Nothing like the realization that I have barely a month left before I head back to the other side of the world to resume my identity as a doctoral student to make me realize that said identity should not have been put on hold for as long as I have put it on hold, not when I have to read my way through a hundred-and-then-some-strong reading list for qualifying exams covering the politics of aesthetics, global modernisms and avant-gardes, and Philippine poetry and poetics, and, in the process, produce a first draft of a prospectus by the first week of September. And so today I woke up seized with anxiety, punched in the gut by the fact that I’ve been bad, very, very bad, ridiculously, unacceptably, foolishly bad with my time. Which is another way of saying, what a lovely July I’ve had so far!
Spent the first week reunited with friends from SUNY Albany now living in San Francisco, friends who wanted to do nothing fancy and told me specifically to just carry on with my usual routine and let them tag along. This meant trips to UP and Ateneo (where they got to sit in on a comic book writing class and an intro to lit class taught by friends, visit the dark and dank UP Press Bookstore, and marvel at the bookalike industry of the Shopping Center), long, sweaty walks in and around the UP-Katipunan area, non-stop meat-eating (crispy pata! lechon kawali! binagoongan! sisig! kare-kare!), and of course, videoke night with the usual crew, where they got treated to ripping-the-fabric-of-the-universe-and-opening-a-portal-to-another-world falsetto singing by good friend V a.k.a. the Benjaminian scholar (pagbigyan na, may pinanghuhugutan e). Good friend V later redeemed himself by taking us on a guided walk around the Intramuros-Escolta-Binondo area, the highlights of which include eating sampaguita ice cream (which tastes like its smell, an experience I found confusing yet interesting); viewing Juan Luna’s Spoliarium and Esteban Pichay Villanueva’s Basi Revolt paintings (always a pleasure); listening to an enthusiastic museum guide account for the symbolic meaning of every item in Luna’s Parisian Life (though he was silent on the conspicuous bulge on the woman’s skirt); speculating on the said bulge and the implications of the woman, said to be a symbol of the Philippines (if you flip her image, according to the museum guide, it mimics the appearance of the Philippines on the map) turning out to be a man dressed as a French woman representing the Philippines; looking at the dead river and the post office across it; feeling the hint of a threat of a mugging in the air while walking through a particularly dreary alley; staring at a fountain filled with trash. Fortunately, my friends also spent a few days in Palawan, so they did get to see the more conventional version of the beauty of the Philippines.
Started the second week exhausted by the fun of the first, but pulled myself together in time to start teaching another writing class at the Ayala Museum, the field trip to Makati breaking the monotony of my movements, which tend to remain within the Diliman-Cubao-Eastwood area. Watched the latest Linklater Before Midnight in the theater sandwiched between two men, the opening-a-portal-to-another world videoke singer V, who watched the movie autobiographically (relate kung relate) and A, who alternated between insulting Ethan Hawke’s pretentiousness and dozing off. Lesson re-learned: it’s not easy watching these Before movies with men. The movie triggered a weekend of Linklater films: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Dazed and Confused, A Scanner Darkly, the first part of Tape, and Waking Life. Waking Life led to Examined Life, which led to bouts of anxiety over exams, thanks to the sight of Butler clothes-shopping and Zizek flaneuring his way through a dumpsite. It also led to Hearts of Darkness, in which a four-year-old Sofia Coppola compares the Pampanga landscape to a Disneyland jungle (sabi nga ni A, “bata pa, airhead na”).
The third week landed me in Makati thrice (!): tagged along with A, who had a meeting in the area, taught class at the museum, and attended a talk by Ambeth Ocampo on the Kalantiaw hoax. Found myself at the dentist’s, the nail spa, the Arcellana reading room for a poetry reading, the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall for more videoke. Celebrated the birthdays of one sister and two nieces.
Now, on the first day of the last week of July, I’m faced with the always daunting task of filling out forms (this time for travel to Hong Kong in November for a week-long event) and putting together a syllabus for my fall term poetry class, the two items topping today’s to-do list. Started the morning reading Joe Brainard’s I Remember while worrying about Susan Howe’s Sorting Facts; or, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker, which of course is the harder text to teach, and thinking I should fill out the forms instead since I should fed-ex them asap, or maybe I should bathe the cat? sort the laundry? organize the giant pile of stuff into a more recognizable stack of books, maybe locating the long-lost Emmanuel Lacaba books I need in the process? Now I’m so tempted to put on my shoes instead and go grocery shopping, a task on my to-do list for tomorrow. Why is it that I never want to do what I’m supposed to do right this minute? The chores of tomorrow always look more attractive than the chores of today.