Puppet Pleasure

It’s been a while.

Almost two hours straight of belly-aching nonstop laughter mingled with a few embarrassed tugs in the heart that elicited a tiny tear or two. And it was all because of puppets.

Well, if you’ve skipped ahead or recognize the photo in this post, then you’d have figured out that I got to see Avenue Q over the weekend at the Carlos P. Romulo theater in RCBC Plaza. This was the 3rd staging of the broadway musical play in Manila, and obviously this was the only time I got to watch it live. All these years, I only got to repeatedly listen to the soundtrack.

Although you can pretty much pick up most of the story through the soundtrack, it’s a whole different story actually watching it live. It’s fun and funny; witty and gritty; downright honest and genuine. It has heart and soul enough to make anyone recognize bits of themselves and parallelisms to their own personal struggles and pain.

Here’s a bit of trivia about Avenue Q: one of its writers and creators, Robert Lopez, is 3/8 Filipino. It’s not on the Internet, but it’s on the programme of the show. He grew up in America, at some point realized that racial discrimation in the country continues to plague the streets. Avenue Q was the manifestation of his pent-up emotions about this pervasive phenomenon.

Truth be told, I don’t have much experience about racial discrimination. I’ve been lucky all my life to evade any negatives on the racial discrimination issue. I’m Filipino-Chinese, you see. In Manila, Filipino-Chinese are generally well regarded. And lucky for me, I have extremely fair skin. The worst I ever got (and it ain’t even bad) is having people always assume that I’m rich. (heck, not all Chinese are rich. Some Chinese don’t even fall under the “middle class” SEC anymore).

But I digress.

I love Avenue Q for its recency, its very apt and accurate representation of the seemingly inconsequential issues that plague our society today. It pokes fun at the little idiosyncracies and the ills, temptations and annoyances of contemporary society – and points out the same things we go through on an almost daily basis.

Think about it. You have a fresh ivy league graduate entering Avenue Q: positive, hopeful and idealistic of his future; thinking that everything will just fall into place for him. Without knowing that when real life happens, it leaves no one unscathed. And then you’ve got child star has-beens who just roam side and back streets looking for a way to continue making a living. And there’s the naive, innocent school teacher who cringes at the thought that ‘internet is for porn’, who falls in love too soon and gets her heart broken when she loses the love of her life — who happens to just be going through a lot of personal s**t and needs to sort things out for himself, and by himself. But of course there’s also the proverbial slut who tries to steal the guy. And oh yes… how can we forget, the closet gay who falls in love with his straight best friend – who is himself a pretty smart guy but somehow ends up on the street passing the hat around.

It’s all so stereotypical. And frankly, looking at it might seem like a truly sad portrayal of real life.

But then, as we do so strongly espouse the silver lining behind every dark cloud, so too does Avenue Q end on an upbeat mood.

“Everyone’s a little bit unsatisfied. Everyone goes around a little empty inside. Take a breath, look around, swallow your pride… for now. Nothing lasts, life goes on… Full of surprises. You’ll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes. You’re going to have to make a few compromises for now. For now. But only for now…”

Yes. Everything is only for now. So chin up and just let life roll off your back.

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A Parallel Life

I love Science Fiction.

So it’s no surprise that I love J.J. Abrams’ latest TV series “Fringe”. I’m particularly loving the second season. A recurring theme throughout this season so far (I’m only on episode 5 so far) is the idea of parallel universes.

What if, somewhere out there, there are parallel realities? The same cast of characters, the same earth, the same city we live in?

And in those realities are different versions of you. Same DNA, same physical characteristics, same mannerisms, same psychological makeup. Everything identical down to every strand of hair.

Everything the same — except an altered history. What if in those different universes are different versions of ourselves that represent the different paths and choices we made?

Pragmatic, practical, non-fatalistic people know that our lives are what we make of it. The people we eventually turn out to become is a result of the millions of choices we make on a daily basis. FromĀ  the biggest life-altering decisions we make that irrevocably change our lives…. to those decisions we make that seem so irrelevant and minute in the greater scheme of things. The simple choices like – Do I take the bus today, or take a cab? Do I wear black or brown today? — without realizing that it’s the little details that also lead up to a million other things.

Now… although “Fringe” doesn’t tackle the phenomenon through a philosophical discourse such as my post does now (of course the show must remain focused on its main plot), it does make one think of the possibilities, doesn’t it?

If there truly were parallel realities out there that represent the different choices we did not make in this lifetime, what would those lifelines look like? It’s not far from the quintessential, pervasive question we always ask ourselves at some point in our lives — the perennial “what if?

What if, for instance, I chose not to leave my parents’ home immediately after College? Then I would be a school teacher. I would be spending all my nights at home tending to my little brother; rather than exploring the world and meeting new people. Then I never would have met the set of good friends I have in my life now. Then I never would have met my husband. Then too I never would have discovered that I could make it in the world on my own. Then too wouldn’t I have realized that I was actually not a dumb kid who used to always just barely pass in school. That I could look my weaknesses and fears in life and start conquering them one by one.

The life I live now, the person I am today – is because of one decision that changed my life forever.

On the other hand, if I had chosen that other path, maybe I would be a little bit less stressed. I would probably have met and married a more established man. I probably wouldn’t be as focused on my career as I am now. I probably would have kids by now. I probably wouldn’t be a breadwinner for my family either.

Who knows? What’s sure though is that if there is a version of me out there who represents the choices I didn’t make, I’d like to meet that person just to find out what would’ve become of me if I had taken the other road.

And somewhere out there are a thousand other versions of me representing thousands of other choices I didn’t make. Maybe in another parallel galaxy, is someone who’s chosen almost the same path I’ve chosen except for a few minor alterations.

In some way, on bad days like today, it also brings small comfort to consider the possibility that there may be another version of me out there who may have it a little bit easier… less stressed… less problematic… less anxious about the future…

Just think about the possibilities for second. What if there were hundreds of other versions of you somewhere out there?

And if you could cross over to that other dimension and give up all that you are now… would you actually do it?