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Monday, January 29, 2007
Midnights and Cups of Coffee

I was just remembering one of my favorite classes in college, INTPOET (Introduction to Poetry), taught by Palanca (the Philippine equivalent of the Pulitzer) awardee and hall of famer Cirilio F. Bautista. It was more than a course in appreciation. It was an immersion trip into the realm of words and allusion--a better understanding of the whys and wherefores of meter and rhyme, metaphors and similes, streams of consciousness, and the dizzying possibilites of free verse. I loved digging into both ancient and pop-cult references to unearth each poet's train of thought, eventually leading to lightbulb moments in my own literary explorations.

For my class recitation, I had to interpret Dylan Thomas' much quoted masterpiece, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. I had a field day with it. Little did I know that years later, I would have reason to tap into Thomas' poetic, if desperate, attempt to rouse his dying father's will to live.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

But few of the works we studied piqued my interest more than T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. With its countless allusions and metaphors, I probably spent weeks trying to decode each line. But it was worth it, as it had a profound effect on how I write today, particularly the line "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons". That one line says it all, doesn't it? Several noted songwriters apparently thought so too. Take the musical RENT's Jonathan Larson, for instance, in his song Seasons of Love ("How do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee..."), or in the songs of the Canadian rock band The Crash Test Dummies ("Afternoons will be measured out in coffeespoons and T.S. Eliot..."). Artists like Tori Amos, Rush, Lloyd Cole and several others have infused their own lyrics with Prufrockian sentiments, not to mention many successful writers of film and television.

But let the work speak for itself. Here it is in its entirety:

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
by T.S. Eliot

S`io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question...
Oh, do not ask, `` What is it? ''
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening.
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains.
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys.
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me.
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, ``Do I dare?'' and, ``Do I dare?''
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--
[They will say: ``How his hair is growing thin!'']
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin--
[They will say: ``But how his arms and legs are thin!'']
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all--
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all--
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
. . . . .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep. . . tired . . . or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet--and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: `` I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all''--
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: ``That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.''

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor--
And this, and so much more?--
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow, or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
``That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.''
. . . . .
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous--
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
posted by The White Rabbit at 4:53 PM | Permalink | 0 Speak Up!
Saturday, January 27, 2007

Today is the birthday of my friend Monique Villa, who passed away nearly 6 years ago at the age of 29. Realizing how long she's been gone makes me pause in disbelief sometimes. It really seems strange to me how we (her friends) have all come to accept the fact that her fiery, breathtaking presence has all but been snuffed out of this earth forever. She was just too...beautiful, too young and vibrant, to have ever become invisible, as her death has now deemed her to be.

Even after all this time, I can easily flick on a switch in my memory and hear her sweet soprano voice singing Tuptim's songs from the "King & I". I can see her dancing across the stage as Sleeping Beauty in those unbelievably tiny and delicate dancing slippers. I still sometimes drive through our old street (we lived a few houses away from each other) expecting to see her sitting beside me in the car looking straight ahead with those large, disney-princess eyes. We often drove to rehearsals together and shared many laughs and obscure theater songs on the long ride across South Super Highway. Monique probably weighed all of 90lbs and yet could scarf down platesful of rice in a single meal. We often asked her, where did all that food go? And with an impish grin, she would point to her head and declare, here!

Well, Monique, we all knew how much you loved to sing. And how much you wanted to learn and improve and become a great thespian. So much so that you fought for (and won) the role of a crochety, wrinkled old crone in the musical "Oliver!" just so people could finally see beyond your pretty face to the true artist within. You left this world still singing-- in a voice that we may not have been privileged to hear, but which I know God heard loud and clear. There is no doubt in my mind that you are singing your heart out now up in heaven, probably leading the choirs of angels themselves.

I just wanted you to know, in my own small way, that you will never be forgotten. Happy Birthday!
posted by The White Rabbit at 3:19 PM | Permalink | 2 Speak Up!
Friday, January 26, 2007
Get a load of this piece of superzoom art! Keep zooming in and enter worlds within worlds. Exclusively for the bold, beautiful...and bored. Haha. Enjoy!
posted by The White Rabbit at 1:54 PM | Permalink | 0 Speak Up!
Monday, January 22, 2007

Had a rare get-together the other day with my best friends from college Me-an, Hail and Annie. A certain number of years ago (ahem!) we spent every day of 3 years together at De La Salle University on Taft Avenue. I'm sure there were some dark days in those 3 or so years (after the basic trimester, we ended up doing our own thing and graduated at different times), but to be honest, all I remember of my adventures with these gals was all fun and laughter. We looked normal, but boy were we so NOT. Haha. Where to begin? I'm not even going to try. The important thing is that we still laugh at the new developments in our lives as much as we did then. Greeting each other on the 5th floor of Shangrila Mall, it was like the lapsed months since we last saw each other had never happened. In Hail's case, it's been over a year!

Busy as we have become--Hail is a full-time wife and mom of two boys, Annie's living out her dream of running a hip magazine, Me-an is a rising banking executive, and I a desperate housewife (mwhahahaha)--we found an excellent excuse to meet up last weekend. Not only was Me-an's birthday coming up, we were celebrating her well-deserved promotion to AVP for global accounts at Citibank. Congrats my dear friend! And since the promotion comes with its share of perks, I am looking forward to taking a spin in that snazzy new car you're about to get!

After a scrumptious CPK meal of shrimp scampi pizza, 2 kinds of pasta, chicken caesar salad and egg rolls, we made the most of the afternoon walking around and shopping for a gift for Hail's youngest, who happens to be our godson (yes, all three of us!). We got him a cool Mace Windu lightsaber (because he specifically asked for a purple one). And since I didn't want this little boy to open a gift from practical strangers (we hadn't seen him since he was a wee thing), I quickly took a photo of us on my celfone and had it printed pronto on one of those digital kiosks. We then attached it onto the gift card that came with the wrapping. At least now there will be actual faces to go with his theoretical ninangs' names!

The afternoon flew by quickly. As usual, we parted ways rushing off to wherever it was that our grownup lives needed us to be. But we finally did it, after a year of trying. We made time to get together and that's what matters. Here's to the next one guys!

P.S. At CPK, we had a very strange server. Or a very honest one. He advised us not to order the raspberry iced tea because it tasted like cough syrup. So we all ordered the lemon-flavored one. It was a weird moment. Haha.
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posted by The White Rabbit at 8:02 PM | Permalink | 0 Speak Up!
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Happy Happy Happy Birthday. . .

Mamo, surrounded by las hijas Patty, Miren, and moi!

Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime.

-William Shakespeare
posted by The White Rabbit at 10:18 AM | Permalink | 1 Speak Up!
Saturday, January 06, 2007
We Three Kings
People kept greeting Rein and me "Happy Feast Day!" today. Geniuses that we are, we didn't catch on to the joke until much later on in the day. I had forgotten that today, the 6th of January, is the Feast of the Three Kings (or Magi) -- an odd holiday that is still apparently celebrated in certain regions of the world. Few people remember it here in our country. We nearly didn't. But now with my new surname attached to me forever, methinks I will never forget it again! Haha. To my foreign readers (all 2 million of you!), my Filipino married name just happens to translate exactly to "three kings" in English. Hence, all the fun and fuss I am enjoying this day.

In honor of this proud new tradition in my life, I searched high and low for interesting artworks that pay tribute to this resplendent and determined royal trio. I found quite a few. Enter my Three Kings gallery and let me share them with you.

Here's a sneak preview:

My personal favorite. . .so adorable!

This I absolutely love...isn't it beautiful?
posted by The White Rabbit at 11:59 PM | Permalink | 4 Speak Up!