Lunes, Oktubre 17, 2011

The Hong Kong Times

After two months of fund-raising, planning, auditioning and general day dreaming, the time has finally come. It was the week that I celebrate a bunch of things. One, the culmination of my first year as a stand up comic. Second, the last huge thing I do before I turn 30. And finally, just me going back to basics: going off to a venture that's over my head, alone (relatively), for something I've come to deeply love.

Basically, I went to Hong Kong, made people laugh, even made a few new friends, and I went home with a smile and a clearer head.

Second Skin. I don't know if I've written about it before, but I have also been spending a lot of time the past couple of months looking for a new jacket. Those who have been hanging out on me for a relatively long time would know that I have developed some sort of need to be wearing a black jacket on a daily basis. It's something that started back in 1999, and it's become my security blanket. I've had a few black jackets in my time. The first one I wore for three years and I lost it in one of my stints as a tour guide. (Seemed appropriate at the time, as I had just graduated college.) The next one, I gave to a girlfriend after serving its purpose for another three years, give or take. The one I replaced it with has already been in tatters by the time I retired it months ago.

I found a jacket worthy to serve my needs, and as usual, it was cheap, off the rack, and the last one there. I held out on buying it, waiting for the right time for me to finally wear it. Since the Hong Kong thing came around, I figured there was no other time more appropriate.

Most people would roll their eyes on this imagined need of mine, but the jacket and me go a long way back, and if I were to face this important event, I figured it was best to look like my "ideal" me. It's a tad eccentric, but it did help. I always feel naked without that additional layer of clothing. I look forward to the adventures the new jacket and I would be having.

The Pre-Festival Party. The moment the plane touched down in Hong Kong, I was itching to go and find a hotel and get ready for the show. (In my quest of auditioning and raising funds, I managed to forget the fact that I actually had to prepare jokes for the contest itself.) My mother, who, as I mentioned invited herself to this trip, much to my financial advantage but to a little personal confusion, was being wowed by the sights of being in a new land (a land she's been in quite a few times). The only thing that impressed me was the breakfast food at McDonald's were more awesome than what the fast-food joints at home had to offer

What can I say, I'm just not one for all the touristy shit. I'm the type of guy who'd only travel if there's a distinct and specific purpose. Looking at pretty things just for the sake of looking, well, as a co-worker mentioned recently, we have the Internet for that.

We eventually found the comedy club, and found a hotel that was closely, and I spent the day working on my set while my mother went about her merry way. Come night time, I set out on my own, wanting to meet the people who set the whole contest up in a pre-festival party.

I got lost, of course. It felt good. Me, in a strange place, a big city, with nothing but my wits, a pack of cigarettes and a map. It took a lot of the edge off. I eventually found my way, and the party itself was rather understated. I did meet a few interesting people. There was this American comedian, who's returning to the contest for the third time, and one who I've performed with months ago in Votre. He was actually the one who told me to join several months back, but I didn't bring it up, cause I doubt he'd remember. I met an author who gave me a signed copy of his book, and told me that "Life is limitless". Preaching to the choir, dawg. I shook some more hands, traded a few stories and then went back to the hotel.

It was the first time the whole thing felt real to me. The whole trip, I was numb. I even lost all the excitement that was building up for the past couple of weeks. But being at that party, the whole thing became genuine, immediate, and most of all, fun. I knew that it was going to be an honor, and it was, just being there, among all of these gifted people.

Conversations with People Back Home. The day of my performance, I decided to lock myself up in my hotel room while my mother was out enjoying all that is Hong Kong. I went over my set over and over, timing myself, doing the whole preparation thing that I should have done the moment I decided to go and join the contest. Suffice to say, I was a nervous wreck. Hell, I was bundle of nerves overtime I had to do Votre or any other rinky dink joint back home. This was a totally different league, and I was delightfully close to a breakdown.

I decided to go online for some reason, and I spent the day chatting with a few friends and some people from work. A lot of them were supportive, and helped calm me down a bit. Two conversations stood out from all those people I chatted with.

One was with a friend from work, KM (I'll have a nickname for her by the end of this post.). We talked about the usual goings on in her life, as, for some reason, I've been privy to the happenings that occur in her particular sphere during the past few months. And during her usual updates (the girl's got the kind of drama that holds my interest), somehow the conversation veered towards my direction. I guess she caught me at a vulnerable time, so I was more open to her than I've been to most people in my life that I've known for only a short time. (I usually start opening up after at least a year or two, and even that's rare.) She opened my mind to certain questions that I've heard from other people before, but I usually immediately dismiss considering the source. I view her, KM, as one of those rare breed of people who are actual survivors… people who had gone through hell and back with not much to show for it but a renewed smile, some battle scars, and a shitload of wisdom. The usual people who have given me the same advice that she did is mostly those who has just been saddled with first world problems for the majority of their respectively uneventful lives. The main point of our lengthy conversation is that after this whole Hong Kong thing is done, it was time for me to focus on the id… to discover who the real "me" truly is. Not the comedian, or the brain, or everyone's best friend, or the writer, or Captain Good Times, or the one with the messiah complex, or all of the other facades I like putting up depending on who I happen to be rolling with on that day. Just take some time to rediscover me before I continue serving others. I appreciated someone of substance finally telling me that, and again, I made plans of doing just that. Plus, I promoted KM to be my life coach. (I initially called her my therapist, but I already have that, and therapists are supposed to be nice.)

The other conversation was a lot less pop-psychology and a little more bro-ic. And again, surprisingly so, it was The Critic that resoundingly calmed my nerves and finished what KM started. The Critic, of all people, reminded me of who I was during our "golden years". He reminded of that time when he and I took on the entire class' projects as a freelance gig, and despite everything went wrong, I was the one who kept it together. He reminded me of some of my greatest strengths, strengths that I have long ago neglected to recognize. So, there I was, in Hong Kong, and there he was, in his new apartment, (one that coincides with the new chapter in his life, what with the promotion, the mountaineering and the single fatherhood) and I had a Tsingtao in my hand (A 40 even!) and he had a Red Horse in his, and we had ourselves a toast. I don't know what he was drinking for, but I tossed back for the best of the past, the excitement of the present, and the potential for the future. Our relationship has been strained in the past, more so than with any other long time friend of mine, but I will make sure that changes when I come back home.

I logged out, got dressed, put my game face on, and left the hotel room ready to bring the funny.

The Contest. I stepped into the Comedy Club, and my nerves were starting to catch up on me. I was overwhelmed with it all… standing on that little stage where some of the funniest people from all over the world have performed, and I felt small. All of a sudden, all of my material didn't seem as funny, and I felt as if my voice was cracking. I knew I was going to choke. That is, until I met the rest of the comics. Each one of them felt as anxious and as messed up as I was, and everyone, like me, was putting on a brave face. Unlike other kinds of competitions, comedians weren't out to beat each other out there, at least not primarily. Everyone just didn't want to suck. I felt at home.

We had an hour before the show starts, and I made it a point to talk with everyone I could. I made some very fast friends, saw some very familiar faces, and the whole vibe reminded me of when I was starting out last year… when I traveled two hours just to go to Votre, alone, and i would just sit there and watch everyone and picked their brains as much as I could. All worries I may have had were gone.

Come show time, and I sat back and watch all of them do their thing. Each one was funnier than the last, and the energy was unbelievable. I couldn't stop smiling cause I was just so wired form being a part of this grand thing. Then my name was called.

I stood on stage, fiddled with the mic a bit clumsily… and delivered my first joke. They fucking laughed. At that point on I just did my thing and I was loving every second of it. Not all of my jokes got the reaction I wanted, especially the one that ended with, but that was the stuff that I had, so I rolled with it. I was making people laugh. I went to another country, stood on the stage that many others wanted to be on, and I made people laugh. Simply put, I did not exactly suck.

Unfortunately, I didn't get chosen to go to the finals, but of the three finalists that were chosen from that night, one went on to win the whole damn thing, while another one was second runner up. I went on stage with the ones who would end up taking the trophy home and I held my own. I don't feel bad about that.

Plus, the other finalist from my night put his entire head inside a condom. Gotta fucking respect that.

The show ended, we all shook hands went our merry way. The one who put together the whole thing even gave me a special shootout on stage. I am definitely coming back next year.

I've had some amazing nights in my entire story-filled life. That night, my first shot at an international stage, is on the top of that list now, and it's going to be incredibly hard to beat.

A Really Long Day on Macau. From the greatest night of my life, to one of the longest days I've ever had to endure. The contest was done, at least it was for me, and there was nothing left but the long journey home. Unfortunately, there was a 12 hour period that my mother and i had to kill before our flight back home. Remember when I said I hated touristy shit? That was just one of the many pet peeves I've had to endure over that day. Shopping, crowds, an agenda-less travel, the commercialism, that day made me understand a lot of things about myself. All of my pet peeves came to light, and I know why I grew up the way I did. I had my first anxiety attack in months. Seriously.

I don't hold it against my mother, since she was just being herself. And I did appreciate the support. But I did remember why we never got along; it's because we were two extremely different people on a philosophical level.

But I got to ride a boat, and it was all good. I guess my Life Coach's prescribed "me" time came a little early.

The Supposed "Me" TIme Weekend. Back in the Philippines by Friday night. I've never been a nationalistic person… I just like being home. I passed by the Think Tank, mostly because one of the employees there was having some sort of personal crisis and I maybe thought I could help (but she wasn't there). But, lack of sleep, jet lag, a recent anxiety attack and way too many energy drinks caused my heart to do that annoying thing it does again. So I left and just devoted the rest of my weekend to kick off the self discovery. It was old school me all the way (black jacket, pen, notebook, sketchpad) but with a dash of new me (laptop, rap music) and my journey into mystery was underway.

It was productive, but I'm far from done. I realized three things. 1.) Another one of my Life Coach's suggestions was correct, that I should let go of the Girl. (I'll get into that in my next post.) 2.) I am more than ready for the step I'm going to take when I hit 30. And 3.) One of the reasons I've been holding off on pursuing the Girl is that I've developed a healthy, relatively issue free attraction to someone at The Office. Yes, I may have found my Erin Hannon. (Again, more on that next week.)

Shit's turned the corner, folks. The next few months are going to be uber-interesting.

"I am wrecked. I am overblown.

I am also fed up with the common cold.
But I just hate to say goodbye
To all the metaphors and lies
That have taken me years to come up with.

Say it's true. Say you like me.
(I like you.)
Just for the night.
for me, it's been eternity..

And as I gently sip this drink,
I think about my lack of future,
And all the places I could learn to fall in love.

I know I shouldn't waste my time,
Wishing I'd been better designed,
yet for some reason still think

I am wrecked. I am overblown.
I am also fed up with the fucking common cold!
When I just want to feel alive for the first time in my life,
I just want to feel attractive today." - Motion City Soundtrack, "Attractive Today"

Lunes, Oktubre 3, 2011

Cowboy Up

I am merely days away from heading to Hong Kong for the highlight of my year, and the past two weeks have been filled with both pleasant and unpleasant surprises. The majority of which were pleasant, and very uplifting. The unpleasant, while minimal, tend to have a devastating effect. I guess it all depends on how one perceives things.

All I'm going to say is that I'm fired up. THe whole HK thing started off as something to just end the year on a high note. The past couple of weeks elevated that to something more. It's like 2004 all over again, and I'm greeting the end of the year with a smile, minor resentments notwithstanding.

The Haircut inducing Homecoming. I'm back in Cavite full-time now, and bidding adieu to my last Fortress wasn't really that much of a big deal. After all, it didn't exactly measure up to my first Fortress in terms of emotional attachment and key events. It had its moments, like the first day I moved in and the Cheerleader made the phone call asking me to take her back, and the night Hannah stayed over, and the night after the break up, wherein the place was flooded, and I realized latent feelings for someone the day after. Compared to other places I lived in, it offered nothing more than convenience.

Being back at home, seeing how my new space has been make me feel truly comfortable, it's easy to forget that I'm no longer living alone. Unfortunately, there are times wherein the crowdedness becomes extremely obvious. The way I see it, the more people live in one place, the more fucked up things can be. While right now, there are only three people living in this house (me, my errant brother, and the newly rehired nanny that raised us), the entire place is littered with too many familiar faces. The niceness (for someone like me who's not used tot hat sort of thing) can drive a person mad. And it nearly did.

On a day wherein someone did a colossal fuck up which led to the ruination of my plans, I was so distraught that, left with no other outlet, I had a fucking haircut. An butt guy one. I've had one hairstyle the past two or three years (of varying lengths, of course) and since I just had to get rid of something, why not that. It wasn't the fuck up that really stressed me out though, it was the fact that people just told me to rest (I had spent the night working at the BIg Man's project) while they took care of it. That was way too surreal.

Basically, I'm still getting acclimated to the whole thing. Even when I've been living with certain people, I've made it a point to rely on no one. Now I've got people seemingly looking out for me. I shrugged it off as something I just need to get used to, but then, my mother mentioned that she'll be going to join me in HK. Not that I mind, but I don't know, I think it's too weird. It's fueling certain theories I've been having. It's not important now though. I have too much on my plate to worry about shit like that. Maybe when things normalize I can get to the bottom of this thing.

Gas Station Conversations. The Big Man and I had another one of those gas station drinking sessions that went well into the morning. Not having the Make Up Artist around is a good thing, in any scenario. We talked mostly about the other women in his life. Mostly.

I try to avoid talking about my own shit these days when I'm around him. He's got problems with the house, money, work and even emotional shit that can't be dealt with within the confines of a single drinking session. Maybe we'll work on that, again, when I finish with this contest thing. Maybe.

The Think Tank Experience Surprisingly Like College. I spent some time with the co-workers as someone from the Think Tank celebrated her birthday old school style with dinner and domestic drinking. After an entire day of work, it was nice to see the various little groups of the Think Tank in one room, sharing a meal and playing a few games in one area. I felt the same feeling I used to get back when I was in college, when I'd be in one of those dorm room drinking sessions, surrounded by people I barely know and me with a genuine desire to know more. I haven't felt like that in ages. In fact, the last time I felt like getting to know more people was during my last semester in college. The popery from Purgatory were just interesting enough that sharing experiences came naturally, and everyone else I met after graduation pretty much opened up on their own without any prodding from me. I don't know if it's a temporary thing, but these days I actually care about people.

I guess it's about being in an office that I like, is all. To paraphrase Tim, from the UK show The Office, you spend the majority of your time without he people that you work with, more so than your family and actual friends. You come different backgrounds, different places, and at some point, you're going to have to break barriers.

I've always had the luxury of having people outside of work to fall back on and the freedom from conventional real world constraints, but there's something about these people at the Think Tank that piques my interest. The things they go through, all the drama that I usually shy away from, it all interests me.

The Fund Raising. All the other riffraff aside, the main focus in my life currently is the contest. And considering the meager amount I make, I had to do some fund raising to actually get me there. It's been a great source of fatigue on my part, and the end result, was worth it. Getting into the contest was the first phase, and that was hard enough, The past two weeks weren't easier, but damn.

Of all the people in my life, I wasn't expecting the Think Tank to pitch in on this pipe dream, but pitch in they did, in an amazing manner. While not everyone was able to help financially, the moral support and the kind words were very overwhelming, especially since I'm just the guy who rarely shows up for work. On of them even put up the RRFF, the Rene-is-Really-Funny-Fund, and I have to say, that makes me smile every time I think about it. I'm looking at the little Disney Princess thingy they put the money in. If I wasn't so damned drained I would have wept in front of all of them.

The people from Purgatory also chipped in, and while they weren't able to give as much as they wanted, the thought that they'd support a guy who left their ranks is nothing but humbling. My BFF hugging me (in the middle of the fucking highway no less) telling me "Kailangan ko na umuwi, peer I love you, pare" is one of the more touching moments in this particular chapter in my life. Two years ago, she and I were getting high as Ondoy came crashing, now there we were. The others did an awesome job at making me feel good about it too, particularly Ghil, who took it upon herself to work on getting my solicitation letter out there. Two years ago, we were celebrating "Broken Promises Day". I wonder what we'll be doing next year.

Of course, the Scoobies remain supportive. They gave their contributions on a very pleasant night at the Grill. We even fleshed out plans for my 30th birthday. (The discussion as to why we can't have a road trip by riding a plane was priceless.) After the contest, that's the one thing I'm looking forward to.

The GIrl Who Saved My Life has her entire church praying for me, I heard. And I also got nice messages from TheTherapist and her people, and I appreciate Jo F'n Regis' efforts in helping me with the application video. (Sorry that didn't pan out, too many things going on, man.)

The Big Man helped me sell my other laptop (though I'm sure it was more about the profit for him than supporting me, but what the hell), the laptop I bought off Hannah a year ago. And The Critic, of all people, even pitched in not just with money, but a little something extra to take off the edge. (Drinking once more with the Critic was a fun experience as well. Once, we all used to have a constant Sunday afternoon drink, but these days, it's all about the strip clubs and other shit. It's nice to be able to just hang back and chill old school style once in a while and be juvenile.)

I mentioned before that part of the reason why I chose to approach specific people or funds and not everyone I know is that I was going for something symbolic. I wanted to go to HK, while physically alone (or so I thought), I was in some way bringing all of these people with me. The same way Buffy drew strength from her own Scooby gang to defeat Adam, that's what I'm doing. (Did that come off a little gay?)

Points to Prove. With the overwhelming (I've been using that word a lot) support, it's hard not to feel confident. It's a good thing there're still some people who'd put your feet back on the ground. Too bad it was in a rather douchey manner. Someone dissed online, and while I don't know and can't know for sure if it was intentional, it did light a fire under my ass almost as much as the people who supported me would.

Initially, this was just something that I wanted to do, regardless of the outcome. After all of that, now I'm ore determined than ever to walk away victorious. While I'm not exactly a shoo-in to win, but I've been in this situation several times before, where I'd go out of my way just to prove a certain contingent of people wrong. Hell, I think I work better when no one expects me to come out on top.

After everyone's influence, both good and bad, I'm heading to Hong Kong with a new perspective. I'm not just representing myself this time, and I never wanted to represent my country. I'll be representing these people. Thank you for making me feel larger than life again. I needed that.

"Can we pretend that airplanes

In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)" - B.o. B., "Airplanes"