Friday, August 20, 2010


A thump to my head almost took me down. A tiny door I knelt before, like a Catholic at mass. Not low enough, for my head was bonked as if that ledge itself shrunk down to whap me a good one, just for spite. A hole too small for a hobbit? Perhaps. My head was scrunched into the base of my neck like the top of a toy pushed down too far.

A kink in the neck is a kink like no other; a tilt to the left, a nod to the right, both unleashing a pain that is anything but erotic. I felt my neck for the first time as something potentially, if not probably, destined for a quiet and violent destruction. As easily chipped as a potato chip itself. (With none of the salty flavour, although I can almost taste stray flecks of neck-bone floating around the inside of my mouth, like dead fish being flushed into their final sad circle from life.) Would one's own bones crunch like the sweetest of cookies? Perhaps that's a tradeoff I could one day pursue -- a stunted head on a hunched back, if only to taste my own fragile of forms.

Ah, but to taste one's own taste is a taste much too curt. A blunt, almost incestuous feeling of intimacy occurs when the tip of your tongue is coated, if not sprayed, with something within, and the taste of my bones would be a taste far too fearsome.

For me, today, my neck better, that something-to-savor was blood red and sweet. My face had implanted itself so askew on the pavement's hard edges. First I felt the trip, a hazard of running that occurs all the time, but this time extended the fall or a stretch far too far. I have probably fallen ten, twelve times, tops, in two decades of runs, but this one was tops in terms of tough spills. Painful spills. I use phrases such as these to add elements of grace to that which is coarse. Language can, and should, serve as a means by which we surround and enclose the most violent events, turning life into something more ready for us to examine, reflect upon, muse over, but life was not made to be written, and the whap of one's fall on a path made of stone seems to mock the notion of replicating experience as ideas once removed.


For a moment I felt as if my teeth, or a few of them, had been launched free from their gums like a gun's anxious ammo. The blood came at once, and with it the pain. The taste of my blood was reminescent of youth, of falling down a slide while my brother and cousin came quickly to help. This is my childhood, I could have thought at that moment when my cheek kissed the rock. I didn't think that, only forging this link, because words come only later, if ever. A fall to a sidewalk leaves the intellect behind.

How often have you tasted blood in your mouth in the years of your life? Two times? Three? It's an almost welcome sensation, to lick its slow drip as it forms and then builds. Tastes savored before, but not again, grow dim in our skulls. Here was this blood, but my teeth were just fine. No cracks, chips, or chunks to be found amidst stones on the ground. However, the side of my face had its own, almost artistic flourish; the cuts on my arms are almost already scabs. To look like this, and not have been mugged, is a wound to one's pride of the highest order. At least with a mugging there's the prospect of defence, however feeble it might prove to be. A violation, a violent act, brings out pity, and self-pity directed at one's own deep-cut offers a cool rag on the fevers of one's soul. But to wield such sharp cuts from one's own trip-and-fall? From a tumble to the earth over one's own two left feet?

Together with the unfortunate-incident-of-the-head-in-the-doorway, I'm starting to think that terra firma has traps that spring just for me. Or, if I cannot convert blame to this more tactile, if absurd, form of currency, I must now admit that I am at fault in an earth of my own reckless making. With welts on a knee, and scrapes on my face, I can only confess: The pain from this pen, the maddening vagueness of language, and the agony of words that emerge all too late, are but a joy, a gift, a candy unwrapped when compared with the pain of a face falling flat on its front. Words can't infer what reality simply thumps so well and so deep.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Were time a tin can I would crush it with glee. Use my fingers to squeeze every last bit of life out of its smug, seemingly impentrable metallic facade. Drop it to the earth. Force the soul of my shoe finish it off for once and for all.

As a child, in Canada, Coke cans were made of a metal so tough that I would spend minutes on end trying to dent their red glares. Round about age ten, eleven the type of metal was changed, became easier to crease, to curve, to push, to to force an impression like fingers in dough. At that point, every can I drank could have its own coda. Me at the end, belching the burps that only Coke can provide, with the can being crumpled as my one coup de grace. My signature move, that crumpling. Gaze down into those clunky blue recycling bins, and it was easy to spot which cans were from Scott. Diet Coke's crumpler, par excellance. Those old, pre-metal-shift memories of can after can lying misshapen and bent leave me angry, almost sullen, because the bastards who switched one metal for another made me realize that life was changing too quick. The sudden resilience of inanimate objects foreshadowed a time when life would not bend.

I stopped drinking pop over five years ago, telling myself that the syrupy, sugary gunk that I craved was merely an easy injection of caloric goo. But, no. There are other, larger forces at play. The Cokes, 7-Ups, Tabs, A&Ws, Pepsis, Dr.Peppers, Fantas (oh, Fanta, how I loved your sweet fruits with unvarnished glee, coming home from a soccer match on a midsummer's eve, the family all stopping at Avondale's gate, Lakeshore branch, soon to be razed to give rise to a church, and me, with a green bottle of lime to light my way home in the early evening dusk), all were symbols of what my strength could become, my fingers acting as talons, tearing their metallic flesh with what felt like ease. To keep on drinking from unbendable cans was like sleeping in childhood's bed all one's days.

Gradually, inevitably, my strength gave way to the pop taste's true power. Aside from the cans, no longer easily crushed, mundane realities of waistlines and beer bellies became suddenly here, accumulated examples of time's last revenge. Gone went my cans of carbonated bliss. Still are the days when I wander through markets, letting my eyes linger on row after row of colourful cans that once gave me joy. Now their white labels and logos seem like smiles all too mocking, ever-fresh glares that remind me that though they stay still in infinite racks, and though they soon will be drunk and discarded like gum gone too stale, my middle-aged fingers will never, not again, squeeze them and crush them without any effort. Someday, far off, should I fall off my wagon and seek one final sip, I sense on that can's surface an 'accidental' gash will act as a final fuck you.

Monday, August 09, 2010


An unknown animal scratching, clawing, biting and probably burrowing its morning through the roof over your head is an unsettling sound at six a.m. We think of a roof as a benign protector, so lofty but banal in its almost perfunctory functionality. We take little, if any, actual notice of its presence in the beat of our lives. There are those nights (more frequent in number as the calendar turns its pages with the wind) when we stare through the dark at a spot in its centre and wonder where shall I go. There also nights beyond number when rain softly drips off its indifferent eaves onto grass far below that drinks it all up. Usually, however, the roof does what it was built to do -- form a chapel of protection against all that can harm us: the heat of the sun, the cold of the sun, the sky with its weight that would crush us with grandeur.

Yet, that animal.

Nibbling away, skittishly, almost nervously, in a panic, at...what? A tin roof sectioned by blocks of years-old wood? What is it doing, eating? Could the crunching of wood possibly be satisfying for even the most desperately hungry of animals? If such a beast (for I dub it a beast -- anything that would rob me of sleep must shelter such savage tendencies) needs the blunt, tasteless flavor of mortar to aid its digestion, perhaps its problems loom larger than my own.

Yes. That may be the only way I can scrounge up some sympathy for this invisible creature lurking above, who conspires with the dawn to snatch up my sleep. If the animal is deranged, mad beyond measure, convinced with its instinct that beneath the roof lies the home of its children -- if that is its goal, then the animal can flee without sanction. Perhaps, at the base of its little mind, there is a place at the bottom of the roof where its infants, hungry and hopeful, await. That could explain its persistent scraping, as if it was surprised that this metal was not like the dirt of the earth that is easily dug.

I lay in bed and grant it that grace. That of a mother searching for a child. Should such a mother -- rodent or canine, bird or beast -- succeed in its quest and fall through a hole and drop on my bed, I fear two worlds would be shattered beyond repair. This animal would soon learn that I was not what it labored so long to find. And I would understand, at my own late age, that a roof cannot insulate the most fervent of quests.

Friday, August 06, 2010


Traffic clogs the early morning streets of Baguio like hair in a drain. Only, when a sink is stuck with fragrant follicles and the accumulated, worthless collection of chin hair sprinkled randomly around the porcelain a tip of the tap will unleash water to go do what water does best -- disperse the flotsam of our lives with a forceful, almost gleeful blast of pure intent. Into the pipes, out of our physical lives, another morning ritual done, forgotten, after the piss and before the tie is tied. The gurgle of the bright green mouthwash acts as an interlude between the shave and the familiar, almost comforting sound of our own piss spraying the toilet.

No such mechanism of ordered division exists on the roads of our lives. The pavement that pushes us along. The yellow and white lines we obediently follow this way and that way, left to right, pass here, not there. These divisions are supposed to make things work. But the chrome of cars tucked all too tight into stationary positions of fumes and withheld mechanical fury, the augmented anger that inevitably arises from within the pit of one's stomach and the hood of one's car. Not the rage of a man learning his lover has left him for a smarter, but lesser, man. No, this is the percolating, daily drip of rage that somehow shoots upwards from within, out of one's stomach, detouring around the heart and egging its way into your throat and out of your prim, pursed lips after day one hundred and four of the constant inch, creep and crawl of machines in motion, as fast as an old woman with her walker doing her best. (And only seven miles to go!)

Something about the exhaust sickens these souls as they head towards work that will weaken them more. Black, brown, grey soot belches outwards from the backs of these cars like farts from an ox. There must be no regulations on these jeepneys and Frankenstein shitboxes. They barrel past the sign that claims this town as 'the cleanest city in the Philippines', belching their smoke as the ephemeral equivalent of a proverbial poke-in-the-ribs that counters the sign's claim with a visceral 'who are they kidding?'

No one.

I run by like a thief from the scene of his most ingenious new crime, bobbing and weaving between the gap between bumpers of cars that are still, avoiding eyes through the windshields that will, I know, glare with sad grit.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


A couple of chickens mindlessly clucked in greeting as I walked outside of the house in the early morning heat, their beaks pecking the indifferent pavement. (Are birds our original zombies?) Even with cut-off heads, I imagined that the birds would still chirp through the spray of blood that jetted from their former bodies and splattered the earth on which their skulls still rested. Sometimes the stupidest among us are the friendliest. And sometimes the friendliest of us are the wisest. Running through the streets, I am greeted by a "Good morning, sir" from another jogger struggling through a body's stubborn rebellion on a Sunday morning. Why am I being dubbed 'sir' by someone whose age is older than mine? Politeness to a foreigner seems decidedly odd, almost condescending, but no -- it is a form of welcome, a statement that declares that this country and its road are as welcome to me as to a native-born son. (This is the interpretation I choose.) Further along the road, past the hotel whose name I always (willingly?) forget, a horse is tied to a post while its owner eats at a tiny eatery with the humble sign of 'Samson's Cafe'. That such a tiny roadside chow shop, little more than an outside shack, deems strong enough, vital enough, to bear the name of Samson is a thought worth laughing about while simultaneously giving respect towards the bravado of its owner's ambition. Why not live large? And whose is the horse? In this area, there are horse rides given to anyone willing to hop on board and bear the bumpy ride. Something inside of me thinks up a secret plan. I will slowly sneak up the horse's side, unleash the rope, set the animal free. It will ride riderless through Baguio's hills. I will become a hidden hero to the animal kingdom. Instead I take note of the blue and yellow saddle that lies across its back, wondering what that number means, and if the horse misses home. On my own way home, I run by a young girl muttering to herself as she plucks petals off of a flower, leaving behind soft white traces of her tracks on the sidewalk, as if she were going on a long trip into the forest and wanted to remember how she got there, and how she would return.