At the gym 

I was doing chest this evening at Gold’s Twin Oaks, doing the usual flat and incline bench presses, flyes, triceps dips, and some other routines whose names escape me now, when a trainer approached me and asked why I haven’t joined a competition yet, perhaps referring to a bodybuilding competition. I replied that I got “no time.” Really I don’t have, but I am more daunted by the fact of appearing in front of a crowd in thongs or board shorts with a body that is less than perfect. 

Haha. I’m kidding about the last sentence, but seriously who wouldn’t be? I’m an aging man whose present concerns do not include joining a bodybuilding contest.

I’m lifting heavy these days. The heaviest I can lift lying down is 230lbs. I can deadlift 300 but can only squat 140. I’m currently weighing 200 with a BMI of 22. My weight hovers between 198 to 202lbs. The heaviest I’ve gotten is 208lbs. That’s during the summer of this year when I did not have to stay up late to prepare for my classes and other work.  I’m doing cardio only when I remember, which means I don’t. My abs appear in the morning, but retract after lunch then reappear before I sleep at night, but they are not as defined as when I was in my early 20s. I know they’re there, only that they’re surrounded by a rather thick layer of adipose tissues that some lovingly call love handles. But I am working on this part, too. 

I’ve reached a point when I workout out of routine and nothing more, not even to look good, because I’m way past the point when I’d still care about what people think of how I look. I’m out of the dating scene for more than six years now. I’ve stopped hooking up, going out on a Saturday night, and checking myself out in mirrors. 

I go to gym in the same way a bald man runs his fingers on that space that used to be occupied by his now gone hair. 

Working out is the closest I can get to that really physical activity that has shaped the male’s anatomy for millennia. I’m sedentary most of the day except at night when I sweat it out, doing routines that do not serve any practical significance except exhaust the body so it can be as exhausted as the mind. 

My Cats

51G3WT6D1NLWhen I was 11 or I do not remember exactly, my family got a cat which we named Blinky after that fat cat in the Tagalized anime titled “Ang Batang Santa Claus” on GMA7. Our Blinky was a white cat with patches of brown, yellow, and gray hair. I knew then that I’m a cat person and had been smitten by cats since.

The cat came to our home one day from nowhere looking for food. She was a juvenile cat when we had her. Perhaps her mother abandoned her as she’s too big to be breastfed. Blinky was feral turned tame after my sibling and I offered her a home.

She stayed with us for three years or so and got pregnant several times until one day we found her in the kitchen lifeless. Cats don’t live long in my hometown. They live a life on the edge, but I think it’s a life worth living. If I were a cat I’d rather live a dangerous life in complete freedom than be a neutered city kitty waiting to be fed tuna every four hours.

Every cat that our family owned after Blinky was called after her, and we referred to their kittens as Blinky’s kittens. We never bothered inventing names for them. Eventually these cats left the house when our grandmother moved in. She did not like how our cats had gone too comfortable in the house. Soon after, her discomfort was replaced with detestation, and so she waged wars against all our cats. Some time after, the cats were all gone.

I never had a liking for dogs. I hate their smell, the stupid look in their face, and how they try hard all the time to get the approval of people around them. Dogs tend to be too dependent on their masters. They want to be constantly pet and cared. I begin to lose interest the moment something becomes too dependent on me.

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Cats are different. Lest you think this blog has become fully dedicated to cats, it has not. It’s just that I have gone very fascinated with my pet cat Mimi.

Cats are very clean animals. Yes, they look down upon people, but once you get their trust, they’ll remain loyal till their dying days, save for some days when they ignore you no matter how hard you try to make them play with you.

Mimi is a kitten of a street cat. She’s a well-behaved cat who makes sure her poop is covered right after she’s done doing her thing. She can be demanding sometimes especially when she’s hungry. Bathing her and clipping her claws are my biggest challenges to date. I bathe her once every three days and clip her nails once in two weeks. She has enough play time and I vow not to make her fat and contented. If one day she decides to live her catty cat life and explore the world, she will have my blessing.

For now, I am enjoying my role as her master, equal, or however you refer to our relationship.

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The Festival of Insignificance

It was the month of June, the morning sun was emerging from the clouds, and Alain was walking slowly down a Paris street. He observed the young girls, who – everyone of them – showed her naked navel between trousers belted very low and a T-shirt cut very short. He was captivated; captivated and even disturbed: It was as if their seductive power no longer resided in their thighs, their buttocks, or their breasts, but in that small round hole located in the center of the body.

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I had decided to forgo reading the reviews of the most recent Milan Kundra book before I went head on and read it intermittently on Saturday. Intermittently because partaking of a Kundera book in one sitting is akin to engorging the entire buffet.

So slowly I went on enjoying, savoring each sentence that are resonant of his style (if there is such a). His meanderings, the philosophical digressions (they call them) can be jarring for most, the narrator too loquacious, but I have come to expect them.

I must admit, shamefully, that I do not anymore remember how I first came across his work, and I admit (shamefully again) that it was The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I fell in love with it that I imagined myself as Tomas cleaning windows in Prague in the 1960s, sampling the endless permutations of women, my hair smelling like it were doused in vaginal discharge after my many trysts, and being told by Tereza afterwards to wash my hair.

Reviewing my old posts on this blog, I found none of those I tagged under the author’s name and that title could help me recall how I got hold of my copy of Lightness. My copy is badly mangled, scandalously highlighted, overly-annotated. I do not anymore remember how many times I have lent it and prayed that my precious copy be returned. After that, I, little by little, unconsciously at first, ravenously next, bought all his titles, including his books of essays.

I fell too madly, deeply in love with his works. The Joke, The Farewell Waltz, Life Is Elsewhere, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Testament Betrayed, Immortality, Slowness, Identity, Ignorance, and most recentlyThe Festival of Insignificance. I came close to donning a black turtleneck all the time. But of course, I won’t, as wearing a black turtleneck can be a challenge to justify.

If I had books that would most closely mark my twenties, they’re Kundera’s.

One thing stays persistently, paraphrasing Sabina, nothing matters in the long run.

I read Kundera for the meanderings and how these departures emphasize his incisive observations on the absurd, the banal, the insignificant. And by writing about them, he artistically made them all reasonable, original, consequential. Yes even the navel.

Such is the power of Milan Kundera.

Repair of an old book

This Saturday morning, after a long week at work, I woke up at five after going to bed at 6 the previous night thinking that I’d wake up two hours later so I could do some lifting at a nearby gym, only to be woken up by my alarm clock set at 5 this morning. After making coffee, I answered some emails, watched a Youtube debate on power between the then young Chomsky and the virtually ageless Foucault.

Then I saw sitting sadly on the corner of my table a mangled copy of Crime and Punishment. I took pity and held it like a mother holding his son’s wounded body in war. The previous sentence is an exaggeration.

Then an urge to repair took hold of me. Obsessively.

I bought this copy six years ago from a bookstore near Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. The bookstore was on the second floor of a building whose ground floor was used by an old man selling birds. Along with titles in Vietnamese as well as books translated in the Vietnamese are Wordsworth Classics. I bought this book by Dostoevsky and Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary for 50,000.

Since then, the guilt-ridden Raskolnikov became one of my favorite literary characters.

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I stroked my copy like how I would stroke that cat our family had had when I was only 12, with care. I glued the spine together and scotch-taped the pages that needed scotch taping.

I do not have any emotional attachment to my books. I keep those I already read because I have hope that someday my younger brother or sister would pick them up, read them, and discover a universe that I inhabited while reading them.

Or, I keep them because someday, when I become tired of all the prerequisites of living, I shall escape from all these with my books that need repairing, a pair of scissors, a roll of scotch tape, and the ever reliable Elmer’s glue.

Friday night

It was a Friday night like this that I have been longing to bring back. This Friday night is reminiscent of those many happy nights just before weekends back in college, back when I was young, gullible, and less cynical, back when I knew things would only get better, when I was often in love, when I was poor, hungry.

I’d sit at my table, get a book from a nearby shelf and read until two in the morning or until I felt sleepy. I’d go down to the kitchen, pour hot water from that rusty thermos of my landlady into a chipped mug and dissolve those cheap three-in-ones I have gone to detest. I don’t miss the coffee, the mug, my room, nor that thermos. But the experience, I do miss. It aches remembering how simple things were back then. How now they’re nothing but objects waiting to gain symbolic significance.

And while I am enjoying this Friday night, it pains me as much because it’s a reminder of that past that’s been dissolved into mere abstraction dependent on my writing, knowing for sure that I will never be able to fully capture and give justice using my prose those beautiful nights that are now rendered almost fictional on the page of this post, but still truly concrete and vivid in my imagination.

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Fifth

It was a rhythmically pleasant gnashing song coming from that moment of impact of the tip of the needle licking my skin, kissing it, biting it, then violently withdrawing, until droplets of reds oozed out only to be wiped away with a ballad of balled sterilized cotton. This happening thousands of times, as many number of times as the stated rate per minute on the label of a tattoo machine attached to a mini-transformer. This small device from where that beautiful pain emanated was held confidently by my brother.

He did two out of the four. Make it three out of five now.

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There’s no story here. He called the pattern ‘Samoan,’ but I did not feel like checking Google to verify his claim. He said it without trying to fake the depth of his voice. He never saw doubt in my face. I said let’s go with it. I will not wail if one day I find out this is in fact Rapa Nui or Inca.

Or just anything.

Adult moves and a home loan

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For a guy in his 20s, adult moves include but are not limited to establishing a family, changing career path, going to law school, buying a car, giving up the city, or getting a mortgage. I’m doing the last.

One has to do an adult move at some point in his life because it is but normal doing so. Although the ‘normal’ here may be subject to some degree of disagreement among readers, to a certain degree, we all have an idea what normal is. And although it might be interesting to write a post on what constitutes normal, it is not the object of this post. Normal is that realm of security some of us would someday want to settle in.

And I cannot anymore pretend I am not one of the ‘some.’

A home loan means making sure that I must not default on my monthly payment, ever. It means I will have to work harder because I need to pay my monthly rent while paying my monthly amortization for the next two years until the turnover of the unit in 2016. It means I will have to postpone the purchase of that nice-fitting Zara coat I was meaning to buy for a friend’s wedding this weekend. It means moving some part of my savings to that other account that is solely for the monthly payment of my loan for cover if, God forbids, I run short of cash. It means cutting on my weekend eat-outs. It means not buying anything impulsively, bringing with me a list whenever I do my grocery. It means planning my vacations well and doing away with some, having, at most, one in a year.

Honestly, it’s a decision I made because I went tired of my sister’s constant goading to find a place for myself and my conscience telling me that I will not stay a marauding nomad for the rest of my life.

Perhaps, the normal has gone too tempting to resist as nothing can be more normal than finding that place one can call his.

It’s a bit scary, though. That idea of being tied to a place by a mortgage, at least for the next ten years or so scares me.

But of course, I got to do an adult move.