Coconut Juice and Gallons of Coffee

Right, folks. I'm back in the saddle again. Portland has somehow traded places with Los Angeles for the time being; it's sunny and summery here, everyone's showing skin and sunglasses. I'm sleeping a lot.

It's taken me some time to re-acclimate, as expected. I'm still not really here yet, I think I left some important parts of me on the Tokyo-Narita concourse, but no matter. There's rent to be paid, and lines to learn, and all this stuff to process through my manic fingers.

The Journey Home was a twenty-four hour cross-Pacific odyssey, as journeys home so often are for me. I mean, maybe I don't cross the entire breadth of the Pacific Ocean quite so often, but I do tend to experience the overwhelming sensation of traveling home in long-hour doses. And, in crossing such distances as once took months to accomplish in a matter of hours, there's a psychic toll to be paid. This toll always hits me like a world-ending hangover effect, with the physicality of a kidney punch/charley horse combination, like what my cousin J. so often doled out to me throughout my upbringing oh because I don't know, he was in a hurry to get away with it before I GREW UP TO BE BIGGER THAN HIM (which isn't saying much because your average shrubbery is bigger than him).

We packed up and slowly left the Remedios house early one Thursday, with many detours for final farewells to Grandma's friends, much hand-wringing. Grandma now resembles a tragic Greek matriarch, she cries and casts up her hands the way I saw black-clad widows do in Naxos years ago. I hold her shaking hand and arm as she totters through resplendent mansions and reeking hovels, seeking out long-lost friends and relations, and then they sit and cry softly together and sip coconut juice, listening to each other's stories about dead husbands, brothers, sisters. I play with the little ones while we wait, or smile encouragingly when the conversation seems to turn my way.

Sample Transcript.

Grandma: (Something something something)
[wails and weeps]

Long-Lost Fellow Matriarch: (Something something something)
[pats Grandma's arm, cries softly]

Grandma: (Something something something)
[Sounds like Grandma's dry humor peeking out]

LLFM: (Something!)
[Laughs mischievously]

G: (Something something, something something something)
[points at me with her cane]

LLFM: (Something something something something!)

[Both then Turn and Stare at Me, Giggling]

[Long Pause]

Me: Uh, right.
[Smiles, in what he hopes is a dashing, confident manner]

[Room erupts in laughter]

[Repeat ad infinitum]

We reach Manila by mid-day, where we check in to a hotel on Mabini Ave. to ditch the baggage train and do some shopping. I bought my half-nephews barongs tagalog, which my Grandma helped me haggle over (see below). We ate at Jollibee's and looked for toys and trinkets to take home for family back here, and then Grandma and the babies come back to the hotel to sleep, and me and my Aunt N. stay up all night, her re-packing and catching up with old friends and tucking in the little ones, and me re-packing and writing and wandering the streets of Manila.

I pass a pile of rags with various crutches and wheels stacked beside it. As an EMT, I look closer because I always have to look closer, and I gradually recognize the stumps of human limbs poking out, and the gently rhythmic rise and fall of deep sleep. Stumps, because I see no hands or feet, just scar tissue, callouses and peeling bandages, and crutches and wheels battered and smoothed by constant use. I take a deep breath and a long pause, and I keep walking.

Then followed the Epic Flights Home, which I will relate in another post later, because I have never maintained any regard whatsoever for the propriety of chronology and I have no intention to start doing so now.

One of the first things I did when I got back into town, after downing gallons of coffee to make it through the first day (in a vain effort to summarily defeat the Daemon Jet Lag in one mighty go of it), was to see a Trailblazer game at the Rose Garden. Because my father probably runs a drug smuggling operation, and he gets these season tickets for free. And because my Grandpa used to love to go to Blazer games, even though we haven't had a triumph season since the Carter administration.

And so picture this; a jet-lagged, hyper-caffeinated paulmonster fresh off the plane, reeling from customs and luggage and Manila and San Fernando and the Flight of the Screaming Babies (similar in cacophonal impact to the Flight of the Valkyries, except noticeably lacking in any beautiful Nordic shield-maidens), now plopped into an average American sports arena in the midst of acres and acres of middle-class white people working out their aggressive mass-cultural tendencies through a drug-riven, steroids-driven, money-soaked posse of ball players on a hardwood floor. I can think of few better ways to re-introduce myself to my home turf. (The Blazers lost, because Portland is dead set on being the NBA's version of the Red Sox 80-odd years from now.)

My roommate S. was gracious enough to come with me, and we ate hot dogs and ruminated on lost loves and cheered on every daring breakout attempt our Blazers made to reassert their dominance over the perfidious Indiana Pacers. S. is a great roommate, who is currently in Haiti working with Clowns Without Borders, and she bakes mighty cookies too good for far-traveling, air-weary, family-shepherding chumps like me.

And then I Slept.




I woke up and it was tommorrow night, and I had completely missed a schedule of meetings and readings I was supposed to do that day, and the Library was already calling me to shoehorn in more shifts, and suddenly there I was, in the middle of my life again.

And in the past week I've been swimming out here in the deep end ever since, seeing shows and gearing up for rehearsals starting next week and working on the Work Song project and figuring out how the hell I'm going to make rent, and talking to family about another Philippines trip soon (more on that later)...

And more pictures later. And more updates. And more and more and more.



The Lioness said...

Oh you poor thing! Welcome back.

The Lioness said...
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