Friday, April 29, 2016

Love Gained, Love Lost, Loving and Leaving

IN the past few weeks, I've been kind of talking or helping out three longtime friends who've been painstakingly laboring over their respective relationships/marriages. Two are married, one is single (or supposedly “engaged”). Sadly, in almost stunning coincidence—all of them finally broke up this week. I didn't know if my words did matter but I tried to objectify situations and stuff. Yet I know whatever I said were simply buffers or respites from the turmoil. They decided because they had to.

          A relationship, despite the glowing promises of the courtship/honeymoon phase, is not a picnic by a serene beach. Mostly (due to physical realities beyond the “I love you”) it is a raft jaunt amidst a turbulent sea or a rollercoaster ride that refuses to stop. Yet that magical glue called love keeps two together and consign all the challenges and hardships to the backburner. Love will find a way. There could be nine staggering “dealbreakers” in a relationship—more than enough reasons to end it, yet that one item, LOVE, negates everything.
          That's the case with my friends. Or in my case, as well—not just faults and wrongdoings by my ex but also mine. Yet some are able to soldier on and survive the darkness, no matter how overwhelming they were, and celebrate their 20th or 30th, 50th wedding anniversaries. Some don't.
           So when people finally broke up and ended it, that is the time—after few days of reflections and ruminations—that they'd say and realize that they couldn't stand her/his ways and lifestyle, mode of thinking and general attitude anyway. And love wasn't strong enough to find a way. Reason and smart-sense set in. Time to regroup and replan... And move on.
          Moving on is only possible in humility and surrender though. The ability to accept that a failed relationship was a two-person accountability. There is no sense pointing fingers that it's all her/his fault why it didn't work out. People's reflex and response, I believe, is ushered by the situation and circumstances in and around. And that situation/circumstance is the relationship. A partner could either make a person a better individual or the worst that he/she could be. If it failed, it's because the relationship failed—not the person per se. It's a two-person teamwork.
          So we move on with the hope that the other person enters a new world where she/he can improve on things that needed it, realize potentials, pursue delayed plans, achieve dreams—and maybe find another partner that could really add real meaning to the word, synergy or compromise/negotiation. We move on with the hope as well that we realize the same positive, pro-active and output oriented life, and love. Worse that could happen is—for one or both to self-destruct after the breakup.
          Bottomline, life doesn't end after a breakup or divorce. It is just a shake up leading to a new beginning.

All the Love in your Heart

THIS little rumination is meant to friends who asked for my thoughts in regards the subject of love gained and love lost—as though I am a shrink or Dr Phil. Well, I am not—I just write silly love poems, that's all, LOL! 

          WHEN two people break up, many times we hear one accuses the other of being a loony or crazy or “not well” (schizophrenic, bipolar, passive-aggressive etc etc), and vice versa. Of course. Let it rip, for the time being—that is frustration, disappointment. But when the smoke has cleared—try to understand that there are two people that got entangled in such a bittersweet mess, not just one. So when either starts pointing fingers, we say, oh well. That is the hard part—how to get up from the accusations, harsh condemnations, and still believe that you are still significant, beautiful, and worthy to love and be loved. If you are deeply affected by his/her vitriols just because the relationship didn't work, then you remain a broken person, a failure, a piece of trash. Which you are not, unless you are committed to mental asylum after the fact upon diagnosis. But maybe you are a beautiful human being within, it's just that the perceived chemistry or attempted synergy didn't work.
          Humans are a bunch of expostulating atoms, unpredictable hormones and hot/cold body fluids—at the same time, we are a set of sensibility and sensitivity that act and react to given situations and circumstances. Relationships are not easy... That active atom, that innate ability to love can always find its fit when it fails—you can still find a parallel wavelength and aligned energy. Don't give up... Situations didn't work out, situations that many ignore or downplay in favor of the blades and missiles hurled as both vainly try to survive a gasping relationship. When you lose this one, move on—don't listen to whatever is hurled by a finished relationship. It's over.
          If you believe you have beauty in your heart, then let it be open—one way or the other one will enter again. Or maybe there's someone out there that you may have ignored because you were so busy exploring what you thought was the real thing... Let love heal, don't let human foible open wounds. Heal with the next shudder in your chest, don't break. Meantime, be happy, while alone. I recommend, cook yourself a nice paella, uncork a chardonnay, and go check out Netflix. Spring is here. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Loss and Love

CAKE” (2014, Jennifer Aniston film) is an emotionally-charged little indie movie that deals with pain—from physical wound and most especially, pain from the loss of a loved one. Loss of a son. It could also be loss of wife, husband, mother, father, very close friend. This kind of pain, although I may not have experienced the deepest of it, I believe—is a pain that is the worst. It's like you are alive but “dead” inside. I lost my mom in 2005 and still, I am grieving her—yet I couldn't imagine losing a child forever. Especially to a mother from whose body and blood the child came out from.

          When my son was maybe 5 years old, I “lost” him in a frenzy in the open market back home. I used to bring my kids to the market when they were little so we could choose together what's up for dinner and then rent some videos for the weekend. Suddenly, Duane was gone—as we entered a video store. I was in panic, I was hysterical inside. The next 20 or 30 minutes—I scoured the market, frantically asked vendors, ran to the police station—it was like I was suspended on midair, all oxygen in me was gone but I was moving in all directions. I froze yet my body was on a rush like I was driving 100s on a highway. My heart, my mind were all about Duane. I just didn't know what to feel, what to think—I just wanted him back.
           Then, a jeepney driver told me that Duane rode another jeepney to our house! Amazingly, my son knew what to do, where to go, and which jeepney to ride on to get home. He was already home when I got there. I held my son and just calmly said, “Never get lost again. Never.”
          And on my 47th birthday in 2007, while here in Asheville, Duane contracted a deadly virus from most likely, eating street food following flooding/typhoon in Manila. The virus was eating him up fast and rendered half of his body paralyzed in few hours. He needed shots or 5 or 7 vials of antibiotics badly, if not, he'd die. In those hours of waiting, on the other side of the (telephone) line across continents, I felt I died. I didn't want another year in my life, no more—just give those years to my son. I can give my life to my son anytime. He was 21 at that time.
           In 1995, I messed up my lungs so badly from overworking, not sleeping rightly, forgetting to eat, exhaustion. I collapsed, brought to ER and ICU. “Dead” for few minutes. In the haze, I cried out loud in that life-death stupor, “If there's a God and you are witnessing this—pull me out of this shit right now. I cannot leave my kids. Let me live for my kids, please!” The nurses and doctors later told me that it was close to a miracle that I survived. There was even a parish priest on my hospital bed.
          This is drama, I know... But hearing and listening stories of friends who lost their loved ones is no drama. That is life. That is love. That is humanity. That loss will stay in their heart and mind as they live. All my kids, now in their 20s, are healthy and intelligent, and so young and motivated. Any dreams that I built when I was young are dwarfed by the dreams that my kids pursue for themselves. Their joy and success bring more life to me. They are my heartbeat and my spirit. My life.
          “Cake,” the movie, fortunately ended in a good promising note. The grieving mother only had to accept that she was a good mother, she was—and she deserves life after the loss of her son. That life is a gift, not a bitter pill. Life is love. We will only embrace life after loss (of a loved one)—by accepting that good memories stay after they left. Only good memories. And those memories are the inspiration that makes us see light again.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

More Politics and Stuff

SOMETIMES I think are we asking too much from our (prospective) leaders? We criticize them so badly when not all of what they promised during campaign aren't met. What about 6 out of ten, or 7 out of ten? Leaders can work things out better or realistically that way, I reckon. When dad or mom says, “I will buy you a new Buick, that doesn't necessarily mean you get the Buick tomorrow—and it's all paid up,” right? There is an exchange here as well. What about us, the people? Do we deliver what we should while our elected leaders find ways to deliver 100 percent of what we asked for? You see, we humans have also up the hedonism/consumerist scale a bit.   
          It was "better" when America rose from the Great Depression or Dust Bowl. People were fine with just enough stuff to live on and then go from there. That was the time when America slowly loomed as a world power. But then these days, it's tough. People aren't earning enough to pay bills yet we got lots of incendiary bills to pay which were never present before. Whoever wins the presidency, I hope he/she'd be able to work things out with corporate gods and foreign policy for the betterment of American lives. It doesn't have to be polar extremes where people choose between left and right. When we buy milk and potatoes or pay health insurance, it doesn't say partyline politics. It's all about the people. But as a people, we should also do our share of building a better community and a country. It's not all about a President.

POLITICS and SOCIETY. If we view societal/governmental issues with futility than hope then we are all fucked. What is the point of elections if we anticipate that these supposed leaders are going to abuse their powers anyway? We are just wasting time, effort and money. So what is the alternative? Maybe do a Fidel Castro/Muammar Qadaffi remedy? Cuba and Libya have better delivery of basic services but we (in a socalled democratic/free world) will always have something dark to say about those. Maybe let's just hope for the better and elect a president and other legislators that we think ar "less evil"? Well, I'd like to exude optimism amidst the apparent disillusionment. The world overcame the Great Depression (1929 to 1932). Back home in the Philippines, we did improve a lot after two decades of the Marcos regime. The only "solution" to our collective frustration is a full-blown bloody revolution. But do we want that? What we must do and convince voters about, especially those who are not reached by social media (and other media) is to vote smartly. Let us educate and advocate with hope of good change than annihilate and propagate based on doom. It's just that these days, there are more personality-obliterations than actual discussion of political platforms, hence the negative is accentuated more than projection of what these aspiring leaders could do to better our lives. Meantime, being positive works—and it also makes us less angry and grumpy.

POLITICS/HISTORY. Franklin D. Roosevelt is a sort of model for governance coming from the rubble. His New Deal worked but we are talking about more than a decade of leadership (1933-1945), that ended at the tailend of the Pacific War. It was a different era amidst differing socioeconomic and political variables. China was deep sleeping that time... Coming from the economic downturn of the 2000s, plus the fact that Americans are also divided by political correctness, food behavior, gender politics and environmental hug-trees brevity, then there's the resurgence of new immigrant population with different cultural truths--we need a leader who could somehow keep America tight despite this disconnect and diversity. Just a good and effective president. FDR was able to do that via New Deal. Or who was the president who enjoined confederates and union soldiers and African Americans and Irish immigrants and Chinese and Mormons to work on railroads (1863 and 1869)? Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson? Tactical alliance. Of course, there will always be fights in diversity but once this divergence of thoughts and beliefs work for a common good, then there is hope.

TRUMP TALK and POLITICS. Why does The Donald entices a huge throng of believers? If we take time to figure things out objectively apart from sweepingly namecalling Trump supporters as racist morons, we probably would calm down a bit—and then devise strategies how to counter such an onslaught of prospective voters as election nears. That is, if you are a Democrat or just an anti-Trump person. Among other things beyond his foul-mouth that feeds fire out of the sleeping dragon's mouth, Trump isn't just fighting the Democrats—he is also busy fighting the GOP organization's elite. The Republican rank and file is cheering him on but the Tea Party is worried. Indeed, the GOP lost its voters to Donald Trump. An understatement. The D becomes the champion of the victimized underdog. People gravitate to demagogues of that sort. A voice... 
          Meantime, what should worry the Democrats? One Trump could beat a Democrat nominee, why? The schism between Bernie and Hillary is wide, it's divided. Only when their followers shake hands and consolidate vote could they have a chance to beat Trump. But if the "losing" (Dem) aspirant's people decide to not vote, then—doom is upcoming. More so, anti-Trumps must dig in and study why he gets these people and then restrategize how to draw them to the other side--than continue magnifying Trump's "evil" and downgrading his followers. Anti-Trumps should know how to defeat the guy. A dragon can't be defeated by concentrating on the fire that spews out of his mouth. Find out where the fire is emanating from and then work on it. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Children and Internet

HOW do we teach kids and students about internet safety? Can we, really? It was an intense subject of PTA discussion in a Lakewood CA middle school (that I covered years ago). Should parents impose more restrictions, should the school system modify curriculum and introduce a new program to serve the purpose? Meantime, when a child's curiosity gets a bit too zealous, how do we block him/her from the alleged sexual predator, and other kinds of ogres lurking on the e-wall shadow? 

          PUT a password barrier, stabilize firewalls, buy some more anti-this/that apps and software? Remember the first time a child learns how to click the TV remote, or when a teenager first ferrets a Budweiser onto the crib, or a youth excitedly maneuvers his first sedan on a city back alley? Should we heighten the Restricted signs or PG advisories, or post more cops on the road, or should parents start checking every little post, selfie, shared video, Instagram, email etc that their kids send and receive 1001 times a day? Crazy, right?
          I HAVE a very old-school, maybe primitive remedy—or inroads to remedies, should I say. Truth of the time is—that iPad or laptop or iPhone will always be there. There will be a time when all human beings got a Smartphone, plugged in 24/7. Even an infant will be signed into a 5-in-1 Verizon plan, you reckon? So what do we do?
          I GUESS, we just have to not get tired of reminding our kids that people are not emoticons or avatars or emojis that they can control, one-click. People can be nice or rude in a playground, flea market, campus grounds, or dog park. That's real, breathing life—learn how to deal with truths afront. Games are not always Super Smash Bros or PvZ Garden Warfare. There are real games like little league baseball, soapbox derby and table tennis—or what about a real acoustic guitar and piccolo in favor of downloaded dubstep? With these, they can sweat funk out, and laugh aloud, and high-five friends, as well. “Surfing” could be something like paddling a boat in a recreational lake, and “texting” could rest on the dinner table and living room in favor of simply savoring the food blessing or speaking and talking with mouths open not heads bowed. Share some future dreams, travel wishes, and what happened in school today? Books are leafed pages, not electronic flashes on a tiny gadget that got lost in an ocean of legos and puzzle pieces in the den. Teach kids to wash dishes with hands, pick up stuff and things on the floor, fold laundried clothes, vacuum the floor on a weekend at least, build a backyard garden and care for it, walk the dog and have the duty to feed them whenever.
          GOOD ole children's chores when oldies like me were kids. Or in case you have extra dough, travel beyond the US—go to cultures where the internet is simply complementary to “offline” life. Or instead of purchasing more online games and Blu-Rays, why not extra money for saxophone tutorials or ballet classes? In this way, we don't have to get neurotic and paranoid that maybe our 12 or 13 year old boy maybe stealing glances at a Pornhub page or our little girl is chatting to a pedophile in the guise of a cool and awesome 12-year old. Children need to learn “internet safety” as they learn life and living taught by parents who are more concerned with the total well-being of a child, or future adult—not just how to wade around the internet. Computer technology could be as important as automobiles and microwaves—but humanity survive life and salvage wisdom without these. There are other aspects and concerns of life, apparently. We need to mold a child's mind, instead of conditioning their brain; we are raising kids who feel with their hearts because they hear, see, feel, and taste life—and not because all these are programmed, ready for the taking (or tapping, clicking).

          I REMEMBER an 18-year old daughter of a friend in Long Beach CA who went to Haiti for “fun and adventure” to help earthquake victims and came home totally a new human being. Now she questions dishwashers and washer-dryers (“Can we do these with our bare hands?”) cars and SUVs (“Walking is exercise”), cellphones (“There were 5 public phones in an entire village of 1500) video games (“We played soccer in the mud! Awesome!”) and television (“TV was like a moviehouse, scheduled for 35 villagers to watch one movie each week”) etc etcetera. Come to think of it, that's how I grew up. I may have gone old still a crazy dude, but I am proud to say that all my kids—although they use the internet and got cellphones—are still relatively old-school. Still, there are issues to deal other than a wireless abode, right? I'd rather worry about those...
          WHEN a child responds to, “Hey, did you check your Facebook today?” with, “I will for few minutes, I just need to finish this watercolor painting and I need to sleep early today for the volleyball game tomorrow,” then there is hope. No need to hire an “internet safety” tutor. Believe me, they know what “safe” is if their minds are working as natural reflex than brains that so quick at electronic response. 

[Last two photos: Me and Willow; my grandson Keian McMurray]

Love is not easy...

RELATIONSHIPS and marriage aren't easy. Of course, there are these sweet little daydreams like, “I found my soulmate!” “It feels like I've known him/her all my life,” “I finally found someone who knows the meaning of love,” or “He/she is my life's journey and destination!” All the honeymoon romances, courtship tenderness and dating confections... Truth is, all these simmer down or subside a bit as life turns more real than ideal, and love rails in rollercoaster rides than rolls in a hay of steamy clinches. So it's time for compromises and negotiations.
          Are we still going to hang out with the boys in the band for a $50 beer-money on a weekly gig, write manifestoes and grants for activist equals pro bono, smoke awesome herbs and rant about politics that didn't go our way for half a day, live in a house that doesn't exude co-existence anymore but a bohemian's lair, sustain madnesses that feed the “soul” than take on jobs that pay bills just because he/she supports and trusts? Etc etcetera.
          Are we still going to be the way we were when freedom flew like an adventuring albatross as a single individual with just morning coffee, evening wine and Herbie Hancock on turntable and on-time allegiance to “House of Cards” to worry about? Are we going to insist, “This is me! You have to accept the way I am!” or “You have to be friendly with all my friends because they are my friends!” or “I don't eat hummus and kale, I don't want those in my house” or “Don't mess with the living room, I want that Chinese imitation Picasso on that wall!” No, we can't.
          WE are two sets of truths mired in a singular vessel that floats in a turbulent sea of compromises and negotiations. Trust isn't just a word that is part of a serenade's lyricism anymore. Trust is now physically proven not pronounced. Respect isn't an awesome Aretha Franklin howl anymore. It is as simple as we are not man and woman in an enlightenment seminar or gender facts in survey board anymore. We are simply human beings under one roof. Acceptance isn't about political correctness or cultural understanding anymore. It is now about roses in a swamp or fish on land. Deal with it and work things out. 
More than anything else, love isn't about a Schubert sonata or a warm love poem anymore. I don't have a word for it but when I see friends and family who stick together through proverbial thick and think, storms and sunshines for many years and still managed to build and sustain stuff and things to leave their children and grandchildren, and the world at large—which is their love story and life's journey—then I know, it is possible. Very possible. But hard, very hard. I will be 55 years old this month... And in a long road trip to somewhere, when somewhere is always within me. Always inside of me. If I won't be able to find myself on the road, how am I supposed to co-exist with someone in a beautiful universe such as a home? If I can't accomplish that, then I will always be consigned on the road. Flying, running, searching until the sky caves in on me. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

I will see you in September

I AM one of the authors invited in the 11th Annual Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in Burnsville, North Carolina on Sept 8, 9 and 10. 
          Apart from my featured reading/Q&A (from my book, “Red is the Color of my Night) on Sept 9/Friday, I will also lecture on the subject of “Translation or Adaptation? How do we transcribe a cultural truth's vernacular language in the context of English as a global literary medium of communication” the following day, Sept 10th/Saturday. In case you have some thoughts about said subject, we can start talking about it here on my Wall. 

          Meantime, for more details about the event:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

How seductive and alluring and mystifying love is

LOVE. How seductive and alluring and mystifying love is. Love is beautiful, it is so glorious that when it gains entry into a heart—all that is felt is pleasure, all that is seen is beauty, all that is heard is a sweet song of wisdom. And so we gravitate to love—we slip and slide on a sweet sweep to love like an ocean's tempest that crawls back to the shore on a calm approach.         
LOVE heals, love is positively pro-active, love isn't immobile or inactive—it is constantly moving, finding ways and means to change for the better. Hence, we should evolve into better human beings when love starts finding room in the deepest confines of our being. Love motivates and inspires, but it should motivate us more to realize brilliant potentials instead of coddling us to daydream under a moonlight's glare. For love is real, it is not imagined... I learned a lot from life, from falling in love then falling mightily hard. In each misstep or mishap, I excise sublime lessons despite the bleeding wounds within. I grow, I find a spiritual maturation that only strengthens me than weakens me more.
            LOVE is all about presence—being there, being around, being beside her. Beside her, that no matter how harsh and uncomfortable circumstances and situations that love randomly chooses to blossom, nurture, and nourish itself—we choose to stay. It's because many times we believe love will find a way. Because since love is positive and optimistic, the co-dependency only points at the good things that both can do together—from little shared activities like pulling grasses off a winter's brush on spring or folding clothes together off the dryer or choosing fresh ingredients in an open market for a paella and red wine for dinner to bigger synergistic projects like a children's book written together or a family community event organized together or simply an entire Thanksgiving or Christmas Day hangin' out with either or both families...
          PRESENCE, being there. That is love... Love is not just a five-figured proposal flashed on Jumbotron on a baseball game, adorned by a four-figured ring. Love is not blind subservience or allegiance based on un-reason either. Love is not dancing with her in the dark, it is walking with her in the dark—onto the light. Love is not defending her no matter what, whether she is right or wrong—because love sees not the person you had the hottest sex with or gifted you the most awesome car ever. Love sees the goodness of a shared energy, not the badness of a shared coolness. So when we find ourselves sliding back to the darkness that we thought would be swept away, or we feel we are leading her to darkness—we must pull out, quit and leave. For love is not Sid and Nancy, or Bonnie and Clyde, not even Romeo and Juliet—because love offers more life than dooms life. It is not dying together, it is living together. Love must calm anger down than trigger it, love must create than destroy, love must bloom nonstop than waste away.
          MEANTIME, when you are in love today, savor it—continue watering it, continue feeding it. Like The Little Prince who tamed The Fox—we are all The One Special Rose that we cared for, protected in a glass globe from pummeling rain, piercing sun, and cold snow. We need that warmth as we need to be needed to give warmth. So write her a poem each morning, cook her the best dinner, walk with her hand in hand in the street, massage her feet later as she rests in bed, tell her funny stories than sad tales, touch her face and look into her eyes when you kiss her, hold and explore her nakedness when you make love to her... And do these over and over and over again—until all these beautiful blessings become a part of yourselves that no matter how the unpredictable seasons of life attempt to shake love, you two are still rockin' and rollin'.
          SO love the one you're with. And be there, always be there.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

RELATIONSHIPS, old and new

THROUGH the years, my flailing romantic bravado, I must admit, has been considerably supplanted by sharp pragmatism. It's a good thing though. I can see more reason or smart-sense now than what it was in my youth (so I thought, hmmm...) In our younger years, love was an ice cream confection under a full moon, dreamy. In our older years, oh well...
         Many times these days, I come across lovers with a sweet litany of “I found my soulmate at last!” or “We are engaged, I can't believe it!” Then after a few months (or weeks), I hear “What a sick jerk, schizophrenic!” or “I'd rather be with my cat, relationships with humans suck!” But of course, I know of a number of friends who've gone past the irksome hawing, heaving and hassles and actually live/d together happily and hopefully, ever after. Let me talk about those who weren't so good at crossing the initial barrier—a month, 6 weeks, or maybe 1 or 2 years (of dating).

          I believe sometimes we over-idealize love in the context of relationship than actually “realizing” it as a hit-and-miss/do-it-again interface of rampaging hormones, sensibilities and sensitivities. A relationship (or even a friendship) is not an over-the-counter commodity or Apple app that is ready-to-go, one click we are done. It is always a working project... Sure, at first we tend to get enamored by paralleled wavelengths—like a sweet commonality of culinary faves like a shared dinner of purple hummus on one plate, or synchronized footwork on late-70s disco psychedelia, or the same agreeable liking for Ray Reddington's good-bad persona. But these are mere icings, facades, largely superficial hooks—likes and dislikes that are mostly dating-site fodder.
         A common fault of lovers on “honeymoon” phase is the “unrealistic” belief that one can be him/herself on the get go just “because he/she wasn't allowed or had the freedom to be that person” in the past relationhip/s. That is expected of lovers, of course. But we need to be real here. No matter how two people enjoy the bliss of a sexual tryst on the first few months or maybe you two are one in looking at Obamacare, religious “fascism” or GMO-issues, still—those are the surface of it all. Compromise and negotiation get in confused fray—as two people try to sustain a relationship and stay longer together. Presence is important. But presence reveals flaws and faults, imperfections and irritations that shake and rattle a relationship. In case you are used to a 2-day or 7-hour alone time when single, excise total control of the TV remote while living with an obedient dog only, or used to hangin' out with the boys (or girls) on Friday night till 3 AM—there should be a level, a good level, of give-and-take and surrender/acceptance situation here. Are you willing to give those up, your so-called “individuality,” at least—as compromises are put on the table?
          Would you allow him/her to rearrange whoever's house (both decide to live in) to suit a partnership than, “This is my room, that is yours” or “I am OCD, I can find my little receipts in a rubble of books and McDonald's cups” or “I like the yard like that, like Naked and Afraid location shoot.” Or “I am spontaneous and loose” as against “You are regimented and uptight.” Or “You are controlling me” or “I am not going to be manipulated.” Why not find a way to figure out the sheer pleasures and easy convenience of whatever/wherever individual madness or personal truths you want to pursue? Remember, there are two people here, not one—and no two people are the same, even twins collide. But whatever we enjoy and relish alone may not work anymore, or had to be adjusted, when put upfront.
          And how do we resolve all these? Simple (although lovers tend to “blind” themselves). If a relationship doesn't make a person a better individual and only ruins her or dumps you in stagnation, quit. That'd be the time to give it all up. Life can be an uncomplicated equation, if you want it that way. So don't complicate it. If you can't co-exist with another set of exploding chakras and unaligned “madnesses.” just let go and move on. Be happy than confused. Maybe a koolcat beside you in front of “Game of Thrones” is better. You reckon?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Songs and Memories and Friendships

REMINISCING. Bittersweet memories as I listened to songs in my CD, songs that I wrote with friends when I was in my 20s to 30s. Very meaningful ones in my progression as a human being, like a chronicle of my journey before I crossed oceans to America... Due to copyright intricacies, I will have to work on legal issues first before I could properly market them though (especially via the internet). I can't download it on YouTube or Facebook either, but see me—I will hand you a copy. I hand out “friendly copies” for donations (to my community projects) each time there is a chance. Besides the songs that I wrote with my band, Duane's Poetry—I also wrote a lot of songs with my bestfriend Duwi when we were very young, like 13 or 14 years old. Then some more with other friends in so many places—songs that I left on cassette tapes, lead sheets, notebooks (with scribbled music ledgers and stuff), and memories of those who heard them.

          MEANTIME, when I was in New York, “Awit kay Clarita,” an ode/sonata behind kneading strings and piano solo break about a slain tribal amazon in the Cordilleras back home, was interpreted by an Alvin Ailey dancer/teacher, Elena Colmenares, in an art exhibition opening in Soho's Puffin Gallery. The master copy was co-arranged with my best buddy Rolly Melegrito, Pearlsha Abubakar and the late Miguel Basilio (who also engineered the recording). I rearranged “Pagano,” a statement vis a vis traditional/conventional religion and tribal faith, into a multi-percussion interplay and choral voices. “Mutya,” inspired by a Filipino poet/mentor Romulo Sandoval who died of cancer at 40, about the beauty of poetry in the backdrop of a cruel world, was sung by a Columbia Univ student and staff for The Indie as “gift” to the late Senator (and presidential hopeful) Raul Roco and his wife upon their visit in Manhattan in 2000. “Yakap” (“Embrace”), written with Pearlsha, was about a mother's endearing, undying love for her child.
          I LEARNED that a very young group in Manila wants to record an old blues-rock broadside that I wrote with Rolly and Kay Conlu-Brondial, “Praise The Lord, I am Cool,” in reference to the Pope's visit in Manila that time. Then there's the old blues howler, “Mama, Don't Let Your Children Grow Up to be Politicians,” a piece that me and Rolly wrote for our little poetry/blues side-project, “Lightning Joe and The Bluesman.” The sad but closure-tinged “Looking for my Comrades” was my send-off song as I prepare to fly to New York City on my 38th birthday, it's about the surreal confusion of party/ideological-line ruin following the fall of the dictatorship, that we were still “fighting” after the so-called revolution. “May Habilin ang Uhay” (“The Rice Sheaves' Message”) was an elegy to the protesting farmers who were shot at and perished in front of the presidential palace in early `90s. “My Daughter is Missing” talks about a summarily-executed or “salvaged” young activist, a desaparecido...
          OH, that song, “Ode to the Beauty Queen,” written with Ray Nunez, with the lines, “Now that you have a most desirable body / Sure bet to boost tourism in any country / And as computers check your vital stat / Tabloids scrutinize your most private parts... / Go on fair muse, sell that toothpaste smile / Neon gods whistle as you strut down desolated isles / And what have you got inside that lovely swimsuit / Have you traded your stars to a sequined fruit... / There goes your stairway, stairway to heaven / All you have to do is get a perfect ten.” Oh yes, at that early age, although I always watched beauty pageants with my four sisters and mom and aunts, I never agreed that awesome shapes and beautiful faces define “beauty” in a woman. And my takes on love as a young man, “”Love is a Poison,” is warm song, written with Kai, based on The Little Prince and The Fox. Then a “harana” (serenade) that I'd like to rearrange and record one of these days, composed with Rolly, “Hindi Ito Panaginip” (“This Is Not a Dream,” that love is not idealized—but realized).
          TO think that, these are just little fraction of the many songs that I wrote in the past... What about my poems, plays, unproduced screenplays, paintings? There are so many to catch up on, retrieve and resurrect, while my little brain keeps on chugging along everyday, every minute, every second—even in my night dreams. It's not over until it is over, you reckon?

Like Robin Williams

AS I grow older, I gravitate more to a quieter, less interactive life. I have become more conscious of how my spoken words—passion, intensity, sentiment, reflex and response cut through to the other person—as opposed to my written words that are mostly directed to humanity at large than a singular human being. I now can understand why Henry David Thoreau sought solace in the woods, JD Salinger (and many writers) opted to be recluse, Edgar Allan Poe and Jackson Pollock took to drinking, and Kurt Cobain and Ernest Hemingway simply gave up altogether. It is the fear of hurting people, of being condemned abusive or tyrannical or egoistic and self-centered, of being the reason for people's misery. It is very weird to be feeling that way when you're supposed to be smart, wise, loving, and “older.”

          I SAW a movie that was one of Robin Williams' last before he caved in and passed away. It is about an older man who couldn't quite deal with his anger—that even expressing love to his own son didn't manifest the way he hoped it would because anger got in the way. And I thought the real Mr Williams was the lovable comic who made us all laugh than cry, calmed us down than infuriate us—and then, he took his life. All along he was a very tormented, depressed man. He gave up maybe because he thought, in actual life, making people laugh or happy isn't as easy as it seems—that going away is much more peaceful and liberating than getting angry or forever tied with medications to control his emotions or alcohol to numb it?
          PARADOX of life—a life that is supposed to be a gift and blessing, to some it is such a bitter pill to swallow sometimes. Many years ago, when I was in high school, I saw a movie with an intriguing dream sequence that explored action/interaction, reflex and response. The scene inferred that a person who responds to anger with a soft voice of acceptance delivered in words of wisdom is what we should be aiming for. A person, who after being cussed at or even slapped in the face, would just go, “It's okay for cursing at me—that is part of your inner voice like love and compassion. I only see love inside you than hatred. Go and think deeper, and if you decide to talk again, I am here for you.” I mean, who wants to be that very pacified and forgiving person—unless he/she's an $85/hour shrink or $313/hour attorney? I am hardly paid to listen to rage and drama with a notepad and pen on my hand yet I kind of did almost the same job as creative writing teacher and theater arts facilitator to a diverse group of students—from prison inmates to widows of war, from inner city at-risk kids to recovering drug addicts, and individual friends who had to wrestle with all kinds of psychological torment and emotional agony. Many times it feels better to be on the receiving end, whether the anger is directed at me or not—than the jerk who gives or delivers it.
         MY spoken words have become so redundant and drained, and these all bounce back like rubber balls to my face. Hence, it is more relieving and comforting, and yes—spiritual, to seek solace in silence and just let the anger break into smithereens within and find their redemption on paper. Once the words are out there, no confused cacophony of human sounds to deliver them—take it or leave it, feel good about it or just ignore it. Nothing personal... Indeed, a writer's work is never done. We write because we need to live this life, and try not to drown in a tempest of unrelenting human flaw such as anger. We write because we want to love and not hate, and more importantly—we write because we don't want to give up. 
         LIKE Robin Williams. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Falling in Love, Living a Life in America

MY poem “Seeking Home” was, in a way, inspired by Federico Garcia Lorca's “Poeta en Nueva York,” or poems he wrote while in the US in early 1930s, plus the work of revered Filipino writer Carlos Bulosan. A part of my poem goes:

… I seek comfort in
many open doors that remain close
even as I am freely welcomed in.
Love fails to communicate
in a borrowed language
that seems to grow more strange
in each mumbling of sorrow
or joy; words that bounce back
like ten-minute autumn rain
that dry down like cheap vodka
on chapped lips, hot clinches stolen
in between hours-rendered,

          The excruciating need to belong, to love like the way we've ever known before we sailed away from home, screams from within. We try to find room for such a huge longing for love and so we buy into the culture—a culture that is close yet so distant—and then we end up empty because of the blunt, naked fact that vacuums within aren't filled by fillings that don't speak of the spirit that we've known. On a more blatant way, can we imagine the many illegal immigrants who fell in love and allow that heart to stay suspended on midair—since love is not real without a green card? Those people who had to numb the craving for a tangible touch that stays? Those people who had to sell their soul for a piece of paper called visa? So they can live normal lives—minimum wage, a tiny room with empty walls, a beat up sedan, minimum-plan credit card, or just to stride into a bar for beer and not being eyed with indifference or suspicion? And what goes on in the mind of those who say “I love you” in 3-minute marriage in a Las Vegas drive-in chapel because that's what it takes to be “normal”?
          This is an immigrant's pain that America's heart should fit in. The Great American Dream. It is not a dream—it is just a job that pays for few dollars sent to waiting families back home, a box filled with Spams and Campbell Soups and a Goodwill sweater. The journey is not a dream—it is love that is said from the depths of one's heart and not lose it because the other guy has the dream more secured with an AmEx card and health insurance. The Dream is not the Statue of Liberty or Disneyland or a beach house in Big Sur or an SUV with built-in wi-fi. The dream is the freedom to say it because we feel it as an individual truth, the freedom to pursue happiness as a human right, the freedom to worship a god irrelevant of shape and color and language, and the freedom to love and keep it because it is personal and intimate and exclusive...
         Hence, “Seeking Home” comes in little snippets of joy—a kiss from a child after a Dollar Tree gift, a hug after a recitation of a poem in a downtown cafe, a good hot meal on winter, and a song that reminds of a past, a memory, that says, “I was there, I was complete—until my pieces slipped into a ship and sailed away...” At least, that memory offers hope.
         The title of Carlos Bulosan's novel was “America is in the Heart.” I never knew what that meant after reading the book. Until I felt it myself. America, life—like love, it's all in the heart... 

Breaking up is hard to do

BREAKING up can be a bit comically surreal or disturbingly awkward. At least for me... Many times I get confused with the word. “Breakup.” Did I break up, I was supposed to have broken up, did I really. Janis (not her real name) was a really fun girlfriend when I was living in New York City years ago. She's a professional dancer—Broadway gigs, ballet and jazz dance instructor, too. She also crafts trinkets and designs stage get-ups for bands (whether they like it or not). “Okay, I am now officially your stylist, guys!” That's after we broke up... The day after we called it quits, about 12 hours past, she called me, “Dude, wanna go see Yo La Tengo tonight?” I was like, we just broke up, lady! “What do you mean see Yo La Tengo?” / “I mean, see you La Tengo, hello???” So I was confused. On the middle of the night, she'd barge in my apartment to borrow my Thesaurus which she can easily obtain online or bring a DVD and, “My VCR broke down, dude. Can I see this movie here? You don't have to watch with me. You don't like love story shit, right?” (That's after she already ushered the movie to play.)

          I ALSO had an ex, Pam (also not her real name, okay?) a schoolteacher. We were together for almost three years. Every Thanksgiving or Christmas, or anytime she felt like it, she hits the road to see her folks out of state. Each time in the year after we broke up—she'd swing by my place, on her way to parents and/or back, to “hang and chill, grab a beer or two for old time's sake” etc. Of course, the “etcetera” can be a bit tricky, feelin' me? “You were the one who always had an answer to every little shit...” then the drama ensues—about her mom, her boss, her career, her side mirror, her cat, her pinky, her funny bra, her missing jammy top... Then the “etcetera” gets in the way in the guise of “friendship,” “hangin' around” and “just having fun.” You know what I'm sayin'?
         SO whenever I break up, I just close the freakin' door and shut it. How am I supposed to move on with my present life and head to a future—if the past is right there on my sorry face, reminding me time and again of stuff and things that could have been, and where I messed up? If “friendship” still works with an ex, then maybe a relationship will still work—because you are talking and being cool with each other. That'd be cool, say it—go for it, maybe it's mutual. Good luck... Otherwise, why still see an ex? Because she pays for the handcrafted beer or she's good at crafting trinkets?
         OF course, there are exceptions to the rule—there are always exceptions to the rule... And I have some of those. I had ex'es that are good friends of mine, but you know what I'm sayin'. When we take off from a relationship, we knew we did it because it's over. Otherwise why the dafuq still see her? For what? Borrow her GPS because I forgot where Walmart is? Or seek comments to chapter 7 of my book? Or see Yo La Tengo? Or maybe she left her missing jammy top in my bed? LOL!