Tuesday, March 04, 2008

UPDATE (03.04.08): Freeway hassle, Los Angeles hustle, and the rustle of afternoon rain on late winter

... or rainy days and Mondays in the life of a journalist, nth time around...

IT’S DISTURBINGLY familiar—this LA freeway jaunt. From where we live, Lakewood (aka Hawaiian Gardens, northeast of the city), off to I-605 to Sta Ana Freeway to I-5 to downtown Los Angeles... it reminds me of Manila’s main thoroughfare. Late afternoon traffic is less heavier than New York City (ie NJ Turnpike and/or through Holland Tunnel across Hudson River) but the drive here, across two or three freeways, is alarmingly funky. Not really heavy—just funky.
It’s a good thing that my photographer (for Philippine News), Philip The Morris (who drives, of course), is a funky little critter behind the wheels, as well. Move over, Nascar rats! He can chat about the practical wisdom behind Shaq being traded to the Suns and why Kobe should run for President, while negotiating the freakin’ road, 85mph. That’s why so far, Los Angeles becomes a bit manageable—I mean, the overhyped LA traffic is all overhyped. It’s okay. I am still walkin’ without crutches and my vertebrae column is still in-tact, thank God!
Anyways, it’s been almost two months since my last rambling-update. There’s a lot of stuff and things to write about—beyond my obligatory one-story/each-day news/(feature) coverages. I know that this kind of coverages are the ones that I’ve been wanting to do again (just like when I was very young, 100 years ago), but it’s certainly not a picnic. There’s a lot of reason to seek rest and refuge, ease and escape, through my poetry...
A new friend said, “There’s a lot of poetry here... just like Asheville” as she walked/toured me along Alamitos and Broadway in Long Beach, pass by the poetry dives at Viento y Agua Gallery and Portfolio Cafe. If only she knew how much, how deep “poetry” meant at this emotional juncture of my so-called journey. I really need to read poems these days. It’s not that there’s no place to do just that—it’s just that this journalist life has been taking a lot of my time lately.

A WEEKEND ago, a distressed father fatally shot his wife and 3 of his children before gunning himself to death at the affluent Yorba Linda neighborhood in Orange County. This family started life in Manila and relentlessly pursued the American dream here, found temporary comfort in a city that was listed by CNN as the 21st best place in the US to live, and the richest US city (as reported by the Census data showing median household income of $121,075 higher than any other city in 2006).
As I worked my wearied fingers on the keyboards (to file my story), I remembered my youngest daughter’s beautiful innocence almost 10 years ago. An angel, a gift of life. How could a father kill his own child—how could they struggle to fit in a wealthy little city (birthplace of Nixon) and then languish in financial sorrow when no one was looking?
A few minutes later (after I downed three Coronas), I got a cellphone call from a colleague (who writes for LA Times)—a bothered man shot and killed his own mother in Baldwin Park in central San Gabriel Valley region. That week, gangland-related drive-by shootings claimed lives in Glassell Park and Cypress Park in the northeast. There’s more...
I saw and wrote about all these grim images before, many years ago. I tried to turn my back (or my mind) far away (the “farthest” that I could reach was Asheville)—but at the dead of night, the words come spilling back. In the same way that I tried to run away almost 20 years ago, in India, while the Marcos dictatorship was murdering my people. At the dead of night, I heard the words—so I went home. It’s impossible to run away from your spirit.
Two days ago, at a news conference (in LA’s Philippine consulate) I asked a Cabinet secretary (from the Philippines) about the issue of brewing political tempest in Manila— disgruntled Filipinos in city streets all over the Philippines calling for President Gloria Arroyo’s immediate resignation. As ever, there was no concrete response regarding the resolution of recent accusations of governmental corruption emanating from the anomalous US$329.5 million ZTE-National Broadband Network deal. The alleged scam, implicated, among others, her husband or “First Gentleman” Mike. The Cabinet man’s response was, “Point to me a government in the world that is not subjected to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing, that’s normal. It comes with the job.” [refer to www.philippinenews.com for my stories]
When I watch “new” politicians—from those back home, to Obama, to Hillary—and how they mouth the word, “change,” I sink in a mix of distant apathy and bitter attachment. I can’t say, “Oh yeah, I heard it before” – yet, I’d like to hope and wish that maybe they’d be able to save some father from shooting his own kids, some kid shooting other kids, a son shooting his own mother, and people shooting people somewhere.
I can’t run anymore and say, “I hate the world, I hate politicians, I hate...” and then seek refuge atop a mountaintop or away in an island, and speak love and freedom. I belong where wounds are cut deeper, where wounds are healed, as well. Somehow, although tired after a “day in the job,” I feel satisfaction that my words got out there... for people to read. I had three stories on the front page of this week’s issue, in all of our big city editions: East Coast/NYC, south CA/LA, and Bay Area.
Two weeks ago, Kenneth Kim, a reporter for Korea Times interviewed me about the “strength of the Asian vote in the coming US presidential elections,” same topic when I briefly talked at New America Media’s radio show (by Odette Keeley), then a young filmmaker from UCLA chatted with me why I moved from Asheville to Lakewood (LA County) for Current TV.
I asked Marta The Nicer, “Did they believe what I just said?” And then, I put “Saw 4” on DVD—and chomp away a bar of Reese, while I fill up a box with books and Sports Illustrated to send Duane, my son, in Manila. Few minutes after that, I prepared Marta a soup of chicken sulphur soup and two cloves of lemon (grown in our backyard) for her recurring fever and fixed myself a glass of rum.
It’s just a day in the life.
Well, Marta The Nicer O is a bit indisposed right now—for almost two weeks now. Flu season. She hasn’t been working since we got here—she might work if she gets bored but I think she’s okay. She watches a lot of “Law and Order” and stuff, and eats a lot of cereal Ks and drinks, as usual, a lot of soda. But she’s not going to smoke anymore.

LAST WEEK, we drove to Huntington Beach and saw the waves crashing through the marina. Serenity, peace. Then we snaked through communities south of the 105 and west of Long Beach... the South Bay or Beach Cities: Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and Torrance.
And then, to those so-called “Little Manilas” – Artesia, West Hollywood, Anaheim, Carson, Cerritos and West Covina near Los Angeles, and a tour at Filipinotown near Echo Park. I wrote an article about this oldest this town Fil-Ams call Hi-Fi or P-town. Many Filipino-American families began purchasing homes and establishing businesses in the area beginning from the 1940s, shifting away from the Little Tokyo area in the 1920s and the Bunker Hill area later due in part to intense racial segregation in those years.
These days, those Filipinos are wealthier than ever. I even met one with a mansion in Beverly Hills and a huge seaside perch in Huntington Beach. I saw in their eyes the remnants of mud from a summer’s tailend typhoon back home. They can’t hide them—though they struggle to.
As ever, I remain a witness. I detach myself from the faces and places, and just remember the moments, and write them. After I filed the story, my day is over. Tomorrow is another story.
But I am still here the way I was. The way I was when I was still in Asheville. I still cook a lot, and I watch a lot of DVD movies, and voraciously attack the library for classic films (FREE), I still score bargain books to restart a library.
This Wednesday night, I will be interviewing a Filipino boxer (Manny “The Pacman” Pacquiao) who’s fighting a Mexican for a third world crown on the 15th (and then make agonizing Filipinos feel joy at a moment’s time), with his trainer Freddie Roach and manager Bob Arum in Hollywood. Then that night, I’ll don a suit and tie, to attend a lawyers banquet at The Beverly Hills and Bungalows where a US Army (Filipino) General (Tony) Taguba talks about the war and stuff. (He’s the military dude who investigated torture allegations by the US military).
Lots of stuff and things. Lots of Mexicans, lots of Filipinos. Lots of food to eat (I had a Japanese lunch in Long Island the other day). Lots of Disneyland, lots of Irvine, lots of Inglewood and Kobe Bryants.
Lots of violence, blood, pain. Lots of humanity.
Lots of Los Angeles. Lots of love, lots of hate. Lots of work. Lots of LA Lakers. The City of Angels. (And I haven’t even heard about Arnuhld.)

Lakewood CA


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