6/23/2019
New York daydream

In a not-entirely-implausible alternate timeline, I would finally have a different answer to Jeany's occasional pleas. "Sure, I can fly to New York."

Normally this is when I'd talk about how going to the United States is something you'd really have to save up for. It's not easy, despite my home country having been an American colony for five decades. It costs a lot. Then there's the visa application to think about. Buying a one-way ticket never crossed my mind, but I can't help but think immigration authorities would think otherwise, if only because other Filipinos have done the same. And then there's the general anti-anybody-else air you get from that side of the world these past couple of years.

But, no, I'm daydreaming. I have a visa, and I have the money to fly to New York. I'll be there two weeks. I don't know if it will be enough time. There's this mindset that, if you fly to the US, you might as well do pretty much everything, because you don't know when you'll be back. I might need a month, but that would also mean other stops. My cousin lives in one coast; my aunt lives in another. My father's aunt lives elsewhere in that coast. And then there's Jeany in New York. Jeany's been begging me to go visit her, and my answer has always been along the lines of "money" and "visa". But, no, I'm daydreaming. I have a visa, and I have the money to fly to New York, and somehow two weeks will be enough because I can always fly back.

For most of those two weeks I'll be at Jeany's mercy. Maybe we'll go to gigs. Maybe she'll tour me at Rough Trade in Brooklyn. (I'll also have enough money - and luggage allowance - to get all the albums I won't be able to buy physical copies of otherwise.) I'll finally understand her rants about the subway system. I imagine she'll discourage me from trying it out, even if my head defaults towards using it as a main means of getting around. I can't say if she'll chide me for being such a tourist. I can't blame her in any case. She is a New Yorker, after all, the sort that says Manhattan is the only place to be. Lucky for me, because that's what most of everybody imagines it to be, too.

I'll be at Jeany's mercy for all but one afternoon. Before flying out I would apply for tickets to see The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. I'm daydreaming, so I get tickets. The one time I'll be in Broadway is not to watch a musical, but a late night show. Some will laugh at me the way one acquaintance mocked me for admitting the only John Williams composition I am quite familiar with is his work for NBC News. But, still, I am on Broadway, in a historic theater, and I am watching one of my favorite comedians, a guy whose work I followed whenever I could, whose books ("books", technically) I have bought.

Where you sit depends on what the pages think of you. Would you look good on camera? Go sit on the front row. That might not be ideal, because then you'll be blocked by the cameras. You might end up watching the whole show from the perspective of camera 3. If they think you're just there to watch with nothing to add to the whole production, you might be assigned at the balcony. Not ideal too, for obvious reasons, but, well, at least you're there. I'd imagine I'll get a seat at the aisle on the orchestra area, and maybe I'll get to give Stephen a high five at some point. I'll look good on TV and somebody - some of my relatives - might, might, recognize me. What a day that would be.

But, you know, they're just daydreams. This is not pessimism: me going to New York is a long shot. It's just how it is. My father's parents only got to the United States when they were in their 70s, when their eldest, my uncle, brought his family over - and my late grandmother spent all of that time on a wheelchair, if only to make sure she doesn't get tired from all that walking. And, I think, they went to Los Angeles, which is a completely different experience. But then they wouldn't have imagined flying halfway around the world either, when they were younger. Their background isn't as privileged as mine, and I say this as one whose background isn't as privileged as most of my peers. It's a misfortune, you'd argue, me being born in a country whose passport is not as powerful, whose systems favor the few (and all under a cloak of "it's your fault you didn't work so hard") and whose standing will never really be as big as our politicians claim it would be as long as they're in power.

Still, in my daydreams, it would be nice to finally have a different answer to Jeany's occasional pleas. It would be nice to finally visit a city I've always dreamed of going to, to no longer rely on idly browsing subway maps and reading essays (including hers) on living there. It would be nice to finally meet one of my few friends, one who I've known for over a decade and would never meet in the flesh otherwise.

"Sure, I can fly to New York. And in fact, I will, in a few months' time. See you, then?"

And then I snap out of it. I'm just eating New York-style pizza, whatever that means, in a restaurant playing cheesy Filipino ballads. It doesn't fit, but somehow, it makes a whole lot of sense.

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