Life without iPod

Cartoon courtesy of Dave Walker/

It’s not exactly an American Express card.

But I still don’t leave home without it, besides my keys, my wallet, and my notebook.

I’m referring of course to my black, four-gigabyte, second-generation iPod Nano, faithful traveling companion for the past four years (going on five, if the rechargeable batteries make it until February).

However, its power management issues were the least of my concerns four days ago.

That’s because I left it at home, depriving me of the soundtrack of my life, especially at a time when I needed it most — on a bus trip to a resort some two hundred or so kilometers north of Manila.

When I realized that my favorite gadget was not in my pockets, I did what all men my age, status, and temperament did when confronted by tribulation: I froze.

My heart raced, my mind drew a blank, and my face had a stunned look as if the world I had known had fallen apart.

Unfortunately, the real world had so far remained insensitive to the plight of literary poseurs, especially if they exhibit characteristics found only among senior citizens.

People came and went, pursuing their selfish ends, unable to comprehend, let alone sympathize with someone who was suffering in silence (i.e., myself).

The universe was cold, cruel; indifferent to those whose concerns were far more important than theirs, whose preoccupations were small and trivial.

And then slowly, it all came back to me.

I left my iPod on the bed after I loaded it with what I considered to be songs best played on road trips: Pat Metheny’s Here To Stay, Terence Blanchard’s rendition of A Streetcar Named Desire, Jackie Gleason’s take on A Taste of Honey, and an all-time favorite, The Batman Theme.

Listening to these tunes while ignoring talkative blowhards go on about corruption and rheumatism was one of the best ways to pass the time.

But there was no way I could listen to my own music that Tuesday morning.

I was already at the bus terminal, keeping an eye on the wall clock that moved close to my scheduled departure.

Initially, I wanted to make a run for it.

I thought I had enough time to grab a cab home, pick it up, and take the same cab back to the terminal.

Except that it was wishful thinking.

There was no way on earth that I could do that without missing my bus and incurring the ire of my companions.

When the bus was about to leave — and on time at that — I picked up my knapsack, climbed aboard, and braced myself for what may well be one of the longest road trips of my life.

As I settled on a window seat, I was pretty sure that I had a song handy for exactly this kind of occasion.

Except that I had no chance of finding out.

But as I said, that was four days ago.

Now I’m back to my old digs, grateful for a recharged iPod that has — besides a hard reset or two —  served me well.

Coming home had never felt this good.

That’s what rich friends are for

(From the Blast From The Past Dept. This piece was first published by the Manila Times in August 2004 when a 33.6 kbps dial-up connection was considered high-tech. Picture of Ding Dong from Philam Food’s website. No transaction, financial or otherwise, has been entered upon by Philam Food and the website’s owner and manager, then and now.)

Just last Saturday, I grudgingly agreed to leave for Tagaytay together with my wife and two other couples; friends whom, for better or worse, we never got around to hang out with that much.

This is because of the six people in that group, almost everyone had work schedules that were tighter than a rusted nut: three were high-powered professionals, two were very active in the academe, while one puttered about in the apartment all day, wearing silly polka-dotted boxers and looking for snacks, preferably Ding-Dong Mixed Nuts. (Which, by the way, is one of the many fine quality Filipino products that go very well with beer. Cigarettes also go well with beer but you can t eat them.)

Anyway, I looked forward to the whole trip with the enthusiasm of former president Estrada awaiting impeachment proceedings.

As a loyal follower of the Dave Barry School of Journalism (Motto: Never leave the house), it was and still is my journalistic responsibility to stay indoors as much as humanly possible, come hell or high water, whether on weekends or weekdays, despite invitations to press conferences and events held outside my apartment.

And so far, I have been successful.

But last Saturday, I relented. Easily, if I might add.

According to Couple A, who had planned the whole Ta?gaytay excursion a month ago, Couple B and my wife and I would not incur any expense at all during the course of the whole trip. Not a centavo, they said.

The Tagaytay invitation therefore proved interesting.

If there is anything that would make me want to step out of the apartment in case of fire, an inspection from my landlord, a surprise visit from my in-laws, or an emergency beer shortage it is always the prospect of a freebie.

This explains why it is always a financially sound decision to have rich friends, as any highly paid financial consultant will tell you. Hanging out with rich friends makes mooching off a lot easier than it sounds.

For instance, rich friends offer to pick you up at your convenience, pay for expensive dinner and drinks, and take you home safely, even after you’ve become rude and drunk.

After all, what else can they expect? You’re poor. You’re supposed to be rude and drunk.

Aside from being the butt of coño kids’ corny jokes, the inability to hang out at Rockwell and drink expensive coffee at Starbucks, what else are you supposed to be? A moocher, that’s what.

And so, early Saturday morning, my wife and I were fetched by a van, which fortunately, was not driven by Vandolph.

As soon as we were cruising along the highway, I saw that half of Metro Manila also had decided to spend the weekend at Tagaytay City. Apparently, a lot of them also had rich friends.

A couple of hours later, we finally arrived in a posh Tagaytay subdivision where we spent the night drinking beer, playing some board games, and watching DVDs, at no cost to us.

Indeed, it was a typical weekend getaway made possible by having rich friends.

Thank God for poverty.