Monday, 26 January 2009

Good Vibrations

The past few days have been packed full of new experiences.

Last week I did photos for a trained masseur, Jong. He wanted photos to use to advertise his service. Masseurs, (Masahistas as they are known here.) while in great demand, are typically not looked upon highly in society. Kind of like people who work in food service, retail, or in janitorial services; they all play vital roles in society, but are universally undervalued and looked down upon if they are looked upon at all. Jong is polite, friendly, and his demeanor as relaxing as his well-trained hands.

I've had many massages; ranging from those from a friend studying chiropractic massage in Japan to high-priced professionals in New York City to spas here in the Philippines. Jong's ninety minute massage beat them all, leaving me feeling it's effects for hours afterwards. After that, it is hard not to want to text message everyone I know recommending him, so I messaged a few. Within a few days he reported he was receiving requests for appointments from those I'd contacted, and they were messaging me about how much they loved his service. I hope the photos are helping him out as much!

Friday I met one of our neighbors, Nick, who hails from Australia. He was rather upset about a string of events brought about by some rather over-dramatic, vicious, backstabbing Filipinos. As we were speaking, a friend of mine was texting me asking "what's up?". I texted I was chatting with a neighbor I'd just met and asked if he'd like to meet him as well. The next thing we knew, they had a date for that night.

Today is Monday, and Nick and my friend Erwyn have now seen each other three times; apparently very happy with each other's company.

After a particularly stressful day today, Nick is enjoying a relaxing massage from Jong, who had a second appointment this morning from one of my friends whom I referred last week.

Aren't I the bearer of good karma?

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Anniversary

This January marks the seventh anniversary for Edson and I. Unlike last year, we made no trip out of town. Like last year, I had a cold. Last year I was just overcoming one, this year I was on my first day of one!

Due to Edson's great expense of mailing out job applications to universities in the US, ours was an austere anniversary.

Seems fitting in today's world, huh?

Worldwide economic downturn, companies no longer flying anyone business class if they permit travel at all...so we stayed close to home. Home is a better place to feel sick at anyway.

Just moments ago I did a Google search to find what the traditional seventh anniversary gift is, and two results came up. I'm going with copper, since it seems a lot more likely than the other one I found. I've heard of tin, pearls, paper, ruby, diamond, silver, gold...so copper seemed reasonable. It also ironically is in keeping with our imposed austerity. After all, a penny is (OK, was!) copper, right?!

Anyway, for our anniversary this year, we...what's that? Oh, you wanted to know what the second result was, don't you? Well, I am not even going to mention it here, but if you want to see, click on the image below.It doesn't matter what you search for on the internet, you always end up with something like that!

Anyway, we began our anniversary day with me driving up the value of Kimberly-Clark (they make Kleenex tissue) and a few drug companies, then we were off to Glorietta and our favorite Japanese restaurant, JiPan.

I had my usual weekend treat, Omelette Rice, or as the Japanese say: Om Rice.
Edson had Ebi Ten Don.

It was delicious, despite my only being able to enjoy it half as much as I usually would due to my cold.

Afterwards we went to Greenbelt Mallwhere Edson checked out an exhibit at the Ayala Museum he had been wanting to see while I enjoyed some sun for a while. That always makes me feel better when I have a cold.

We bought tickets to see Benjamin Button, unprepared for it being eight and a half hours long. That's stretching it by about five hours, but it feels like eight when you try to pull yourself out of a theatre seat after a long movie without an intermission. When movie studios put out films that are over two hours long, they really ought to put an intermission in there so moviegoers don't miss important parts of the film while they are making urgent trips to the restroom. It could also give the theatres more concession stand income, or just give people a chance to stand and stretch. Let's face it: when Benjamin Button goes to DVD, almost everyone who plays it will pause it at one point to run to the refrigerator, answer the phone or door, or go to the bathroom! Incorporating the intermission into the film only makes sense.

Anyway, as I said, we were unprepared; which means we hadn't brought any Excedrin (For those in the Philippines, that's headache medicine that actually works. Nothing I've bought here does anything at all, so friends make sure to bring some with them for us when they return from their travels in the US.) with us. So we both left the theatre with awful headaches.

With a headache on top of my cold, I was not feeling so good. We were also both hungry again, so we took dinner (and some aspirin, hoping the combination of food and it would kill the headaches) at Aveneto, an Italian restaurant and headed home, where Kimberly-Clark's stock value continued to rise.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Power of a Blog

The power of blogs and bloggers is something we are accustomed to reading and hearing nowadays, but it never really struck me that my little blog with less than ten thousand hits would ever be one of those that had any power.

But it did!

A magazine was going to do a story on The Stock Market restaurant, but someone at the magazine read my blog on it and they sent Edson and I word they had canceled the story due to our horrific experience there!

Yes, the internet and DSL connections do seem to have sped up the rate at which karma comes around. The Stock Market got what it deserved.

As Bugs Bunny says: Ain't I a stinker? Heeheeheehee....

What We Need is Change

Change.

Change seems like such an obvious thing, doesn't it? Everything is always in a state of change. Traffic lights change (eventually). Seasons change. Many people are afraid of change. You can't stop change. Even when we try to stop it, we're actually changing something in the process. Changing change.

Barack Obama campaigned with a message of change - The Change We Need. Boy, has he got his hands full of change to do!

But I'm not here to talk about the change Barack Obama will bring, though his is a lot more substantial than my change, and will affect millions, if not billions, of people.

I'm talking about change that really only affects me - maybe a few others - I don't care. I care about my change.

And it is my change that the eight-person staff at Earle's Deli couldn't give me the other day at two-o'clock in the afternoon when I stopped in to pick up some roast beef.

The roast beef was P144 (about $3US). I handed the cashier a P500 bill.

Do you have anything smaller, sir?
, she asked.

No, I replied.

Oh, smaller, sir.

That's all I have.


Can you get smaller, sir?


No. Why don't you go next door to the bank and get change? (There is a Bank of the Philippine Islands branch located right next to Earle's in the Columns.) Do I look like a bank? Why would she expect a customer to be the one to go out in search of change when she has a cash register full of money and plenty of people on staff who can do it?

Blank stare.

I looked into her cash drawer and saw multiple layers of 1000 and 500 peso bills, all yearning to be broken for change.

Blank stare.

There's only one other customer here now. Why don't one of you go get change?
, I suggested.

Blank stare.

The cashier then solicited donations from a couple other workers so she could cobble together enough coins to give me my change.

This isn't the first time they've been without change in the middle of the afternoon at Earle's. I find it strange.

The lunch rush is over. There's an excess of workers. Not a lot to do. The coins and small bill supply is running low or is drained. The bank is on the other side of the wall, just seconds away door-to-door, but no one ever gets any change.

Maybe they're afraid of change.

All I wanted was a simple P356 worth of change. Not too much. About $7US.

The US economy needs over $700 billion worth of change we're told.

Good thing Obama's in charge of it, and not the staff of Earle's Deli.

I got my P356 worth of change - Change I Can Believe In.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Weird Ads

Ever come across an ad that just didn't seem quite right?

How about one that had an embarrassing mis-spelling?

Or one that was downright weird?

We get ours regularly now through Street Talk, "Chic Makati Living (Trusted Service Since 2002!) Where All Your Living Choices Are Made Easy!"

That's what it says. And I suppose it's true, if all your choices in life revolve around dieting, whitening your skin, massages, parties, real estate, massages, tutors, getting fast cash, and (did I mention?) massages! Of its twelve pages, five feature nothing more than massage services. All my living choices, huh? I like a massage as much as anybody, but I had no idea the citizens of Makati spent that much time getting them and quite frankly, I feel left out!

I could try this place......but they don't seem too confident in their service. It's just "OK".

Not great. Just OK.

Not exceptional. Not fabulous. Not soothing. Just OK.

If I want an OK massage I'll have a cat do it. You know, how they do right before they walk around in a circle when they get ready to lay down.

This place doesn't seem quite right:I've heard of spas that use chocolate baths and all sorts of other things they say are good for your skin, but cheese?!

Oh, wait. No. Maybe they don't use cheese. Maybe they mean their massages aren't even OK, like the OK Massage & Spa. They're even worse. You know...a really cheesy massage?

Ewwwww.

Moving on...and while the thought of food is still at hand...check out this place:Is this where Willy Wonka sold all those edible dishes? (Don't know what I'm talking about? Go watch the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder, then come back to this post.) I think I'd rather not find out. The owners should get a new name for their restaurant.

Incomplete sentence:Get Rid?

Manuel! Leinor! C'mon! That's not a sentence! Sesame Street's Big Bird may not know that abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz isn't a word, but at least he speaks in complete sentences!

Monday, 5 January 2009

The Stock Market

The Stock Market is perhaps one of the worst experiences of my life.

It is terrible.

A complete waste of money.

Terrible service (if that's what they want to call it.)

You're getting confused, aren't you?

I'm speaking of a restaurant Edson and I ate at with some friends Saturday night.

The performance of this restaurant pretty much coincides with the performance of the world's stock markets in 2008. So, if they are looking to replicate the collapse of the world markets in a dining experience, they've succeeded.

Now, The Stock Market is a restaurant in Ft. Bonifacio High Street that opened back in mid-October. It is owned by Del Monte and operated by a restaurant group that operates three other chains.

If you thought running three other chains meant they knew anything about running a fourth restaurant you'd be mistaken.

When we arrived there, shortly before seven, only four other tables had any diners. Most of the empty tables were reserved for large groups yet to arrive. This is a restaurant divided up into basically fourteen table groupings capable of accommodating four to eight persons in each, for a total of probably one hundred diners at a time.

We were seated by what the hostess referred to as the "bar". I guess it is a bar, just not one you can "belly up to". Really, it is just where they prepare all their beverages.

Our order was taken promptly enough, but that is when our experience began to go downhill...fast.

Ten minutes passed and one person at the table, Paul, had received his drink. Another ten minutes passed and Boris received his entrée. Mine and Edson's followed moments later. Paul's order arrived within a few minutes. Caridad, the only other to order, insisted we begin without her even though hers hadn't arrived.

Within ten minutes, Edson's water glass was empty and our iced teas we ordered thirty minutes before still had yet to materialize. However, Paul had been served a second glass of whatever it was he ordered without having ordered a second glass of it.

We tried several times to finally flag down a server who would pay any attention (You'd think they would; the manager, beverage crew, and full kitchen staff all looked out at us into the rest of the restaurant.) and make an inquiry as to where our drinks and Caridad's meal were hiding. Judging from the looks on the faces of those behind the "bar", all had been ignored or forgotten about. So it wasn't as if they were harvesting fresh tea leaves from the mountains or plucking live chickens for us.

And despite all the pitchers of water passing our table, our water glasses were still empty. They would remain empty the rest of the night.

The manager seemed to be spending all his time putting out fires as one server after another came to him with an issue from their respective tables.

Edson and I both ordered the pulled pork barbecue. What we were served was one of those three things.

It was pork.

It was not pulled. While there was a sauce of some sort over it, it was drizzled on in such a stingy fashion we couldn't discern it as barbecue. Very disappointing.

Our iced teas arrived just a few minutes after the crew wiped the "oh shit" looks off their faces. Caridad's order didn't arrive until after a second inquiry was made into its whereabouts. By the time it did, it had been over an hour since she placed the order and she had lost two dress sizes.

Someone in our group asked if we should get dessert.

We don't have time. Edson needs to be at work Monday morning
, I replied.

So it was decided we'd go elsewhere for dessert.

Getting the bill was another ordeal.

That took requesting it twice - and the person in charge of bill preparation was working right behind our table at the "bar"! We waited ten minutes for our change, and finally just gave up, left, and had dessert at Italiani's, where we were greeted warmly, promptly, served quickly and well, and had a thoroughly wonderful time engaging in confectionery decadence and chamomile tea.

So, dear readers, if any of you were thinking of dining at The Stock Market, take my advice and save your money. You'll get better service at McDonald's, KFC, Jollibee, Greenwich Pizza, Wendy's, Burger King, Chow King, Goldilocks, Sbarro, Pancake House, Chili's, Friday's, Italiani's, Earle's Deli, DeliFrance, Yoshinoya, Grub Club, Reye's Barbecue, Piquant, Mexicali, Ji Pan, Aveneto, Pizza Hut, Outback Steakhouse, Pho Hoa, Oody's, Flapjacks, Burgoo, Ten Titas...

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Happy New Year (or Let's Hope 2009 Doesn't S@ck Too Badly!)

Well, 2009 is here.

Our New Years Eve was normally bizarre.

Let me tell you about it:

Edson and I went to meet his family for mass at the Church of the Risen Lord (CRL) on the University of the Philippines Campus.We were shocked to see how uninspired the decorations were this year inside the church.But that was just the beginning...

Service began with a three-man band, two on guitar, the other an electric keyboard. Judging from his expressions and mannerisms, the singer must have thought he was Bono. All the songs they had selected all seemed to have one thing in common: all were very short lyrically, and those scant lyrics were all repeated endlessly.

At the end of each hymn, the director of the services, a long-haired woman, would try to cut in with what she would say next. She seemed to be in the band's way the entire time physically as well. I guess you could say she was that group's version of Yoko Ono to the Beatles.

There's a reason Edson and I are usually late for mass those times we attend: it is the minister.

CRL's minister loves to talk.

And talk.

And talk.

And he loves to use power point presentations from his iBook. He really, really, really loves his iBook and iPhones and other gadgets, especially if preceded by "i". I secretly (Oops! Not much of a secret now!) think he believes Steve Jobs is sent by God, if he isn't God Himself.

Service that evening had his power point presentation flashed up on a screen mounted tastelessly and awkwardly in one corner of the altar. So as the service went on, the power point would change, reading "Call to Worship", "Invocation", "Prayer/Benediction", etc.

Were they doing this for people who had never been to church before? What is the point?

I can understand showing the lyrics to hymns. That is quite nice not having to look down into the hymn book, where you find most parishoners mumbling...er, singing into the pages.

At one point during the service we were all supposed to give God a standing ovation for his great work on 2008.

Does God really care if it is 2008 or not? 2008 is just a concept of time for our benefit. Man made time and calendars. Is God beholden to man's calendar? And while I'm thinking of it, does God care about our standing ovation? Does he care if we sit or stand or lie down? If we can't stand, does he think less of us? What if we can't clap?

I also found having two (yes2!) offertories to be one too many!

If having one offertory wasn't one too many to begin with (I don't think anyone needs their neighbors in the congregation watching to see how much they place in the collection basket...or if they place anything in it at all.), the second offertory necessitated everyone coming up to the altar and placing their offerings in a basket marked with their birth month...for "everyone's birthday".

Bullsh@t!

During the sermon the minister revealed they had doubled their tithes in 2008. I'm not against a church not in debt, but the guy does like to make people feel they are better for having given so much more.

There's no need for two offerings! Just place the collection boxes at the doors of the church and let people donate when they come and go. Collecting money has no place in a worship service. If I want that kind of experience, I can go to the mall and shop, thank you. And it is more than likely I'd leave the mall with more than what this guy gives me during his sermons! (He usually gives me severe hunger pains, since he drones on for so long about how good the Lord is for inventing his cell phone. No, I'm not kidding!)

Anyway, after the services ended we pretty much agreed we weren't likely to go back again until they had a new minister. We got absolutely nothing out of listening to this guy, except for hunger pains and a sore butt from sitting for so long listening to him.

It's the same reason I stopped attending mass years ago. I was amazed that the priests could interpret every passage of scripture as God saying he wants me to give more of my money to the church. If the parish needed more in the collection, why didn't they just say so? If money ceased to exist tomorrow, I don't think God would care or be any worse off for it.

Anyway, after we left we had a great lasagna dinner for Edson's birthdayat his parents home with his whole family and then we came home where we had some friends over for drinks before the Makati New Years fireworks display.It all ended happily and safely in the wee small hours of the morning...and we still had unopened bottles of wine on hand. Add to those the three we were gifted last night, and we're ready for another party.

^_^