Well, Why Not?

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I poured myself a tall one. As the documentary buffers on YouTube, I settle and just decided to change the name of my blog. Between puffs of smoke and an occasional sip from my own concoction of lemon ice tea and brandy (don’t ask, it’s the only mix I know that doesn’t leave me shitfaced drunk) and looked at my blog wondering if I should delete it altogether or continue an intermittent flow of posts.

What’s the point?

Turns out, it is the whole point in all of this: the questions, the doubts, tribulations, frustrations, occasional bragging rights and stuff. it is entirely the point – take everything with a grain of salt. But not to accept readily.

And besides, this is the only time I could carry a conversation long enough to find a conclusion. It’s why it reads”

“This is me talking to myself.”

Because I haven’t been this way with myself for a long time. I know I am a real introvert since I was a kid. Yes, I grew up in a small town where virtually everyone knows everybody. But I know I am always an outsider. I don’t just feel it. I embraced it. Even now that I am fast approaching my 45th year on this Earth, somehow I crave that idea of being left alone, whenever possible. To do things my own way.

Of course, it’s not entirely possible to just think of myself, but I do, now, consider myself and my family, the ME I should be thinking about. And I could still be loyal to my friends, my co-workers, my superiors, and still maintain that aloofness that has been set aside for sometime.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my new habitation with Jackson and Gerard, and the apartment just feels like home now. Being the oldest guy is also a good thing, they usually leave me alone. Good, sensible people, these two housemates of mine.

So, I’m back into being myself.

Again.

My komiks seem to be going quite well. And I hope this writing and illustrating will be a means to an end. I have the symptoms of having serious issues with city living.

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Soul Food Midnights

As I am still in a dark slump, the details I’ll probably write here at some point, but not just now, my thoughts turn to one of those rituals I seem to have unwittingly forsaken for convenience – preparation and cooking meals – even for just one – me.

But I was craving for something not as fancy as an entrée on a restaurant menu, nor some costly exotic dish, though the thought of hunting for some tasty morsels of  slow cooked Bulalo sends shivers to my salivary glands, I contented myself with a pack of chicken noodle soup, some onions, and garlic. Some finely ground imitation white pepper might have been great , but alas, here in Quezon city, the only establishments open at midnight are beer joints with girls hanging out just outside, a few Tapsilog ,  Internet cafes and a Balut vendor that’s always asleep every time I pass by.

There is a small Lugawan along Seminary Road, but I don’t dare ask if it was good. Also, just to be on the safe side, the place is almost always filled with gay bystanders. Not that it matters, but they I don’t feel the need to squeeze myself among the throng of loud guffaws and choking face powder smell just to see what the lugaw looks like.

Lugaw , if you must know, is not as plain nor as simple. I have come to know lugaw at Inang Luning’s . And boy, the mere mention of it brings me home: white, well cooked lugaw, with small chunks of pork, pork fat, just a hint of ginger, black pepper and maybe just a drop of patis, for good measure. The lugaw of my youth.

Of course there is Arroz caldo, yellow from the Asubha fronds, chicken meat, my Ina’s own recipe includes potatoes, but basically the same methods of cooking. But then Goto came along, which is also, lugaw with beef meat, or innards, stronger tasting and more flavorful, and the ginger seem to have increased in portions, but  also another form of delight.

So I settled for something doable.

Chicken Noodle Soup, despite what it says on the package, should be cooked with love. I have learned to add some veggies, or what’s available in my pantry, in this case it was lotsa onions and garlic. Dissolved the contents into water, stirring so that everything that needs to be dissolved get it’s way, done right, while setting the fire on low. Sliced the onions and garlic and added them to the pot, still constantly stirring so as not to leave any lumps and clumps. I love soup, specially at night, when I work on something. And I may have measured the water too much so a pinch or two of rock salt takes care of that.  I Put on Greg Howe‘s Introspection CD to further enhance this almost ceremonial like preparation.

Does it bother you to eat on styrofoam plates and bowls, plastic spoon and forks? it bothers me. A lot. I have this distaste for convenient food packaging stuff, makes food look, feel and taste less.  That’s why even if it was just sardines straight from a can, or something I bought at a canteen, I would want to eat with proper utensils and heavy ceramic plates, and bowls. makes up for the utter blandness of store-bought meals.

Frugal though it may seem, soup’s ready and I turn off the stove, letting the pot cool a bit, while cleaning up the sink, guitar music fills the room, and I can’t help but feel a bit more languid and calm. And in about 5 more minutes I have my bowl in front of my workstation, Desiderata played and the food and music warmed me up, and soothed me down.

Life’s simple pleasures.

A moment of solace from the day’s instabilities, the daily grind, the complications of interacting with people, the loneliness, frustrations, the gripes – all seem to have some vestige of getting better – as I savor the broth, chew on the noodles, listen to the music and settle down.

The night is darkest just before the dawn, and even with the rain clouds hovering, the sun is sure to come up in a little while.

Life is good.

Postscript on Father’s Day

I could be coming home to a home with my daughters scrambling for a hug or a kiss, or my wife smiling with promises of a delicious dinner waiting at the table. It’s what fathers, stereotyped providers that we are, were led to believe, the whole happy family trip our teachers and catechist seem to have hammered into our innocent minds back then – the unmoving, immovable, strong pillar that keeps the house standing through fire and rain. Well, maybe not fire, but rain, flood and storms.

The rock.

The superhero.

Instead, I open the door into my third floor apartment, what nowadays get categorized as studio-type, dark, with a hint of stale cigarette smoke, leftover clothes from the weekend washing that didn’t make it to the estimated time and detergent considerations, and here I am, 400 kilometers from my wife and daughters, renting space, no one to welcome me home but a small mouse stealing bits and morsels from my trash bin.

The things we endure to make a living.

Postscript on Father's Day

Most of the time I spent thinking is when I come back to this matchbox of mine, after I put the water to boil, and linger by the kitchen sink while I read the days text messages on my mobile phone. But I had to smile, from the greetings my three angels sent, greeting me Happy Father’s Day last Sunday.

I am a father.

But how can that be? How can I be a father to my daughters if  my works keeps me in the city, and they are growing, fast and furious, beautiful and intelligent, while I’m away. How can I be a husband  when I don’t get to kiss them goodnight? Is that what a father has come to? Earning barely enough to pay for the bills, for new shoes, school supplies, food on the table. This is very much like going abroad and just work till my back breaks so I can send some home.

Is this what a father is supposed to be?

I never knew my father. That is, literally I don’t know him. Oh. I know his name and how my mother and father met, and why I have this music bug ringing in my ear. But that is all. I often look at his portrait when I was young, a tall, handsome man in starched white uniform, holding a trombone. I may even imagined him as Rogelio Dela Rosa, suave in his slick, swept back hair with a cowlick neatly dangling on his forehead, carving and shaping wooden blocks into jumping horses and “last suppers”, madonna and child, football figures and trophies. I secretly thought, well maybe my dad is that good-looking, maybe also had girls swooning, you know, stuff you thought up as a teenager.

Mythos. Stories. Maybe even fiction.

But my father died of  liver cirrhosis when I was two years old, hence what I know about him is really just third hand information, from my brothers, from my mother, from relatives. I have never seen him in the full light of day. Never spent some time playing around with the trombone. We have never had an argument. He never had the chance of hitting me low on the gut If I ever did something that might have roused his anger. I will never know how he would have handled any of the bad things I’ve done, the triumph of having been to the  provincial meet at Quiz Bee, or maybe we could have shared a beer or two for some man to man talk.

I’m chasing a ghost.

I do not, for the life of me, know what or how it is to be a father. I do not know my father.

No behavioral pattern to follow. No discipline measures to emulate. Nothing to copy.

Sipping my coffee, I often wondered what could be if my Ama and Ina were still alive today. I could use  some thoughts on raising a family. Not that I’m bungling all the time, but sure could use some  info. Of course, I could be entirely off the mark. An uncle once hinted that he knew my father to be short of temper. Maybe that liver gave out because, well, usually it was from too much alcohol.

Too many maybes. Too many nevers. A whole lot of  guessing.

And as I try to relax a bit and sit in front of my laptop, I’m still guessing at what to do next. Draw some more? Maybe. Write? Guess so.  Will it rain hard tomorrow? Hope the kids get to school dry and on time. Will I find some quick solution to this financial rut I’m in? I hope so.

But then again, when I feel a bit unnerved by what’s happening, there’s this vestigial hand that often slaps me sober and asks –

‘What would Father do?”