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Making sense of all the little pieces I’ve scooped up in my hands

The thing with staying up late and pulling all-nighters, now that it’s about seven years post-graduation, is that it takes me about two days of focused sleeping to somewhat recover, and now it’s Sunday and all I’ve done is clean paint palettes. And buy a filing cabinet for my “files,” I guess, but even then, I had to be roused from my midday nap.

You couldn’t have found a more surprised person than me, discovering on Friday that it was, in fact, Friday.

And now, I’m awake, and we have no internet connection at home, and I was in the mood to write and maybe vegetate in front of internet-reliant television. Alas.

I’m in the process of retrieving a replacement for the passport that I lost, and it’s been a weird little struggle (mostly because of aforementioned tiredness, and also, sure, procrastination on my part) but it feels like a small concern when the person you’re beside at the notary office lost hers because she was imprisoned by her employer in Saudi. It isn’t the most productive action, to compare, but how can you help not comparing? Especially, when the “ordeal” you’re going through is partly self-inflicted inconvenience.

So, anyway, the passport thing. It’s a luxury and a privilege to be able to leave whenever you want to, and the people around you understanding why you need to, and it’s jarring to realize that you can’t actually leave this country, because you had been careless about the thing that let you leave.


(This is what I look like on most days. Ahhh!)

A few weeks ago, my best friend asked me if I was happy, and I think I remember saying “yes,” but I think I’d like to amend that answer now and say “I’m not sad” instead, which feels more accurate an answer, and may seem alarming, but mostly isn’t. I just feel stuck, which is typically what I feel right before I spiral into something else, but I think I’m handling it better this time around.

(It also feels weird to whine about these kinds of things. I always feel like someone reading this is going to dismiss all of it as a stupid privileged person problem, and maybe all of it is just that, but I don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud is all.)



I do, however, feel grateful for all of the breathing room our new house affords.



It still feels weird that we’re old enough to get drinks with each other—even though it’s been that way for eight years.


We went to a Bench fashion show, and Ziggy Savella showcased a new collection, and my sister and I both died because we wanted everything, despite potentially unflattering decisions. (Mostly on my part.)


Beng, Noah, and Raymond, in a rare uncharacteristic moment of petting a dog.


Noah, a sleepy baby. Noah, a needy baby + Tara.


Isa, best friend who asks the hard-hitting questions, haha.


I literally could spend the day watching Noah sleep.


When you just need a moment at work + catching the light before leaving!

Speaking of work, this was from about a year ago, on our first cover story shoot at CNN Philippines Life:

This is the longest I’ve stayed at an actual job, and I don’t even know if it counts because it’s just a part-time gig, and I’ve taken a few chunks of time away, but I’m still grateful to be around great people, and to have been able to write about things I like and things I didn’t know I liked, and that I get some semblance of freedom within the office and outside of the office, plus other corny stuff, et cetera.

The Sunday Currently Vol. 35

Reading

I have not been having luck in the reading department at all. I didn’t finish any books in February, but I’m hoping to remedy that once I get some deadlines out of the way.

I will say, though, that I still haven’t picked up Yanagihara’s A Little Life from where I left off (about halfway or so), and I just feel like a lot of the violence is so unnecessary. Of course, I could just be getting ahead of myself. Like, maybe there’s a lesson to be learned somewhere or a bigger reason for all of the bad shit put on paper. Or some statement. If there isn’t, well. I’m not sure I want to finish reading it, which is a shame because I do love the characters and the whole world building. And I know not everything needs to be a statement, but still.

Writing

I’ve gotten back to writing a bit more via CNN Philippines Life. I’ve been thinking about taking concrete steps to get better at writing. Specifically about art, I think, and maybe culture. But yes, enjoying flexing these muscles.

Listening

Last night, it was mostly Explosions in the Sky. This morning/afternoon, I had been listening to Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as read by Stephen Fry.

Watching

Catching up with Fresh Off the Boat season 3, Steven Universe season 4, and started The Good Place. Still not sure if I want to touch The 100 at the moment.

Thinking

About how time is an illusion, but also how it’s also not.

Smelling/Wishing

I’m cooking a batch of veg soup for dinner + lunch for tomorrow, and I wish it finishes cooking so I can eat it.

Hoping

I wake up early tomorrow and/or am a fully-functional person, since that’s felt like a rarity most days.

Wearing

Blue everything + boxers with zebras in shades + no bra because freedom.

Loving

The act of moving, moving on.

Wanting

Automatically being a more financially responsible individual. The resolve to do things when I say I’m going to do them. TO LEARN THAT TIME IS A CONSTRUCT BUT ALSO THAT I HAVE TO LIVE BY IT.

Needing

To find balance between productivity and Having a Good Time™ and also my soup.

Feeling

Hungry??? Confused??? Like I’m not doing enough in my life???

Clicking

I haven’t been reading a lot + I don’t remember any notable links I would like to share, at the moment, but Internet-wise, I’ve been watching a lot of old Just Between Us videos!

The Sunday Currently was originally created by SiddaThornton

On Julien Baker

I’ve been trying since June of last year to put into words why I love Julien Baker so much. And she has been on here a few times, and I even managed to write a not-so-personal (ha, okay…) version of these feelings for work, but every time there’s an attempt at a dedicated space for her here, I kind of lose my words.

In case you don’t know who she is, Julien Baker is a musician whose debut album, Sprained Ankle, was released in 2015 to much acclaim and adoration. She’s been profiled and interviewed by places like The New York Times, The New Yorker, Observer, The Verge, Pitchfork, Noisey, and Vulture, among others.

Sprained Ankle is a sparse and quiet confessional full of intimations that touch on heartbreak, self-destruction, struggles with and loss of faith, abandonment, and the steady stream of daily anxieties and failures. My favorite way that it has been described can be read on Stereogum’s interview with her: “This is the type of album that opens up like a sinkhole and drags you into an emotional wellspring before you have a second to recognize how bottomless Baker’s heartbreak is.”

I first listened to Sprained Ankle on the first of June 2016, almost a year after its initial release. I got there by way of a Death Cab for Cutie cover she did for The A.V. Club. I got there by way of a tweet. I should probably disclose that the album wrecked me a little—or, almost completely shattered, more like—and I heard it at a time when anxieties and sadness from what I saw as dangerous political outcomes threatened to consume me every day.

I was at a boarding gate, getting ready for a press trip (strangely just overnight!) that I took out of desperation. And I heard Julien Baker sing just before the morning broke open, and I felt coaxed into relief and release that I knew I needed but didn’t know how to get.

To date, I have seen her play four times in two different continents in a span of two months. And I know that seems like overkill, but when something tangible changes your life this much and gives you even one millimeter of a truly life-altering shift in perspective, and the proximity feels within reach, you will find a way. You have to make them happen, especially when you get thrown even the tiniest of bones. At least, that’s what I think.

I also think that part of why I can’t seem to really, truly, completely openly write about her is because I’m always afraid that a) I’m going to forget to mention something that, to me, feels undeniably important, b) I’m going to say too many things that aren’t, or c) everything is going to come out all wrong, and because I’m shamefully proud, I won’t take the wrong words back.

Like, I can’t even think of a title that’s not “On Julien Baker.” It all feels inadequate.


I don’t want to give a blow-by-blow account of her shows, though I do remember precisely during which songs I felt flayed open and exposed—Nov. 21 was “Brittle Boned,” Nov. 24 was “Happy to Be Here,” a new song she played that wasn’t on her set list on the 21st and completely caught me off-guard, Jan. 19 was “Funeral Pyre,” and Jan. 20 was “Rejoice,” if you care about this sort of information.

I remember being happy and excited at the thought that I was around all these people who were about to get to know her. And there’s this Say Anything tagline that goes “To know Lloyd Dobler is to love him. Diane Court is about to know Lloyd Dobler,” and that’s what I feel like every time the entire room is silent before her, and in awe, and are the embodiment of Diane Court in the hour or so that Julien picks up her guitar and sings.

Happy to be here 🌻 — #📍carina #sydney #australia #ForAnAlbum Thanks Ta, for this awk photo 💕

A photo posted by Carina Santos (@presidents) on

Collectively, I’ve seen her play thirteen and a half songs live: her entire album, “Funeral Pyre” (or what used to be known as “Sad Song No. 11” on her NPR Tiny Desk session), “Happy to Be Here” (previously known as “Red Door”), a cover of Death Cab for Cutie’s “Photobooth” played with Ben Gibbard!, and a song that currently exists as an unnamed one for me, but I managed to catch in Chicago:

 

The “half” was an excerpt of The Carter Family’s “Keep on the Sunny Side” that tapered off into “Brittle Boned,” which I caught on audio the first night I saw her play:

AND IT STILL DOESN’T FEEL LIKE IT’S ENOUGH.

Our interview lasted about twenty-five minutes. It was personally excruciating to have to cut the words down to a manageable length, because she considered my nervous-mangled questions and answered them thoughtfully and without self-consciousness. She sang two lines from a Mountain Goats song and interrupted me one time because she liked the “Frequent Crier Program: Lifetime Member” patch on my denim jacket so much.

You know how when people say you should never meet the people you look up to because they’re never quite as bright and beaming and unblemished as they are in your head? That’s not quite true with Julien Baker. She is the type of person who invites you to dinner because she thought you were alone, and she is the type of person who remembers the small things, which coincidentally, always feels like a big thing.

I think my favorite thing about getting to know her a little bit more, through shows and the numerous conversations and interviews she’s had that I’ve read and heard online, is knowing that she doesn’t wear her sadness like a badge of honor. Yes, her music can be unspeakably sad. Yes, it feels like isolation, and yes, she’s captured that feeling of desolation so perfectly that you have to wonder if she’s been inside your brain. But the fact that she exists, and that she’s able to make jokes onstage, and be openly happy and thankful in her life, and confront the demons of her past but not let them paralyze her; and that she’s almost single-minded in her insistence on spreading hope and strength and love, instead of perpetuating fear and darkness, is something that I feel sort of indebted to continue, in whatever way that might turn out to be.

It’s like extending that chain of people she’s changed by and hopes to continue adding to. What other people did for Julien, she did for me, and I hope to do, in some measure, for someone else.

Life Update: Or, Coming Closer and Farther Away

This post is mostly for my own peace of mind, but if you care in any measure, then I guess this is for you, too.

First thing’s first: I lost my passport in Chicago on the day I was about to go back to the Philippines last January. So, I feel like that’s sort of like a sign, but more of like a forcible action from God or the universe or something to make me stay put. For the moment, anyway.

I’ve written a little bit about August in Berlin (though I have way more things to say…) and Prague, but since those last updates, I have also gone to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Sydney, Coron, and a few states in the U.S. It’s been a little hectic, but you know. I’m going to seize every damn opportunity. I can’t afford not to. My lost passport says otherwise, obviously, but there you go.

Copenhagen was really beautiful. I’ve dreamt about going there since 2006 (because of a World Expo booth and some short films, full disclosure), and it felt serendipitous that I got to do that ten years later. Again, a sign! I wrote something about the stupid frakking anxiety that literally¹ gripped me somewhere else, but yeah. I began this particular trip in Berlin and Billund, and could not shake away my weird bout of anxiety until the tail-end of it, when I got to Amsterdam—about five-ish weeks later.


A Real Struggle™ in Amaliehaven

Still, I had a lot of beautiful moments in Copenhagen (I saw Mitski!), and I think it’s amazing that I got to spend my birthday here. Predictably, it was the only day it rained in the entire two weeks I was traveling by myself. I spent about eight nights there (I had planned on stopping by Sweden for a while, but again—anxiety) and mostly walked to the places I wanted to see, and while that takes a little longer than taking public transport, it really made me appreciate the quiet and the city and how these things make me feel.


On my first full day there, I went to a museum an hour-long train ride away from Copenhagen, and got to look out Nivå Bugt, which is a bay that separates Denmark and Sweden. The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is so beautiful; I wish I had gone back, even though it’s a pretty small museum. The place itself was magical.

My next and last stop was Amsterdam, which had always been on my places to see again, after a short visit in 2012 made a very strong impression on me. By which I mean, I fell in love with it. It remains to be my favorite place, which is probably a little weird and unexciting since the things I like about it are very vanilla. The moment my plane touched the tarmac, I honest-to-God felt a wave of calm wash over me. So, you know, again—a sign.


Sarie joined me for about two days! She took a short side trip after a most amazing time in Berlin, before she headed back to London. We went to the northern part of Amsterdam, which was cool, and somewhere I think I wouldn’t have gone to had I been alone the entire time.


A few weeks after I got back, I spent a few days in Coron, Palawan with my best friends, Isa and Barby. It was pretty amazing; we went to see lots of small islands, lagoons, and a lake by boat. My favorite stop was probably the Hidden Lagoon. It doesn’t seem like a popular spot, so it was nice and quiet, and saltwater meets with freshwater there, so the water was brackish and pretty cool to experience. We went during a particularly stormy season, and actually ended up stranded there for an extra night, but it was really lucky for us to have been able to go out at all on the boat to look around.

In November, I flew to Sydney to watch Julien Baker play in a small bar. This seemed like a no-brainer to me, since I didn’t want to see her during a festival, and also I hadn’t been to Sydney, where my friend, Tata, and her husband, Kris (who I guess is also now my friend!), just moved to. So, I asked if I could crash with them (aka, no need to look for a hotel/hostel/Airbnb). My mom’s brother and his family lived in New South Wales, too, so I figured I’d go visit them.



Anyway, if you follow me on any other online platform, you’d know how big a deal this trip was, since I got to actually frakking meet Julien Baker for a piece on CNN Philippines Life. Predictably, she was the sweetest and kindest person, who articulated thoughtful and honest answers and who even invited me to have dinner with them next door (it was American Thanksgiving) because she knew I was staying for the show, and she thought I was alone. Like, what kind of angel on earth.

Tata and Kris watched the last date with me (I managed to catch the first night, too!) and now, we are all in love with her. My Sydney trip gave me a lot of separation anxiety re: Tata and Kris, let me tell you.

And I have more to say about Julien Baker—PREDICTABLY—so I’ll have to write, like, a completely different post on it. Especially because of the next part—

Two months later, I get the opportunity to go on a press trip to New York. Details on it are still under wraps, but I thought that I would extend for about two weeks, so I could go around New York City, and revisit Chicago (which was one of my favorite rediscoveries in 2014) since I had wanted to go back there anyway, because Julien Baker was opening for Ben Gibbard.


You know how I feel about Julien Baker, and this is how I feel about Ben Gibbard and Death Cab for Cutie. Again—a sign. I found out about these Chicago shows in October, but really resisted booking plane tickets (even though I whined about it a lot to many different people), so this press trip, even though it was extremely short notice, really made me feel like I had to go. I just had to. I had to!


It was good that I did, since they ended up playing “Photobooth” together.


way too happy about snow

Long story short, I went to both show dates (briefly considered going to the Pabst Theatre one in Milwaukee, because I’m me) and ended up losing my passport in between going in for the show on the 20th and leaving the show for my hotel. I was supposed to fly out on the very early morning of the 21st, but then the passport thing happened. Which, gave me a lot of grief at the time, but now that I’m home, I have, of course, resigned to my fate.

On the upside, I was able to join the Women’s March in Chicago, which turned out to be so huge that there wasn’t really a route left to march on, since people had already occupied that space. It had felt strange to be there for the inauguration, because in many ways, it felt like what I had gone through for our own administration transition, but that’s a different story, I guess, that I’m not even sure I want to tell.

On the even higher upside, all of these trips, whether or not I was in some sort of mishap or not, made me realize how blessed I really am to have so many kind and gracious and amazing people I have in my life. I’m going to be writing about these things, in detail (again, because I’m me!), but that is the gist of most things that’s been happening to me since late September.


I don’t feel quite at home at home, yet, but I do know that I have so many things I owe people, even outside my job (which has been incredible and, again, gracious, to me). But yes, I suppose the “fight,” for the lack of a better word, goes on and on and on, over here.

———
Title is from Lucy Dacus’ beautiful song, “Map on a Wall”:

¹ I, too, am a pedant, so I’m here to tell you that both uses of “literally” are now acceptable.

Casual Consumption No. 15

The last C.C. was written in May! I’ve casually consumed so many things since then. We had a different president then? I’m a little alarmed? But also not? Ahem.

To be honest, this blog’s categories and series don’t really mean anything anymore, but I wanted to talk about some of my current obsessions. Even though it says “casual,” but um. Like I said, these don’t mean anything anymore. Go out of the box, etc. etc.

Also, I’m not going to backtrack… that’s not a smart thing 2 do.

Books

My reading took a little ride in the backseat in January, since I was did a lot of traveling and moving around. And basically, I have found it really hard to focus on fiction, specifically, if I can’t really sit down and spend time on it. And also, if I’m trying to maximize my vacation days while working on the side.

The books I did manage to finish in January are Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Clothing of Books (technically an essay, and read as per Aldrin’s recommendation), Vivek Shraya’s even this page is white (poetry, as recommended by Leena), and Stephen Collins’ The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil (graphic novel, as recommended by Sanne, a long time ago).

Fun (I guess? Maybe?) notes on the books:

  • I was reading The Clothing of Books next to a girl reading Emma Cline’s The Girls (also on my list) on my flight from Newark to Chicago, and the flight attendant was like, “I love her! Is that new?” etc. and then proceeded to tell my seatmate that she didn’t enjoy/get The Girls, right as she was in the middle of it, lmao. I don’t know why I found that funny, but I do. Anyway, the book is great. 10/10 can relate, as both a book fiend and book cover fiend.
  • even this page was white, I saw at a bookstore in Chicago called Volumes, which also has a cafe. Essentially, I finished reading it there as I was passing the time before going to the Ben Gibbard/Julien Baker show. It’s quite good and deals primarily with racism and colonialism in Canada, but also in what I think is an intersectional way.
  • The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil was waiting for me when I finally made it home—I had ordered it before I left for the States. It’s very delightful and you’re endeared by it… even as you realize how sad it’s continuously getting as you read on. Beautiful art, and who can deny the pleasure of The Bangles?

Currently, I’m still in the middle of a couple of books from last year—bad habit, I know!—as well as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Melissa Broder’s So Sad Today, and Michael Heald’s Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension, which I got at a BEAUTIFUL bookstore in Chicago called Quimby’s.

Films

For 2017, I’ve only seen 3 films so far, and that is only because I forced myself to watch them in-flight instead of just sleeping all the way through. I managed to watch Kubo and the Two Strings (which I think I would have appreciated more had I seen it on the big screen), The Secret Life of Pets (which was cute enough, I guess! But I kept imagining the voice actors for some reason), and on the way back home, Kimi no Na Wa, WHICH WAS ABSOLUTELY CAPTIVATING? It was so charming and funny and sad. And like Tara said, if you think about the mechanics of it too much, the story will fall apart (which is my biggest issue with time travel and like, the disruption of existing timelines), but even then, it’s so good.

So, yes, I suppose I did just see cartoons this year.

Television

Um, yikes. I had to catch up with so much TV when I got home, so. I suppose I’ll just talk about my notables, and leave the bad choices buried in my shame. Just kidding. Sort of.

So, I’ve been surprisingly really enjoying this season’s Teen Wolf, for some reason? I would still like a bit more Scott, but I think after the (what felt like) extended Dread Doctors storyline, I was desperate for a change of setting, haha. I love the investigation into the power of memory, too, and how that tether sort of connects us all so strongly.


(gif from here)

I’m also really enjoying Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which is honestly the biggest surprise for me, in general. It ticks off most of the boxes of things I’d be annoyed with, but I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, since Rachel Bloom made Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury. Supergirl has been a really feel-good series that I’ve been keeping close to my heart, especially with their, dare I say, masterful way of dealing with Alex Danvers’ coming out.

Other TV I’ve been watching: Timeless (enjoying, but again—time travel issues! The good thing is that the characters aware of the issues that meddling brings about, it seems like), Riverdale (extremely surprised by how much I enjoyed the pilot. Betty Cooper, especially, was a delight to see), A Series of Unfortunate Events (I’m still mad about Neil Patrick Harris, barf), America’s Next Top Model (really enjoying, sue me), The Magicians (enjoying with some trepidation! Also, I forgot how intense the last two episodes of the first season were), and Orange is the New Black (catching up, because reasons, and enjoying immensely).

Music

Mostly still Julien Baker, but also a lot of Lucy Dacus! I don’t think I’ve mentioned her on here, but barring Julien’s Sprained Ankle (technically a 2015 release), Lucy Dacus’ No Burden was my favorite album of 2016.

Beauty Stuff

I experienced my first winter! My moisturizers onhand did a surprisingly good job: Aesop Camellia Nut Facial Hydrating Cream and & Other Stories Cashmere Hydrating Cream. And a big (huge!) round of applause for the Nuxe Rêve de Miel for keeping my lips from splitting. Mostly just used & Other Stories Cheek and Lip Tint in Swayback Plum and an eyeshadow by MAKE for my brows. And didn’t bother with much else for the majority of the trip. I was so happy with my moisturizer, I think??

Websites, etc.

A handful of websites I’ve been enjoying: The Establishment, Femsplain, Hooligan Mag, and Matter, among others.

That’s all for now. See you in six months, haha.