In Thailand, we are no longer called to sit on the couch

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The lockdown restrictions in Thailand have been lifted months ago, but people are encouraged to remain paranoid. And we still are. We still wear a face mask (or just “mask” as I prefer to call it) when going out and we still use hand sanitizers after touching any surface outside our homes. There are different groups of we’s, though, and some of these groups are more brazen and less fearful than the we I belong to.

We are no longer called on to sit on the couch and watch Netflix, as a certain meme had admonished (the one that thinks it’s so clever). It was good while it lasted, but who’s to say we should abandon our couch-sitting, Netflix-watching duties (which also applies to those who don’t have Netflix)?

So I still fulfill that duty whenever I can. I recently watched Bad Genius, an extremely enjoyable, well-made Thai film about a brilliant student and the kamotes that befriend her. I wrote my thoughts about it on my notebook then I followed the actor who played Pat on Instagram. His Instagram is “lit AF”. He’s an okay actor but you wouldn’t know it from his Instagram. On Instagram, he is like most cool young Thai guys who know how to make baggy and slightly trashy clothes look elegant and immensely photographable.

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Recently, we went to the Bangkok Arts & Cultural Center (BACC) to see, gulp down, absorb, and take photos of art and oddities. It lifted my spirits somehow. The BACC is roomy, designed to accommodate crowds whose behaviors are forever changed by the pandemic. We had coffee at one of the shops, and the coffee was so excellent that I didn’t need to pollute it with brown sugar. I wish I’d taken a photo, but the thought of taking my phone out of my pocket and increasing the number of times it is exposed to the virus and having to disinfect it later was too much to bear.

We bought notepads from an artist whose current exhibit centers on 100-year-old men wearing funky, ahead-of-its-time, thong-like underwear. You’re not supposed to buy the photographs even if you had the money but especially if you don’t have enough money or don’t have money at all. Those photographs deserve to be seen by many, many 36-year old men. Those photographs are a window into (mostly) Asian men’s future as 100-year-old stunners. They’re beautiful photos but a tad terrifying. Just thinking about turning 37 next year horrifies me. It’s not the number itself but the inevitable thickening of the love handles. It’s the old-man health issues. It’s the gradual decrease in the number of push-ups that one can do in one go. It’s the further deterioration of an already-poor eyesight. I didn’t need Charnpichit Pongtongsumran’s exhibit to remind me of any of that. But I’m thankful for his useful, stunning reminders.

Covid Daily – 0418

Mini tubes of toothpaste
When checking out of a hotel, I take all the things I feel I ought to take: tea bags, toothbrush sets, and the tiny tubes of toothpaste that come with them. I save these for guests at my place, while the tiny toothpaste I use for office brushing. I don’t need to save these tiny toothpaste tubes anymore because me and them are not going anywhere. The concept of offices where one goes to earn a living may be obliterated soon, so these tiny toothpaste tubes are now going to make themselves useful in my home.

Group video calls
I usually dread video calls for reasons I don’t need to provide. But it’s important to participate in them because these days, I shouldn’t be relying on my own sources of information. Friends who are priests, government employees, bankers, and accountants offer some insight into their corner of this pandemic-stricken planet. Some friends of mine have read articles and have seen videos that shed light on things that have kept me in the dark for days.

Some days, I feel incapacitated to participate in group Zooms or chats. It’s as if all the space I have left in me have been filled with dread and anxiety. But it’s not always anxiety over the thing that’s punishing us all; it’s observing how some people can still function, share funny memes, be productive, and be happy and content and feel blessed send me to the pits of hell. It’s not that I’m unhappy that there are people who manage to be in high spirits; it’s that I can’t. It’ reminds me of what Eve Babitz said about death — it’s other people having fun without you.

This pandemic has effectively encouraged me to participate in conference calls. Seeing people in small frames squeezed into one main frame has become comforting. It encourages that oft repeated slogan, “We are all in this together” even though we really are not. And yet, it’s such a relief seeing people alive coping on their own as the horrors of uncertainty steadily creeps every day.

My grandparents were called to war; I am called to sit on the couch and watch Moving Parts
Moving Parts is a documentary you can watch in installments, which is how I watch most shows. It charts drag queen and folk recording artist Trixie Mattel’s semi-interesting life as an entertainer. What I love about Trixie is that she makes the most of what she’s given. She seems fully aware that Shangela should have won Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3, but did it stop her from starring in a documentary about her experiences in that season and the difficulties of what looks like a mildly successful tour? No, it did not.

Moving Parts is also a film about her friendship with the great Katya, although it only skirts around that subject. That’s probably because Katya might steal the film, which is fine because Trixie doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would mind fading in the background in a documentary about her life. I can relate with that okayness with being upstaged, but only if it’s to deserving queens like Katya.

Fun fact: Like Trixie Mattel, I, too, was called ‘Trixie’ by relatives who thought it clever to feminize Patrick as a way to torment me when I was revealed to be gay at age 7 or 8 or 9 (I can’t remember). This was in the ‘90s, a time that I like to think of as the golden age (in the history of my life) of people being homophobic and unapologetic about it. This may come as a shock, but there was a time when homophobia was as natural as disease. The feminization of my name was a result of getting caught trying on my cousin’s gown. I, too, had the makings of a drag queen. Sometimes, I think about what direction my life would have taken if, instead of being shamed for getting caught trying on my cousin’s gown, I was celebrated and motivated to dress up in girls’ clothes and championed by relatives instead of being mocked and called Trixie.

As it happens, there are many ways to feminize Patrick: Patricia, Patrixie (which was used by some of my dumb cousins and aunts and uncles), Trixie, and Tricia. This essay is a call to stop feminizing “Patrick” to torment little gay boys in Pasay and everywhere else.

My grandparents were called to war; I am called to sit on the couch…

Wanderlust

Those of us who can still afford a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscriptions are lucky not just because we still have money to pay for an incredible luxury like Netflix but because, according to some people who believe they’re clever, all we’re called upon to do is to sit on the couch and watch Netflix during this distressing time.

Watching TV is not my favorite thing to do, but I watch TV often enough — while having lunch or dinner at home and to watch the mandatory weekly movie — to not qualify as a non-TV-watcher like Jonathan Franzen who is proud to proclaim that he doesn’t watch or own a TV. Good for him, but I doubt if that’s still true.

The pull of the couch is indeed very strong in these strange times. I’d rather read, but lately I find that every other marvelous sentence of Eve Babitz’s that I read is interrupted by thoughts of buying next week’s groceries, health issues, and the bleak future. TV shows don’t demand my complete attention, so it has become, a more practical way to pass the time and forget about life for just a moment.

So, in the next few days, I’ll try to write reports of my TV-watching duties that I am being called on to do.

Wanderlust
This is an edgy British sex comedy series about a couple, a female psychiatrist (Toni Collette) and her husband, who have lost the desire to have sex with each other. Other characters include their son who babbles about Jonathan Franzen to a girl he likes at school and the couple’s respective fuck buddies.

Toni Collette’s face on the title card made me watch this, so congrats to Toni Collette for earning my view. I’m never sure if I could finish an entire TV series because there are just so many and I am drowning. Also, I’m in my mid-thirties so I already have favorite shows that I turn to again and again for comfort.

For me, Wanderlust is quite similar to the brilliant Sex Education, but with adults, front and center. I didn’t think I’d finish watching the entire episode because I thought it was trying too hard to be cringey (e.g., the Toni character getting caught JO-ing by his son) and the random quirky characters (like the son) and his friends seem random and written to up the cringe.

It started to win me over in the scene where one of the psychiatrist’s clients was very incoherently yet valiantly trying to explain why and how he and his wife have ended at the therapist’s couch. “Mop up all the semen” also made me laugh.

The episode concludes with Toni and husband confessing their acts of infidelity, leading to their mutual agreement to sleep with other people as a way to keep their marriage intact. The end.

The rest of the five episodes could be as quirk-filled and may contain some hilarious dialogue, but I think the pilot episode could stand on its own, and if I never watch another episode again, I’ll be fine. I feel it has already made a point and Toni Collette was a delight to watch, so that was time well spent.

Up next:
Born Beautiful
Darkest Hour
Moving Parts

Covid Daily – 0315

A near-empty Ratchaprasong walkway
A near-empty Ratchaprasong walkway

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.

Covid Daily – 0313

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.