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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I Had A Dream... Landing in Manila


Mykel Board's Philippine Blog
Entry Two

Posted December 16, 2015

The only way we know it's true is that we both dreamed it. That's what reality is. It's a dream everyone has together. -Jeffrey Eugenides

I woke up this morning at 9:30... from a nightmare: I am in a park... city unknown... walking through... a shortcut to somewhere. A big colored guy, wearing black clothes... steps in my path. He doesn't touch me, but I know he wants to rob me... to hurt me. He's standing close, blocking my path.

I briefly consider throwing a leg behind him and pushing him over... judo style. I discard the idea. Other people are walking in the park... wearing trenchcoats and fedoras...detective style... my style... no one notices us.

I open my mouth to scream HELP!... like I really did in Italy when surrounded by people who didn't like having their picture taken... In this dream, I can't scream. My throat freezes... only a whisper escapes... A few people pass us. I don't remember their race but they're mostly dressed like students... in school uniforms. I look at them pleadingly. They pretend not to notice.

A white guy in a inform... mostly white fabric with a cop-like hat and epaulets on the sleeves... passes... I beg him with my eyes. He turns to us... steps between my attacker and me... The attacker leaves... I'm relieved... at first. Then I see this man is blocking my path...looking menacing into my eyes.

I wake up.


I leave this country in 2 days. I have NEVER felt in danger here. What is this dream about?

Okay, I'm superstitions to start with... I'll cross the street to avoid a black cat. I don't make any plans for Friday the 13th. I never open an umbrella inside. A broken mirror has me looking over my shoulder for weeks. I know it's not logical. I know it's primitive... infantile... but that's my inner being. You can't teach an old punk new tricks.

In Japan, Buddhist temples offer fortunes... you pay a few yen and shake a jar full of sticks. One of the sticks falls through a hole in the jar lid. That stick has a number on it. The number matches a drawer in a large wood cabinet. Inside the drawer is your fortune:


Great! Just what I need. I was picturing stumbling on wet leaves, or being drunk and missing a curb. Suddenly the meaning changes... becomes more sinister... Make the wrong moves with the wrong people... and you'll have someone else break your bones.

There was that girl in THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN. I plan to go back there tonight. I promised. Mabel, the manager gave me her own phone number. The day after the club I texted her:

Great to meet you last night. I was a bit too drunk and in love with that girl who sat next to me. Now I only remember her beautiful face not her name. Could you tell me? Thanks and see you soon.

The answer came in a few minutes:

Her name is Dovie. Where are you now Mykel?


Ok Mykel, we just wait your promise to us to comebak soon! Take care your self!

Tonight I plan to keep the promise... make my own farewell party... go with some friends... introduce everyone to Dovie... You know... get my leg broken for not paying her “surcharge.”

FLASH TO THE AIRPORT... LANDING... December 1... or was it 2?

In New York, no one every meets you at the airport.

Take a subway/bus/cab, get off at your hotel/my place/grand central,” that's the way we do it. It's different here.

How do I find my way into town?” I facebook Hil... one of the Pinoy friends I made on facebook.

I'll meet you,” he says. “Manila airport is the worst airport in the world. You'll never get out of there without us.”

“How will I know you?” I ask.

I'll come with a friend... Johnny Deadbrain... and we'll hold up a big sign that says:


Great,” I answer.

And watch out for THE BULLET,” he says. “It's usually a problem leaving-- not arriving... but you never know.”

In a conversation with another Filipino facebook friend, Emmanuel, I suggest he come to the airport too. You can't have too many back-ups and insurance friends. I figure, if the other guys come, Emmanuel will see the MYKEL BOARD sign and join the party. I figure wrong.

Great, something else to worry about. Though I'm an experienced traveler, I'm a worry wort. Besides being superstitious, I always expect the worst. USUALLY, nothing happens, but just often enough I have to go through a ton of shit... bribes... delays... strip searches... by very unattractive people... it stays with me.

I get off the plane in Manila, immigration is easy. Inside the terminal... there are a bunch of cab-driver-looking people holding up signs with people's name on them. No punk rockers. No MYKEL BOARD. I walk out of the terminal. It's HOT! Japan was cold... sweater cold... when I left. The weather here is tropical... I mean... what the fuck? It's the tropics!

There doesn't seem to be anyone waiting for family members at all.... just taxi drivers.

Taxi? Taxi”

Where you goin'?”

I'm waiting for a friend,” I tell 'em. They go off to hustle someone else.

I keep looking.

I explain the situation to one of the drivers.

Do you have your friend's phone number?” he asks me.

Yeah,” I tell him, “but I don't have a phone. I can't call him.”

I'll help you,” he says. “I'll bring you to someone who has a phone. Write down the number for me.”

Suspicious, but out of alternatives, I follow the driver to a group of his co-workers. He shows the number to one of them, a short guy... about my height... with a thick Greek-looking mustache.

The guy takes his cellphone... dials... waits... shakes his head.

Your sure it's the right number,” he asks.

It's the only number I have,” I tell him.

Let's try a different phone,” he says, pulling me deeper into the crowd of drivers.

What the fuck? I was supposed to meet the guys right outside the airport. That's where I am... I smell scam among these drivers.

Sorry,” I say, and walk back to the airport, figuring he's just very late as people from hot countries are apt to be.

Still looking, I try to reenter the terminal. A guard stops me. It's like a rock club... no readmission. I'm screwed... fucked... stranded...

The same cab driver returns to me. Walking from a pack of his fellow drivers. What does he want now? New scam time?

I contacted your friend,” he tells me. “He's waiting for you just at the exit of the airport. He's standing under a sign that says TAXIMUS...” He writes the name down on a piece of paper. “Follow me, I'll show you how to get there.”

He takes me to the entrance to a tunnel, that leads... I donno where.

Here it comes. The kidnapping... the body part harvesting... the jihad beheading.

Just go down that way,” he says, pointing to the tunnel entrance. “And I hope you can give me something to say thanks.”

I open my wallet. I have a few bills I got when I changed some money in New York. Of course he should get something. He either saved me or got me killed. In either case, a few dollars won't hurt. I shuffle through the bills... all thousands... I don't have any idea of the currency here, but I just want to meet my friends and get out.

How 'bout one of those,” he says, pointing to the thousand peso bills in my wallet. I take out one of them out and give it to him.

Thanks,” he says, and I head down the tunnel.

It opens somehow onto a street. There are a ton of other people waiting for friends and relatives. Evidently this IS the human waiting place. The airport itself is reserved for taxi drivers only.

There is the sign: TAXIMUS... and there are two guys, one a bit usual, just a friendly guy looking... the other long hair, black leather jacket, punk rock. Between them they hold a sign:


I wave... walk over to them... shake hands.

Hil! Johnny!” I say to the guy in the leather jacket... I guessed right.

There's no Emmanuel, but 2 out of three isn't bad. When I explain my 1000peso tip to Hil he laughs.

That's $20, Mykel,” he says. “The guy is probably just gonna take that and call it a night.”

Shit,” I say, “well, it's my first minutes in Manila... things like that always happen at first. How much will a cab cost to Johnny's?” (I expect to stay with him, sleeping on the floor.)

Fuck cabs. You're going to learn the REAL Philippines, Mykel,” Hil tells me.

Johnny takes my bags (way too much! Usually I travel much lighter.) We're going by jeep. (Click on the image below for some more pictures)


More precisely a JEEPNEY, the most common and cheapest way to travel in Manila. A jeepney is a modified jeep... extended and painted-- often beautifully... sometimes with Christian themes, sometimes with family figures, zombies, super-heroes you never know.

It's just one of the Philippine mind bogglers. They travel in art... moving art.

In the jipney windshields are small signs with the destination of that particular jeep. You flag one down and get in. Inside there is a row of benches along either side. There is room for 12 people. Usually there are 19... and their too-much luggage. In addition to the sweating passenger bodies, the driver usually plays music louder than a city SUV.

Once you wedge yourself inside the jeep, you fish around for some money. Then you say BUY PO (or something like that) and pass your money to the next passenger who passes it forward. Sometimes the driver takes it. Sometimes he's (always HE in my experience) got a helper to take it. If there is a helper, that guy raises his eyebrows when he gets your money. You shout over the music: your destination and how many people you're paying for. If you pay the driver, he looks at you either in the rearview mirror or directly when the traffic is stopped... which is often.

My Philippine friends say Manila has the worst traffic in the world. People in the near suburbs get up at 4AM to be at work by 9. It makes the LA freeways seem like speedways by comparison. The air pollution is so bad that my sometimes cough instantly morphs into bronchitis.

The air is so dirty, that scratching a mosquito bite will leave your nails black. Headlights reflect what looks like a permanent fog. In the morning, you pull from your nose thick black boogers... as long as a tapeworm.

The locals seem used to this pollution. Every-once-in-awhile you see someone on a jeepney with a surgical mask... the kind that Japanese wear as a matter of course... or just a washcloth over their mouths. Usually, it's business as usual no acknowledgment of the air.

I have a theory: Manilans have evolved to NEED pollution. Their body uses it as nourishment... stimulation... aphrodesia. Their lungs crave it like a penis craves stroking. The proof is in the smoke.

I have never seen a group of people who smoke as much as the Manilans. Two... three... more... packs a day. Not chain smokers, but machine gun smokers. POW! POW! POW! Everyone! Restaurants, bars, home, everywhere... hangs smoke from tobacco. Turning down a cigarette here is as strange as turning down cash.

The reason? Lungs! Manila people are allergic to clean air. It cripples them... makes them impotent... weak... sick. The natural air in the city usually takes care of the need to breathe dirt... but what about inside? Or on a deserted street in the middle of the night? Clean air can creep up on you anywhere... Cigarettes are the best defense.

Three hours later, we arrive at Johnny's place. I get the futon. Johnny sleeps on a cardboard box on the floor. (Yes, that's how great the people are here.) After Johnny smokes a last cigarette, I say good night.

These guys... never met 'em before... they spent eight hours to meet me at the airport and take me back. 8 hours! That's just one of the things you learn about the people here... other than they need filth in their lungs.

And oh yeah, Emmanual WAS at the airport. Waited all night for me, tried to contact me by facebook. I fucked him over. Damn. These people are great. I feel like shit for HIS eight hours.

--More next time....

And don't worry, I haven't forgotten Japan... it's just that if I don't start going backwards... I'll never catch up!

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