I have never lived outside of a city, so I find it particularly unsettling when my ears are only met by non-urban white noise. I can’t hear a bird chirping without expecting that sound to get cut by a car horn or a neighbor’s doorbell. I have never had to walk more than a couple of blocks to access public transport.
But the life I’ve led to this day, in Manila, greatly resembles the settled and stable cliches that come with rural residence. I’ve always had my own room in a house I didn’t have to pay any rent for, but always felt the burden of earning my keep in by living under someone else’s rules. The rules in this case are simple: keep each other company. Anyone growing up in or who grew up in a Filipino household would be familiar with the seemingly innocuous traditions that accompany Filipino family ties. When my dad first moved out, his phone calls would be punctuated with the usual questions, like “Have you had lunch?” even if it was already close to dinner time. Or “Where’s your sister?” or “Where are you going?” Continue reading “There’s nothing wrong with going outside late at night to seek the source of a gaseous honking noise.”
I’ve been on a Frank O’Hara trip for the past few months, peaking at the point where I get back to New York for the first time since hearing O’Hara read “Song (Is it Dirty?)”. And yes, I will have the 8 dollar salad and pay 12 bucks to see that band, because there is value in accepting that life is expensive or everything comes at a price. Walking in heels, looking like someone who can afford to walk in heels or who can stash her things in a designer handbag, drugs, experience, experiences we have for the sake of documentation: all these things come at a price. But time, you alone get to choose how to spend that. And it’s great to spend it in places where the person making your lunch looks like he’s having the time of his life. (Side note: the guy who made my salad is singing along to whatever’s playing on the radio and dancing while cleaning the counter.) Let me babble here for a moment because even if these thoughts are half-baked, they are still thoughts I’m having.
There are behaviors and habits that aren’t easily transplanted to new cities and new places. I went into someone’s yard because there was a fat cat in it, and I didn’t realize that there was an ornery old woman sitting on her stoop, looking after the cat, and she wasn’t too happy about me being in her yard. I never stay in hotels because I can’t afford to. Travel is a luxury in itself, but it means squatting at friend’s apartments and sharing their beds, or sleeping on couches and sliding off air mattresses. But I’ll have the 8 dollar salad anyway because there have to be days or nights where you actually sit down to eat instead of stopping at a cart and getting something wrapped in foil to nip at on your way to the next thing you’re here for. Yesterday was the Upper East Side to Greenpoint, then back uptown/midtown then Lower East. Continue reading “You do not always know what I am feeling.”
Yesterday, I found myself stuck in Austin for 8 hours, weighed down by a 25 pound rucksack which I got for 500 bucks (about $12.00) 5 years ago at a surplus store in Cubao. I was pretty set on retiring it, until I found out that most of the places I end up staying at when traveling (which is the only time I actually get to use the rucksack) aren’t near stops that are friendly to big, heavy bags on wheels. Thus, travel light and don’t bring what you can’t carry on your shoulders.
After the romance of traveling for leisure, it becomes clear how much of it boils down to numbers–both sexy and unsexy–specifically costs, weights, and time(s). Obviously I’m too cheap to hire an agent, but even that’s a matter of numbers. That I can’t afford a cab is a matter of numbers as well. Continue reading “Lost in Numbers”
When I was in college, I managed to save up just enough to buy a tiny second-hand VW. And then I didn’t. And then I spent on traveling instead, came home every time with just enough resources and energy to recover for another ticket. My family’s well off, but not so rich that we don’t have to pool our resources from time to time to make ends meet. After everything, we’re left to deal with ourselves as individuals, and rather than deal with bitterness or fear alone, I figured at a certain age that I would rather deal with it broke and ridiculously happy in a city where no one knows me. I don’t know how to maintain a car anyway. Scratch that, I do, but I’m not going to use spending on a car as an excuse for missing out on what I like doing.
There is no such thing here as “I’m planning to…” or “When the universe conspires…” because when “now” arrives (now being a cheap ticket) just book a date and find a cat sitter. If you think about it, the ticket just buys you the flight, and you can sleep through that, which means the most expensive part of of the journey is not necessarily the most significant. Continue reading “Book a Ticket and Just Leave”
People ruin us for other people. Songs ruin us for other people. At the moment, I can think of very few things that aren’t capable of ruining us for something or someone. Yesterday I saw The Descendants with a friend. I began today by yelling at my dad, and just generally being hostile towards everyone in my family for reasons I can no longer explain (anyone who’s seen The Descendants would know how badly the juxtaposition of these two events pans out). I just am. I’m just going through a generally hateful phase, which will hopefully be done by tomorrow, over consultations with a thesis advisee. So that doesn’t make it a phase, just a bad day.