Monday, September 07, 2009

In Search of Decent Sticks

My little “fact-finding” trip south of the Philippines was not martial in nature, but thanks to that, I knew I’d need new sticks in the near future. And yes, a bunch of (wooden) knives to complement and replace the one I already own in case it broke. I resolved to fill part of that need with a quick trip to Quiapo yesterday.

What I should have done was pay more attention to what Jeff was telling me about where exactly he’d previously bought my training gear. Get on a Quiapo-bound jeep, he’d said. Get off a little after you clear the tunnel. The rest of it was a blur. Still, it didn’t faze me: it was a cool late Sunday afternoon and I had time to look around.

Too bad, I didn’t have company. Sunday afternoon shopping excursions— even if for only for anti-riot gear— should really be a shared experience. Seeing how your companion’s eyes light up at your latest mutual discovery (brass knuckles, steel and wooden knives, telescoping batons) takes away the annoyances of aching feet or the heat of the day. Days like this, with companions like that, you’re going to want to part with your money.

Sadly, each shop I wandered into had the wrong kinds of sticks: too thin, too thick, too light, too heavy, sticks that threatened to stick a splinter in your fingers and palm. I’d peered into alleyways full of shops festooned with faux military-grade bags, shirts, shorts, belts, and combat boots. I spoke to seedy-looking men in my search for sticks with the right thickness, length and finish. I’d gone round the area as far as Raon, where I used to buy cheap electronics for my old Practical Arts classes. What galled was that I knew I wasn’t searching the Quiapo area deeply enough, because that place is like any market in a Neil Gaiman novel: if you knew where to look you will find everything you need, even your elusive rattan canes.

I used to know this place at least as well as anyone who studied in the University Belt was reasonably expected to. Yet every scary man in a tank top who stood outside these shrines of macho was pointing to bundles of all the wrong sticks, tied together with plastic twine. Where were my sticks? Times like these, I really missed company: my feet and my head were beginning to hurt.

Finally, at the recommendation of a not-so-scary gay shopkeeper who knew nothing about sticks, I settled on a pair made from lacquered hardwood. I had little choice: none of the rattan canes passed muster and all the other hardwood sticks were cracked or bent. My acquisitions were way too smooth to be handled properly and too heavy for my standard training needs. If I’m not extra careful, they’re as likely to break my wrist or slip out of my sweaty grip and bean someone on the head.

I took out my hardwood cudgels and went through a few of my exercises –slowly— when I arrived home.

Diagonal strikes, horizontals, half strikes: I didn’t trust myself with verticals, not yet. I shuffled, trying to get used to the weight and the increased and potentially more painful mass I was twirling in the air. One stick resting lightly on each shoulder: aim for your opponent’s head now. Lean left, attack with the right-hand stick. Lean right, attack with the left-hand stick. Arms crossed: lean right, strike right. Lean left, follow with left. Arms open now— keep your opponent from moving in!— strike with the right...

Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

I’m rationalizing right now, keeping the buyer’s remorse at bay. And as I tell myself that my find will be useful, I also tell myself that I will consult with Jeff and listen more closely the next time I go hunting for sticks.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ricardo Montalban, RIP


Saying that and cracking jokes about the man's cleavage isn't going to be half as 
fun anymore. Neither will making those impressions of the original Fantasy Island's Tattoo (De plane! De plane!) be half as satisfying.  

He died yesterday, the actor best-known for his role of genetically engineered superman Khan Noonien Singh on Star Trek  and for his other, more sedate role of Fantasy Island proprietor Mr. Roarke. The people who spend time surfing the Catholic Channels will find Ricardo Montalban 1) thanking God, 2) advocating the rosary, or 3) hawking rosaries with stones from a cave in Jerusalem encapsulated in their crosses. And he was spokesman for the Chrysler Cordoba in the mid-seventies.  ....Not that any of these things ring bells with my four gentle readers.

I guess what should strike them is that the man lived to a ripe old age and somehow didn't piss people off, sully his reputation or figure in a high-profile brouhaha with other celebrities. Considering the climate in Hollywood, that's saying a lot. He was so nice the Pope knighted him, sort of. a role model for many Latinos everywhere-- a Mexican who made it big in the 'States, who never give up his Mexican citizenship up to he day he died.    
Ricardo Montalban is dead, reminding us of our own mortality. Reminding some of us yet again of how close we are to it. It's as if the creaky joints, the arrhythmia, the disproportionately increased insulin levels were not enough. 

There is so much for us to do-- like yell "Khaaaaaaaaaaan!" into a Starfleet communicator or praise the Chrysler's "soft Corinthian leather" in Montalban's distinct mellifluous voice--  and so very little precious time to do it in. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Singing in the Stairwell

It looks like I'm frequenting the stairwell in my office building more than the Hotel Sogo these days. And this is a good thing. I've been meaning to find a more or less unobtrusive place to practice my singing voice. I pretty much failed on that score (the office bathroom being unsuitable), so the stairwell's the next best thing.

The stairwell has the ambience I'm looking for: enough reverb to make the voice sound crisp and lively. It's built like the inside of a giant flute so sound carries to the next few floors. If you keep the door open the sound  travels along the corridor and insinuates itself into the neighboring offices. As long as you sing well, it's not too distracting. In fact it might be somewhat welcome.       

Of course I wouldn't be Dex if I didn't do things like singing in the stairwell for at least three reasons most of the time. So, 
  • Reason 1: My voice is somewhat rusty, so I really do need the practice. 
  • Reason 2:  I'm often emotionally constipated, so I need the catharsis. 
  • Reason 3: At any one time between lunch and ten p.m., the room next to the stairwell is occupied by good looking chicks.
To paraphrase myself, as long as I don't sound like I'm strangling the cat, I should be fine. ;) 

Monday, January 12, 2009

More Status Reports

I haven't wished everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year yet. I'd like to, but before that, I need to get some things out of the way.  
  1. Had my lungs checked for bugs. I've always had problems with my air-exchangers, you see. I'm waiting for my results with (say it, say it you ham!) bated breath.
  2. Spent new year asleep. Just like Christmas.
  3. Loking forward to some R&R on the Chinese new year. Heard tell it happens at the tail end of this month.
  4. Dex El is working on a writing module for his Language Center.
  5. Dex El has been dog tired most days, more so than usual.
  6. Dex apologizes to the friends he can't see this month or last. Everyone's busy, hard to track down.
  7. Dexter hasn't really felt Christmas since before last year.
  8. Dexter is turning t i  y f  e.

A belated Merry Christmas, everyone. May you have a decent New Year. 

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Retired University Janitor Left Holding the Bag, Cuts Album

Picked up from my random net-wanderings-- 

Meliton Zamora is a retired University of the Philippines Janitor who was very liberal with his signature when it came to helping out students in a financial bind. He became their guarantor when they applied for student loans. Sadly some of the students he's helped have been very conservative about paying their debts. Consequence: instead of getting his full retirement pay for his 40-plus years of service, he gets enough money for only a measly 171 days worth of meaningful dedicated work.

In a twist worthy of a story made onli in da Pilipins, our generous ex-janitor managed to cut an album. Friends, family and supporters of this gentleman are hoping that

a.) students he's helped remember his kindness and do something about his situation; and
b.) people who'd like to help him out would buy his CD. 

No doleouts are expected, but "...he will be thankful for any assistance you can give."  Do visit Mang Mel and buy his CD (P350 only) at No. 16-A, Block 1, Pook Ricarte, U.P. Campus, Diliman, Quezon City (behind UP International House) or contact his daughter Kit V. Zamora at 0916-4058104.

What say we show him some love?       

sourced from this multiply entry.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

I learned the wrong skills

This is partly why I mislike reunions of nearly any sort. People start asking the deadly questions, the ones that go... Are you dating anyone? When will you get married? Just what are you doing for a living now?  Automatically we start self-checking, comparing, evaluating relative worth in the most haphazard ways. Am I making enough money? Am I working in the field I originally studied for? Just how useless was my college education anyway? 

When my friend Nina started asking me (asking herself) similar questions it dawned on me that Kiosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad) was right: growing up, we learned all the wrong skills. We never learned to schmooze, we never learned to prioritize money over learning. We fought with our parents, never realizing that our youthful ideals were nothing more than the fever dream of a youngish old man who never graduated from high school puppy love. Why couldn't we have played ball with the folks-- taken the courses they wanted us to, gotten the good grades, joined the right fraternity and whatnot--  and done our own thing after we got our safe jobs? 

My friend Burt basically said to me once that people who climbed Everest because it was there were nucking futs. Life was all about-- and I liberally paraphrase here-- getting rich, buying a house and car, attracting a girl with big boobs, marrying her, having lots of sex, popping out kids and settling down. Those who didn't think this way were likely prissy artistes who... well, at least Oscar Wilde (lucky bastard) was comfortable in his artistic uselessness.

I'm not. 

Growing up, I learned all the wrong lessons. I'll be honest and state that I may be too old a dog to learn the not-so-new tricks. I'll likely die poor, with nothing to give my life value except the little achievements that parents and people at reunions laugh at. But at least I'll change what I can. I can't be Christian and discount the fact that God loves everyone equally-- but that's what makes it moot. We're all affected equally by gravity--in fact we couldn't live without it-- but that doesn't dilute our admiration for the people who manage to fly.