Nightfall

Looking out into the black, I finally realize that feeling of lonliness.

That feeling of death.

That blackness, tepid faint of whiteness

Perpetual, never ending nothingness

This is what I’m going to see one day.

and that day will be the day

when the hours will begin and

cease to end. Heaven willing,

this is what I’m going to surround myself with

like a blanket shrouding my soul

a warm blanket beneath the body

gearing me to be ready

until that day comes.

That Was the Worst Christmas Ever! – Part 1

It was a hot and steamy type of Christmas. An Evergreen festival found inside the Everglades; tables set with gator jerky and a brown case of dried cat tails decorating a mahogany tabletop covered in polyester.

Awake at five thirty in the morning, I sloppily drag myself out of bed to shower, dress up, and consume breakfast while my family continues to sleep. Decorations juggling lights in intervals, strobe effects playing outside my window as I groggily put on my work issued t-shirt and a sweatshirt to bask against the brisk cool weather outside. I am hardly awake, unjolly as I check my pockets for my phone, my wallet, and my keys. I walk out of the door and a few steps permit me to run back inside and to throw my sweater on my bed, as the air shows me a misty warm seventy-eight degrees Fahrenheit. Living in Florida for more than half of my life (twenty-one-years total), I am still not used to the hot weather that is consistent throughout the year.

Driving to work, I nod in time to the tune of millennialist Christmas compilations composed by Christian indie incarnate/Atheism’s idiot savant Sufjan Stevens – of whom I had witnessed live in concert two months before – the 6 CD box set titled “Songs for Christmas” purchased at the merch table. The array of jingle jangles, traditional Christmas fare supported with witty and weird instrumentals carrying the tune, the Holidays have come once again. It’s a breath of cool air, icicles surrounding the mist, the exhale of CO2 condensing into a fog centimeters in front of my eyes, and I am thrown into a whirlwind of sensations reserved for the enlightened. The question permits to me, as a Sufjan Super Fan, to ask myself “is it better to present one’s self as eccentric and weird or to be emotionally edgy teetering with blasphemy?” Given the rapid influx of nonreligious millennials, I, a heathen-like believer, discover solace within a man’s admiration of orthodox fare, melodiously spoken in the most unorthodox manner. The same effort to do me good in a world growing disillusioned to how the world works, instead resorting to promote to how they work themselves.

With the roads darkened, streetlights nonexistent, I drive through the fog accompanied by a gentle backdrop of home-country guitars, strumming banjos, and snow-falling piano keys as the Sufjan song “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” moodily toots high on repeat. However, in the belated bliss normally felt during Christmas, a sudden thought had hit me and I started to seethe in remorse; growing somber and a bit melancholy. I had dreaded for this day. Throughout the week, I was granted to only work during the weekends (as agreed by the HR manager whom I had first spoken to while applying) to use my weekdays to focus on schoolwork. That wish was granted, but soon there was one day that I was permitted to work: Christmas. The day happened on a Friday, and of course, being new at the job, the context given to me was to simply be fortunate enough to work at such a highly-esteemed position. Such that by having any objection to say otherwise would ultimately end in my untimely demise and to an abrupt end of a seemingly easy job.

An eight-hour shift awaits at my arrival. From seven to three-thirty, and I could only pray to make the day go by fast or to slowly embrace our Disney-like delfino of high times and low sorrows. My workplace, if one is curious to know, takes place in the noted hotel complex serving food and drinks to the masses famished with hunger. A simple primeval urge to have breakfast before a monster out and obsessed with hangriness overtakes any evidence of human reason and consciousness made out to our stoic ethics and mercy towards our common man.

The mornings were the worst, and everyone younger than aged twenty-five shared this viewpoint due to a few conditions. The first reason that we all look forward to is that the mornings are subject to pairing of lazy young workers (i.e. me) along with the most diligent of workers. By “diligent of workers” I pertain to a set of later-aged, work-hardened Haitians who excel at their job; unafraid to raise their voices to anyone who slows down their pace. Sheltered and young aged, fresh faced college workers, such as myself, are not used to such treatments. We were raised in affluent surroundings and to be faced with a sharp tongue and patience of a demon, not many college workers worked in the morning, nor were we willing to do so. Second, the crowd. As mentioned before, breakfast is notorious for attracting a great number of families with a primeval urge to consume exorbitant amounts of food hours after they had awoken. Third, and finally, the morning is best experienced sleeping in. The sunrise is seldom witnessed by those who are my age, simply because we’re knocked out on our beds to bother with the act.

But complains are complaints, and despite the usual qualms stated against my employer, Tootsie World, I remained quite optimistic. It was, at latest, the best job that I’ve held in my spotty, largely empty, work history of a youth mostly spent on education. The Merton Resort, a throwback of upper-class brick layered households and cobblestone streets, embraces of some living Dickensian surroundings complete with a pool on the side property, next to the aquarium sized parking lot. My restaurant, located within forty paces from the front desk, was aptly named The Hearty Heath Hoedown. While we were originally served as a restaurant, we also shared a gift shop in the same premises. It was here at the gift shop where I, wide eyed and naïve, bought my last-minute Christmas presents for my largely spiritual (religious) family, spending over a hundred dollars on three items just before work started. Stuffing the contents into my foot locker, I head up to the dining area to start my day. Little did I know, that on the day when I had hoped to be the happiest of all days, it soon turned of those days. I’ve had some bad days working in The Hearty Heath during the year that I’ve worked there, but looking back, quite ironically, Christmas turned out to be the worst day of them all.

I look at the whiteboard to see my name centered on a position that I haven’t worked since training. Despite this, I went out in front and on the first five minutes, I received the to-go order of a breakfast platter of bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits and seasoned potatoes covered with a flimsy plastic lid. There was also another order of oatmeal that goes along with the American-sized starter. I headed over to the hot section to pick up a bowl of oatmeal with a covered cup of brown sugar placed on top. Heading back, placing the oatmeal inside the paper sack. I then noticed that the white stacks were running low, so I called out to anyone who would listen “Does anyone know where I can get white paper bags?”

The head chef Mary Carver, who was not so merry in working her Merry Christmas shift, overheard my worrywart question and looked up in an annoyed surprise.

“Hey, you!” Mary scolded me in a direct tone. I looked over.

“How long have you been working here?”

“Three months.” I responded.

“So why are you still asking about where your items are?”

Whenever scolded, I stay silent.

Chef Mary pointed me to the supply closet, housing most of the condiments and supplies that were reserved for the dining area. I walk to the closet, while the board was still covered, and hastily search for white paper bags. I could only anticipate the upcoming breakfast rush; looming over me like a silent bullet soon to be shot in my brain. Seasoned employees, on the other hand, reassured my never-ending anxiety. Christmas is the time of year when hotel employees are spared of the impending crowd, as the rest of them would rather head to the major parks, where patrons cannot walk a few steps without rubbing shoulders with one another.

This observation was true, as the restaurant was mainly spotty, with only a few brisk moments of a family coming to the ordering kiosk, thus being less entailed to experiencing an hour-long rush. This idleness, however, unpassed Chef Mary who demanded idle employees, such as myself, to go out and interact with the guests. I then went out and conversed with a family, wondering if the newly released Star Wars movie was worth the twenty-dollar ticket to which they unanimously agreed. We further conversed about their Christmas plans until Chef Mary passes me and makes a quick aside to my ear. “Take off your gloves!” I look down and my five-fingered condoms were still covering my palms. From Christmas, until the day that I left, I had viewed Chef Mary with a perpetual filter of malice; an intensified droop of the eyebrows as I muttered curse words under my breath whenever I walk by.

Four hours slowly pass, breakfast is over and lunch begins where I am now switched into the area where I serve the hot side items and kids meals.

“Hey, you have to be in the Hot Box now. Remember from training?” a middle aged yet stern Haitian who goes by name of Stella, scolds me in subversion. I comply, but deep inside, I fume in anger. During the Hot Box shift, I try to subvert this negative energy by having some fun. I raise my voice in question, “Where are the plates?”

“Okay…” Line cook Tiffany, middle aged, overweight, and country bumpkin raised, quietly responded.

“Where are the plates??”

“Okay.”

“Where are the plates!?”

“Okay!!”

That shut me up. And I then see plates hand in front of my eyeballs and I remain at work without opening my mouth any further.

I look up and I continue to serve others against my own expense. Some of whom would turn out to be from my own family. My brother, ecstatic to see me in action, records a thirty second clip on his phone as I do the work, holding my head to remain composure as the whole world continues do droop into a hot, mushy mess. Minutes before I stall from the overwhelming pressure, the breaker then notifies me to go on break. Heading inside of the breakroom, I lounge around for a few seconds listening to anything but Christmas music. My junior aged co-workers then find me and call me back outside. Apparently, there is a certain type of person who wants me, out of all individuals, to serve them their food. Heading out to the dining room, I see that, of course, it’s my family who had asked me to serve them. I serve them their food, and after a few comments between them about how expensive and delicious the entrees were, I then head back to the break room to soothe myself in solace of a Christmas wish to having a good day has since turned into a myth.

The afternoon hits and the new group of employees arrive to take over the morning people, myself included. Tired and back at Expo, I rest my eyes down into the floor to take a few deep breaths. It was a long day, and after the seventh hour, I was ready to go home. Wallowing in my sorrows, I hear a husky voice call out behind me, “Is that tray ready?” I look back and a tray full of dishes ready to be transferred. The voice, belonging to the slim Korean-German Autumn Chon, who is no stranger to the development of my increasing disenchantment to authority, grabs the tray and places it in front of me.

Autumn then reminds me, “Make sure to check that there’s food behind you.”

And at this point, it was an hour long wait until I was granted to clock out. I was hoping to do anything to make the minutes go by faster. Surprisingly, 3:30 had hit the clock, and I walked out of there desperate to forget about today for the rest of the week. Christmas was the only day in two weeks of which I was granted to work, and after my diatribe with a few officials. I felt blessed to have to not work the next day, because the day was halfway done, and I wanted to go home and call it a day. All I wanted to do was to simply sit in my room and to read anything that came to me. Instead, I had to go home, get ready to the Christmas mass, and to consume a Holiday dinner with my family.

For working during the holiday, I was promised to receive a holiday’s pay to make up for a day normally reserved for spending time with friends and family. And in the manner of working eight hours, it turned out, since I was new to the workplace, and I was working part time, I had to remain content with the Union-set paycheck.

Walking out of the employee entrance, the hot Florida sun was beaming down my face as I walked to my care in a huff. Like the previous, precarious premonition experienced during the drive to work, I knew that Christmas, even though it was not yet over, was going to end badly.

Part 2 will be posted most likely after Christmas.

Exceprts from a Cheap, Cardboard Notebook Smothered with Stickers

There are days when she’s bound to go away. How often one looks at her with the heart becoming influxed with emotion! Causing the body to forget its basic task, until it realizes that its eyes see reality speeding the body back into motion. Causing that little panic attack, condensed into a physical characteristic, upon sight.

When the heart skips a beat, there is nothing that earthly needs could use to distract us from the heavenly body which has come down right in front of us. Only for a moment do our phones stay silent and the mouths of our detractors remain shut. For one moment experienced in our short life do we experience a split-second trip blip can truly go on forever.

But goodbyes, as noted by a famed Portuguese poet, are known to us as deaths within the smallest factor. Human death is of no context but rather the feeling of change that is so desperately needed. Yet our body and mind reject it at first glance. Some may view this and laugh it off like a deluded man turning off the television set upon sight of a man with a red jumpsuit apparatus waltzing around the stage. Toying with the performers while they look back with a smirk of amusement as the crowd grows united within one another.

But it’s easy to disregard the devil if you don’t believe in the devil. For the poor man who is heartbroken, when he chooses to shut himself out from the world, to wallow his feelings inside of a dark closet, then demons surely do exist. He is in its real human form. And when such temptations to fall under his wing prove successful, then the world can never find out to what caused such a man to be possessed by something so simple yet so demanding and devastating in effect.

Megacon Brings In The Worst People (Part 1)

It was a gloomy Saturday morning with the sky as a blanket of clouds and the sunlight producing a blissful haze throughout the region.

My brother, Johnny, is posing as Kato from The Green Hornet with the hope that one of his photos would serve as his latest profile pic. He was keen on participating in a pastime well known for many the nerds and geeks worldwide who anticipate such a day within the likes of Johnny and I. Posing in various martial arts stances, after taking two pictures, anguished, he let out a big yell “Augh! My costume has a hole on it!”

This was when the adaptation of “The Green Hornet”, directed by the visual French eccentric Michel Gondry, was released. The once hyped movie of the summer in 2011, ultimately brought down to mediocrity due to a number “imperfections” caused a once beloved series, integral to the rise of stardom for the iconic Bruce Lee, to go down as nothing more than a mere cash grab. Likely to end up in the collection of five dollar DVDs at the local Walmart. Holding high regard towards the Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou, for the portrayal of his hero’s breakthrough role, my brother dressed as said character in respect to the late actor. I took a picture from his back. A large sea of white ripped from the Velcro lining, serving as the first clause of dismay to the Bruce Lee wannabe. It didn’t his news deteriorate my excitement for the day though. In the weeks prior to the event, the largest and most premiere Comic Book, Anime, Sci-fi, and Pop-Culture festival in Central Florida, my brother invited me to go with him to this public event. Joining his friends eager to surround themselves with the life they once enjoyed. Everyone I knew in high school was keen on attending and if I hadn’t conjured up the interest to say yes, I imagined a month long period of remorse; fueled by the giddy conversations of past attendees of explaining the event in vague and clichéd key words such as “epic” and “cool”. With all of these factors playing against my conscience, naturally, I accepted his invitation.

“Megacon it is.” My brother replied.

The year was 2011 and I am driving down John Young Parkway squashed with cars due to the morning rush hour. Inside a dark indigo Nissan 300z, Johnny is riding shotgun while my father sits in the back seat. I had just gotten my permit and my father wanted me to use every available opportunity to get scolded by him for any common mistakes I made when practicing. Whenever a mistake was made, I would end up with an earful of livid sentences screaming out from a man who never got sick from his overwhelming redness. This was not faring to be a good morning.

Driving through John Young Parkway, mired in the morning rush hour, a large HONK from a white Lexus passed on my right. My father yelled:

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING ALBERT!? PUT THE CAR IN THE CENTER!”

Apparently, I was jeering out of my lane with the right side barely merging into traffic. Frayed with emotion, I obeyed his orders and brought the car back in its lane as I tried to remain cool and content while my livid father lectured me from the back.

“You see Albert? Keep the car on the center of the lane. If you don’t then you’ll merge into the other lane and cause an accident! Keep the…keep the car in the lane. Okay? The center lane. Keep the car in the center lane.”

Johnny, who had grandfathered my dad’s unpleasant attitude, put his hand in front of the dashboard and gestured it to the left, causing to further bottle up my emotions. I looked to the rosary swinging from the rearview mirror while my restless soul fevered with rage. What had I done to deserve this? I was bound to have a good morning today, and already I was experiencing a moment that tends to ruin my day. I was trapped with these two people for the remainder of the car ride. Normally, when I would become increasingly frustrated, my parents would notice this behavior and demanded me to explain what’s wrong while asking to keep my mouth shut. Needless to say, I picked up on their advice and remained stoic while my brain reduced itself to an anger infused mush.

Yet from behind, my father continued to dwell on my close call with death.

My father sneered “I just don’t get it Albert. I just don’t get it.” He picked up his phone and dialed his brother on the phone. The rest of his family lives in The Philippines. Cebu City to be exact. A city that I would much prefer to live if I didn’t forsake my Visayan tongue to mingle with my passively racist friends. His voice immediately became cheerful and enthusiastic as a conversation consisting of updates from his mother, his sisters, and his brothers were on the topic. While he happily continued conversing with his family, I was whispering to myself. Speaking in tongues into the open air to remain calm. Telling myself “It’s going to be alright. Everything is fine. Just let this pass and you can live the rest of the day without your father breathing down your neck.”  My father noticed my bizzare behavior and immediately put his phone on his chest.

“Albert…CALM DOWN.”

What he had failed to realize was, because I was learning to know how to drive, I was in control of the steering wheel. And whoever has control of the steering wheel was in total control of the car. I stepped on the pedal and the Nissan revved in acceleration. The three of us jerked back and the cars in front of us started to slow down, causing me to dodge the red tailights of the commuting traffic. In the back, my father drops the phone and panics in despair. He begins yelling at me in a such a powerful voice; akin to when I insistently hold my ground. Johnny begins to grab the wheel while he punches me in the face. He was always nuts about martial arts, but it’s too bad considering I have an affinity with cars. I focused my attention on the steering wheel; using years of training from playing Gran Truismo and Daytona USA. I was determined to make things go my way. My father always got what he wanted… and today was the day when I finally stood up to him. The serves in traffic begin to become blurred lines and I look to the dashboard. One hundred miles per hour.

I veer off of the lane and dip into the grassy median into oncoming traffic. I lose a bit of speed from the grassy knolls on the median. But when I went on the road, sparsely populated in comparison to the lane I was in, I pick up from where I left off. This time, the honks become more vivid and numerous. I begin dodging through traffic while my enraged and terrified father begins to grab the wheel while my brother holds it in the same position. Trying to pry of my hands by pounding on my finger tips, slapping my cheeks, and pushing the steering wheel with great force. This time, their power overwhelms me and cars begin skidding off the road. From a distance, I see a tow truck. Whatever’s on the back made no difference to me. Considering that it takes quite an effort to turn a big rig to the left or right, especially in a frantic manner, this is where I made my last stand. I gunned it, and the headlights begin to look like stars going through light speed. I see the metal grill of the Peterbilt head and I close my eyes. The screams and efforts of my father and Johnny against me have, for the first time in my life, failed. I was in peace.

The light turns green and Johnny reminds lightly hits me on the arm. I look up and I go before the annoyed commuters start honking at me.

We decided to park on a driveway near the convention center. I stepped outside and immediately walked to the stairwell while my father was profusely apologizing for his behavior. I couldn’t bear to look at him in setting the tone for the day, but deep within of my heart, he was my father. And I couldn’t stand to think of a person with malice so I forgave him. Taking a picture of my father posing with the car, I walked up to the catwalks. At this time, the sun was up and provided the convention center with light that brought the thirty year old center a modern look. From the pearly white walls of the mezannine and its outdated architecture common, I was ready.

After some walking, we finally end up near the front entrance as noted by the increasing volume of attendees. All around, I see the fine-looking animals. Bodies shaped from their countless years of devoted fitness routines and their dedicated nutrition habits. The majority of them who were playing dress up to look like their favorite characters from role playing games such as Lightning from Final Fantasy 13 or well-loved T.V. shows such as The Walking Dead. (I only took photos of the characters that I recognized.) These beauties were walking side by side with the nocturnal beasts of the night; rocking their shirts of their virtual idols. These are the people whose lives are lived within the confines of their bedroom. Their imagination, computer keyboards, computer monitors, and their game systems providing everything needed to be satisfied in life. For three days, they have come out of the dark; briefly exposed to the outside world and its glamour of which they can only see from afar. To mingle with their friends; to live out their virtual fantasies; where an extensive knowledge of trivia and useless knowledge was not only a sign of dedication but as a sign of integrity. It was one the few instances of their life where their hobbies had led them to become accepted. Where they could walk around without any of the protruding Pharisees, ranging from the athletic jocks to their own parents, commenting how much of their life has been wasted keeping up with such trivial interests.

Megacon 042

The mezzanine also played an integral part to showcase the imaginative creativity of Cosplayers.

Megacon 034

Johnny’s martial arts training did come to good use.

Megacon 032

He was quite a hit.

Megacon 040

We end up meeting Johnny’s friends near the doors, and from there we all played the waiting game. I don’t know how I ended up hanging out with my brother’s friends as I have never considered them to be a part of my own circle. They had just graduated high school and had embarked on their first year in college while I was still in junior year figuring it all out as I went along. The music they loved was the “catchy-yet-soon-to-be-forgotten” Top 40 hits while I desperately wanted to become a musical “hipster” (a term which was gaining traction around that time) by listening to EDM and alternative music through the means of YouTube and Pandora. It was during these years when I had discovered Deadmau5 (loathing that I had discovered him when he had already achieved fame), Skrillex (months before he blew up with “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites”), and Empire of the Sun (discovered them as part of the lineup for Ultra Music Festival 2011). With these group of upperclassmen, they simply preferred to talk to each other since they had formed a clique conversing on topics of which they would only know between themselves. But it was through the actions of my brother, who was trying to live up to his “older sibling” intuitions, that I would find myself spending some time together within the company of his closest friends. All to provide me with some sort of entertainment and break from the monotony of YouTube videos that I filled my evening 99% of the time. Although I was clearly the outcast, Johnny’s circle welcomed me with open arms. This morning, however, it seems as if I stepped on their tail or something.

Johnny’s closest friends, who go by the name of Wilbur and Sam, tend to be a bit hyper when it comes to their love of pop-culture. While discussing about these certain topics, their passion had soon come caught up to them as the two started to shove each other around while laughing with their bellies. Soon, hormones took over and their aggressive horseplay caused a nearby group of girls nearby to be shoved along with them. Their faces already expressed discomfort as if a Florida man walked up to the pair and asked the two for sex in exchange for a hotdog. A few shoves in and their father soon comes to the rescue by asking them to stop. It wasn’t in the case of the father asking them politely with a gentle tone yet reassuring tone,

“Look, I know we’re in Megacon and you’re excited to be here. But could you…behave until it actually starts?”

Instead, the father demanded that Sam and Wilbur to behave themselves. The two repeatedly apologized to the father for being stupid teenagers. In response, the father showed them no form of remorse,

“This is the only time that I’ll say this.”

The mood went quiet and things died down, only for them to come up again. Yvonne, Johnny’s girlfriend, is known for being extremely ticklish with a yelp indicating that she is being tickled against her will. Wilbur was the suspect as he touched the inner crevices of her body, causing a number of their friends to cackle at her. The sight was amusing and the only reason why someone would continually tickle someone was to see their reaction. I wanted to join in on the fun, and when opportunity had risen, I tickled her. This time, the frown was gone and Yvonne looked straight in my face,

“Stop!!” she demanded.

“Yeah seriously…stop man” Her friends would echo from behind.

Confused, I kept my mouth shut and took a step back. I wasn’t too happy with how things were turning out. I took pictures of a few more of the costumed attendees and waited a bit, seething a bit in my own humiliation which had turned into anger. I know now that people have their limits, but it was quite hard for me to fix my attitude. I already had a bossy father to seal the expectation that anyone who raises their voices far beyond the likes of an inside voice was already on my shit list. I didn’t dare to say anything back at them though. What would that make of me? A hyprocrite most likely.

I couldn’t deal with the pressure arising from my body. So I simply stayed silent while I waited. Then from afar, I hear people cheering, laughing, screaming with delight. There was a small light in the corridor. The crowd of people were starting to move forward and my brother informs me to hold up my wrist band to get in. This was the moment that I had wanted to experience for years. And in a few seconds, I would finally have that opportunity.

In other words, the doors were open.

Toxix Relations**t

 

I know who you are

You treat me like i’m nothing

i continue to say nothing

I am powerless within my own self.

Because i fear you

fear

the one true god

who controls our dumb thoughts

Churns our simple shoulders

controlling our feeble minds

The god who brings life

In pen

and

in paper

The god you claim doesn’t exist

 

if i were to be

honest

You would feel

betrayal

mistrust

Unloyalty

A punching bag

who punches back

with our talk

being the last talk

Before you hang the rope on

your neck

 

I fear for you

I care about you

So i continue to say nothing

To be nothing

To continue your Friendship

against me

Naturally Curious

I used to be a scientist
Curious about the world
Learning new things
taking them apart
Only to bring them back together again
one day, my 
Catholic father
starts Yelling at me
Screaming at me
Eviscerating me
Asking me
“WHY DO YOU KEEP ON BREAKING THINGS!?”
pens, toys, foam rubber swords
all lambs to the slaughter
His thundering voice
my brother’s seething eyes
my mother’s silence
All have killed
my love for science
Now, i am embarking on a new path
The college years are near me
and my father wonders
why I’d prefer to write 
poetry

The Faith of Christopher Hitchens – Thoughts

*Note: This is my first review…ever. So I apologize if I seem a bit absent minded. Also, I’ll try to keep this review spoiler free.*

When I heard that Christopher Hitchens, the man known to vocally rip the so called “heroes” of faith such as Mother Teresa and Jerry Falwell, admitted to being close friends with the author, an Evangelical Christian named Larry Taunton, I made it my mission to find the proof towards their seemingly unlikely bond for each other. However, they wouldn’t come to terms with a few “certain” issues about faith (except their shared views towards Islam).  Starting from his post and a joint interview, which was posted on the CNN Religion Blog a few days after Hitchens’ death, I looked far and wide, with the help of Google, to learn more about their unlikely rapport. All to fulfill my desire to know what the power of friendship can do to the most unlikely of characters.

Link to his CNN post:

My Take: An evangelical remembers his friend Hitchens

Since then, like many journeys to find the hidden treasures that very few know about, I was able to uncover a few gems. YouTube videos showcasing that Taunton, who initially, according to the book, was antagonized by fans of the Hitch for his religiosity, wasn’t bluffing about being close friends. There is proof all around YouTube showcasing their comraderies. Just type in “Christopher Hitchens Larry Taunton” and all of the links provided are merely the first few videos that I happened to post on this review. But when I discovered that an actual book was coming out detailing Taunton’s bromance with Hitchens, who was known to have his atheist companionships with the likes of Richard Dawkins, Salman Rushdie, Lawrence Krauss, and other like-minded individuals, I preordered the book without hesitation. Fueled by the expectation that I would finally know more about what those two did during Hitchens’ final years.

The first half of the book starts off with a general overview of Hitchens’ journey towards unbelief starting from his rocky boarding school days, his rise to prominence in Oxford, and as a controversial contrarian who broke ties with the left due to his stances a few topics. I learned quite a bit towards Hitchens and his envious journey to the top. Hitchens’ mother did mention that he was bound to become a member of the upper class. And ultimately, he did. All on his own terms.

Taunton does add in a few of his opinions towards his view towards Atheism and how such views support his foundation for Christian belief. (To avoid sparking any debates concerning my thoughts on his words, this is as far as I’ll go.)

Then came to the last half of the book. The section that I was eagerly anticipating since ordering it online. The day when Taunton meets the Hitch. It’s interesting to note that while reading this section, Taunton reuses some of the lines of his first encounter from the CNN post over here. He even uses the same description in his podcast featuring the very interview recorded on that day. On the acknowledgements, Taunton mentioned that the task of writing a book takes years to complete. So I’m guessing that the idea for this book was on his mind on the day of his closest companions died.

Link of their discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obycPvu5fro

The book then fast forwards to a few months after the discovery of the same disease that killed his father: stage four cancer of the esophagus. Upholding his commitment for an upcoming debate in Taunton’s home state, Alabama, the two buddies undertake on a road trip. During this section I was filled with joy and laughed out loud between witty banter and eccentric quirks shared between the two. I could easily imagine such events occurring between my friends during a road trip. A few months later, another road trip, this time on the beautiful mountain state of Montana, travelling to Yellowstone National Park, proceeding yet another debate between the two in Billings, Montana.

Link of their trip to Yellowstone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n85Sjh0r7s

 

It was here where Hitchens, in front of a camera crew for a local news outlet, spoke his true feelings about Taunton: “If everyone in the United States had the same qualities of loyalty and care and concern for others that Larry Taunton had, we’d be living in a much better society than we do.” There is no denying that there was a special connection between the two master debaters. That their friendship, given to the dying Hitchens so late in his life, was one that allowed him to reflect on all of his years to begin reconsidering the validity of the foundation in which Taunton bases his life’s works upon.

Hitchens jokes that by saying it on camera, there’s now video evidence to prove his words.

Link of the news report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xorMPrHrzNU

Needless to say, not only was I satisfied with the content living up to my expectations, it provided me with a newly found worldview that I hope would satisfy my journey towards self-enlightenment. I loved how Taunton wasn’t depreciative towards his death compared to many of his Christian contemporaries and made sure that the book was focused towards his personal views of the Hitchens’ journey home. Some might be thrown off by Taunton’s views towards his Christianity but then again, a number of believers were big fans of Hitchens despite his obvious thoughts against what they believed in. As I closed the Kindle app (I bought this as an E-book), I took a deep sigh of relief and patted myself on the back. It was sixteen dollars’ worth spent.

Five stars out of five.

The Agony in my Diary

Today is Holy Thursday. The night when Jesus and his twelve disciples celebrated their last meal together. Breaking bread and wine and sharing it as His own flesh. Before Jesus willingly gives up His own life for the sake of providing us perpetual light, especially to those who follow in His footsteps. Anxious about tomorrow, I try to calm my nerves by writing this down on my real journal.

The skies are pitch black. An incessant downpour, almost everlasting in length, accurately sets the scene for tomorrow morning at work when my managers assign me to any position that isn’t the job that I know best and that is being the dining room attendant of my restaurant. The dining room where I am willing to do menial tasks such as cleaning tables, taking out the trash, and stocking up condiments for seven and a half hours. The reason why I fear such a First World Problem is due to the disastrous run I had last Sunday. Working under the heat lamp section of the kitchen where I served side items and kids meals for the decadent visitors, looking for no sympathy towards my fragile heart, at my resort.

My problem isn’t towards serving the food. That part isn’t hard. It’s actually towards the end of the breakfast rush where I have to undergo through a process of switching the breakfast items to the lunch items. Sounds easy enough, but every time my restaurant switches to the lunch hour I am required to complicate a simple task of disposing the morning lefovers. Considering that I have not worked in such a position for two months, the transfer was disastrous. And as weak willed as I am, I fear that I will undertake the same responsibilities tomorrow morning and each day until Easter. Perfectly explaining the chaos Jesus went through when he was in the tomb for three days.

I can’t help it. I only work weekends and ninety five percent of my workload is either by bringing food to the guests or taking out the trash. Whenever I have that brief surprise of working in the back of the kitchen, usually I end up lost and confused, resorting asking constant questions to the preoccupied chefs and slowing down the kitchen in the process. The people in the back mostly consist of Hatians who, in contrast with my laid back Americanized attuitude, are direct with what they want. If I show any hesitation with my decisions, they will call me out and lecture me. Demanding to know why that despite working there for six months, I still do not know how to do my job correctly.

There are two solutions: either I do it or ask a manager to exchange my shift with someone who knows the job better than I do. Because I’m too scared to have my “fellow” co-workers berating my work style. The job isn’t hard. Really. But anything other than being in front of the counter is my weak spot.

I love working in the dining room for several reasons: I walk around the restaurant in order to pass the time to see if the condiments to be restocked, tables need to be cleaned, and if the floors need to be sweeped up. I also love interacting with the customers. Asking them on what attractions they’ve visited and their impressions towards the resort. Thankfully I have never encountered a guest that was despondent towards my presence. Each converstaion I have is brought up with the intention of brightening up their day. One co-worker mentioned that I should work in entertainment because I find joy when I chat with the guests instead of preparing their food. I should probably do that when the time comes.

Most of all, because of the laid back environment and doing work that doesn’t feel like work, I end up having a fun day whenever I am assigned to those two.

Anything goes, but lately I’ve been a bit superstitious. Feeling no uplifting connection between Reason and Science but instead with Religion and Scripture. The latter two never make a good combination as I tend to have a pessimistic attitude whenever I use wishful thinking instead of critical thinking.

Tomorrow is Good Friday, where the son Himself goes through the process of purging our sins by passively recieving each deep laceration given by the Romans. Waking up before the sun rises to work and sweat under the clamoring of the strict, middle aged Hatians and groggy eyed families looking to gain some energy for visiting the parks. The families, who will later on have all smiles with their family on the hour Jesus looked up while hanging on the cross and closing his eyes.

I suspect that if I am assigned to work behind the counter tomorrow where I will have my share of the graceful suffering experienced by my Saviour. Willing to take up the pain due to the simple fact that it’s my duty to do so and I’m getting money in the process.

But as I mention above, anything goes. I have nothing to do but either mentally prepare myself for the day ahead of me. Tomorrow, may the Lord help me, because I know that I can’t help myself.

Why This Filipino Doesn’t Sing (until recently)

There is a special place in hell reserved for the inventor of karaoke machines which, after each song, grades your singing ability based on your performance.

Let me start off with a stereotype: Filipinos are known for being great singers. My mother, bless her heart, spends her nights and weekends reminiscing about her home country by clicking through YouTube video after YouTube video of of entertainment news reports, audition videos, T.V. Shows, and the occasional collage of a Philippine Celebrity such as the Current Miss Universe Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach. Usually, I am guilty of delving into a few guilty pleasures of my own such as reading the blog posts of Australian fashion mogul Margaret Zhang (even though I have no interest in fashion) and the past articles of the late wordsmith/polemicist Christopher Hitchens (despite having opposing viewpoints towards religion).

A few months ago, Fourth Power, the vocal quartet that had made grounds on The X-Factor (U.K. edition), was on her radar. With each video showing their rise to the top on the program that helped create One Direction, it seemed like a good time to be a Filipino. Like many Filipinos, the allure of these four born and bred in the outskirts of Manila hitting it big in the world would make one proud of their country. Pride is a sin, but for the sake of a country that is not known for producing superstars, it’s nice to delve inside the feeling for some time.

I tend to see myself as a complicated individual who resorts to listening to the moody sounds of Sufjan Stevens and The Camerawalls as they tend to emphasize emotion through musicality instead of how high a vocalist can hit the high note. In terms of my musical tastes, I am a hipster. The only thing that is missing from my bag is plaid shirts, baggy shoes, a kale diet, and embracing chaos. But hipsterdom shouldn’t be the main motivator on I tend to stray away on a creative pastime.

It all started when I was the sixth grade. To bring spice to our sporadically vibrant household, with the occasional sound of Sharon Cuneta or Eraserheads blaring from the stereo, a karaoke machine was purchased. Normally such a purchase was meant to entertain the middle aged, hyper-conservative parents of the English-speaking Filipinos by singing pop songs both new and old, in English or in Tagalog, as the main event for a house party. But for my family, singing is not just a passion, it’s a way of life and given the opportunity to exercise their vocal chords, they sing their heart out. My brother was involved with the school choir throughout his school years and my parents were the lead performers for their prayer group. However, of course, I had to be the different one. The outlier, the Black Sheep. I wasn’t keen towards singing or any type of music that tends to glorify the singer.

I pressed 216 on the microphone’s keypad and the song “ABC” from the Jackson 5 was selected. Blaring out the cheap MIDI files commonly associated with karaoke hits, I began singing along with the words. Gracing the lyrics, I channeled my inner Michael Jackson on the microphone. I felt powerful and music was at the helm of my shoulders as I hit the high notes and the low notes. Even the break where Jackson scats out was performed I was lost and unsure on how to blurt out random phrases to an imaginary audience. An audience who, real or not, would present me an after show present of a bouquet of roses, a straight jacket and a limo to the nearest psychiatric ward.

The song ends and the verdict comes up:

Without an applause or an upbeat melody. I sat in silence as the bold numbers flashed on the screen for five seconds. Five long seconds as I sat on the couch, coming to terms with the harsh truth that I was not good at singing.

I was bad.

Needless to say, I typed in 216 again and replayed the song. This time, I would try ten times as hard than the last one. The first attempt was simply a warm up and on this second try I was going to do far better.

This time, I transferred my whole heart onto the microphone, straining my vocal chords to hit the high notes. Feeling the rhythm pounding on my heart, once again I channeled my inner Michael Jackson on the MIDI background. My mother, listening in the sidelines, remained silent throughout. I was determined to get a better score so I could finally be placed alongside the legion of the amateur vocalists. One step closer to my family accepting me as one of them.

The songs ends and the score finally pops up. No applause was heard and no music played in the background. My efforts were left in vain.

A 68 graced its message all over my eyes, killing my self confidence towards singing and a growing disdain for the art or any song or musical that emphasized the use of vocals instead of using actual instruments. It was the first step onto becoming a vastly different family member. One that would spend a Filipino house party wandering around the house instead of conversing with like minded individuals, causing concern towards my parents.

Soon my insecurities arose whenever my family recited their lyrical poems. I became the bad son and my family grew to despise my very existence due to my antagonizing responses whenever the urge to break into song and dance came into their mind. When their part for “Real Life: The Musical” was performed, I usually covered my ears or ran out of the room to prevent my mind from going dark. There was a time when the muffled echo of my brother’s soprano voice, practicing his part for the choir, was met with my body flailing around my room, pounding the carpet in hopes that the singing would stop. When my brother finally came into my room to see what the banging was about, he was met with his sibling on the floor, huddled in the fetal position. It was the only moment when such an exchange was met with no friction between us brothers. The same couldn’t be said for the other times.

My relationship towards my older brother gradually diminished into a flattened pancake, produced by the steel toed boot of a brother’s hellish fiery fury unleashing upon me whenever I covered my ears for safety. My father had a similar reaction. Seething with anger, instead my father gave me advice on how to calm down whenever any of my family members started expressing their feelings through music. I wasn’t getting better, and such heated exchanges ultimately led me towards a year long slump towards our relationship. For one full year, after a fateful sixteenth birthday which was ruined from his anger and my reluctance to accept my faulty singing, I had an intense disliking towards my older sibling.

God couldn’t save me either. The act of singing is encouraged in church where a simple song rendition can lift up a prayer into a grandeur spectacle of praise. Oftentimes, I was pressured by my own family to start singing in order to please El Papa but I tended to stick with my values once they’ve been established. So I remained quiet, absorbing the positive energy exemplified by the faithful. I hope that I don’t go to hell because of my reluctance to perform in public.

As the years progressed, I started to grow up by reconciling with my family towards my disdain for their passion. Heck, I started singing along to my favorite songs (in private of course). In 2012 I discovered The Smiths and Morrissey’s yodel like vocals, where I would spend time in my room placing my hands upon my temples and gliding around the room. Occasionally, my parents would overhear my singing and would compliment my skills. I gradually regained my self confidence towards my works. Ultimately, inflating my massive ego towards an poppable bubble.

It was enough to consider joining my high school choir a mere four months before graduating. I remember the faces of both the mega star choir teacher and my guidance counselor when I expressed my interest in singing halfway through the year when people were preparing to go into the real world. Everyone that I’ve talked to concerning my decision, including the choir teacher who was dumbfounded to even hear such a question, encouraged me to follow through. However, my guidance counselor stopped me on my tracks with a simple word: no. To this day, I still cringe whenever the memory flashes in my brain.

It wasn’t until the term “The haters only hate because they’re insecure of their own lives” became relevant. Normally, I would agree with such prose due to the confidence needed to continue under the face of ridicule, but then I remembered thinking about singing and receiving those two low scores. Once I put the pieces together, the puzzle solved itself.

I began to start the processes of forgiveness towards myself and to everyone around who has been hurt by my disrespectful nature. I’m gradually coming to terms with the fact that my family loves to sing and the majority of songs and artists that I love exemplify their self confidence by writing out lyrics and singing into a musical backdrop to express their feelings to an unseen force of listeners. I’m even starting to sing a bit, with the occasional sing along in my car to Shark?’s “California Grrls” or MUTEMATH’s “Chaos”. But despite forgiving my tresspasses against my family, karaoke bars are still out.