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.

11 February 2011

Where the days are longest

When I was growing up in the farm, one of my main means of learning and entertainment was -- aside from shelves upon shelves of books -- my father’s stereo deck. One evening, when I was eight or nine, I my father brought home for me a 45 rpm vinyl record of America.

I have never heard of the band America before, and I was amused by the smaller size of the record, since I have never before seen anything other than the larger 33 1/2 rpms that we had around the house. I grew up listening to these 12 inch records. My favorites were those of classical music, Barry Manilow, Burt Bacharach, the Carpenters, Claire dela Fuente, Peter, Paul and Mary, and the soundtrack of Ice Castles.

I did not like nursery rhymes so much; I preferred music that spoke of hurt and pain and long, sad journeys, in voices that resonated with either despair, hope, or indignation. I naturally gravitated to grownup songs, which Da probably knew, and which was probably why he brought me that record of America.

My favorite song in that America record was Ventura Highway, and it still remains as my favorite America song. What made me fall in love with it, though, is not the sad sense of nostalgia and memory and the subtle desire to escape something dark and murky in the past, but the very first line: “Chewing on a piece of grass, walking down the road.”

Because that was me, growing up in a farm, wearing shorts and rubber boots, chewing on a piece of grass, walking down the road that was either dusty or muddy, depending on the weather. Mostly I would be alone, with no yaya running after me, and I could spend the day as I pleased. Weekends and summer vacations for me were spent either up in a tree branch reading a book, exploring my mother’s vegetable garden and squishing bugs, or rummaging around the dark bodega for old things that I would make up stories of. There would be balmy afternoons spent picking forget-me-not petals from the bush, crushing various leaves in the palm of my hand and smelling the aroma while sitting on one of the large rocks that formed part of my mother’s garden landscape. Sometimes I would pick the tiny red spheres that the aratiles tree bore, and eat extremely sour iba off the branches while skipping around with my face all scrunched up. Sometimes, after the gardener was done cutting the grass on the front lawn I’d lie there, feeling the sharp blades of the carpet grass poking my skin until I started to itch.

Most days I would walk from our house to the comprada where my parents held office. I’d bring a sandwich, and eat while walking. Or sometimes I would bring a long stick and pretend I was an old, old man from biblical times walking on a long, interminable journey. I would wave sagely to the cows that belonged to the next-door neighbor, and contemplate the greenish-brown cake-like droppings of carabaos with a rather marked effort at profundity. Each time I would take that walk I would always find something to wonder about.

Indeed, those were the days of my content. Although I was well-read enough to know that the world out there was huge and wonderful, I was pretty content to experience that huge and wonderful outside world from the comfort of my own room or reading nook or tree-branch. And dusty, humid afternoons that go on forever would always hold a mythical place in my memory.

[Image credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]