. To escape her ire on this sunny Sunday morning and because she convinced me that we were coming back home after church anyway, I decided to leave my purse at home.

After the mass, and on the way back to the car, my sister announced she was dropping by her office to pick up some stuff for her trip. That was fine. After leaving her office, she casually tells everyone on board (me, Ma and her new husband) that we were going to the nearby winery to sample the wines. I was excited to go -- imagine getting loaded on a Sunday before breakfast! Woohoo! My sister was genius!

But it was too good to be true. Everyone who wanted to taste or purchase the wines was asked to show an ID. Of course, I didn't have mine. I left it in my purse at home -- where we were supposed to go straight back after mass, according to my sister. My gracious new brother in law offered to drive and get my purse, but I didn't want to impose. I let them go taste and buy their wine while I wandered around the winery looking at old pictures on the wall, reading old newspaper articles and moping.

Of course, my sister just thought of going to the winery at the spur of the moment, not bothering to check whether we all had IDs or not. It didn't matter that I would not enjoy this little outing, so long as she "made the most out of her weekend at home". Like she's not coming back...ever. Hello! she lives here; I don't. Meaning, it didn't matter how long she goes away for, she can always come here. I do not want to sound ungrateful to her, what with her paying for this trip and all. But this is testament to her self-centeredness.

She does not always think of other people when she makes decisions. Like today. She decides for all of us to come to this winery. When we get there, and they (her and her husband) have already started sampling the wines, she remembers her husband has to drive home and promptly tells him to stop drinking. She then hands me his drink and orders me to finish it. I who was not supposed to drink at the club because I had no ID, because my sister (who is telling me to drink now) also told me (earlier in the day) to leave my purse at home because we were coming... straight... home... anyway.

We are just railroaded with her bossiness all the time. Which reminded me of last night when we called the other sister back home in Manila, who reported that she was unable to drop off the wedding CDs at home because no one was there, and that all the other stuff were still in the box. Sister no. 1 hounded her and hounded her on why she did not drop off the CDs. Was I the only one in the room understanding that THERE WAS NO ONE HOME? I could hear Sister no. 2 on the phone, all worked up and trying to explain the phenomenon of "The Undelivered CDs" to sister no.1 and I can hear the frustration in her voice. I know why Sister No. 1 was so upset -- because she just wanted all the rest of our family and friends back home to see her wedding. Because, of course, everything was about HER! Now I am starting to remember why I hate her. And it makes me so relieved to know she will be on out of town trips so much of the time that I am here.

One hour, 7 drinks and 5 bottles of wine to take home later we were sitting down to a lunch of pink salmon head sinigang. It's very luxurious, I know to make sinigang out of pink salmon, but it tasted so much like home, it made me feel better! That and knowing that my sister was airport-bound again in 2 more hours, and will be gone for the rest of the week was enough to salvage what is left of this Sunday.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hey Jealousy

So here I am on a Monday morning, typing away in my sister's basement, listening to Christmas songs. I still have 7 more weeks here in the US, and I can't wait to go home.

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful to be here. I have seen some amazing sights, and done some shopping. What I cannot take any more of is all this wedding chatter between my sisters. At first, it was exciting, talking about their wedding plans and their husbands-to-be. It gave us a chance to get closer and to get to know our soon-to-be in-laws. But after a while, it becomes painfully obvious that I am the only one not planning my wedding. I have no stories to share of how I met (fill in the blank). I have no one to call at night, or buy Christmas presents for back home.

Now, 1 week after my older sister's wedding, the excitement is wearing off. My younger sister has left to go back home, and me and Ma are starting to get into each other's skin again. Everything is back to normal, only we are 7,000 miles away from home. Now more than ever, I miss my friends. They would understand this jealousy, and will gladly talk about it -- about me. Here, my jealousy seems out of place and unjustified. And the fact that it is unacknowledged makes it all the more real and unbearable.

Here, surrounded by old couples and newly-weds, my alone-ness is magnified. It mocks me. Here, where I am holed up in the basement, snowed in, with no where to go, and no means to go there anyway, I cannot escape.