Just came from an early family Christmas buffet lunch at Dad’s World Buffet at SM Megamall and dad-gum it, I’m friggin’ stuffed.
A Christmas family event at home was difficult and stressful: there was the marketing, the cooking, the setting up of the house, and the subsequent cleaning. Too much effort. If we went out to a place to have it in, we’d cut out all of that crap. The whole week I was thinking of a buffet place to have lunch in for Christmas, and Dad’s World Buffet at the mall was one of the choices I was eying. But try as I might, I couldn’t get a reservation for Christmas Day—nobody was answering their phone. So we decided to take a chance, go there early and wing it.
We got there at 10:30, anticipating an especially large flood of patrons for Christmas lunch, and we were right. By 11:15 the place was packed, and there was a long line of waitlisted families waiting for tables queued up outside. Good thing we were there early. As luck would have it, Dad’s had a promo for the season where if it was your birthday (valid for three days before and three days after), your buffet was all free. It so happened it was my father’s birthday tomorrow, so that was one less buffet lunch to pay for. Excellent!
I can’t account for anyone else in our party, but I went through the buffet systematically. I ate a light breakfast at home so I’d have at lot of room for a big lunch. At Dad’s, I first had a big plate of Japanese appetizers, then a plate of Japanese food, then a plate of Chinese, then finally a plate of Filipino/Spanish food. Then I had halo-halo, and then, to top it off, a big bowl of soft-serve ice cream. I didn’t go for any soup (which I normally get), and only had a glass of iced tea.
And man, I don’t think I want anything else for a week, I’m that full.
Then there’s still my father’s birthday celebration tomorrow, for which we’re going to another buffet resto. Ay yay ay.
I saw Alex Gibney’s new, controversial documentary Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine the other day, found it eye-opening and enlighening, and saw how Apple certainly wouldn’t get behind the film, and wouldn’t find it flattering at all. It was sometimes nasty, actually. It shows the raw side of Jobs, and it certainly doesn’t paint the company in the best light, much less its fabled, legendary founder. At the beginning of the film, it showed Apple Stores around the world and how people flocked to them after Jobs’ untimely, but not entirely unexpected, death in 2011, setting up veritable shrines to the man in the street, piled high with flowers.
One of the scenes showed the Apple Store in the Ginza area in Tokyo. It seemed pretty familiar to me, and I realized I was actually there at one time in my life!
I went to Tokyo on a press junket in 2007 in connection with one of my jobs as Editor-in-Chief of Pinoy Rider Extreme, sponsored by the magazine’s main (and unspoken) benefactor, Honda Philippines (let’s not fool ourselves—it was a glorified advertising campaign for Honda, disguised as a magazine for motorcycle enthusiasts). We were there to attend the Tokyo Motor Show, to take a tour of Honda’s factory and facilities and to see the sights. I did my duty and went to all the exhibits (it took me three whole days to cover everything), and even went on a trip to the countryside to go visit the Twin Ring Motegi racetrack.
I remember I took some of the off-time to go seek out the large, five-story Apple building there. It was my chance to see an actual, honest-to-goodness Apple Store. It so happened the day that I went was the international launch day of OS X 10.5 Leopard too, so it was a big deal for the Apple folk.
We had the entire day to ourselves, and in the morning some of my companions and I went to Akihabara, that gadget, tech and otaku haven I had read about on the net. It was glorious, but I couldn’t really buy anything, because funds. But I enjoyed going around the many shops and stores and had a great time windowshopping. We had lunch at a KFC before going back to the hotel.
In the afternoon it started raining, and when I asked my friends if they wanted to go to the Apple Store in Ginza, wherever that was, they all declined. Not only because it was raining hard and they didn’t know where Ginza was, but also because I was, apparently, the only Apple nut in the group. Which was not very encouraging, as I didn’t know where the hell to go, and it was very intimidating to find a building in the vast but orderly chaos of Tokyo. But I persevered, and went out on my lonesome.
I can’t imagine doing that nowadays, after my stroke. But I was a different person back then. It was a formidable task, but I was younger, and more impulsive and adventurous. I set about scouring for the address on the net, and when I got it, I went to the nearby commuter train station to find out how to get to Ginza. I spent a long time trying to decipher the inscrutable maps, but the natives turned out to be very helpful to a lost tourist. A couple of them took the time with their halting English to try and help me.
Pretty soon I had the basic instructions on how to get to Ginza. Ginza Block 3, actually—it was located in a busy commercial district on Chuo-Dori, across from the Matsuya Department Store. It was a long, arduous trip from our hotel, with many train transfers, but I was game—how often do you get a chance to go to an actual Apple Store on such an eventful day? I got to the general area, but checking the map on my laptop, I found out there weren’t any rides to the place from the nearest train station other than a cab, and it was a long walk in the rain. Cabs in Tokyo were expensive. I chose to walk. At least I brought my trusty old raincoat with me.
So I went, and when I finally got there I found a large crowd in front of the Apple Store. The store opens from 9AM to 9PM, everyday. It was around 3:30 in the afternoon, but apparently it was closed from 3 to 6PM to prepare for the Leopard launch, after which it would open again to loud fanfare, fuss and french horns. Swell.
I went and took pictures of the building and checked out the surrounding shops before joining the long line to get in. It must have wound around at least three or four blocks when I finally got to line up in the pouring rain. Japanese people were so orderly and polite, and you didn’t need to ask them to line up properly; they just did so by themselves. I was amazed. The Apple staff was very nice, and they gave us free drinks and complimentary umbrellas and plastic raincoats and generally tried to keep our spirits up while we waited.
It was kind of a nasty couple of hours, but I didn’t really mind. I made friends with the people in line with me— or at least I tried to; it was hard with my limited Nippongo and their limited English. But there was something about being Apple zealots that transcended nationalities, and we got along swimmingly. But it was getting dark, and I was alone in a strange, unfamiliar place populated with people that didn’t speak my language. I was determined not to worry.
Finally, 6PM rolled around, and they started letting people in. The line went in fast (it was a big place) and I got to enter the store shortly after 6:30. In honor of the Leopard launch, they were giving away complimentary black t-shirts emblazoned with Apple and Leopard things. I snapped one up right away. I tried to get two, another for a “friend” who was also coming—heh— and using the language thing as an excuse to be largely unintelligible, but they wouldn’t budge. I proceeded into the store.
The Apple Store at Ginza 3 was certainly a humongous place, four floors of product space and a “presentation” floor on the fifth, but it still got pretty crowded. It was a big party. There was a DJ setup on the second floor, playing loud, riotous, happy music, and the entire place was decorated to the nines with Leopard merchanding. I went up the glass stairs to the upper floors and explored to my heart’s content, looking at all the new Apple stuff, but I couldn’t buy anything, because, you know, funds.
I went around and around in a daze moving from floor to floor. I saw MacBooks and iMacs and iPods and all the stuff Apple was selling. But it was getting late; I got my fill of the Apple Store, and finally headed for the long walk in the rain and the many train rides back to the hotel. I bungled the transfers on the way back, so I had to take the long away around, and it was almost 10PM when I got back to my area.
It was too late to catch dinner with the guys, so I did something I’d always wanted to do since watching Tampopo all those years ago: getting a quick bowl of ramen at a shop in the train station. It was difficult to order as I didn’t speak the language, so I just pointed to get my order—a large pork ramen with miso, which I devoured quickly standing up, as apparently this was how it was done at a busy train station. Then I walked back to my hotel, exhausted, but happy and satisfied.
Needless to say, I slept very well that night.
I once wrote a short story, about a dozen years ago, which I, on a lark, entered into the Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature. Amazingly enough, it won, and I was on Cloud Nine for a while. It was something called The Field, a short story about a kid from the future doing schoolwork by reseaching Jose Rizal and his execution by watching a video of it using a time-travel sort of device, and things go terribly wrong. Interesting, if I do say so myself. Certainly good enough to win an award. But I hardly wrote any fiction since; a lot of non-fiction, and magazine writing and editing, but hardly any fiction. Life, as it is wont to do, got in the way.
Recently, at my daughter’s request (she wanted to read it), I tried to dig it up, and was surprised to find I didn’t have a copy! I looked through my old files, and couldn’t find a single blessed one. Not a single draft, none. I supposed I could’ve asked for a copy from the Palanca people, but it seemed like too much trouble for a single short story from 12 years ago. So I searched online. Desperately, as it turned out. No copies there either. But I found that someone had posted a copy on a website, a Palanca archive, but that site had long gone the way of the dodo. There was a cached copy of the site (God bless the folk at Google), and I managed to wrangle a copy from that mess, but it was riddled with HTML code and other stuff that made it near impossible to read.
Despite the code, I quickly made a copy and pasted it onto Microsoft Word, and resolved to clean the mess up for my kid. And for myself too, because I hadn’t thought to make a copy for posterity’s sake. It took me the better part of an afternoon, but I managed to do it and prettify the story into an acceptable format.
Reading it back, I sorta saw where I was at, writing-wise, a dozen years ago. I saw where I wrote a little purplishly, getting carried away, and saw portions where I sorta had a pedestrian, kind of over-excited and strident view of certain things and wrote those passages accordingly. I slightly rewrote those portions, cheating a bit on history. Then again, who’s gonna get mad? It’s my stuff, my writing, and I can damn well do what I want with it. But I realize the folly of revisionism, and kept it to a minimum.
Bannor, the tempo-tech helping out Paolo in the story, was a bit too over-the-top in the original version, and some of his dialogue, in hindsight, seemed too excitable and too young-sounding, so I toned it down some. (His name came from a character in a series of novels I read by Stephen Donaldson, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and I cribbed it brazenly.) I had trouble then, as I do now, of thinking up names for my characters, and end up with the commonest, plain-sounding, unimaginative names ever (odd, but that trouble has always been there, some deep-set and fundamental creative inability that I constantly struggle with).
I saw certain things that dated my writing, but I left that stuff in anyway. I felt like I was becoming George Lucas a little bit too much. I also corrected several little items in the general text, and reading it now in its slightly revised version, you’d wonder what the fuss was about. It looks basically the same, warts and all. But that’s the curse of writing. You can’t stop revising your stuff, and left to your own devices, you’d rewrite and rewrite the thing to death. Which was why some wag once wrote that you don’t ever finish a story, you just give up on it and let it be.
So, I’ve decided to let The Field be. I’ve decided to leave it alone, warts and all, and move on with my life.
Here it is, for posterity’s sake, posted after the break, so that at least one copy exists online: