Monday, November 24, 2008

Nomads cruisin’ the ‘hood, and more half-life gigs by the vampire gecko with a journalist/poet cover

A FULL WEEK in the half-life of a vampire gecko with a journalist/poet cover.
The Philippine president, Gloria Arroyo, skipped her scheduled dinner speech at Sheraton Gateway Hotel here on Friday, Nov 21—and flew straight to Peru for the APEC summit. Official notices say her hubby stayed put in Osaka due to stomach virus. We hope to see him and 60+ more politicos at the ringside of the Pacquiao-De La Hoya fight at MGM Grand in Vegas next week. Protestors, mostly young Filipino-American students and union workers, massed outside Sheraton’s building near LAX to denounce Arroyo’s leadership.
This is a tired episode for an 800-word piece.
General Motors negotiates the current financial storm sweeping the global automobile industry by strengthening its commitment to the future by unveiling the car of tomorrow, called Chevrolet Volt—a plug-in electric hybrid “green car” that delivers up to 40 miles of gasoline- and emissions-free electric driving, with the extended-range capability of hundreds of additional miles.
Meantime, the top three Motor City automakers (GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC) beg Congress for $25 billion in loans—”bail out” nearly a quarter-million workers or “bail out” cash advances for corporate parties and CEO paychecks?
Just another obligatory episode for a Monday night deadline.
Macy’s Lake Avenue store in Pasadena reopens despite consumer spending slump due to current economic crisis. Filipina muay thai (mixed martial arts) champ Christine Toledo is home in Vegas following a victorious fight in Zhengzhou, China. The Office of the Patient Advocate releases the Health Care Quality Report Card and says Kaiser Permanente is the best HMO program for us health care orphaned Californians.
More news? Nah. At least I have two “eating gigs” this week. That sort of evens up everything, I guess.
Many times I ponder and muse, “What if I decided to be a fulltime activist myself and never became a journalist?” I won’t regret it, I know—since I am still a journalist, bread-and-butter and bones-and-sticks. I believe that I am able to survive this impoverished, nerve-wracking newspaperperson gig because I’m good at detachment. Or I am good at numbing my senses or calming my fires down with my poetry or all these crazy things that I do beyond the newsroom or “coverage.” Hence, I am able to detach myself from a day’s “day in the life.”
It’s always “just another day.”

BUT HEY, there’s also some little joys. Like, look—the head office in San Francisco is sending me a new laptop and digicam. (Although, I was hoping that I got some sort of pay hike—given the holiday season.) But, of course, that’s okay. I can’t always complain, you know… and a new laptop isn’t bad at all.
And some beautiful moments on the sides…
On Saturday, I hosted (with my housemate and Shenandoah-bred “alter ego” Marta The Nicer O) dinner for the Nomads of 4th Street—the new beat kings of the South Bay (well, perhaps). Chicken adobo (meat on soy and vinegar), Vietnamese mushroom broth, sesame chicken kebab, lumpia (it’s like spring rolls or dumpling). (Nomad Daniel R doesn’t like seafoods, by the way. What’s wrong with him, huh?)
After the chow, we decided to cruise down 4th street street and Broadway, 7th and PCH, and checked out some possible venues for future gigs (although we’re already pretty much booked till the end of the year and half of January). [CHECK THIS OUT: Nov 29, Sat, 7pm-9pm. The Library, A Coffeehouse, 3418 E Broadway, Long Beach, CA 90803. With special guest Alyssandra Nighswonger.]
The dude at Roscoe’s: “We’d like to do that poetry thing or spoken word in spring, that’d be great!” The goth damsel at Que Sera: “Nobody listens to poetry down here—I think they do that kind of crap on the next block.” No problem, we are cool (Marta reminded Daniel that at least, we’ve never been kicked out of a gig yet—hmmm, just like that sad night at Club Hairspray in Asheville!) Anyhow, we ended up doing a piece each at Rag’s gig at Good Vibes, corner of Linden. Dan: “Man, I wish we had all these videotaped!”
Indeed, we are rockin’ with this poetry madness. We’re feelin’ it, lovin’ it. And we notice that poets seem to outnumber musicians at 4th Street Long Beach these days. I dig it when people call us, “poets” or the Nomads of 4th Street (“The Nomads of 4th Street are in the house!” or “Yes, I know you guys!”) Remembrances—my first few days reading poems at Beanstreets in downtown Asheville, Fells Point in Baltimore, and with the Poetry Guerrilla Insurgency in Washington DC. Or Manila amidst the disquieting Martial Law nights, Kasalo evenings with the late Ishma Bernal and Mulong Sandoval… toma at talinghaga (alcohol and metaphors).
The Nomads. Do poets get lovely, super-generous groupies like Motley Crue, as well? (I hope to relinquish my “single” status soon, I hope) … I don’t know. This is another week. But the truth is, without poetry—it’s so easy to cave in these days. Economic funk and loneliness that seeps through the gutters. Do they know it’s almost Christmas? The season’s supposed to be jolly, right? I don’t even know what to do for Christmas, or really it’s Thanksgiving this week?
Funny, I saw this dude that I used to hang with in NYC, at the Sheraton rally and recalled my “rock journey and sublime madness” 8 years ago: “Hey Pasckie, I still remember that turkey you brought from North Carolina to New York City on Thanksgiving Day!”
And when another dude (holding a huge papier mache image of the Philippine president) said: “I clip your work, you know” and the leader of the protestors: “Yes, of course, I read your stuff,” I just realized that I’ve been writing all my life and here I am, still scrounging for little blessings on the road, the 4th streets of the main streets of my neverending journey.

We are nomads.
We are the wound of the 4th streets
of the Main Streets of American heartland—
the rolling stones of downtown Manhattans
down West 4ths toward Bleecker streets
uptown Capitol Hills at the curb
of Dow Jones Boulevards,
the tear-gassed urchins of Plaza Mendiolas
near palaces of powers in Manila avenues
of the U S of A’s of our dreams,
the remnants of 700 bottles of bourbon
seeking warmth in the dumpsters
of decay and doom, hubris and happiness
from Chicago to Las Vegas
Newark, New Jersey to Flint, Michigan.

ALL I NEED to survive a day are nice words, warm gestures, thoughtful remembrances from beautiful spirits out there in the open field. That’s all I need to even up things, I guess. I am so easy to please.
Now, back to my week’s assignments and Mondays of the life. Eating gig in Long Beach at 3, and writers conversations with Margo, Desiree and Robyn at 6.
Tuesday. A dinner thrown for local media members by President Gloria Arroyo’s press secretary at a Glendale restaurant. Another eating gig, how can I miss that? Uhh, I remember the past. Marcos freebies and those fateful days of my half-100 years. Dinner with the Press Secretary AKA government apologist?
But nah, thank you. The Nomads are hangin’ out at Borders Bellflower or Viento y Agua that evening, instead. And I think Marta The Nicer O still got some cheesecakes for Dan and Mike, and I got leftovers from Saturday’s dinner… (You see, the vampire gecko with a journalist/poet cover is still himself, whoever that dude is, after all these years.)
Wednesday. Meeting with my new photographer, Rebecca Peterson near CSULB. That night, on 4th street, woohoo! Readings at Portfolio Café’s open mic (I have a new poem called, “Wednesday (or Tuesday) Night Fever,” just like the Bee Gees, oh yeah!). The rest of the week, Thanksgiving Day and all, I don’t know what’s gonna happen. Probably rent some vendo-machine DVD movie over cheap Carlo Rossi burgundy, or listen to my Simon & Garfunkel box set. Alone. But let it flow. Look, I am a nomad, just like a leaf of grass…
So, as I always mumble before I cut out. Boys and girls—live good, love good, and eat only good food!

3:11am. Monday. 11.24.08.
Long Beach CA

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Nomads

Nomads of 4th street (2)

And here they are:

Nomads of 4th street, old old poems, and the weary life of an obligatory journalist

A “TWILIGHT” party in honor of Stephenie Meyer happens downstairs—while outside, wildfires spread through the southeast of Riverside and northwest of Santa Barbara—but upstairs, the second poetry reading by the “Nomads of 4th Street” at Borders Bellflower here in Long Beach remains unperturbed. Twice this month (Nov 1st and Nov 15th), we had a pretty inspiring turn-out, and we also sold some chapbooks and CDs! Amidst economic funk, post-election trauma, and pre-holiday anxiety—little, simple pleasures of life and living such as this, sure feels good.
Now, I’m amped up—feels like all I gotta do is write more poems. Should I finish unfinished poems now? Undone poems about an insomniac vampire who hangs out Waffle House, a rambling dirge cribbed from an Eagles’ CD cover (“Long Road Out of Eden”), a love poem that I haven’t quite nailed after years of attempt, a “secret” sonnet for Anna Faris, a discourse about gods who lost their houses on foreclosures.
The Nomads will be hitting the campuses soon, as well—CSU Long Beach, Whittier College, Long Beach College, UCLA, plus “gigs” in Canoga Park, Redondo Beach, Orange, Venice Beach, and Los Angeles Echo Park-Melrose Blvd `hood.
So many things to write—only to realize that today is Sunday, and I should get down to work again. Five articles a week. Tomorrow, I have to run to Freddie Roach’s Hollywood gym and check out boxer Manny Pacquiao’s media workout, this Friday I have to stake out outside Gateway Sheraton Hotel with protestors (Philippine president Gloria Arroyo will be delivering a speech inside—I’m not really interested with what she’s got to say, but I’d like to listen to what her people feel and think). Then on Friday, I will be in Pasadena to cover a Macy’s store reopening. It’s a good thing that, in between those obligatory forays, I got some “eating gigs” to attend to (ie restaurant/food reviews). Food is always good or effective to balance big city funk.
A week in the life of a working class journalist.
Few nights ago, I came across a line from an old poem (written in Tagalog language): “Hindi ko bibilangin ang galos sa aking pusong iniwan ng iyong pagpanaw, bagkus bubuhayin ko ang iyong alaala sa pamamagitan ng maingat na pagtahak sa bakas ng yapak na iyong iniwan...” (Loosely translated, “I will not count the wounds in my heart that your passing have inflicted, instead I will relive your memories as I carefully trace the footsteps that you left…”) This is from an old poem, “Awit sa Musa” (Song for the Muse).
Those lines were inscribed on “Freedom Wall”—in front of the tomb of a Filipino youth named Sigmund. Shivers crawl all over me—and then I surfed some more and saw titles of my Tagalog poems (that I left in Manila in 1998) published in an anthology from the University of the Philippines. I tried to click them (so I could read some) but I needed to buy them with credit card or paypal.
The consolation was, I chanced upon a friend’s (who is in Canada) journal with a line from my many ramblings: “… just hearts cutting through barriers, the beam of moonlight giving clarity to a metaphor or a guitar note. We can do the bonfire.”
I kept on repeating this “news” to friends (of what I discovered online)—like a kid who just saw my face on Staples Center’s giant screen. “Look, they actually read my poem…”
Makes me think of a really morbid thought. What happens when I die? Will people gather my words and publish them and share them to people? That’d be an honor. I still don’t know how to sell myself. I just write for the sake of writing. I still feel so good when other publications and media outlets reprint my articles—although I know I will always be underpaid and overworked.
What am I talking about? All I want to say is—I wish I am a poem. Nomadic but magical. Invisible but invincible. Just happy as it is—the way it is. I wish life is that simple.
See you on our next reading, m’friends!

1:24am. 17 Nov 08
Long Beach CA