There are bad days and there are better days. I think it’s true for everyone. And as bad and long as bad days are wont to be the better days seem like a breath of cool, fresh air. Savor it as the blessing that it is. Take note so that during the bad days you can remember that sometimes life gives you a break once in a while and the next day could be another one.
Have you seen the old music video of Someday by Sugar Ray? I have. Who hasn’t, right? It’s a good song. Anyway, that video always felt so “melancholic” to me. It’s not sad per se but it gives off an atmosphere of sadness. Whenever I would see that video I would get sucked in on it’s visuals and sounds and I would feel a sort of nostalgic blues fill up my surroundings for the duration of the freaking video.
Maybe it’s the deserted, black and white beach with the band playing like children on all black shirt and pants. I mean… They’re fully clothed! On a beach! With no other people! And the sky is overcast with rain clouds. There’s an old couple. It’s like a reverie. The whole thing feels like a reverie of an old man.
And the lyrics of the song… “Someday when my life has passed me by I’ll lay around and wonder why you were always there for me. Just close you eyes and I’ll take you there. This place is warm without a care. We’ll take a swim in the deep blue sea. So far… So long… So far away… And fade away… fade away…” It’s like a man reminiscing a well lived life near it’s end (or rather a middle aged man imagining something like that) and everything’s just gravy already.
And it’s all being sung in that -how do you describe that tune? Sunny? It’s a freaking sunny tune about an old man with his wife on a tropical beach reminiscing!
This song just fills me with nostalgic blues. waves and waves of nostalgic blues of an old man.
(first I would like to say that I know this work is not polished enough although I don’t know why I’m even trying to qualify it when most of my works are unpolished first drafts. maybe it’s because I almost like this one.)
I’ve always loved to commute. But that was before everything went south to crap territory. I think I liked it because growing up I’ve never really had much friends so the communal spirit of public transportation appealed to my subconscious. Maybe it’s strangers forming a small community of travelers for a short while that made me happy. I don’t know. But the ritual of passing fares from passenger to passenger ‘till it reaches the driver seemed almost sacred to me. It was like giving offerings on church service. Lonely people, such as me, counted that as socializing.
My jeep’s destination then was the central market. I was going to meet someone at my old university. I had my reservations in going back there but he needed parking space and I didn’t know where else we could possibly meet so I relented on the idea. But I’ve decided long before that that place was in my past now. I’m not a growling tiger anymore. Going there would be nothing more than a convenience to me, or that’s what I told myself anyway.
As my ride stumbled on the city roads I tried to imagine what my friend and I might talk about. He had always been a funny guy. He’d probably start with my weight gain. To hell with him, I said to myself as I smiled. I just knew the day had a possibility of becoming a nice one so I wished silently that the rain would remain a light drizzle.
I got out at the jeepney terminal and caught sight of the familiar roads of the university belt. I recognize these roads as a part of me now. They’re a mile marker inside me, like a measure of my humanity, a high water mark from a flood. It led me out of innocence towards adulthood by showing me my blots and stains in stark lighting. I crossed them with heavy feet.
I was walking on the overpass when my phone rang. My friend was asking where I was already. I said simply the overpass. He understood me. We discussed briefly on how I was going to get inside without an alumni card. A plan was formed involving the university hospital. I put down the phone. It was just like the good old days. I had to cheat my way in.
I haven’t even finished weaving my tale to the guard about needing to see a doctor at the university hospital when my friend called my name loudly. I heard the jest in his voice. Oi, I said. He was grinning like mad. I couldn’t help but smile. Two peas in a pod came up in my head. The guard permitted me inside. I told my friend, as I was coming towards him, that he ruined my tall tale to guard. He shrugged at it. Instead he joked that I’ve “grown” more since we’ve last met. I congratulated myself silently for correctly guessing what his welcoming remark would be.
We walked over to where his car was parked. I looked around and took notice of the trees. The greenery of the campus had flourished beautifully since I was last there. I could smell the sharp scent of rain moist leaves and grass. I caught myself staring and realized that I appreciated the scenery more now than when I was a student. Maybe it’s in the perspective. I guess even a star wouldn’t seem as beautiful when you are burning in it.
There were very few people walking the premises. My friend informed me that it’s the break between semesters. I wasn’t even aware of that. I thanked God for the small blessing. I drank in the calm of the place then we got inside the car.
I was on a vehicle again, traveling. Apparently we were going to the business district. He has an appointment there. I tried to relax. We talked. We joked. We laughed at our jokes. We reminisced. Every conversation always returned to the past, the things that happened. We talked about what we have done before and what our block mates have done before. It’s the funny things that mattered to us. When the future’s unsure you look back to the past and you try to scrounge up as much happiness you can find there. It’s dysfunctional, we know, but we didn’t have much choice in the matter. So we talked and we laughed.
We skirted the topic of work and our lack of it. We shrugged at each other and at ourselves. Work is for the weak. We were waiting for our big break, waiting for our fortune to turn and throw us a bone. Sometimes I wonder at how gutless I am.
Our conversation veered to a commission he fulfilled a while back on the illustration and layout of a book. It impressed me. I tried to prevent it from showing too much on my face. He opened the glove compartment and tossed me the book. He probably planted that there, the arrogant bastard. I realized again that his drawing hand was better than mine as I was flipping the pages of the book. I commented on the quality of the illustrations, my pride being pricked for every word I said. I’m worse off than he was. He has a car and can drive it around. I’m only a lowly commuter. I returned the book on the compartment and tried to change the topic organically.
As the wheels of his car went round and round on the asphalt ground so did the conversation inside the car, pointless… circular… safe.
We rolled onwards to our destination. The tall buildings loomed over us like self important men in business suits. I made a face as I looked out the window. I’ve decided long before that I hated this place. The business district is like a cruel segregation machine. It keeps what it deems useful and throws away what it sees as refuse. It has no compassion, no time for trifles, no time for humanity. My friend parked the car inside a compound. We got out.
We walked inside a low rise office space building. We passed by a sound studio. I’ve dreamed of working in a studio before with a production team filled with other artists. I’ve always thought it would both be nourishing to my craft and profitable to the company I would be working for. I was never invited in to join the club.
We entered some kind of office. My friend whispered conspiratorially that it was a sort of high end whole sales market place. I nodded thinking “How does that work?” He told me to wait. I sat on the bench on the outer office. He went inside and talked to his contact. I saw that his contact was your typical office worker. I can hear the cajoling in her voice. It whispered to me “Conserve the office’s money…”
My friend came back to me a bit put off. I can recognize “bad news demeanor” when I see one. He shrugged it off with words. I complied with replies. Back to the car it was like nothing has happened. Downers are always buried for later whenever you are out with friends. That’s the policy. We drove out of the district.
We didn’t feel like going home yet though so he suggested we go meet his girlfriend at her place and find somewhere to sit and talk. I concurred. I might as well hang out and kill what’s remaining of the day with them between drinks than go back home and drown myself with fiction. Another familiar face would be a welcome sight for me. Besides, I wanted to hear her past year from the both of them.
The journey to upper class metro manila suburb had been a long and monotonous one. We barely spoke a word. It’s like we’ve exhausted every possible topic we can share with each other. But the silence in the car was a tolerable one. It wasn’t what you would call uncomfortable or awkward. There was just little that we cared to talk about.
Finally we reached her place. He called her through the phone. She got in the car and we drove off again. She rekindled the flickering conversation with news about our former block mates, people from my past. I accommodated the information she gave with “ah’s” and “uhuh’s” all throughout the ride.
Our car stopped at the street that’s lined with restaurants. We passed by a restaurant with udder on its name. Apparently she doesn’t know what the word udder pertains to. I explained it as boobs of a cow and motioned a milking gesture with my hands. English is only a secondary language to people in this part of the country. It was a very understandable lapse in vocabulary. We were hungry so we quickly decided on a restaurant. The noodle house seemed inviting because of the wet and chilly night.
The walls inside the place were trying to look oriental. The noodles came and we resumed our conversations. We laughed a few. It relaxed me a little. My friend got his pad out and chat-up a former block mate. They bantered with each other. He would type something and the other person would reply. He said something mean to her. I tried to help myself from laughing but I couldn’t. I laughed loudly. It was my first real, uncontrollable fit of laughter in years. I’m reminded again that I’m not such a good person. His girlfriend looked at us both disapprovingly. I stopped laughing and stuffed my mouth with noodles. The bowl seemed to me like a never ending noodle receptacle. We gorged ourselves till we were full then speculated to each other whether the restaurant offered sake. We shrugged and decided to go somewhere else to drink. Beer might be agreeable tonight.
We got in the car again, more roads, more twists and turns. We reached the place that they both say is nice. I looked at it as we were parking the car. It was nice. Actually it was more than nice. There were only a few people lounging in the joint, just right for each table to have privacy. The lights were soft and there was a barely perceptible coffee shop music floating in the air. It was quaint. We decided on al fresco. We took our orders. I asked for the citrus flavored beer while he ordered the super dry kind. She asked for an ice cream cake.
Without notice a switch in me flipped. I completely relaxed suddenly. The place was simply perfect, quiet. We got to talking about things like art lessons during our stint at the university, about their ongoing relationship, about each of our plans for the future, about each other’s past three years… just things. I wasn’t even shy about the story I wanted him to illustrate. It was a little like before, a little like college but not exactly. It’s in the perspective. A star will probably seem fine to you as long as you are not burning in it.
We chatted till we went past the curfew we’ve set to ourselves.
It was, basically, another pointless and unproductive day for me.
But it was nice to be out of the house for once.
The 90′s was when I spent my childhood. It was before the advent of the digital age. Everything wasn’t automated back then and playing meant running around the widest empty lot you can find in the neighborhood. There was a rule then that non school days were spent outside with hometown friends playing tag-you’re-it games. There were lots of different types of tag-you’re-it games back then. I could even remember some of them like Patintero, Langit Lupa, Prikidam One two Three (also know as Agawan Base), Mataya-taya, Bente Uno, Shampoo-Shampoo, Sili-Sili, and some other more esoteric kinds of tag. We also had Hide and Seek (houses are off limits!). Then there’s Tumbang Preso (the one where the “it” guards the can while other players try to topple it down with slippers), Siato (a weird baseball mutation with sticks as bat and ball) Doctor Quack-Quack, Piko, and Step No. There are also the games based on toys like Basagan Trumpo (battle of tops like bey blade), Yo-yo (with the soft drinks logo design), Kite flying with strings that were treated with powdered glass imbued glue (so you can cut the enemy kite’s strings and make it “Ektad”), Text (not the one using cellphones), Holen or Jolens (marble game), and Tanching (the one where you use little flat toys weighed with bolts so you can displace the toys from inside a square drawn on the ground wherein if you are successful then the displaced toy is yours), etc… Then there’s the games played on schools and classrooms like Chinese Garter for girls, Pass the message (it’s not the one where you whisper in the ears), Dampa with little Sanrio rubberbands, the one like the Riff-off game on Pitch Perfect (but with less spotlights and spontaneous crowd sing alongs), Tic-Tac-Toe, SOS, etc…
And the television was king. Anime, Cartoons, and Sentai were morning and afternoon staples. There’s Ghost Fighter(Yu-Yu Hakush), Slamdunk, Eto Rangers, Yaiba, Battle Ball, Time Quest, Super Boink, Sailor Moon, Evangelion, Voltes V, Daimos, Turbo Rangers, Mask Man, Bio Man, Machine Man, Masked Rider Black, Shaider, Uncanny X-Men, Batman the animated series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc… You just know every kid you will meet during those times have seen all the anime, cartoons, and sentai you’ve seen. We were like a hive mind. Then when you grow a little older you turn to the radio because your relatively older sibling or relative was into that. There was Campus Radio for me.
And there was the childhood fear and disinformation mongering like don’t wound yourself on lent because it will never heal, it’s not advisable to take a bath after 3:00 p.m. during the holy week because the water turns to blood, a train will come out of a large wound (some versions have a priest coming out of it), if you peep at someone taking a bath you will get warts in your eyelid, if there’s a sudden silence in a group it means an angel passed by, don’t make wacky faces because an evil wind might blow on it and get it stuck that way, the fragrant tiny little beads you can buy at school named Kisses will get pregnant and multiply if you put it in alcohol soaked cotton (I can see the bumps on it now!), a fork that fell to the ground means a male visitor and a spoon means female, etc…
Then there’s the immature and bratty attitude like when you see a friend that’s not so aesthetically pleasing you make a cross with your index fingers and try to scare them off like evil spirits, the Ale Luya joke, the teasing of your classmate who had diarrhea in class, the si Ge Repeat joke, and so on and so forth.
Maybe childhood then really was more humble, meager, and like a sport full of physical contact but you still enjoyed it. You lived it. You were happy with those small things such as brick games and Ghost Fighter text cards. You spread absurd stories about ghosts and haunted schools. You teased each other. I’m sure childhood nowadays is just as rich, and innocent, and adventurous but the contrast of what is available to children then is just so big as compared to what is available to them now. You just smile because you know that even before there were cellphones and tablets and the internet the times before were still enjoyable and livable. Do I call it zeitgeist? Is that a correct term? I don’t know.
But one thing I have to say. The 90′s rocked.
As I was walking the length of our kitchen to our dining area and thinking about random stuff my mind perched upon a metaphorical expression I have encountered recently online. There was this article about anime and how in 1998 there was a sudden release of shows about the space western genre like outlaw star, cowboy bebop, and trigun. According to what I can remember about the article it was in that year alone that the magic of the space western genre in anime materialized majestically then disappeared as abruptly as a manic pixie dream girl the morning after. In a witty comment the author said that “there must have been something in the water that year.” (forgot the exact quote) I decided then that that might be a good favorite expression. The phrase is such a unique way to describe a great confluence of notable events and things.
That article wasn’t actually the first time I’ve seen the phrase used but it’s an example of the use of the phrase that always stuck to me, as in when writers use it to explain something amazing happening in a certain year with no ready explanation whatsoever. It’s just like something from another article I’ve read that goes, “Why was there so many great movies during the end of the last millennium?” Answer: There must have been something in the water.
I like it because it’s an explanation to the seemingly unexplainable. It’s a pseudo scientific metaphor. It’s dismissive in a way that glorifies the phenomenon it’s pertaining to. I mean for example when talking about great movies in a single year you would think that different creative, social, and economical factors are at play to produce such a line up but you want to express it in a single phrase so you write it off as “must have been something in the water.” It’s dismissive but can sort of glorify too. I don’t know. It just feels that way to me.
Why are independent films suddenly reaching more audience nowadays? Must be something in the water. Why are public officials suddenly renouncing the pork barrel? Must be something in the water. Why are bands sounding more indie? MUST BE SOMETHING IN THE WATER.
From now on it’s a favorite quote of mine. You ask why? Must be something in the water.
It’s raining in the blue skies of November. There is no wind, there is no draft. The drops fall vertical to the ground. The rain slides on the edge of the roof and patters down to the cemented floor below. I can imagine the feeling to stand under the soft drizzle.
The white clouds part. The sun peeks out. The light rain stops. The sanctity of the moment fades but lingers. It’s a beautiful November today.