Rollin' deep in the heart of the I.E. through the gnarled concrete arteries of 60+10+91 east to neon sunsets and Naugles, Taco Tia, the Mad/Friendly/Happy or Lucky Greek,The Menagerie, Spanky's, Butch's Grinders, The Denny's Cocktail Lounge at Hardman Center (in pace requiescat). We spell Paris P-E-R-R-I-S, bitches!


Home-o for the Holidaze || A Photo Essay

The fuzzy little fella under the tree is my parents' very cuddly, very effeminate boy dog, Yukon. For all intents and purposes "Yuki" is my younger sibling. Like all bullying older sibs, I'm having the little one do the dirty work for me--soften up the crowd with those shiny button eyes for what will be a quick and dirty post on this night of the 23rd...the eve of Christmas Eve.

To get to Riverside today I took the Metrolink, So. Cal's commuter train system and a distant cousin to something like the
LIRR. On weekends the Metrolink goes the roundabout way (the only way available to the Empire from L.A.'s Union Station on weekends), through San Bernardino, Riverside's scrappier and scruffier neighbor to the Northeast. What is usually about a 50 minute drive on the 60FWY door-to-door from my place to my folks' took about an hour and 45 on the Sunday San Berdoo line that chugs alongside the 10 past El Monte, Baldwin Park, Covina, Northern Pomona, Claremont, Montclair, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Rialto and downtown San Bernardino before docking in downtown Riverside. The train was filled with holiday travelers, mostly Latino and African-American teens heading into the I.E. to see the cousins, aunts and uncles who re-lo'ed to the 'burbs in the 80s or 90s (see Next Friday, which was set in one of my scenic station stops today, Rancho Cucamonga).

The Metrolink ride yields plenty of stories, especially because the route provides picture-window glimpses at the backyards, freight doors and storage dumps that families, businesses and cities like to keep tucked out of view. I too will keep these stories close to the vest for now and let a few pictures do the talking. Part II of this post closes with a tableau of what the holidays look like at the parental abode on Santee place. In the meantime, this is how we enter the Empire...

1. Union Station

2. L.A. River

3. Three

4. Mobile Home Park

5. Montclair Station (Mt. Baldy, Hinterground)

6. Yellow 1.0

7. Yellow 2.0

8. Boxcars near Rialto

9. Yellow 3.0 (between San Bernardino and Riverside)

10. End Stop

11. Raincross

PART II: Santee Place
We all know the holidaze are chaotic, but they feel especially tumultuous for a Virgo like me when I schlep out to the parental hoarding pit.
My folks have got to be the worst pack-rats EVER. I know they look sweet, well groomed and tidy on the outside, but at their very core they can't resist squirreling away every soy sauce packet* or spork in the event of the apocalypse (or "The Big One"--the latter being more immanent). I think their Bohemianism crossed with some of their "Fisher King" tendencies account for my unbearable Virgoan obsessiveness and minimalism now. [Left: Graveyard of craft books, hall closet]. When I arrived this late afternoon, I had my annual hissy fit about all the stuff crammed into every nook and cranny of the house: an assortment of catalogues for things like dog visors and Kleenex cozies; unread Rodale's "Organic Gardening" magazines from 1989 onward; DVD's from Columbia House that they forgot to reject through the monthly mailer; ceramic dolphin clocks gifted to them by acquaintances from the church of Religious Science; coupons from Dr. Butchko, I.E. Vet. It's all still here. Clearly I need therapy to work through all the residual immigrante and class shame triggered by all my parents' stuff. [L: Santas and Friends]. This time, I just decided to take pictures.

I know this might sound a bit too "American Beauty," but taking pictures of all of the oddities chez Mom and Dad really helped me see things differently. It made me actually appreciate some of the accidental beauty behind their otherwise chaotic accumulation. It helped me breathe. So in the spirit of Christmas sharing, here's something from my family to yours...
Maligayang Pasko! Mele Kalikimaka! Frohe Weihnachten! And all that jazz...

a. Beethoven and Friends

b. Everything but the kitchen sink

c. The kitchen sink

d. Crown Rib Roast

e. Capicolla fr. D'Elia's

f. Gallery

g. Nativity Scene + Buddha Guest Stars

h. Notes

i. Screen, Elephants and Rudolph

j. Bongos || Romy Katindig Model

k. Hip-Swaying Outdoor Santa

l. Santa's Sleigh +
Great Ideas Book Series, 1961-1974

m. Mom

n. Dad w. Sick Puppy

o. Tannenbaum

* The genotype "soy sauce saver" isn't mine, but belongs to the venerable HN Lukes.


No Wonder || From Yentl to The Shondes

This Catholic Pinay lesbiana (on the Far From Heaven-side of butch) knows what “shonde” means. It’s Yiddish for shame, disgrace, pity or outrage. And I knew this before I peeped the definition thoughtfully provided on the website for queer dramarock sensations, The Shondes. I know what “shonde” means because—interfaith confession time—I fancied myself a spiritual Jewess the minute I saw Yentl on VHS and felt tingly about all the cross-dressing, carts of books and “like buttah” showtune meditations on female education and the Talmud. I was so moved by the sepia-toned, candle-lit, made-for-Barbra-by-Barbra exultations about desire, feminism and faith that the very next day I rushed to the B. Dalton bookstore across from WhereHouse Records at the Riverside Plaza to buy a copy of The Essential Talmud, and the collected works of Isaac Bashevis Singer. Drink it in here...

I knew it was deeper than my brief flirtation with the Baha’i faith circa the 7th grade. But I didn’t realize until much later what it all meant: all those grainy, black & white dreams of Brooklyn scored to the pizmonim-inspired harmonies of
Fiddler, or those fantasies about being a stranger among them in Cicely, Alaska with Dr. Joel Fleischman on Northern Exposure. For this nerdy, only-child from Southeast Asia coming of age in the white, working-class suburbs of Southern California, Jewishness meant intelligence, humor, showtunes, culture and cute glasses. Not only did Jewishness (or at least the made for TV versions I encountered) compliment my own sense of strangeness and my own sense of ethnicity, but oddly—thanks to my belated, analog encounter with Yentl—it also told me something about my budding queer sexuality. Only two months before I came out as a big homo, my Yentl costume on Halloween was misread as “Shaolin Kung-Fu Master” by all the other college dorkuses around me. A shonde in so many ways. It seems no accident that I am currently employed in a Gender Studies program with an endowed "Barbra Streisand Chair in Sexuality and Intimacy." Someday...somehow...somewhere...

It’s because of this awkward sense of communion (pardon the Catholicism), and a recommendation from a McSwonderful friend that now, more than 15-years later, I have found The Shondes...

Read my complete interview with The Shondes at OH! INDUSTRY.


Dwell in Suburbia

I know the Emperor's blogworlds have become quite confusing for all five of you loyal readers out there, especially with the recent debut of my collaborative project, OH! INDUSTRY. But rest assured the Emperor hasn't gone gently into that bedazzled night never to return to my very own 7-11 parking lot of lemonhead wishes and big gulp dreamz.

As many of you know, O!I is actually all about reliving nights in the parking lot with retroactive simultaneity, despite being spread out across different em
pires of the familiar. But for the sake of keeping things tidy (in the Virgoan way), I'll shelve things like this: personal posts and ruminations here on Inland Emperor, to go along with all of the archival suburban materials. There's bound to be overlap every now and then (Girl in a Coma performing in a suburban mall, etc.), so when that happens I'll keep the longer posts on O!I and offer a lead/link here to guide you over there. [Right: Whatever has become of me?]

But let's dwell here for now. In fact, the true inspiration behind today's Suburban zeitgeist alert is the December/January double issue of Dwell magazine (aka the style manual for creative class 'flipping') on NEW SUBURBANISM. Thanks muchly to JTizzle for alerting me to this. More to say at some other point, perhaps even in the book, about the heinous, and yet not-so-secretly alluring style culture promoted by Dwell and publications of its ilk. [Left: Mr. & Mrs. Hipster in New Suburbia]

In the interest of full disclosure, I always thought of Dwell as a wannabe
Wallpaper without the heft, literally and figuratively. That shit was THICK. Anyway, since my own lust for moderne design was first ignited by Wallpaper (and my born-in-to-modernism Deutsche ex), Dwell always seemed like the totally poseur rag to me. Of course I came to realize that I was actually the big poseur for thinking that I could seemlessly inhabit the very bourgie, and often very white worlds featured in glossy repose throughout such publications. Hence all the debt (and nice furniture) I'll be living with from here to tenure. I've resolved not to be a total hater, and by extension, a total hypocrite. So let me admit now that I am actually fond of the "design" ethos in healthy, non-prescriptive and budget appropriate doses. No more Design Out of Reach for me. [Right: Race as a hipster commodity. Let me entertain you...]

Anyway, I don't want to be a total grumpus, and I've already prattled on about the stuff I said I'd talk about later ("heinous and alluring style cultures of modern design magazines"), so I'm going to tiny dance my way to a reparative moment. If anything, this month's issue of Dwell pointed me to what looks like a must-see exhibit going up in February at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (Fe
bruary 2008), and continuing on to the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh (October 2008). [Left: Angela Strassheim's Untitled (Elsa), 2003, will be featured in Worlds Away.] Titled Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes, and curated by Andrew Blauvelt at the Walker, and Tracy Myers at the Carnegie, the exhibit features paintings, photographs, architectural models, prints, sculptures and video that bust apart what I like to think of as the suburan mythos at the heart of the American national imaginary.

In his Dwell interview, Blauvelt expresses the hope that Worlds Away will provide both reparative and "more provisional" approaches to the suburbs: "there are definitely pro and anti--or ambivalent--camps, but the stance isn't 'Oh I hate suburbia; therefore, I'm not going to deal with it.' It's more about how to intervene and interpret it knowing that it's a multibillion dollar industrial complex. It's that kind of shift that we're trying to hint at."

The emperor concurs. In short, it seems this project intersects with my Relocations book in generative, substantive, and yet non-threatening ways. I know I'm looking forward to taking a research trip to the exhibit this spring. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to be in touch with both Blauvelt and Myers about it as well. In the meantime let's all dabble with the Walker blog's interactive feature: Tell us a story about your suburb.


"If Ever I would Leave You..." R.I.P Robert Goulet (1933-2007)

Oh no not in spring time...
Summer, winter or fall...
No never would I leave all...
"If Ever I Would Leave You," Robert Goulet
Original Broadway Soundtrack to Camelot (1962)

The Emperor is saddened to hear that Robert Goulet, the man whose virile, yet approachable barritone made that showstopper from
Camelot say something, passed away yesterday morning.

Goulet was the kind of guy you'd expect to hear while your parents (or grandparents in my case) sat around next to their slammin' hi-fi, sipping scotch and twirling their toes in the shag carpet. For many years Goulet's vocal talents and matinee idol dreaminess were eclipsed by the camp iconicity of his own abundant mustache. Case in point, Will Ferrell's hilarious Goulet sketches from SNL:

But for me he'll always be Lancelot--always that powerful voice singing over the crackle of grandma's hi-fi, promising it will never leave.

Sadly, I couldn't find actual footage of him singing "If Ever I would Leave You" to Julie Andrews in full Camelot regalia. But here's RG and another broadway diva, Barbara Cook, crooning tunes that will break your heart:


Event Alert: Inland Emperors Art Exhibit (9/8-10/27)

[Image Credit: Robbert Flick, photographer and Professor of Fine Arts at USC.]

We're not affiliated, but nevertheless this might be of interest to some of you...

Inland Emperors
(September 8 - October 27, 2007)
Reception: Saturday, October 13, 6-10pm

dBA256 Gallery
and Winebar
256 S. Main Street
Pomona, CA 91766

909. 623. 7600

What distinguishes the art scene east of the 605
– okay, the 57 – is less its variety than its longevity. The Inland region is one of the cradles and incubators of California art from the inception of “hard edge” painting to the subsequent course of sculpture’s “ceramic revolution”. Inland Emperors, an exhibition celebrating this longevity and innovative artistic activity opens at dba256 Gallery September 8th and runs through October 27th. Inland Emperors is the inaugural exhibition for dba256 Gallery which is located in the heart of downtown Pomona’s Arts Colony.

Works by notable Inland Region artists include Karl Benjamin, Alexander Couwenberg, John Divola, Tim Ernst, Robbert Flick, Sant Khalsa (with poetry by B.H. Fairchild), Doug McCulloh, Thomas McGovern, Susan Rankaitis, Sandra Rowe, Paul Soldner and Larry White. Critical essay by Peter Frank. For more info, visit:

At first glance, it's not the kind of I.E. art I'm necessarily interested or invested in. It's a bit 57-centric and I'm definitely more 6oFWY, but I'm guaranteed to make a research stop nonetheless. Plus, I actually really do admire Flick's work conceptually and aesthetically. I can't make the reception on the 13th, however, because of the ASA conference in Philly this weekend. Anyone interested in a Pomona adventure before the end of October?


Devil in the "Details"

I woke up this morning to Ben Affleck's face on my doorstep. Another sign of the apocalypse. And another sign that it's time to get crackin' on finishing (or starting to finish) Relocations. This month's issue of "Details" unfurled to reveal not only Ben's "serious face" and dewey chin-dimple, but a teaser headline about "Why the Suburbs are Cooler than Downtown" (?!?!?!?) Talk about zeitgeist. Or is this just more proof that The Secret works? Anyway, I could rant ad nauseum about why the article is lame and why the idea of a "cool style culture" relocating to the 'burbs is totally NOT what I'm saying in my project. People always assume.

But then I'd have to explain why I subscribe to Details in the first place. (Note to self: consider cutting wispy man-bangs off this week). In the meantime, check out the Details guide to the "hottest 'burbs" below. I'm sad/glad to see that the I.E. is nowhere to be found on the list.

FR. DETAILS, November 2007

Naperville, 30 miles west of Chicago, has the character—innovative restaurants, independent shops, fairs and festivals—that the city has started to lose.

Set in the foothills of the San Gabriel and Verdugo mountains, Montrose is just 20 minutes by car from downtown L.A. It feels more like a small town than a suburb—albeit one with a nationally recognized wine and cheese shop, Goudas & Vines.

An hour from Grand Central on the Metro-North railroad, Cold Spring has panoramic views of the Hudson River, good restaurants, downshifting creative types from the city, and proximity to the vibrant art scene of Beacon.

Mill Valley: Across the Golden Gate, 10 minutes north of San Francisco, you’ll find a renowned farmer’s market, outdoor tai chi classes, redwoods, and canyons—and not a Gap store in sight.

Takoma Park, Maryland, one of Washington’s first suburbs, is more affordable than other neighborhoods and has a great variety of restaurants. It’s a little crunchy, but it’s hard to argue with the well-regarded schools and impressive music and arts festivals.

Twenty minutes west of Boston, Waltham is home to Brandeis University and has the sophistication of a college town without Boston’s hordes of overserved undergraduates. The restaurants around Moody Street provide city-quality offerings.


Gold and L.A.C.E.

A quick preview of what to expect from the Emperor's Suburban-themed listening party at L.A.C.E. this March 2008.

I. SOLID GOLD (is this the real life? is this just fantasy?)

II. P.O.T.H.


The Raincross Connection + Virgo Roll Call

Looks like Riverside's signature Raincross (R), the civic symbol originally designed as a logo for the Mission Inn, has had something of a gangsta and Hot Topic-inspired crossover. My gal pal J-Stack (maiden name, J-Sto), must really be homesick for the 'Side now that she's professing in Binghamton, because she took time out during her first hectic weeks on the job to send me this:

(click title for full story in the Press Enterprise)

As if there weren't enough raincrosses around Riverside, the ubiquitous bell and double-barred cross has been appropriated by gangsters, graffiti artists, and teenagers in general...

Riverside adopte
d the raincross as an official city symbol in 1968, and it is featured in the new city logo selected in 2005. More than an official emblem, it has seeped into Riverside's collective consciousness.The raincross is stamped in concrete overpasses, shaped into gates and fences, printed on the sides of garbage cans and on city street signs. Police patches feature a raincross. Businesses all over town use the image on their signs and stationery. The Mission Inn and downtown stores sell raincross ties, key rings, jewelry and more. The ladies wearing $2,500 diamond-encrusted raincross necklaces from Marden Jewelers might be shocked to hear it, but Riverside police often see gang members with raincross tattoos paired with gang numbers and letters.

Something tells me we'll be peepin' some of these on L.A. Ink in the very near future.

The Emperor had a very lovely birthday in the I.E. tha
t kicked off the Virgo season and sullied the Raincross in several ways. I'm not one to share felonious details, so let's stick to the horoscope stuff. Virgos have been going through a rough zodiacal patch lately (what with the eclipses in our sign and all the power, tumult, health issues and transition they bring), so I thought we all deserved a big Imperial shout-out and virtual hug! Here's the Virgo roll call as my calendar, ravaged liver and wounded pocketbook remember it:

Aug. 23 - Yours Truly
Aug. 28 - Joon Oluchi Lee*
Aug. 29 -
Molly McG* & Rosi Pahl (ex-mutti out-law)
Sept. 2 - JTizzle, Anjali A., and Ms. Mark Ng (who had a huge Three-Oh! bash at the Bungalow Club)
Sept. 7 - Gabriela M.
Sept. 8 - Alexis L.
Sept. 9 - Marcia O.
Sept. 13 - ML aka "Moe" Cheng
Sept. 19 - sistah out-law, Helen Cutler

Hit me up on email if you'd like to be added to the roll call, or if I screwed up your date. 'Til then, lay low and let's soothe ourselves by re-organizing our cupboards (literally and spiritually) while looking at the stars and seeing how they shine for us...

*I accidentally flipped Joon and Molly's bdays. But as Ms. McSpiritFingers herself reminded me, she shares the 29th with "wacko Jacko," the artist formerly known as Michael Jackson.


Emperors of the Felt: Poker Stars from The 'Side

Hometown boys alert!

Two of the poker profession's greatest young players are Inland Emperors. Phil Ivey (L) and Allen Cunningham (R below) were both born in good ol' Riverside, CA. Each have 5 WSOP (World Series of Poker) bracelets, and Cunningham was named the WSOP Player of the Year in 2005.

Ivey actually grew up in New Jersey, which is, let's face it, an entire state with a Riverside
ethos. Cunningham, though, stayed here in So. Cal, and even attended my college alma mater, UCLA, before giving up on his engineering degree for the pleasure and profit of the felt. The dude couldn't afford NOT to quit school to become a poker pro. Cunningham raked in bank at the cash games at the card rooms off the 5 and 110 (The Bike, Commerce, Hustler) before he moved to Vega$ to "work" full time.

As some of you may know, I fantasize about this scenario all the time,
and have recently started hitting up the card rooms on a bi-monthly basis to keep the "live game" skills sharp. In fact, I'm going to quit smoking at the end of the month so I have a modest tournament bankroll to play with.

I started playing poker in my first year of grad school ('96-'97) with galpals and manfriends from my Berkeley English Department cohort. We knocked back shots of Jameson and bottles of filling, Bay Area micro-brewed beers (why?!?), while playing mixed, low-stakes cash games like Hold 'Em, Anaconda hi-lo, your 5 and 7 card varieties of stud, Black Mariah, Queen's Baseball, and even our own made-up games like "Cabin Fever" (4 up, 4 down, no one wins). It was a great way to blow off steam. As I learned in my eerily accurate horoscope today, strategic card games like "pinochle and poker" are a perfect way for Virgos to unwind when they aren't using housecleaning as therapy. All of us needed our poker time to get sloppy, maneuver, act-out, be sexy, clever or weak--things we weren't allowed to express in our everyday grad school lives. The cards and the game were a repository for all our displaced competitive energies and fears of failure. We dealt by shuffling up and dealing.

This probably explains why the poker world is filled with former academics, teachers, and lots of Ivy Leaguers, from Yale homegame compatriots like
Alex Jacob (2006 US Poker Champ) and Vanessa Selbst (heroic butch final tablist at the 2006 WSOP Hold 'Em Pot Limit Event--pictured L), to Andy Bloch from the infamous MIT Blackjack Team. Nicknamed the "Professor of Poker," Howard Lederer and his bad girl sister, Annie Duke, are the children of a boarding school English instructor. Their Harvard-educated parents, now divorced, jokingly refer to themselves as "The greatest breeders of poker players in the country." Even the infamous "Poker Brat," Phil Hellmuth, ended up marrying a woman from the Stanford University psychiatry department. Ah....a match made in heaven. Or perhaps required by social services.

Poker is also the profession for choice for lots of badass immigrant Asian dudes and their sleek and sexy "dragon lady" counterparts (as ESPN likes to hype them). It all started with the legendary Johnny Chan, whose skills were immortalized in Matt Damon's poker flick, Rounders. Some prefer the mulleted "Prince of Poker," Scotty Nguyen, or the trash-talking Men "the Master." And we all gotta give it up to the "soft and silent" Indonesian national hero, Johnny Juanda, and lady sharps like Dee Luong and the media darling, Asian-Canadian sistah Evelyn Ng (R).

As for me, I've been ramping up my Hold 'Em game this summer. Kangagi and I have been lucky enough to find a cool posse of dykes of color scatttered up and down the 5, 105 and 405 FWYS for regular home games, tourney excursions, and tribal casino trips. I've won big (Pechanga). I've lost big (Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas). I've made it to 5 final tables for 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 9th place finishes (out of 90 players) in the 2K "play money" tourneys on Full Tilt. And I've experienced full tilt after bad beats in cash games against the zumanity at the Riviera, or even just in our homegame at the hands of Maria "bulitlit" Butalid, our resident "Just For You" pocket-rocket demon.

All this is to say that if you combine my cumulative poker experience with all of the nature/nurture/kismet called forth by the demographies I discussed above--Inland Emperors, Asian immigrants, and disgruntled academics--a future with poker is definitely "in my cards." (Kick drum, cymbal crash).

Cue Belle and Sebastian's "It Could've Been a Brilliant Career."

If any of you out there on the "interweb" from the Greater or Lesser Los Angeles area would like to hook up with our modest home tourneys and cash games (with buy-ins at anywhere from $10-$25, and a winner take all or 1st-3rd place payout structure), holler via email.

The more, the merrier and the bigger the prize pool.

Let's shuffle up and deal, yo!


Balikbayan II: The Multimedia Round-Up

Cue the Pinay sing-along...

Mr DJ, can I make a request?
Puwede ba 'yung love song ko?
Mr DJ, para sa 'kin ito
Sana ay okay sa iyo

Hihintayin ko na patugtugin mo
Thank you ulit sa iyo

Kahit luma na ang aming awit

Nais po ring marinig

[PIC: My dreamy mirror-stage view from the balcony of our rental in Makati]

Kahit man lang sa aking alaala

ay makasama ko siya
Nasaan man siya
mayro'n mang iba
ito'y para sa kaniya
At sana'y nakikinig siya
naaalala kaya niya?
Ang love song namin noon
na niluma na ng panahon

Mr DJ, salamat sa iyo
sumasabay din ako
sa love song namin noon
na niluma na ng panahon...

That voice, ladies and gentiles, belongs to none other than the Philippines' reigning grande dame of cinematic love teams and saccharine song-stylings, Sharon Cuneta. In "Mr. DJ," Sharon's 12-year old croon sounds mature for its age, but still endearingly coltish. "Mr. DJ" was her breakout hit way back in 1978, the same year my mo
m and I first left the Philippines to move to the States. I was 5. Sharon Cuneta was my first unrequited crush. How could a budding lesbeaux not fall in love with her or this song ?!? She asks Mr. DJ (quite politely, peppering her refrain with lots of "thank you's" and apologies) to play her favorite love song just in case her dear heart will hear it and remember their time together, even though her beloved is with someone else and the song itself is old. [RIGHT: Sharon retro tee at the Mall of Asia, Pasay City. The largest mall in--you guessed it--Asia. Oh were I small enough to fit in the petite Pinay sizes!]

Like the pubescent girl singing sweetly to Mr. DJ instead of directly to her lover (gotta appreciate the Catholic mediation), I felt
both sentimental and hopeful when I got to Manila. Hopeful that I'd hear, smell and taste the things I knew, while sounding, smelling and feeling familiar enough to my luma ("old") love.

Ang love song namin noon na niluma na ng panahon
(Roughly: The love song that was ours back then, that now ages with the passing days...)

[ABOVE LEFT: Reunion at the Iloilo airport with Tita Mellie, my 75-year old great aunt (grandma's sis), and Bibing, who is technically my aunt but more like a big sis in our extended-fam "compound" in San Antonio Village, Pasig, Metro Manila. RIGHT: Onas family portrait. The baby on the dashing gent's knee is my grandma, Linda Onas Katindig; the girl in the pink dress is Tita Mellie Onas Morales; the adults are my great grandparents...Lola Salud Penuela Onas in the carefree years before WWII.]

The strange thing about it is that Mr. DJ, or rather the collective DJ's of everyday culture--the cab and Jeepney drivers blasting their radios; the barkers at the beach bars in Bora'; the "Palawan Idol" winner singing "More than Words" & Jobim classics between shifts tending bar at El Nido; the Manila Municipal government who use swanky sound systems to pipe soft rock into Rizal Park (the city's monument to the slain national hero, Jose Rizal)-- all managed to play the old songs that were mine.

Para sa 'kin ito.

This is for me.

Of course I know it wasn't really just for me. But my Balikbayan narcissism and diasporic sentimentality allowed me to experience the everyday soundscapes of Manila, Iloilo,
Palawan and Boracay as my own personal audiotopias. (I've been really into reading Josh Kun's book lately).

[MONTAGE: Street scenes
from Chinatown and Divisoria; (R) Rizal Park].

Maybe some of that narcissism has to do with the musical legacy, for b
etter or worse, of my mom's side of the family. The Katindig clan are often remembered as the Latin Jazz "innovators" of the Philippines. In the late 1950's my grandpa, Romy Katindig, and his 4 bros lead the Latin charge with their shiny tight suits and wicked mambo king looks. I'll try to scan a picture for a future edition of The I. Emperor.

My mom's bro
Boy Katindig is carrying on the family name, I suppose, but in the "smooth jazz" realm. Yes, his name is "Boy," like Boy George--but to all you folks not fluent in Pinoyisms out there, "Boy" is the nickname given to the eldest son in just about every Pinoy fam. Anyway, my mom made a go of it for awhile as a budding popstar in Manila. But regardless of her success, she could never get any respect for being the "girl singer" in the fam and it pisses me off to this day. We've all let some of that baggage go ever since my grandfather died in '89...let's just say the macho music man bullshit is something I have experience with, first hand. Anyway...

The same night I landed in Manila, I had a chance to see my great uncle Ed
die (grandpa's older bro) work the vibraphone during his weekly gig at Merk's, one of the last remaining 24/7 jazz clubs in the city. Tito Eddie, otherwise known as Eddie K or "the Filipino Kenny G" for his saxational stylings, has been taking a break from the sax, which as some of you know is my instrument too. He's now revisting the instruments he played back when he was in the band with my grandpa Romy. Here's a glimpse of him vibing it up:

Richard Merk, the owner of the club and an old family friend, is a Dean Martin-inspired playboy and
crooner who was once linked to the "icon of Philippine cinema," and "the actress of the people," Nora Aunor. That night at the club, through my San Miguel "Strong Ice" goggles, I was was shocked to see Tito Eddie looking so old. It had been awhile since he stayed with us in the I.E. as part of his ill-fated attempt to immigrate to the states. After a botched marriage of greencard convenience with a "working woman" he hooked up with in L.A., he was deported back to Manila. But I digress....As a gal pal exclaims in the video, "he can still kick it!"

[MONTAGE: (L) Merk and Me after too many Chivases on the rocks; (R) from left to right, Kangagi, Blissie, Merk, Joya, Tito Eddie and yours truly, bloated
after platefulls of Bangus belly (Bottom L) Merk giving me and Tito Eddie an Earful. Am I dressed like these dudes, or what?!?]

Most of o
ur time in Manila involved reunions and sentimental surprises scored to pop, jazz and Pinoy indie rock. Seeing the uncles and aunts who I grew up with, and with whom I scampered away from the ghosts supposedly shacked up in the ancient Duhat tree in our carport, made me remember how much I hate the bullshit interactions of the profession and other uptight situations. I mean, my balikbayan journey to Manila had the potential to be as artificial as it gets--all the burdens of family reunion that require manufactured sentiments for the long lost cousin/niece/pet. But as I mentioned in my previous post, it was easier than I could've imagined, and for that, rewardingly complex. It all flowed and me and my original homies--Tito Ogie, Tito Jojo, Tita Bing--picked up where we left off. It was as if nothing had really changed except for our waistlines, hairlines, and in my case, my accent. I've resolved to go back as soon as possible. And not just because of the sexy beaches with polvoron sand. [(R) Puka Beach, Bora] I just want to see them again. Color me emo. I certainly don't plan on waiting another 24 years...

Honestly, I was stumped when the Merk called me out from the crowd during Tito Eddie's show and asked me to tell everyone what I thought had changed in the 24 years since I was last home. I made a crack about "democracy" and everyone, including the senators in the audience catching some "sounds" and gin, laughed. The real answer? Everything and nothing. I know what I'm saying right now sounds eerily similar to the the final scene in the stage production of Dogeaters. But give it up to la Hagedorn for hitting the nail on the head with that one, and for reaping the corniness for all its scrumptious truth. What can I say? I'm a sucker for dramatic symmetry. A child of the corn(y).

[(R) Building a mystery...strolling through the garrisons at Intramuros, the original walled city that
was Manila during the Spanish Occupation]

Again, all of these feelings require more than words. (OK, lame song title riff, but it's my blog and as far as I know, no one really reads it). I'll let the pictures paint a thousand words...The reason I know all the lyrics to "Feelings," and Bread's "If"?

Ako'y isang Pinoy!