An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

29 March 2008


Last year I purchased a fountain pen ink called Mata Hari's Cordial, manufactured by Noodler's. I have seen this ink on Pendemonium a few times and I have always wondered about it, and have been rather curious about the "bulletproof" inks of Noodler's. So one evening I gave in to my curiosity and ordered a bottle.

Mata Hari's Cordial happened to be my first pink fountain pen ink. I loaded it into my Pelikan Grand Place with the 18k medium nib, which I have already soaked and flushed and dried the day before, in anticipation of this moment.

I was quite pleased with the color of this ink. On paper it’s shade of rose, what I know to be "Old Rose," and is not at all washed out. The lines it laid down were thick, rich and clear, and it was definitely not the ordinary everyday work ink. It’s actually a nice and proper Old Rose, the Old Rose that is predictable and familiar, the Old Rose of my hair ribbons from childhood, the Old Rose of my grandmother’s silk jewelry pouches. It was absolutely wonderful to use for letters and journals. Here it is on ecruwhite kid finish 32 lb resume paper from Crane, a paper that I absolutely love

I have already edited the scans with Photoshop in an effort to capture the Old Rose of the ink. It should be a medium dark dusty rose, not magenta, not fuchshia, not hot pink, not gray pink, and not faded pink. Not too dark, either, and definitely not washed out. Just the regular rose, darkened a few degrees, and rendered “old.” Old Rose. Very 1930’s.

I also liked the other qualities of this ink. It dried quickly on the three different papers I’ve tried it on, it did not smear or smudge, did not bleed, and was smooth to write with. And of course, it was fully waterproof, retaining its color and clarity even after an hour of soaking in tap water. Truly hardy for something that looks very feminine. (But then again, isn't that the essence of being a woman?)

Needless to say, I loved this ink. Loved. Because at some point, it started to look ordinary to me. No matter what pen I used, and no matter on what paper I wrote, the ink looked like I was using a felt-tip pen instead of a fountain pen. Over the months the bottle got relegated to the back of my ink drawer. I have purchased several more inks since the Mata Hari's Cordial, and a few more fountain pens, too. Looking through some of my writings from the past year written with Mata Hari's Cordial, I realize why it lost its beauty in my eyes. The ink has absolutely no shading.

Shading in writing is what is achieved when ink pools at the end of a writing stroke, which renders the ink darker at that point, and lighter at the point where the writing is faster and continuous. Shading also appears in strokes that are made slower. Notice the shading on the "s" of the word "this" in the writing below made with a different ink, and on the "t" in the word "resulting."

It's really quite subtle, but I can see those, and it's what makes writing beautiful for me -- that the lines are not the same all the way through, that the colors are not the same all the way through. I like that it looks imperfect, flawed, in a way, inconsistent, because of the combination of the pen and the ink and my strokes. I like how the shading reflects the speed of my thoughts; I like how the shading expresses on paper the things occupying my heart at the moment. I like how unique each handwritten page can look, because I know I feel secure in the constancy of the sensibility that lies underneath all the shading. I laugh, I cry, I don't know what to write, I get angry, I toss things into the wastebasket, I abandon my desk and mope in the rug beside my bed, but I know I'll write again. Much like in love. No day is the same as the one before. We laugh, we cry, we don't know what to to say, we get angry, we toss things away, we abandon our conversation and mope apart. Shading. Line strokes. But it's okay, because love is always there, like the ink, the exact same ink but just in different shades, and we both end up going back to the desk, to continue the writing of the same story.

Now the man in my life has begun to use fountain pens, too. He's on his second fountain pen, but at the moment he uses only one ink, Midnight Blues from Private Reserve, and he has not yet gotten the hang of loading a converter properly. I change inks more often because I have more inks, and I am perhaps more volatile and reactive than he is. But that's just my shading. I am not a felt-tipped pen.

But then what about the Mata Hari's Cordial that's still at the back of my ink drawer? I doubt if I'll ever use it again. Honestly, I did expect something more striking-looking for an ink named after perhaps one of the most enigmatic women in the history of 20th century warfare. I certainly did not expect a prim and proper Old Rose, never mind that a Cordial can be either a candy or a drink made from squash. (I would imagine her Cordial to be black and emit smoke). And why call it a Cordial? Why not just Mata Hari, and then color it the darkest red ever?

But I suppose this is just as well. For after all, for all we know, Mata Hari really just might have been the prim and proper Old Rose that history had never made her out to be, and there, in those spaces between mainstream history and the history that will never see the light, lies her magic over us.

I will never be the spy Mata Hari, of course. I don't have her spunk and her expertise at betrayal. And I don't think she ever truly loved any man. I will never be the prim and proper Mata Hari, either. If I were an ink, I'd be scarlet. But one thing I have that she doesn't is love. I love the man in my life, because of his shading, because of his presence, because he sees me as scarlet and also sees me as bubble-gum pink, because he sleeps beside me, because because. There is no enigma there. Shading is shading. Love is love is love.

22 March 2008

By choice

Sometimes when he's not looking, I take photos of him, like this:

Maybe it's because a part of me doesn't want to disturb him when he's engrossed in any of his Apple gadgets. I can see magic in the connection he has with technology. Also, part of me just wants to stay in the background, undetected, unnoticed, and just wait until he looks around to search for me or reach out his arm to touch me or hold my hand. There's magic there, too, one independent of data chips and battery power.

Guess which magic I prefer.

15 March 2008

Shaken up in Davao

So the man in my life flies to Mindanao to do field work with his district manager and a counterpart for three days and two nights and I tag along, as usual. We were to fly to Davao from Manila on Wednesday morning, spend the night there, drive to General Santos the next morning, and then take the flight to Manila from there on Friday morning. He picks me up from the apartment, as usual, and we park his car in the parking lot of the Centennial Terminal 2, as usual. And then we get our boarding passes from the check-in area, we get the window seats next to each other, and have breakfast while checking our e-mails online with our iPhones, as usual. I was prepared to have one of our usual out-of-town trips: short, sweet, relaxed, and fun.

It turned out to be quite the opposite. He had to rush to be with his district manager, who was already waiting in a car outside the arrivals area, so he armed me with leaflets for hotels and inns that we picked up from the airport concierge, and put me in a decent-looking cab, with an assignment: to find a nice hotel where we can stay till Friday morning. I was excited! I've never checked myself into a hotel before; it has always been him who checks us in. Trouble is, most of the hotels I called were fully booked, so I was relegated to the smaller ones.

The first hotel I checked into, The Manor Hotel, had dark, narrow hallways and dark, narrow rooms, and was along a street lined with hardware stores and junk shops so that should have made me suspicious. However, I felt it was a nice change from the large major hotels we usually stay in, and after all, I get to choose the hotel, and this was my choice.

This what when the horror really started. They put me in a room at the fifth floor, and the building did not have an elevator. Furthermore, the room had two twin beds and not the double bed I requested. I had to wait ten minutes before I could get transferred to another room with the right bed, but then the phone wasn't working so I couldn't order room service. Hungry as I was, I called the hotel front desk from my mobile phone to tell them about this, and was told to go downstairs instead.

When I got downstairs, an old man was standing by the counter in a shirt that has been slept in, his hair uncombed, and he was wearing slippers. He looked like he had just woken up! So I said, in Filipino: "Can I order here?"

"Yes," he answered in Filipino. He did not budge, though, not even to get a pen and paper to list down my order.

I looked through the menu and said, "I'll have the Bistek Tagalog."

"We don't have that."

"What do you have?"

"We have what's in the menu."

"But your menu has Bistek Tagalog."

"We don't have Bistek Tagalog."

"Okay, I'll have the Pork Adobo on the menu."

"We don't have the Pork Adobo."

"What do you have?"

"We have what's in the menu."

At that point I was starting to suspect that he was some sort of robot assembled in one of the nearby junk stores, so I thought I might shake him up a little. Maybe he was still half asleep.

Really annoyed, I asked him, "Can you cook an eggplant?"

He turned around, went to the small refrigerator nearby, and started rummaging through the contents. I tried to take a peek and all I could see were a bunch of plastic bags and some string beans. Unbelievable.

Of course I ran straight out of there, into the street, and almost tripped on a cog that was lying around near a small ditch. I felt like a character out of The Twilight Zone. I called my man, and he told me to get out of there quick!

So I half-ran back, told the front desk I simply had to find another hotel. I did not even dare to climb back up the narrow stairway to get my things (luckily, I had not yet unpacked), for fear that an axe murderer was waiting up there for me. I had them bring down our luggage, I took a cab and went to the next hotel on the list. Humberto's Hotel, advertised on the leaflet as "the charming little hotel," was even smaller than The Manor Hotel. It was too small that two people could not pass alongside each other between the two double-sized beds in their "Executive Suite." The carpets and drapes were also marked with too much cigarette burns that at first I thought it was a pattern in the fabric. Davao is a non-smoking city by law, so I suppose this room was where the entire population regularly converge to break that law, and in further rebellion, they refuse to use and ashtrays and use the drapes and rugs to put out their stinking, smoking cigarettes.

Finally, after a few calls to friends -- one of who informed me that The Manor Hotel was the site of a huge fire a few years back, and that a lot of people died in the fire -- I was able to reach the Royal Mandaya Hotel, which was a huge relief They had a sudden cancellation and could accommodate us for one night and one night only. I said that was fine because we were going to General Santos the next day anyway. Turns out the Royal Mandaya stay was the most pleasant one of the entire trip. The food was good, service was good, and the room was large and pretty and comfortable and quiet. The next day, however, we were back to some sort of quasi-nightmare.

My man and his district manager decided they will not be doing any work in General Santos anymore and will continue work in Davao instead, so we had to change our flight details. Again, I was the one tasked with that. I was to call the Philippine Airlines reservations hotline and get us seats on the 5 am Friday flight from Davao to Manila. I was put on hold for over twenty minutes. I was able to watch an entire episode of MythBusters while on hold! And then the Royal Mandaya could not accommodate us anymore for another night because they were already fully-booked, so I had to transfer to the Apo View Hotel nearby, which could now accommodate us for just one night.

The room was clean and quiet, the staff was helpful and quick, and I went to bed, turned on the TV and ordered food from room service. But then after a few minutes the strong smell of turpentine came seeping in. I turned down the airconditioning and opened the windows but the smell just got worse, and by them I already had a headache, so I called the front desk. Three managers came in (and behind them was the waiter bringing my food) and explained that the room next to mine was being repainted, and that they could transfer me to another room on the same floor but which did not have any fumes.

After everything was arranged, I was finally able to sit down and enjoy my lunch at 1pm. It was Bistek Tagalog.

But just like all other stories of disaster, this one did not seem keen to end that quickly. My man and I went to SM Davao in the evening to get dinner. We were planning to buy some stuff at the mall and have an early night because our flight was very early the next morning. But pople from his office started calling him, and he had to go online to send and receive several files, and there was a short unnatural period of us rummaging through our luggage looking for something he needed right away, and then my copy of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises ended up destroyed, and then finally when we went to bed it was already 2am.

And then we had to change our flight details again because there was no way we could make it to the airport in time for the first flight out because of what we have just been through together, and I was put on hold again for twenty minutes while I flipped through the remains of The Sun Also Rises, feeling sad at the carnage but also happy that the nightmare was almost over, and then finally we got confirmation for the 1pm flight, with the assurance that we can have our tickets rerouted directly at the check-in counters.

But oh no, it was not over yet. When we got to the check-in counters an hour before our scheduled flight, we were told that we could not get our tickets rerouted at the check-in counters. We had to go to the Philippine Airlines ticket office outside of the Departures area for this. So my man had to run out, stand in line at the ticket office, make the payment and get the new tickets, run back to Departures, stand in line again -- and take off his shoes again -- and then run to the check-in counters with me. Needless to say, we did not get the window seats, but we were still seated together. Thank goodness for small mercies.

By the time our plane touched down on the tarmac in the hot and sooty air of Metro Manila, we were hungry and exhausted, and we were never happier to be home. We took our luggage, he rushed to the parking lot to take the car and fetch me and the luggage at the main exit at Departures, but then he had to walk back to me because we have both forgotten that the parking stub was inside my bag (another "inconvenience" that already felt natural to us by then), and then finally, finally, we were home.

And it felt so good to be home. We turned on the lamps, had a heavy late lunch, turned off the lamps and went to sleep at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Sometimes we just have to be shaken up in order to have the right kind of order in our lives. This is our home. This is what we will always come back to, and there are no horrors here.

[Photo credits 1, 2, 3.]

08 March 2008

French press

Coffee grounds swirl in the water as I plunge in the press. The swill looks good: dark and holds much promise, like you who still lie in my bed, swimming in the limpid pond of love that has been brought to a boil the night before.

[Photo credit]

01 March 2008

News from the edge (or, A life in bullets)

First, let me say that I am still here. Second, life -- and love -- got in the way of blogging. Third, here's everything else that happened since my last post, in no particular order.

- Wrote a paper for a seminar class on the American Short Story.
- Read a gazillion of short stories and a few novels.
- Was given a 2 GB flash drive.
- Lost the 2 GB flash drive.
- Was given a 200 GB external hard drive by the same person who gave me the flash drive.
- Did not lose the 200 GB external hard drive.
- Got an amusing online Tarot reading for myself and pasted it onto my Moleskine journal.

- Attended my son Chandler's First Holy Communion.
- Watched Ratatouille with Chandler twelve times over the holidays.
- Continued sewing a cross-stitch project that I started over eight years ago.
- Fell in love. Still in it.
- Retired an old leather wallet I've had for four years.
- Finished writing a book.
- Was given The Great Gatsby.
- Logged into my old Friendster account after more than a year.
- Saw my Boss after seven months.
- Bought five large ruled Moleskine notebooks and one red weekly Moleskine planner.
- Found out what the Manila City hall looks like from the air.
- Was given an 8 GB iPhone.
- Gave a Moleskine large weekly planner and a black Lamy Safari fountain pen to the man who gave me the 2 GB flash drive, the 200 GB external hard drive, the 8 GB iPhone, and The Great Gatsby.
- Bought a new 15-inch MacBook Pro.
- Started using my exercise machine again.
- Gained 15 lbs. Lost 15 lbs. Gained 15 lbs.

- Created The Quest, a magazine for the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group's 55th Anniversary.
- Got a new haircut.
- Finished reading The Great Gatsby.
- Was made a Super Moderator on The Philippine Macintosh Users Group.
- Attended a friend's book launch.
- Bought books and bags and clothes.
- Spent a few afternoons in the University of the Philippines, Diliman, sitting on the grass and reading.

- Wrecked my car's rear shock mounts.
- Deleted all the contents of my iPod.
- Somehow got my apartment featured at PinoyCentric.
- Was touted as an "Ice Queen," a "renaissance chick," and a "geek in sexy disguise" when my blog was featured as Pick of the Week on the Blog Search Engine.
- Played Monopoly with Chandler on a teeny tiny Monopoly set.
- Went to Caylabne and Tagaytay and Puerto Princesa and Cebu with the man in my life.

- Was conked out on by my four year-old Boa disc writer.
- Redecorated my bathroom and my bedroom.
- Started trying to become a vegetarian.

Whew! That list is quite long but it's not enough, not enough. It's been only six months but it feels like two years. In moving on and moving through the rooms and hallways of my solitude, I have stopped to open windows and air out the beddings and sweep the dust off the furniture. Finally I can look out again and admire the scenery, and know that I can go out any time I want and take a walk in the sunshine. Love is here, and it can stay as long as it wants to.