Tuesday, January 31, 2012


i spent yesterday flat on my back, in and out of consciousness with a fever and chills and visions.

with so much time to just lie around and do nothing other than wait for UPS or for the tylenol to kick in, my mind went a million miles an hour, perhaps contributing to my already throbbing headache. i thought about the year thus far and whether or not i've been realizing my goals. i wondered if automating all of my expenses from an expense account would make me save money. i considered the possibilities of re-using CX-Ray spokes, and whether or not to continue the tubular tire dream. i wondered if i would ever warm up. or cool down. or stop sweating. or start.

today, i am (somewhat) human again. i went to work. i yelled at people. apparently i was not the only one feeling a bit off. other people had yelled at other people and we were all, apparently in the same boat of madmen and madwomen. fine by me. too bad i can't swim better.

my grandmother recently fell and broke her hip. my parents are stretching themselves beyond everything to take care of her, complementary to hospital care, and the best i could do was bring the girls by for a 15 minute visit (after the requisite 3.5h drive in shite weather) and write her a letter.

my uncle has a daughter who is my cousin but i've not known her since she was in diapers and i used to take her to the pool and swish her around and feed her lunch and take the dogs out. my cousin has some kind of undiagnosed condition that seems to be ruining her life, and in a physically painful, but physically incurable, way. this is criminal. i wrote my uncle a letter.

i read a short story excerpt by shirley jackson today, about mrs. strangeworthy, who writes terrible, incriminating, suggestive, instigation letters, anonymously, while living her outwardly socially perfect life in a small town. i don't want my letters to be like that. her letters were hurtful and harmful and misinformation and shame.

it seems, however, that my most powerful effect these days is that as realized in verbs and vowels and consonants and contractions. i'm sure i should act more, and write less, but my actions yield little, or are inhibited by myriad other obligations, while my words, well, they're mine and i'll do with them everything i can.

there's nothing to write, of course, on this last day of january of this new year. there are dishes to do and wheels to build and that's where we go from here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


there was a picture at my parents' house of my dad in a suit, at a wedding, dancing with his daughter who looks taller than himself.

he looked my age.

of course, that's a filipino thing, and he'll always look like he's just a bit older than i am, while i, in the meantime, lose all my hair, wrinkle frequently, and ache every time i bend down. there are problems, being only half filipino.

i realized that time has really passed. obviously, you think, time passes all the time. i know. but its passage becomes a bit more blatant when we get comparison moments, when we take stock, when we genuinely fear the reality of losing people we've too long (always) taken for granted.

shovelling snow this afternoon, my mom noted that she was glad that i had kids, as it gives me continually more insight into my own parents, and their struggles, and their deeds, and all that stuff. i'm pretty sure that's the way it is with everything that we do that other people did first and that we then gain perspective about. age, getting old, hit me today.

i've seen people get older. i've seen them watch their own ideals crumble all around them, succumbing to the wear and tear of time and all its stuff, while they've lost their strength, youth, energy, compassion, passion, conviction, optimism, innocence, and anything else they may have used to buttress. there was that time that i said to charlie that we were here to make the world a better place. and he vehemently disagreed, insisting that the only option was to take care of himself and his, everyone else be damned. charlie, it turns out, has taken care of me, and made me better and put a roof over my head and food in my stomach and music in my ears and laughter in my throat, countless times. i guess i'm just lucky to be part of him and his.

i thought all this while walking next to a pressure-treated fence. ugly and green-tinged looking like cellulose syphilis, the fence just kinda hung there, functioning. it was not beautiful. any attempt it may have made at aesthetics was sadly lost in that insistent green, that refusal to become organic, that synthetic pride.

my dad was the one who got me on a lot of my paths, usually directly, by invitation; sometimes by pissing me off or driving me away. i learned how to love from him. i learned how to pamper a hard-working partner who works all night and has to sleep during the day. i learned how to cook. i learned how to sharpen a knife and split wood and sharpen a chain saw and cut logs and cut a chicken and set a table and clean a bathroom and use a hammer and a computer and a bike and an allen key and a tire lever and the environment. i wonder what he would think about a pressure-treated fence. i wonder if he knows that cedar is better for the environment, more easily-replaced as a resource, and infinitely more beautiful. for a guy who spent his youth making beauty in the darkroom or on his martin D28 and his 8-octave voice, he's amazingly resistant to engaging in aesthetic preference. but man, you should hear him sing...

i drove home in bad conditions today, four incomplete red oak table legs itching to be hewn, lying on the planer in my parents' basement. progress will have to wait.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

the hundred dollar omelette.

my grandmother shuffled into the kitchen, lucid and awake as could be, and asked what i was making. truth be told, i wasn't making anything. i had just finished making a cheese and tomato omelette for my lady friend, and was currently on a batch of grilled cheese for the snack bag for the long drive home, but i knew exactly what she was asking. "what are you going to make for me?" of course, the only reasonable answer: "the world."

upon finishing the grilled cheese, i re-greased the pan, scrambled the eggs, and made a straight up cheese omelette with no tomatoes. no nightshades for the grandmother. she's mostly vegetarian, mostly on a specific diet of some plants that grow in some places at some times, mostly organic, mostly susceptible to anything excessively tasty, regardless of how far it deviates from her regimen.

an omelette would be fine.

i made the omelette and served it with water and a napkin and a fork, no bread, as my grandmother is also mostly wheat-free. she sat and ate while i completely neglected her in order to pack the car, get the little girls squared away, and generally make the exodus.

now, there is a tradition in my family, the filipino side, of giving "ice cream money" to those departing on a long trip. what the exchange really entails, however, is ever-increasingly-crafty methods of depositing the funds in the vehicle or on the person of the departing party, so that said funds may not be rejected. pants have been ripped. pockets have been pulled. crumpled up twenties, thrown out of car windows in clouds of driveway dust. it's tradition. i did it to my brother after our last trip to the states, and he was well out of range by the time he finally found it. ha.

after i got everything all packed up, i rounded up my girls, and we began our goodbyes. my grandmother rose quickly from her chair, shuffled quickly to her room, and re-emerged with a piece of paper she was coyly trying to slip into the pocket of my jacket. i would have none of it. she tried my oldest daughter. then my lady friend. then me again. i finally surrendered and shoved it, begrudgingly, into my pocket. instantly, i forgot about it. it was ice cream money. and she had won.

christmas came at an odd time this year. work ended but two days before christmas day, and the last payday i would get, and that i so direly needed, was the day before that. it was to be a whirlwind of last-minute prep. and then christmas came and went. i bought nothing of boxing week blowouts. i didn't set foot in any mall. and still, by new year's, i was broke. i came to my parents' christmas celebration with a few dollars in my account, and a plan to use the credit card for gas money. that plan blew to bits when i couldn't remember the PIN i made myself forget in order to thwart just such a stupid plan. i get paid again in 49 minutes. but the past two weeks have been a little long, a little tight.

normally, i try, out of pride and independence and self-righteous aspirations, to reject monetary favours, particularly those from family members. i paid for university (and will continue to do so for the next couple decades). i can't buy a house because i have two beautiful expensive children in canada's expensive city and i started the family thing before i could afford it and we eat food that we pay extra to have less stuff in it. i wrestle away from the ice cream money. i smile very much, blush, and say thank you when i get ridiculous cheques or sums of cash in birthday cards. i'm terrible at saying thank you, and money makes me even worse.

when my grandmother slipped the cheque into my pocket, i had surrendered. i surrendered that pseudo pride because i couldn't afford not to. i didn't wrestle away; the lady is old and the mudroom was chock full of dicy footing. i said thank you and left it at that. then one of my girls probably said something outrageous and we all laughed and got in the car and drove for hours back to the city.

that night, i found the ice cream money. the amount made me blush. i was shocked. i probably held my breath, gasped, and re-read the numbers. not a huge amount by most people's standards, but a huge amount by ice cream stand standards, and a massive amount by the weight lifted from my shoulders for the next week. i'd be able to buy groceries. if the girls asked for a certain dinner, i'd be able to afford the ingredients. i could pay any duty on packages yet to arrive, post-holiday. i could mail the gifts i had forgotten to send, pre-holiday.

i have no idea why the ice cream money was so much. i have no idea why i took it. i have no idea why i'm writing this much about it. something clicked then, and i'm holding onto it. the extreme generosity of an old lady to a grateful young man. a new year. starting over. better this time.

feed the hungry. clothe the naked. my grandmother is really into jesus, and all the theoretical things aside, she truly personifies his main and most important message: be generous to others (they probably really need it).

happy new year.