Pajammy Party

Pillow fights, secrets, s'mores and scary stories. Sleeping bag not required.

One day at Brooklyn Flea

The problem with having Brooklyn Flea favorites is you never get to try new things. So this time, I skipped the lobster roll, even though I knew I might regret it.

I joined Jill at Porchetta where the girl behind the counter was trying to convince Joel to buy a sandwich. The guy beside her was chopping a slab of roast pork into tiny tiny pieces and it smelled so good that I said, “Fine, I’ll get one too.”

“It’s the best job in the world,” Porchetta girl said. “I’m like a good drug dealer. Everyone’s happy, they come back and tell me, “I need more!” Then we run out and we go home at 3 p.m. I’ve never had a more rewarding job. The vibe is just good. It sells itself. I don’t have to do anything.”

Porchetta guy looked up from the pile of meat in front of him and said, “Yeah, I reign in silence.”

He stuffed four rolls with generous servings of pork. I grabbed mine, took a bite and closed my eyes. It was good. The porchetta was tender, fragrant and flavorful, the skin crispy and salty. The bread was a little tough – pandesal would have been better but that’s the Pinoy in me talking – but the girl was right. I wanted more.

But I resisted because there were other things to eat. Like our favorite elote – corn on the cob prepared the Mexican way: lightly coated with mayo, rolled in cotija cheese and sprinkled with cayenne pepper.

My elote looked so good that as I walked back to our spot, a man stopped me. “Excuse me, where did you get that?”

Ver said she liked her Takumi Taco taco so I got one too. She ordered the Japanese curry beef (curry beef, cotija cheese, Napa cabbage, Japanese mustard, wasabi crema) but I went for the spicy shrimp (chilled poached shrimp, spicy yuzu kosho aioli, avocado, corn salsa). It was good too. It was light in both size and taste.

I was done eating. It was time to shop.

My favorite Brooklyn Flea vendor is Dan’s Parents’ House. Dan is so popular and he has so much stuff that he occupies two booths. He sells things that you can dig up in your parents’ basement or attic – old Happy Meal collectibles, vintage keys, toys from the 70s, 80s and 90s, Garbage Pail Kids stickers, trading cards (he even has New Kids On The Block and 90210 packs), patches, all kinds of cool stuff.

“I can’t believe you have a whole tin of these,” a guy told Dan, after seeing a pile of little plastic beige soldiers. He sounded so excited.

“Oh yeah, they’re my second favorite toy,” Dan said.

“How much for these?” a tiny voice said and Dan looked down to see an adorable little girl wearing an Elsa costume. She was holding up two plastic Pumbaas.

Dan grinned and said, “Two for each, so four dollars.”

The little girl was so cute that if I were Dan, I would have said, “It’s free! What else do you want?” But that’s why Dan is a businessman and I’m not.

I saw a pile of Girl Scout badges and asked the guy assisting Dan how much they were. “Let me ask Dan, it’s my first day here,” he said, sheepishly.

Then he noticed my shoes. “Hey! Cool boots! Hieronymus Bosch?”

“Yup, this is supposed to be Hell.”

“Yeah, I’m very familiar with his work. Heaven is not as cool as that one.”

I wanted to buy old letters. Dan usually has piles of them (a number of them love letters sent during the war) but I was surprised to find out that he no longer had them. “Email me and I’ll find you some,” he said.

But I quickly forgot about the letters. Because I spotted a big bin of trolls.

Some of you already know this story. When I was in sixth grade, I was obsessed with Russ trolls – yes, the ones sold at Gift Gate. I saved up for them and, when asked what gifts I wanted during birthdays and other special occasions, they were always my answer: trolls. Okay, trolls and books. Soon I had amassed a pretty impressive collection – over thirty of them. I had trolls in different sizes, costumes and levels of nakedness, big plush dolls, rings, pencil toppers and pins. I loved them so much that I made sure they surrounded me when I slept. Every night, there was a circle of trolls on my bed, with me happily snoozing in the middle.

To me, it was a cozy setup, to my grandma, it was alarming.

My grandma – yes, the one who spent my college years praying for my virginity – believed that trolls were evil. And seeing me surrounded by them as if I were a human sacrifice didn’t help.

One traumatic day, she grabbed all my trolls, dumped them into a metal drum and set them on fire while I bawled. It still hurts to think about it.

Over twenty years later, I still have a thing for Russ trolls. When I saw Dan’s pile, I squealed and started digging.

Only a handful of them were from Russ though – most of them were just creepy trolls (yes, there’s a difference). I knew instantly that I wanted the Russ troll with aqua hair. And the small troll pin. No one is burning these babies.

I was paying for my purchases when I heard someone call my name. I turned around and saw Happy.

We laughed about how crazy it was that we ran into each other there.

Those are the things I love about Brooklyn Flea – the food, the finds, the surprises.

Then we left in search of crack. And by crack I mean Momofuku Milk Bar’s Crack Pie.

The Dump Shit In and Pray method really works—but not when there’s a thunderstorm

Jill and I are very different packers.

Her method is precise, organized, systematic and requires a lot of thought. She starts with a list, the template of which she has been using for years, and begins packing days before departure.

My method – if it can even be called that – can only be described as haphazard. Sometimes I begin with a list, sometimes I swipe hers and copy it but most of the time, I start packing a few hours before leaving for the airport, tossing stuff into a suitcase and willing it shut.

You’ll be surprised to know that this method works too – I’ve never left behind anything important. (Except that one time I forgot to bring a memory card reader to Singapore. But that was remedied by a 2 a.m. trip to Mustafa.)

Packing after a long visit to the States is a little more complicated but Jill is equipped for that. She carries with her a weighing scale for suitcases so she can make sure her luggage does not go over the weight limit. Boxes are a bit more challenging but Jill can handle that too, no problem. She weighs every single thing that goes into the box, jotting down the numbers on the side of the box and computing them, making sure the total is 23 kilos or under.

I also use a different approach when packing to go back home to Manila. It’s called “Dump Shit In and Pray.”

Janna, noticing my cavalier approach, asked, “Tita Pam, how much have you paid for excess baggage?”

“I’ve never paid for excess baggage,” I said. “I just use my charm.”

I was joking, of course. I have no delusions about being charming. Most days, I embrace my repulsion. But it’s true – I’ve never paid for excess baggage. The “Dump Shit In and Pray” method really works. Even when I go over the limit, the airline people usually let it slide. (Except for that one time a bitch decided she wanted my W magazine in exchange for the extra kilos. The W magazine that featured Angelina’s portraits that were shot by Brad. I never found another copy of that magazine again. I was furious.)

I chalk it up to luck, not charm.

When it became obvious that the ton of books and magazines I wanted to bring home might cause problems, Jill said, “Janna, get some of the books.”

“No,” Janna replied, grinning. “I want to see Tita Pam use her charm.”

At the airport, we checked in at different counters.

My suitcase was weighed. 22.4 kilos. Good. Just under the limit.

Then it was my box’s turn. 25 kilos. Holy shit.

But the airline girl didn’t bat an eye. “Ms. Pastor, here’s your boarding pass for your flight to Hong Kong and here’s your boarding pass for your flight to Manila.”

“Thanks,” I said. I was so relieved that I gave her the copy of Sophie Kinsella’s Wedding Night which I was planning to leave at the airport for a stranger to find and adopt.

But I shouldn’t have been worried about excess baggage. I should have been worried about the flight.

The Hong Kong to Manila flight.

The flight from New York to Hong Kong had its turbulent moments – annoying but completely normal. The flight from Hong Kong to Manila was crazy. For a few minutes, I was convinced I was about to die.

We had been stuck on the runway for close to an hour. There was a thunderstorm, the pilot said. None of the planes could land or takeoff.

We could see that it was raining really hard. Then it slowed to a drizzle. The captain announced that we were number ten on the queue.

When we finally took off, it was pouring again. Sheets of rain hit the plane’s windows. The plane shook. Lightning flashed. It was like a scene from a disaster movie.

That’s okay, I told myself, in a few minutes things will be calm and you can watch Andy Samberg pretend to be a Brooklyn cop.

But I was wrong.

Janna, who had a window seat, leaned over and said, “Scary!”

Her screen had been set to the plane’s outside camera. She switched it off.

I tried to be reassuring even if I wanted to pee my pants. “It’s okay, we just need to exit Hong Kong to get away from the storm.”

I stared at the moving map on my screen, silently telling the plane to hurry, hurry, hurry and leave the dangerous weather behind.

Minutes later, Janna leaned over again. “I’m freaked out!” She shut the window so she wouldn’t see the lightning. Other passengers did the same.

You know things are fucked up when none of the flight attendants have gotten up and you’re already many minutes into the flight.

At one point, I heard the sound that usually meant the seatbelt sign had been switched off. I sighed, relieved. But I looked up and it was on again.

The plane continued to shake, lurch and drop. People stifled their screams. The lightning was nonstop, illuminating people’s terrified faces. Except Jill’s. Jill was sleeping. I’m not kidding.

I kept thinking, “This is it. Oh my god. We’re going to die.” I gripped the armrests. I wanted to puke.

Suddenly, things became calm. The flight attendants set to work, acting like nothing happened. I watched Andy, ate bad pita and good popcorn, and laughed with Jill and Janna.

But I shouldn’t have been worried about the flight. I should have been worried about the box.

We stood at the baggage claim area, watching other people’s luggage go round and round.

Finally, my box appeared, the first sign of our baggage. “Oh no! It looks wet!” I said.

And it was wet. So wet that when I tried to lift it from the baggage carousel, it crumpled like a soggy newspaper.

Fuck that fucking thunderstorm.

I put my hand through one of the box’s holes and touched wet fabric. My clothes. Fuck.

I spent the entire ride from the airport trying to catalog the contents of the box, my heart pounding like crazy.

And when we arrived, I tore into it. My limited edition Lands’ End tote bag from Random House and my toiletry kit were wet. My magazines were damp, Lorde’s Teen Vogue cover ruined. “Si Lorde pa!” Janna and I said.

My clothes were completely soaked, as if they had just come out of the washing machine.

A notecard pack was soggy – I gasped as the box fell apart in my hands.

My books were drenched – the advance reader copies given to me at Random House and, the most heartbreaking one: the compilation of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems that I bought at his home in Philadelphia.

Yeah, fuck that fucking thunderstorm.

But I still consider myself lucky. I have a lot to be thankful for.

Because, for some strange reason, I had packed my new Nikes with their boxes still in plastic bags, saving them from the rain.

The waterproof eco bags I added to the box at the last minute provided extra cover.

I had also unwittingly protected most of the notecards by packing them inside plastic bags.

Most of the pasalubong survived unscathed. Elsa and Anna were still making music. The bag of cotija cheese was fine.

The books I bought at Strand, protected only by my knit cardigan, were miraculously in perfect condition.

The wet clothes? They were all old. My new ones were in my suitcase, untouched by the rain.

I had hand-carried all the books signed by Ruth Reichl and Gillian Flynn. They were safe and dry.

As were my pairs of Doc Martens, new and old.

And my notebooks and my work files, which were in my backpack.

And all my bracelets – Cruciani, Alex and Ani, Venessa Arizaga.

And my sea salt Lindt truffles.

And all my wires and chargers and cables.

And the plane didn’t crash.

Google Maps can be a real asshole

I love it, it’s helpful but let me tell you this – sometimes, Google Maps can be a real asshole.

You look something up, it tells you you can get there in seven minutes – just a quick subway ride plus a one-minute walk.

“Great! I love one-minute walks!” you think. And then you say goodbye to everyone at the apartment, telling them you’ll be back in a jiffy, letting the door slam behind you.

You get on the wrong train – the service changes sometimes trip you up – but that’s not Google Maps’ fault. That’s totally you.

But you’ve gotten on the right train, gotten off at the right stop and you’ve been walking for over a minute and you’re still not where you’re supposed to be.

You check Google Maps and say, “Oh, okay, I’m halfway there.” But you keep walking and still don’t see your destination.

You check Google Maps again and it tells you you’ve already walked by it.

“What the fuck,” you think. And you walk back. But you still don’t see it. You crane your neck and you turn and turn and turn until you’re dizzy and you feel like holding on to a nearby falafel cart for support but you still don’t see it.

And Google Maps keeps telling you you’re right where you should be.

You sigh, walk into a supermarket and ask the first person you see, “Do you know where this is?”

“Yes, that’s by the big avenue.”

And the big avenue is nine blocks away.

“Damn you and your one-minute promises, Google Maps,” you think as you continue walking.

But somewhere along those nine blocks, you find the biggest bag of Sour Patch Kids you’ve ever seen, you discover a new way to tie your hair and you grab a delicious tuna sandwich prepared by an angry Indian woman.

Done with your errand, you walk back to the subway, attacking your sandwich with such ferocity that you get tuna on your nose, and you think, “Fuck you, Google Maps, but thank you too.”

How we were almost kidnapped by a drunk lady with Natasha Richardson’s face and Anna Wintour’s bob

Jill missed out on Janna’s stalking adventure so today, over breakfast, she said, “Let’s go to the GLAAD Awards.”

She had another reason for wanting to go – her cousin, who is from another state, was going to be at the event and she was hoping to run into him.

Janna, who had been talking about wanting to see the rest of the cast of Orange Is The New Black at the awards, said, “Okay, let’s go.”

Then she changed her mind. “No, can we just go home? My NBA team’s playing tonight.”

The she changed her mind again. “Okay, let’s go, I want to see Laura Prepon.”

But first, Jill and I had another event to go to. When that was done, we realized that Janna had changed her mind again. She and her grandma had gone home.

“We’re still going,” we texted her.

“Bring back halal!” she replied.

It was 10 p.m. and when we arrived at the Waldorf Astoria, I knew instantly that spotting celebrities wouldn’t be as easy as it had been at the Time 100 gala.

One, the red carpet wasn’t visible from the outside. Two, with the exception of two autograph scalpers, we didn’t see any other potential stalkers standing around. Three, the doormen were intimidating – so intimidating that even the scalpers seemed scared of them. Four, we were going to have to wait outside. Five, it was cold. Six, it started to rain.

“Let’s go home,” Jill said, after minutes of waiting. We saw a number of gorgeous gay men but no one we recognized. There was no sign of the Orange Is The New Black cast, no sign of Jill’s cousin either.

There was only one other familiar face there – an elderly female photographer with dyed red hair. She had also been at the Time 100 gala.

“Let’s go,” Jill said again.

“We can’t,” I said. It was still raining and we didn’t have umbrellas.

“Excuse me, do either of you have a cigarette?”

I looked up from my phone and was surprised to see a middle-aged lady in a black pantsuit talking to us. Her face was Natasha Richardson-ish, her hair cut in an Anna Wintour bob.

“No, sorry,” Jill and I said. Neither of us smoke. I have never touched a cigarette in my life.

“It’s good that you don’t smoke. But I do. And I want one,” she said in a sing-songy way.

Jill and I laughed. This lady is tipsy, I thought.

She spotted a girl smoking near us. “Can I please bum one from you?” she asked.

“Oh sure.” The girl handed her a cigarette.

Natasha Wintour told the girl, “You just earned a ticket to heaven.”

The girl laughed and Natasha started smoking.

I inched away, hoping that Natasha would talk to the girl instead. But she wasn’t done with us.

“Are you from here?” she asked Jill.

“No,” Jill replied.

“Where are you from?”

“The Philippines.”

“Holy shit, that’s fucking far!”

She turned to me. “Are you from here?”

“Nope.”

“Where are you from?”

“The Philippines too.”

“Whoa. So are you guys just here on a whim? Just for vacation?”

“Yup,” Jill said.

“How are you liking it?”

“We love New York,” Jill said.

“Is it your first time here?”

“No,” we said.

“So you have it down?”

“Pretty much,” I said.

Then she leaned over conspiratorially, whispering, “Do you know what’s happening here tonight? It’s the GLAAD awards. Do you know what GLAAD is? It’s the gay and lesbian… whatever. It’s a gay thing. George Petaki is here. Naomi Watts…”

I thought, doesn’t she mean George Takei who was being honored at the event?

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“Waiting for my cousin,” Jill said.

“Do you want to go to the party? I can bring you in,” Natasha said.

“Are we allowed to?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, you’re with me. It’s the after-party.”

Was this lady one of the organizers? If so, why was she tipsy?

“Do you want to meet George Petaki?”

Was she George Takei’s agent? If so, why didn’t she know his name? Or did she really mean George Petaki?

“Do you know George Petaki?” she asked me.

“No,” I said.

“You know, from Star Trek.”

Oh yes, she did mean George Takei.

“Do you want to meet him? Do you want to meet the football player who just came out?”

I looked at Jill who just shrugged.

“Let’s go,” Natasha said.

And before I realized what was happening, my feet were following her into the Waldorf Astoria and Jill was right behind us.

“Do you go to the awards every year?” I asked, still trying to figure out who she was and why she thought she had the power to let us into the party.

“No, it’s my first time.”

“So why are you going this year?”

“My friend’s a sponsor,” she said. She mentioned a name that I instantly forgot.

The second we entered the hotel, I realized that Natasha wasn’t just tipsy, she was drunk. She had to hold on to my arm for support so she could climb the stairs.

“It’s okay, it’s okay, you’re with me,” she kept telling us, flashing her shiny silver event bracelet.

She stopped at a lounge, slurring and laughing, “We’re not going in there, those people are uptight.”

Then, looking at two girls in tight clothes and crazy heels, she said, “So pretentious.”

Natasha was on a roll.

She led us to the elevator banks where a crowd was waiting.

Shit. I was hoping the event would be on the ground floor.

Natasha clung to my hand as we entered the elevator with a group of people. She didn’t push any of the buttons. People started getting off at different floors. Soon, there were only four of us left – Natasha, Jill, and I plus a man wearing a business suit.

“Okay, now we can go to the party,” Natasha said.

She turned to the man. “Do you know where the party is?”

“No,” the man said, just as the elevator reached the 26th floor. He made a quick exit, looking relieved.

We were alone with Natasha. I wanted to laugh. But I also kept wondering what the hell was happening. Why would Natasha bring two tourists to the party? Was she crazy? Was she just drunk? And why did we go with her? Were we crazy? We weren’t drunk. Was she trying to pick us up? Holy shit.

Don’t panic, I told myself. You’re fine. If she presses the button for her hotel room floor, flee. If she makes a move, punch her. If she tries to kidnap you, that’s okay, you can take her, you and Jill are pretty strong. You are so strong that once, at the airport, after you helped a woman carry her luggage, she told you, “Wow, you must eat a lot of vegetables.”

Natasha said, “Um, we have to go down again. Press L.”

Jill whispered, “Uwi na tayo.”

I pressed L.

Jill said, “Lakas mag-trip nito.”

Soon, we were back at the lobby.

“I need to find someone who works here so he can take us to the party,” Natasha said.

I craned my neck in search of a hotel employee. I wanted to find one, grab him by the collar, hand Natasha over and say, “Here. Please take care of this drunk lady so we can go.”

Natasha pointed, “That guy… Oh no, he left.”

Then she looked at Jill and laughed. “She’s petrified.”

I spotted a sign and a hotel map. According to the sign, the after-party was at the Jade and Basildon rooms, both on the third floor.

“Third floor,” I told Natasha. It was time to take charge.

I said to Jill, “Hatid lang natin.”

“Are your friends there?” I asked Natasha, wanting to give her back to them.

“Yes. Don’t worry. You’re my friends,” she said.

This lady was crazy.

We walked back to the crowded elevator banks. An elevator opened and Natasha joined the throng trying to get in. She made it inside. But Jill and I were still outside and there was no space for us.

Hallelujah!

“Ma’am, ma’am, please wait,” a hotel employee held up his arm, telling Jill not to enter the elevator. He appeared at the perfect time and I wanted to hug him. I wanted to hug all the people in the elevator who made it impossible for us to get in.

Natasha was still motioning for us to get in. Jill shook her head.

The last thing I saw was Natasha’s hand still beckoning us. Her diamond ring sparkled and the elevator doors closed.

Jill and I ran out of the hotel, laughing our heads off. “What the fuck!” we kept saying. “Do you want to meet George Petaki?”

We were back in the cold and dangerous streets of New York which felt much safer.

Article Alert: “Before the Eraserheads became rock stars, they wrote a Pinoy musical”

It was 1991. UP Tropa, a group described by its adviser Rogelio Sicat as “isang barkada ng estudyanteng iba’t-iba ang kurso na mahilig sa teatro at malakas ang loob,” was working on “Manhid,” a new production at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, and somehow—the members were not sure exactly how, “the details are hazy,” they said—the Eraserheads got involved.

Read the full story HERE.

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