woke in slumberland

...but you were part of my dream, too.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Krishna on the Shore

Krishna at Venice Beach
(Hare Krishna "Festival of the Chariots" California, Aug 7 '05)

More photos of the festival!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Midnight at the Gaslamp

Right after the San Diego Street Scene... I get off the trolley at 5th Avenue, and I'm walking back to the hostel. It's around one in the morning, and the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter are alive and throbbing. There's a small Italian place open, and i'm starved; i get a large slice of pizza in a paper bag.

I'm going down the street carrying my pizza, and i pass a huge black man on his knees, handcuffed, a bandage over his bleeding right eye. Cops are standing around him. He lets out a curse at some "fuckin' bitch" and i walk on. Scary sight; but San Diego feels ten times safer than L.A. And there are cops everywhere.

Back at the hostel, a Dutch backpacker named Jesse is checking in. Turns out we're roomies. From our window, we watch police shut down a club party across the street. For twenty minutes clubbers file out of the place and spill out all over the street as the coppers shout, "Get away, keep on walking, no stopping!"

Finally exhausted, i crawl into my bunk (a lower bunk, at a different bed) and voyage into slumberland.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Glitter and Garbage

Garbage at Street Scene '05 (photo by freschwill)
Garbage at Street Scene '05
Photo by freschwill, from Flickr.com

San Diego Street Scene '05 will surely count as one of the greatest experiences of my life--and i almost died there, quite literally. It was wonderful just to get to see Kasabian, the Killers, and the White Stripes (especially the White Stripes). But the pinnacle of the experience, far more awesome than i ever imagined, was seeing Shirley Manson and Garbage.

When i got to their stage, there was already a large crowd watching glam-rocky Louis XIV, who were a lot of fun, though i'm not a fan. Then they left the stage, and everyone settled down to wait. And wait. And wait. It goes like this: At first, you feel your entire body stiffen, like you're tensing before the needle's prick; gradually you are euphoric with the sense of anticipation, thinking to yourself, "Wow, i'm here, any second now i'm gonna see Shirley Manson, and i've got a great view, and i'm sooo close!" And you can feel people squeezing in tighter around you but you don't care, you're all so excited, every fan psyching up everyone else, until you're all pulsing as one. But after fifteen minutes, the pulse begins to slow down. The wait is getting intolerable. Someone tosses a beach ball into the crowd, and for ten minutes it bounces here and there, you even catch it and throw it out. It's fun again. And then the novelty passes. This is the looong quiet period. You listen to the people around you. The uber-fan and her gay friend, gushing about being so close and saying how insane their friends are for leaving early. The big guy in front of some short girl, talking of how guilty he feels for being tall. The girl on the cellphone with her mother: "Hey mom, guess how close i am--from here i can see the whites of their eyes."

Eventually you are aware of nothing but how much your feet ache. This must be the longest you have waited for anything. This is longer than all the waits in all doctor's waiting rooms around the world. And then suddenly Butch Vig runs onstage, the lights flare the night away, and the crowd releases all its pent-up tension in an explosive scream.

Shirley Manson strides onstage on those amazingly long legs, gorgeous and scary and master of all she survey. She is dressed in black over blue--little black dress, black boots on those killer gams, red hair blazing out from a black military cap. She is every revolutionary's fetish dream. But her mic stand is a glittery pole, like a stretched-out disco ball. She's not here tonight to change the world; just to rock it.

Shirley looks different from the woman i've known from tv screens and magazines. She has on thick "geisha" makeup that makes her face look like a mask, and is so white she seems almost mummified. But her every move, every step, is electric. It is impossible to take one's eyes off her. She OWNS the stage. She is absolutely tireless. She starts with a bang from "Bad Boyfriend" and keeps going higher.

She has this unbelievable move where she suddenly falls down flat on her back--how does she not hurt herself?

In the middle of it all, even as i was enjoying the show, i was amazed at myself--i, the typical jaded, seen-it-all rock guy, who enjoyed music but no longer was a fan, was for this night, a FAN. I loved Garbage, loved Shirley Manson--no holding back. I mean, look at her, she was giving her everything for us, singing and strutting and putting on the show. How can you not give back? I felt her ride on the crowd's energy, give it back; during a good show like this, audience and performer are as one. We sang together and sweat together, and if Shirley Manson was our goddess, music was our communion.

I'm not saying much about the performance itself... Let's just say it was exhilarating, overpowering, far longer than i expected, and not long enough. Garbage blasted off with "Bad Boyfriend" and "Run Baby Run" from their new album, got the crowd dancing with "Sex Is Not the Enemy" and singing to old stalwarts "Stupid Girl," "Special" and "I Think I'm Paranoid." Highlights:

  • "Why Do You Love Me" -- At one point, Shirley plucks an odd banner from one fan. Turns out it's a map showing how he's followed the band from show to show all the way from Canada. So Shirley then dedicates her next song to all the fans. (I wonder if they caught the irony of her singing a song that goes, "Why do you love me, why do you love me, you're driving me crazy..." She was joshing us, i'm sure.)
  • "Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)" -- This song is my guilty pleasure; i like it, but i'm embarrassed about liking it 'coz it's so... well, gay. But tonight there is no guilt; only dancing.
  • "When I Grow Up" -- My favorite Garbage song, and apparently half the crowd agrees with me. This is the song that got me jumping.
  • "Only Happy When It Rains" -- Shirley tells us she's grateful that we're not "thirsting only for virgin blood" but are still "sucking their old, tired, grotty blood." (Talking about their music, of course.) And then the band goes into a string of old hits, climaxing in their first hit. It's the next-to-last song, and as soon as it starts, a bulldozer hits us from behind. The mass of fans behind us is pushing to get close to the stage, and the crush is devastating.

Garbage ends its set with "Right Between the Eyes," leaving us both happy and sad. And then we almost die. Or come close to it, anyway....

The Killers are next, you see. And everybody and their grand-aunt is there to see the Killers. And they all want to be right at the front of the stage. All of a sudden, there's pushing--violent, forceful thrusts that send us stumbling forwards and backwards. Girls begin screaming. I am getting squeezed, and there are some big guys around me; their muscles crush me in a vice. There is truly no space to move; i am trapped and close to panic. Girls are being lifted up and carried by the crowd to the stage. I think i am going to die.

Somehow i escape, and thankful for being alive, i don't dare enter another mob. I go see the White Stripes from a safe distance; it's still very enjoyable. Jack White is almost the opposite of Shirley Manson. He doesn't play to the crowd at all. I don't think he even cares that we're there. But he obviously loves playing the music. And he is simply electrifying. It's just him and Meg on stage, nothing fancy, no theatrics. But they have us spellbound. They're just unbelievable!

I don't finish their set; i'm walking back to the first stage to see the Killers. But Social Distortion has just finished their set on the middle stage; i'm walking along with a hundred other people. I arrive at the Killers' stage and the crowd is massive. Humongous. Insane. I can barely see the band. But then they play "Mr. Brightside" and i'm happy enough. As they play their last song--and it's "All These Things That I've Done"!--i'm already walking to the trolley, knowing i'll have to fight my way on it if i leave later. I know what follows: the humdrum ride, the mundane night. But right now i have a song; i've got a soul (but i'm not a soldier).

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Rockin' Bunks, Rockin' Accountants

It's a scorching summer sun outside, and yet there's an aura of spring: i see bumblebees dancing among the flowers, a whirring hummingbird dipping its long beak into a nectared blossom.

But wasn't i supposed to write about San Diego? I'm getting to that...

My first night there i had the oddest experience. I was sleeping in a dorm room with three bunk beds, and i was in the top bunk of one bed. At one point, in the middle of the night, i suddenly awoke. The bunk was rocking gently, and my first thought was, It's an earthquake tremor. I've felt a lot of small tremors back home in Manila. I almost drifted back to sleep. Then the rocking started up again, more insistently. And then i heard noises.

Slowly it dawned on me that were two people having sex right under me. Not only that--they were both guys! (Not that i peeked; it wasn't something i wanted to se. Nevertheless, i could tell.) Never in my life had i imagined that i would find myself on top of two gay dudes riding the one-horned beast. (Or would that be two horns?)

It would have been amusing, if it hadn't made it impossible for me to sleep.

After that exotic awakening, the rest of the day started out well. I did get a bit of shut-eye, woke up at nine and had my all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. (In spite of the rocking bunks, it's a great hostel.) Then i went out, to the Museum of Contemporary Art (which was just okay) and Wahrenbrock's (which is a paradise for logophiles--three floors of musty, lovely, bargain-priced books). I knew it was crazy, but i ended up buying a pile of books i'd have to lug along: a special edition hardcover of The Princess Bride; the novel Wicked on which the musical is based; Danielewski's House of Leaves; a Ross Macdonald hardboiled classic.

Then i stopped by a small Italian place and got take-out: sausage-and-pepperoni pizza, spaghetti, and iced tea for around $7. Not bad. I ate it in the hostel kitchen, where the Japanese staffer, Take, was cooking spaghetti himself. He reminded me of those characters in Haruki Murakami novels who love cooking spaghetti, and i told him so. I think he was somewhat surprised that i should have heard of Murakami. I told him that Norwegian Wood was my favorite novel and he said, yeah, he liked it too.

Okay, this was when i left for the Street Scene festival and somehow misplaced my camera. It was a very sad moment. I actually cried in front of the woman at the transportation office when i reported my loss.

But when i finally got on the trolley going to Qualcomm Station, surrounded by anxious music fans who couldn't wait to get there, all of the terrible feelings slid out of me. I was caught up in the excitement, and i was starting to have fun.

On the trolley i met two pretty girls, who turned out to be accountants. Rockin' accountants. They let me tag along with them, poor me who was there without any friends. We got Captain Morgan mixers, and enjoyed watching Rise Against and Kasabian. (Kasabian is fabulous; i ended up liking their set better than the Killers').

But around 7:30 i left them coz i was anxious to get in place for Garbage's performance....

NEXT: Glitter & Garbage

Monday, August 01, 2005

Where "Delightful" and "Charming" Are Overused Words

I am typing this with a tender wrist--i twisted it riding (okay, falling off) a mechanical bull in Tijuana--and it's still sore. More about that later.

I had a fantastic time in San Diego. The sad thing is that i have no photos to show you, because i lost my camera. Yeah, you got that right. I got careless and lost it on the way to the Street Scene festival, i'm not quite sure how. It was terrible, and traumatic, but i'm fine now. Besides that one awful mishap, i had the most enjoyable three days.

I arrived in San Diego at 2 pm on thursday and took a trolley to Fifth Avenue, then walked about four blocks to my hostel. This was in the Gaslamp Quarter, and it's a charming district--i wish i could show you its rows of beautiful restored 19th-century buildings, with their ornate and romantic facades. (In fact, here are some images i found of my neighborhood there: 1 2 3)

USA Hostel, where i had reserved my stay, was one flight up street level, just above a sidewalk restaurant. As i was climbing the stairs i could hear rock music blaring. The interior, painted in vibrant blue and orange, was both funky and inviting. A guy with a large, bushy hairdo was pottering about behind a door labeled "kitchen." Svelte European girls walked through the hallway (probably going to the party room for a smoke). It was a place brimming with youth and conviviality.

All right, i'm starting to feel tired, so here's a quick overview of my weekend:
  • I discovered a neoteric little store that sells specialized--mainly Japanese--toys called RE:UP (like the Chunky Far Flung Gallery back home). There i met a lovely Fil-Am girl named Annabel and her guy, Rae. Very nice people. (I hope they're reading this.)
  • Visited Seaport Village, which is delightful to walk around in but rather touristy. One place that interested me was a maritime shop that sells a lot of pirate-themed items. (Pirates are very popular these days, methinks.) I was tempted by a pair of shot glasses painted with a skull 'n' crossbones, but i decided it was a bit pricey.
  • Walked around Little Italy, a colorful row of cozy sidewalk restaurants that also function as mini art galleries. (I was going to call it a charming place, but i already said that about the Gaslamp Quarter. Words like "charming," "delightful" and "pretty" get extra exercise when one is writing about San Diego.)
  • When i returned to the Gaslamp, it was blazing with nightlife. Comely women in short, short skirts graced the doors of restaurants and flashed their eyes at passers-by. The beautiful people buzzed around the VIP list-only clubs. A long-haired rocker, blonde girlfriend beside him, sat on the sidewalk outside the Pacific Theater, strumming and singing for his supper. It seemed a shame to go to bed and shut the bright night out, but it had been a long day and this weary boy needed to lay down his head....

And now i have to lay down my pen, so to speak. Tomorrow i'll write about the Street Scene festival. Let me say for now that it was amazing, just amazing! Garbage, the White Stripes, the Killers, Kasabian... tomorrow....

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Of Postcards and Statements

Wawi Navarroza writes in the most curious, delightful, almost archaic fashion, even in her emails. I received the loveliest missive from her, one no less endearing for being projected on an electronic screen. It began by thanking me for my postcard:

It was a very beautiful moment, the exact instance i saw the postcard lying on the console table waiting for me as i entered the front door when I arrived home, just now. I walked to it, sizing it up almost slowly from a distance then, closer, I was captivated by the image and I knew it was meant for me even without holding it up to discover who sent it. I really liked it so much. I thought the person who sent this is far away and is someone who knows my heart's delights, surely must be someone dear.

Such a profuse thank-you for such a little thing; it leaves a wonderful feeling. And, certainly, it made me want to send her more postcards!

Today i've been trying to write an artistic statement--because, when you're trying to get into a residency program, it's not enough to say that you're an artist. You have to justify yourself--which means, i suppose, that you have to prove that there's a point to what you're doing.

What i do is take photos and play with them digitally. I'm not sure that there's any point to it, except that it's what i love to do. I see my works as art, because they are objects that came from me. Without me they would not exist. These images carry the impress of my soul.

They are personal works. And the ones that are most precious to me are often the ones which are less striking or less visually perfect. Some of them are hardly more than snapshots. Yet i find them beautiful and fascinating because they capture a moment that is psychologically interesting. It's like the flicker of a storyline whose whole you can only imagine. Never mind that there are all sorts of messy details that detract from the cleanness and focus of the photographic image. They are pictures of the real world. They were not taken in a studio.

That is my statement, i suppose.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Obon Festival in Little Tokyo

Bon Odori at Higashi Honganji Obon Festival

Mascots & girls doing the Bon Odori

More photos: [ link ]