The Return of eLf ideas

ideas of an eLven being in Canada

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Inbetween (Hey)days

December 25, 2005

Last night, we spent Christmas Eve at the house of the family of Tito Badong's brother Ruel. I enjoy family reunions like that; it reminds me of the family reunions (on my side of the family) that I used to attend in my youth. I love witnessing the joy children exude as they wait for the opening of the gifts.

Most of the time I just ate there and listened to the chats. I also sang several songs on the videoke. I never thought that I'd be singing songs (discounting when I'm by myself) by the likes of Basil Valdez, Lionel Ritchie, and Ogie Alcasid.

Aside from the smiles I managed to curve while watching Santa Lorraine (Ruel's wife dressed as Santa Claus) distribute the gifts, nothing much made me excited. I still miss home--the Philippines. I miss Mom, Dad, my sisters, nephews, niece, and friends. I miss Charlotte. I miss the Christmas moments when all I did was lie there on the couch and listen to music while watching the children play with their new toys.

Oh how I wish I can be able to spend next Christmas in the Philippines; but at the rate of my advancement here in Canada, I'm afraid I still couldn't. But by hook or by crook, I will return home in 2007.

Around midday, we attended mass at St. Francis Xavier Church. We then had lunch at Tremendous Chinese Restaurant. The food was great! I ate mostly siomai.

Back at the house, I helped Lola Flor in the kitchen.

Tito George (Lola Flor's youngest son) and his family--Tita Agnes and their children, Aaron and Grace--paid us a visit. He told me again that, in case I needed to go somewhere to meet my friends, he'd be free to drive me around. He wouldn't be back at work until January 3.

All of them were fond of Grandfather. I could see the gladness in his eyes and smiles. Lola Flor, in particular, kept on uttering that she cared so much for his brother especially that, among their brood, she and Grandfather are the closest with each other.

Tomorrow morning we would be going to Niagara; we'd be staying overnight at a hotel. At last, I'd be actually seeing the much talked-about Niagara Falls. I've already prepared a handful of pennies. ' gotta make a number of wishes.

The human heart is really unstable. Yesterday I wrote some rants which would surely come across as hurtful to some people close to me. But now, I feel guilty for having written such outpouring. In fact, I was thinking of deleting the said blog entry, or at least editing portions of it; but what for? I finally decided to leave it that way. All human beings are like that anyway...

resentful yesterday, pitiful today
envious a while ago, generous all of a sudden
open-minded, blinded once in a while
happy now, lonely later
feeling smart...
...not excused from doing dumb and stupid things.

At the end of it all, I thank my deities for gifting me the ability to analyze my own psyche. That way, I would no longer be needing the help of a shrink. That way, I can be sure that insanity is yet to knock on my door.

Yesterday I got so old I felt like I could die...
Yesterday I got so old it made me want to cry...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Worst Year of My Life

December 24, 2005

My deities! Not only to all of you but also for myself that I'm feeling guilty and sorry. I have so many stories and ideas to share, as always, but I'm unable to linger on the PC longer; add to that, the PC's too slow that it couldn't accommodate photo uploading and other stuff.

I also noticed that my ranking on the Pinoy Top Blogs has rocketed from 32 to 52! Even I missed my usually lengthy rants and moonings. Oh, I have really to catch up and compensate for this on my return to Winnipeg.

Yes, I am able to go to the malls (with my cousins) once in a while, but I just realized that the "freedom" I'm yearning for will always be elusive as long as I remain to be Grandfather's caregiver. Several weeks before December, I was looking forward to this Ontario vacation; because I thought that it would serve as an "escape" from Grandfather. I was wrong. I now acknowledge the fact that regardless where I am, as long as I am with Grandfather, I will always be a prisoner. And I'm sad because of that.

From about midnight until morning, Grandfather has to void on an hourly frequency. Yes, I'm not exaggerating nor speaking figuratively; Grandfather goes up every hour, and I, of course, have to assist him lest he might make a mess of urine all over the bedroom or the washroom. And I feel so much helpless and frustrated about this. I couldn't have a proper sleep. Sometimes, I just gnash my teeth and contort my face just to vent out the anger and resentment...until I fall on a sob on the pillow.

I know that most of you will say that I should understand Grandfather, for he's already 90. Of course, I very well understand his condition...considering the fact that I've been his caregiver for two years and a half now. It's not that I don't understand him. In fact, I very well understand and know his condition. I'm a nurse, remember? Add to that, Psychology and Psychiatry are included on my list of favorite subjects.

The problem is simple! The burden of physically and emotionally taking care of Grandfather has been thrown solely at me for quite sometime now. And I could no longer soften the blow and impact. I feel like I'm more burdenened than someone who has an infant to nurture.

Not that I'm ranting...err...okay, I'm ranting. And it's Chirstmastime! Oh well.

I feel like listing my Christmas wishes and my New Year's resolution...but then I just realized that I don't need to make a list for I have only a few...

Christmas wish - that my status may soon become a "permanent resident" so I may begin looking for a real job, start to save money for my planned homecoming in 2007, and finally free myself from Grandfather.

Christmas resolution - I will try to eat more to compensate for my lack of sleep.

Yes, this may come across as being ungrateful and unconscientious but I declare! as soon as I become a permanent resident, thus allowing me to work in a real job, I will no longer take care of Grandfather. The time that I sacrificed--the heartaches, loneliness, pennilessness, feelings of worthlessness, resentments, harsh words, oh the list goes on and on--IS enough!

I have my own life to take care of and own dreams and plans to pursue. My relatives should be more mature (than I am) to realize that they cannot leave Grandfather's fate completely in my hands. By the time I become an immigrant I will have done my part...done my share. I'm itching to make a detailed list of all the sacrifices I continue to make as well as the failure of my relatives to "see" my sorry plight, but never mind; I'm not that cruel.

Just let me earn my freedom back (Do I have to earn it?) Perhaps, the proper words are: Give me back my freedom! Give me back my life!

My feelings have been lynched for so long. I want to be able to feel again how to sleep alone on a bed, how to wake up in the morning without having someone to look after if he's still breathing or what, how to walk normally, how to eat every mealtime without having someone to feed, how to think and care again only for myself.

For me, the word caregiver has long lost its meaning. Yes, I am my Grandfather's caregiver...I am the one who "gives" him "care" day in, day out, every day, every night, virtually twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week! BUT the care I've been giving him is no longer a kind of care which is being given wholeheartedly.

I have become a robot. I give the care no longer because I pity and care for Grandfather; I am giving the care only because I have to, I need to, and I have no other choice for the meantime but to sacrifice my own life.

And my mind is already numb!

All I'm waiting for is to finish this unasked-for task...and I will be totally out of this.

For good! For myself! And for the people whom I want to take care of.

A lonely Christmas to myself.

And a hopeful New Year nonetheless.

Pardon me for being a quite bad eLf this Yuletide season; in fact I didn't buy anything for anyone...not even a postcard or a greeting card...not even if for my parents, sisters, nephews, niece, and fiancee who are all in the Philippines.

Not that I don't care for them...but simply because of the lack of enough money and time and chance to go to the mall on my own.

Forgive me; for the first time in my life, I have been doing my Christmas shopping for no one else but myself.

I have bought another furry coat, pants, and a book. In the coming days, I will buy a new DM boots, another pair of pants, a number of books, and other stuff for myself.

This season, I will be materialistically self-centered for the meantime. Much of everything that I'll be doing, will be for no one but myseLf!

I was born guilty...

Alone, this is the worst year of my life...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dreams Never End

December 22, 2005, Thursday

Believe me, I'm feeling guilty for being unable to greet most friends this season. In fact, I am yet to mail any postcard or greeting card. For one, preparing for this Ontario vacation preoccupied much of the first week of December. Next, my use of the Internet is currently limited, so I couldn't even write a proper Yuletide message to my friends. My family? I just compensated by calling them via phone.

Friends and acquaintances, forgive me. I may have not greeted you personally, but all of you are never forgotten. I'll make it up next year. Hehehe.

Around 6 p.m., cousins Rommel and Jhucel and I went to NoFrills (a store) to pick up their mom, Tita Cecil. We then proceeded to Square One because Tita Cecil would buy some gifts.

For my Christmas gift to myself, I was able to buy a new coat and a dark-brown corduroy pants. The items were on sale; I got the coat for only C$30, and the pants for C$40. I am yet to buy my Doc Martens boots. I hope to find a store selling fancy-styled DM boots when we check out downtown Toronto.

As I said, my blog entries these days are relatively short and unimaginative. No pictures to accompany them as well.

Again, Merry Christmas to everyone. Happy New Year too! I don't even know why I'm using the words merry and happy when I couldn't even feel the Christmas air despite the snow and the breeze.

...It's Christmas time; there's no need to be afraid...

Oh well. Don't be afraid, little eLf. And worry not, Yuletide season will be merry and happy once again. Just continue to be hopeful. And dream some more.

Dreams never end.

Monday, December 19, 2005

First Entry in Ontario

December 19, 2005

Grandfather and I arrived in Ontario safely (in Mississauga specifically). The flight was only about two and a half hours. Tito George (a second cousin of my mother) and Lola Flor (Grandfather's youngest sister) picked us up.

In terms of the weather, Ontario is much better than Manitoba. There's also snow everywhere, but the coldness is more tolerable.

In the past few days, I got to check out two malls, Woodbine Centre and Square One, which were both awesome--lots of shops to check out and the mall people were much more diverse than those in either Metrotown in British Columbia or any mall in Manitoba.

I am yet to visit the "center" of Ontario--downtown Toronto; perhaps, one of these days; anyway, we'll be staying here until January 28.

For obvious reasons, I couldn't stay on the PC much longer than I used to back in Manitoba. So, this means, shorter entries for the meantime. More so, I guess I won't be able to post pictures or any other file for a while. I'll just compensate for this on my return to Manitoba.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Goodbye, Manitoba; Hello, Ontario

December 14, 2005, Wednesday

Our bags are packed, we're all ready for our 5:50 a.m. flight tomorrow. Grandfather and I are scheduled to arrive at the Toronto airport at 9:15 a.m. We will be staying at the house of Grandfather's youngest sister, 80-year-old Lola Flor, from December 15 to January 28. So, that means I'd be spending the rest of the Yuletide season as well as my birthday there.

I just hope that there's a computer there which I may use.

See you, all folks! This is eLf, signing off for the meantime.

The Chefs of Dream Kitchen

(Reposted, with new photos)
In late 1996 to 2000, my band Half Life Half Death was dead. Rhythm-guitarist Pet de Jesus had finally migrated to Paris, France, to pursue his study of the French language and work as an interpreter at the same time; now a successful lawyer, lead-guitarist Rain Paggao was then in self-exile conditioning himself for the bar exams; bassist Ramil Aznar was busy preparing for his and my sister Lovelle's wedding; drummer Bimbo Ballesteros was adjusting to his newfound job; and I had just been promoted to a supervisory position at my job.

Never got to be whole again

Despite the professional circumstance which was keeping each of us busy, the eagerness to perform again onstage never left my heart. More painstaking to remember was the sad fact that Half Life Half Death parted ways in late 1996 in a not-so-friendly term, in the midst of the promotional activities for our one-and-only album, Pymyth Prahn (1995, Viva Records). Just like how many other successful bands disintegrated, we drifted apart from one another because of petty arguments, musical differences, change of priorities, irreconcilable schedules, and all other heaps of disappointments that mountained into resentments. These dark paragraphs in the biography of Half Life Half Death merit a separate blog article of its own. Anyway...

' good thing is, we were able to reconcile our differences and let bygones be bygones; for, in 2000, I (vocalist), Rain (guitarist), Ramil (bassist), Bimbo (drummer), and former Half Life members Edmund Villafuerte (keyboardist) and Ambet Taylo (violinist) reformed the band.

Reunited Half Life Half Death (Ambet, Rain, Bimbo, I, Ramil) in 2000, playing a gig at Mayric's

We got to perform again at various clubs that included Mayric's, Culture Club, and Ritual de lo Habitual (Mandaluyong City); but this reformation didn't last long either, mainly because we could no longer afford to juggle the band with our top priorities. Rain, Ramil, Edmund, and Ambet already have families and children of their own. My taxing job as an editor of scholastic publications could no longer warrant me the same free time I used to enjoy. The highschool boys who started a New Wave band a dozen years ago had grown up and become men after all.

Half Life Half Death (Rain, Ramil, I, Bimbo, Edmund) headlining a concert party, "A Night like This," on November 29, 2001, at Culture Club in Libis, Quezon City

"The Pan Within" (The Waterboys), "Tanya" (Camper van Beethoven), and "A Night like This" (The Cure) are the songs that will best remind me of this particular period of Half Life Half Death's activity. They were always included on our playlist.

DOWNLOAD Half Life Half Death's live rendition of The Cure's "A Night like This," which we included on our playlist for an eponymous concert party we headlined in November 2001 at Culture Club in Libis, Quezon City, Philippines.

The chefs of Dream Kitchen
After about a year without any band activity, sometime in early 1997, my itch to perform again was eventually relieved when my friends Aldrin Cardona (vocalist/guitarist), Gilbert "Bebet" Tiongson (drummer), Gremar Bernil (guitarist), and Vincent "Bong" Torres (bass)collectively known as Dream Kitcheninvited me to join them as lead vocalist. The chemistry was natural, for we were friends to begin with (Half Life Half Death and Dream Kitchen used to play at the same gigs) and, above all, we shared the same genre preferenceNew Wave. After only a couple of practice sessions, mastering a playlist of about a dozen and a half songs, Dream Kitchen had a new vocalist. I also got to play keyboards at a few occasions.

Dream Kitchen's playlist during those times included "Girls and Boys" (Blur), "The Ghost in You" (Counting Crows cover of The Psychedelic Furs song) "But Not Tonight" (Depeche Mode), "True Fools Fall" (Died Pretty), "Bring On the Dancing Horses" and "Don't Let It Get You Down" (Echo & the Bunnymen), "Only for You" (The Essence), "Say Something" (James), "Pure" (The Lightning Seeds), "Leave Me Alone" (New Order), "Waterfall" (Riverside), "Blushing Girl, Nervous Smile" (The Wallflowers UK), "The Worst Year of My Life" and "Immaculate" (The Wild Swans), "Sumigaw, Umawit Ka" (Identity Crisis), and "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (Band-aid). Deliberately no The Cure songs, for The Cure was very much associated with Half Life Half Death and I didn't want this to cast a shadow on the blossoming identity of Dream Kitchen.

After several fairly wellattended gigs at Mayric'smostly during the early days of the club's monthly "Back to the Edge" New Wave partiesand several major concerts with other Filipino Alternative Rock bands like Moonstar 88, True Faith, and Wolfgang, we decided to concentrate on our original materials. Some of these compositions included "Dreamhouse," "For Her Brilliance," "Gilbert's Dream," "Long Been Walking on My Hands," "My Chocolate Mousse," "The Neverending Why," "Noodle Society," "Silver Spoon on My Mouth," "Vanilla Float," and "Buhay-Karnabal."

During this era, the bands with which Dream Kitchen used to perform included Advent Call, Alamid, Dead Pop Stars, Jett Pangan Group, Poetic Sparks, Raincrowd, Sophiya's Labyrinth, and Sugar Hiccup.

half baked delicacies
I could sense that Dream Kitchen was fading away, chiefly because everyone was getting busier and busier with his professional work; add to that, all except I already have families of their own; especially busy was Aldrin, whose job as a newspaper editor usually had him covering sport events outside the country. So, before Dream Kitchen had inevitably disintegrated, I was able to convince the guys to enter a recording studio to "preserve" whatever delicacies we had concocted.

In the midpart of 1999, armed with five arranged and well-practiced songs ("For Her Brilliance," "Vanilla Float," "The Neverending Why," "Silver Spoon on My Mouth," and "Buhay-Karnabal"), we finally entered Purple Studios in Sampaloc, Manila, Metro Manila, and recorded the songs in, unfortunately, four tracks. The lack of budget was the major reason that prevented us from availing the services of a modest 24-track recording studio. Anyway, the prospect of creating a well-produced album at this brittle stage was already out of the question; the agenda was, record whatever songs we could finish for posterity and for whatever purpose these might serve in the future. In retrospect, this endeavor is now serving its purpose; for without those demoes, I would be certainly having a hard time re-arranging and re-recording those songs now for a possible new album.

DOWNLOAD those Dream Kitchen demo songs, which I have now compiled to become a mini-album, entitled half baked delicacies. As the title suggests, the songs were hastily recorded; and this was due to our lack of time and money in 1999. Nevertheless, I think that the lyrics and melodies of the songs had very well captured my emotions during the time when I wrote them. As usual, my lyricism revolved around my two favorite themes: friendship and the bittersweetness of life.

The chefs finally took off their toques
As I predicted, Aldrin had to bow out of the band several weeks after the "Purple" recording session. Jon Santos, then-guitarist of another band named Gypsy Grind, replaced him. Bong, on the other hand, began to devote his time to his other band and eventually handed to Gremar the position he had soon vacated. The gigs continued; but despite the new and revitalized lineup, we felt that the time to close down the kitchen had finally come.

In December 1999, the chefs finally took off their toques and left the kitchen. (Strangely and unfortunately, I was unable to salvage any photograph of the band.) After the band, I focused my energy on my professional daytime job, Gremar formed a professional band, Bebet joined 6Cyclemind, and Jon became the drummer of Poetic Sparks.

Poetic Sparks: After his stint with Dream Kitchen as guitarist, Jon Santos (standing, farthest left) has since joined this band as a drummer. Poetic Sparks is another New Wave–influenced Filipino band.

As I already mentioned above, Half Life Half Death got to reform in 2000, a few months after the demise of Dream Kitchen; but the reformation was again shortlived. It's good to realize that because each of us had/has a professional daytime job, the blow of a band breakup was never hard to take. Besides, we always remain in contact with each other.

The Last of The Halves
Around 2002, Aldrin and Bebet were sending me feelers about getting together again. Coincidentally, Rain, Ramil, and I had also been contemplating to reactivate Half Life Half Death. What else could we naturally think of but to join forces. So...

The last batch of Half Life Half Death on their last gig, in August 2003 at Mayric's, with Alamid

In the same year, the last batch of Half Life Half Death emerged: Aldrin on rhythm guitars, Rain on lead guitars, Ramil on bass, Bebet on drums, and I, vocalist as usual. This time, we speeded our phase and began concentrating and working on original materials. Our main goal was to release an album. We began spreading the news that Half Life Half Death would be soon releasing its long-overdue second album. We were even invited for a few interviews for music publications which included Pulp magazine (courtesy of Giselle Roque, who conducted the interview and wrote the article). However...

In May 2003, my application to work in Canada as my maternal grandfather's caregiver had finally been approved. Three months after, I left the country—happy for the new world that awaited me, yet so sad for I'd be leaving not only my family, friends, and the band but more so the life that I'd enjoyed for more than thirty years...the old world that had been so good to me.

I asked my bandmates to finish what we started, but they unanimously told me that Half Life Half Death could not exist without me.

In the following year, 2004, Bebet, Aldrin, Rain, and Ramil took in a female vocalist and adopted a new name; thus born SuperKat and the Pussyboys. However, having a female vocalist seemed to have not clicked for, after only a few gigs, the guys reverted to being a quartet using the new moniker Rubik's Cubes (later The Cubes). As usual, Rain's busy life as a lawyer got in the way. He soon quit the band, consequently crumbling the cubes for good.

The ninth anniversary of "Back to the Edge" New Wave parties at Mayric's: The Cubes, with Dead Pop Stars' vocalist, Pogz, and Sophiya's Labyrinth's vocalist, Ruth, jamming with them

Postscript: Dream Kitchen is back! (although, without the eLf)

A few months ago, Aldrin relayed to me the news that they decided to reactivate Dream Kitchen as a four-piece—he (guitarist), Bong (bass), Bebet (drums), and former Half Life Half Death bassist Ramil (vocalist and guitarist). They are currently playing gigs at various clubs in the Philippines, usually sharing the bill with other Alternative Rock / New Wave outfits such as Caffeine, Camote Chunks, Dead Pop Stars, The Late Isabel, Mang Temi's Canteen, Names Are for Tombstones, Sleepyheads, and Sheila & the Insects. Rain could not join them anymore for he is now a full-pledged member of Dead Pop Stars as guitarist.

Recently, Dream Kitchen re-arranged "16 Hours," a previously unreleased Half Life Half Death song, and recorded it for the compilation album entitled 8 Track, which also includes Mobster Manila ("Happy to Take You"), Sleepyheads ("Excitement Calls"), Sheila & the Insects ("Lemerson"), Food, Shelter & Clothing ("Okay"), Camote Chunks ("Miniskirt"), Mang Temi's Canteen ("Do You Know?"), and Names Are for Tombstones ("Watari Machine").

LISTEN to "16 Hours" and another Dream Kitchen song, "Bike Ride."

As of this writing, Bong had unfortunately quit the band because he with his other band had to go to China to work as professional musicians. Coincidentally, former chef Gremar (whose current band plays regular spots in China) was in the country, so he filled in Bong's position once again. However, since that Gremar and his own band will be back in China in January, Dream Kitchen is now looking for a new bass player.

Rain (with the red guitar) is now the guitarist of Dead Pop Stars, the Filipino band regarded as the Philippines' answer to The Smiths. And that's just fitting, for Rain has always been a a deadringer of The Smiths' guitarist Johnny Marr.

Gremar (the long-haired guy, farthest right) and his current band, Jam Trax, will be back in China in January.

I? The eLf is back to making music. He has just met a new friend, a traveling jester/multi-instrumentalist who goes by the name of Emong Payaso; and they are currently recording interesting stuff; but this now calls for another blog story.

First time to drink egg nog

December 6, 2005, Tuesday

Tito Ren and Tita Lucy arrived home from the grocery, and they had something for me: egg nog. Tito Ren said that the egg nog is available only during the Christmas season. He thought of buying some for me to taste. Admittedly, that was my first time to drink egg nog. An adventurous gastronome as I always am, I loved it! Imagine a mint-flavored fresh milk with a spicy tangy aftertaste. Yummy! I'll certainly buy some more and drink a glass of it every morning.

I'm now on a homestudy!

. .
December 5, 2005, Monday

It's been months since I first contemplated on enrolling for a correspondence study. My friend Connie Tuazon, a former officemate at Diwa Publishing who is also here in Winnipeg, was the one who recommended Stratford Career Institute. According to her, she was able to finish a two-year Health Aid course in just eight months while working full time. She said that, considering that I am home virtually all day and night, I could probably finish a two-year course much faster.

I would have chosen a Psychiatric Nursing course, especially that I was a Registered Nurse back in the Philippines; but taking something like that needs actual going back to a school. So, in the meantime that I am yet to free myself from being Grandfather's caregiver, I thought that Psychology is the best alternative. I believe that this correspondence study would be the best way to make my stay in the house more worthwhile and useful for myself.

And so, in the last week of November, I finally enrolled, paying the initial tuition fee via mail. Stratford Career Institute would send me the 24-lesson course materials module by module, depending on my own phase.

While waiting, I started preparing by reading the Psychology books I have here.

Finally, on December 5, Monday, the first module arrived. You could imagine the excitement on my face while I was opening the package.

I am yet to begin studying the first module because I am currently preoccupied with the things-to-do for our flight to Ontario on Thursday. I'll just bring the course materials with me and start my brow-burning there.

This will certainly be the start of a real higher-learning experience.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ontario, Here I Come

December 11, 2005, Sunday

After eating lunch at the food court of Garden City Shopping Centre, Grandfather and I made our last stop at a store called Winners, where I bought two scarves and a pair of mittens. I don't want to arrive at the Toronto airport on Thursday wearing an old scarf and a pair of worn-out mittens.

Yes, on Thursday, December the 15th, Grandfather and I will be going to Mississauga, Ontario (another Canadian province which is about two and a half hours' flight away from Manitoba where I presently am). We will be vacationing there (from December 15 to January 28), at the house of Grandfather's youngest sister, 80-year-old Lola Flor. And Toronto, the New York City of Canada, where there are lots of interesting shops and places to check out, will just be about an hour away.

As usual, I'm only half-excited with this trip, obviously because Grandfather is with me. What I really want and need is a vacation free of burden. Well, at least, I can probably go out in Ontario more often, for Lola Flor will always be in the house. I'm looking forward to meeting up with some of my friends there during weekends. They said that they would tour me around Toronto . I hope to find boutiques that sell fancy-colored Doc Martens boots. I remember seeing purple, orange, yellow, and green DMs back in Vancouver, but I didn't have money. Now, I think I deserve to shop around, especially that the season calls for it. I would love to have something like these for Christmas:

In a place where I continually yearn for the company, affection, and love of my family, best friends, and sweetheart, I will let material things satisfy me for the meantime.

At last! a bookshop at Garden City Shopping Centre

December 11, 2005, Sunday

Around lunchtime, Tito Gerry dropped us off (Grandfather and me) at Garden City Shopping Centre. We had to buy refills of Grandfather's medications. While the meds were being prepared, we went to the mall's food court and had lunch. I ordered Grandfather's favorite—Chinese food—at Manchu Wok, so that prodding him to eat would be easy. A big combo meal of fried rice, breaded shrimp with sweet-and-sour sauce, and roasted chicken was enough for the both of us. It was a great meal. ' see that smile of fullness? Hahaha!

While strolling around, I was surprised to see that there's already a Coles bookstore in the mall. At last, there's a bookshop at Garden City Shopping Centre! Now, I have one reason to get excited in going there; for, usually, I get bored doing the same routine: walking Grandfather around as if he was a pet dog, then seating on a bench beside him every time he gets tired, and staring aimlessly at the store windows.

The simple act of prodding Grandfather to eat every mealtime is very exhausting and frustrating.

Most of the books at Coles were on clearance sale! After about an hour, I proceeded to the cashier and paid C$35 for the seven new books to add to my collection. Compared to Chapters or the Coles at Polo Park Shopping Centre, this one has a fewer selection of books; but as a positivist might say, "Better a few books than no bookshop at all."

1. Eastern Philosophy: The Greatest Thinkers and Sages from Ancient to Modern Times by Kevin Burns (2004, Arcturus Publishing)

2. The Ultimate General Knowledge Quiz Book, compiled by Ken Russell and Philip Carter (2004, Arcturus Publishing)

3. The Book of Who, compiled by Rodrey Dale (2004, CRW Publishing)

4. The Book of What, compiled by Rodrey Dale (2004, CRW Publishing)

5. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1993, Wordsworths Edition Limited)

6. A Memoir of Misfortune by Su Xiao Kang (2001, Alfred A. Knopff)

7. Oriental Love Poems by Michelle Lovric (2003, Andrews McKeel Publishing)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Vol. 6: Give Me an Hour and I'll Give You Your Dream

.For the sixth volume of a dozen and a haLf favorites, I've compiled a decade-defying mix of female-fronted bands, originating from the '80s (The Glove, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Creatures) through the '90s (The Breeders, Madder Rose, Shelleyan Orphan) to the present (Frou Frou, The New Pornographers, Rilo Kiley). Having tied together all these artists based on similarities in style and musicality, I'm again proving a point that the so-called New Wave sound is no longer just an era or a music of the past; essentially, it has long become a legitimate genre of its own.

Of the nine featured bands, three are interestingly interrelated—The Glove, Siouxsie & the Banshees, and The Creatures—the connection with one another of which you will learn as you read the entry for each. Also worth noting is the connection between Shelleyan Orphan and The Cure. Perhaps this phenomenal sharing of band members is one reason many Alternative Rock bands display striking similarities and commonality in their musicality.

Volume 6: Give Me an Hour and I'll Give You Your Dream

The Breeders – Cannonball
The Breeders – Divine Hammer
The Creatures – Fury Eyes
The Creatures – Standing There
Frou Frou – It's Good to Be in Love
Frou Frou – Shh
Glove, the – Like an Animal
Glove, the – Punish Me with Kisses
Madder Rose – Panic On
Madder Rose – Ultra Anxiety (Teenage Style)
The New Pornographers – All for Swinging You Around
The New Pornographers– Miss Teen Wordpower
Rilo Kiley – My Slumbering Heart
Rilo Kiley – Portions of Foxes
Shelleyan Orphan – Burst
Shelleyan Orphan – Little Death
Siouxsie & the Banshees – The Killing Jar
Siouxsie & the Banshees – Tearing Apart

The Breeders was one of the female-fronted American bands that made waves in the '90s. The first time I heard "Cannonball" and "Divine Hammer," sometime around 1993, I was immediately hooked—infectious basslines, melodic guitar tracks, catchy vocal melodies. I remember how thirsty I was in the '90s for bands that had the "New Wave" element in their music. Not that I didn't dig the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, and Alice in Chains; but I knew that what I wanted were bands who wore the musical flamboyance of the '80s. The Breeders was one of these bands, and this was unsurprising because The Breeders was a collaborative project of Kim Deal of Pixies ("Here Comes Your Man") and Tanya Donnelly of Throwing Muses ("Bright Yellow Gun")—two important bands that originated in the '80s. Both songs, "Cannonball" and "Divine Hammer," come from the band's second album, Last Splash (1993). The last album of The Breeders is Title TK (2004).

The Creatures began in 1981 as a side project of the vocalist and the drummer of Siouxsie & the Banshees, Siouxsie Sioux and "Budgie" Peter Clarke. (The two eventually became husband and wife.) After garnering a number of relatively successful hits, The Creatures decided to become a fulltime outfit, consequently surpassing the longevity of the Banshees. What I like about The Creatures is the lush arrangement of their songs, which adopted an elaborate, tribal-influenced rhythm and percussions section. "Fury Eyes" and "Standing There," both from the first full-length album, Boomerang (1990), are best examples of this trademark. The latest album of The Creatures is Hail!, released in 2003 and re-released in 2004.

Frou Frou is an English duo composed of Guy Sigsworth (guitars, drums, bass, piano, synths, samplers) and Imogen Heap (vocals, guitars, drums, bass, piano, synths, samplers). I stumbled upon this band last year, through a music blog site. "It's Good to be in Love" and "Shh" come from Frou Frou's yet-to-be-followed-up debut album, Details (2002). Their music reminded me of the silkiness of Sixpence None the Richer ("Kiss Me") and the yodel and croon of Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries ("Ode to My Family").

The Glove is one of my favorite collaborative British bands, primarily because it was a collaborative project of two of my music heroes—Robert Smith of The Cure and Steven Severin of Siouxsie & the Banshees. The Glove was formed in 1983 mainly to serve as an outlet for Smith and Severin, who were both needing a worthwhile diversion from the exhausting activities of their respective bands. The Glove got to release only one album, Blue Sunshine (1983). Joining the duo was a female vocalist named Jeanette Landray, Severin's girlfriend at the time. "Like an Animal" and "Punish Me with Kisses" are my favorite The Glove tracks.

Madder Rose was an American band formed in the early '90s. When I first heard "Panic On" over the radio, I thought I was listening to a new song by Voice of the Beehive ("I Say Nothing"). "Ultra Anxiety (Teenage Style)," on the other hand, has the mild aggressiveness of Transvision Vamp ("Tell That Girl to Shut Up" – a Holly & the Italians original). "Panic On" and "Ultra Anxiety (Teenage Style)" come from Madder Rose's second album, Panic On (1994).

The New Pornographers is a Canadian band formed in 1997; but got to release their debut album, Mass Romantic, already in 2000. Their third, latest album is Twin Cinema (2004). "All for Swinging You Around" and "Miss Teen Wordpower" come from the second album, Electric Version (2003). The New Pornographers sounds like a female version of early R.E.M. ("Harborcoat"). They also reminded me of Letters to Cleo ("Cruel to Be Kind" – a Nick Lowe original).

Rilo Kiley is a relatively young American band that released its debut album, Take-Offs and Landings, in 2001. The subtly distorted style of the guitar and the lushness of Rilo Kiley's instrumentations were what caught my discerning ears. "My Slumbering Heart" comes off the second album, The Execution of All Things (2002); "Portions for Foxes" is from the latest, More Adventurous (2004). The nearest comparison I could think of after listening to Rilo Kiley was The March Violets ("Turn to the Sky").

Shelleyan Orphan was an English band formed by Caroline Crawley and Jemaur Tayle in the '80s, but their music reached my New Wave radar already in the '90s via their final album, Humroot (1992). My instant favorites – "Burst" and "Little Death," which are both reminiscent of The Sundays ("Here's Where the Story Ends"). Interestingly, Porl Thompson and Boris Williams—former members of The Cure—guested in Humroot, playing the dulcimer and the drums respectively.

Siouxsie & the Banshees was one of the pioneers of '80s New Wave / Gothic Rock music. The band began its career in the late '70s and, by the time they disbanded in 1996, they had already produced an extensive and diverse discography. The Cure's Robert Smith became a guitarist of the Banshees for a short period, around 1983. Choosing two among the countless best Banshee songs was obviously difficult. I just picked my favorites from the later albums: "The Killing Jar," from Peepshow (1988); and "Tearing Apart," from The Rapture (1995).

DOWNLOAD the compilation.

DOWNLOAD the volumes you missed.

Vol. 1: Raise Your Glass and Cry until You're Done
Vol. 2: When Consciousness
Begins to Falter
Vol. 3: Our Life
Would Be the Death of You
Vol. 4: Don't
Tell Them that You're a Fan
Vol. 5: How Can I
Assume to Sing about the Moon?

Disclaimer: Consider this compilation as your taste test of the music of some of my favorite bands. If you really liked what you heard, support these artists and the genre by purchasing original copies of their albums.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Christmas gift from Santa Dog

On November 28, 2005, Monday, I received the following e-mail:

Hey Alfie,

Just found your blog via a Google search. Great to see that our MP3 is on the list. Let us know your postal address, and we'll send you a complimentary copy of our EP.

All the best,

Rowena Dugdale is the vocalist/guitarist of Santa Dog, a newly formed UK band hailing from Bristol, England. Her bandmates are Rob Williams on lead guitars, Jojo Harper on bass, and Martin Maidment on drums. They have so far released two EPs, Delicate and The Chemical.

I came across Santa Dog through a music blog site. The name of the band was what first caught my fancy. After downloading and listening to their songs featured on the site, I immediately fell for their music, which had traces of '80s Alternative Rock / Guitar Pop / New Wave.

I was really surprised to receive a message from Santa Dog's vocalist, more so, to receive a complimentary copy of their second EP directly from them.

Here's my reply to Rowena's e-mail:

Dear Rowena,

The honor and pleasure is mine—to receive a kind message from Santa Dog. Actually, I just stumbled upon your song from another blog site. The name of your band caught my fancy; your songs got my interest as well.

Thanks in advance for offering to send me a free copy of your EP. Autographed? Hehehe. It will be a priceless addition to my collection.

As soon as I have received the EP, I'll post a review on my blog site.

Thank you very much.

By the way, you may send the CD here

On December 9, 2005, Friday, one of the mails Tita Lucy had retrieved from the mailbox was the Santa Dog CD! I never expected to receive it that soon. Immediately, I unwrapped Santa Dog's Christmas gift to me and listened to it.

Santa Dog's EP, The Chemical, contains four songs: "Chemical," "Nest," "Flame," and "Katy," all of which easily sated my musical taste. The guitar tracks of the songs reminded me of favorite bands like The Sundays, The Cranberries, and All About Eve. Rowena's voice has the sweetness of Caroline Crawley's of Shelleyan Orphan.

The Chemical EP starts off with the title track, which boasts of a lush soundscape of interwoven guitar melodies and sound of the synth lingering in the backdrop. Following "Chemical," is "Nest," which begins with subtly distorted guitar strums. I particularly like the glockenspiel-sounding keyboard melody of this song. "Flame" has hints of the aggressiveness of Dolores O'Riordan and the rest of The Cranberries (Think of "Salvation" and "Free to Decide"). The last song, "Katy," is the danceable and sing-along moment of the EP.

DOWNLOAD two Santa Dog songs: "Chemical" and "Delicate." You can also buy a copy of the EP via their Web site.

Again, my gratitude goes to Santa Dog, especially to you, Rowena. The CD you sent me is the first gift to fill the Christmas sock I have hung on the wall.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Making an ordinary day worth remembering

December 1, Thursday

Today was Grandfather's appointment with a urologist, Dr. Graham Glezerson, at Manitoba Clinic on Sherbrook Street. The result of grandfather's urinalysis conducted several weeks ago revealed a hematuria, so his physician, Dr. Tsang, recommended him to the specialist. Unfortunately, everyone had work so no one could drive us there. Tito Ren said that we call a cab instead.

Unlike in the Philippines where I used to live, getting a cab here in Canada where I am is easy. All one needs to do is phone a taxi company and ask for a cab to pick you up. After only a few minutes, the taxi's already there.

After breakfast around 9:30 a.m., I gave Grandfather a bath. After getting him all ready, I took a bath myself. I made sure that all the stuff we might be needing were inside my backpack: Grandfather's medications, my little address book, my journal, and a book to read. Most importantly, I made sure that both Grandfather and I were well-clad on a snowy day—headgear, gloves, and layers of clothes.

Right after Grandfather and I had finished lunch, I picked up the phone and called Unicity Taxi. After about ten minutes, the cab was already outside the house. The trip took about ten minutes and costed C$9.

Grandfather's appointment was 1:15, and we arrived at Manitoba Clinic at 12:35. Good! We still had time to relax at the clinic's lobby. Manitoba Clinic was not that impressive a medical center. In fact, the milieu reminded me of University of Santo Tomas Hospital in the Philippines.

While we were at a waiting area in the lobby, I noticed that someone was painting the glass doors of the adjacent room. The "glass artist" was painting a Santa Claus. Wow! If not for things like that I would have forgotten that Christmas is just 'round the corners. Being in the house virtually most of the time, even the Christmas lights and other decorations on the houses in the neighborhood I could no longer notice. White Christmas anyway? Oh, believe me, as I always say, snow is lovely only during its first fall; and a Winter Wonderland looks wonderful only when viewed from behind the glass windows of one's heater-warmed room.

Here where I am, I don't look forward to the advent of the Christmas season because this only makes me sad.

Of course, Christmas is a season when families and friends try to be kinder and closer with each other; and obviously, for someone like me who is far away from home, achieving physical closeness is impossible. Nonetheless, I look forward to the passing of New Year, for this would mean that I'm getting closer and closer to freedom and, most especially, to my planned homecoming.

We headed to the fourth floor where the physician's clinic was located. There were already a number of clients inside Dr. Glezerson's clinic. We registered at 1 p.m.; and since Grandfather's appointment was 1:15, I was expecting that the medical secretary would call Grandfather's name on time. It was already about 2:30 when the medical secretary uttered, Mr. Conrado Vera.

I just proved again that the so-called Filipino time is not exclusively Filipino after all. I surmise that tardiness or procrastination is a universal human tendency. In fact, there were those two elderly ladies seated near me who were conversing about the failure of the secretary to call their names on time. One of the ladies said that it was also the case during their previous visit.

After reviewing the results of Grandfather's laboratory tests, Dr. Glezerson told me that he had to perform a cystoscopy so he could know the source of the blood in Grandfather's urine. The procedure would also tell if there was a presence of cancerous cells. Admittedly I never had any iota of worry about whatever results the procedure would render. I've long accepted that Grandfather's age, 90, is in fact already past the expected lifespan nowadays. Even Grandfather was, as always, oblivious about what the doctor was telling me. I'm unsure if either he just no longer cared about dying or his mind could simply no longer cope with fast conversations like that sprinkled with medical lingo.

After another urinalysis and the cystoscopy, Dr. Glezerson coolly told me that Grandfather's kidneys and urinary bladder were relatively fine and that the bleeding was coming from the prostate; and that there was no need for another operation (Several years ago, Grandfather had already been operated because of a problem in the prostate.) Dr. Glezerson said that leaving Grandfather's prostate untouched would be the best thing to do. Besides, Grandfather is already too old to survive another major surgery.

I noticed Grandfather's paleness after the cystoscopy. I was unsurprised for the procedure was indeed painful. Imagine a tube being inserted into the penis; but, don't lose heart, the physician usually applies an anaesthetic gel prior to the procedure. But still...ouch!

Another observation I had was, the rooms in the clinic were neat and the things in there were arranged in an orderly manner.

I asked the nurse if I could take pictures during the procedure. She said the doctor might not like it. She also remarked that it was her first time to encounter someone who intended to photograph such a procedure. She asked me what would those pictures serve me for; I just told her that writing and photography are two passions of mine. I added, "With photographs, articles and stories become alive and more credible and interesting."

Before returning home, Grandfather and I had snack at the building's cafeteria: oatmeal cookies and hot chocolate for Grandfather and a cold one for me.

Contacting a taxi company through the public telephone took about twenty minutes. Perhaps because it was rush hour, past four already. Also, good thing is, calling taxi companies through public telephones is free. All one needs to do is press the "TAXI" button.

I noticed that many of the taxi drivers were Indians (natives of India). I engaged the gentleman in a friendly conversation. I let him talk about his country. I felt the pride in him. He also didn't fail to ask little things about mine. He knew the Philippines. He even told me that he knew how to say "Salamat" and "Magandang araw." What stuck on my mind, however, was his remark after asking how old I was. When he learned that in January I'm turning 35, he complimented: "You don't look your age. In fact, I noticed that Filipino people look very young, unlike some other races."

In Hinduism, Ganesha is the elephant-headed deity regarded as a patron of learning, literature, intellect, and wisdom.

To balance his perception somehow, I told him that not only many Filipinos but many fellow Asians as well, like Chinese and Japanese, look younger than their age. I could discuss with him the anthropological theories behind this but it would have been already too ponderous and time-consuming. Hahaha! Anyway, I returned the compliments by way of telling him that I am fascinated with his culture, especially with Indian musical instruments, Hindu deities, and their elaborate writing systems. I also mentioned that I particularly like the Hindu deity Ganesha because he is a patron of learning and literature.

He was amazed to learn that I, a young Filipino, knew so much about his culture. I'd like to believe that in this little way, I am contributing something positive about the Filipino people in general. I'm certain that the taxi driver would never fail to tell his family or friends that he met a young Filipino who knew many things about India. And this could cascade into his uttering of something general like, "Oh, Filipino people are good people; they appreciate the culture of our country."

Also, the cab driver was surprised when he learned that my name is aLfie. I was surprised as well when he told me his...Al—such smile-pulling coincidence!

The fifteen-minute trip back home was insufficient for a nice conversation like that. Regardless, I believe that anyone can make something great in so short a time, especially when s/he's in a multiracial society—like exchanging simple yet substantial information especially that concerning culture and origin, correcting common misconceptions, and making other people feel confident and good about themselves.

"For a dialogue to be fruitful, there must be mutual respect for each other’s humanity, culture, and rights. A dialogue is not true if it does not lead to an understanding of one another."