Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Patience

When I was four, I witnessed something quite horrible, though at that time it seemed curious as well.

I know that in these YouTube days, horror mingled with curiosity are quite pedestrian, there's someone posting a horrifying video that you can't take your eyes off right this minute. But in those days, the mixture of horror and curiosity was something you can only experience first-hand.

Let me step back a bit and paint you a picture of that beautiful early summer, in my hometown in the Philippines. The temperature was mild and sunny almost every day. In a month, the sun will turn treacherous and burn your skin in a minute, but right then, it was just perfect. You could run around for days and not break out in a sweat.

Our dog, Patience--Pasensiya in Tagalog, was pregnant. Patience was a mutt, with creamy short hair. Her face and legs were often caked in mud, as if she just came from nosing around somewhere in the garden.

You know how all your pets in your childhood seemed larger than any animals later in your life? Patience was like that for me when I was four. When I hugged her, she filled my arms. Her head was the size of my head. When she licked me with her warm, wet tongue, it felt like the little washcloth they give you in Japanese restaurants to wipe your hands (although I like to wipe my face in it too because it is so refreshing).

When I sit back and think about it now, rationally, she must've been just an average dog, maybe even on the small side. Even in the few seconds of this rational thinking, my memories have been altered, split into two parallel universes; Patience's bigness/smallness now co-exist in my mind. It's a bit jarring, like fun house mirrors.

Patience was lean, as most dogs were in the Philippines, as she was fed only rice and scraps, whatever she can manage from under the table. My two cats these days are spoiled gluttons compared all the pets I had in my youth. Patience's leanness only emphasized the size of her pregnancy. When I touched the skin on her gravid stomach, it felt tight, hot.

It must be said that I didn't really understand that Patience was pregnant. I'm sure somebody explained it to me, but even then, so what? Even though my vocabulary was expanding by the minute, comprehension was limited to things my child's mind was occupied with. Some words only strike a hollow fear: 'Death,' 'Divorce,' 'Donnie Osmond,' they didn't hold any true meaning.

I remember up until the day Patience was to give birth, she was playful and exuberant. I don't know if this was the case with most pregnant dogs; Patience was the only pregnant animal that I had ever been in close contact with. That made her disappearance so odd.

I looked for her all around the house, looking under couches and behind shrubs. I found my brother's chewed up plastic truck--but no dog.

I went to my mother then, who was sewing something, maybe another pair of pajamas pants. My siblings and I wore them all day in those days. She helped me look.

Eventually we found Patience in the garage. She was hiding in a corner behind a old spare tire, lying on her side, panting. She looked at us disinterestedly, saving her energy.

My mother said, "Patience is about to have babies, it looks like."

I was excited, even though I didn't know what to expect. We stood looking on for a few minutes. But then suddenly, it started.

Swoosh! Out came a little fleshy thing, then another, and another. And swoosh! Two more! But the little things didn't look like a dog, or a puppy or anything like Patience. The little things looked like fleshy Vietnamese spring rolls. They were were small, pink and translucent; they didn't move.

After the last one came out, Patience stood up and smelled the little spring rolls and then, to my horror, ate them all up. She wolfed them down, each with a single bite.

I was stunned, but also totally mesmerized and confused. I asked my Mom if Patience took a shit and ate them, she's done that before. I backed away just in case Patience wanted to lick me.

Mom explained that Patience must've sensed something wrong with her pups.

I was skeptical, I thought maybe she was just hungry and just not very discerning. Shit, food, little fleshy spring rolls--it's all the same to her. It made me kinda grossed out.

Thinking back, if I hadn't been standing there, I would've missed it. I wouldn't have known that Patience given birth to stillborn pups. I probably would've thought that she just lost weight or something. I probably wouldn't have noticed even that.

But god, when I think about it now, I really, really wish that I could've YouTube'd that.


When I was about seven, Patience died. Then we ate her. Part of her will always be with me. But there was a part of her that was gone forever, the next day, after I took a dump.



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Other pet posts:

Morning Routine - A surprise greets me at lunch for my haste getting ready for work.

Confessions of a Broken Cat - A feline emergency in 3 parts. Drama guaranteed.

Meeting The Family - It was an inauspicious beginning: Rusty knocks me down when I first meet my BF's family.
Bite Your Tongue - Mythbusting. Do dogs bite their tongues? Find out.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What Your Remix Says About You

When our new neighbor downstairs moved in, Brian and I were very excited. This was because the guy was HOT. When he was looking over the place, we ran into him in the hallway and we prayed--prayed--that his credit check was good so he would get the place.

He is a tall, trim black dude with nice broad shoulders, very Tyson Beckford in those old Ralph Lauren ads. I looked forward to fantasizing about him when I'm having sex with my boyfriend. What? It's true.

We speculated whether or not he was gay, which for you two straight guys that read this blog, is a compliment, because we would never speculate if someone was gay if he looks like he could have skidmarks in his underwear. If we fags like you, you should have no trouble picking up girls, and if you do, then what the fuck's the matter with you? Get it together, or get a gay guy to give you a makeover. Every dude should have a good gay friend.

Anyway, Satan answered our prayers and a few weeks later he moved in. However, we couldn't determine our man's sexuality because he didn't really have a lot of furniture. Apparently, he just moved into the city from Denver or DC or something, I don't know, I was distracted by his gorgeous brown eyes when he was telling me this.

The following weeks, there were noises indicating industry beneath our floors. We would peep into his back window to see if we could get a glimpse of his decorating style, thinking we could figure out his sexuality pretty easily that way. Thank God he hadn't bought any window treatments yet although that would've answered this question right then and there. Window treatments inevitably speak louder about you than anything. If I were a shrink, no treatment would start without visiting my patients' homes and checking out the window treatments.

However, all questions were settled last Saturday afternoon when loud music filtered through our floor. It had a nice thumping groove and immediately made me want to shimmy. We tried to place the song because it was so familiar, but it took us a few long minutes because the melody was muffled. Then suddenly, it came to us--Deborah Cox! Nobody's Supposed To Be Here, the Hex Hector remix! He's gay! He's gay! Hurrah!

If it had been Whitney Houston or even Mariah Carey it wouldn't have been as definitive, but it was Deborah Cox and the dance mix! He's sooo definitely gay. Mystery solved. We congratulated ourselves on our excellent CSI skillz.


In the next episode, we try to find out what that funky smell coming out of the place inhabited by the couple two floors below us. Is it kimchi or boiled cauliflower? Stay tuned.

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Related posts:

Tug of War - What our decorating says about us.

DJ Evil Twin - My alter-ego. Totally eeevil and remixed for your pleasure.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jimmy

This is probably the only thing I will ever write about my Uncle Jimmy.

My Uncle Jimmy is my mother's youngest brother. My mother is thirteen years older than him. She helped raise him since my mother is one of the oldest children out of a brood of nine.

Jimmy is just Jimmy. It's not James. Not Jim or Jay. Just Jimmy.

My grandparents, as the new fashion was in the Philippines in those days, wanted to give my Uncle an "American-style" name, out of bourgeois aspiration. Until then, it was very common to give children Spanish names. In fact, all the older children had Spanish names: Juanito, Macària, Miguela. However, starting with my Aunt Elizabeth, the younger kids had English names.

But maybe out of naiveté or artlessness, instead of giving my Uncle the proper name of James, they settled on "Jimmy," probably because they liked the sound of it better, not knowing it was a nickname, a name for a little boy. This is the name that ended up on his birth certificate.

The idea of this sounds horrifying to me now, like if somebody's name was really Bob instead of Robert, or Dubya instead of George. But I never thought about it then. He was just my Uncle Jimmy, my favorite uncle.


In my mind, he will always be a boyish twenty year-old, eight years older than me, a sophomore in college, still living at home. He was slightly overweight, which exaggerated his boyishness and youth. He was quick to laugh and had a tendency to giggle.

I remember vividly how I used to spend a lot of time in his room, watching TV and reading magazines. It's usually a Saturday afternoon; my mother was very close to her younger siblings and would visit their home often, bringing us along.

I was twelve, maybe thirteen, and I thought that he was the coolest guy I knew. He was well-dressed and always had these great magazines to read: GQ, Esquire, People. I would often sit on his floor, leafing through them slowly, with the TV on, while he studied or lay in bed, reading a novel.

His room smelled musky, like lingering cologne or aftershave. Once, I went into his bathroom where I examined his collection of colognes, in deep-colored bottles with silver caps and amber liquid; dark gemstones, lined up against the wall on his counter.

I tried smelling each of them, wrinkling my nose at the stronger ones like Grey Flannel. But most of them smelled the same to me, just in different bottles. I dabbed some on a spot on the inside of my wrist, like they said to do in novels. It felt cool on my skin, and as the alcohol evaporated, a little sizzle. My uncle never seemed to mind, even though I came out smelling like a bordello.

I would just hang out in his room even when he wasn't around. He never seemed concerned about what I was doing, it seemed to me.


My Uncle is gay. This wasn't something I knew about him then, or myself.

I didn't know what that meant. I didn't even know what sex meant, even though we talked about it in sixth grade Biology. What does it mean 'to reproduce'? And what is a 'vagina'? And what? I'm going to grow hair where?

But it was there, our sexuality, in that room. It floated above us like mist or fog, swirling around like wraiths.

Later on, when I understood, when I learned to apply the word to myself, it was like a string of lights lit up. I'm gay. My uncle is gay, Merv Griffin is gay. And oh! Charles Nelson Reilly. And Ernie and Bert! It was quite amazing, this burst of knowledge. Suddenly, I knew what it must've been like for Adam, when he ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and found out that Eve was a lying bitch.


It was also inevitable that my Father found out that my Uncle Jimmy was gay.

I remember my father angrily arguing with my mother in the living room. By then, I had this automatic shut-off to the sound of my parents fighting; it was very painful to listen to. It made me afraid, the sound of their raised voices. I just kept watching TV in the next room.

My ears perked up when I heard my father screaming about Uncle Jimmy, telling my mother to keep me and my brothers away from him. My mom defended her little brother, denying he was gay. I remember hearing something something something about magazines my father saw in my uncle's room.

Then my father burst into the room, in his oversized boxer shorts and wifebeater--his preferred loungewear--and told me, "I don't want you to hang out with your Uncle Jimmy anymore. Bakla siya! He is gay!"

I nodded silently, not really comprehending what he was saying. But I dared not disobey.

I always thought that I grew apart from my Uncle Jimmy because I was afraid of my Dad. Or that I grew up, because I became interested in other things, you know, like Drama Club.

But in writing this, I realized that I distanced myself because I was ashamed of this thing that my father saw in my uncle. The thing that was in my uncle, the thing that was also in me. I didn't want to be like my uncle. I didn't want to be him.

I think my uncle saw what I was doing and let it be.


The last time I saw my Uncle Jimmy was a couple of years ago. He is nearing fifty now. His faced is lined, his waistline thicker, his eyes a little droopy. But the boyishness is still there, a little tired, but there.

Even though I am comfortable with my own sexuality, I still feel that distance between us. I even felt a vague sort of disapproval of him, as if I was still that boy thinking, "I don't want to be you, I don't want to be you..."

Uncle Jimmy, I'm so so sorry for staying away. I am like you.

I am you.




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Note: I wrote the original draft of this at the Writing The Unthinkable workshop. We were all given the word "Relatives" and seven minutes to write about the images that came to mind. Most of the elements of this story was written then. See WordFlame! for a 'taste' of this technique.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Live Wire

Electricity freaks the fuck out of me, man. It's a fear that has been with me for a long time, almost to my earliest memories. I think it stems from the time when I got shocked from the refrigerator, when I was growing up in the Philippines; when I was a little tyke of seven sporting a homemade bowl cut.

The refrigerator was old even then. I wouldn't be surprised if my dad found it in an alley somewhere and took it home. It was a faded yellow GE, chipped in various places and it had a metal handle. I don't know how long, but for a little while, it was poorly grounded such that sometimes when you touched the handle, you'd feel a very mild current.

I know I know, that's weird, but I don't think that my parents had the money to have it fixed. Maybe the cord was frayed, maybe there was something wrong with the electrical wiring, I don't know, but when you're a kid, even though it was mild, it sorta freaked me out.

This worried me whenever I wanted something from the fridge, which was rare, since there were never any snacks or ice cream or anything to munch on. The selection was limited, since the meagre income that my dad made as a taxi driver went to buying the essentials: vegetables, some meat and cheapest fish from the market.

If I went to the fridge for anything, it was probably for cold water, since I spent a lot of time running around in the year-round 80 degree weather. I think there was one time that I remember when my mom bought some freezer pops for my brothers and I, it was like the most exciting thing that happened that whole year.

I had to psych myself to open the fridge, slowly reaching for the metal handle and praying that I wouldn't get shocked. Later on, I learned to wrap my hand in the bottom half of the t-shirt I was wearing to prevent getting shocked. Even after the fridge was fixed, I still wrapped my hand in my t-shirt for a long while, just in case.

I remember one time, after a big storm where there was a lot of flooding, I went to get some water from the fridge, not really thinking and reached for the handle. I got a big shock, stinging me more than normal. It startled me so much tears welled in my young, tender eyes...


I think that experience scarred me for life. I didn't touch the refrigerator for a month afterwards.

It made me so wary about electricity, I don't even like how sometimes in the winter, you get shocked from static electricity when you touch metal or skin. After walking on a wool carpet, I would often try to de-static myself my touching some insulated material. I hate wool sweaters even though they are often the ones that look luxurious. Like a poor relation, I have to settle for plain, crude cotton sweaters.

This past weekend, I had to install a fancy ceiling fan to replace the dingy white fan we had in our living room. My boyfriend had refused to install it since he got shocked when he installed our new pendant lighting in the dining room.* He thinks it's because the previous owners of our place didn't wire the lighting correctly.

I guess I was going to have to hire an electrician until I remembered one important thing: I was a cheapskate. I am so cheap that yesterday, I ate a brown, mottled banana and I'm not talking about my boyfriend's penis. The instruction manual seemed simple enough, so I girded my loins. I was going to try to do it myself.

Even though I had turned off the main electrical source, I still felt enormous trepidation as I climbed the ladder and reached out to touch the exposed wires. I steeled myself as my finger neared copper, sending out a silent prayer.

When nothing happened, I felt a huge relief! I still live, I still breathe--which meant that I still needed to avoid running into my creditors. I put together the rest of the ceiling fan and finished the installation.

Later, I stepped down and surveyed my work. I felt so proud of myself. My heart was bursting with pride so much, it was like Pamela Anderson bursting out of her bra. I feel like I do can anything now--anything: spackle holes in the wall, fix leaky faucets, steal cable service--as long as it is nowhere near wool carpets in the winter.



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* You can actually see the pendant lighting that Brian installed in the background of the picture.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Workshop

These are the photos I took at Lynda Barry's workshop Writing The Unthinkable. Here you will find pictures of Lynda Barry, our esteemed instructor; Kelly Hogan, our cool class 'monitor'; and various anonymous participants. And of course, pictures of yours truly, retouched within a pixel of its life.



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More Unthinkable:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Science


(c) 2008 The New Yorker

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Cartoons - The New Yorker cartoons slay me. These are ones which have appeared in this site over the years.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Rule of One Hotter

Have you ever heard about the "Rule of One Hotter?"

Patricia Marx, in a column for The New Yorker wrote that on one cold, brisk day, she was trying to persuade her nine year-old niece to put on a warmer coat and possibly a hat. Her niece refused, invoking the Rule of One Hotter:

Kids are one hotter than grownups, so if a grownup is hot, a kid is very hot, but if a grownup is very, very cold, a kid is only very cold.


Instinctively, I thought that while this had the ring of truth, there are probably a lot of exceptions to the rule. Kids are sort of self-absorbed that way, they can't possibly think of all the possibilities like neurotic adults can.

Menopausal women and Excessively Fashionable Gay Men, for instance, are prone to be warmer than normal. Menopausal women for obvious reasons, and the E.F.G.M. because they control the weather through sheer mind control, since a bulky overcoat will simply ruin any sexy, skin-tight outfit they just put on. Hookers too, may be exempt, although I would think that crack cocaine only has the heating power to protect to -10 degrees. Any colder would require a heat lamp, which I don't think is likely unless the Prostitutes' Union get together and picket City Hall.

I, on the other hand, am always cold in the winters. Like Patricia, I am probably four colder than most people. In my head, I have invented many a garment to insulate myself from the cold, most of it involving sewing on a Prada label to bulky, winter clothing. I don't know any haute couture designers that design for cold Chicago winters. When a designer has a winter collection, they mean winter in Florida, where their customers have a pied-à-terre. A typical winter item: a see-through cover up for a bikini.

I don't know why it is that winter clothes are always so bulky. I didn't starve myself to a 30 inch waist so that my down jacket would visually add forty pounds to my frame. Thinsulate, that mainstay of winter clothing should be called Fatsulate, for how unflattering it makes anything.

My solution is to wear long underwear so that I can wear more fashionable items without too much bulk. The only problem is, they also friggin bunch up in your pants. Why are they always made with like a 50 inch inseam? Every time I put one on, the elastic band comes up to my armpits. Haven't they heard of low-rise? They are also hellishly hot once you are indoors.

It makes me wish that I was young again, so that I can be one hotter--in more ways than one.

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Related posts from the archives:

What Does It Say About Me? - Matt offers No Milk some fashion advice.

Exhale
- True Love expands all waistlines.

Tales of Gay Shopping - Two men + shopping together = gay.
Death of the Circuit Boy - A quaint, long-winded essay I wrote waaay back in 2001. Boooringg!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Different Place...



Annie and I have completed Writing The Unthinkable and the world is now a strangely different place: the unthinkable is now thinkable and all we have to do is let it write itself. Lynda personally awarded all the class participants A's for a job well done. I don't know if there is an A in my life, that I have cherished more.

I am exhausted. Annie and I will write about our experiences (and maybe even samples of our writing) soon.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Writing The Unthinkable

What does that mean, writing the unthinkable?!? Is writer-artist Lynda Barry going to sequester all 45 of us aspiring writers up in a tiny room with no bathroom and not let us out until one person writes something that halfway decent? Do we have to use our own blood for ink? Do we have to smell each others' armpits for inspiration? This is totally freaking me out and you can totally tell because this sentence has three exclamation points after it!!!

I was so scared that I had to get Annie to sign up for the writing workshop with me. She didn't really want to do it, but I reminded her that deep inside of her, there is someone waiting to emerge and write better love letters to prison inmates.

We will be spending this first weekend of 2008 writing. I am hoping that this workshop will help me become a better writer or at the very least make me lose ten pounds trying, since I will be writing instead of snacking constantly.

Either way, it will be $200 well spent. And after six years, at an 22% APR when I've paid it off on my credit card, it would only be about $6,021.19. That's sooo totally reasonable. By then, I would be a famous author looking back at how one workshop in 2008 was the beginning of my writing career...


LISTEN TO THIS: An NPR interview with Lynda Barry where she talks about how anybody can be a writer or an artist or an musician. How if we never edit ourselves and give in to our fear of sucking, we could be good at it, whatever it is. "What's the point of art?" Lynda once asked her mentor. The reply, "That sounds like a question you can ask only when you're not doing it." Wow.

READ THIS: Thinking the Unthinkable

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More Unthinkable:


Annie has written for NMP. Check it out.

Books by Lynda Barry:

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

Overheard on January 1st, 2008, about 1:30 a.m., on a snowy street corner on Ontario and Orleans.

Woman in stilettos, a silver sequined dress and a black overcoat to the occupant of a cab pulling away from curb:

"That was my cab you bitch, I was here first! HAPPY FUCKING NEW YEAR!"