I regret using Facebook yesterday and this morning. I had a moment of weakness and was unable to resist the urge to troll certain Facebook “friends” whose opinions I disagree with/hate. I only posted tweets on my stories, but still, I wish I hadn’t. It served no purpose other than to tell people that I’m not a fan of the (our, Philippine) government, that I am on the side of those who despise the administration. And that was all. Some people I know who have superior, robust intelligence are not participating in all that mess. There are many good reasons not to, but mainly it’s that it’s a waste of time and energy. Unless one is sharing useful information, it’s best not to add to the noise (which is what I’ve done when I shared screenshots in my stories). That is I suppose what my robustly intelligent acquaintances have chosen to do — take a vow of silence.
Today, I turned off my phone for a few hours because I didn’t want to go on another social media downward spiral of posting stories, engaging with people’s content, and processing hundreds of people’s thoughts. It was a good decision.
There still are personal matters to deal with that even a pandemic of this magnitude could not erase. I still have to deal with health problems because self-isolation is necessary. I am mildly panicked that I might have to lead a hermit-like existence with a bitching toothache. This must be how it feels like when you’re pregnant and there’s a virus destroying your plans.
In the next few months, people will be waking up to the reality that they are living through a pandemic. They’ll be sharing their experiences to their hundreds of friends and followers. Some will write essays about what everyone should be doing, some will be writing three-word criticisms, and some will passively observe. Some will be obscene. Everyone will be right and at the same time, everyone will be wrong.
The last sentence in the previous paragraph sounds profound and at the same time, it sounds like nonsensical paradox.
I’ve decided to wear my weeks-old mask when riding the BTS because it feels shameful not to wear one when everyone is wearing one. Unlike Pinoys, Thais aren’t in the habit of giving people evil stares when they think someone looks or is being strange. Thais mind their own business most of the time. I’d rather risk getting sick from this unhygienic practice to put strangers at ease mainly because it puts me at ease too.
At the bookstore, plague-themed books appear to have run out like Albert Camus’s The Plague, the most obvious novel that Bangkokians thought to buy in the time of Covid-19. I didn’t check other plague- and plague-like-themed books like Max Brooks’ World War Z, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, or Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. I have enough books at home to last me two pandemics, and this may be the year I shorten my TBR pile.
If this were the ‘90s, people might drop by at video rental stores to rent videos before they hole up in their houses. Titles likely to quickly become unavailable would include movies like Contagion (which I know didn’t exist yet in the ‘90s), Outbreak, and apocalypse-themed films. It would be sad because video rental shops would probably be closed for a few days and the person who rents it would have to hold on to the laser disc-copy of the Contagion VHS for weeks, immersed and riveted by the life-like scenes unfolding in the Steven Soderbergh film. Or, people would rent something completely unrelated to doomsday scenarios like Wild Things, I Know What You Did Last Summer, There’s Something About Mary or LA Confidential. If this were the early ’00s, some people would drop by at a record store to buy VCDs or DVDs of movies they’d watch more than once. Some would buy a bunch of CDs because they’d need to soundtrack their lives while in quarantine.
Moleskin notebooks and bags were on sale in the lobby of the M floor at Emquartier. People should be snatching those Moleskins because they’re going to be trapped for a few days at home where they’ll be seized by the urge to chronicle their self-isolation, even as they go from app to app and watch Korean teleseryes ‘til their eyes bleed.
The virus could soon shut down Emquartier and other malls. That would then be a demonstration of the virus ability to cripple Bangkok institutions and establishments which provide everything anyone could possible need in this great city. Pharmacies and other small stores have already run out of masks, so you know it’s definitely starting, the demolishing of institutions. We are going to have to learn to fend for ourselves in the next few days, weeks, or months.
I was worried that I’d be the only person not wearing a mask at Muscle Factory, but I seem to have worried for nothing: not a single beefcake at MF was wearing a mask. What a relief. The Muscle Factory guys are made of the the tightest muscles, packed with protein, and are probably extremely healthy. Otherwise, what a shame for them. You couldn’t find a group of people more attuned to keeping one’s self healthy than at that hardcore gym, which I love and will miss. They eat clean, train (note: not “work out”) hard, and sleep early. Does the corona virus stand a chance against them? Probably not. The worst that Muscle Factory patrons could do is, probably, carry the virus and pass it on to those puny ones who don’t train as hard and don’t inject as much protein into their bloodstream. I hope to see them soon.
I was stunned by the efficiency of things. But first, I was stunned by the candor of the Starbucks barista at Leviste, who remarked that I still wanted hot coffee despite the heat wave. I didn’t tell her that I was buying coffee because my body needs it, and that I woke up from a room that wasn’t too hot. But more importantly, I bought coffee because my body needs it.
Salcedo Village on a Sunday is a world in itself. You can walk around the well-manicured lawns, text while crossing the street, do similarly risky things, and be fine. I imagine there are people who live here who rarely set foot outside the village because they think that to do so is to court danger. Unlike them, I’m in Metro Manila for a reason, so I stepped out of the utopia for a few hours.
I went to Paranaque to check up on people and things. I expected the Skyway toll fee to be around 150 pesos, but it was only 72. Once again, stunned. I thought prices of things would have doubled, tripled while I was away.
There were the same old shops along Dona Soledad Avenue, which wasn’t comforting. Comforting would be seeing the Zagu store near the Sunville entrance. The BPI and the Mercury Drug branches were right where they’re supposed to be. It’s always comforting to see BPIs and Mercury Drug stores. New restaurants have opened; there’s now a Chowking in the spot where a bakery used to be. It was a bakery that looked like it sold only two types of bread, ones you wouldn’t eat. Not pandesal because obviously you’d eat that. If there are restaurants in Betterliving that you love, you better appreciate them while they’re still there because they’ll be gone soon. You can’t expect shops and things to stay in Betterliving forever; only the BPI branches and Mercury Drug stores do.
Annex 35 is still cramped and difficult to drive in. I remember Jom teasing me about it several years ago. He was hoping I’d be offended at his observations that our subdivision is inferior to the other subdivisions because the streets are narrow and most of the homeowners’ cars are parked where they’re not supposed to be. But what made it all ridiculous according to him was that the security guards at the entrance were insanely strict. The punchline he was probably going for was: Who would want to rob this village!? I didn’t have the heart to tell him that unambitious robbers would.
People are welcome to help themselves to my college textbooks. It’s tough to declutter because people nowadays like fewer books in their homes. That’s not an opinion. Everyone wants digital versions of everything, which to me is not the best way to live. If you’re not spending on physical books and music CDs, what is it that you do for fun? I could never give up my book and CD collections, but I know that the lack of storage will always be an issue. I almost gave away many of my books a year ago because I thought they were just going to rot in their poorly ventilated, cramped shelves, and I knew I had to do something. So, I could never be accused of being unevolved. But I’m glad I didn’t give them all away! They are to me what children are to straight people. I’m not proud of the fact that I used to cover my books in plastic, but that corny habit turned out to be hugely beneficial to some of my books that have been saved from quick deterioration. I’m very sorry I took off Franny & Zooey’s cover. It’s not too late to save her, though.
As expected, the book is a delight. Imagine taking a peek at David Sedaris’s diaries and reading about stuff that happened to him in real life, from the ‘70s through to early ‘00s. Of course, these had already been edited, but they’re ‘raw’ compared to the finished and/or stylized essays in his other books.
Some observations, thoughts, feelings:
1. He’s a well-known author with a huge following, so of course his diaries would be of great interest to millions of people who’ve read him and love him. But a book filled with seemingly nondescript, humdrum entries would have to be extraordinarily entertaining to be worth buying. So thank goodness his diaries are funny. I think it’s difficult to fake funny.
2. It’s great to read a famous author’s diaries and not have it be packaged as an ’insightful peek’ into his inner life. It definitely is that, but it’s terrific that it’s just really a collection of his diaries, like, ‘here are David Sedaris’s diaries, culled from his years of diarizing, transcribed from his numerous notebooks. We think you’ll enjoy it, and some of you, we’re pretty sure, will do find it immensely readable, enjoyable. Some of you will not, and that’s okay.’
3. Some of the most interesting, life-changing events happened in the ‘90s. It’s when he moved to New York. It’s when he ‘decided’ to have a crush on his long-time partner Hugh. It’s when he found work as an Elf in Macy’s, which resulted in the hilarious ‘Santaland Diaries.’ Thank you, ‘90s.
4. If you’re thinking of keeping a diary, try to leave out most of your thoughts and feelings. Just tell your notebook what happened and see how it turns out after several days’ or weeks’ entries. Hilarity, comedy, drama, tragedy could still ensue if you diarize well.
5. You really could make something out of your diary entries, compile them and turn them into a bestselling collection of essays. The ‘trick’ is to buy small notebooks that you can carry around wherever you go.
6. It’s difficult to determine whether he knew his diaries would be read by the general public someday, and whether that line of thinking was a contributing factor in creating what is now ‘Theft by Finding 1987-2002.’ He just kept writing and look how that turned out.
Britney Spears is not the first artist to lip sync on her world tour and she won’t be the last. Beyoncé will lip sync in her upcoming world tours, but her people will be smart enough to know that she has a reputation to uphold. That means she will lip sync but will perfect her craft: acting like she’s running out of breath for flawlessly dancing and singing. And people will eat up the deceit.
Britney and her people couldn’t be bothered to record ‘live’ vocals because she has had it. She can sing but her priorities now lie not in showcasing her stellar pipes, but in putting on a show. People will keep complaining like live vocals are super important, as if it’s the year 1997 or 1998 when artists must be able to both belt and bop or perish.
Britney is on a world tour, carrying around her 10 and 20 year old babies… her songs. She hasn’t been performing songs from ‘Glory,’ her last album. It’s an excellent album that’s considered a flop because it was hitless. I blame ‘Britney Jean.’
Britney Jean is one of the very few remnants from my childhood that I can fully enjoy (and have people know about such enjoyment) without coming off like an old man. The other remnants are Megaman and Archie.
I should be very pleased with how Bangkok handles its party city aura. To have a truly enjoyable night out in this city, you must be out by 7:30 pm and getting tipsy by 8-9:00 pm. Go out late, say, 10:00 pm, and you miss the best seats and people in the crowd are already on their way to sobering up. This teaches you to schedule your nights out responsibly. But do you always want your nights out to be scheduled properly? You do not.
In Manila, you text friends at 10:00 pm and tell them, ‘I’m in the cab now and on my way!’ while you’re stepping out of the shower, secure in the knowledge that they will believe your claim of being stuck in eternally horrific EDSA traffic – they know how it is and they will spin the same yarn about traffic. You shower at a very early 10:00 pm if you feel like being punctual for once.
You arrive at your pre-party bar, usually Barcino or Distillery at The Fort, profuse with apologies. Mostly, no one cares and your friends would even commiserate. By 12:00 midnight, you go to the main bar whose bouncers are at their most alert and from 12-1:00, Manila party peak hours. At 00:00 in Bangkok, you’re on your way home telling your party companions in Line that you had fun! In Manila, you call in sick for work the next day because there’s no way you would make it to the office after partying ‘til 4-5:00 am. Here, you take an instant soberer sold in 7 Eleven.
I should be very pleased because, like my daddy, I believe that conversations beyond midnight cease to make sense – I’m okay to separate from friends when the conversations start to get punctuated with yawns. He had a more cutting phrase for it but the essence of his belief is that you’re bound to find yourself deep in bullshit, enjoyment-free conversations if you stretch your drinking sessions when the beer stops tasting like heaven (if it ever did) and starts to have the consistency of vomit.
During this year’s Songkran, I was home by midnight, very safe and quite dry. I wasn’t shivering in my soaked shirt and shorts and not delirious with naughty glee from the water-splashing extravaganza. My face was chalk-free and my feet were just sufficiently yucky from Silom’s muddy sidewalks strewn with trash. On the contrary, last year was truly gross and dirrty. Songkran 2015 had us crawling our way through Soi 4 and debating the merits of going home while things were just beginning to get interesting. But that’s nothing compared to Songkran 2012. Tiger beer in hand, I was destroying Caucasian men and women with my water-powered armalite, demolishing fellow tourists left and right.
I’ve only been to a few Songkrans and I hold no authority on fun, but it looks like the joyousness is drying up. As long as there’s water and soaking-wet voluptuous people in white shirts or shorts, there ought to be no lack of joy for people who delight in such a sight. I don’t know if Songkran is getting repetitive for me or the festivities have really been watered down so that the water fights seem very controlled and less outrageous, but it doesn’t feel as fun as it used to. This year, Songkran was just sexy.
When I was in high school, there was widespread fear among boys related to masturbation. The fear has to do with the frequency with which it was done and the potential resulting harm for those who came up with abnormal numbers. Sophomore year is Biology year, so questions on the dangers of jacking off are often raised. This is the time in a boy’s life when it seems alright to ask your biology teacher to kindly specify potential risks involved with rabid jacking off, ie, are we in danger of emptying out our ball sacs if we do it twice or thrice a day – what a regular boy would otherwise think of as perfectly regular intervals. This isn’t a question I myself would ask so I was grateful for other boys’ curiosities as it allowed me to keep asking questions about things not involving me or other boys’ penis.
Even though I didn’t ask this question myself, I can’t deny that fear has not been sowed in me concerning that topic. I may not have had the balls to ask if my ejaculate could possibly run out (a question which would appear bastos at first but has formed in every boy’s mind in the school I went to) but the fear associated with that possibility, I took semi-seriously; for one whole year, I noted all the days in the year when I jacked off. I put an asterisk on all the days I did because it would have been silly and useless to put ‘masturbated’ as planner entries seeing as that word is too long and too obvious. It simply would not have made sense to write even jakoled in the planner because it just didn’t feel right. Planner intruders would have been very suspicious of that habit so I cleverly employed asterisks.
When you become an adult, you shouldn’t have time noting days when you masturbate, even though all it takes to do it is an asterisk. Doing so could only lead to a sharp drop of your self-worth, although if you’re doing such a thing now, or something similar to it (maybe the number of sex partners you’ve been collecting?), it’s never too late to stop and benefit from a slight self-worth rise.
I have more important things to note in my planner right now because I’m a grown-up who can do whatever he wants, mostly. I don’t put marks on my planner anymore to indicate days when I do the essential, but I make sure to write down the number of words I committed to paper every day. The goal is 1,000 words because Stephen King and Jessica Zafra’s workshop notebook recommend it. It’s not so hard especially if you’re filled with feelings. But some days, you just can’t have enough of a fuck to sit down and have a feels-fest with paper/Word. Some days you are like Beyonce – totally fierce and fabulous but utterly incapable of writing original content.
This year’s planner does not suffer from silly little compulsions to detail ejaculatory habits, but highly inconsequential little things are still very much a part of most entries. From this habit, there is no immediate amusement and when my own writing is failing at bringing me amusement, I cease seeing the point. I simply go blind as to why anyone would want to write 1,000 words every damn day! There is no joy to be had from seeing ‘abs, chest’ or ‘abs lite’ in my tiny planner, and since the planner is very tiny, there is no room allotted for any meaningful thoughts and feelings, and most importantly, no amusement derived from back-reading.
To meet the self-imposed 1k words a day, I sometimes write movie and book reviews which are not really proper reviews. I try my very best not to disappoint my reader – myself – because myself is such a ruthless, vicious critic but only to its favorite art – itself. I don’t cherish the times when I go back to my reviews and think, ‘what a lousy person this is who writes!’. The same thing applies to my big notebook of thoughts and feelings. I put nasty things in cringe-worthy things in there. I put ‘gay!’ or ‘ulul’ in some entries where they are most rightfully deserved. The main advantage of doing this is obvious – when you are super vicious to yourself, you feel as if no one has any right to do it to you.
I could attempt to write a short story for each day that I’m alive and not convulsing in the asthma wing of some hospital. I’m not incapable of stirring up drama involving non-fictional characters in my life, therefore, if I get desperate enough to do it I could really stir a big one up and milk the experience dry. I could do this and I know it. Stirring Turds could even be the title of the resulting short story collection that would result from the milking.
Minor inconveniences that plague the middle class life are always victimized by unwarranted middle class people’s milking, so why not commit and perpetrate that type of victimless crime?
Since I’m evidently a nice person, I wouldn’t be able to write fiction about people I care about. This is exactly why I need more people in my life that I really could never care about. There are a lot of them already, for sure, but I forget about them fast.
How about mining the Facebook timelines of your friends for fiction material? I don’t know if someone’s already had this idea so bravely said out loud before but if you’re a struggling fictionist looking to win your first Pulitzer and this idea wins you Pulitzer or money, leave a comment for the thanks.
I would do that myself but that would mean more time on Facebook than I care to spend. I love spending time on Facebook but spending more than 15 minutes in it is not going to produce any of the following: great short stories and wonderful, calming feelings. But I could be wrong.