Drive

I took an Uber tonight. It’s not something I do a lot. But tonight, I did. And it was like being in a time machine.

I wasn’t in Toronto, I was back in Cebu, on one of the many evenings in a cab on my way to work, like Cinderella in the evening, rushing. The driver took a route I had never tried before, cutting through parts of the city I had never seen. As it unfolded before me tonight like a new place to be explored,  Toronto was a mysterious city waiting to be discovered and I felt a quiet sort of  joy, savouring the sweet, delicious tang of curiosity.  For a brief span of time, I was younger, the whole world before me. I was that girl again, and I realized I haven’t felt that way in a long, long time.

One Chilly Evening

 

You fall in love with some places instantaneously. For some, it’s New York City.  Others, Rome. For me, it was Amsterdam. All it took was a single stroll.

Falling in love is something one does without conscious thought, and, more often than not, without any expectations. For a city that was never on my bucket list, Amsterdam surprised me. It was a place I’d mentally pigeonholed as a city people went to for sex and weed. But like so many other sister cities with a rich and varied history and culture, Amsterdam transcended that narrow-minded view. I loved it from the moment I found myself lugging my suitcase down a warren of narrow alleys that were at once claustrophobic and thrillingly mysterious, feeling a little lost, wondering what was around the next corner,  and finding rows of red-lit windows in the early hours of the morning. Without consciously meaning to, I had found myself in the middle of Amsterdam’s infamous red light district, struck by the realization that business never stops. I loved it. I loved the matter-of-factness of it all. There were cheese shops and crepe shops, sex shops and weed shops all within minutes of each other; flower shops, antique shops and a restaurant with an old carousel in the middle. It was weird, welcoming, unapologetic and wonderful. I loved what Amsterdam was trying to say: that humans love sex just as much as they love cheese, so why treat one with any more shame than the other?

Amsterdam is a city that marches to the beat of its own drum and allows everyone else to march to the beat of theirs. If there’s anything I can appreciate, it’s that. It’s an old city, built on commerce and art and I loved everything about it. I loved that it had charm. I loved that it had big fat french fries with mayonnaise and rich, buttery slices of apple pie that sat like a stone in your belly. That it had sweet little poffertjes dusted with icing sugar, and flavourful black licorice. Best of all, that they had FEBO, an automatic “restaurant” with all sorts of strange sounding krokets, and you never go wrong with whatever you pick even if you have no idea what it is, because everything in FEBO is just so damn tasty.

I loved that Amsterdam had cobblestone streets and little street-sweeping machines that came out at night to clean them. I loved that it was designed with not just longevity, but beauty in mind, its core shot through with bridges and canals that  surprisingly do not smell like sewage. I loved its public transit, which was easy to understand despite being in a different language, that people bicycled everywhere, that it was equal parts familiar and not, that its residents don’t really use curtains, and peering into a residential alley is like being like a little human in the middle of giant dollhouses. Everything is open, if you don’t avert your eyes. I loved that windmills were just half an hour outside of the city.

I miss Amsterdam. I miss it whenever I’m out in the middle of a chilly night, walking through the streets of Toronto, breathing in the cool night air the way I was the other night. Something about that combination, a midnight stroll and a lingering chill takes me back to a night when A and I, ravenous and excited, once traversed the streets of an electric city, holding hands and looking for a FEBO.

Dioramas

Dioramas

Dear Elly G,

Word of the day: diorama. I am seriously pissed off that I never got the chance to take a picture of the Sinulog diorama they had outside Robinson’s Department Store. I want to kick myself. That display was something that will go down in the annals of our history of ridiculousness.

It was a display of superheroes: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, etc. (it was a League of Justice thing) and it wasn’t just a painting. It was a real mock-up of superheroes doing their thing. Superman was flying and shit.

In the middle of it all stood Sr. Sto. Niño holding up that scepter and wooden ball with a cross on it, because the “greatest superhero” is still Sto. Niño. The first time I saw that mess, I nearly choked. What a classic what-in-the-mother-effing-eff moment. People here are insane.

Just thought I’d share. Wish you’d seen it. So sorry I didn’t get it for posterity – I was just too busy staying away from the crazy crowd. I wish I hadn’t.

Regretfully,
Nikka
1/31/08

The Blair Bitch Project

Sometimes we look back at the passage of months and wonder where time went. I started out wanting to tell a sort of story, and ended up with a mish-mash of moments randomly cut and pasted into what looks like an incoherent toddler’s nursery project. I don’t know about you, but my life sometimes feels that way. But who cares? Also, in the 21st century, if it isn’t captured (and shared, and retweeted), did it really happen?

The year is nearly over, and I’m glad for having gotten the chance to spend it with the people I love, and now for the chance to have a moment for a cheesy-ass retrospective. My shit resembles rejected footage for the Blair Witch Project, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying. Yes, I am that embarrassing friend who’ll whip out a GoPro and just stick it out while walking around in a foreign city. I’m a terrible videographer. Probably best to watch this on a mobile device; Vimeo wouldn’t take the full sized HD version. Ah well.

2017 from Nikkajow on Vimeo.

Epiphany of St. Ives the Younger

Epiphany of St. Ives the Younger

My birthday is coming up(!) and as is usual, I like to indulge in a little bit of self-searching. Today’s post is brought to you by the memory of St. Ives and a tiny room in a boarding house, many moons ago when the Earth was young (and so was I).

Continue reading “Epiphany of St. Ives the Younger”

Hairless Whisper

1/12/17

Dear Elly G,

The difference between a Brazilian done in Toronto and a Brazilian done in Dumaguete spans leagues.

The former takes approximately ten minutes. It’s quick, clinical, precise and expensive, barely even giving me any time to register the loss of body hair.

The latter starts with the aesthetician handing me a bathrobe, a towel and a small bar of soap. (“Ma’am, wash first?”) You know you’re in the Philippines when you need a clean vagina before the waxer even deals with you. That’s how we are. We brush our teeth before seeing the dentist. We wash our vajayjays before getting a wax. My usual suki  admitted to seeing her share of tampon strings. She would never think of asking her clients to wash themselves. I can only imagine the judgment meted out by a Filipina waxer if someone dared to come in for a wax while on her period.

She had me staring at the ceiling for the better part of an hour wondering what my labia must look like to someone who had a spotlight pointed at my crotch and was aggressively parting it every which way, hunting down stray pubes with a tweezer. (“Ma’am, pwede i-puller?”) No one has ever paid that much attention to my nether regions. Not A. Not my gynecologist. Not even I.

Also, so much aggressive rubbing! Each time she spread a bit of wax and applied the strip, she would apply pressure and rub like there was no tomorrow, ensuring the wax stuck to the strip so she could remove as much hair as was humanely possible. I wasn’t quite sure if I was supposed to orgasm. I wanted to ask her if anyone ever had, but concentrated on biting back my laughter and holding in a fart instead.

The best part was when I had to part my buttcheeks. Never underestimate the weirdness of parting your own buttcheeks while a total stranger plucks it clean of hair because there are some parts that wax can’t reach. I’m assuming there are some parts that wax can’t reach, anyway. All for the low price of PhP 550! Sulit na sulit.

 

Yours in hairlessness,
Nikka

 

PS: Traffic here is awful.

PPS: A motorcab had a sign on its rear that read “Ang mulusot pisot” in big blue letters.

Phoning it In

Phoning it In

If I was a movie character, I would be Sid from Toy Story. My things have a weird habit of burrowing into the bottom recesses of my satchel whenever I’m fishing around for anything like keys, a brush or a tube of lip balm. Inanimate objects tremble in fear whenever I move to pick them up. I’m klutzy, I drop stuff all the time and I’m not the best phone caretaker in the world.

It doesn’t start out that way, of course. Like all relationships, phone ownership always starts out with a ton of love, care and understanding. With a brand new phone, I exercise extreme caution, treating it like a baby – fed, burped, cleaned, prodded, cooed at every day. Every little bump and possible mishap elicits frantic apologies and maybe even a few neurotic kisses. It grows on me and then, as is usual in a relationship, things start getting taken for granted and the slow slide towards eventual destruction begins.

My first phone was a Nokia 3210. It was an awesome piece of work. Slim enough to slip into a back pocket, streamlined enough not to look like a tragic bar of soap, hardy enough to keep going for days on a single charge. These days, that kind of battery life is a myth. Anyway, I dropped it by accident way too often than was healthy, and it got to a point where it would literally fly apart each time it hit the floor. Its battery would be on one end of the room, the casing on the opposite side, the keypad somewhere under the couch. Took a licking and kept on ticking, that 3210. It was basically Chuck Norris.

It seemed prescient when Nokia announced they were bringing back their classic 3310. I was pretty stoked about this, because a return to “dumb phones” seemed like a refreshing change of pace. Being plugged in 24/7 can get exhausting. In my head I figured they’d dust off whatever boxes of phones they didn’t manage to move twenty years ago, and just offer those up for sale, but no. The new 3310 shares a passing resemblance to the old one, but this is not the phone of yore. It’s a pimped-out imposter dressed in a similar outfit. It’s got a camera, data capabilities and Snake, except Snake is now in colour.  I wanted the phone of yesteryear, no bells, no whistles, no rear camera, but I suppose nostalgia can only go so far.

Now, my Galaxy S3 is a few months shy of its sixth year and the truck driver who gives me a lift from work thinks my phone is a piece of crap. It’s certainly seen better days – beside the gleaming polish of his iPhone 6 it looks like a candidate for the junk heap – but I don’t care. I glory in the broken-downness of it. I complain about its stupid auto-correct and I think it’s gotten as slow as all get-out, but deep inside I love my S3. You know the moment you lose an iPhone 6S that you’ll never see it again but you can’t say the same for a cracked S3. (I wouldn’t be surprised if someone paid me to take it back.)

When it comes to tech, I apply the same strategy my father has for his house slippers: use it into the ground until it conks out, maybe try to resuscitate it with lots of duct tape and a prayer, then when it becomes painfully obvious that it’s given up the ghost, set it aside for the next big thing.  I’ve been fortunate in my choice of phones so far, but the end may be nigh.