Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Earthquakes on boob tube, broken Seagrams, dropped Blackberrys, $100-plate fundraisers, and my life as a “superhero-imagined" journalist

EARTHQUAKE! Same time yesterday, a rockin’ wavy 10-secs (or more) tremor roused me from my sleep (yes, vampires are still asleep at 11am). I thought a combined force of Hellboy and Rosie McDonnel was pulling me out of my slumber, or something. (Okay, it’s over now—no significant damage to life and limb. Right now, I am dancing to The Police’s “De Do Do Do, Da Da Da Da.”)
A Hollywood-based dudette with a Pam Anderson head and trans fats-fed brains: “Oh my God, that wasn’t cool at all. Scary! That was my first time ever to be in an earthquake! I was tryin’ to text my mom, but all signals were gone. It was scary, so scary! I actually dropped my Blackberry and hit my foot!” Rewind to many months ago—a banished young beauty contest winner (maybe a future wifey of Donald Trump): “Yeah, it was awesome at the rehab. It so like, spiritual cool! We had party at the pool and I chilled and hanged out with really awesome people out there! I wanna visit one day—you know like, this summer?” [Sting: “De do do do, da da da da—that’s all I got to say to you.”)
Back to the 5.4 intensity earthquake.
I actually felt for the liquor store owner in Chino Hills (quake’s epicenter): [Imagine William Hurt sullenness, near tears] “Yeah, that was terrible. We had like hundreds of wine bottles, expensive liquor that broke… Sad.” / How about this. An “expert” in emergency situations: “When things like this happen, don’t leave them alone, don’t show them that you are panicking, keep calm. Because they don’t like that, they have to be assured that things are okay.” (He’s referring to dogs and he’s reporting from Beverly Hills.)
But everything’s okay now… Let’s go back to our superhero-smothered summer. (I haven’t even seen “The Dark Knight” yet in a multiplex near me; that quake made me paranoid! It was so, like, y’know, scary shit!)

NOW, HEAR this! According to former astronaut Edgar Mitchell, UFOs are real and aliens are watching us. ETs are checkin’ us out, so how cool is that, huh? I’d rather be watched, pursued—and shook, rattled and rolled—by some dude with spatula-shaped head, aquamarine flesh, Jell-O ears, and tiny Michael Jackson nose than really-fearsome ICE agents and multi-accented telemarketing phone commandoes. I’m down with a multi-galaxy of diversity (the NEW bitch)—like meeting up for a fun Friday night with a plethora of Guillermo del Toro’s cute creatures (eg “Hellboy,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Devil’s Backbone”) over Corona Lites and calamari.
“Hey, hom! What’s goin’ on up there in Jupiter? I heard Axl Rose just moved there, and Motley Crue’s doin’ a gig at Planet Hollywood-Jupiter, awesome!” / “Check out hummus in Saturn, m’friend. No trans fats, no preservatives—got that? We also have permanently-stickin’ organic condoms, it stays there forever, man! Real cheap, just 2 Saturnean dollars (equivalent of an American dime).” / “Lose the Blackberry, panero! We, Venus People, got built-in cellphone down our esophagus, you can actually text while you’re having dinner. How cool is that? It’ll be available at Target-Mars next month for $2.00 with 75 cents rebate, I’ll check that out. Have you been to Mars? I met my awesome boyfriend out there, he’s got 15 arms—so New Wave, so wayyyyy out cool!”

TRANS FATS. Yup, I mentioned that already—three times. I just wrote the headline story for my newspaper’s Southern California edition this week: “Restaurants okay with trans fats ban” (that meant, Filipino restaurants). My lead: “California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants his constituents to keep fit and healthy so he signs a bill over the week requiring restaurants to cook without artery-clogging and disease-inducing trans fats. Trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids, can increase the shelf life and flavor preservation of foods but has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity, according to medical research.”
My “healthcentric” friends will love me for that story. Nuff said. But check out my story by the weekend (
Hmm, I just wish that the federal government or The State of Kaleefornya give their constituents more work hours and higher wages. What are they gonna do—tell LAPD to arrest a 26hr/$8.15 workweek overweight citizen because he/she just dined at Burger King? Trans fats are not even a figment of Third World/starvation-salaried people’s lives—they preserve and flavor their food with natural earth endowments (again, check my article. Now that’s enough self-PR already!)
Why can’t we focus on something else more… uhh, real? Look, I am a vampire, too—but that’s just my “personal bullshit.” I ain’t going to score Stephenie Meyer’s book (it was handed to me by a publicist) and eat it. There’s this one-full page ad at Entertainment Weekly that’s paid for by the American Vampire League of America that says, “Support Equality for All Citizens! Support the Vampire Rights Amendment!” Let them drown in Diet Mountain Dew and Waffle House pancake syrup!
Check out my poem, “The Vampire of the 20th Century” (yes, that’s another self-PR).
You know what I’m saying. There are many activists who profess “peace around the world” but cringe when you request them to sign a “Stop the War” petition. Or, years ago, a local paper in Asheville NC refused to print a photo of a homeless man who was stabbed in downtown’s Pritchard Park, because “it advances violence… we are not after violence.”
No wonder we all freaked out like tail-less roosters when 9/11 struck—when 9/11s happen in many parts of the world where foreign policy gods rear their ugly, helmeted heads. It’s because it’s them, not us…

OKAY, I DIGRESS. Maybe I’ll just focus on finishing my novel. I just “talk” a lot sometimes. Right now, I am here under 90s temp and listening to Blur’s Damon Albarn and waiting for our Manila editor to send me proofs and galleys (to read). Bored.
We moved our “Wander” writers group (that I just formed) for next Wednesday. Makes me wonder, as well, why is it more women seem to faithfully pursue writing? Wander (the group) has only women-members. Not that I don’t like it, I am just intrigued sometimes…
Talk about intrigue of the trade. Have you heard about author Brunonia Barry? She wrote this book, “The Lace Reader”—actually she self-published it for $50,000. And then, a huge publishing outfit took notice and signed her up for a two-book deal with $2 million down payment.
Cool, isn’t it? Problem is, I really don’t know where to get $50,000 to self-freakin’-publish my book! Man, I can’t even buy Howard Zinn’s new book or two of Frank Miller’s graphic novels (that my son, Duane, requested) with my starvation salary… So it really works for me that I am a writer, I get freebies from the mail—like S Meyer’s books, Taco Bell gift cards (no trans fats warning, sorry), and Macy’s women’s undies discounts (Lord-have-mercy, why can’t these PR people figure it out, Pasckie is a Male!)

A SUPERHERO summer, AKA the invasion of our pockets by the unreal. That’s what we’re having these days.
Gas prices and Con (what a name!) Edison bills and chopped-up work hours (for minimum-wagers), and all the hassles of life and living’s synthetic gigs. The only way to go is go watch an escapist superhero movie or two…
My criticism vs critics: Critics (Rolling Stone, Time, NY Times etc etc) heap hallelujahs on Heath Ledger’s “The Joker”—because he is already dead, I guess. Do we need to sympathize with a ruthless anti-hero, or are we sorry that the actor—the real person—is dead? Get a grip. Are comics superheroes supposed to be for kids? Or Adults are the Kids now? (So much violence, right? So we don’t like “violence” and then took Batman circa 2008 to box-office dollar pinnacle, in expense of our starvation salaries!)
More. The Incredible Hulk “sucked” because his exploits are so “unrealistic” (as one critic wrote). Duh? He’s supposed to be so NOT real, hello? Batman, the brooding millionaire; Hancock, the brat superman. Ah, the only super-dude that I dig is Hellboy, because he’s got sense of humor and manages to love a lady and shows it. If that isn’t the “real” deal, I don’t know what is.
Contradictions. Contradictions. Don’t be mad—I am just like the millions, just like us. Helpless, hapless prisoners of “timequake” (refer to Vonnegut).

LET’S TALK about real stuff for a bit.
I just watched this a 1999 Michael Mann movie, “The Insider,” a multi-nominated exploration that told a story of a “60 Minutes” TV series exposé of the tobacco industry, as seen through the eyes of a real tobacco executive, Jeffrey Wigand (a comparatively restrained Russell Crowe, inward but forceful). The “60 Minutes” story originally aired in November 1995 in an altered form because CBS’ then-owner, Laurence Tisch, objected. The story was later aired on February 4, 1996.
Anyways… the movie is all about the truth, as seen from the eyes (and conscience) of a “corporate” insider and a balls-out journalist. Perfect synergy. This one made me remember the past, during my younger years as journalist caught in the underbelly of the Marcos dictatorship. I recall an argument I had with a newspaper marketing “god”—and heard it again in the movie (Al Pacino as newsman Lowell Bergman and Philip Baker Hall as producer Don Hewitt).
The words are still there: “I am a journalist. I am paid to find news, pursue the truth. I will risk my life to do my job. That’s what I am here for. You do your job, I do mine.” I was forced to resign. My girlfriend at that time, mother of my eldest, left us.
Until now, I see truths, stories of lives and living—eg 65 Filipino politicians flew to Las Vegas last month to watch a boxing match while relatives of hundreds of people who perished in a shipwreck mourned their dead back home. I want to write those stories, but even though I couldn’t for now—I will. Maybe in a self-published book – that is, if I could raise $50,000 from tips in a poetry open mic.
Plug. In case you have some poet/musician friends who live/travel here in Southern CA—I’m already working on lineups for the Traveling Bonfires’ Vagrant Wind 2008 gigs. The first (or second) show happens at Tribal Café in W Temple, near Echo Park, in LA—on Aug 22, Friday. We may have one before that—in Long Beach’s downtown.

OKAY, LAST but not the least—let me tell you about another fundraiser (that I covered/wrote about) in a swank Hollywood hotel’s roof garden last weekend. Women on Lhuiller gowns, men on Brooks Bros, $100 a plate dinner. Fundraiser for the poor. [Sting: “De do do do, da da da da—that’s all I got to say to you.”)
Let me just switch on my Guillermo del Toro movie, “The Devil’s Backbone” (seen in, like 30 times!) while I chomp away with my trans fats-toxic Twinkies and 99 cents apple cider soda. But for you, my dear friends—love good, live good, and eat ONLY good food!
Buenas tardes!

4:15pm. July 30 08.
Lakewood CA

Friday, July 18, 2008

Finally—“Bonfires for Peace” in Kaleefornya, “timequakes” and contradictions, plus dirty juice from decadent blues and toxic coffee

SITTING BY THE DUNES of Seal Beach on an early July morning: ruminating over Margaret Atwood's Nova Scotia ruminations (and tips how to get motivated to write, or “negotiate with the dead,” as she puts it), trying to charcoal-sketch the pier (clothed with awkward fog, adorned by gothic gulls, ruffled by spooky earthlings brandishing fishing lines/rods, like assault rifles) as Amy Winehouse on walkman (no iPod, sorry) and corporate decaf (as in Starbucks, baby!) wake my hubris up and relaxes my stupor… let me heave a sigh of 3-minute relief! Ah, decadent blues and toxic coffee!
Nah, after almost six months in the South Bay, I haven’t found my LA Woman (refer to The Doors) yet, but it’s nice to know that I am about to build my first “Bonfires for Peace” in the sunny state. This Saturday, I am meeting with Leonard B., a TALL dude (like, 6’ freakin’ 7” tall!) that I met at a meeting of Long Beach Area Peace Network (LBAPN, pronounced “Lah-bah-peen”), to draw the mechanics of the event. It’s just a matter of finding out what the City Council permit constitutes: Will they measure the height/length of the bonfire’s flame? Will they monitor the migration of the smoke? Will they measure the decibels of our loud ranting/poetry-reading big mouths? Will they charge us what they charge super-rich gods (eg millionaire nudists and Hollywood surfers) at San Onofre or Malibu? I am not sure (but I’m sure I ain’t gonna fork the park permit dough. Lah-bah-peen is gonna help me). REPEAT—a “Bonfires” event is upcoming at a Southern California (or South Bay) beach this summer.
(Yes, it’s sad though—why do beautiful gifts like “community convergence for peace” could only be had or savored within/around the radius of how far the life and death of a synthetic existence of malnourished debit cards and “hours-paid/dollars-gained” go? But, beat it, it’s bonfires time again!)
I digress… and excuse my oblique metaphorical blabbery. What I really want to say is, my California dreamin’ has started to outmaneuver its sweet nightmares, finally—which is good. Freeway blues have slowly “subsided” (in my mind, that is), humid is relatively a “breeze,” and 99 Cents stores have always worked okay for this working class budget (esp. that—as societal struggles go—the more you sort of hike monthly income, the more financial responsibilities jack up). What I’m trying to say is—I have learned to “take it as it comes,” this LA Life.
If you wanna ask me, what’s goin’ on though, I’ll tell you…
You see, sometimes detachment is the only shield against the apathy. This week, I covered a (hotel workers) march in Ocean blvd in downtown Long Beach, where single mothers fight for health insurance as they toil for $8.78 on a 26/hr workweek… then, 5,000 healthcare workers trooped to Manhattan Beach as they stagger in the crossfire of two warring unions… then, I talked with a Winchester man whose sister and her entire family perished on the backroads near Lake Skinner, wasted by drag-racing ghouls.
Can I just write about a debutante’s glee in West Hollywood or a celestial dance under blue skies in Huntington Beach? And relish the hangover kick of two, three shots of Seagram’s on a typical “day-in-the-life,” accompanied by old SNL clips or a silly movie called, “The Ten”? As Robert Plant quizzes me, “Do you remember laughter?”

BUT THIS is my calling. I write about misery and agony, and then I get paid with just enough to keep up with my car payment, few $$$ to loved ones back home in Manila, and few gallons to get me to—well, the next poetry reading.
(All the other niceties that I get, I get them via a Press Card—ie free St Bonaventure Hotel lounge mixed-drink or Universal City Plaza lobster dinner, or those Filipino gatherings that’re so-teeming with food. Bad, nobody has invited me to cover an event with a vegan/vegetarian “refreshments” yet, in case you’re wondering. People here are so chemical…)
Last Tuesday night (in the midst of curses and cusses vs my Wells Fargo account), I read a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca (“Casida Dela Mujer Tendida / Casida of The Reclining Woman”) and my work, “Looking for the Face of God” (“… I am a sinner, I am a lawbreaker, I am a poet, I am a rock and roll renegade, I am a blues traveler…”) at a Long Beach café called Viento y Agua—and then, voila! I found temporal salvation. As ever, poetry “saved my life tonight…”
Yes, as life goes—we chug in the blues and funk cocktail like an insane mix of cheap Bandolero tequila and Red Bull, throw up, and then relish the sweet soft journey of corporate poison down your throat. Fuck it, and then snap out it. Enjoy the day, until it gets fucked again, then enjoy it again—maybe ram your eardrums with The Who’s “Quadrophenia” (“reign on meeee!”), that’ll work.
At least, in this concrete neck of the woods called Los Angeles (aka City of Angels), we are fortunate--there are no vicious typhoons, hunger that eat up your soul, and bombs that rain like 1,000 doomsday meteors (where a daily life’s gig is the end of the world—you see people walking like Orwell’s zombies, but look, they’re laughing). In the midst of our sorrow, we find peace as we walk the cute little terrier down Lakeshore Park or Sunset Boulevard and actually believe that this little cute soul is “a human being” that could help us kick the Prozac, some soul that also deserves shrink time in moments of funk… or that, we can easily stride in a “healthcentric grocery” and fork $50 a pop of this and that herbal cure, “magic” stone, or “bliss” potion—and believe that these could actually save us from agony. But as long as we know how to balance our checkbook, right? Whatever the case, we are still very fortunate children of humanity, we “God’s trust-babies” of America.

WE WITNESS the contradictions—eerily numbing, poignantly cartoonish—and then, we learn to just shrug them off. Check these out.
An Angelina Jolie who travels oceans in the name of global peace and then wastes your entrails away with a super-revolver in a movie called “Wanted” (killing is fun, baby, it’s only a movie, anyways), or a government that takes away kids from mothers of a polygamous sect because we MIT/Harvard-educated globoparents know how to raise kids ourselves (maybe throw them a Grand Theft Auto PS in place of attended oatmeal breakfast because we are too busy finding ways to save the world?) … A government that spends gargantuan budget on scouting/hunting down sex predators online instead of scouting/hunting down dime-and-nickel monsters inside the reeking esophagus of corporate greed, such as BANKS (eg my Wells Fargo account… devilish smirk here).
One more. Effective the last day of June, the state of Kaleefornya (a-la The Terminator) requires drivers to use a hands-free device when making cellphone calls. It is something to the effect of what Kurt Vonnegut rambles about in his novel, "Timequake"-reminding us silly earthlings to be at sync with our common sense. When you're behind the wheels, use your hands to drive-don't text, don't chat, don't cook, don't dance, don’t have oral sex, don't draw, don't make coffee, don't do gardening, don't do Facebook, don't play the piano, don't JUST DON'T. Drive!
But since in a democratic society, when laws are supposedly "imposed"--or before these are actually implemented--we have to listen to everybody's say, uhh... interests. Like Vinnie Verizon, Monty Motorola and Holly Blackberry. So! San Diego and Oceanside say they'd impose a 30-day grace period before issuing tickets; Los Angeles opts to take things on a "case to case basis." But the California Highway Patrol (remember, CHiPs?) says, NO WAY! The agency believes the public has been accorded ample warning about the measure that was actually passed as a law was in 2006. We, people, have been given enough time to buy the technology needed to use a cellphone legally while driving.
I side with CHips. Last week, I dug it when a cop flagged down a Hummer-drivin’ dude near Beverly Hills, for a cellphone violation. The dude went, YOU
MO$#@^?<>+fuxx??&=ytr%^B^TCH! I was laughing like crazy. The cop wasn’t listening—here’s $50 tix! Damn, why can't they just ban talking on a freakin' cellphone while driving, PERIOD!
Look, a family of three was killed in the backroads near Temecula and Murrieta, not by cellphone-wielding “busy bodies,” but by drag-racers. Or maybe, they were on their Blackberrys while racing the streets of Kaleefornya, right?
Few months ago, the rear end of our Buick got hit by a CSU-LB student--while we're at a traffic stop near I-605, because as the girl weepingly informed the cop, "I was talking to my girl friend on my cell, then-wham! What was that? Oh my God! I am so sorry, my bad..."
Two weeks ago, my internet connect got messed up--as soon as July 4 fireworks started gallivanting in the humid air. I don't owe Verizon any money but they can't seem to fix my connection in the next three days, then a week. Losing internet, surreal as it may sound, is like being thrown into a coma. It's also because my PC is also my "office," my bread-and-butter lifesource. It's like losing your car... losing your phoneline, losing your stove, losing your electric power. I wonder how prehistoric dudes survived at all, you know what I mean? Anyways, after an entire 6 days and 17 hours of on-and-off “call center” calls (India, Slovenia, Texas), we had our cable fixed. We asked for discount or whatever bill deduction. They said, no—instead, we have to pay $45 more for having it hooked back up. Should I… nah. Forget it. I am back to my Facebook, I forgive the world.
Learn to take it as it comes, I reckon.

ANYWAYS, let me digress again… GOOD NEWS this time.
My eldest daughter Donna, 22, achieved the highest grade in the just-concluded semester in her entire university in Manila. She's been offered a teaching job in the same school next year. Donna also holds a managerial job in an investment company in Manila's financial district--and supports herself to college (that’s the way she wants it—ah, these independent young souls!). She's into Economics, thank God--not a writing profession like her Dad.
And, before this week’s news desk deadline, I was able to nail down close to 5,000 words for my “Waiting for Winter” novel. And, also this week, I have successfully gathered four “diverse” women—Desiree (African American), Margo (Canadian), Anne (Jewish Irish, I think), and Mia (Hispanic American, I guess)—to start a writers group, that’ll be meeting at Heartwell Park near my Lakewood/Long Beach `hood.
On Sunday, I will be at Venice Beach to check out the legendary Beyond Baroque, then finally bring Marta The Nicer Osbourne at Sunset Boulevard’s Walk of Fame, and next weekend—an all-night “Cuba” party happens at Filipinotown (mojitos para libre!).
And—damn, it’s my 110th birthday already on the 23rd! I’m going buy myself a $6 Deep Purple Greatest Hits CD at Wal-Mart and a cool book called, “A Case of Exploding Mangoes” by Mohammed Hanif (check that out). And then, read a poem at an open mic (wherever is fine with me) after a dinner (that I’ll hopefully pay myself) down Vine Street.
For the meantime though, after reading this—don’t mind it. I am still cool, just venting. As ever, love good, live good, and eat only good food (I am sure you’re smart enough not to dine on free lobsters, in between decadent blues and toxic coffee)…
But see you—in bodies or spirits--wherever you are, at the Bonfires!

4:55pm. 18 July 08
Lakewood CA