Mama taught him how to call Manila home. Seven thousand islands for seven thousand memories quickly packed with photographs and green cards. marcos made it easy to leave, survival made it necessary. Each Christmas, she assured him that the coming year would promise a safer return. That time never came and she died in the midst of a noisy desert summer. His inheritance, this city, a place he must now call home.
He has become everything this city is. In this city, he braves the heat storms and the smog. The sun browns his skin selectively; from mid-bicep down and a few inches just below the knee. He is careful to moisturize in crevices and cracks, as not to harden, spolit or bleed. Summer is so unpredictable now, it comes later and stays longer. He sweats relentlessly. In these September summers, he dreams about rain and predicts the end of the world.
His memory is this landscape. A city as big as somecountries, he struggles to recognize prefixes and zip codes. The cordless often lays limp by his bedside, short on juice and silent.
Eight AM clubbing, on Sunset and Vine, he fumbles to open the small plastic baggie and another sleepless day. He hears tribal drums pound and church organs drone- the rapture approaches. He moves tirelessly from one routine to the next and his throat begs for water. Mouth dry, nose burning, rush flowing, he substitutes the sensation of light-headedness for the feeling of joy.
In this city, he can do anything, be anyone. He can discuss literature and hip-hop. He can slang south central and dress eastlos. He can even talk like a valley girl for a cheap laugh. He can scale a skyscraper only to bunjee jump from the top. He knows that linen can be worn wrinkled and that rissotto is just rice. He can karaoke, close his eyes and pretend he's stevie. He can rollerblade the length of a faultline and roll with the tremors.
Here, in this city, he can go to sex clubs and talk on the funny lines for two dollars a minute plus tolls, if any. He can fuck anyone without ever feeling obliged nor expect a kiss. In a shoebox under his bed, he collects love letters like baseball cards, hoping that one day they'll be worth something, anything.
This is his inheritance, this city of angels. Without her, this is the only home he knows.
Joel B. Tan
"angeleno 5- the bomb remix"
Rec. 5/15/97 in joel's office, oakland chinatown..lunchtime.