Snapshots of Manila at dusk on a Wednesday

Down a narrow alley, a little girl blows bubbles with her father in the middle of the road. Street vendors walk by with buckets of peanuts and cashews. A little boy stares out of the window of a massive, lumbering bus, hissing and groaning through rush-hour traffic. His mother closes the curtain. Red taillights blink on and off; vehicles lurch, brakes screech. Horns honk. At a brightly lit fast food restaurant along the road, every table is full. Someone on a motorcycle is delivering a pizza. There are clouds on the horizon – dark, thick gray ones. Maybe typhoon clouds. Already it has been raining all afternoon, though it has finally softened to a drizzle. People are shaking off wet umbrellas and carrying towels over their heads. They run to their cars with a sense of urgency and hurriedness, trying to get home before the downpour starts all over again. Inside the jeepneys, a bare bulb illuminates the faces of travelers on their way home, scrunched together onto its benches, peering out tiny windows as raindrops fly from its rooftop. At roadside fruit stands, more bare bulbs hang naked and brilliant over bunches of bananas, freshly-cut jackfruits, watermelons, and prickly lychees. On the sidewalk, a man with a guitar and an amplifier is belting out sappy tunes to entertain the dozens of people waiting for buses or jeepneys. The lights of buildings start to come on, illuminating offices, restaurants, and apartment living rooms; many people are still working, or just finishing up for the evening. Some are just beginning.

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On the State of the World

Every time I watch the news today, I keep expecting to see an interview with the devil, something like:

News Commentator: “Devil, sir, can you tell us your outlook for the current state of world affairs?”
Devil: “Well, Sheila, all I can say is that the world is indeed coming to me in a handbasket…”

A Hard-Boiled Weekend

This weekend I escaped. Literally.

This job is pretty intense. Often, it just hits me, usually at the most absurd moments, like when I am handwriting a letter to the president of an entire country, or riding in a tricycle in a three-piece suit, briefcase in hand, or when I attend an event at a five-star hotel where champagne flows freely and celebrities are in attendance: this job is crazy. I could never have imagined just a few months ago that I would be here, doing what I do.

It’s amazing, but sometimes it’s a lot. Of everything. So sometimes, I need to get away.

I realized that I wanted this weekend was not to visit any exotic beaches or board any airplanes, but to have what I like to call a Haruki Murakami weekend. Not a weekend spent reading Murakami, necessarily, though I am well into Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, working my way backwards after Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and After Dark. As soon as I can get my hands on it, I’ll be elbow-deep in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. My fantasy is to fly to Tokyo one weekend and meet him in some little cafe, just to talk for a few hours over coffee so he could tell me his stories in person and I could ask him all the questions I want to ask… But anyways…

I love Murakami and the way he writes and the way he describes everything. I especially love that his characters generally spend a lot of time doing nothing. They lounge in libraries, take long walks, sit on park benches for hours at a time. They spend days just listening to jazz and drinking whiskey, or reading books and drinking tea, or just lying around thinking, taking in all the details about themselves and their lives, contemplating everything and nothing and letting their minds wander aimlessly. They linger over bowls of noodles and eat greasy food at late-night cafes. And this is what I wanted. Just to do nothing, and not have to justify it.

Okay, Murakami’s characters also usually end up talking to cats, or meeting ghosts, or having some kind of supernatural experience. But they’re mostly just doing life. And every time I read a book, I wish I was there with them. Or him.

So I holed myself up in a hotel just twenty minutes from where I live, and did absolutely nothing. I slept in, ate a huge breakfast, swam in the pool, slept again, read my book, watched movies, and ordered grilled fish and vegetables from room service for dinner. I took a long bath and stared out the window and repeated it all the next day. I didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t take any phone calls, didn’t send any emails. And it was just as I imagined it could be. Thank you, Murakami, for your inspiration.

Oh, and PS, seeing as Christmas season is coming up *ahem-momanddad-ahem*, I really hope someone decides to fill my stocking with this: 2009 Murakami Diary. Eee!!!