Random YouTube K-hole: Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Love Again – Dua Lipa

It’s been a silly week for music videos whose musical vibe don’t quite mesh with the chosen visuals (looking at you, Billie Eilish), and leading the pack is Miss Lipa, going all wild wild west. In a hotel lobby. With an egg. And clowns, for some reason. I’m not sure what it is with all the dead-eyed singers these days, but I miss the naughty sparkle in the eyes the best pop divas used to have –  Whitney, Mariah, Celine, down to the Britney contingent. Was it the coke? Was that just Whitney? Anyway. Dua always gives good pouty face, and Future Nostalgia is such a banging party album all throughout, it’s hard to hate. Love the song, but she’s had way better music videos. 

You Should Be Sad – Halsey

I’m going to give Halsey props for the shout-out to the original queen of the country-pop crossover – Shania Twain – but that’s about as close to authentic country as You Should Be Sad can visually get, banjos bedamned. It’s probably not on purpose – clearly she’s just borrowing (appropriation? gasp!) a theme here, and the song is cute, but it’s pretty much girl gets mad at loser ex-BF and decides to go writhe on the floor of a barn because, I don’t know, boobs. Or something.

Don’t Tell Me – Madonna

 

Yes, rounding this off with another one from the vault, because the 90s was the golden age of the music video, and yes, I am willing to die on this hill.  Don’t Tell Me is a stripped down, earthy, modern take on  cowboys, bucking broncs and the rugged terrain of the American West – a stylized encapsulation of exactly what it is that makes this bit of Americana so instantly recognizable. With nothing but plaid, dirty jeans and a giant belt buckle, Madonna did it first, and did it better. Maybe I’m just biased. Maybe I’m just an old. It’s probably both, but hey, I  choose my choice!

On Mother’s Day (of All Days)

My dearest budding Liberace,


If my father, a man with profound hearing loss, can play both the guitar and the piano, I have no doubt you and your perfectly normal, not quite forty-year-old hearing will emerge from your piano lessons triumphant. Unless you are secretly prepping for a recital at the Luce, why  stress yourself out so much? It’s nothing to be scared of.


Is this the time in our lives where we claw ourselves out of whatever adult rut we’ve found ourselves stuck in, and force ourselves to learn something new? Should we get a red convertible with a retractable roof? We are nearly forty. If we don’t start now, then when?


I had a small epiphany of sorts last night. I was reading an essay by this woman whose husband came out as a trans woman; while she still loved him, because she identifies as straight, their marriage couldn’t last, so they separated but shared visitation rights with their child, whom she bore after numerous failed IVF attempts. She wrote about how her doctor kept referring to her pregnancy as “geriatric”, since she was already forty. I thought about my choice of not having children, and how I would feel once the not having of children is no longer something borne out of free will, but something enforced by age. I don’t like it. It makes me itchy. This is not to say I am going to go out and get pregnant just to stick two middle fingers up at the world by proving I can; it’s just to say that I don’t like the idea of no longer having a choice. But it’s too late, anyway. It was too late when I turned thirty-two and my mother said not to bother, because “it could be ‘special’.” My mother, ladies and gentlemen.

You are right about things being different now. Now we can tell whether the baby will have developmental issues, and the woman gets a choice whether or not to proceed. Planned Parenthood at its finest! But even with that option in  play, there are still some things one should no longer do at this age, unless one is Jennifer Lopez. Or Madonna. Whether or not I like having a choice is moot, because nature always wins. It wins in the air above the Schiphol airport. It wins when you turn 40 (and what is 39 but a hop, skip and a jump away?). The last of my ova are just hanging out, knitting sweaters, waiting for the resurrection. Why fight it? Is motherhood,  which I’m not even sure I want, and am definitely sure I’m not fit for, really the hill I want to die on?


A woman’s ability to bear children has an expiration date. Unlike piano lessons, which can be entered into at any time.

They say it’s never too late to learn something new. They also say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Ano ba talaga, Tito Bhoy?

I believe you when you say you are fine.

You’re fine. 


I believe you.


I do.


I believe… in life after love, after love, after love,

Nikka

Some Good News

Some Good News

Remember that trip to France that never was? I apparently get to have my money back. Air Transat is now offering refunds to everyone who is eligible for one. Yay!

When airlines started cancelling most of their flights last year, everyone who bought a non-refundable ticket was offered a flight credit in lieu of their cash back. Le Hubs wasn’t happy with the flight credit situation at all. He was right to feel that way. If one pays for a service, and the service isn’t rendered, then one should get one’s money back. But as a former travel agent, I already knew what became of unused economy tickets – the chances of getting your money back are slim. That is the price you pay for affordability; you either use it, or you lose it. I was happy enough to get flight credits with Air Transat that would last for all eternity – or until they got bought out by God knows who. In my view, it was the best possible outcome, everything considered. (Don’t you love lowered expectations?)

Could I have gone to my credit card company to get a chargeback? Maybe. Many people chose to. I didn’t see the need, because we like using Air Transat, and at the time, I thought we’d get to use my flight credits once COVID died down. I also don’t particularly enjoy being on the phone because of my hearing impairment, and with the volume of calls the airlines were getting last year, I would’ve been on hold forever. I figured I’d be able to use my flight credit around this time this year, but I was wrong on that count. No one could’ve predicted how long this pandemic would drag on. We were overconfident about living in a more enlightened, more advanced time, weren’t we? I don’t think we feel that way anymore. Nothing like a little virus to cut one down to size.

Anyway, It took Air Transat a year to finally give people back their money, and I’m sure people are going to grumble about why it took forever, but I’m happy. Better late than never is my ninja way, so good on them for coming through. And good on the Canadian government for providing the bailout, which, wait a minute, is really just my tax dollars in action, so… oh drat.

Rooting

“That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight – losing my religion, trying to keep up with you… oh no, I’ve said too much.”

R.E.M., Losing My Religion

I’d been needing a break since the past year turned out to be nothing but a blur of work and not much else. I felt burned out, run down, angry, frustrated, trapped, all the negative emotions that come to the fore when change – especially unasked for change – happens too fast and too hard and way too suddenly. I found myself being unable to do anything but whine and whimper and complain, to family, friends and on here, hating myself for every second of it. Rightly or wrongly, I felt complaining would make me sound tone deaf at best, and ungrateful at worst. How could I complain about having to work when so many people had lost their means of livelihood? How could I complain about not being able to go anywhere when so many others were bound to their hospital beds? So I fought it. It’s not cute to  keep bitching on here. You can delete  whatever you want to delete and curate however you want to curate, but the internet is forever. One never knows what’ll come back to bite you in the arse; lord knows I’ve already put my share of bullshit on here. So I fought it as hard as I could. I wasn’t always successful, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Unable to do anything more beyond complain, feeling completely uninspired and being  utterly *pause for dramatic effect* wretched, I decided if I couldn’t write anything nice, I may as well  write nothing at all. Which is fine. It’s not like I have anyone to impress, so who really cares whether I have output on here or not? But while some use therapy, some use booze, and some use weed, I tend to vent. It’s difficult for me to keep things bottled up. Expressing myself is how I self-medicate. Still, there is only so much venting one can do before feeling like a broken record. 

Moving away from Toronto was something we’d been discussing for the past couple of years. Le Hubs was slowly losing patience with living in the city, and I was open to going somewhere new. We’d been putting off making a decision, but all that changed last year. I may love Toronto, and I do miss living there, but it turned into a completely different city when COVID hit. There seemed to be no point in staying. If we were to be housebound, it made sense to have a larger space and more room to breathe. If we could do that and not have to pay more than we already were, then that was what we were going to do. And that is how we ended up in the “other” London.

I thought once the move was behind us I could sit down and bang out a few things. I’d given myself at least a couple of months to focus on not working. A reset of sorts. One would think someone who had a lot of time on her hands would find a few minutes to sit down and write something. One would think. I told myself I’d get to be more productive.   Instead, I found myself doing something I can only describe as… nesting.  I spent February and most of March playing housewife, cleaning every week, puttering around in the kitchen, making our new place feel familiar, like a  home. I now have two small house plants. Two! If you don’t know me, having so much as a plant is something because I can’t be trusted with anything that lives, so this is kind of a leap of faith. I have a sansevieria (the “snake” plant), and a dracaena. I chose them because they’re supposed to be hardy indoor house plants that “thrive on neglect.”   Still, the hubs has had to remind me that “neglect” doesn’t literally mean “neglect,” (so why even use the word?) and they’re still going to need occasional watering. I took a couple of snake plant leaves to propagate, and they’re starting to root very nicely – I’m hoping they’ll produce pups in the weeks to come. I can only hope to do as well as they are so far.  Did I just jinx them? Listen to me, talking about propagation. Knock on wood for me, will you? 

20210410_1907595479984980405798658.jpg

For once the things that could be complained about (Ontario’s horrific mismanagement of the vaccination roll-out, the ridiculous lockdown hokey-pokey, outbreaks at Western U, etc.) don’t feel as heavy. Don’t get me wrong, they’re serious, but it feels a bit more of the same than a heavier load on already overburdened shoulders. Finally, sitting down to write this feels just a little like fun again too. And that’s always a good thing.

I Have Questions

Watch this. And wait for it.

First of all, what?

Also, what?

Finally, huh?

Or maybe I should just go with the classic “ha?!”

What? Huh? Ha?!

What, huh and ha are the questions I use most often. But seriously. Ha?!

I was thinking, sustainable energy. I was thinking, Electric batteries. Saving wildlife. Doctors without borders.

Instead, we got… I’m not sure what we got.

Why did I spend two minutes of my life that I’ll never get back for a commercial that doesn’t have a point?

Or is the point that they scored Chris Evans?

I believe that may be the point. They scored Chris Evans, they blew all the money on Chris Evans, who will never actually use the product – because seriously, in what universe is Chris Evans ever going to need this product? – so now that Chris Evans has all their money, they need your money to make up for the loss of all that money.

So that is the point. Chris Evans is the point.

Footnote: Chris Evans is America’s nice, round and very bouncy Ass. And we’re kissing it. Is this… gasp!… colonial mentality in action?

Further footnote: It’s probably not colonial mentality. It’s likely less colonial mentality and more – he is such a dreamboat, and he said yes. In which case, fair.

Smooth Like a Newborn

Eeeee! He’s back! Can you name any currently active male singer who is as unafraid to embrace the cheese of a nostalgic R&B vibe as Bruno Mars? Because I can’t. I thought Versace on the Floor was it and we’d never get anything as good or better, but this was an immediate jam for me. Even though the music certainly alludes to some clothes coming off a little later, no one gets unclothed in this video. It is perfection. After all the boobs and butts and twerking and stripper poles and gangsters and trap, it is so very nice to have a little Bruno Mars in our lives again. Adele once called him the best vocalist she’s ever heard, and the woman did not lie. With an equally mischievous Anderson .Paak – bringing the extra wink wink, nudge nudge in their new joint project, Silk Sonic – this, ladies and gentlemen, is foreplay for your ears. So smooth, so sexy and oh so naughty.

The End is the Beginning is the End

The End is the Beginning is the End

Dear Elly G,

Remember when you asked, and I said it hadn’t hit home yet? Well, it finally did. It happened right before we left. The apartment was wholly empty, everyone else was downstairs and I was sweeping up; I looked around at the empty space we’d lived in for almost a decade, at the bare walls and the empty shelves, and started to cry. I don’t know if it was the stress and the exhaustion that did it. We’d been happy there. We’d been unhappy there, too. It was our first place together, and it held a wealth of memories. It was home, and now we were leaving. Other than where I grew up, I don’t think I’ve ever lived for as long in one place as I did in that apartment.  I loved it so much, I stood there, clutching a broom with tears coursing down my face like I was Judy Ann Santos in Mara Clara. Moments in time! I know. Gross.  

A came up and we stood on the empty balcony, said goodbye to our view of the lakeshore (and a million condos + the tip of the CN Tower), then returned our keys and left. I cried when we drove away; I know it’s corny, but I don’t think I can bear to see our old building again. Not this soon, anyway. I miss that homely, basic little apartment and the comfort of the familiar. It will be a while before this new one will truly feel like home.

You’d think we were free and clear for that day, wouldn’t you? Nope. About an hour away from London, we got caught in a traffic jam; some trailer truck had smashed into a sedan not too far away, and the entire highway was closed off and we sat there for nearly 45 minutes before we could start moving again. I’m not complaining overmuch about this; it is infinitely better to be caught in a traffic jam than to be the cause of one. And we also got to see an absolutely gorgeous sunset on the drive back, where I indulged myself by pretending I was Forrest Gump for a minute.

Thus ends the saga of the flight from Toronto. In conclusion, when moving I have this to share:

– sell all your shit.
– hire professionals.
– choose a truck at least 2x larger than what U-haul says is adequate.
– sell all your shit.
– hire professionals.
– just sell all your shit.

 

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk. 

 

Yours in relief,
Nikka

ps. Congratulate me! Not a single thing was broken. Not a single picture frame, or tumbler, wine glass, computer monitor, or CPU. I packed the stuff, and I packed it well, and there was nothing holding them in place in the back of the truck. Yes, I know, the horror. One open box of frames had even fallen onto its side when we opened up U-haul # 2 the next day; but, everything was intact. Gloat.

What Books Did You Read in 2020?

What Books Did You Read in 2020?

“… we all see it. I didn’t tell you. You didn’t ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We’re not even in the same year together, let alone the same room… except we are together. We’re close. We’re having a meeting of the minds. We’ve engaged in an act of telepathy.”

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

What is a book, but a snowflake frozen for all eternity? It’s a unique imprint of a memory, a dream, words that run together to form a story. Unlike the untenable ether of dreams, a book can be picked up at any time of the day or night, and suddenly you’re there, standing inside the writer’s mind, seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling. It’s magic. The best kind, because it is so willingly given and so generously shared, with so little being asked in return. 

If the year that’s gone by has given you nothing but more time to yourself, a book would’ve been one of the surest ways to stay sane. Here, I list all my reads of 2020. As always, my choice of reading material doesn’t follow rhyme or reason, although I do think I read a lot more memoirs this time around. When one’s life becomes rote, reading about other lives just seems that much more interesting!  The following may hopefully give you ideas for what to read next. About 95% were all read and available from Overdrive, through the generous auspices of the Toronto Public Library.

I also list my top five unforgettable books of the year. To get to them, scroll down to the standouts section, and feel free to share your own in the comments below.

Memoirs, Memories and Me
Born a Crime – Trevor Noah
The Most Beautiful – Mayte Garcia
Full Service – Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg
The Outsider – Jimmy Connors
Home / Home Work – Julie Andrews
Inside Out – Demi Moore
Me – Elton John
Permanent Record – Edward Snowden
Open Book – Jessica Simpson
How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale – Jenna Jameson

Baby It’s Real (So, So Real)
Helter Skelter – Vincent Bugliosi
Catch and Kill – Ronan Farrow
Bachelor Nation – Amy Kaufman
Uncanny Valley – Anna Weiner
No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram – Sarah Frier

Books for Grown-Ups and Shit
All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
Normal People – Sally Rooney
The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell
Less – Andrew Sean Greer
Bring Up the Bodies / The Mirror and the Light  – Hilary Mantel

Royal Pains and Other Reimaginings
The Last Empress / Becoming Madame Mao – Anchee Min
Daughters of the Winter Queen – Nancy Goldstone
The Queen’s Secret – Karen Harper
The Other Windsor Girl – Georgie Blalock
The Paris Wife – Paula McLain

Myths and Monsters
The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker
The Children of Jocasta – Natalie Haynes
The Dragon Waiting – John M. Ford
The Library of Legends – Janie Chang

Gone Girls and Gone Boys
The Daughter of Time – Josephine Tey
Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay
Woman on the Edge – Samantha M. Bailey
The Butterfly Girl – Rene Denfield
The Marsh King’s Daughter – Karen Dionne
The Missing Millionaire – Katie Daubs

Atbp.
The Collected Stories of Jessica Zafra – Jessica Zafra
All My Puny Sorrows – Miriam Toews
Tidelands – Philippa Gregory
Gods of Jade and Shadow – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Dune – Frank Herbert
The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles

.

The 2020 Standouts

The Child Finder – Rene Denfield
Starts off slow and a little predictable.  One can sense the twist from far away, but by the end all the tragic threads have been pulled together so tightly, it sings like a tightly corseted nightingale.  Read this if you want something in the tradition of The Lovely Bones and Room.

The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin
Ugh I hate her so much. Chloe Benjamin writes so bloody well it makes me want to claw my eyes out. The Immortalists tackles the bonds between siblings, and their ways of coping with the loss of each other, which got me right in the feels. Read this if you love your siblings.

Pachinko – Min Jin Lee
I don’t obsessively follow best of, or must-read book lists; part of the fun is finding books that turn out to be amazing reads without giving in to the hype So when. Pachinko came out, to great fanfare in 2017, it sailed completely over my head. Mr. King’s analogy of writing as telepathy is wonderfully apt – you can pick up a good book and a good story at any particular time, and it will still speak to you. Pachinko is a multi-generational story of stoic strength in the face of exile and discrimination in a land that refuses to acknowledge the humanity of those they deem foreign-born. Clean, straightforward and neat of prose, Pachinko  still manages to hit you in the solar plexus with a devastatingly effective one-two punch. What a read.

Starlight Tour: The Last Lonely Night of Neil Stonechild – Susanne Reber and Robert Renaud
Structured more like a screenplay than a novel, this is bound to get optioned if it hasn’t been already.  Starlight Tour is a chilling, heartbreaking account of the abuses indigenous people of Canada endure. Compelling, bleak, an indictment of callousness and police brutality, it is a reminder that the mistreatment of a proud people – whose original claim to this land has been cruelly shoved into the recesses of Canadian memory – perpetuates to this day.  A must read, though the inclusion of a number of graphic police photos are not for the faint of heart. 

The Once and Future King – T.H. White
How have I passed on this for so long? I really shouldn’t have.  Guinevere is a lying, cheating harlot, Lancelot is a whiny little bitch, Mordred is truly the scum of the earth and a kingly, world-weary Arthur smiles benignly throughout the whole mess.  T.H. White’s re-imagining of the Arthurian legend has more than earned its place as a modern classic. I love this book and hate myself for only reading it now, but better late than never is my ninja way!

In Which I Look Up and a Year’s Gone By

You know what the year was like for me? A quickie. Barely any time to start, sputtering to a finish, then just lying there, gasping for breath. Yep, that sounds like 2020 to me.

I watched as we bragged about working from home, then complained about working from home, then broke out because working from home became too much. I watched as we made dalgona coffee and sourdough bread, watched as we succumbed to the acute mental illness that is Tik-Tok, watched as we started hawking homemade things, and watched as we blamed everyone from the highest echelons of government down to the barangay tanod for everything,

Toronto went from orange, to red, to orange, to red, to grey – and I couldn’t enjoy any of those zones at all, or even say they made a difference. After the virus struck and the city shut down, I lived the whole year as if I was in a round the clock grey zone. Dine-in restaurants? What are those? The number of times I actually ventured out to shop (groceries don’t count) can be counted on my fingertips. I didn’t enjoy having to wear a mask all the time, or having to shy away from people. I didn’t enjoy slathering on hand sanitizer every time I’d enter an establishment and every time I’d leave it (neither did my hands). I stopped seeing faces and bodies, and started seeing possibly virulent petri dishes with arms and legs. I don’t enjoy the paranoia that strikes at the sight of bare, flared nostrils over a face mask.

I was lucky to still have a job when everything else had either downsized or shut down, so I threw myself into work. What else was there? But all work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy; I worked too much, so much so that I felt myself beginning to fray at the edges. In this case, all work and no play gave Jack burn-out. It also gave Jack the possible beginnings of carpal tunnel. At the risk of beating this metaphor into the dirt, I am Jack.

Taylor Swift released not one, but two albums this year. I did diddly squat. I was (am?) the embodiment of Bruno Mars’ The Lazy Song. I’m gonna kick my feet up, then stare at the fan, turn the TV on, throw my hand in my pants… I barely wrote anything, not because I didn’t have time, but because there was nothing to inspire.

This time this year, I was supposed to have been back home in the Philippines, with my family. They may drive a body crazy, but at the end of the day, I like spending the holidays with them. I miss the traditions we have, the midnight dinners and the cornucopia of round fruits, that incessant Jose Mari Chan Christmas album. The smell of apples brings tears to my eyes, and so do oranges; the sight of a bag of Chippy can form a fist around my heart, squeezing hard enough to take the breath out of me. Don’t worry too much, though. Quite a lot of things can make me break down lately; this year I found myself crying during two separate Dr. Who finales and My Neighbor Totoro. I’m a mess. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s been a heavy year.

I am not someone who is able to be optimistic at all times. I am a realist, and I realize things are probably going to get worse before they get better. I also realize that I took my hometown for granted, so much so that I up and left it, like an idiot who didn’t know better. I miss home. I miss it more than I ever have since I’ve moved. Worse than the enforced lockdowns and the job burn-out, the sensation of having my wings clipped is the one I found hardest to bear. But such is 2020. This isn’t the new normal anymore. It’s just new. Or is it normal? Only 2021 will tell.

Happy New Year, everyone. More than ever, here’s to your good health – physical, mental, emotional and everything in between. And remember…

Big moneyyyy!

It’s My Party (and I’ll cry if I want to)

The day after 29

The last time I worked on my birthday, I was rescued by three of the loveliest girlfriends a girl could ask for. They showed up, whisked me off for aperitifs at Bo’s and peanut butter afters at Pan de Manila, talking till the sun came up. Yes, we were classy like that. It’s been a decade and a hell of a lot of life changes since that night, but it also feels like only yesterday; even if we don’t get to hang the way we used to, I will cherish them forever.

I like to think of myself as someone who has grit enough to face reality. This is apparently a lie and utter bullshit, because I have somehow turned into someone who runs away from her birthday by literally running away. But not this year. Not by the dictates of this, the year of our Lord, 2020, a hellscape designed to push everyone to very limits of sanity. Not with lockdowns, masks, nasal swabs, temp-checks, quarantine, self-isolation, all these brand spanking new ribbons of red tape strewn across the path of normal movement. So, in place of the usual, this year I have to work. Because of course. Of course. Why deviate from being a shitty year through and through? It’s November, we may as well see this whole thing through to December. And onward. Forever and ever, world without end, ad infinitum, amen.

I don’t normally do this.

Blog on a weekday.

Dig up memories mid-week.

Spend my birthday at work.

It’s been a while. I’ve come to realize taking birthdays off has not only spoiled me rotten, but has also been medication of sorts. It keeps me on an even keel, like my very own annual Rumspringa. So this year, since I have no idea what to do with myself, maybe it’s a good thing I’m working. At least I’m doing something. A very depressing something, but it’s something, which is better than nothing at all. What’s the alternative? Boxed wine and take-out? Crying in the shower?

Still, it’s by no means the worst birthday I’ve ever had. No, the worst birthday I ever had was when I ended up eating torta for three days straight because my mother had bought too much and no one showed up to the party. What a bunch of dicks. LOL. I don’t remember why no one showed up; had I saved the invite till the very the last minute? I think I may have. Did I do it on purpose so I could have all the torta to myself? Who knows? I was eight. The whole thing is a blur. All I remember is the torta. So good. All that sugar. In hindsight, I regret nothing.

Damnit, now I want torta.