Sunday, April 27, 2008

Arnel Pineda's Journey

I don't fall in love anymore and I sure don't with Filipino men. Well, maybe. I don't care to watch or hear any of the Filipino talents we have, not even our famous actors or actresses in the US- in fact they make me sick if not piss me off. But two weeks ago, Chat, John and I were at La Madeleine for lunch and she started telling me about some Filipino guy who sings and was discovered on YouTube by Journey - the famous band in the US. I had to think hard of who Journey is so John my favorite son- in-law started humming "Faithfully". As soon as I got home I went to YouTube and watched the video. Immediately, I felt like I was strapped in a straightjacket. I was gripped. I remembered an old black and white footage of The Beatles arriving in America and the camera panned on women crying and stretching their hand out wanting to touch them. In disgust under my breath I called those women, stupid, lunatic etc. Well, to my horror, I too became a lunatic for Arnel Pineda, except there was no camera panning on me.

Arnel Pineda!!! I was captured, smitten, bitten, sick to the nines and goosed to death. I suddenly found myself unable to explain my euphoria. I was so exhilarated I could not sleep that night. The next morning in my pensive moment I pondered on what God must have been thinking that day in 1967.

In a town of Sampalok, Manila, Arnel was born. Six years later, Arnel's parents would position him on top of a table and make him sing while a band called Journey was being formed somewhere in California. Journey went on to sell 43 million copies while Arnel was living off of left over crumbs, scavenging for scrap metals and selling empty bottles in order to eat. At the same time, successively, the year 1977, 1978 and 1979 - three boys were born respectively in America, Taiwan and Germany.

God looked down from heaven smiling while methodically creating a position at Journey. Hmm.... He said, "Arnel, hang in there. The design is almost complete. I just need to get these three boys together so they can create YouTube. In the meantime, I will give you a glimpse of life outside the Philippines so go to Hong Kong and sing there. I will get you back to the Philippines when it is time because I know you really want to go to America. And by the way, don't worry about the position at Journey - you already have the job. I am just waiting for Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim to iron out the kinks at YouTube, so when Noel uploads your clips it will be perfect for Neal Schon to view and hear.

Arnel, if I can put all this together you think I would overlook the US embassy in Manila? Don't sweat it man. I will get the adjudicating officer to be at Bagaberde and hear you sing. I will make sure he drinks enough San Miguel that even if you sound like a frog he won't notice. And hey, don't fret when you get to the embassy! At first you will show up at Singer's window (don't laugh at his name, it's not a coincidence) but that American who had too much San Miguel will take over your case and he will remember you. I told him to give you the visa so you can go see Schon and the gang in San Francisco. And like I said, you already got the job so just relax in Chile. And you thought I had forgotten you. Don't stop believing, the wheel in the sky is my sign that with open arms I am faithfully watching over you."

Then God giggled and rested. But then He remembered that I, Ritchie, for two weeks went to bed crying and wishing for a ticket to see Arnel when Journey comes to Dallas in July. I feigned madness, illness and depression until Chat was convinced that the only way to heal me was to buy me a front row ticket. Whew -- what I have to go through to get a Mother's day gift.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Panic Attack Abroad

Two months ago I went to the Bahamas. That same week before my flight, I was already anxious I could feel a full blown panic attack coming on. Normal people would be excited (to say the least) about an impending vacation. But not me. The silent torment and fear I felt was all I could bear, I contemplated on cancelling the whole thing. But I kept telling myself -I will never be able to do anything outside of my daily routine if I let this fear control me.

I kept asking God for a sign to stop me from going. No answer, So I went. Once inside the new DFW terminal I started to feel better. Nice restaurants serving a good choice of breakfast foods! This was my first time to fly out of the new terminal, it reminded me of the Hongkong airport-huge and nice but not quiet.
I was leisurely eating my ham and egg and sipping on my capuccino while talking to my friend in New Jersey. After we hang up I made a concentrated effort to convince myself that it is ok for myself to have fun--to enjoy this trip! I don't know when I picked up this baggage of feeling guilty everytime I am having fun. But lately, I discovered that my panic disorder came with a bonus--I just could not enjoy anything (whatever it is) without feeling guilty. I need someone to slap me over the head and tell me softly or loudly --it's ok, you have my permission to enjoy yourself. Why is that? My psychiatrist didn't get to answer this question because after our first meeting and he told me that I need to see him once a week at least for the first 2 months, I decided I was not that screwed up after all. Eighty dollars a week so he can look at me cross-eyed and pronounce me crazy?

On the flight to our stop-over in Fort Lauderdale, I was "normal" again and I wanted to preserve the feeling by watching a documentary about China, narrated by this solo traveler named Justine. See, she's a solo traveler too! I tried to encourage myself. I found that my portable dvd player can rescue me from pesty seatmates and/or upcoming panic attacks.
When we landed, I went to buy lunch. Why is it that it is either food or pills before I can feel comfortable in any given situation. I was not hungry, I just felt that it was time to take my food. I paced back and forth by the gate because I could see that the airplane taking me to the Bahamas was smaller than what I have been used to. This was my first time to fly on a small airplane. There were two flight attendants; a white woman and a male who looked Middle Eastern but his accent betrayed his looks. This also being my first time to go to the Bahamas, I was unfamiliar of a Bahamian accent. I was in a mix of frustration from trying to understand what he was saying and fear thinking he was Isaac's militant fanatical cousin. Oh, dear God, he's going to blow up this plane and I could not be identified by my dental records because as my stepson once told me he has more college degrees than I have teeth.

The sound of the airplanes' engine trying to get off the ground and act like it could not, made me pray more seriously. Lord, in between the choices of this plane crashing because of engine failure and being blown off by a terrorist, let it be the latter. At least, I will have the chance to try and have a scene with the hijacker then I can call and tell my daughter Chat some stories that she can relay to the news media. And knowing her, she would make up real good ones. Though posthumously, someone will see my name in print since I have been unlucky with publishing companies to get my book published. Lord, I am not asking for much, If I have to go down in flames, I want to make it loud too.
I was so focused in my prayer I did not notice the man seated next to me was drooling on my shoulder. Nor did I hear him snore. It made sense why his wife sat 2 rows away from him.
When we landed at Nassau, all I could think of was run to the counter of American airlines and see if I could get back on the plane and fly back to Dallas. I was by then not only very sad, but very anxious- I could feel I was about to black out. But I pressed on. I tried the breathing technique, I applied mind manipulation. Neither one worked. I got to the hotel and went to look for a restaurant - time to take my food. But the rice and the fried conch did not have power over my pounding and racing heartbeat. I held out taking my pill - telling myself instead, I can do this. I called my daughter and made her promise me that the next time I plan on another trip to make sure and tie me to a post and leave me there for dead.
With Gods' providence I managed my panic attack to a comfortable level. Also with Gods providence I got on the wrong bus. I was going to the botanical garden, instead I got on a bus going the opposite direction. (One thing about travelling alone, you can do just whatever you want to do.) The bus driver asked me if I wanted to go with Ava, his sister in-law who was also on the bus, after all, this was a Sunday. Thank God my shorts were not that short because Ava introduced me to the Pastor and he introduced me to the whole congregation. Look what Ava drag in here. I spent the whole day worshipping (and mostly eating) with them.
Needless to say, I managed to enjoy my weekend stay there even without anyone's permission. But Chat and I concluded that I don't have to spend all that money to have a panic attack abroad; for a lot less I could do it here locally. As often as I don't want it.