We leave for a two-week trip to the Philippines today. It’s my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday. She’s never met me. I’ve never been. And my father-in-law only learned recently that Jeffrey – at least in my case – is not a woman’s name.
We’ll stay with the in-laws for a few days outside of manic Manila; take a brief interlude (just the two of us) in the sublime wondrousness of Sangat; take a short holiday en familia (all 11 of us) to Cebu; then finish off our two weeks back in the steamy suburb of Bulacan.
Fortunately I made an appointment to see the doctor the other day. The man with the scrip pad. It’s going to be ‘meet the family’on half a milligram a day.
No greater place
To say things have been disruptive of late – unsettled, vague, doing a twirling limbo – is an understatement. My ambiguous state of being mirrors a large swath of America for whom the future was once a clearly wrought fabric of certainty and possibility. Seems we’ve spent the past four years scrambling out from the debris of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, in search of steady light, solid ground and a renewed sense of direction.
Maybe recovery is just a half a milligram away?
I love my country but I sometimes can’t wait to get the hell out of it and go somewhere new. I get a thrill out of being challenged by language and circumstances and the discovery of alternate modes of living, alternate modes of thought, and alternate sorts of history borne out in strange and varying pavements beneath my feet. But also because I believe the adage that familiarity can breed contempt. Given my current disgruntled state – and the tangible benefits of a change of perspective – it’s probably wise that I’m going somewhere unfamiliar.
Just what the goat farming taxi driver ordered
The driver who liveried us to SFO is Italian. A Neopalitan, wearing a short thick overcoat made from scratchy beige wool with what looked like orangeish streaks, like leaf shards, scattered throughout. It might have been the height of taste in Morristown, New Jersey, but oddly enough, despite its refreshing uniqueness it wasn’t quite sure what to make of itself in San Francisco.
The driver’s name was Claudius – a strong Italian name: ebullient, absolute. His curly black hair was forced into submission with heavy duty hair gel. It rolled into sculpted ringlets behind his ears down to the collar of his coat. Clipped onto his right ear was a wireless headset. His father shipped him to America at the age of 17 to learn English and he never turned back.
The only son of a goat farmer and his wife from southern Italy, Claudius loves America. “America’s a great country,” he extolled as he drove the black sedan down a quick moving 101. “The system isn’t great but it’s the best. Opportunity is available to everyone.”
It hasn’t felt like that in a while.