drunk driving lessons.

jojo picked me up at century. byron didn't come along because he wasn't feeling good. jojo was disappointed about that. i thought he was gonna take me to a strip club, or else a shady massage place, but he wanted to get some food first. "what do you want?" he asked me. i said i didn't care. he said, "how about hooters?" i said that was ok. "junjun is going to meet us," he said. and as he drove past the cultural center, he started telling me about his passion: video games. "do you know what the best machine is for gaming?" of course i didn't. "alienware," he said. "after all these years, it's still number one."

at about 5'3" or 5'4" jojo is significantly shorter than i am, but it doesn't detract from his confidence at all. he's the son of a millionaire, after all, and he makes good money as an international pilot. somehow, we got onto the subject of facebook, particularly the social network. anything involving lots of money interests him greatly. i couldn't really follow his logic, but i listened anyway. "if i'm a hacker," he said, "why would i work for mark zuckerberg? i'm not gonna work for him. i'll make my own website and work for myself!" ok, jojo, ok.

he then jumped onto the subject of l.p.'s and cassettes. "your dad, he used to have all those beatles' records!" yeah, he did. "does he still have them?" no. i don't know what happened to them. "sayang (too bad)! were they the originals?" i think so. "those could be worth a lot of money. you know, those collectors buy everything on ebay. they spend so much money just for an old l.p.!" i told him i started listening to a lot of r&b and hip-hop, and that mash-ups and remixes were making a comeback. "i don't like remixes," he said. "it ruins the integrity of the original song."

we got to hooters and took a table outside. naturally, he flirted with the hostess, the waitress, pretty much every girl on staff. he wore a white polo, khaki shorts, a rolex, and he smoked his cigarette. we ordered buffalo wings with celery, nachos, and naturally, san mig lights. he said that i should eat american food, since i'd probably only been eating kare-kare, crispy pata, and seafood, which was true. so there it was, a friday night in manila, and i was drinking beers with my cousin, fourteen years my senior. from a distance, we could hear the screams for charice, glee's filipina star, who was performing at the mall of asia.

the more he drank, the more personal he got. he told me about how he'd spend summers in america, moving from one aunt's house to the next. the way he tells it, my aunts weren't very nice to him, and he didn't like being this vagabond kid with no real sense of place or belonging. why was he telling me this? maybe he thought i was feeling the same. it was, after all, my third straight winter in manila. what had i been doing? taking advantage of a deeply discounted vacation, or was there more to it than that? i let him talk. at some points he seemed so upset or saddened by his recollections that i thought he was about to cry. but then he'd move onto something else - like how our aunt darna owned a condo in manila, or how her son, ralph, fixed up vintage cars in l.a. he would tell me these things, and then he'd be perfectly content again.

eventually, junjun came around. he took a seat, finished our leftovers, smoked a few cigarettes. my two cousins spoke to each other in tagalog, and i half-listened, but their conversation moved too quickly, and they used too many words i couldn't understand. jojo would throw his head back and laugh, and then he would high-five junjun. i wanted to be a part of it. i wanted to live here, to have grown up here, to feel the way a white person must feel in america. i watched the fireworks, downed another beer, picked at the nachos. it was time to move on. the night was just getting started.

there was a club nearby, l.a.x., and i had been wanting to check it out. the line out the door was a young crowd, though, and junjun was wearing crocs. jojo walked straight up to the bouncer, and they had a little exchange. the kids in line were typical middle-class manila scenesters: girls with straightened brown hair and too much blush, boys with their button-downs and spiked hair. junjun made that face he makes whenever he's shocked by something. his eyes bug out, and he sucks in cheeks. "how am i supposed to get in wearing these?" he said, pointing at his crocs. i don't know, i said, and we both laughed.

jojo said we'd go to a bar in makati instead. we hopped into his jeep, and junjun followed us. jojo told me that he hoped manila wouldn't enforce penalties for d.u.i.'s because he usually has a couple after work on his way home. i wasn't surprised the police didn't enforce penalties for a d.u.i. if they weren't going to regulate speeding, seatbelts, or even occasionally blowing through red lights, what difference did it make if a driver was drunk?

at this bar in makati, we shot some pool, ordered more beers with sisig (pigs' ears). after dominating both me and junjun in several games, jojo gave me some tips on how to shoot. i went to the dingy bathroom to take a piss, and there were pictures of nude women all over the walls. i was glad i didn't have to take a shit because i was sure the facilities were manila standard: no toilet seats, no toilet paper, and i'd forgotten to pack my pockets with tissue. after a few more games, we were ready to call it a night. we said goodbye to junjun, and jojo drove me back to the hotel.

jojo was about six beers deep at that point, and he started teaching me how to drive stick. he stopped in the middle of the road. "this is first gear, see?" he stepped on the clutch and switched gears. behind us, a car flashed its lights and honked. "see, now we're going about 40, 50, that's third gear." i just kept nodding, and hoped he'd soon realize that giving me lessons on how to drive stick while drunk at 3 a.m. in manila probably wasn't the greatest idea. "it's just practice, like playing pool." he drove down makati avenue, where prostitutes were making their rounds. "hollywood boulevard," he said. i watched a big white guy walk down the street while carrying a filipina slung over his shoulder.

he dropped me off at the century hotel. "we'll have to do this again," he said. "just call me if you need anything." ok, i will.

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