hey, look, it’s 2012

my last job was one whole year of awkward experience. because the manager was a complete idiot. i mean it. and she power trips too. like, literally “I’M THE MANAGER HERE!” when she feels as if she’s stuck in a rut. i mean a power tripper by itself is already quite a handful, but a power tripper who is a complete idiot? i thought these things only happened in movies. how she got that position is beyond us. but you know this world is full of mysteries.

now i’m in a job that pays better, where no one is a complete idiot but there can be bullies who show their superiority in ways other than power tripping. i think i can deal with this. because there is no such place that is completely and absolutely asshole-free. so i’ll take one where my hot buttons get pressed less often than the last one.

so i haven’t complained about employment issues a single time since i started here in november 2011. whereas the rest have complained and writhed and tossed and turned and made a general disturbance at one point. because, yes, i admit that there are some organizational problems that need to be sorted out big time. but everytime i feel like complaining or joining the huddled masses with their torches and pitchforks, i just think about my previous manager and i am knocked docile.

in short, my last harrowing job experience had a greater purpose. it has made me calm.

leaf through or scroll down

while i share with my favorite author jeanette winterson the same sentiments about books, roberto bolaño just might convince me to consider e-books.

let me explain.

winterson says in her column:

Why do I not like e-books?

   I am a romantic and prefer the full-strength version that you can drop in the bath. They have not made a water-proof e-book yet.
  And when you leave a book dropped in the bath on the side to dry, it has a survivor-feel to it. It has a history. Your e-book can never have a history because it can’t age as you do,

  As techies are freaked out by anything that isn’t ‘new’, the idea of a book ageing is probably horrible.
  But not to me.
  And you can’t write your name in the front. Or get your lover to write their favourite bit in the back.
  And so on.
   But hey, it’s progress I’m told.

that was something i just read yesterday, barely a week after the last online discussion i had with other avid readers about the subject, one where my final word was i don’t think i’d ever warm up to the idea of e-books.

until this afternoon. when i found roberto bolaño’s 2666 in the bookshop downstairs, all 912 pages of it. and i imagined carrying this book in my bag must feel like lugging around a terracotta tile sandwiched between two special edition dvd’s of moulin rouge. but i badly wanted to read the darn thing.

so this is the day i considered e-books. the day i also realized that i’m physically too decrepit to bear the weight of books over 550 pages.

yesterday i almost knocked over a huge flower centerpiece in the lobby… (ca. june 2004)

…but that doesn’t stop me from hovering all around the place like an apparition. i’m in bohol.

travelling alone all the time has leveled my head. it has proven that the bottom line is we have to fend for our own hide.

ormoc. i was down with the flu, but it was too late to cancel. so all red in the face, i lug the training manuals, the binder of transparencies as heavy as concrete blocks and that gargantuan overhead projector into a tricycle (yes, tricycle. some cities don’t enjoy the luxurious volume of taxicabs that manila and cebu take for granted). the tricycle jolts as it negotiates a pothole and hurls the bag of manuals and transparencies into the busy road. i yell “HUNONG SA!!!” to the unknowing driver, pounce dangerously into the street, play patintero with a swarm of oncoming vehicles, retrieve my precious cargo, and sprint like mad back to the tricycle.

minutes later, i try to figure out how to set up the ohp i carried from the medieval ages. when i finally get it poised and ready, i hit the switch. no light. i visualize pushing it off the pedestal.

dumaguete. feb. 14, valentine’s night. i was hungry like hell. i walk the whole boulevard stretch. i must have seemed like joseph in bethlehem, moving from house to house, asking kindly for lodging. and getting refused over and over again. “sorry, ma’am. fully booked ang restaurant.” i hate valentine’s night as lovers out on the most hackneyed date of the year shoot pathetic glances at me. they think, “awww…kaluoy niya, wa siya’y date.” i wish they all choke on their carbonara.

miles later of walking back and forth, i end up in the same restobar i usually haunt. no more spaces at the tables, so i to squeeze into the bar. and i mean squeeze. i’ve never seen so many foreigners within a few square meters of me before. i don’t look up as i eat my fries and pasta. i ignore the waitresses rushing past me as i drink my beer. this place is busier than an anthill. a foreigner tries to strike a conversation. i pretend not to hear. i was hungry like hell.

same place. i’m not hungry anymore, but i’m bored like hell. randall (a&h marketing officer) and i have finished our respective obligations by lunch. now we have four hours to burn before the boat ride back to cebu. we check out of the hotel at twelve noon and take our lunch. now what? i buy me a pack of luckies and a bottle of bubble solution. we find a shady spot where we could sit along the boulevard by the sea. just to see if it works, i try to blow smoke into bubbles. you know what, it does work. and it’s so wonderful watching those smoke bubbles float listlessly and pop in the air, releasing isolated puffs of lucky strike menthol. randall laughs at me because he thinks it’s ridiculous.

later on, we’re still bored. we drink two rounds of stong beer at shakey’s. and it was still 2:30 pm. i propose a bet as to what sort of movie will be shown on the vessel. he says war movie. i say superhero. winner gets a bag of popcorn.

“just married” starring ashton kutcher and brittany murphy. so we split the popcorn bill.

bogo, cebu. the satellite office is still under construction, so we had to book a place for a seminar. this one we got is a function room by day, discobar by night. naturally, our closest neighbors are videoke joints. i talk about risk factors and underwriting guidelines while an amateur belts “AAALLLL BYYEEE MYYYEEESSEH-EE-ELFFF…” so the proprietor (a rotund british guy who seems genuinely concerned), hands me a microphone so i could be heard above the poor wailing woman. just as i speak through the mic, some guy from the other side of the street sings “oh baby baby… my baby baby”… so i sing with him. really, i did.

new habit, old habit, gone habit

new habit: running

since i decided one day some weeks ago that i will start running every day, there hasn’t been a day when i didn’t run. ok, counting the treadmill too on rainy days (cut me some slack, it’s monsoon season here). alright, i exaggerated. i honestly never missed on regular days, but i can’t run on days when i extend shift. unless i pull a superwoman routine and decide i can still run despite the 12-hour work schedule. maybe i can, but i won’t.

gone habit: smoking

because i realized at the start that i couldn’t even sustain running 2 minutes without losing my breath (i am that pathetic), i quit smoking. i’m not a health nut. i just thought i should give myself a chance to run 5k straight then get back to smoking if i still feel like it.

old habit: reading 

that is, the old habit that i seem to have left behind. there are strange explanations here that i can’t seem to form into words, but just know that this running and quitting smoking made me want to read as much as i used to. and in these past weeks, i finished reading the following:

which is a very good pace for me. a very good pace indeed. please consider that i haven’t picked up a single book to read in the past 9 months.

put one foot in front of the other. repeat ad nauseum

i don’t know why i’m forcing myself to write when i don’t feel like writing. i think it’s because i have this new notion that i could get that mojo back if i just keep at it. so no matter how blah i feel, i must write something. plus, i resolved this year to log my days in some form of journal. why not this blog?

this is the same feeling i get running. i don’t know why i’m forcing myself to run even when i don’t feel like running. the other day, as i dragged myself to the bathroom to change into my trainers, my mind scurried from one excuse to the next, trying to find ways to make me sit it out for the day. but i realized (with some mental pain) that if i find excuses then, i would find excuses later. and that would just lead me to eventually quit. because i’m a quitter. but not this time.

oh, but i did quit smoking. so i’m a quitter in that sense. i’m not saying that with pride. i’m saying that it got in the way of breathing regularly when i reach points of exhaustion. i am not a health activist. i finish a whole can of pik-nik after i exercise. i know there are people who do fitness training yet maintain the habit of smoking. i’m not one of those blessed individuals. i am one who gets winded out of my skull.

going back to writing, i still haven’t come across anything that could inspire me when i feel, well, uninspired. some people offered their own preferences, maybe i should try some out myself. this blogger said running “sometimes, takes (him) there too”, let’s see where it takes me.

going back to running, i still haven’t figured out a way to get rid of the laziness that sweeps over me just before i pound the streets. but there was one day when i decided to channel richard simmons. i can’t recall why him of all exercise video people, i simply guessed that the thought of him would keep me entertained enough to forget the time. so with richard simmons as my existential guide, i clipped the streets on a balmy afternoon, birds trilling in the trees, blossoms peeking through shrubbery, most likely a campy smile on my face as i waved at tourists on their yellow and pink vespas-for-hire. when i ran past a gentleman (the father?) and a young lady (the daughter?) crossing a street, the gentleman lets out this trite jogging witticism, “you must be running late,” to which i beamed and cheerfully responded despite my shortness of breath, “running late for fitness!”

i will no longer channel richard simmons.

wait… i think i still want to. with disco tank top, candy stripe shorts and bunched up socks. maybe this will make me want to write, too.

people who baffle me no.2

these days, when i ask women how old they are, the most frequent answer i get is not in the form of a number. they often give me this cheesy smile that i have grown to loathe and say “guess” in a kind of playful tone that makes me want to knock my own head into a brick wall.

guess what? what are they making me guess for?

when people ask me how old i am, i automatically blurt out my age. whether they think i look younger or older than my age is a non-issue, really. i am not offended when someone says i look older, as neither am i proud when someone says i look younger. it’s plainly and simply not a big deal to me. not that i don’t care about appearance, i am admittedly quite vain, but for some reason, age (or should i say a particularly lower age) has never been something i try to aspire to.

but since i have learned in various annoying ways that women get offended when you think they look older than they really are, whenever someone asks me to guess her age, i deduct 5 from my actual estimate. that’s to preserve my ass.

like this one who looked 43 to me. she goes, guess. i say, 38. tee hee hee i’m already 42 she says with a schoolgirl lift of the right shoulder. i think, well, you look already 43.

sometimes people really do baffle me.

disappearing in a cloud of dust

so i did start running. and i was faithful to the program. it’s not much, but for one normally unfit and lazy and bound to the couch, i’m doing a good enough job. i sweat about a bucket, but that would be the humidity and exhaustion combined. the next day it was the rain and exhaustion combined. that’s right, i didn’t let up even if the weather was getting the other runners down. i stick to the footpath, slushing a little through puddles, sometimes on the wet grass just where the gutter meets the street, make my way to one of the five-star resorts whose driveway forms a kind of cul-de-sac at the gate of one of the exclusive subdivisions.

the other day, i suddenly had this big slab of self-awareness drop on top of me like the proverbial anvil. in the midst of a good pace, i suddenly wondered how i look like running. are my shoulders square, is my neck drawn, is my back arched… wait, is my butt sticking out? then i abruptly switched to a brisk walk. because i got quite bothered by the idea of the sight of me running. a few steps on, a grandmother and her small grandson got ahead of me, so i picked up the pace again, feeling a little ashamed that two such persons were outwalking me. as i slacken by the pedestrian lane to let a utility pick-up through the intersection, the driver decelerates, shouts “you go on. can’t get in the way of your running” so i smile an out-of-breath smile and flash him a thumbs-up as i run across his path.

when the rain advanced to a strength you won’t call a drizzle anymore, i was about five yards from the nearest shed. i considered for a moment taking shelter until the rain passed, but i had such fierce loyalty to the program, i didn’t want to ruin the time i was going for. so i ran past the shed where the tourists followed me with a collective puzzled gaze. what is this asian lady doing?? naturally, that only served to increase my self-awareness and i wish i could crawl into a hole in the tree.

yesterday, the weather decided to do the exact opposite. it was 31 degrees the time i knocked off. with that heat, even changing into my trainers in the bathroom cubicle felt like an ordeal. and i began to imagine people looking at me thinking i must be crazy. i warded off the thought, i must just be insecure about senseless things, finished the training and jumped into our pick-up all sweaty and tanned. from the back seat, my husband’s friend asked in amazement, “man, how could you run in this heat?”

then i became paranoid again.

i am, obviously, thinking like a self-conscious pubescent who thinks the world gives a damn about what i’m doing. when, in fact, they couldn’t care less.