COUCH COACHING FINALE: OKC POST-MORTEM (or the rantings of a sore loser)

I really thought Oklahoma could win it all this year.

I thought OKC could do it because they had the tools necessary to breakMiamidown.

Miami’s weaknesses, at least according to this couch scout-cum coach, are the Point Guard Spot, The Size, and the Bench.

Well, the point guard pretty much negated his advantage my making decisions more awful than Rebecca Black’s Friday. The Bigs were slow-dancing in their rotation, and were hapless against the Wade-James Fastbreak Freight Train of Death. The bench was also outplayed and outhustled by Mike Miller and Shane Battier. (Notice how I mentioned them before I did Bosh)

Of course, one likes cheering for Kevin Durant. The guy seems like an honest-to-goodness nice guy, and he trusts Westbrook even though deep in his basketball-bouncing heart (where a heartbeat should be thumping), he and not Russell should be getting those shots.

Bringing down the Mighty Spurs was no small feat, either. Down 2-0, the Thunder dug deep and ran the Spurs out of the Alamo. I thought the Spurs were the only team that could beat the Thunder. So with the Spurs out of the way, I thought OKC could charge through.

I also had good imaginary money on a Chicago-Oklahoma Finals. If that really happened, I couldn’t have cared who won. It was just going to be some great, amazing, intergalactic basketball. With Chicago gone and with Lebron to cheer against, that left me with only one choice.

For the Thunder, next year looks awfully bright. In the few years prior to reaching the finals, they had to lose to the eventual champions, and get beaten at the spot they were going to surpass the year after. So if their pattern holds and the planets are aligned, they should win it all next year. Get an honest-to-goodness point guard so Westbrook can be the Jericho Weapon he can be, or send the man to a retreat or seminar on generosity.

For Miami– Of course you won. Wasn’t one championship the bare minimum? And mind you, it came a year LATE. Will it happen again next year? I don’t think so. Is Bosh hungry enough? Can the cheaply-paid bench continue to thrive? Is the chip on Lebron’s shoulder big enough for another run at it? Will Rose be healthy enough to stop them?

Don’t forget,Miami, and your white horde – Rose was out. I know you deserve the championship, parade in Florida, Lebron now looks nice with a nice ring on his finger, He’s now matured into a yada-yada-whatever… et cetera et cetera, but you know what – you did it all with Rose watching from his house.

Which nicely sets up next year’s storyline. And the last time Miami won it all, they came back the year after for one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

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HO CHI MINH: MOVING

Vietnam is halfway between war and tomorrow. In some sort of purgatory between pain and promise. The beauty of a culture and people struggling to bloom through grief.

the tour guide

Our tour guide was very friendly and helpful, but that didn’t stop him from speaking with passion about the things his country went through.

The tour at the Ku Chi tunnel site was exciting, but also eerie.

It was like Call of Duty, or even Command and Conquer come to life. They let you into the tunnels that were approximations of the actual tunnel system the Vietnamese used to outsmart the Americans. They would have actual tunnels, false tunnels, and ways to cover the smoke of their underground kitchen so that it would be rerouted elsewhere. They showed the different traps they used against their enemies. They got really creative with the resources, using tiger traps against people, and using parts of the house as inspiration. By the time the Americans knew what hit them, it was too late. Actually, by the time the Americans admitted their loss, they had already lost too much.

going down one of the tunnels…

Then there was the gunfiring range, that allowed the tourists to fire guns into a target range. Their roar echoed through the jungle. The jungle that was then filled with tourists, abandoned tanks, forgotten bomb craters, trap recreations, and souvenir shops. The roaring of the rifles, however, could help one imagine – and this is where it got eerie – the jungle when the traps were real, when the tanks rolled into action, when bomb craters had bodies strewn all over, when you heard the gunfire and you actually feared that the next shot will be the last thing that rings in your ears.

Firing Range

i think this was a tiger trap

Then there was the  Remnants Museum, where the war against the Americans continued to be remembered. Many pictures of the hostilities, of the victims of Agent Orange, stories and quotes lined up the walls, and a full makeshift prison that approximated the torturous state of being held captive, reminding us why war should never happen. It got me thinking if we should actually have this here in the Philippines – have we as a nation actually grieved enough over our scarred past? Have we embraced it fully? Or are we just glossing over these pages of our History Books? I know it’s communist propaganda, but at least the Vietnamese are letting the violent reality of their past mark their collective consciousness, so they will not forget it.

The War Remnants Museum

Against this backdrop of violence, one can actually appreciate the beauty of the country and its people.

In the city of Ho Chi Minh, traditional buildings are preserved and stand side by side with the fancier skyscrapers. Their stark contrast allows a peek into the vibe of Ho Chi Minh’s soul: raring to go after progress, but balanced by tradition.

Their coffee culture is very much a part of their city’s lifeblood, too. Their people, and even their motorcycles (which number ten times more thanManila’s probably), seem to run on their jolting, flavourful coffee.

They seemed to have adapted the French culture of sitting down near sidewalk cafes to sip coffee, talk, and watch passersby as the sun goes up or down. But they appropriated the tradition using their own coffee and means. There are actual cafes – but the more popular and peopled, are the makeshift ones. They have their delectably dark coffee in a pot. They pour it into a plastic cup with ice. They put evaporated milk. Then another splash of coffee. For only 20,000 dong (or 40 pesos), you get virtually unmatched iced coffee, anywhere on the planet. Then, they give you two small plastic seats. One for your ass, another, shorter one for your coffee. Groups congregate in these meeting venues made of sidewalk, plastic chairs and iced coffee in plastic cups. I was fortunate enough to have been asked to sit in one. Maybe it’s because I looked like a local?

she’s making the coffee… sidewalk barista!

enjoying a cool jolt of caffeine before running

congregating around literal sidewalk cafes

Our visit also included a trip to the Mekong Delta. TheMekongis the mighty river that stretches across three countries, and could as well be the very reason for the emergence of civilization in all of them.

The river was serene. The sky was perfect (it rained just as when we were about to wrap up). People were in the different islands, minding their own craft, and preparing to sell it to the coming tourists.

island hopping at the Mekong Delta

But what I miss, almost as much as the coffee, is the Vietnamese food. McDonald’s did not exist on this side of the world (2 Jollibees. Yeah! And 1 KFC.), probably because of their Anti-American thing going on, but also because they just didn’t like fastfood. They kept to their Pho (great stuff at Pho2000) and their spring rolls. The un-healthiest they got was fried spring rolls – but only because they were fried.

Seafood Pho from Pho2000. Their tagline is “Pho for the President,” because in 2000, Bill Clinton had pho here.

I think this was a “make your own spring roll” type of number

“elephant ear fish” that you turned into spring roll stuffing

Ho Chi Minh is immortalized in the play, Miss Saigon. And even there, it is portrayed in some sort of purgatory between progress and pain. Today, they are somewhat walking the thin line between remembering a brutal past they would never want to repeat, and the great leap into the future. It’s a country that wears its heart on its sleeve. Inviting tourists to come, take a look into their soul – for in it, we find that our own countries are trying to master that balance, too.

BRADBURY LIVES

 

It is very difficult to write about a writer. First of all, there is pressure on your writing itself. You don’t want to mess it up. If you’re a dancer trying to pay tribute to Michael Jackson, you don’t want to trip doing the Moonwalk.

It is doubly difficult if it’s a writer you admire. Somehow, you both believe in words – heck, he inspired you to believe in their power to shape both the future and yourself. But at one point, I’m sure both you and he will agree that there are undiscovered countries whose shores no word has gone before. Like writing about someone you dearly idolized.

But I must write. And I hope it’s okay, Mr. Bradbury.

I first encountered Ray Bradbury in High School. Our teacher, Mr. Pagsi, would make it a yearly tradition to read an excerpt from Dandelion Wine. An English Teacher, he was all praises for Bradbury’s work, and would always tell us to buy him a copy of any of his books if and when any of us would go to theUS.

I tried my best to answer that challenge of Mr. Pagsi’s. But I could only confirm the rarity of his books. My guess was – he was so well loved, only a few would part with them and sell them to second hand bookstores. And second – the new generation can’t tell a great work when they see it and his publishers don’t market him like Harry Potter or Twilight or The Hunger Games.

But the question I had always tried to resolve was if he was still living. If Mr. Pagsi, who was then already 75, liked Bradbury so much, could Bradbury be somewhere around 90? (He was probably around 80 at the time, so I wasn’t that far off, after all)

Anyway, I got book after book from random book sales and book stores. My girlfriend gifted me with at least 4 previously owned copies, which she had to convince someone to sell. I have quite a collection which I’m proud of (especially now!) Then I found out that he was an influential figure even to the other people I looked up to. Mr. Pagsi was one. Then I found out Stephen King also looked up to him (then he added a few shits and damns and fucks to go with the word wizardry).

one of his many works

Last week, we were able to see the orbit of Venus around the sun. An occurrence, they say, that happens only once in a thousand years. A few days before that, the moon was larger than usual – a death star. Cosmic Coincidences? Maybe… But not in a Bradbury story.

And the weekend before that, I went on a “Bradbury retreat” – read his stuff, watched him talk through YouTube, posted it online. Then the usual wondering if he really was still alive.

Set up by cosmic circumstances and the continuing search for meaning in the mystery of death and life, Ray Bradbury died. For all I know, he probably hitched a ride on Venus. Or on the moon.

But I have never been more convinced than ever, that he lives.

When we look up at the magnificent blanket of mystery we call the night sky. When our jaws drop in cosmic awe and wonder. When we celebrate our summers, keep them in our memory, and preserve them for the fall. When we face our fears in October Country. When we finally embrace these fears, and live with them, like the skeletons inside our skin. When the sheer thought of book-burning terrifies us.

When we continue to dive into books and resurface on shores never before imagined. When we continue to write and write and write oceans upon oceans of stories. When we defy and go beyond genre and enjoy storytelling just because. When we enjoy what we honestly believe we were born to do.

He lives.

In his novel, From the Dust Returned (this isn’t necessarily a spoiler), Timothy, one of the main characters, finally decides on something crucial. He was given to a family of immortal creatures, – of vampires, ghouls, spirits, ancient Egyptian living dead, and such. It had always been a question for him if he actually wanted to exchange his humanity and be like them. Towards the end, he finally decides. He does not want to be like them. The following is the back and forth between him, and one of the ancient family members. I just felt it apt to end this piece with one of Bradbury’s thoughts on life.

Timothy: “Well, are you all happy? I wonder about that. I feel very sad. Some nights I wake up and cry because I realize that you have all this time, all these years, but there doesn’t seem to be much that’s very happy that came of it all.”

“Ah, yes, Time is a burden. We know too much, we remember too much. We have indeed lived too long. The best thing to do, Timothy, in your new wisdom, is to live life to the fullest, enjoy every moment, and lay yourself down, many years from now, realizing that you’ve filled every moment, every hour, every year of your life and that you are much loved by the Family.”

You are yourself dandelion wine, Mr. Bradbury. And you are stored in bottles in the cellars of our imaginations.

THE CAPTAIN

Nawalan na ako ng pag-asa.

 

Hindi biro habulin ang 30 points. Kahit pa sa NBA 2k12.

 

Halos isang dekada bago pa maimbento at ma-abuso ng libu-libong bata (at isip-bata) ang 2k12, isang gabi sa bahay namin sa San Juan, nagchi-cheer ako para sa Purefoods TJ Hotdogs laban sa Sta. Lucia Realtors.

 

Wala namang malalim na dahilan kung bakit ako kumakampi para sa kanila.  Hindi naman ako labis na enjoy sa produkto nila, o labis na galit sa mga gumagawa ng bahay, pero bumagsak ang puso nang maging trenta ang lamang ng Sta. Lucia.

 

Pero hindi siya natinag.

O kung natinag man siya, hindi ko nakita, o hindi yun ang naalala ko.

 

 

Ang naalala ko ay kung paano binuhat ni Alvin Patrimonio ang team niya para habulin ang lamang ng Sta. Lucia. Siguro, expected na yun dahil kapitan siya ng team niya. Expected man, ang nakapamamangha, ay kung paano niya isinabuhay ang pagiging “kapitan.”

 

Sunod-sunod na kombinasyon ng foul-counted at three point shots ang ginawa niya.  Walang alintana sa ga-bundok na score na kinailangang akyatin, halos mag-isa siyang lumusob paakyat. Di nagtagal, sumunod din sina Dindo Pumaren, Rey Evangelista, at Jerry Codinera sa biyahe paakyat.

 

Pero nagkulang.

 

Anak ng hotdog. Nagkulang.

 

Isa siguro sa mga first time kong maburat bilang tao.

 

Doon ko nakita na minsan, sumisilip mula sa kaniyang pagkakapiring si Bb. Hustisya. Lalo na pagdating sa basketball. Kinapos ng ilang puntos ang Purefoods. At naalala ko pa ang pagkamuhi ko na hindi naging player of the game si Kapitan. Ang player of the game – taga Sta. Lucia, dahil lang birthday niya. Kahit wala pa sa kalingkinan ni Patrimonio ang stats niya.

 

Pero doon ko rin natutunan na minsan, may mga pagkakataong hindi final score ang nagsasabi ng kuwento ng laro. Na may mga bagay na mas mahalaga kaysa sa pagkapanalo. Tulad ng apoy sa puso at angas ng determinasyon, anuman ang score.

 

 

Maraming taon ang lumipas. Nagkapalit-palit na ng team names at mukha sa PBA. Nagka fil-ams, fil-shams. Trades, kunwaring nagpapa-trade. Nag-retire si Alvin nang may apat na MVP awards. Tabla sila ni El Presidente, Ramon Fernandez.  At naging manager na siya ng BMEG. Purefoods din yun, para sa mga di nakasubaybay. Isa na namang pagpapalit-anyo ng mga koponan sa PBA alang-alang sa corporate marketing. Napanood ko sa TV. Nasa bench siya nung Game 7 laban sa Talk N’ Txt. Inakala ko, tulad marahil ng marami, na mananalo ang Talk N’ Txt. Subali’t gumawa ng paraan ang import ng BMEG, at naitsa sa overtime ang laro. At sunod-sunod ang pagsasa-bayani ang import. Parang alamat. Parang di tao. Parang si Alvin nung laro sa Sta. Lucia, na parang ilang libong taon na ang nakaraan.

 

At marahil nakita nga niya ang parehong pusong nag-aalab. At kaniyang inakap ang import nang mahigpit.Parasiyang player ulit. Walang nagbago. Pusong-kapitan pa rin.

 

may mga apoy talagang hindi mapapatay ng pagdaan ng taon

 

Alam ko meron akong picture na kasama ko si Alvin Patrimonio.Sanamahanap ko para mai-upload ko. Atsaka para maalala ko kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng “kapitan.”

 

Maraming taon nga ang lumipas, at aaminin kong naantig ako nang makita ko si Patrimonio nung gabing iyon. Marami na rin akong nasalihang team – basketball teams, group work sa school, team sa trabaho, theater group, dance group, pamilya, at iba pa. At may mga pagkakataong ako ang naging “kapitan” ng grupo. At ngayong napapaisip ako, isa pala sa malaking naging impluwensiya sa akin, ay si Patrimonio.

 

Sa kaniya ko natutunan na walang kalamangang hindi dapat harapin. Maaaring hindi ka manalo, pero nasa pagtugon sa hamon ang panalo. Na pag ikaw ang kapitan, ikaw ang titingnan ng lahat kung saan patutungo. At kahit ikaw man, di mo pa batid, hahanap ka ng paraan. Na ikaw ang puso ng team. Na kailangan mong paniwalain ang mga kakampi mong magaling sila – dahil totoo. Na walang magmamahal sa ginagawa mo kung hindi ikaw.

 

 

Alam ko, marami na ang nagsulat, (astig nga etong sinulat ng kaibigan kong si Carlo Pamintuan http://micohaliliblogs.blogspot.com/2012/05/from-purefoods-to-b-meg-from-fathers-to.html?m=1) , nag-upload ng picture, at nagbiro tungkol sa tila pag-atras ni Cap sa mga kamay ng oras. Subali’t para kong tinalikuran ang isang idolo at bahagi ng aking pagkabata kung hindi ko ito ginawa.

 

At ano ba naman ang isang blog entry, para sa isa sa mga nagturo sa yo (kahit di niya alam) kung paano maging kapitan.

 

Na walang ibang paraang maglaro ng basketbol kung hindi yung halos naibuga mo na ang lahat ng dugo sa puso mo.

 

PS: Sa Google Search po lumabas ang mga picture… Salamat sa mga nag-upload ng mga letratong ito, lalo na nung vintage Alvin na bumabangga sa Ginebra.