Sunday, February 14, 2010


It was to pick up my ticket for San Francisco that I met Annie that day in the park when the new snow had not quite covered grass that in mid-winter was still green. I was going to California for money but mainly for a series of reality checks. I was being financed by Penthouse to do an article updating our Philippine book.

Two years back Penthouse had purchased one of our chapters, the one that zeroed in on Imelda Marcos. They had given us $5000 for it (as compared to the $85 that the Nation paid for another chapter). So far Penthouse had run the Imelda piece only in its Australia edition, which I assumed was because Penthouse distinguished itself from Playboy by being right wing. In the book we attacked not just Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos but also their old partying friends Nancy and Ronnie Reagan – who were as cavalier about the suffering of others as were the Marcoses themselves. But now I had a call from an excited sounding man at Penthouse who said he was looking at our book again.

He had come upon the part about a tape recording of Marcos in bed with a Hollywood starlet. I had said in the book that Marcos sounded like W.C. Fields might sound in such a situation. Marcos was singing love songs to the young girl in his native Ilocano dialect. The Penthouse guy wanted me to come right over because he wanted to do a deal for the tape and the story behind it.

He was there in his office, in a new building near Lincoln Center, with tie askew, bloodshot eyes darting, making fast nervous gestures and sniffing like someone who had just had a hit of coke. And we were close to a deal for the tape when he realized that it was audio, not video. But that did not end negotiations. There were other things he liked in the book. The way that during martial law child prostitution had been organized into a lucrative part of the sex tours that the Philippine tourist industry was offering. The way the regime sometimes dealt with enemies not by violence but by getting them into compromising situations with girls. And there were those dark, loud discos that Imelda had inserted into government office buildings. “Great stories!” he said. So maybe I could write an update of what had happened in the Philippines since we wrote the book and since the departure of the Marcoses.

I came away with a commission. It would be good to travel in this time of retracing my life. I would write the piece the way I wanted, whether it ever got published or not. Whether if made sense or not. And although I did not tell this to the editor, I would start with “People Power Revolution” and those Malay words that mean “for this we have no words.”

And I would use the trip for these reality checks. I would look in on opposition figures in exile who had seemed impressive to me. I would look for other people in San Francisco from my deeper past. And I was certain to check out the state of Adult Children Alcoholics on the West Coast. I was thinking of how the last time I was in San Francisco, which was to finish the Philippines book, I had still placed my faith in what could be put in place by using the logic of language. And so I would also be looking at my use of logic for things for which maybe logic did not apply, any more than it applied to the way I was now getting my information visually more than verbally.

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