It was Matt’s birthday last Friday but because everyone’s schedules was all over, dinner was re-set for Saturday. We went to Kalye Manila, a Filipino restaurant. Matt ordered everything he wanted to eat; he had sisig, tokwa’t baboy and lechon kawali. His grandmother would’ve been horrified, but he’s 23; he could eat anything he wants and does.
I hate travelling.
Give me a good book (or Netflix), a quiet day without any commitments to work and two comforting meals (like the poached chicken above) and i’m all good. I will be restored.
Caught a slight chill in Australia with that scratchy throat and all the familiar accompanying symptoms.
Lozenges were all I could do then. When I got back, I just worked from home, made soup, avoided expending negative energy (eg. getting enraged at the news, reacting to people on social media).
And all was restored. For now at least.
I was minutes away from upgrading my Apple Series 2 watch to the 4; a stainless steel model in gold (after years of preferring silver) even if this was for the Australian market. The 4 series stainless steel Apple watch variants are not sold in New Zealand because the telcos have yet to adopt eSIM capable devices. If I bought it, the watch would have limited coverage as well as limited consumer protection guarantee if it somehow got broken but…
The meeting was delayed. I sighed, adjusting the sleeve of my knitted cashmere shirt. The stainless steel Apple watch in gold on my wrist with its matching gold Milanese loop, glinted as it caught the light. The face complication mimics that of a mechanical watch, but rendered in full digital colour and this contrast between the traditional and the new never fails to excite me…
It’s perfect I murmur to the sales-staff (a woman in her late 30s wearing horn-rimmed glasses) who knew that I was on the verge of buying it, that I was the type who bought these things. It would be my dressy watch, I had told her earlier as she nodded approvingly; and in my head, for when I get that cashmere knit, the pale tan Chinos, the navy-blue double-breasted pea-coat and suede Chelsea boots to go with it.
The enumeration of these items, of where I’d get them, of how much they’d cost, of which other item of clothing they’d match with in so many combinations felt as if I had fallen down a steep stairwell, everything a blur, a jumble of colour.
A co-worker called her to come over for a second and when she turned her back, I stood up from where I had fallen and slipped away as stealthy as a ninja and escaped.
Is it outrageous to spend over AUS$5,000 for a bag? In my mind, having already spent the same amount for a non-essential, it doesn’t seem to be.
The black Yves Saint Laurent Sac Du Jour is done in a seamless matte black leather with matching matte black hardware and padlock. The first one I had ever seen was in shiny, black croc skin which I thought was too feminine. But this one was perfect- it had heft and a structure that meant you could put in it, your grey MacBook Pro and black iPad Pro; you’d need several Classic Moleskine notebooks as well, a proper metal pen and none of those gel-inked ones that may stain the bag.
I would need ink-black Nudie jeans (a tighter, skinnier fit than the pair I already own); a black pair of Brogue boots; red plaid shirt and maybe a sleeveless puffer jacket (dark green?).
I work in a part of Auckland that Aucklanders describe as rough; but of course the standards for rough are vastly different from the standards I used to apply when I still lived in the Philippines. Rough meant that the only eating places within walking distance were a Burger King and a bakery. Rough meant that when you were waiting for the bus or caught the train that you were a bit more careful than usual about who was loitering around (like 6 foot tall teens who would steal shoes off your feet if they liked them).
Rough meant that some staff go to work in clothes I would only wear at home- not that there’s anything wrong with that.
And I take public transport- sometimes I take the train, walking along a walk-way which at night or even at noon could be trouble.
And here I was possibly walking through it with a $5K bag with $5K worth of tech inside, in $250 jeans and a $350 puffer jacket.
I put the bag down, thanked the sales assistant for her time and walked out the store.
I had to go to a bookstore, like this one
Bookstores and libraries are my safe places,
I feel reassured that somehow,
when everything has been lost, taken
by fate, or by foolish choices,
I will find myself here again.
All I have to do is look
I’ve discovered that sales-staff at camera shops know their stuff, like I think that some of them are actual photographers or content creators. The good thing about this is that they can point you out in the right direction in terms of what gear to get. On one hand, you’ll encounter someone so passionate about their craft that they FAIL to distinguish between their personal opinions and their duty to provide factual information and advice.
‘I never did warm up to the (Lumix) G9” I said. ‘Why??” He replied, ‘I have a G9’, his face showed slight irritation as if what I said was a personal repudiation of his own ownership of one. After a few more awkward words, he took the camera (the new Lumix S1) off my hands and I left.
Well fuck you, I thought. I may not be a completely knowledgeable photographer but I don’t sweat long hours working in a stupid camera shop and acting like a know-it-all asshole.
I don’t like my camera anymore and it’s as simple as that. Trouble is, after having spent nearly $5,000 getting my current one only a few months back, where am I gonna get another $5,000 to get a new one?
You could repeat every line and word from the last post from Jan 11 and it would describe exactly what every week and month was since then.
Literally wash, rinse, dry, repeat. April is nearly done. I turned a year older, actual age irrelevant. Matt will be 22 in May and spends his days ordering food via Uber. Leila should’ve stayed behind in the UK. Dagupan burned in the summer-heat. Elections are coming up in the Philippines and the only reason I care is because for some strange reason, I even bothered to sign up to vote even when we know that it’s POINTLESS. When I think of it, it makes me want to vomit bile; it makes me think of horrible things I would like to do if I only had the means because the truth is this- NOTHING HAS CHANGED. What does it take to remove a mountain blocking your path? YOU BLOW IT UP (God, forgive me).
I need to put this aside because another truth is this- it’s no longer my life, even part of my family is still there; it’s no longer my reality. When I putter around the house that I bought and see a sunrise across the Pahurehure inlet where the Auckland Southern motorway runs through, it is something that absolutely does not remind me of anything of the life I left behind. It feels that I am starting again, that this is finally, the life I actually want.
Everything is both new and old. I am both old and young.
The theme for this year (and the new one) is: less carbs. Well, I’ve been doing this for decades really but I guess it hits home when you try it and seeing for yourself how dramatic the results can be as Jong has found out. We had grilled lamb, pork and chicken, a salad, shrimps. For desert, Doyet baked a cassava cake- we tried to look up Erwan Heussaff’s recipe- but with half the sugar. Over-all, the meal was satisfying and the clean-up, a breeze. Less is definitely more.
How can you be generous to other people when you can’t be generous to yourself? I’m still mulling over getting a pair of Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35 Shield Water-Repellent running shoes but then who knows?
Finally, the holiday break. I could breathe. I could vacillate between wanting to do something creative/productive or simply curl up in bed watching Netflix (I’m aiming to finish the entire run of ‘The Originals’). I could make a list as I’ve always had for the past 20 years- and I did below…
Get fit (finally get to the gym everyday or commit to finishing 100 push-ups a day, stretching and and exercises).
Study the features/functionalities of the camera I bought (Lumix G9).
Write a really, really short, short-story collection just to flex those flabby creative muscles.
Cook something I’ve never done before (wanting to bake a black-forest cake, but since sugary cakes are out of the picture…)
Do facial skin treatments every-night
Complete my transfer papers to a new doctor/GP
Post actual Christmas/New Year cards
Get another eye-check
Read five new books
I watched two movies in the last 24 hours. Eric Matti’s BuyBust was on Netflix and I was worried that I would see right through it as I normally would with Filipino movies, but it was either too good or I hadn’t seen a Filipino movie in a long time that it actually was good in my eyes. The movie made me so angry that I wanted to log into an old Twitter account just so I could troll some people. Fortunately I couldn’t remember the password anymore or the email that I used to open it. After a while, I felt really stupid. And horrified- what if I had gun? Would I be one of those people?? Apparently, I think I have one of those ‘tendencies’.
The next morning, the kids and I (minus Toni) went to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald. We got on the wrong bus and we had to get off at Manurewa to catch the right one, but we made it to the mall with time to spare. After about an hour, Chini says to me, ‘is this an adult movie'?’ and I said that it probably was even if half the theatre was filled with kids. It felt like the later and darker Harry Potter movies that we dragged the kids to, I think more for our enjoyment than theirs. The movie turned out to be as the trailer portrayed it; frenetic without the thrill and magical, but without the joy. It was a good thing Chini was preoccupied with popcorn, an orb-shaped, hard to hold (for a child) coke container designed for the new Grinch movie and a bag of Maltesers.
Five minutes towards the end, Chini had to go to the bathroom (I had told her to hold it in 15 minutes earlier, but she couldn’t any longer) so we had to leave and the funny thing was, I didn’t really care if I missed the ending.
And so I changed the blog template last night to something that was more image-centric; because apparently (and obviously), I've been in that mode for the longest time that it feels like a deliberate snub. It's as if I had a secret child out of wedlock, raised and loved the damned child but still somehow unable to recognise it as truly my own. So it's out- I take pictures; and I hope that it won't be the end all and be all of my 'vast' (!) creative gifts.
Someone told me that a long road trip would do wonders for my creativity, that it would stir up my imagination, make me want to write again and that this time, something would come out of it. Turned out they were right. My imagination was stirred up. I wanted to create something, but it wasn't stories- I wanted to take pictures and make videos.
Now, I've been taking photos the moment I had a mobile camera. I have photos on the cloud that pre-date Apple's iCloud. Sixty-percent of the storage on all my devices is images. There is a probably an image of something or someone every other day of my life since 2006. I barely remember stuff, but I can scroll back in time and see what I had done, what I had felt, eaten and worn. It makes sense to take pictures and make videos but what doesn't make sense is how shallow my understanding of it all is and how superficial. I take pretty pictures but have no understanding of how I do it.
I remember one summer (I think) when my dad brought home the first professional camera he's had since he was at university studying Fine Arts. It was a manual Canon, the model of which I can no longer remember. He took photos of all of us- of my mother posed touching flowers in the garden; of my sisters in half-profile, with those weird bowl-cut bangs of the 80s; of me super up-close, pupils half-way up as if I was rolling them; and the best photo of all, of my brother Jay with his famed curls that everyone envied and with our mother's beautiful, placid face.
But this was the thing- half the photos were bad. The one of my mothers' touching the flowers and even the close-up were under-exposed. There was a photo of my dad from the shoulders up taken as if someone had bent at the knees, camera tilted awkwardly downwards (was it my mother who took this with instructions from my dad? Was there a tripod I couldn't remember?) I would've used a different lens to capture a wider angle, or I would simply take the photo face on perpendicular to the subject.
And I know this now because since the trip, I've been studying- something which I HAD NEVER DONE. My dad did photography as well as painting when he was younger and in the space of time between that and the summer he got the camera, a lot of things had changed. I don't know why he had that idea to get the camera and do a leisurely shoot. Was it to take the photos as references to future paintings? Was it to update himself on a hobby/art that he used to do? Whatever the reason, that was the last and only time. The camera was put away in his closet and we would on occasion, try it out after saving enough money to buy film and to have it developed (we had this 'photo-shoot' once with my sisters where they put on make-up and wore black satin dresses and the whole mess turned out blurry and over-exposed, the face foundation coming off as if they fell face first, onto a plate of flour).
I just feel that most of the time, we do things where we just coast along, and I have a long list of these- but after the trip I felt like this is one thing I am simply no longer taking for granted. I don't want to look back and regret having just done things casually and in the same vain of what Leila and I have to label as impeccant mediocrity.
"Ang gand, pwede na" no longer cuts it.
I didn't drive of course. In my mind though, I was the one behind the wheel.
I try to imagine if I could drive and I see myself just driving on and on. I used to do that when I still had my motorcycle. The destination wasn't anything specific; the whole point was the drive itself and how it somehow puts your mind in a zone where you can be away from everything else. This is morbid but I also think of myself dying, some horrific accident that ends my life instantly (it could statistically happen) and the thought forces me to do a quick accounting- have I done enough? How far have I become as a person? Have I loved enough and how true?
And the thing is this, whether you reach this reckoning (of no return or alteration) or not, every so often you do need that accounting.
You need to pause to see if you're moving forward to a destination wherever that may be and to be careful that you're not caught in an endless, repetitious loop like these GIFs below..
I need to get this post out...
Days feel like a time-lapse of sorts
New year happened
Everyone was a year older...
Summer was a record-scorcher
A bunch of firsts; first time to work until our office closed on the 22nd. First time to NOT stress on what to eat. First time to have a decent gift budget which I had half-saved for. And first time to be less nostalgic about the whole thing- and everything was just perfectly fine.
Maybe it's a change of perspective, maybe it's age. Maybe winter has become a bit too evocative of what old age would be like- when your spirit is willing, but your body feels half-frozen, fraught with all the signs of physical unravelling. When I was younger, with no friends and no confidence, summer was spent indoors reading book after book. To this day, it's hard to connect with people whose experiences and memories of summer are of easy, physical fun.
I am still resentful of the heat (even if it's nothing compared to the Philippines); the yellowing of the armpits of my white shirts; the constant application of sunscreen; slight twinges of envy when I see fit people. But I smile a bit now when the sun is on my face- acceptance is such a life-altering thing..
1. Another year has past and your mind convinces you that last year was just last week. It never feels anymore that you have 365 days in one year, more like half that.
2. I tried to change out the template of this blog and couldn't make sense of the infrastructure. On one hand, what's the point- no one reads me.
3. I do have great ideas to better my diet, restructure my wardrobe, start a writing regimen, and I get a good head-start, but as with anything, sustaining it is the challenge.
4. Why do spend so much for the holidays? How can we get out of the spending cycle?
5. How do I NOT spend so much?
6. Met with my insurance broker/agent who also happens to be a financial adviser and again I have to remind myself- I'll never be rich, but I can enjoy a worry-free retirement (!!) at least from a financial perspective.
7. Speaking of finances, I spent over 10% of my income in 2017 on new Apple products
8. And these Apple products are my gifts to myself this Christmas
9. Looking forward to a quieter Christmas in New Zealand
10. Missing the hectic, surreal holiday festivities of home
My father was an artist in another life. The life that I knew with him as his son didn't have art. It would be years before I would even make the connection that the paintings in his childhood home were made by him.
And I only ever witnessed him putting pen to paper to draw something just once. It was one of his election campaigns and he asked me to design his poster. There were no Macs then, or tablets. It wasn't really easy to open the computer as it was back then and create a mock design of what you wanted. So he sketched the layout with pen on paper and the ease by which he defined his own face on it or the economy of line to bring out an expression that could only be captured with a camera made me realise that I didn't know the person that he was as an artist.
But it never occured to me to be resentful that he didn't encourage us to take up art or to even have it in our home. He gave us everything we needed including things we didn't even think we needed. And at some point, we realised that he had to give something up in order to accomplish this. He taught us by example, that life is about trade-offs and that when you make them, it has to be for a good reason; a reason you will never regret. And I don't think he ever did.
That art thing seems to be in our family DNA and nearly everyone in our family have dabbled in it at some point with some actually having it as a career. I keep telling myself I'll give it another try only to realise lately that I actually have, that my work as a content creator involves crafting images and design albeit done digitally. To have spun that as a career without any formal training is something I can credit my father for because it's true- you can't teach true talent, it's either you have it or you don't.
In short, I'm actually 'ma-arte' (which come to think of it, is a word that probably comes from 'art' and that if you have 'too much' of it to the point of being annoying, you're therefore, 'ma-arte')
1. I rarely eat lunch straight out of a plastic lunch container. It has to be put on a proper plate and I have even brought personal plates to the office when I think that the provided office plates are not 'proper' enough.
2. I wear my best clothes everywhere just as I present my 'best self' at all times. Why in the world would you dress down, or bring your problems to work?
3. There is no art in chaos as far as housekeeping is concerned. A dirty, ugly house is a dirty, ugly house. I clean up nearly every day otherwise I can't function.
4. Spend some time immersing yourself simply appreciating the beauty of things- like browsing in an LV store!
5. If you find the balance between the simplicity of art and the outrageous commercialisation of it, you're good.
(the following are images taken at this unique museum hotel in Wellington called the QT Museum Hotel where I stayed at recently for a conference).
When your birthday is an endless (Halloween!) party..
When I was at the UP, I was friends with this girl who one day, stopped being friends with me for reasons she didn't really say. Just simply stopped talking to me or even acknowledging my presence even if I was literally in front of her face.
I was literally, dead to her- a ghost. I would Google her years afterward; sneered at her face (she was never the sort you would describe as pretty even if you forced yourself to be nice); judged her job, her hair and her life in general (that's why I left Facebook because I felt that all the incessant judging I was doing was internally toxic). Yup- I literally haunted her with some sort of half-expectation that the answer as to why she stopped being friends with me would reveal itself.
Having been someone who came to friendships late in life, I've developed an independence that I think, sometimes borders on the extreme-I really wouldn't give two shits if I lived alone, or died alone. I find some sort of satisfying fulfillment and peace with my routine, my self-involved interests and my lack of social obligation save for family which to me, are not obligations at all, but commitments. That's why living in New Zealand is perfect- I hardly know anyone and that suits me just fine.
But this is not to say that I've had a lack of opportunities to form strong friendships which in this day and age of numerous digital interconnections, would have been an easy thing to do.
But not for me; I think I've grown too fond of being invisible, of being rooted to one spot, unable to leave it, to move on.
Where: Little Mexico Cantina & Tequila Bar
What: 3-litre jugs of Pina Colada or sugary Margaritas for $60 and cheap, unpretentious platters of the usual suspects (nachos, tortilla chips and saucers of chili paste, guacamole, pico de gallo..).
People think it's more of a restaurant than a bar which suits us just fine in all the times we tried to get into another Mexican themed restaurant/bar, only to be turned off by the crowds so we end up here, our annoyance eased by the easy smiles of their Spanish-speaking wait-staff. We promise that next time, it won't be our back-up choice.
By 10pm, the dinner crowd disappears and if you've commandeered the side-walk tables, forgiving the fact that it's on a sloped surface, you would have called it a night too even if the streets are telling you it's just starting- a pitcher of Margarita is very deceptive.