Musical

Musical [1]

What role does music play in your life?

I am what most people would call an audiotard. In 2006, I was still listening to Air Supply, the Backstreet Boys, Avril Lavigne, and Bread. Yes. It was THAT bad.

When I was 8 or 9, Tito Rey, my father’s kumpare stayed with us for a couple of months. He brought with him two things, chess, which I played with such enthusiasm back then, and the Beatles, which I play with enthusiasm still. When he left, he presented me with the complete anthology in cassette tapes. I’m not sure what happened to those tapes, but I’m afraid they may have perished in the house fire that took everything in 2001.

Flashforward to 2007, and my friends had taken my musical re-education upon themselves. Rica introduced me to the emo bands, you know, Goth make-up, bleeding angst, and pants so tight I hoped they had no plans of procreating. Oh, and the hair! I caught a younger cousin sporting a haircut like that around the same time, and I accompanied him immediately to the barbershop. I also bought him acetone and supervised while he cut and de-colored his nails. “Sure you can play the music,” I had told him. “But find your own style.” My titas, his mother included, loudly hoped that I’d take him to a department store for new pants too, but I had to leave him with something, God bless him.

Rica also introduced me to Jason Mraz, and in 2008 he provided me with the perfect anti-lovesong to play in the background during one of the worst breakups ever.

I played and sung it until I was hoarse.

In 2010, Mabie introduced me to Sugarfree. In 2011, the band broke up. I had played their albums enough by then to feel like I was experiencing another bad breakup.

Around that time, I had been on a collision course, one that had taken me completely by surprise. It had been brewing for a while, sure, but the first time I realized that not only is a giant asteroid heading for my world, at a trajectory that can best be described as “straight at my ass”, but also that I wanted it to hit was when Mabie took Remi and me to watch a screening of the movie Once, with Glen Hansaard and Marketa Irglova.

The year before (2010, September), I had joined Mabie in a day of Misery, and Remi had to drive us home. Mabie fell asleep in the backseat, and Remi introduced me to The Cardigans. She promised to make me a mixtape to round out my re-education and 7 months later, she did give me one.

To answer your question though, let’s go back to 2005. I was on an ill-fated out of town trip with my Happy Friends. The van’s radio and air conditioning were shot, and we only brought 2 CDs – Nina Live! and MYMP – to a 5-hour trip to Batangas. After the upteenth replay of Piano in the Dark, I was wondering how soon I could die of heatstroke. We stopped at the only bank we could find, its ATM was stuck in the age before digital printing, and fanned ourselves while we took turns getting money. One Happy Friend was checking her phone and this song filled the air:

Suddenly, all was well in the world. We were in no danger of killing each other, we were okay. We were more than okay, we were singing, dancing, laughing at a stretch of highway in Batangas. All was well in the world. [2]

Notes:
1. Writing prompt from The Daily Post.
2. Other credits: Lei gave me JPop – and eventually Nihonggo. Mabie, the music pusher, tried pushing Urbandub, but I was still too torn over the Sugarfree to like them.

Dearly departed

Dearly departed [1]

Write your own eulogy.

Should we begin? Is this thing on? (Taps the mic, it squeals a high pitched answer and everybody winces.) Whoops. Sorry guys.

Ehem. Well, I’m not sure why Rio asked me to do this, she knew I’m as bad at public speaking as she was. Remember that one time when somebody thrust a microphone into her hands and asked her to thank a room full of people for coming to a launch? She said thank you about 30 times. She had blanched and was so visibly mortified – after she was saved from saying any more thank yous, she fled to the balcony and immediately lit one up. She could have been trying to smoke two on each hand at the rate she was pulling on that cig.

Sir, don’t look at me that way. If Rio was here she’d understand that I need this cigarette right now. She’s the type who understands – even when she doesn’t, she’ll try to or at least seem like she does. She’s the friend you call at 3 AM in the morning to ask for help in disposing a body. You can pick her up at her house, shovel already in hand; she’ll pry the truth off you while she digs. She was the kind who worries, not about the things you tell her, but the things you don’t.

She’d have blushed at that. The girl didn’t know how to take a compliment. She did, however, know how to take a punch.

You know, excuse me, I promised her I wouldn’t cry. That bitch. She’s a Buffalo wing you know. Crispy and spicy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. She cries like a baby while watching movies, especially when Ellie died in Up. She had wanted to be somebody’s Ellie, and I like to think that she was.

She was as stubborn as a mule, had the personal hygiene of a college dude, and took stupid risks. She was rude and abrasive and mean and was always ready to fight for her friends.

So yeah. That’s that. Here’s to you, friend, lover, daughter. You’ll be missed you bitch.

Notes:
1. Writing prompt from The Daily Post.

I got skills

I got skills [1]

If you could choose to be a master (or mistress) of any skill in the world, which skill would you pick?

I’ve thought about this before – you know, as a fall back if the writing thing, being a penmonkey for hire, doesn’t quite pan out. I’ve also thought about this during times when the words don’t come quite as easily as I’d like. [2]

Moving on. I’ve always thought that I’m a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. That’s not a compliment. I am not tooting my horn. For me, being very good at one thing beats being okay at several things. Why? Hey, I’m a good enough basketball player, but not good enough to get a scholarship. I’m a good enough draftsman (woman?), but I am neither good enough (nor willing) to do it professionally again.

ANYWAY. So back to the question. What skill do I want to be a master of? There are a lot of things I’d like to learn – like for example, dance. In my head, I could totally dance. In reality, no. I’d like to be skillful at entrepreneurship too, because it’s a useful life tool. There’s marketing, sales, public speaking, and finance management – things I wish somebody had taught me sooner (if at all).

But, I have to say, the skill I could have had the most use for is knowing how to fix a car. Specifically, my car. Meet Car-car (sometimes Sheer Luck, Mo, that battered beetle, and Frankenbug).

He was born at the time when music really mattered and when radio was king, when accountants didn’t have control, and the media couldn’t buy your soul, and computers were still scary and we didn’t know everything~ He’s 11 years older than me and a poster boy for excellent German engineering. The problem is, despite the German engineering, a 40 year old car is a 40 year old car.

If I were a master mechanic, I could have saved myself thousands of pesos in maintenance and towing fees. I could have saved myself the embarrassment while sitting on the curb at White Plains with Remi and Mabie. I could have saved two thousand five hundred pesos when an MMDA Tow Truck sidled up to us and the charm-offensive failed miserably. I could have known then that it was the dratted ignition coil and I could have just placed a wet handkerchief on it and drove happily away.

Another time, I was driving to Buendia and took the Quiapo route, which was a bad idea because I hadn’t known it was Chinese New Year at the time. I sweated bullets when Car-car died – in between a packed jumble of trucks, jeeps, and other vehicles – at the very bottom of the Quiapo underpass. It wouldn’t start again. I don’t remember much of that adventure, but I do remember that as I muscled my way through a cluster of jeeps on a steep incline, an Urvan who wouldn’t let two girls on a Beetle cut into his lane suddenly, miraculously dies too. “Oh my God, his water broke,” I said. Remi shot me a questioning look, and I pointed to the pool of water under the Urvan. His radiator had gone bye-bye. [3]

The point is, car ownership can be such a money vortex and to tell you the truth, the total cash I’ve spent on Car-car is enough to buy me a secondhand mini-SUV from this century (read: with air-conditioning, disk brakes, airbags and powersteering).

If I were a master mechanic, I wouldn’t even think of putting Car-car up for sale. If only I were. I wish I am.

Car-car, 1972 Volkswagen Beetle

Notes:

1. Writing prompt from The Daily Post.

2. This happens often. Okay, a lot. Sometimes it does feel like that all the time and of course, that can’t be good. Whenever this happens, I feel like a total fraud. I’m just waiting for some kid to point out that I’m not wearing any clothes.

3. In case you’re curious, you can totally drive with that kind of engine trouble – or at least, you can drive until the nearest gas station or until your balls are well-done. The nearest gas station was around 5 to 10km, near the piers.

Shipwrecked

Shipwrecked [1]

Read the story of Richard Parker and Tom Dudley. Is what Dudley did defensible? What would you have done?

This is a hard one. So you’re stuck at sea, no hope of rescue in the immediate future, and no water. This is very tricky, not only because it has something to do with law and legalese (and let’s not get into that), but because it has something to do with the ethics of survival.

In the wild, survival is as simple as “Are you going to eat that? Because if you aren’t, then you won’t have enough energy in your legs to run. Something bigger is lurking in this very savannah and it won’t object to eating your skinny ass.” That isn’t applicable to us, because then we’d be ruled by the gym-going class but I digress.

The question really is, would I eat the poor cabin boy to survive? Sure I would, but I wouldn’t kill him. The killing and the eating aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s the former, the murdering, that I’m not too keen on. I’d probably hold out until he expired – I mean, he was sick, wasn’t he?

Yes, it’s probably different in the high seas, whilst fighting off sharks and sitting in the middle of millions of liters of water but not a drop to drink. Add desperation into the mix and you’ve got a very complicated stew. How much do you want to survive? What do you have to live for?

Notes:
1. Writing prompt from The Daily Post.

1984

1984 [1]

You’re locked in a room with your greatest fear. Describe what’s in the room.

She hugged her knees closer. Stop rocking, she commanded. Focus, goddammit. Focus. Sweat beaded up on her upper lip and she ran the back of her clammy hand across it.

Clop. Clop. Clop.

She remembers running full tilt. Running until her lungs burned and her legs screamed. Running until she found her unit – swearing as she fumbled with her keys – and threw herself into the dark expanse behind it.

Clop. Clop. Clop.

The room seemed safe enough. It is home, though she honestly doubted that feeble door. Anything looked feeble compared to something that big. What was it? She had taken one look at the scales and the giant talons and she fled. She had heard terrified screaming behind her, but she neither looked back nor heard any since.

Clop. Clop. Clop.

She wasn’t sure how long it had been, but the dark had settled now. It might have been a few minutes, or a couple of hours. Her hands were numb when she locked it, and it took a few tries to get the chain on the track. She wished that the door had a bolt – or that she had a 2 by 4 with which to bar the door.

Clop. Clop. Clop.

Fucker, she thought. It’s still there. She had backed into the room, facing the door, afraid that it’d burst open at any moment. She jumped when something cold and hard touched her elbow. She let out the breath she’d been holding when she saw it was only the wall. She leaned into it and slid down to the floor. She half crawled and half dragged herself into a corner, convinced that at least nothing can get her from behind. The cold bit her back through her shirt.

Clop. Clop. Clop.

She let her eyes adjust to the dark. There was the L-shaped couch, the one on which she had fallen unconscious many instances before, beside the lamp, whose one arm was now bent in a weird angle pointing toward the floor like a wilted daffodil. Her low bookshelf sat opposite her, stuffed full with paperbacks. She caught the white spine of Everything’s Eventual. Oh God please help us was in a blood red scrawl, the embossed font gleaming in the moonlight that trickled though the window. She wedged herself tighter into the corner.

Clop. Clop. Clop.

That infernal sound, she thought. When she first moved in, she had hated how sound carried in the condo complex – across the hall and into her unit – and hated it more now because she couldn’t tell if it’s coming for her or moving away.

Clop. Clop. Clop.

Her legs started to cramp, as adrenaline ebbed slowly away. She was too terrified to move. She had reverted into her 8-year old self, convinced that if she curled herself small enough and closed her eyes, she’d turn invisible.

Clop. Clop. Clop.

She didn’t pray. People used that like a lifeline, a Phone-A-Friend. Her mind wandered. Will it be quick? Am I the aperitif or the main course? Will it hurt? If it grabs me by the hair and drags me across the room, I’m sure that would hurt. 

THUD.

She started so badly she almost sang in fear. Her hands leapt to her mouth. She felt sick.

CLOP. CLOP. CLOP.

Despite the fresh dose of adrenaline, she found herself quite rooted to the spot.

CRASH.

For a moment, there was sweet, blessed silence after the echoes died in the hallway. Her ragged breathing made her lightheaded. Her heart thundered in her chest, as if sensing that this may be the end.

CLOP.

It dawned on her–

CLOP.

a truth

CLOP.

she found hard to swallow

CLOP.

her mouth was suddenly bone dry

CLOP.

that she may never

CLOP.

ever

CLOP.

leave this room.

Notes:
1. Writing prompt from The Daily Post. This is actually the prompt for January 9, but I found it hard to pass up. It’s been months since I last tried to write fiction.
2. Disembodied foot note, because I didn’t want a [2] on a story, or at least, not on this one. The book cover in question can be found here (via Year of One Hundred Stories).

Sweet sixteen

Sweet sixteen [1]

When you were 16, what did you think your life would look like? Does it look like that? Is that a good thing?

I had to sit down for a while and try to remember what it was like to be 16. It was not pretty. I was a junior in high school, and around June that year I had my appendix taken out. Being 16 and unable to do anything that involved physical exertion, I filled notebooks with angst and awful poetry. [2] I struggled with finding who I was and what I wanted to be. Like most teens, I wasted so much time trying to be cool and to be accepted by my peers, who in hindsight were probably as lost and confused as I was but were much better at hiding it.

While the pimples, the hormones, and the feels were happening, my prospects were bleak. The real estate bubble had just burst and the financial body blow had sent my family reeling. College was not a sure thing. My dreams back then were vague, looking into the future was an even vaguer notion. Sure, I had dreams. I had wanted to be an accountant. I thought I’d be well off – or at least, financially stable. I had wanted several things, but never really thought about HOW I was going to get those things.

Fast forward to 14 years later and here I am. Things aren’t how I imagined it. This is probably the only time I’ve ever felt disappointment over my own imagination. I am not financially stable YET – but then again, that’s quite a feat in an economy like this one – but I am doing what I love (clue: not accountancy), in a job I don’t loathe, and I am so happy in a relationship that has given me much more than I deserve.[3]

If I could go back in time, I’d probably say to the 16-year-old version of me, “Don’t sweat it, kid. It’ll get much, much better.” But then again, probably not. I like being pleasantly surprised.

Notes:
1. Writing prompt from The Daily Post.
2. I also wore baggy pants, which as I’ve learned isn’t much of a crime. Or at least, not as big of a crime as wearing a t-shirt under a polo shirt in a tropical country. I hung out at the library, where all the cool dorks were. I liked the Backstreet Boys. I was awkward and felt like an un-housebroken puppy every time I was thrust in social situations.
3. Also, I don’t feel the need to be cool anymore. ‘Cool’ has become the temperature between Cold and Comfortable. I still, however, am socially awkward and I still do like the Backstreet Boys.

In a crisis

In a crisis[1]

Honestly evaluate the way you respond to crisis situations.
Are you happy with the way you react?

I do not respond to crises very well.

More or less, I operate like the Hindenburg. Everything’s cool, life is peachy. It’s smooth sailing up until the point stuff spontaneously combusts.

For reference, this is how I respond to a crisis:

1. Crisis happens.
2. I watch the mushroom cloud, awestruck, and get hit by the resulting sonic boom.
3. I sit there, stupefied for a moment. Enter Hoshit Face.
4. I survey the train wreck. Sometimes I say, “Call off the search guys, there are no survivors.” I start being creative with swear words.
5. There are a couple of panic-stricken emails, late night phone calls, and texts. Scramble to regroup, ask for help where needed.
6. After a mini nuclear meltdown, I get to planning. What’s Plan B? C? D?
7. After many cancer sticks, cups of coffee, and inventive swearwords, I get cracking.

The ideal crisis response would be 1. Crisis happens, then 7. I get cracking, right? So no, I am not happy about how I react.

Notes:
1. Writing prompt from The Daily Post.

From the Mixed-Up Files of a Writer-For-Hire