spreads I’ve taken out from the daily paper + two-month-old magazine issue + sketch pad for poster entry brainstorming + distractions

Lately, I’ve been feeling like my life’s just a list of tasks. I am not creating nor am I even consuming. I don’t know where to start or when to stop. I have ideas recorded on paper and typed on notepad files that never flourished enough. This must be what quarter-life crisis feels, assuming I live to 88. And it doesn’t help to know that others go through the same thing, or that others have bigger problems, or that it will all be okay. It’s irrational albeit comforting to say any of these, because these words are kisses to a man with a broken leg—it makes him feel better, but it does not fix his injury.

The thought of the future brings anxiety to the present. I see where the lives of older people have headed, and I am afraid of two things: becoming the mess like they are, or growing up not being as good (what does that even mean?) as any of them. Everyday, I walk to the station where I get my ride home; I know the route, but I feel directionless.

I’m under the pile right now, and I need something to push myself up. Until when will I be a wallflower? Will I ever shine?

How long can you outstay your welcome in a coffee shop? I’m sure you already know that you can do this without any purchase and not have any of the personnel bother you. You can sit outside and have a smoke, or stay inside, talk to a friend or pretend to wait for your order, or a friend, or a date who never shows up.

But what if you want to stay for a really long time? Whether you’ve got a book to read or papers to study or a laptop to do whatever business you can do with it, you will eventually need to make a purchase of at least their cheapest product—maybe a lollipop or extra syrup.

Right now, I am sitting alone in a Greenbelt coffee shop on a Friday night, and I hope you do not think I am square for hanging out with myself when everyone’s in costume celebrating Halloween tonight. It’s past ten in the evening, I can see people in line for their orders, no seats guaranteed. And here I am, sitting on one of the shop’s woven chairs with aluminum framing, one-third of my espresso pistachio biscotti left, and it’s been more than an hour since. “Ooh, her biscotti’s left alone while she’s doing something else. And look—crumbs all over—she’s made a little mess which means she must be busy or too enthralled with her other activity that she cannot even mind her food that much.” In reality though, I want to mind it more than you think, give it the attention it deserves; it’s food, for crying out loud. But as long as I plan to stay here, I cannot gobble this hard biscuit which we call biscotti.

Now that’s exactly why you cannot consume what you order in a coffee shop at a time like this. There are at least a dozen pair of eyes prying for an empty seat. It’s a tough competition—how do you stay in line AND race to that vacant spot AND leave your bag on the table to mark your territory? You need strategy and a quick response to this crisis, especially without a buddy around. If you already have a table, you are no target for this as long as you leave some food or coffee on your table. Leave your partially bitten cookie or half-eaten cheesecake on the plate. Again, make sure you have crumbs on the table to add some drama, how you’ve ignored your edibles for another. If drinking a frappuccino, make sure there’s some content left and make sure it’s in view. If it’s in a paper cup, then it won’t be a problem. Pretend to sip once in a while to dodge any doubt from unseated customers.

Bottom line is, you have immunity from being kicked out of the place as long as you have your leftovers displayed. Besides, you are only getting your money’s worth, right? You really do have every right to stay where you are, you just need to showcase your evidence if you don’t want the awkward glances that 1. look at you 2. look at the door where you can exit 3. look at the food and drink they are holding 4. look at you again.

It was almost 3 AM, and I was sitting among the disarranged monobloc chairs, and people were leaving. My hair was in a ponytail, a slight mess like it always is, strands brushing my face like I just got out of bed. Beside me was my friend. Let me describe what was in front of me: An interviewer holding his list of questions; a boom mic hanging above; the cameraman and his recording device; and the man I decided I would want to see  again after that day. His overbite smile and singular chuckle as he looked for a second to where I was sitting was enough to drown the voice of my friend who was telling me something, but I cannot remember what because I was not listening. My nervous self unknowingly smiled back.

Three months passed, and the plot which I primed myself to be familiar with has come to the inevitable point. I was careful with my heart, knowing sweet words were things he has said to those he might have loved or fucked. I made certain that his whispers did not mean too much to me, but eventually the words that came in one ear and out the other took a different direction and entered my bloodstream to affect me like any substance can. I was a seventeen-year-old again, turning the apple and refusing to see what was rotting here and there; I made sure the fresh crisp peel was all I can see. And I took a bite. I allowed myself to be special to someone again. It was a risk I was willing to take on again—letting a new person into my life, like one would open a door for a stranger to step into one’s home, going beyond the doormat that says welcome. I wanted to ask him who he is, to know who he is, to see who I am, but I held back from speaking my soul out of fear, out of logical excuses of the mind.

There were things I wanted to say—how I loved his eyelashes that pointed down, making his eyes look sad, delicate, but beautiful; that a month before his birthday I was already excited to get him a present, to write him a letter, to see him again and tell him how happy I am to have him around, to invite him to my home, curl up and talk for hours. But I only exist in one of the parallel universes, and to where I belong, he has decided to set me aside like a task and end a budding connection with an unapologetic lie—the funniest part that came with the twinge in the organ under my left ribcage.  And because the right time I was waiting for was not to come anyway, these words are only meant to be written, and maybe shared, but never spoken.

Everyone brushes their teeth. I know that. Anybody who can afford some toothpaste and a toothbrush does this.

Around the house, we all do this after meals, just like most households do. But we can’t stay put in front of the sink. It runs in the family. We just have to move around, and that includes me. This is how it happens: from the cup that holds our brushes, I take the green one, and squeeze out some red minty gel onto the bristles. I run it under the tap for less than a second, and put it in my mouth. I start brushing my teeth…and then I get bored.

Different things can happen in the next few minutes, but one thing’s for sure: I have to walk around. And this takes me to places. I can go to the living room, sit on a couch and see what’s on the telly. Sometimes, I even try to start a conversation with my mom. “Whatssch dhij yo do thodjay?” “What?” And I have to repeat.

Seriously, the most boring thing to do while brushing your teeth is to stare into a sink or a mirror and wait to finish. Why waste your time and stand for the next two or three minutes, when you can do it while a) watching the news b) taking a leak c) sitting down?

Whenever I am staying over at someone’s house, and I have to brush my teeth within those four walls and pretend my feet are cemented to the ground just so I can show some manners, the truth is I am really itching to head for the bedroom and join whatever board game is being played at the moment.

Not all the time, but enough times to say this is true.

It sucks. It really does. Don’t listen to good music when you are depressed—ever. When I feel like nothing, not even ice cream or a kiss or a half-pound burger can make me feel better, I listen to good music. There are enough rock songs that tell me to stop thinking and just sing along. I try to read a good book too. And then I listen and listen to the same album until I feel better, and then I can’t listen to these songs anymore. I’ve tainted them with history I’d rather not remember, and off with those are some songs that could’ve made my day, some day in the future.

Music, at the lowest points in life, can temporarily distract me from insistent thoughts and fill my head with loud steady beats. I can’t give you a playlist, because I always pick the ones that don’t speak of anything I feel anyway. And what’s worse is I have to postpone listening to some music for better appreciation, appreciation in a moment when I can let sound pass through my ears and think only what a great song that is. So sometimes I don’t listen at all; I just deal with my thoughts along with the sound of the droning electric fan in my room. It’s just better than mixing a beautiful song with a mind in riot.

I’m not the first person to put this into words, because I’m sure you’ve felt this: you feel that your life is like a movie—you are the character to whom all attention must be given, the soundtrack of your life plays on your iPod, songs perfectly fitting into place. Yes, that’s right, sun’s shining bright, I feel good! Wow, some happy catchy beat is on air! how did they know? And then there’s the other side: I have no direction in life, I just had a break up, everyone hates me. And yeah, radio plays your favourite misery tune.

Radio always has a way of making pop songs to be the soundtrack of the moment. I would have loved these songs that will one day be classics and much cooler to listen to when we’re all older, but I just hate how they have to be the perfect accompaniment to make things awkward as they already are, only because they manifest what I’d rather not say, or even think of at all. And I wish one thing: that it’s the same way for you, that it’s an experience you feel no one can understand completely and knowing you have the same sentiment will make me feel less lonely.

But time is always a slow painkiller. One day good music will be good music to me again, and I can finally listen to them thinking only, “Dang, this is good.”

It’s the nicest word to use when you have nothing better to say. It’s tossed around often, but not as sickening as the very loathsome word ‘like’ in every, like, sentence—probably because nice is a subtle and indirect lifesaver. And just like a hanky or a skill, this word is very handy in various circumstances.

Mostly this word is used to deviate from awkwardness. Someone shows you a drawing, an essay, or even a masterpiece—and what can you do? You are just not as impressed as he or she expects you to be. Hence, this is your cue to say with a slight nod coupled with a smile (the degree of which is at your disposal), that’s nice!

Second, it comes in handy when in conversation with another, and he or she blurts out things like I have a bug collection in my drawer or I like bananas out of context. In fact, I’ve written about this matter before for a required blog in one of my classes. It’s a template of how to address this situation.

Here’s an excerpt from that entry:

“You always start off by looking into her eyes with your mouth slightly open. Softly say ‘ahh’ while she is still talking. Nod a bit with your mouth shut or your lips pursed until she finishes.

When she’s done, give her a blank face and follow through by saying either of these two:

  • Nice to know!
  • Good for you!

Say both if you wish. Next, you combine it with any of the following:

  • Cannot live without knowing that fact!
  • Very informative!
  • You made my day!
  • That information just made my day!
  • That’s so inspirational!
  • It’s an honor to be blessed with such information!

Say it like you mean it. I suggest you also use hand gestures and try to look overwhelmed by the information that has been imparted to you.”

Well, this is good if sarcasm is a better option. This actually started as a joke among my friends.

Moving on, nice is your best bet for lack of a better word, especially if you have limited time to respond. Nice building! Nice job! Nice sneakers! Nice top! Nice place! Nice haircut! Nice day today, isn’t it! There are also enough pop songs containing the word, which aren’t so bad. An expanded vocabulary would make for a smarter-sounding—although not necessarily smarter—conversation, but ‘nice’ is convenient enough to be understood.

Last, this word is used when you genuinely mean what it expresses. Saying it often doesn’t make it as detestable as some overused words, because injecting it into conversations can only mean two things: something really is nice, or you’re just being nice.  At least it means something, in whatever sense that may be.

I have nothing against the word nice. I’m actually grateful for it, as I use it as often as I described it in this entry. It’s one word that yields satisfactory results when socializing. How many words can do that?

Since when did I get old?
I hardly notice until I start talking to my not-so-little little sister and find out that she doesn’t know what a Sony Walkman is. Now I’m becoming the adult I couldn’t understand when I was her age. So here’s a list of how things went about just a decade ago.

mIRC
asl? You enter a chatroom with an alias, and those are the first few letters that pop up a window. Answering this is a must if you want a conversation to happen. After trading such essential information, you then decide if you want to talk to this person.

When you think this person might be worth your attention, the real conversation begins. “What’s your favorite movie?” “Hu do u knw from my school?” “Do you have bf/gf?” Asking these used to be far more interesting during those days, maybe because there’s an air of mystery, and you are compelled to judge a person solely by text.

Well of course, we gotta take it to the next level. How? By sending a JPEG file of your neat face. This sounds like a risky move, but there really weren’t a lot of other options, unless your chatmate is the type who likes to put up a get-to-know-me Angelfire website, complete with a guestbook.

I remember his name was Karl, 7th grade from the school across mine. I received the file and opened it to see a scanned studio photo of himself. When it was my turn to send mine, I told him I didn’t have a scanner, although secretly I wouldn’t do it anyway. So you continue to socialize, maybe for the next few days or months, and when you deem him worthy of your time and trust, he becomes entitled to receive an invite to be added to your just-growing Yahoo! Messenger list.

Slow internet
Remember dial-up? You turn on your speakers to hear the progress of establishing a connection, listening to the noises until you can heave a sigh of relief when the status on the screen says “connected.” And for crying out loud, it used to take an hour to download a song. But see, that was also part of the thrill—the thrill of waiting a whole damn minute for the next page to load, anticipating and observing as the text and images ever so slowly appear before you.

Renting a video
If you had a VHS player at that time, you’d be cool. I remember frequently being tagged along by my dad to this store called ACA Video, and I’d walk between numerous movie titles, then pick out the ones I like. The rental fee was around 30 pesos for a few days, and there’s the extra fee for missed return due dates.

There was also the thing called rewinding, kids. You had to do that to watch a scene you missed or if you want to see the whole thing again. This applies to cassette tapes as well. I even recorded some songs from the radio, worrying that a hit song might be forgotten when it’s no longer popular, and how am I supposed to find it when I want it played on my birthday party? Only one thing to do: record the song over my old Chinese speech tapes. Then came the VCD. Then DVD. Then Limewire. How silly of me to think the world would still run on cassette tapes after a decade.

Address books
Yes, these were actually written: name, address, telephone number—and looking for a name means looking for the tab with the first letter of whoever you need to call. I even felt bad at times for writing on them if I really like their cover designs.

Burning CD mixes
Like songs but don’t wanna buy the whole album? Then burn it. Obviously, not everyone had a CD burner back then, so some of my classmates did burning services for a fee, and extra charge for a hard CD case. It was also one of the sweeter presents you can receive, knowing enough thought was put to create the playlist. Burning a song compilation ain’t easy, unless you have all the albums to rip the songs from.

Three-way phone calls
Can it get any cooler/lamer than this? We all know this kind of service is obsolete, but this used to be fun, especially if two of you have this phone feature to make it into a five-way call.

Old toys
Koosh Ball, Chinese garter, Monopoly, Polly Pocket (who by the way is now a giant), and jackstones were just a few of the popular games in my childhood. And who can forget the once-so-famous Tamagochi? Imagine Pet Society without the social aspect, without the color, in a very small screen, and made up of a few pixels, which can cost a few hundreds. A few hundred bucks for pixels. Yeah.

Slam Books
Define love…Birthday…Ambition…First crush…Dedication…
Those are typical questions you’ll encounter when filling out a slam book. It usually consists of three parts: the basic “nice-to-know” info such as your favorite color and birthplace; the cheesier life questions on the next; and the dedication page. Before you fill out the page assigned to you, there will always be an urge to check out what others have written about themselves, or maybe you just want to find out what their motto in life is. It can be disappointing though when all that’s written is “secret.” Sneaking on someone’s page can also mean that you’re only making sure you don’t miss out on any of the oh so caring acronyms for the dedication page:
ABC-Always be careful
TCCIC-Take Care ‘Cause I Care
JAPAN-Just Always Pray At Night
ITALY- I Trust And Love You
and…
BBBBBBB-Books Before Boys Because Boys Bring Babies

Those are just a few of the many things that have changed over the years. If I missed out on any of the acronyms, please let me know.

Spinach Dip & Crackers

I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, but I never really acknowledged my fondness for spinach dip, even with its presence always made. Whenever I do the grocery shopping, I end up dumping a bottled spinach dip into the cart. When I eat with friends in Italian restaurants like Cibo, it’s always an appetizer. And so far the best I’ve tried is a homemade spinach and artichoke dip made by my best friend’s mom, and I only get to gobble it once a year when my friend celebrates her birthday.

I’ve been messing around the kitchen with fries and chicken and salads and cookies, but it never occured to me to make my own dip until now—a conversation with my friend about artichokes had to do it. Making a dip is easier and faster than watching a stove or oven cook up your preparation, although there are some dips that are also baked.

Below is the recipe I used, with a bit of tweaking depending on the available resources around. I got it off the All Recipes website.

Ingredients

  • 3 bundles of spinach
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 block of grated sandwich cheese (the one that goes with pandesal)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. After washing the spinach, chop off the stems. Pull out the spinach leaves to be used for the dip. Finely chop the leaves.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Gradually mix in the Parmesan and grated cheese. Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Throw in finely chopped spinach leaves into the mixture and slowly mix until ingredients are well distributed in the dip.  Chill for a few hours.
  4. Put a few dollops into a small glass or a dip platter. Serve with a handful of chips, bread or crackers.

A few suggestions:

  • Instead of using the regular “pandesal keso”, cheddar cheese would be better to add sharpness.
  • Use real mayonnaise, not the “lite” version. I find real mayo creamier, as opposed to the lighter one that sometimes looks like a blob.

It looked more like sauce than a dip after mixing, because the consistency was not as thick as I expected it to be, but refrigerating it solved the problem. I did a bit of blending to bring out the green, but the color wasn’t as rich as I wanted it, so more spinach leaves might do the trick next time. This is great for parties or if you just want a bite before hitting the sack.