Itinerant Conditions

Or, Fathers, pt. 4

PROJECT ANOTHER COUNTRY: ADDRESS, 2008, 140 stacked cubes of personal belongings, at the 2008 Adelaide Biennale of Australian Art. Courtesy Drawing Room, Manila.
PROJECT ANOTHER COUNTRY: ADDRESS, 2008, 140 stacked cubes of personal belongings, at the 2008 Adelaide Biennale of Australian Art. Courtesy Drawing Room, Manila.

My dad said he could “track our childhoods” based on what we ordered and ate at the sports club where he’s been a member since the early 80s. When we were little, it was Sopa de Mariscos, then came the weekends where we took our friends swimming and ordered Halo-halo. Now he just gets bills for black coffee, because I’m the only one of his kids still living in Quezon City. This was something he mentioned very casually over Sunday lunch, but it carries no small amount of regret for both of us. It attests to periods in which he rarely saw us, and our existence was only confirmed by a monthly bill.

There were days however when we saw his car parked in the lot and knew he was upstairs in the library, working. Even if we didn’t see each other very often, we were still attuned to each other’s habits, and my dad needed a quiet place to work. My dad has always been more of a historian than a lawyer–or maybe the frustrations at not having been able to practice as a historian are just more pronounced now that he has his own library. I’ve always envied his superhuman ability to finish a book in one sitting and actually give a substantial assessment of what it contained and what else I should read if I liked it. Everything he owns is marked with the date and place of purchase, and whether it’s the first or second copy. He says things like, “We’re not barbarians. We do not throw books away,” which I’ve countered by just giving my books away when I’m done with them.

Unlike me though, he makes space instead of making do with whatever floor area he’s stuck with. He’s entertained ideas like buying container vans to solve the problem of porous borders between his library and kitchen. Unlike him, I’m a slow reader and I’m easily distracted. While I enjoy projects where I get to triangulate between concepts to prove a point, he has the focus to see singular subjects all the way through and follow one conclusion to the next. Where I was trained to tinker with critical theory, he’s armed himself with logic. Like a dad who takes data from receipts and pieces together a story about the kids he doesn’t see as much as he’d like.

I’m moving in with my dad at the end of the month; but even that isn’t entirely true, because half of my things will stay at my mom’s. Whenever I need to talk about the logistics of splitting my belongings between two households, he interrupts me, correcting me for saying “your house”, because, “It’s our house.” As much as he’d like to call it that, I still feel uneasy calling a place I’ve never slept in “our house”. Still, I have something to come home to.

I’m doing this because I’m setting off for the longest period I’ve ever spent in transit. I spent the last month getting through the immense amount of red tape leading up to this break, and it’s with a mix of regret and relief that I fill in the blank for “address” with names of places I no longer call home. The relief comes with having lived on my own for a little over a year – a move which brewed a miniature shitstorm on the domestic front that still hasn’t completely dissipated, but I’ll talk about that some other time…It’s just weird once you understand that home is just an address.

An address is one thing, employment is another; because if it wasn’t for finishing grad school or the shift in the academic calendar, I wouldn’t be able to take this long vacation or leave my job for commitments that just don’t give the same amount of certainty. Having a full-time, tenure-track position with a government institution gave me this sense of permanence and stability that I won’t be able to fall back on anymore. It’s too early to regret anything though, and to be honest, I doubt I will.

It’s not even as if it’s that big a transition, because in the past four years, teaching was not the only thing I did. Nor was it the only thing that paid the bills or the taxes. But…again about floating your pen over certain spaces while filling out forms; there’s a word for that space between the page and the nib, right?

If there is, then there has to be a word for it when the two tend to repel each other because you have no idea what to write, and where filling in a blank once came so naturally, that momentary hesitation creates so much anxiety. The only assurance that there actually is something to write is that I’m still here: still slugging it out and making a living, while being lucky enough to actually enjoy what I do. The bills are still coming in and the grocery receipts are still being filed: the difference is I’m the one keeping track of me now.

Soon, the consistency of a paycheck will feel like some distant fantasy. Having my things in boxes, ready to be carted into the back of a truck, is equally strange. I know where they’re going for the meantime, but where they’re staying is another story.

I really just want to spell my name with a dollar sign before I turn 30, okay?

So a decision to shift the UP academic calendar has been reached, and we get a four month long break before classes start again. This means I don’t have to worry about taking a leave of absence so I can break my neck in a roller derby rink somewhere in Texas. Keeping my fingers crossed for the next couple of weeks, but what I’m sure about right now is that I have 24 hours in San Francisco followed by a week in New York, then Houston, then who knows where, the LA.

Submitted half of my students’ grades today. The other half are still living in suspense, so sorry about that. Please nag your classmates to submit their stuff so I don’t have to deal with the guilt of ruining their lives by delaying their degrees.

I ended my day at work by nominating my thesis adviser. I’m still coping with the reality that I spent the past four years finishing my grad school coursework and teaching. And I’m wondering why I looked so, so tired in the passport picture I had taken earlier.

And just like that, it’s done. Onward to the next chapter or whatever, and I hope it’s not a desk somewhere.

I was thinking, maybe I need that discipline of pinning myself to a desk again. Last night I was up working ’til 5 am, but it’s not as if the beating my biogical clock takes is completely out of my control.

I was also thinking (or rather forced to think) about how far back I’ve set my personal life. Usually, catching up with friends involves keeping them posted on who’s dating who, and for the past few years it’s just been me and the job. Or the career.

The thing with the career is that it’s the best thing I’ve got right now. My professor in my research methods class saw my theoretical framework and asked, “Oh, Lefebvre, have you read him in French?”

And I was like, “NON.” Because, why would I?

Then she gives me this dismayed look which just means “You should.”

So four years whip past: on to the next four years. I’ll be 32, which isn’t such a big deal. I guess I have to learn French because all the theory I chose is in French. I also can’t afford to screw up, now that the goal is to become a veritable institution in a currently tiny pool of contemporary art and museum professionals.

The new goal is to be close enough to infallible (at least as far as curators go), such that I can inflate a bouncy castle or dig a ballpit in the middle of the Met and have no one even raise an eyebrow. I mean, it’s not like we don’t have to raise our own funding.

When I was in high school, I had a very short bucket list and, looking back at least, very low expectations of myself. The only thing I wanted was to see my by-line in print, which I got shortly before I turned 21. It was glorious, but at the same time it screwed up the bar I set for myself. I literally did not know what else to do and just did whatever came my way–which I guess is how you end up with half a BFA in Theater Arts and a full BS in Clothing Technology (haha, full BS!) followed by an MA in Museum Studies. And yeah, that’s almost done!

I don’t even know which black hole to crawl into next, but whatever it is, I’m greeting it with open arms and my Kitties with Titties logo designed by my dear friend, Jizzray, to commemorate the (future) launching of my first single. It’s called “I’m Going to Spain with my No Kids Money” from the album, No Kids Money. Dropping soon at a Sam Goody or Astrovision near you.

I really just want to spell my name with a dollar sign before I turn 30, okay?