Saturday, July 30, 2005

The New York Story of Jimmy-baby & Frieda Looks-Like-Abba, or money doesn’t change everything

WHAT'S BUGGING you, sweetheart, Jimmy-baby? What’s wrong? Are you sick again? You wanna go visit Dr Smith this weekend? Don’t worry, we’ll go take a walk later this afternoon and see if your buddy, Carlos, is also at the park, okay, honey? We’ll sit by West Central Park lagoon, at your favorite spot, and watch the swans glide by, as we wait for your pal, okay, honey babe?” Jimmy-baby was painfully silent, alarmingly morose-he was usually bubbly, cocky, jovial, even hyper. Something must be wrong with him. So, my good Swedish friend, whom I fondly call Frieda Looks-Like-Abba, took him to Dr Smith that Saturday, 7am.
“Jimmy is suffering from what I ascertain as EMSA, otherwise known as `Extreme Melancholia due to severe Separation Anxiety.’ This is serious, Frieda, my dear…” Dr Smith slowly, achingly bobbed his gargoyle head like he just detected a fatal, malignant virus chewing away at Jimmy-baby’s sorrowful system. (The manner in which the tragic, deadly words spilled out of his trembling mouth, it gripped me like he’s actually the one who’s got the ailment, it terrified the hell out of me!) Frieda started sobbing, “Oh my God?! Poor, oh poor Jimmy-baby! I thought it was just a sorta seasonal case of ADDB, uhh, `Attention Deficit Disorder Bitchiness?’ Doctor, please, do everything, anything-I don’t care how much this’ll cost me. Jimmy-baby has to be back to his NCSC again, y’know, `Normal Cool Self Complex?’”
Tearful, heart-broken, and upset, Frieda Looks-Like-Abba hugged Jimmy-baby… at the same instant, she motioned at Soledad, her loyal Peruvian nanny, to write Dr Smith the one-hour consult check, amounting to $750, I think. Then, as Frieda weakly staggered out of Dr Smith’s Upper West Side clinic, Soledad whipped out six twentys and 15 dollars (or $75) off her extra-large, tightly-brassiered breasts, and handed them to me, “Hijo, Pasquito, muchas gracias!”
Hmmm, that’s actually $15 more than I expected. Uhhh, $75 for what, you may ask? Well, that’s my salary for walking Jimmy-baby for two hours that morning… yup, Jimmy-babe is Frieda’s dearly-beloved Saint Bernard, you know, a dog. Dr Smith earned a lot more than me, of course, for an hour’s job of incessantly, meticulously doing a painstaking monologue afront a sullen-looking, visibly bored canine that never responded, or dared bothered to bark back, at his “intelligent” queries at all.
But, then, I understand-the Dog-Doc went to, maybe, Oxford or Princeton to master his lucrative Dr Doolittle profession-and, we all know, nobody goes to one freakin’ Ivy League hole and earn a PhD on dog-walking, right? But there’ll always be some strange dudes who’ll get rewarded with two-grand minimum for engaging a duchshund to an hour of psychoanalysis session. I mean, I can’t even understand why human beings need shrinks! Why would chronically financially-harassed people entrust some yellow pad-scrawling nerdie their lives’ deepest, most kept secrets? For $75 to a hundred bucks an hour, these expensive “experts” tell you this, “From what I could possibly deduce from here, you are suffering from what I call Krswtreaxy Defrkwxs Sydrome, and now you need to take 500 milligrams a day of Grzasstftfrrwejxw, a tablespoon every after dinner of Rweqdasehy, and then try engaging your pet iguana thirty-minutes of intellectual discourse, then see me after two weeks…” And, look here now, my friend Frieda Looks-Like-Abba budgets at least three to four-grand (or even more) a month for Saint Jimmy-baby Bernard’s shrink!?
“Jimmy-baby was barking all night, I knew something was wrong… he never barked that way, there was a some kinda tone of bothered, distant rejection in his barking, you know…” I just attentively nodded my head and pretended to know a thing on the subject of canine behavioral patterns, or something, “Maybe, he needs a sexual partner, don’t you think? Let’s go check out Dog Day NY Chats and find Jimmy-baby a date!”
Whatever. I can go on and on. But that is okay. I don’t think it’s entirely weird to sympathize with Frieda Looks-Like-Abba. She’s fine, she’s pretty normal human being. And you can easily judge me as anti-animal or insensitive to living things, or something to that effect. Yet it still mystifies me why we get so bothered and disturbed whenever a cat that we fondly dress in a Barbie duster starts purring and whining at the “wrong-time of the aftermidnight during Solstice,” or when the goldfish imprisoned in a velvet aquarium looks dejected and refuses to breathe bubbles, or when a pitbull that has been kept alone inside the house for eight hours straight suddenly jumps and attacks a house visitor and bites off the poor stranger’s ears. “What is wrong with my bulldog? He just ate my neighbor’s left arm, for cryin-out-loud?! My doggie must be afflicted with HLD (Hannibal Lecter Disorder).”
Or why it’s so easy to shelve away two hundred bucks to make sure “that Jimmy-baby starts jumping at my Turkish couch at 6am” (or, y’know, just to make sure that the dog is “normal”) while it’s so hard to do away extra $15 for Soledad, the nanny, so she can score a new set of bra that fits her humongous bust size, so that she won’t be commuting on a Path train every Friday night all the way to North Bergen NJ for those $7-for-a-pair-of-5 brassieres?
When I was 5, I recall being grounded for a week - because I set free two pairs of expensive parakeets off their cage at a pet store. I reasoned out, “Birds should be allowed to fly in freedom in the open sky, not kept in a cage!” Because of that, my parents never took me to the zoo again-lest, as my sister Alicia cautioned, “He might set free the lions out of their den!”

THERE'S SO MUCH money to waste away in America, don’t you think? Once upon a time in a not-so distant past, we were already so happy just to own a transistor radio that played all the hit tunes of the year-never mind that the radio also served as our lunch box or book bag. These days, we aren’t contented anymore with Walkmans and boomboxes-we need an iPod. We aren’t happy anymore to own an Underwood typewriter with the coolest pica typefont-we demand a wi-fi enhanced, DVD-equipped, CD-burning iMac. Most surreal and weird of all, while we unstoppably, voraciously feed our insatiable desires with all possible techno-consumerist, material-world baubles and gizmos… we never actually stopped whining, moping, complaining that, oh my, life is soooo hard!
Look at this picture - the US government’s House of Representatives has just considered an additional $45 billion budget spending for Iraq and Afghanistan next year, “to defend democracies there.” This, while low-income heating aid is proposed at a slim $1.8 billion, and community development block grants budget is at a measly $3.7 billion. No wonder the City Government of Asheville charges us, tax-paying public, couple hundreds of dollars rent for use of a public park-so we can organize a free concert to the community that worries no end about health care and housing benefits. Next time, I’m afraid, they’ll be going to charge us $50 a hour for sitting by a roadside bench, waiting for a City Bus that never comes on time, or maybe for enjoying a good day’s sunshine, it’ll be like $15 for an hour of sun on a Saturday.
And yet, people still have so much money to spend. There is a huge, pitiful, bizarre mis-alignment of privileges or awful wealth-distribution discrepancy in this world. While most of my mountain homeys struggle on an $8/hr, 40-hours workweek paycheck to pay their rent, these brothers from California, Ron and Roni Hyde, recently forked out $4,298.99 for two front-row center seats to a Paul McCartney show in Anaheim. And do you know that George Lucas’s annual salary is $290 million? I won’t be shocked anymore if Mr Lucas pays fifteen-grand a day for Chewbaka’s personal make-up crew.

WHAT IS WRONG with the world? Or, as I always say, what is wrong with me? Everything’s allright?
Isn’t that sad? According to a survey, only 4 out of 10 schoolchildren, aged 3 to 12, can identify Jesus Christ’s The Eye image. But a stunning 9.7 out of 10 can easily, readily spot Ronald McDonald from a crowd, and 8 out of 10 fifteen-year-olds could mouth or recite the words of at least five hiphop/rap or rock tunes but only 2 out of ten could sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” in full. It wouldn’t be so surprising that, maybe, a few years from now, kids will be so ostracized and alienated from the very emotional confines of the family abode that they couldn’t even recognize their own workaholic Dads but could actually find real parental bonding from Darth Vader or true friendships from The Incredibles.
There was a time when my own friends’ kids could identify me only when they go over all the Star Wars characters. “Whenever I see R2-D2, I remember you… you are so cool!” But, that’s nothing. This is the scary one -- I didn’t know how to react when my niece Margaux, went, “You are like Yoda! You are so smart! You are sooooo beautiful!” I got so bothered by that, I started to stare at my ugly face on the mirror every morning… do I look like Yoda, really?
You know what’s more bizarre? I showed a 7-year-old kid a drawing of a tuna fish, and asked the tyke to identify it. “Uhhh, what is that? I think that’s a little monster!” I said, it’s a fish, you know what a fish is? This is a fish! The kid stared at me, and then he took a bag out from the fridge, and showed me a fish fillet, and blurted, “This is a fish!” I was about to ask him if he knows what’d a chicken look like, but then, I saw a bag of Mickey Dees chicken nuggets sitting near him, so I simply shut my smart mouth…

LAST MONTH, when I was in New York, Frieda Looks-Like-Abba invited me to check out this incredibly lavish art auction at Phillips, de Pury & Company in Chelsea. How I got there with my brown Goodwill-purchased corduroy coat over an orange mickeymouse shirt, faded Lee with that unmistakable red “Vampire” patch and $15 walking boots scored at a bargain stall down St Marks, I don’t know-Frieda just whisked me in. Oh my! How I quietly amused myself as I marveled at Manhattan’s nouveau riche outbid each other for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s famous streetwise scrawl, “Catharsis.” Some filthy rich dude on the phone bought it for $1.5 million!
I wondered if Mr Basquiat even had enough payphone money to call his girlfriend, long distance, whenever he felt so depressed before he OD’ed to death. I mean, the dude is already dead, hello? Do I sound morbid but how come only dead, beautiful souls get rich-why not when they’re still living? Who’s earning money from Vincent Van Gogh’s work, or even Jim Morrison’s estate, or what about Sylvia Plath’s? Do Delta Airlines or Cathay Pacific pay royalty to the Wright Brothers’ greatgreatgrandchildren?
Ah, how millions of dollars worth of supernatural fame and outrageous fortune could make mortal living things like us seem so different from each other. Go jump up and down, up and down at a public park bench on West Central Park, and you’d surely get hauled off to a paddywagon like a regular loony, especially when wealthy tenants at The Dakota complain--but a Tom Cruise could, anytime, do that “embarrassing” stunt on national primetime TV, and it looks really, “Oh so sweet, so cute!”
And, have you ever get pissed because your hard-earned 50 cents have just been eaten away by a Verizon payphone as you eagerly, nervously call your wife or girlfriend to warn her that you’ll be late for dinner? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? But what if you suddenly forgot to dial the overseas long distance number combination at about 4am while in a hotel room, and couldn’t get through? Would you grab and tear the miserable telephone off the wall and threw the poor thing at a hotel employee’s face, and say, I am sorry, I was just so frustrated, I didn’t mean it, no worry, my lawyer will take care of your broken nose. Of course, you can’t do that-unless you are Russell Crowe. You got it, mate?
And what about this--Houston Rockets’ coach Jeff Van Gundy was fined $100,000 for saying something that irked the NBA head honcho. One hundred grand for saying something stupid, and I can’t even earn extra $250 in one week so I can organize a free concert in my home-city’s downtown-though I never ran out of beautiful words to say to all the gorgeous women and kindhearted men around my little world. Sad.
One Saturday, I tagged along with my friend Renrick to a Filipino-American “wedding gig” in Westchester NY. Again, I was wearing my favorite brown Goodwill-purchased corduroy coat over my $10-for-5 “I Love NY” shirt and my “vampire” jeans. As I marveled at Prada, Gucci, Armani, Lhuillier dancing with these fascinating royal souls in the ballroom-as caviars, Dom Perignons etc etc etc sprawled on white, candlelit tables -I realized how poor I really am. I wondered how much did they pay this resort retreat for the wedding reception, or how much did they pay the wedding band? After all these years, I still can’t help but wonder how Filipino nurses, doctors, and engineers work 14 hours 6 days a week and then blow away thousands of dough on a single day of matrimonial show-off and then divorce after two years? Ah! But maybe they have money to throw away… or maybe they don’t throw them away? Why are marriages and divorces so expensive, anyways...

I AM NOT saying that having so much money isn’t enjoyable. It is. I wish I could easily spend $300 dental exam fee for my favorite Woodfin Place mouse. I wish I can also bankroll $1.2 million to score Jimi Hendrix’s guitar strap when it gets auctioned at Christy’s, I wish I can also pay a nanny more than $35 an hour so she can buy a new pair of Victoria’s Secret. I wish I can readily pay the Parks&Recreation $400 to $1000 in advance so we can reserve Pritchard Park for an entire summer of free “Bonfires for Peace” concerts.
Oh okay, I guess, I gotta stop being such a bitter ass at this juncture. I don’t intend to sound really dark this time out, I am sorry. But despite all these complaints and whinings and mopings, I do enjoy my little blessings. I just get distracted a bit...
It could have been a lot easier if I simply chuck the sentimental crap and boogie with the devil without letup like life is nothing but cheesesticks on Jose Cuervo, right? That tomorrow never happens… it’s all within a day’s partytime, you know what I mean? Why can’t we just treat life like a Friday night discotheque romp of cheap tequila fun, 30minute make-outs, and fleeting, nameless how-are-you hugs. Sometimes I feel so freakin’ corny, so clueless, so square because I’d rather ruminate and muse and dream and believe that, yes, sentimental crap works. I mean, I also get depressed like Jimmy-baby but then, all in all, life is still beautiful. Living is still a blessing. I enjoy hanging out with my wonderful buddies Frieda Looks-Like-Abba or Marta The Nicer Osborne or Lacy The Alexandria Muse or Good Mary Miss Molly, because they’re very sweet and very sensitive and very smart, and they laugh at my very silly jokes. That’s the way they are-they allow me to bitch and mope and complain about life for like three to four hours a night, but we always end up laughing, dancing, and sharing a nice, intimate dinner.
That is why I don’t seem to understand other people-why they seem to hate life, you know. I always say, let it out then let it in, inhale-exhale-inhale-exhale, then rock n roll, baby! Enjoy!

COME ON, who says the world is a picnic? It’s all about life, it’s moving… it’s rollercoaster, but it’s such a joyride, it’s still a gift. The greatest risk in life is not taking one. Life can be stormy but it’s also full of great sun. I mean, I am sure, by now, Jimmy-baby is already out there at West Central Park enjoying the sight of swans gliding by Central Park’s lagoon… and Dr Smith might be out there perfecting how to effectively converse with bedbugs, or something, and that makes him happy. Maybe it’s not really the fat paycheck that spells his joy, but it’s that magical ability to, say, detect a cockroach’s anemia or a poodle’s acute stress that makes his life meaningful to him, who knows?
Money doesn’t change everything, that’s for sure. Because, if money actually changes the world and the creatures in it, then we won’t be having free Bonfires concerts at the park anymore and I won’t be having free Thai massage or free accommodations in my endless Vagrant Wind trips anymore. Then, life becomes so hard. But, even though how much, how often, we all complain that life is so maddeningly difficult, it is still a lot better to be alive and well.
I’m sorry to disappoint the ascetics and the spirituals and the transcendents--but I don’t think I’d enjoy heaven because there’s no PBRs or Doc Chey chicken curry “up” there or Joss Stone live concerts... In the after-life, I don’t think making love would be so pleasurable. More so, Asheville isn’t going to be relocated in nirvana, utopia, or wherever perfect dive there could be. My human flesh is as mortally spontaneous as a cuss word and a sincere “I love you.” My carnal reflexes are as temporary as a 2-hour sexual intimacy by a river boat under an Equinox moon, my earthly joy is as limited as a sweet song sung on an aftermidnight radio. So let’s take it easy. Believe that we are here because it is a wondrous, unexplainable gift from a wondrous, unexplainable (----) you know that I mean? That is called faith--y’know, faith. That’s true--because there are moments in my life when I feel joy, pleasure and ecstasy deep, so deep inside without really knowing why... my brain couldn’t comprehend what my “foolish” heart is saying. That is very cool. When I “waste away” hours and “throw away” dollars putting up concerts and then I see people happily dancing to whatever I came up with, I feel happy, I feel peace within--it’s just that. That’s my “heaven.”
So, okay now, let the rich spend their huge dough on genius shrinks, let those who can afford to score all that Michael Dell and Steven Jobs could sell them (it’s better to purchase a new computer than a gun, you know), let those who earn better, fatter paychecks spend almost four-grand to see an aging Beatle… You see, we can all drive up Mt Mitchell for $5 gas money and watch and flirt at all the beetles and dragonflies and butterflies that freely commune with the greenery-it’s all fun, just the same. It’s not what we have that matters, it’s what we are that really counts.
I repeat, money doesn’t change everything. Yes, it makes us crazier and crazier each day, but money also makes us realize that, when it’s gone-all we got is the gift of humanity-and we can’t waste that one because that’s all we got. It can’t be replenished, recreated, refunded--it’s a one-time thing, no return, no exchange. Yes, indeed, life is beautiful and the only thing in this world that money can’t buy.
So love good, live good, and eat good. You don’t need a shrink to figure that out, or do you?

Oh, we... armchair revolutionaries, couch philosophers

IT STRUCK me like I just uncovered a radiant cherry from a painfully bland stretch of desert sand. The seductive discovery amused me but it certainly didn’t make me feel elated, relieved, or rewarded. “Ah, Hooters?!” Okay, I admit—this is more acerbic jest than roadside mischief. “Of course, there’s no problemo whatsoever with lovely muses with round, voluptuous hips and flawless Meg Ryan smiles serving you buffalo wings and Corona on a Friday night... but, of course, you know what I mean.” Smiley Riley and Marta The Nicer Osborne knew what I meant—but they couldn’t care less, I guess. We have 514.13 miles of cold concrete to negotiate up ahead—to Baltimore to supervise a “Bonfires for Peace” concert in the Hampden district—on that particular February weekend. As we drove past Tunnel Rd to I-240—a bizarre, lumbering deathly dirge or backward mantra rung persistently through my eardrum... “Super Wal-Mart, Target, high-rise condos, narrowing-of-roads, Hooters, public-parks-for-rent...”
The invasion of corporate concupiscence! We are suddenly helpless, hapless ripples of spent water about to be engulfed by the rapturous high tide of multinational gluttony. Like a songwriting buddy or longtime girlfriend who’s just got sick and tired of my holier-than-thou preachings and dreamy pronouncements of a world of joy and justice, while we remained impoverished in the last three or four years of ramen noodles, frozen Banquet chickens, Boone’s Farm sangrias, and swashbuckling words-of-wisdom... my beloved Asheville has “forsaken” me for the high rollers of tinseltown. She, after all, has to survive, you know... But she’s no longer the beautiful sylph, bedecked with multicolored vigor and zest, sharing cups of herbal tea by Lexington Av or Haywood St, or the bellydancing fairy with flowing, raven hair and talisman fingertips rejoicing “Leaves of Grass” over Ravel down Pritchard Park. The feeling seemed numbed, synthetic, deodorized... So very different—this jilted feeling—from the sweet pain etched within me as bade her my fortnightly goodbyes four years ago as I flew to New York City and back in the first 16 months of my Appalachian adventure.
You see, I don’t have any problem patronizing local brews at a Hooters or partaking of two dozen of white socks at a Wal-Mart each month, I never had a problem with that. I am very much aware of the sweatshop pay, slavery toil in some third-world patch while some first-world gods continue to amass billions via white man’s gift-of-gab and silver-and-gold investment/capital, and I will always rant and rave about it... but I am not going to starve to death a martyred don quixote, anyways, if my $100/month’s winter stipend is only good for couple of extra comforters, sweat pants, and socks at a neighborhood Wal-Mart. No, I can’t afford to waste away extra dollars more to score a fuzzy-warm Kashmir jacket at a downtown indie store, I am sorry... It still requires couple of more realistic dollars to be a true-blue, dogmatic animal rights’ fighter, vegetarian guru, or anti-Waltons warbler.
“I buy $2 popcorns and $5 scarves at Wal-Mart, so what? What I save, I spend them all on telling the whole-wide-world that Wal-Mart sucks, anyways? I don’t get paid by some 8-hr coat-and-tie day job to survive an activist life—and I mean, I am having fun, man!” Some of my detractors say that’s a freakin’ contradiction—consuming Wal-Mart stuff then ditching them... Oh my, I just wish I can also walk miles and miles of muddy footwalks like Mahatma Gandhi because an SUV drive to the next organizational meeting is a contradiction. I remember Judas Escariot castigating Jesus Christ Superstar, “Why did you choose such a backward place and time... in 19th century, there’s mass communication.”
Anyways, Highland Ale or PBR taste the same, whether it’s served at Rosetta’s or Westville Pub in Asheville, or Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas or Planet Hollywood in Atlantic City, isn’t it so? But, tell me, where’d you think I’d buy 12 pairs of white socks for $10—at Malaprop’s or French Broad Coop, for cryin’ out loud? But, then, you see—I don’t think I’d travel all the way from the Pacific islands to the Atlantic seaboard to the Blue Ridge Mountains to ogle at a skimpy-clad Christina Aguilera on bright-orange two-piece holding a tray of spiced pleasantries, or score $5.50 DVDs or Brawny paper towels in America’s number one retail monster. (Of course, you get my drift...)
I love Asheville for what it was four or three years ago—with or without Wal-Mart or Hooters. And, right now, I feel like a poor, pitiful swain on co-dependency relationship.
Oh my Blue Sky God/dess! Once again, I have become my own pathetic, loud, rabble-rousing, oft-whining “freeze-frame” rebel, a suspended-on-midair liberator of humanity, an armchair revolutionary, couch philosopher. Apparently, that’s all that I can do, given the circumstances.
Remember those college days of yore, youth’s age of reason... plentiful smartass discourses in between classes, vacant hours of mischivous girl-watching by the Arts&Sciences steps—as we pondered Kafka and Engels and Camus and Marx and Mao and Stone (I mean, Sharon). “Now, I know how to save the world from the fangs of hell! It’s all written in between this awesome book! This awesome book is gonna save my soul!” I remember I never forget to end my love letters with either “Revolutionary yours” or “In solidarity and in love.”
We even had specific stylistic gear and garb that fit the anti-fascist fashionista angst. Bloodred-smeared bandannas, worn-out Levi’s or Lee, white shirts blaring with Che poster-boy print, highcut Converse, lots of exotic, ethnicized necklaces and bracelets, and a rattan-woven backpack. We got the look, baby!
Then, couple of more years after graduation—when a zillion of organizational memberships beckoned—those crazy days when one single group decision was debated, argued, committee-deliberated, reassessed, reevaluated, rehashed, restudied before we finally realize them... “Okay, guys, now that we have already agreed to eat Thai salami with cherry-flavored syrup on this Sunday’s student-coalition’s demonstration in front of the City Hall—by votation of 16 to 14, let’s meet again next week to democratically decide if we are, indeed, going to drink Pepsi or Coke, or should that be Diet? Any objections? Now, let’s hear the report of the porta-toilet committee... I heard they have uncovered some cost-cutting remedies.” Oh yeah, we all loved to talk and talk and talk.
So am I being obvious? I never liked meetings, anyways; they’re so counter-productive, so redundant, so annoyingly inquisitive. I’d rather get things done—fast, right here, right now. Surely, I fumbled and goofed and blundered and erred—but then, my commitment to my madness (may that be political, whatsoever) isn’t gonna end till I lose my nonprofit job or pro-bono tour of legal duty, or when I finally break up with my revolutionary girlfriend. I don’t think this “madness” is that shallow or skin-deep. I will continue to trip and fall and commit mistakes—but the thing is, I am not about to stop my quest, so I don’t see any failure coming. The fight is neverending—like the nth round in my life’s championship fight, it’s never over. Wobbly knees and bruised chests aren’t about to stop me—though I don’t call it my “madness” activism, anymore. I call it, having fun, just having fun.

“WHAT DO YOU hope to accomplish in doing all these things?”
I am always asked that question. I could readily, zestfully respond to that question—ten or fifteen years ago. I feel like I have aged many many generations past... I haven’t seen activism in any other country like I have experienced it in the Philippines when I was in my teens until I gave up in the middle of the 90s... got wounded, ostracized, punished, hurt—forcibly made to relax and chill following a lung surgery. But then, as I repeatedly pronounce my weariness and laying-low tact, I seem to contradict my observers when they see me as always untiringly on-the-go, always pushing, not giving up.
Although I can still feel the painful memories of many years under a despotic military regime back home, I felt my bones and mind have already given way to a more sedate, less complicated existence—exactly, the very reason why I am here in a relatively “white” community far away from my own people... I knew that after almost 25 years of unmitigated, uncompromising, no-holds-barred, romantically gung-ho adherence and allegiance to anything against the dictatorship, my day was done. My day was done when I finally saw the collapse of a ruthless government and the departure of the US military bases... I have given my 25 years to the struggle, and even though true freedom and sovereignty from superpower dictate is yet to be realized by my people, I feel I already earned my medals of honor. No one can take those away from me... Time to pass the torch, I need to enjoy my moondance now. I need my peace.
I was a tired warrior at age 38, burned out. But my little endeavors—I knew and I am very proud of it—have contributed significantly to the demise of a genocidal one-man rule. We had a different “sociopolitical/ideological” education back home, it’s just different... activism, militancy, radicalism, non-conformity, anarchy—we didn’t read or hear them from the gilded mouths of heroes, burning recitations that echo like thunders on springtime midnights, or debated every midweek afternoon jousts.
Few years ago, as I witnessed Western North Carolina’s virulent sea of peace-loving souls massed in thousands in such a tiny downtown park, I couldn’t help but relive my past. I wish that the energy spreads through across the oceans, sending out concrete messages against Washington’s vaunted foreign policy... but I need not be cynical anymore. I have seen it sacrificed, waged, accomplished before—it wasn’t easy.
Come March 19 and 20, I know I will again see an angry mass of protesting humanity calling for the end of war... in this beautiful mountain-city that has fast been enveloped by the very world-order and economic might that make war-mongering and global brinkmanship just another day-at-the-office. I feel the excruciating sight of wrathful elegies and mournful pronouncements bouncing back—back and forth—as they meet deadend among four walls of gargantuan corporate structures that continue to mushroom in my midst, faster than the activist community gets to plan out their next public rally...
I can’t say, “Americans should suffer the pain of being a non-American to be able to understand what really is poverty, homelessness, and hunger.” It is not, never, as wily Wall Street economists mouth—ushered by GNP situations and cost-of-living vis-a-vis cost-of-labor-force. It is plain and simple—as food-to-mouth, remedies to a gaping wound, shelter to a 7-year-old child. It’s as basic as that—a Dell microchip assembler in an Asian production-line who’s paid this amount, equal perhaps to a $6.50 wage-earner in Salisbury, NC under US living standards, isn’t going to score paper towels or spring water on salary day, and strawberry sherbet while watching a rented VHS on a Sunday afternoon... the person is going to ensure five kilos of soiled white rice, a dozen of un-fresh, red-eyed fish and chicken entrails for a week’s dinner.
As we fight the mighty, peerless hand that signals war for a grander goal of greed, we should also fight the mightier, more peerless hand that summons and dictates those that signals war and death.

ACTIVISM, for me, isn’t gonna fly unless we get results—otherwise, it’s all a sad freakin’ fad, a cool dalliance that we all cower to because we didn’t get our tax refunds on time, or that we suffered racist or sexist slurs at the workplace, or that, our relationships and marriages have been so nasty and hateful and demeaning that fighting for the rights of the oppressed humanity is our only sure pathway to vindication, revenge, or redemption.
Few years ago—amidst the plasticine sham of Madison Av in NYC, a throng of placard-wielding young Filipino-American activists on Fendi scarves, Prada shirt and Armani dress pants called for justice and freedom back home... These kids are definitely better than those midtown bleached-skinned Manhattan clowns who dye their hairs brown and wear blue contacts to camouflage their true native colors, but then, the question is—why do we really disagree, why do we protest? What’s the use of dissent, of civil disobedience, if society remains what it is?
When we were battling the Marcos dictatorship, we were also fighting nuclear energy intramurals by such giant powers like Westinghouse, artistic freedom and media censorship, big business monopoly in the countrysides, bastardization of our women around the US bases... To be an activist doesn’t simply confine you to fight for peace or against the war, you are also duty-bound, or humanity-bound, to fight for the protection of your community’s well-being — fight for your own business space against the fangs of gentrification, fight for your local musicians’ right to perform in his own town and city, fight for better wages while outsider capitalization clogs the streets, fight for better air and more pleasant sound of mountain living...
Fight for your peace—whether it is anti-war, or anti-Republican, or anti-logging, or anti-women, or anti-Wal-Mart. Peace can never be faked or sugar-coated or turned into a bloodred-smeared bandanna or a hippie, gypsy-donned merry prankster girth. Peace is humanity... it should be protected and guarded also for those who choose not to march in the streets or die in the desert.
Ah, Asheville has become the place where we all, fearless activists and warriors of wisdom, rest up, load up, refuel, then set out again to do battle... never mind, if they own our city, we own the world.

HERE I GO AGAIN. Why can’t I just enjoy the world’s cheapest intoxication, Boone’s Farm sangria while imagining that my would-be girlfriend sings like Eva Cassidy, Joss Stone, or Norah Jones... Life is never easy for me, I guess.
We are again all-set to negotiate 514.13 miles of cold concrete for another road trip to Baltimore and Washington DC as I beat the deadline for The Indie’s March issue. But, you see, I was really serious when I boasted to Marta The Nicer Osbourne and Smiley Riley that I plan to visit Tunnel Rd’s Hooters one of these upcoming summer nights... I always love watching women, beautiful women with flawless, healthy bodies and winning, so-peacefully cheerful smiles...
Life is so beautiful, after all... Asheville, my wounding, hurtful, flirtatious co-dependency relationship in the last four years, has been looking the other way around lately. So need I mope? I don’t think so... You see, uhh, I was told that we will be performing with Rhythm Insurgency, an almost all-women spoken word/drumming ensemble as The Traveling Bonfires makes a stopover show in DC on March 11. I won’t miss Asheville that much I am sure—neither Hooters on Tunnel Rd—no, I won’t.
An activist’s life is always fun. I never got tired of it, never...