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

A Quickie Escape

Dear Elly G,

While you were ogling handsome men queueing up for some patio action, I was ogling people and places, period. My adventures these past few months have become even tamer than usual; this morning we spent a couple of hours going for gas and a car wash, with a quick stop for coffee and empanadas. I know, exhilarating. I’d been meaning to visit  Super Bakers, a place that makes Filipino empanadas, but never got around to it because it’s rather far from the city core and would’ve entailed at least an hour on public transit. But now, with the car (which I have christened “Car”, I still don’t really know what to call it… Carolyn? Carlos? Carson Daly? Carmi Martin?) it’s accessible. And it being two minutes away from where we get gas doesn’t hurt. It was worth it. The empanadas were deelish – flaky, tasty, stuffed with goodness and not mystery meat. At $21 a dozen they don’t come cheap, but they’re a nice size so it’s fairly good bang for your buck.

The store signage made me giggle. No, it didn’t say “home of the original” or anything like that, it said “Super Bakers” in giant text, and went on to proclaim “Finest Empanadas, Hopia, and More!” underneath. I don’t know what they mean by “more!”, unless they’re talking about the lone cabinet that held UFC tomato sauce pouches, bihon and a collection of Mama Sita’s sauce mixes. All they sell are empanadas and hopia. That is all. There is no “and more!”. False advertising! But I won’t hate because it made me laugh and because they weren’t lying about their empanada being the finest. Not that I’ve tried all that many over here, but so far, I’ll give them the crown and intend to be a repeat customer – if they’ll have me, given all the shade I’ve just thrown.

I wanted to try out an automated car wash because I am an ignoramus and when someone says car wash, this is what I expect:

angels car wash

Which of course didn’t happen, because in the car wash of my dreams, I am Drew Barrymore as a Charlie’s Angel. This was the reality:

real car wash.gif

Two minutes tops, in and out. Very clinical, totally anti-climactic, but I had fun anyway. Like I said to a beloved professor two years ago: I’ll take it!

We decided not to take the expressway home and ended up driving through the Junction, a neighbourhood of Toronto I’d really only seen the tip (yes, just the tip) of before. It felt like the old Honda 50 days, driving around exploring the backroads of Batinguel to Valencia whenever Noreco II went on the fritz.

You really can’t keep a good Canadian in on a hot summer day, because people were strutting their stuff with no masks on, just shopping or walking about, or lining up at the LCBO. It almost felt normal again. Quarantine? What quarantine? COVID who?

It was nice to observe it all and feel like I was oot and aboot again, without truly being oot. I don’t think I’m ready to risk that just yet.

Not oot, just aboot,
Nikka

Campañerang Cuba Goes Home

Campañerang Cuba Goes Home

Dear Elly G,

I feel a strange kind of sadness at having to leave. I say strange because I’ve never been one for the beach, much preferring lakes or rivers and waterfalls instead. But somehow and someway, this pastel unicorn fart of a beachscape has found a way to sink its claws into me, deep enough for me to want to prolong my stay. Or break my self imposed rules, and come back.

I thought I knew beaches, having grown up surrounded by so many, I took them for granted. To be fair, I’ve never been to Boracay, or Palawan, but I have been to Dauin, and Antulang, and to Bantayan island, which boast beaches with pristine white sand and clear blue waters.

I went in the water on Saturday, in the early hours of the morning, when the sun had just risen. The beach was still relatively free of resort-goers. Just me and a handful of people out to score prime real estate under selected palapas, because apparently these things go fast and the earlier you mark your territory with a beach towel, the better. That didn’t really matter to me, since I wasn’t going to be at the beach the whole day anyway. The water is surprisingly warm, the sand like powder under my feet. Surprising, because the last time I was in this part of the world, the water was ice cold. Was it because it was in September and Punta Cana is on the Atlantic, while Cuba shares some of its waters with the Gulf of Mexico? I don’t know. Whatever it was, it was warm and inviting and as I waded in, it was like entering a fantasy. Chos. I know, hyperbole and a half, but I swear I don’t think I ever had quite an experience like that in any body of water whatsoever.

For a while it was just me floating on my back in suspended animation. The feeling of weightlessness was almost sensual, water lapping against the sides of my face and enveloping my body in a caress as I stared up at a sky the colour of a faded bruise tinged with shades of pink and yellow, freewheeling pelicans cutting in and out of my line of sight. It’s been some time since I’ve felt weightless like that. Shut up, it’s not because I’m fat. It’s just that I haven’t really been in pools, or the beach for a long time. I’m not a water baby like you, but in that moment I understood the reasons people return to Cuba over and over again. If you could have a beach like that in your backyard, it would be worth it.

And so I felt sad. The view from my suite was spectacular, exactly what I wanted, nothing but a stretch of blue. To know that I will have to go back and have a completely different view, of high-rises and cranes and so much snow, makes me sad somehow. Of course I miss A a ton, and I miss all the comforts of home, but somehow I wasn’t ready to let go quite yet.

I think this trip has done me good. I believe I might make it a thing, to escape winter for a few days every year, because now I feel like I may be able to see the rest of winter through on my return, without feeling the need to scrape the wall with my fingernails. I don’t know if I want to come back to this particular resort, or even Cuba, if only because variety is the spice of life, but I think a lot of sun in the bleak midwinter definitely did me a world of good.

Waiting for the shuttle,
Nikka

Campañerang Cuba Redux

Dear Elly G,

Ay’g pag expeck. If Cubans could speak Bisaya, that is essentially what they would tell you over and over. Ay’g pag expeck. I suppose they’ve become so inured to the foreigners whining about why everything is the way it is – the food, the schedule, the people, the lack of bus stops, they’re moved to say this ahead of time to prevent disappointment.

Which leads me to the food. (What doesn’t? Everything leads me to the food.) I had a rather late supper last night at the buffet restaurant, and I haven’t the foggiest idea what these people are complaining about. Bland, my Asian ass. No sauces? Each table had salt and pepper shakers and there was a prominent display of all the bottled condiments one would wish. Tartar sauce. Steak sauce. Hot sauce. Sauce maryosep. I went in fully expecting to be disappointed and I was, except it wasn’t the food I ended up being disappointed in. It was in people who write reviews despite having no tastebuds worth mentioning whatsoever. Not that I closed my eyes and was transported to heaven, but the seafood was all I could’ve wished it to be. I had grilled salmon and breaded fish (I have no idea what kind of fish it was) and a lovely bunch of shrimp, heads still on, everything as tasty as if it were pulled fresh from the sea, which it probably was. I wonder if some are so used to drowning everything in spice rubs and butter, they can’t appreciate fresh seafood. I’ve decided to be annoyed at the way people review Cuban food online. Everything is prefaced with “keep in mind, it’s Cuba,” as if it’s going to be deficient and less than, by virtue of not being… I don’t know, Europe? Canada? The U.S. of Hey? It seems to come from an extremely limited experience.

Not that I’m so much more experienced than they are. I just feel that maybe when travelling, a tourist needs to be less condescending and be more open to different things, especially cuisine-wise. Why expect things to be more or less the same as it is at home? What’s the point of traveling then? At breakfast, one lady caught my eye. All she had on her plate was toast. That’s it. Five slices of the most boring white bread, browned and buttered. Even her companion pointed it out with a raised eyebrow, and the lady just shrugged, and made a sort of pout. This is probably the kind of person petty enough to go on Google and give this place a one-star just because she couldn’t find anything to eat. The spread was pretty varied, an impressive selection of cold cuts, breads, fruit, omelette bar, cereal bar, dessert bar, what have you. I’ve been to enough hotels to be able to tell when something is sparse, and believe you me, this was not sparse at all. If anything, it was the opposite.

You know what’s surprisingly bland? The fruit. Maybe you and I have been spoiled for it, having been brought up in a tropical country, but their pineapple is surprisingly bland and so is their watermelon. I don’t know if this is true throughout Cuba, though. It could just be this resort, and this island with all the tourists who come here for fun in the sun like it’s an adult theme park and we’re all just here to be fed and watered. Kind of like a plague of locusts. We come in, feed until the land is bare, then move on. Maybe the pineapples just can’t keep up with the rest of us.

Sleep deprived,
Nikka