Phased – A Series: Two

Torrential downpour. What. The. Fuck.

Really? Isn’t it June? Boston, $#&^@!!! New England weather.

I try to figure my way to work. Charliecards, I still know how to work them. Train or bus? Which will it be? Let’s go for bus; it’ll be quicker.

Big mistake. Traffic was bad, but not as bad as Manila or Bangkok so I’m not even going to complain. I watch the numbers on the clock at the front of the bus. Minutes after minutes after minutes passed. I stood, of course, soaked on a crowded bus filled with wet people. I couldn’t even enjoy the view out the rain-covered windows of the 1 bus. All I could think of; the day can’t get any worse than this.

I walk straight to the office, sheepishly stared at the bosses. Over an hour late, my first day back.

“Umm.. yeah.”

Michael, my travel partner/former-roommate/co-worker/friend forever, just as late as I was shakes his disapproval at me; soaking wet, disheveled. But there was that smirk. Nothing really changes.

I work through my shift. Easy. I don’t bother remembering the new people that were introduced to me. Are you kidding? I get caught up with the gossip. Who broke up. Who got together. Who quit. Who got fired. Say what? Guy came to work drunk then walked out with a guests’ credit card? Fantastic. What else?

Close to midnight and I get phased.

The end of the night finally came and that’s when it really began. Everyone’s going to the party, right? Hurried nods, and shouts of confirmation from across halls as most everyone rushes through the final details of the last minute things to do. Fuckin’ sidework. If you don’t already understand,  you never will. I hurriedly paint my face, threw off my uniform, undid my pony, and make my way over to the bar. I’d never been here before. It looked cute. Mini-bar it was called. How perfect. One section was closed off for our use, but we overflowed every which way. The waitress kept the Martini’s in my hand coming. I meet new people. I see the old ones. Everyone was mad, mad drunk, mad rolling, mad high, mad happy. There was a theme, but I didn’t get the memo. Most everyone at least paid attention to it and at least half of them stuck to the black and white dress code.

There he was, the belle of the ball. Phillips had a black vest and a short black veil. He goes and he comes. Center of attention and he’s loving it.

I keep mostly quiet, stick with my favorite people. The music’s good, the drinks even better. Six months I hadn’t been with this crowd. I think I must have forgotten. I feel almost a stranger, but not quite. Everyone knew me, but did they? Then there’s that whole thing with Michael. Maybe be doesn’t feel weird. But I do. That confession was brutal. Vulnerability is not something I’m comfortable with. Thank all the gods for the liquid miracle in my hand. Thank god, there’s always too many of us. Eye-contact with him was practically impossible.

Who was I staying with tonight? Melissa, wasn’t it? She’d been disappearing now and again, screaming about her keys.

“She had too much vodka,” Lohan explains. Nothing further.

Well, shit.

Night was young, I’ll figure out where I’m staying when the time comes. Boston felt fresh from the rain. I step out for a quick smoke and meet interesting new characters. Conversations move from and about tattoos, work shit and Florida. Of course. I had stopped paying attention to the words and I didn’t notice most had gone back inside. I stared at the wet asphalt, the blurred glimmer of lights, the twinkling of streetlamps. Small groups of people, walk up and down. Lost in their own little worlds, having their own fun. Every now and then, drunken obscenities are screamed. God, I love this city. A group of my friends, stumble out of the bar, and down into the club in the basement next door. Loud, laughing, obnoxious. The best people you’ll ever meet.

When the music stopped, I grab a ride with Melissa’s roommate and I meet his girlfriend. But I apparently we’d already met before. We drive down Storrow Drive, right along the river, I look at the dark, peaceful shimmering water and I get a message; Melissa went home with another friend. I guess, I’ll have her bed for myself.

Advertisements
Posted in Rubbish | Leave a comment

Phased – A Series: One

So, I was back. After all the here and there that I have gone to the last 6 months, returning to my home base is almost a big deal. Almost, if I hadn’t done it several times before. This time, I didn’t bother with the news but I sure hoped someone had a couch for me somewhere.

The city was eerily quiet and I wondered briefly if it had anything to do with the Marathon Bombing only two months back. More than likely it was just that short period where everyone and their mother was too excited about Summer and left to go back to their hometowns or what-have-yous. They’ll be back.

The time was a little after nine in the morning and I had a lot of it. It almost felt like I was still in the middle of my travels and I had just arrived at a new city I was just about to explore. The sense of freedom was still there. I had no plans. I had no commitments. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do and no one knew I was here. I could do whatever I damn well please.

After a bagel and coffee I figure I’d best find out if I still had a job so I walked over to the restaurant. There it was in all its shinning glory. Soldiers in white scuttling about. It didn’t take long before the giddy screams came, tight hugs, wet kisses, right along with the inappropriateness I didn’t realize I had missed and the familiar faces and laughter that I hadn’t heard in so long.

Questions then answers. Then it begins:

Birthday. Tomorrow night. Come.

Absolutely, I reply.

I take care of the necessary paperwork and wouldn’t you know it? I could start the next day. After that, I searched for old friends, found them and before long we had fired up the shisha. Here, in the tree-covered backyards of Porter Square, I felt the unmistakable familiarity of home. Smelled fantastic. I had been gone for so long, there wasn’t enough time for all the catching up that needed to be done. So, we just talked. About nothing and everything.

I’m still not sure why I came back to Boston. I left, six months ago, off to travel with my friend, Michael. On a whim, I threw most everything I owned into large, black, garbage bags, left them on the curb and drove away. I’m not sure why, maybe I hoped I’d leave and keep on going.

Philippines > Malaysia > Cambodia > Thailand > Vegas > Boston.

Funny how life happens.

Now, I had nothing. I even still had to figure out that thing called “home,” but I had plenty of people, that’s worth more than anything in the world.

That night I stayed at my friends’ neighbors home. Conveniently, her neighbor was away for a week. Sketch? Whatever. There was my roof and shelter for that night. Before I drifted off to sleep, in this strangers’ bed I had one recurring thought: “I’m back. This is going to be interesting.”

Posted in North America, On the Road | Tagged | Leave a comment

Sin City: beyond the lights

It’s all laid out for the whole world to see: the glamour, the lights, the luxury, the excess, the money, the spectacles. I’ve been to Las Vegas more than a dozen times. I’ve stayed in beautiful hotels that smell like perfume. I’ve spent many nights fed by the dancing beats and gave myself to the music. I’ve walked the hot streets on Vegas, tall blended martinis melting in my themed container. I’ve seen amazing shows; full of illusion and drama and song and dance.

But this time around, I saw Las Vegas’ sweat, dirt, and waste.

I lived there for reasons less interesting than any. I worked at a restaurant at Caesar’s Palace and sure, that led to the acquaintance of some fascinating people. People who’s past and future is anyone’s guess. Vegas does that to you. In the middle of the scorched desert, the city is a not a refuge but it is a getaway. A place where most people leave the lives they had to have a few moments of insanity, of overindulgence, of insurmountable risks. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Remember?

The bright, flashing neon lights of the infamous strip was the background to the darkness I felt I saw during my time there. The homeless are found all over. On bridges, on walkways, curled up and hiding from the sun underneath the weak shades of some tall bushes. The streets litter with calling cards of escorts, and since I wasn’t one of them; I saw the drunks, shamelessly parading up and down Las Vegas Boulevard.

I’m sure I could have seen the better side of Vegas more prominently but I was in a bad place (mentally). So, all I saw was that. I see the families, wrecked by obesity or starved by hunger; in the city designed to bring out your worst. A city that takes your weakest points and exploits it. A city known for restaurants that allows you to fill your belly until it aches for $10. A city with a ‘payday loan’ at every corner, all they want is feed your gambling addiction. Money is dispensed recklessly and in joyous amounts, and so the homeless population grows. The gambling addicts’ numbers surge.

Maybe because I didn’t live in the nice, sprawling suburbs loaded with ticky-tacky boxes, but in a moblie home community so all I saw was poverty and painful truth of time in the faces of the ‘retired.’ But thank the gods for that, i’ll take trailer homes over an excessively enormous house in the suburb, that lacks depth, emotion and character; each house no different from the next.

But the world is generous, and beyond the city limits the mountains stand tall and majestic. Mountains that burn red with the sunset, the desert can be gorgeous. Too bad the world only comes here for everything but the nature. They come to play; to play until they tire.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t love it, couldn’t love it there. Vegas holds a certain meaning to me: Indulge!!! That’s what the city screams in every corner. There’s drugs, there’s alcohol, and sex. 24 hours, 7 days a week. Who does that, and stays sane? Tyrion Lannister said it best: “It’s not easy being drunk all the time.” Best of all no one here will judge you for it, no one can judge you for it; so sin away!

I think I’ll take my sinning in smaller doses. I’m sorry Vegas, we just weren’t meant to be.

20130614-111626.jpg

Posted in Rubbish | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Southeast Asian Soundtrack

Every adventure has a soundtrack.

On this trip, we did karaoke more than a couple of times, we danced to unnecessarily loud music at bars, we listened to music in the car, watched several live bands play, sat around while someone played the guitar, we even saw a musical. The music for this part of my life had a lot to do with the memories they are connected with. So, here are the songs and what they remind me of when I hear them.

1. Payphone by Maroon 5 – I annoyed Pat for weeks singing this song over and over and over again, from the time that I woke up to the end of the night. I hadn’t cared too much for the song at first, until I saw the music video and saw Adam Levine sexily leaning on a payphone surrounded by debris and chaos. It was then that I knew who I would choose to marry.

2. Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars – watching the replay of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show we watched Bruno Mars perform this song, and since then I found it irresistible, along with any Bruno Mars song I came upon. I would also always bring up that he’s part-Filipino.

3. Danza Kuduro by Don Omar – I’ve loved this song since last summer living in Jamaica Plain and listening to my Puerto Rican neighbors blast it from their cars from Thursday night through Sunday nights. Turned out its just as loved in the Philippine islands and it was guaranteed to play any where we went to.

4. Gangnam Style by Psy – I don’t really think this needs any explanation. The Philippines was not immune to the Korean pop song domination and every child and every shameless adult danced this all day long.

5. All Star by Smashmouth – On some nights in my hometown,when we didn’t do anything except sit and be there, Chris would bring out his guitar and start playing. This was the song that we sang often and surprisingly knew the lyrics to very well. Who doesn’t know the words to this song?

6. Die Young by Kesha – haha I didn’t even know this was by Kesha until I looked it up right now. This song was so fun to dance to in the Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia. Oh man, memories. Really fit the whole “seize the day” thing we tried to live by but often failed at.

7. Good Time by Owl City and Call Me Maybe Girl – I started hearing this song several weeks before getting to Southeast Asia and its great to know that the music I rocked to on Boylston Street are some of the same ones I would dance to on Khao San Road.

8. All the Small Things by Blink 182 – just another song we sang loudly and obnoxiously at home with Chris’ guitar. You can always rely on Blink 182 for a good jam.

9. One More Night by Maroon 5 – What can I say? Adam Levine has stolen my heart. This song just feels really raw and fantastic for the dance floor. Made me wish I had a dysfunctional relationship to get lost in.

10. Price Tag by Jessie J. – My cousin Gerry kept singing “it ain’t about the money, money, money” and at first I thought he was just cool being able to come up with a tune like that until one night at Karaoke with my friends and someone chose this song, and I realized how this is the perfect song for my entire trip; I was on a very small budget in spite of which I still managed to have the most amazing time of my life (the second one) and I truly re-learned from my experiences that it really is not about the money.

Posted in South East Asia | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Characters of Las Vegas

It might not exactly come across your mind to head out into the real world and become a street performer or portray characters on the sidewalks of any major city, but it turns out, it’s a legitimate job.

I had intended to post this several days ago, and I was planning on posting daily, however, I had forgotten that I am a most excellent procrastinator that I really shouldn’t have bothered indicating when I would post and what I would post about because if you really knew who I am, you’d know I do everything wrong. (Potential employers: disregard last paragraph)

First I met Spiderman. I walked out of the Forum Shops at Caesars and saw him sitting down on the job, I was almost tempted to shriek and step on him and squish him like the bug he is, then I remembered he’s not a real spider.

IMG_1528

 

 

Around the corner, I ran into The Joker and Batman.

IMG_1530

 

 

We chatted for a bit and this was when I found out that apparently you can make “bank” doing what they do. I’m not sure exactly how much but from the sound of it at least more than $100 a day. Rumor also had it that Chewbacca definitely made a lot of money, and so did some guy who dresses up in red, acting like Sinatra (I didn’t see him that afternoon).

IMG_1535

 

Further down, I met a dance crew that is originally from Boston. They were all resting near Bally’s and I noticed they were wearing “Boston Strong” t-shirts so I struck up a conversation. They came to Vegas for a few weeks and will start heading back at the end of May. So, I’ll be looking for them when I get back to Boston and see if I can catch them at Fanueil Hall.

There was also Mario and Luigi.

IMG_1537

And of course, I also ran into these guys:

IMG_1540

Posted in Art Avenue, North America | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Las Vegas: How did we get here?

After Southeast Asia happened, what I failed to mention was how broke I was at the end of it. So, what’s the best place to go to when you are at your all time low?

Las Vegas.

I came here to strike it rich!

Just kidding. I came here because my mom lives here and I needed a place to crash. Though my stay here is going to be temporary, I’m heading out eastwards in a few weeks, I thought I’d try a Las Vegas mini-series with my blog.

Having been here a little over a month now, and unable to indulge in the usual Vegasery such as gambling, the nightlife and amazing shows due to Insufficient Funds, I’ve been able to find some bits and pieces of Vegas that’s often unseen or unnoticed.

Since I work at Caesar’s Palace, I’m at Las Vegas Boulevard quite often, and there are some things that catch my attention. On most mornings as my bus stops at light at the corner of Flamingo and Las Vegas boulevard I always see Chewbacca and Bumblebee standing around having a chat with each other while waiting for tourists to wake up. Later after my shift, I’ll see their costumes  tucked away in a grocery cart tied up, hidden underneath a stairwell or behind bushes.

There’s this guy in a wheelchair on the pedestrian bridge crossing from Flamingo towards Bally’s who has a sign that says Kindness Helps always playing the chords to Somewhere Over the Rainbow, when I pass by him everyday. At the bottom of the stairwell is a man who is fundraising for Penis Enlargement, and at the other side of the bridge are men who need beer.

Catch tomorrow’s blog about panhandlers and Street performers at The Strip.

Meanwhile…

Posted in North America | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons

My trip to Southeast Asia was over a while ago, and Angkor Wat had been the last ‘place of interest’ that I had seen, though there were still many amazing things that happened afterwards. But the end of that chapter has come and it feels appropriate to seal it with the things that I have taken away from it. It is not always necessary to travel to learn some lessons; but often lessons about life are much easier to learn when you are traveling.

Be grateful – there are many moments along the road that will show you how much you have to be thankful for. The opportunity to travel in itself is already one of the most precious things in life, and then there are those quiet instances of recognizing the poverty and hardship that is often witnessed when you travel. But sometimes, you see one too many gorgeous beaches and breathtaking landscapes that you forget. So, it’s important to stop and take a moment to be grateful, for all that you have, and all that you’ve seen.

Let go gracefully – those who travel often eventually become experts at letting go. When you are on a journey, you learn fast that you cannot take everything with you. Whether it is your intention or not, you will end up leaving behind a lot of things. At times, you have to give up some of your possession to make room in your bag for new things. Sometimes, a copy of your favorite F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book is left behind on a plane (thanks a lot Michael!) or your friend drunkenly tosses away your souvenir hat (thanks a lot Michael!) Then also there’s just the simple truth that you are a traveler, you are not meant for permanence, and letting go includes saying goodbye; even to people and places.

Bring a book – it is refreshing to take a secondary trip into another world while you are presently exploring the one you’re in. There’s nothing like taking a break from Thai culture and immersing yourself in the glamour of 1920s America for an hour and two, coming back from it riveted and motivated to seize life. You can never truly know what a book can show you, and what it can teach you.

Don’t be stupid – the world isn’t perfect. There are those who will trick you, and sometimes even harm you, so it’s very important to be smart about things. I think the secret to this is to trust yourself. Know what you’re capable of and what you’re not, and only take risks if you’re willing to accept the worst possible consequences.  Maybe it’s ok to accept a ride from strangers, but not ok to smoke meth on the stairwell of a hotel with strangers, but then again maybe it is. There’s a clear line between being daring and being dumb; but it’s up to you to make the call.

Show kindness – life is suffering. As one of the noble truths it resonates quite clearly to travelers. Traveling is simply the fast-forward version of life. Suffering is clear, and plenty. Be kind to the service people that you encounter, don’t throw a tantrum because you didn’t get what you want. Share some food to those who are hungry. Help the blind cross the street. Offer to carry an old woman’s bag for her. Life was never meant to be easy, so do what you can to alleviate it for others, and in time someone may do it for you.

Talk to strangers – I am far from the “people person” I sometimes seem to be. While I do love the company of others, I’m not quick to be friendly to everyone. In fact, I am usually a giant snob. I do try to be better, and it helps that for whatever reason, most strangers come to me and for this I am very grateful. But talking to strangers has led to amazing experiences; from getting extremely drunk on one fun night in a small village on an island to making friends to travel with or to engaging in eye-opening conversations about life. So, talk to strangers, especially those who do not speak your language, and even those who can’t talk all. On my most recent trip, I’ve had many memorable conversations in sign language, and I don’t even know a thing about it. The people in this world are here for you, whether you believe that or not, how you let them affect your life is your choice. You can simply let them pass you by without a word, or you can invite them in.

Speak your truth – when you do find yourself talking to strangers tell the truth; about yourself or about anything. If you mean them no harm, most people can feel it and they’ll return the same favor. You’ll discover kindness and honesty from the strangers you meet; and you’ll find they are more than happy to share their life and their world with you if you let them.

Listen – take the time to listen. The stories that people will share with you are often unique, and there’s always something to take away with you. Don’t just wait for what you want to hear, listen to everything. It’ll usually remind you that there are many things we have in common with each other.  This will make it easier for you to be kind and honest. When you really listen, you’ll find something you like eventually.

Open your eyes – I can often be guilty with taking an infinite number of photographs and excitedly posting them on Facebook that sometimes I forget to really look around, and truly see what’s around me. Open your eyes, notice the old woman stitching in the corner of the temple, see the genuine smile of the children, and notice the various shades of colors.

Live free – the last few years of my life have been atypical; I’ve been to so many heres and so many theres and have done so many wonderful things I had never even thought of before.  For this, I feel I have a very full and blessed life. I have done this all because I stopped planning my life and stopped having expectations on what it is supposed to be. I took my chances and made numerous mistakes and from that I learned that thing they used to tell us a long time ago: life is what you make it. Everything that is in your life that you think is stopping you from reaching your dreams are all excuses. Find what you love, and chase it. It may not be travel, whatever it is, be free of plans on how to get it.

It’s not about the money… forget about the price tag.” – Jessie J 

Posted in La vita e bella, On the Road | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment