Random Thoughts on Reaching Seventy

When I am 70, I will weave a vest of gold
        To wear along the many years
                Of wrinkles and folds,
                        nd other stories of life and old.
        I will craft it with care and love
                To wear with honor
                        And into the night I go bold.

 The camera doesn’t do the piece of gold fabric justice. How can a flat image capture the feel, thetexture, the warp and woof of an exceptional piece of cloth—a rare fabric on which you somehow see your name invisibly etched?

The camera doesn’t do the piece of gold fabric justice. How can a flat image capture the feel, thetexture, the warp and woof of an exceptional piece of cloth—a rare fabric on which you somehow see your name invisibly etched?

When I saw that remnant at the fabled, 65-year-old fabric store of San Francisco, Britex Fabrics, a few years ago, I just knew I had to have it. It was that feeling of seeing a certain object in a display case and it just cries out to you– “Buy me, buy me.” Well, this piece with golden threads and a little more than a yard long sent me those vibes. I knew I just had to have it. And it wasn’t all that pricey.

I put it in a drawer and that’s where it sat for at least nine, ten, years—tucked away and almost forgotten. I had envisioned creating a vest out of it, waiting for just the right occasion to bring it to life. And now that I’m nearing my 70th moon, I thought it would be apropos.

That set me on a course of having my own vest, custom-made. I used to know a woman who sewed vests on order; however, I had lost touch with her. I also knew she was pulling back from that chore, so when all else fails, do it yourself.

After all, I had a sewing machine inherited from my mother (she had no daughters; I have no sisters). There was a JoAnn’s Fabrics store nearby. Patterns were cheaply available. If I could assemble an Ikea entertainment etagere, I could certainly follow a pattern. Furthermore, there were reasonably priced private sewing classes at JoAnn’s. I was always nimble with my hands, so why not?

I say: You go around only once, at least try everything (well, most everything) in life once.

 The front pieces cut out per the McCall’s pattern.

The front pieces cut out per the McCall’s pattern.

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When I am 70, I will finally smoke that
        stash of weed I got in Colorado
                in the summer of 2014 . . .

June four years ago, I took a cross-country train—the fabled California Zephyr, from Chicago for the San Francisco Bay Area. The month before, the states of Washington and Colorado had just voted to legalize marijuana, but the great state of California hadn’t followed suit.

As the Zephyr headed west, delays compounded the trip, so that by the time we pulled into Denver, the cumulative delay was already more than three hours. Because maintenance of the tracks takes place during the summer—especially in the Rockies -- our train was just going to sit at Union Station until it was all clear to proceed. So, what does one do with his three-plus hours’ delay in the Mile-High City?

I first thought of going to the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” house/museum. But three hours would have been cutting it close. Instead, I decided to become a Man with a Mission. I was going to embark on another first in my life: buy me some marijuana – legally.

I figured there had to be a weed shop within the periphery and walking distance of the Station. Sure enough, my wits didn’t fail me. A block-and-a-half-away, was one such weed “emporium.” It was doing a booming business. Going in, as a non-weed-regular, it felt like entering those forbidden, haze-filled opium dens of old, but minus the haze.

 Union Station in Denver, fateful stop for the author, who went on a Mission of Marijuana.

Union Station in Denver, fateful stop for the author, who went on a Mission of Marijuana.

Like the fabric for the vest, the little stash has sat untouched in another drawer. I still haven’t found the right occasion to smoke that weed, and in the meantime, the Golden State has finally caught up with those other states, and it is a legal substance now. So, I better hurry lest it dry up.

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Vest Story 2: After the first three-hour lesson with Barbra, the Jo-Ann’s sewing instructor, we did not finish the vest. As you can imagine, it was a complicated project, and I was deliberately going slow, savoring the experience.

We needed another hour-and-a-half to complete it. The store offered a 50% discount for succeeding classes. However, and there’s always an exception to every rule; the discount did not apply to follow-up private lessons. I felt that was unfair and wasn’t buying it. I tried to bargain with the assistant manager, Beatrice, who had booked the classes and settled the pricing. She would not budge. And I wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

When all else fails, call Corporate Headquarters, which I did. When I reached them in Ohio, they were extremely accommodating, felt my position was very reasonable, and said they would take care of it. Excellent customer service – one of the secrets of American business (which sadly, I find, Filipino businesses, even those here already in the US, are slow to adapt).

I was now in JoAnn’s Fabrics’ debt. So, the final lesson needed to finish the vest just cost me an additional $40 instead of the original $85 for another, three-hour private lesson. It couldn’t have been more equitable.

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When I am 70, I will still be a decade short
        of what les Gallois call “quatre vingt.”
                But I will be as old as the UN’s Universal
                        Declaration of Human Rights,
                And as old as the state of Israel, that gutsy, little nation
                        Always bullied by its sucky neighbors
                                But takes no guff from them . . .

At least Abraham Lincoln seems to have grasped the French concept of “80” in his Gettysburg address . . . “Four score and seven years ago . . .” I was always tickled by that quaint French term for number “80”; quatre-vingt just rolls right off the tongue. I’ve often wondered if the Academie Francaise is inarticulate enough not to come up with a proper term for “eighty”? J’en doute.

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When I am 70, I will put “Rebecca,” my lone
        blinking, X’mas parol*, up a little earlier than usual –
                And to annoy that prissy neighbor of mine a lot,
                        Leave it out a few days more, past the sixth of January.
                I’m sure the Magi wouldn’t mind;
                        They could still abide by its GPS qualities
                                To navigate their way home.

I have this Pinoy lantern named after a niece I got to know late in life; as a matter of fact, just here in the US in the last decade or so. Rebecca, her husband and their son, had just arrived in the US in 2007—about the same time I got my life-altering diagnosis. Luckily, both Rebecca and her husband were medical professionals, and they helped me tremendously in the crucial, first three months before my condition stabilized.

Five years later, they decided to return to Manila. Unfortunately, very shortly thereafter, Rebecca, in turn, got an even more virulent diagnosis than mine.

When I had a chance to visit them in September 2016, poor Beckay was already bed-ridden, in a lot of pain and was so weak. Having a doctor for a husband only helped so much. Since they resided outside Angeles, the world-famous Pampanga Christmas lanterns were just coming out. I took the opportunity to get myself a small one at the fraction of the price offered by the Filipino groceries in the S.F. Bay Area.

A month after my visit, Beckay, not even50, lost her battle with the Big C. I shall always think of the sweet, kind, unselfish person that Beckay was, whenever I hang that Christmas lantern.

 A star for Beckay.

A star for Beckay.

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Vest Story 3: A new challenge arose. It turned out the light moss-green material I had picked for the lining was short; there wasn’t enough for the front part. How could that have been when I relied on the expertise of the fabric cutter from a San Francisco store? But we were short; it was what it was.

Luckily, since I was already at Jo-Ann’s, getting a replacement would be no problem. OK, they didn’t have the same exact light moss-green shade that I had earmarked for the back. On to Plan 2; black would have to suffice. However, assistant manager Beatrice disliked me for some reason. I guess it was for going behind her greedy back and calling Corporate for the justified discount? Perhaps. She simply cut the substitute black fabric without any extra thought.When I then took the piece to Barbara, the sewing instructor, she looked at it askance and asked me who cut it? I said Beatrice. Barbara made a quick comment that she (Beatrice) should have known better. The piece was cut against the nap. From Barbara’s subtle comment, I gleaned a bit of office rivalry.

But more importantly, it gave me an inkling of how professional Barbara was—in that if she was the cutter at the time (as she sometimes is), she would have cut that fabric the right way, knowing what it would be used for. But in the meantime, the clock was running, so we made do with that black piece—it was just for the front inside anyway. C’est la vie.

Finally, there was one more, smaller challenge: finding appropriate buttons.

Once again, I felt the pull and presence of my mom. Among the sewing accoutrements Mom had left me was this big box of many spare buttons of all sizes and kinds. In there, I found four perfect buttons. I felt that the buttons I ended up choosing, were something she had purposely left in there for me to find many years later. They couldn’t have been more perfect.

 The finishing touches – sewing on the buttons.

The finishing touches – sewing on the buttons.

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When I am 70, I will have that “tropical rain” shower-head installed
         in my bathroom to remind me of the rain forest;

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I will finally finish up the rest of that bottle
         Of “Mrs. Stewart’s Liquid Bluing” (dye – a solution which
                  supposedly makes your white laundry white)] —or will I?

The Mrs. Stewart’s (no relation to Uncle Bob Stewart) bottle is probably the longest-lived product on my shelf at home. I’ve had the same bottle for at least 35 years, half my lifetime; and it still feels more than half full. Perhaps that’s something I can bequeath to my heirs?

Blueing.jpg

To be more P.C., I should say “laundry of non-color.” So, when I use Mrs. Stewart’s, my non-color laundry will be even more non-colored! Happy now, Bay Area??

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I’ve hang-glided in Hollister
         Hot-air ballooned in Kappadokia
                  Ziplined in Kauai --
I’ve walked the ancient walls of Troy
         Danced the sardana in Figeres, Spain
                  Where an ankle I didn’t sprain
Ridden an elephant junior in Siem Reap
         Galloped, well, lazily ambled on a mare named Dulcinea
                  On the pampas outside Buenos Aires.

Now that I’ve reached 70, I’ve treated myself to
         That super-deluxe “memory foam” mattress and adjustable base –
                  The most expensive piece of furniture I’ve ever bought,
                           Who knows? That hospital-bed-type apparatus
                                    it came with, could just come in handy
                                             some cold, winter night
                                                      of my discontent.

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 Voila! The author and vest at 70! “Place your bets, gentlemen . . .

Voila! The author and vest at 70! “Place your bets, gentlemen . . .

Now that I’ve made 70, I will use my super-powers
         To win that Powerball jackpot of 650 million
                  ‘nd give away the 500 million $ which I do not yet have.
         A medieval battle re-enactment I will attend in the summer
                  Or take that Dalmatian coastal cruise
                           Perhaps go a-mushroom-gathering in the fall?
         But first I will perfect that triple axel,
                  The double klutz or the quad salchow?
                           Or the quintuple glutez?
                                    Hell, I might even try Curling! 

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 Myles Garcia

Myles Garcia

Myles A. Garcia is a Correspondent and regular contributor to  www.positivelyfilipino.com.  His newest book, “Of Adobe, Apple Pie, and Schnitzel With Noodles – An Anthology of Essays on the Filipino-American Experience and Some. . ., features the best and brightest of the articles Myles has written thus far for this publication.  The book is presently available onamazon.com (Australia, USA, Canada, Europe, and the UK).  

Myles’ two other books are:  Secrets of the Olympic Ceremonies (latest edition, 2016); and Thirty Years Later . . . Catching Up with the Marcos-Era Crimes published last year, also available from amazon.com.  

Myles is also a member of the International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH) for whose Journal he has had two articles published; a third one on the story of the Rio 2016 cauldrons, will appear in this month’s issue -- not available on amazon.    

Finally, Myles has also completed his first full-length stage play, “23 Renoirs, 12 Picassos, . . . one Domenica”, which was given its first successful fully Staged Reading by the Playwright Center of San Francisco.  The play is now available for professional production, and hopefully, a world premiere on the SF Bay Area stages.  

For any enquiries on the above: contact razor323@gmail.com  


More articles from Myles A. Garcia