Monday, September 05, 2005

Attack of the Filippino birthdays

Um... yeah. Anyway, I went to visit my Aunt Jenny in Queens, and I ended up in Canada.

I went on Saturday to Queens to meet up with Aunt Jenny; she wanted company on the drive to JFK to pick up my Uncle Willy, who'd be arriving from the Philippines that evening. After we picked him up, we went out to dinner, went to their house, and I tinkered around on the computer while they took a nap for about an hour. Then, out of nowhere, Uncle Willy appears and says "Okay, by 3 o'clock." Keep in mind that 1) it's 2:30 in the morning at this point, and 2) I knew there was a trip planned for Canada, but I wasn't entirely aware that I was going. A half hour later, we were in the car and on the road. I fell asleep, only to wake up about six hours later at a Burger King in upstate New York. Aunt Jenny turned around and stuck her head between the two front seats to peer back at me. "Have you seen Niagra Falls?"

Ten minutes later, we were parking the car and walking on a path through a beautiful wooded area. There were people from countless nationalities all over the place and in various culturally indicative attire; it was like a United Nations nature hike field trip. We got to the rapids, and people were getting close to the water, even hiking up their pants and wading in on occasion. As we kept walking, the trail made a sharp downhill shift, and we followed the tree-lined path to an area that eventually opened up to a remarkable scene: the U.S. side of Niagra Falls.

We walked up to the rail and looked down. There were dozens of people below us in yellow rain coats, getting up-close and personal with the bottom of one of the falls via a series of wooden ramps at the base. To our right side, the largest of the falls roared past us, majestic and deceitfully calm at the top, where we were, then raging to its crashing plummet far below. Directly ahead of us, at the point where the water dropped, a massive and perpetual spray of fine mist lingered thick in the air, trapping the sun withinin it and producing the most magnificent rainbow. We lingered there for a while, enjoying the view and the spectacle, gazing over the water at Canada's shore. We trecked back to the car to round off the pleasant surprise of a moment.

We arrived in Toronto not long afterward, pulling into my Uncle Melvin's driveway early in the afternoon on Sunday. It was his wife's birthday. and we were there for the party (note that I wasn't aware of this until the trip was already underway). As it turns out, we were providing the party... Aunt Jenny brought a magic mic.

For some, this requires a bit of explaining. Filippinos have a devastating genetic disorder in common with some of their Asian cousins, yet it is an affliction known by their race in particular to be incredibly severe. The disease is hereditary, can spread on contact, and has lifelong effects for which a cure has yet to be found, despite the long efforts of modern science to combat this tragic epidemic...


It's a drug they can't get enough of. It's like crack for these people. If they know there's karaoke going on, they'll clammor to the microphone like a bunch of crazed European soccer fans. Believe me, I've seen it. And it's ugly... personally, I'm scarred from having borne witness to the phenomenon. The most horriffic thing about the disease isn't that they sing badly. On the contrary... almost the entire race of Filippinos are gifted with beautiful singing voices (but for extremely rare exceptions... bad Filippino singers are about as numerous in the culture as albinos). So no, that's not the problem. The problem is the fact that they all aspire to sing like fifty year-old lounge singers. Their vibratos, which are entirely artificial, are warbles that are wide enough to drive a truck through. Even more agonizing are their song selections... one is lucky to hear anything as contemporary as a cheesy 1980's love ballad, a la "Groovy Kind of Love" (unless there are certain current Celine Dion songs available on the playlist... you might hear those from time to time)... for the most part, you get Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, and Karen Carpenter, along with some vinegary-vintage stuff, like Doris Day, Anne Murray, Perry Como... and it doesn't end. The worst part about this affliction is the power of its crippling longevity. They can't put the mic down. Once they start, they absolutely cannot stop singing.

The magic mic is a device that makes the karaoke (or, as I affectionally call it, crackaoke) easiest and quickest to get into the bloodstream. Much like a syringe, the magic mic contains the drug within it, and delivers the dose directly from the device. In short, it's a microphone with buttons on it; you plug the mic directly into the TV, and it serves as a fully-contained crackaoke machine, complete with words to the songs, an on-screen menu of available tracks, and a slideshow of scenic photos from around the world. Needless to say, the party was cooking.

Afterward (say, midnight), we went to a casino and played the slots. I broke even, and I got free coffee. That's all I feel about reporting there. No big winnings, nothing cool. In short, I suck at slots.

It's now the next morning, and the crackaoke is already being passed around. Everyone is sitting in a circle taking hits from the magic mic... it's my mom's birthday today, so I figure they're doing shots of crackaoke in her honor. As for me, I'm hiding in a bedroom, hoping the cops don't raid the place and think I'm in on the scary sadness going on down there.


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Tuesday, December 20, 2005 2:52:00 PM  

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