The Vanilla In Manila (ViM) Diaries

“Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead.”
~from HAGAKURE by Yamamoto Tsunetomo

It is always hard to know who to believe. It is perhaps even harder for us who defy easy ethnic categorization. For all extensive purposes, I am white. I’m not a fan of sunlight (hence the proclivity for theater faggery in windowless rooms) which leaves me with a greenish tint to my skin (bit o’ the Irish don’cha know). When I’m abroad (a-hem) and I catch a tan, people complain to me about the price of ham in their native tongue while queued up at the market. (Eat your heart out Ben Kingsley.)

Oh, before we go any further, I am in the Philippines attending the International Theater Institute (ITI) World Congress . . . (that’s all I can divulge right now. I had to say something because all the straight people with lives are complaining that they don’t get it.)

My little brown brothers, who work at the hotel bar of which I am currently inured, tell me that Brooklyn is more dangerous than downtown Manila. Meanwhile, my father who happens to be a big, pasty (albeit respectable) white guy, likes to make me aware of which foreign journalist was found in the trunk of his car in addition to the number of chunks to which he has now been reduced. Not the best topic for breakfast but homeboy makes his point . . . the Third World is not to be taken lightly.

So when my new found friends invite me out to shoot pool I think it can’t be worse than being bent over the bar by the Dominatrix-cum-Bartendress at On The Rocks in Rochacha. I mean there is no way that I’m going to have to throw-down to keep my own leather jacket as one does at The Elbow Room in Dutch Harbor. However, nothing could have compared me to the despair that only intense poverty can generate.

I can’t really go into the details of what I experienced Quezon City on this less than fine evening. (This is an Arts Blog, after all). Basically, for the cost of your dry cleaning you can buy a human being. I felt pretty safe until my compatriots got wasted and the other Pinoys started giving me the hairy eyeball. The more inebriated my friends got the greater my potential in joining the eight-year-olds who had passed out in the gutter from lack of food.

It was time to leave. We spilled out of the establishment and into a cab. I dropped off the more polluted of the crew and retained Harvey, the biggest and most sober. The next destination was The HandleBar on Jupiter Street, a comparatively mellow ex-pat biker bar of sorts. I’m a little slow on the uptake so it takes a little prodding for me to notice that the place was being occupied by the Greatest Rebounder in the history of NBA.

Dennis Rodman is currently on the Bad Boy Tour, where he has assembled a crew of other ex-NBA greats to compliment his new book. To the best of Harvey’s knowledge, he had recently suffered a loss to a team of PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) all-stars, including my favorite Asi Taulava, a giant half-breed of the Phil-Am variety.

Now, for those of you who have not been following my writing, I suck at following professional sports. The Pseudo-Nameless Bodacious Barrister has chastised me on several occasions (for the clueless check out the comments on WhereInBlogosphereIsIvanB and I was just reprimanded by Serafanny for my erroneous footie facts in reporting the Arsenal soccer player who broke his ankle as French. Duh. Other than Carmen Electra and Madonna, I was short on topics of convo with which to engage Mr. Rodman.

He saddled up to bar flanked by two other large dudes. This was my opportunity . . . I’m about a quarter his bodyguards total mass so they barely noticed me as I ordered my San Miguel.

“Hey Dennis,” my voice cracking as if I had just hit puberty. Three big heads turn and then look down forty-five degrees in my direction. “Yeah . . . Wassup?” No million-dollar smile, piercings filled in with discrete studs, hat covering the infamous dye job. Shades. In my best baritone, “Ya know, it’s funny . . . my Dad lives in the Philippines too.”

Remember that Mean Joe Green coca-cola advert from the 70’s. It’s the kind thing you remember even if you are too young to ever have seen it . . . like that David Bowie song that everyone thinks is by Nirvana. Well, it was exactly like that commercial only in reverse, 30 years older and just plain sad.

“Well ‘aight.” Still smileless. Turning away.

Any simple Google search would have informed me that this was the ultimate wrong thing to say. My middle name is Bosch, as in the power tool. 100% Junior Varsity.

By the by . . . Rodman’s book is called, I SHOULD BE DEAD BY NOW.

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