Saturday, January 29, 2005

A Story about Nothing

So the story begins when I came to New York from LA three years ago. He is a friend of friends and we were introduced. It was a very brief first meeting but it led to many other chances for us to get together.

Since then, our common friends have taken a personal mission to set us up on a date and to get us started on something. When the girls went out together all I hear are unending stories of how sweet he is, how smart and how thoughtful - almost how perfect. Then in an awkward syncronized glance they'd turn to me and try to read my face for any reaction. And I probably registered some. They have fantastic marketing skills but there has always been a small problem: all these years, he's not done anything to make me feel that HE is interested.

"He is not that into me," I laughed tonight as we got started into the standard routine of talking about him and what he did for the holidays and how sad they were that he was alone.

"He likes you! He asks about you." one girlfriend confides. "The two of you are good for each other, you both give so much when you're in love!"

I throw my arms in the air and scream, "Fine! So he's a great guy! But what do you want me to do?"

"You have to show him you're interested!" they sing in chorus.

"How can I when he hasn't even shown me a hint that he is interested!"

Matter of fact, he hasn't really shown he is specifically interested in women. He could have a totally different sexual preference for all we know but other than the friendly banter that we have had, there has never been an instance when I could confirm that he was trying to bait a date.

And the sad thing is, maybe I like him. He is not Italian but he is quite charming (GASP! a non-Italian man who is charming!). There is a friendliness about him that makes you immediately feel comfortable. And like me, he lives a very uncomplicated life. And yes, he is carinoso, very responsible, very smart and yet very gentle. And he also hadn't made the first step. Be it a call (he frigging knows ALL my numbers and I am listed!). What should a girl do?

This is 2005, I know, and I am single and I am in Manhattan...not Iowa. This is the time and place where it is acceptable for the woman to make the first move. But I am also Filipina and it's not the way I would want to start anything. Much as I may seem very modern, in the ways of the heart I am still very old-fashioned.

So this is the love story that has no beginning and no end and obviously no middle. It is the love story that has a draft layout but with a lot of scribbles on the margins and a feasibility study to guarantee its failure. This is probably the love story that has two souls sitting in a city whose thoughts now and them might drift to each other. Hesitating and then giving up. Or it could be the comedy where the script brings its characters into a spiralling circle in search for the center only to twist into two separate twirls. Or a tragedy where what should have been never was because no one did.

This could be anything but this is certinly the story about nothing. Story of my life...

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Blizzard of 2005 (Day 2)

9:00 AM

Woke up at 8AM today with the sound of another plow mowing the asphalt. The coffee last night was suppose to be decaf, ad the check mark on it cup said it was decaf but I kept turning in bed until 2:30AM, listenng to the shoveling downstairs and the whistling wind.

I got up and looked outside. The snow had obviously continued to fall through the night and according to the news, Manhattan now is now buried 13 inches deep. The strong winds are blowing chunky bits of snow horizontally. I shiver at the image, knowing very well that the wind makes it bitterly cold outside. The snow that attached itself on some of the parked vehicles have turned into ice or icicles. The streets remain empty, almost like a ghost-town, if you know Manhattan.

Downstairs, the shoveling hasn't been able to cope with the snowfall. The sidewalks remain snowed-in despite being salted and cleared now and then. We still have about 3 hours of snow but am looking forward to going out and playing on the snow at Central Park, making snow bunnies or snow angels.

11:00 AM

Is this Manhattan on a Sunday at a little before noon?

3:00 PM

The snow had stopped a little before noon. My friend and I left the apartment and trodded through knee deep snow. The main thoroughares had been plowed and cleared. Most of the secondary streets were not plowed and not salted and so remained snowy, slippery. Some street corners have snow banks that were thigh-high making it a major hurdle to cross to get anywhere.

We took the crosstown bus to Central Park and where kids and adults alike were with their skis, snowboards and sleds with them, ready to party. Dogs also were having the most fun time playing through powdery snow.

It is hard to keep the Manhattanite indoors. With famously small apartments, the first chance to go out and enjoy is taken advantage of. Who would have thought that this morning, while snow warnings were still up that people would be trooping to the parks already and having fun?!

By mid-afternoon, the rest of the city is back in business despite the mounds of snow everywhere.

Too much hype and eventually the blizzard wasn't as grand as the media made it out to be. I think nothing still outdoes the 2003 Blizzard - unless you are in Boston where they had 2 feet of snow!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Blizzard of 2005

It is being called the Blizzard of 2005. It is expected that by Sunday noon, as much as 24 inches of snow would be dumped in Manhattan, more in Long Island and Connecticut. So far it has been a snowless winter, with barely a dusting each time. The M.O. jokes that the weather just had to wait for me to return from my vacation before it got ready to bring us some snow - knowing well how much hate winter and snow.

My first and last blizzard was in Valentine's Day 2003 when I spent it in the city with an ex-boyfriend who was visiting from LA. The day after, it was beautiful at Central Park where people were skiing, snowboarding and sledding.

Blizzard 2003 at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park

This is my Blizzard 2005 journal.

11:30 AM

News flash and alerts come on TV every 5 minutes, warning people about the coming storm. A slight flurry has started to fall outside, graceful snowflakes lightly falling from the heavens and billowing with the wind. It looks beautiful, fragile but I'm sure it will bring with it much more in terms of snow volume in a few hours.

I am watching Nick Jr's "The Backardigans" and wishing my niece Gabrielle was here. We'd have fun doing the sound effects of "da-dahdah" and "gasp" sound effects in this spy episode. Hahaha!

1:00 PM

Still a dusting, no plows yet until an inch of accumulations so very slippery!

An hour and a half later, the snowflakes give way to heavier and bulkier lumps of snow. Not the wet kind of snow but still, accumulating fast on the avenues. The humidity is high and that is often a bad sign for more precipitation (yeah, just heard the weatherman speak the lingo - hahaha!).

4:00 PM

Same street four hours later. More snow.

The snow has been falling steady - sometimes almost unrelenting, sometimes turning light flurry but the snow plows have started their rounds which means it has reached an inch in depth on the streets already. The streets are almost empty. The news on Tv warns that people stay indoors for their own safety. The sidewalks, though constantly shovelled by the apartment supers remain slippery, with the shovelling not able to cope with the downpour.

The sidewalks are slippery and filled with snow. And it is also almost empty.

A friend travelled from Scarsdale to stay with me. We plan to go out tonight and see a movie. A perfect activity on an evening such as this. And since the car had been parked afew blocks away, we now have to walk about 10 block to see either Leondardo DeCaprio or Brad Pitt. Tomorrow we will go to Central Park to enjoy the fresh fallen snow.

I realize this is the weekend we had planned to be in Vermont. We cancelled because we were afraid the snowstorm would clog the highways coming back Sunday and honestly, we weren't ready to extend. I for one, have just returned from a month-long vacation and I'm sure it wouldn't be appreciated at work.

11:00 PM

My friend and I struggled through knee deep snow. The movie theatre is about 10 blocks away and that is often nothing more than a 10 minute walk. Toight though, 10 minutes brought us only as far as a Starbucks. We can in and got capuccinos and latte's and then sat on a table next to the window. we watched very few people on the streets. The limited-stop buses are running local but there aren't that many passangers. The few people who came out were parents dragging their toddlers on sleds or having their dogs go for walks - shivering dogs in snow almost thir height. I don't think the dog enjoyed it as much.

After an hour we decided to go to Blockbuster and take out "Bourne Supremacy" and "Calendar Girls". Ended up watching the tagalog movie "Milan".

At a little before midnight, the streets are still being battered by snowfall and remain empty except for the snowplows that continue to clear the snow from the streets. I heard they will run 24 hours until the snow stops.

Nice and toasty in my apartment....goodnight. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Light and Shade

It could be nothing more than a window of a house, a bell of a chapel or another day at the barber's. To the discerning eye of the artist, it is a potential subject for a piece of artwork that will have its chance to be recorded on the canvass of his photography.

I have written about Marco's pictures before. As we are nearing the date for his upcoming photo exhibit in New York, he is more inspired and is sending me new materials. I am confused because I thought we had already come up with our final selection. And he continues to stay humble, refusing to acknowledge that he is an artist. To me, anyone who can yield and operate a camera is a photographer. Someone who can capture images and bring them to a level where it can communicate a message to its viewer is something else. That is to me is an artist.

Marco is the quintessential artist.

Marco will be having a solo exhibit of his pictures entitled "The Balkans" at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, at the lobby of the Secretariat Building from July 4 to 15, 2005.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Mother, Daughter, Mother

Mothers and daughters are the most complex relationships in the universe. It could be because each is a part of each other that is why they have too much in common and yet so different from each other. It is a relationship that starts out as a very dependent one for us. From the womb to the first months after birth, the mother is the single individual in the whole universe whose voice, smell and heartbeat we are familiar with. It is a familiarity that provides comfort when she is near. It is a dependency resulting from the need for survival and the total lack of self-sufficiency. As independence slowly sets in, we learn to crawl, to walk, to run, to talk and to talk back, we -the child, slowly wean from mother.

Mothers, however, never see this time coming. The natural tendency to nurture and well, mother, goes beyond elementary days and high school and college and it just never stops. Mothers are life-organizers, worriers, and whose joys are the simplest when it comes from their children. The littlest things that could be taken for granted, when it comes from a child to the mother is amplified in value. And when you love someone this much, hurt is also easier to inflict.

Mother and daughter relationships are also the more dramatic ones in the family. Mine, was anyway, when I was growing up because I had always been very close to my mother and so our peaks and lows were often extremes. Since my father would be away to work most of the day my mother took on the role of disciplinarian. It was when the children had done something beyond petty that it was brought to my dad's attention (ask Francis who'd break into tears the second my dad summons for him). I guess, their logic was that because my dad was hardly home it was unfair to have him getting angry with the kids when he was.

Growing up, my mom was my best best friend and still is. She was the one who told me I was pretty when I didn't believe I was. She cheered me on and gave me confidence when I couldn't source my own. I confidently told her about boys (and still do) I was seeing and shared my heartbreaks with her. Looking back at it I realize it was wrong because long after I had forgotten about whatever sob story I had with an ex my mom still remembered and she'd have a totally negative view of anyone who has made me cry.

There was also a time when I totally hated everything my mom did. She smothered me, had more opinions about my affairs than I did and wanted to run my life. Until I had Nicole.

Nothing makes you rediscover the wisdom and expertise of your mother until you have your own child. She knew everything about pregnancy, giving birth and taking the baby home. She gave Nicole her first bath because I was afraid to hold her or drown her as she looked so fragile. I mean, I could have managed to give her a bath on my own if she could have waited until she could sit up. But mom said it wouldn't be healthy and I believed her.

Now that little baby is 20 years old. When I left Manila 3 years ago, she was the Assumptionista who couldn't even cross the street or take public transportation (I am not kidding). In 2002 and again last year she travelled to NY on her own. Now a college student who has the regal bearing of a confident, intellligent and charming young woman, I cannot help but watch her and adore her and wonder how I had raised her so well. Of course I would take the full credit for all of these positive traits! :-)

When I was home in December, the reversal of our roles are once again emphasized as she would often be the mom and I, the child. She would scold me when she disapproved of whatever I was up to. She seems more knowledgeable about life and its complexities than I did when I was 20, considering the fact I already had her when I was her age. When my mom and I get the chance to talk and she is not within earshot, we'd often laugh about how she is more mom to me than I am to her. And I am proud of it. I am unabashedly proud of being mom to her. She pursues her dreams and though sometimes has the usual hesitations, she manages to win every battle that comes along her way. She takes her loses with a shrug, maybe a little humor, though I know some of them have left her with a heartbreak but many times wiser. She has a quiet strength, and exhibits the charm she definitely got from me.

Someone told me that, "daughters are what their mothers are". I know I will be, probably am already, what my mom is but Nicole is different. She is what she is - mostly what I have always wanted to be. I dream she will have a life that is full of dreams that will come true and one that will be easier than mine but not less exciting.

When I grow up I want to be just like her.

Chinese Fortune Cookies

"Life is basket of fortune cookies; you never know what you gonna to get" is my new version of the Forrest Grump quip.

Last night about 20 of the friends I share with the M.O. decided to have Chinese dinner, eager for some warm tea that is served free with the meal and the delicious roast pork or roast duck noodle soup. I discovered this place on 88th and 3rd that's very cozy and cheap that serves food fast and very flavorful. At the end of the meal we were given a small basket with a bunch of fortune cookies. I told them that back at work, whenever we ordered Chinese and got the cookies, we'd add "in bed" on all the messages that are hidden inside the small twisted thin wafers. And so everyone picked up a cookie and read their fortunes in my suggested fashion. And it was hilarious!

"An hour with friends is worth more than ten with bed"

"The simplest answer is to bed"

"He who has good health is young ... in bed!"

You should try it. Makes you look forward to the little package that comes at the end of your meal!

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Value of Friendships

I've mentioned many times the value of friendships when you are away from family as I am. My friends have become my surrogate family and I'm sure in many ways it is a mutual feeling among us. We have stood steadfast through troubled times, celebrated happy moments and even cried on each other's shoulders when things hit rock bottom. And like them, I take my friendships very seriously so that any form of betrayal is unforgiveable.

My friends know me well - that I give my best, all that I can, if I can, to them. I don't demand much - just respect and to accept me for what I am - basics of a genuine friendship. Coming to New York, I have become more tolerant and understanding of people's shortcomings. Back in Manila kasi, friends are but minor characters in my life story. I have my family that I can turn to and always matter most. Forgiveness is easy but forgetting is something else. I have this mental meter that only allows so many and so much before I can turn around and scratch someone out of my friends list. And unfortunately, I don't give second chances. Minsan when I think about it parang bata but taking with some friends back in Manila I realized it is the same with a lot of them. It is truly pathetic to stay friends with someone who you know is just out to take advantage of your goodwill. Leeches, backbiters, turncoats and the same shouldn't have to weigh down your life.

Looking back, the friends I have kept so far remain those who are more like sisters or brothers to me. Remy and Ana have always been a part of my family and my friendship with them has run through more than a decade, through boyfriends, marriages and children (Ana's). Remy and I will seek each other online to chat if not to talk on the phone for whatever. She travels to NY once a year or I to Ft. Lauderdale or like last year had planned to meet in Ohio.

Ana and I maybe separated by thousands of miles but it has not deterred us from staying in touch. Every year when I go home we make it a point to see each other and when troubled times hit who else would we be calling but each other. Sister, she calls me and I feel that, too. It feels sad that I only get to see her once a year and with hardly any time for private conversation as we would be in the midst of our families. I think when I go home next December I will find time to see her for lunch in Makati, just the two of us.

Lizza is the friend whose frankness I value. She will give it to me straight, walang bola, anything. She doesn't say things to make me feel good. She will say the good and the bad as she sees it. Often we do not see things eye to eye pero that is what friendship is about - agreeing to disagree. Christmas 2003 she was very vocal with her disappointment with me not finding time to see her. Last December we had breakfast, lunch and I met up with her family in a resort where they were vacationing. In other words she manipulated my schedule kaya I didn't get to see anyone else (excused na ba ako - VLH? Gay? Elaine?).

The thing about putting value to friendships, is that you are open to abuse. And I have gone through that time and time again since coming to New York. Minsan I think it's better to just not trust totally in friendships and to keep to myself. But then, along the way I have met and kept some new friends worth their weight in gold, too. So it's really a gamble.

No man is an island and the world is so much better when you can share your rainbows across a wide range of people you hold close to your heart. You pick your friends and put them in a basket and hope you have chosen well. Sometimes you get some and find some rotten oranges or apples in your selection. You can either be enraged and make a big deal out of it or just throw them in the thrash and move on.

I love the friends I have in my basket. Some of them, just new acquaintances I have given a part of my heart that dares to be hurt again. They are the first ones I seek soon as I return to Manhattan. I gamble. I dare be hurt. I also dare to find my family here in this city to grow bigger.