My correspondence with Jens Lekman

April 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

i emailed him about his guitar after his manila concert, saying:

your guitar is lovely. if i’m not mistaken, that’s an epiphone sheraton ii, right? i was about to buy one of those last christmas when i was in los angeles but settled for the epiphone dot studio instead. still, i’ve been doing some research on the sheraton ii because i really love not only the way it looks, but also the way it sounds. can you tell me more about it? it seems like you have a good relationship with your guitar, which i also admire.

then, he replied with:

the guitar is a sheraton 2. i just had it fixed after flying cebu airlines twice (next time when they ask me if i want to check it in, i’ll just shake my head). not much i can say about it though. i bought it cause it looked good. i dont know anything about guitars except how to play some chords and tune the strings.
stay gold,

+ points for honesty.


Something about books, times, and places

April 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Whenever I feel lonely, I turn to books.

I treat books like people; you meet them in times and places. Let me tell you a story about this Tom Robbins book I read.

It was a very rough time in my life when I met Still Life With Woodpecker. I started reading it briefly way, way back. My then girlfriend would prescribe to me a block quote or two from the said book every time we’d have existential indifferences, and I’d be tired and respond with “Yeah, I’ll read it soon,” but I never did. I was too stubborn back then. I admit. If you’re reading this, ex-girlfriend, yes, I’m admitting to my faults as a stubborn, insecure kid when we were together. Sorry.

So Still Life With Woodpecker and I were introduced as acquaintances for the longest time. Finally, in one of my last weeks in school I spotted a worn-out copy in the book sale. I grabbed it with no hesitation and showed my ex. Ironically, a friend of ours lost her copy and she was asking if she could buy it from me… But the packaging was too awesome – the cover was  patterned from a pack of Camel cigarettes, maintaining it to be an important motif in the story. I refused, and started reading.

“If this typewriter can’t do it, then fuck it, it can’t be done.” Those were the first words of Tom Robbins. He came off strong from the beginning and I enjoyed reading his references to Camus, suicide, and the Moon. You know what? I’ll save my commentaries about the book for a review, or something. I’ll just show and tell how my relationship with Still Life grew.

A very strange time in my life came; missed opportunities and evil circumstances led to my imprisonment one night. To describe the scenario as lightly as I could: I got locked out of someone’s apartment, and I couldn’t get out because the building was locked from the inside but there were no guards at 1:30 in the morning. I camped out and sat right in front of the doorstep, and started reading. I read Still Life With Woodpecker in all of its Outlaw glory like the bible. I believed in everything that Bernard Mickey Wrangle said about freedom, and the difference between criminals and Outlaws. I was an Outlaw.

The book Still Life With Woodpecker was like a person to me; he came in handy when I needed survival tips in this mean, mean world. It seemed like the 20th century’s Fight Club with more cultural references, and of course I enjoyed it the way I enjoy the nineties. The book’s approach was quite fitting for me, as one of my favorite quotes from the book said: “As long as every wall is threatened, the world can happen.” Imagine reading that line in the middle of an existential concentration camp. Imagine reading that line in front of the devil. It felt so good to be in the company of the Woodpecker.

Every time I’m in a bookstore, I always think of how much energy an author puts into writing a novel. Tonight I saw a great deal of Stephen King’s books lined up in one shelf. I couldn’t imagine how much imagination he has. On top of all of this, it amazes me how much of himself or herself the writer gambles in every story. I think that’s what makes books into people that you can meet in different times and places.

And I think that’s what makes us people less lonely every time we read when everyone’s asleep.

April 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

“Probably for every man there is at least one city that sooner or later turns into a girl.”
-J.D. Salinger

we were facing the shoreline with nothing but beer. it was around 12am when my friend suzette and i were talking about how someone should write a paper on how cigarettes are vital to most, if not all of salinger’s published stories. it makes me wonder how his unpublished stories would look like, and if they have less smoke and more clarity. suzette told me, maybe i should write that paper. our bottles of beer were halfway through, and the paper turned into a story. we were quiet for most of the time just watching the stars. a friend called her up, saying they were in a nearby bar.

the stars were getting brighter and brighter.

so we went to the bar just about 10 meters away and i lost her. i lost suzette. maybe she strayed away with a couple of friends. i couldn’t see much people – i was on a roll, binge drinking, and the night wrapped itself around my eyes. the disco lights weren’t enough to illuminate my path. the darkness had taken me away, along with my drunkenness. suddenly, my best friend, ryan, appeared out of nowhere.

he grabbed my hand and said “come with us.” i asked him where. “i don’t know.” i said alright.

so there were about five or six of us in a tricycle, all close enough to touch. i couldn’t remember the ratio of guys and girls. they were confident about the place where we were going, but ryan and i didn’t know shit. we just trusted these people we hardly even knew. we just met them a couple of days ago but we never really got to sit down and chat.

the breeze was getting stronger and the night was getting darker. we sat tight as the tricycle’s engine died all of a sudden, in the middle of a very steep faux road. everyone almost shit their pants but it’s okay, we had the courage of amateur drunkards. the driver tried to start his carriage, and we were back on track.

finally, the ride had come to an end – signaled by the driver’s halt. the place wasn’t well-lit, that’s for sure. but there was a hanging light, surrounded by bamboo trappings. the shadows it casted formed perfect shapes, like a dream catcher that caught you walking. it indicated the entrance of Jungle Bar.

as soon as we got in, i knew the place was special. there were a couple of spanish people dancing in the bar and playing their ipods. three locals guarded the drinks and cigarettes, calmly. the rest of us stormed into the backlot and parked our slippers and shirts. another one of their dream catchers was hanging on top of us. we were all in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a dream.

we went back to the bar, all drunk and steady. the ramones started playing and we jumped up and down, and played some air guitar. i was dancing with this girl, and i asked my friends to help me make a move. miguel was more than willing. in fact, he forced situations to have us dance.

the lady said, “i’m gonna dance with you, but i’m not gonna kiss you.” i said there’s nothing wrong with that, and went to my friend. he kept on insisting i go for the kill. the music was getting louder and people were taking large volumes of rhum – i was, too. so miguel scouted for me and asked the other guy the girl was with about her and if she has a boyfriend.

meanwhile, ryan shared a moment with temptation. he disappeared with a girl somewhere in the beach. then he went back and dragged me to the shoreline. we sat down and talked about what happened – about how he was on the edge, but decided to say no because of Love – that no matter how far his girlfriend was, it still wasn’t worth it to be close enough to kiss with someone.

we were sitting on the shore, relaxing, as the rules of geography continued to be outlawed. the stars were getting nearer. we could feel it.

we went back to the bar and killed time by resting a little. miguel approached me and said “i’m sorry but we can’t pull through with the mission. the girl’s still in love with the guy i was just talking to. they were lovers, and now they’re back together. i’m sorry.” i said right away, don’t be sorry, because that’s the kind of stuff that i live for. i believe in Love, Love, Love. one of the spanish girls at the bar picked the next song and said, “this one is for you guys,” pointing to our group of strangers. it was Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana.

with the lights out
it’s less dangerous
here we are now
entertain us
i feel stupid
and contagious

it was around 5 am as the sun was starting to rise. we all parked at where david and i talked, and waited for the sun to crawl back. as the luminous ball of gold was flying higher and higher, a girl came along with her friend. it was sally. we started singing songs and rejoicing for the greatest view.

sally and i started talking. i said i didn’t want to leave. she agreed. we talked about the future; how our lives would be different as soon as we go back to the so-called real world. for a while there we felt like we were characters in a movie, and it was coming to an end. we talked about The Graduate. i tried to see through her eyes and saw many things.

she took pictures of the sunrise, but not of the shore. none of us could’ve done justice to that glorious place.

i didn’t believe that there were such things as secret places. after that night/morning, things changed.

sally, ryan, and i took the same tricycle going back home. Motorcycle Drive By by Third Eye Blind started playing in my head and i just had to sing it out loud. we all agreed: it was the perfect song for the moment.

summer time and the wind is blowing outside in lower chelsea
and i don’t know what i’m doing in this city
the sun is always in my eyes, it crashes through the windows
and i’m sleeping on the couch –
when i came to visit you, that’s when i knew that i could never have you
i knew that before you did, still i’m the one who’s stupid
and there’s this burning like there’s always been

i’ve never been so alone
and i’ve never been so alive

visions of you on a motorcycle drive by
the cigarette ash flies in your eyes
and you don’t mind, you smile and say –
the world doesn’t fit with you,
i don’t believe you, you’re so serene
careening through the universe, your axis on a tilt
you’re guiltless and free, i hope you take a piece of me with you
and there’s things i’d like to do that you don’t believe in
i would like to build something but you never see it happen
and there’s this burning like there’s always been

where’s the soul i want to know?
new york city is evil
the surface is everything but i could never do that –
someone would see through that
and this is our last time we’ll be friends again
i’ll get over you, you’ll wonder who i am

i go home to the coast,
it starts to rain i paddle out on the water alone
taste the salt and taste the pain
i’m not thinking of you again
summer dies and swells rise
the sun goes down in my eyes
see this rolling wave darkly coming
to take me home

and i’ve never been so alone
and i’ve never been so alive.

and in that moment, i just wanted to do it all over again. break the rules and see secret places that the world only shows every once in a blue moon to the people who need it the most. once again i tried to see through her eyes. this time, i saw secret places.

A Story About A Street, My Imbalances, Frustrations, And Holy Week

April 2, 2010 § 5 Comments

It doesn’t take a lot for frustration to enter the internal Universe of a writer, or an artist.

And it’s so easy to answer why, so I won’t. Rather, my discourse will take on the following things:

  • Squash Drive, a place I will surely miss when I leave
  • the imbalance of catharsis and analysis in my life as a writer, and
  • Holy Week.

Squash Drive has a tiny but interesting history. It was built in order to follow a law which says commercial areas cannot break ground unless they’re X meters away from residential areas. In the case of Squash Drive, commercial areas we’re talking about are Silver City, Tiendesitas, Hypermart, et cetera. The residential areas we’re talking about are the houses in my village, Valle Verde 5. In order to follow that regulation, Squash Drive is the threshold. You can see in my pictures how close the malls are to my life.

On one hand, it’s a positive. I get to exploit the markets in such a remarkably small distance, and go to Starbucks whenever I want to. It’s a great thing, how close these establishments are to me, but it’s not all butterflies and bumblebees. I think they had to extract a good amount of nature to break ground. Now I won’t be all preachy because I think we all know the value of nature and stuff so I’ll cut to the chase – it just saddens me how extremely close the feeling of business is. It’s in front of my face. There’s no room for retreat, for quiet. I feel like I’ve lived in Metro Manila too long. I think I’m too close to the hazards of corporations and how they burn people. It’s been so close to the point that any burn-out story is just another day in the office. That’s really, really sad. Frustration #1: Not Knowing Where To Place Myself.

Squash Drive stands in between my peace and the hustle and bustle of the real world. Every time I pass there, I feel like I’m visiting an old friend. Funny how incidentally, early on at the first quarter of the 21st century, the residents of Valle Verde 5 decided to paint murals on the walls of Squash Drive. The theme was mother nature. Here are some of the photos.

At this moment I’d like to thank Squash Drive for being a friend. It’s a lonely place but it gets me, because it’s always in the middle of things. I’m not gonna go hippie on this. Just saying, I appreciate this place, and I’m gonna miss it when I leave the country.

Now, the imbalance. To be brutally honest with you, my insecurities as a writer and a musician mostly dwell on the fact that people are very, very NR with the stuff that I work on. Because of the lack of assessment with regard to my work, I tend to fuck up. So, I really don’t know why I suck. But, I have a theory. I think the nature of my work is intrinsically complex, meaning it arises from an imbalance of catharsis and analysis; left brain and right brain; art and math. I used to always think that, “Eh, it doesn’t matter, let me be!” But it does. Especially now at this point in my life when I’m starting a career  based on my passions, it matters a lot.

The imbalance is one of the biggest threats in my life. I’m not afraid to confess to people that I have an above-average IQ, but the EQ of a five year-old. It affects so many aspects of my life and I don’t even know where to start, so I’ll jump the gun on this one.  Frustration #2: Dude, You Have To Make Up Your Mind. Soon.

Amidst all of this, let me digress a little. Don’t worry, I’ll try my best to get back to the center. Anyway, I don’t practice Holy Week things because I’m Born Again Christian. It’s not that we don’t believe in Holy Week. As a matter of fact, I personally think that Holy Week is the most romanticized series of days in the Catholic calendar. The Pasyon is a tour-de-force exercise that not only expresses the Church’s loyalty to Jesus Christ, but also its loyalty to Philippine culture; martyrdom, sacrifice, and that L word.

My concern about Holy Week is that every year, it gets less and less intimate. I don’t know if I’m supposed to believe those people crucifying themselves for penitence because tell me: does God really want you to do that to yourself? This year, though, despite the fact that I don’t celebrate Holy Week as a Catholic person would do, God has worked his Holy Week charm on me. Strangely I’ve seen people I’ve known from before in a different light; a more revealing and truthful light, and I couldn’t be more thankful. I think people handle the responsibility to enforce or resist change, and if change is what depresses me, it can also work the other way around through people and being.

In meeting people, I have no frustrations. They’re the bearers of countless stories and which I would be glad to take part of. Sadly I think that it is a sincere but strange vocation. What the hell am I supposed to work for?

Expectations > Reality

April 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Right click > Save Target As… to download the mix.

1. The Making Of A Mixtape (excerpt from High Fidelity)
2. Silverchair – Across The Night
3. Dashboard Confessional – Stolen
4. Mayonnaise – Looking For One
5. Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – This Love Is Fucking Right
6. Broken Social Scene – 7-4 (Shoreline)
7. Minus The Bear – Pachuca Sunrise (Acoustic)
8. The Submarines – Xavia
9. This Will Destroy You – The World Is Our _____
10. I Just Woke Up One Day And Knew (excerpt from 500 Days of Summer)
11. Owen – Never Meant
12. She & Him – Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want This Time (The Smiths cover)
13. John Mayer – Gravity
14. Broken Social Scene – Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old
15. Dashboard Confessional – Remember To Breathe
16. Dave Matthews – Some Devil
17. American Football – Never Meant

This is a playlist I made at the last quarter of 2009. Potential titles include:

  • I’m Going To The Beach While Thinking Of You
  • 500 Days Of Sembreak
  • A Very Bipolar Playlist
  • Trying To Be Hopeful
  • I was listening to this stuff while writing the song A Lullaby: From Opinion To Faith in the Don’t Forget, Clementine album. Anyway, I’m uploading it here because it’s one of my favorite nostalgic playlists. Maybe I’ll upload more of my past playlists soon.

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