Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Chicken pox

Three years ago, I came home from my afternoon walks with a head ache, a sore throat and a zit on my neck. I didn’t mind the head ache and the sore throat; I always had them because of my allergies. What puzzled was the zit on my neck. I thought it was just another pimple. So, I did what I always do when pimples pop up on my face, or my neck, or my back—I squeeze it without mercy. Yes, that’s what I do with my pimples. I squeeze the pus out of it; I squeeze the life out of it; I mean, I had to get that little mushy, rice like, white matter out of it and until I get that stuff forcefully ejected ( just look at our mirrors, you’ll get an idea of what I’m trying to say), I won’t and I can’t stop. I’ll squeeze till blood or brain matter comes out of my pimples. Of course with this kind of habit, I mean, Noriega, yes, I ended up looking like Manuel Noriega, the notorious dictator of Panama.

Anyway, what I did was to squeeze that zit on my neck, and I was surprised because there was no pus and there was no little, mushy, rice like, white matter that came out, just water.

When I woke up the next day, I not only had fever but I also had a lot of zit that looks like tiny water bubbles on my neck, arms and legs. And after three days, I looked like a walking bubble wrap—water filled bubble wrap. I can’t eat, my manhood ached (of course I believe that a man’s manhood is not contained in that raisin like sac, it is in the heart), my head ached, my stomach ached--I ached all over, aside form the aches, there was the itch. It is not the ache that’s bothersome, it’s the itch. I went to the doctor for medical advice. He prescribed paracetamol for the pain and an expensive capsule for the itch. When I found the cost of the medicine for the itch, I did the best alternative--I took ice cold showers.

In the Philippines, the traditional way to deal with fever is to wrap one self in blankets and to sip hot soup to smother and sweat the fever to oblivion. So, when my mother found out that I would take an ice cold bath she was worried. “Ssssooooon, you don’t take a bath when you have fever.” She warned me. “You don’t take a bath till days after you’re well.” This was one of those million times that I broke one of the Ten Commandments and openly mutinied against my mother. Heavens, the itch and the heat! That’s what almost drove me to insanity. I not only took ice cold showers I also ate a lot of ice.

I was quarantined in my old room. My mother was my nurse for my wife works. My daughter could only see me from a six foot distance. I can’t watch TV for fear of contaminating our sala with the virus. So, for entertainment, I listened to my sister’s small radio. I tuned in to the AM band for fun. Finding stations in the AM band reminds me of SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence). Rotate a dial, crackle and hiss, listen for a voice or music, turn until the sound become intelligible, then adjust, look for the right combination of antenna direction and dial turnings, crackle and hiss; really, it’s an art, yes, finding stations in the AM band is an art—a combination of dexterity, musicality and of course patience.

Hisssss, crackkkllleee, voicesssss, old songs, old kundiman songs and then everything went surreal—Twilight Zone. The hissing and the static alone brought back a lot of memories...my late father listens to AM station whenever there’s a storm that threatens our area, my mother used to wake me up with the late Rod Navarro’s version of Hail Mary (I dare not reproduce it here lest I’d be threatened with exorcism by the Catholic church), Dear Tia Dely dishing out those well thought advice , and the greatest AM show of them all--Knowledge Power hosted by none other than the walking encyclopedia of Philippine radio: the late Mang Ernie Barong. (I’m getting really old; notice that most of the people I talked about here are already dead. My gulay, I am old.)

Knowledge Power was a trivia show. Callers ask questions to learn and sometimes to challenge Mang Ernie’s knowledge of trivia and sometimes to challenge his…er…patience also. For example:

Caller: Mang Enie who invented the Telephone?
Mang Ernie: “The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell…”
Caller: Mang Ernie who discovered_____?
Mang Ernie: “The ____ was discovered by ____on….with…below….City of Pompeii…”

Of course once in a while the question went to the absurd:

Caller: “Mang Ernie who invented the mosquito net, or the ball, or the wheel, etc.?”
Sometimes it became mean and malicious.

Caller: “Mang Ernie you are a son of a _____!”
Mang Ernie: “Children don’t imitate that. May I remind the callers that there are children listening…”

Good ol’e late Mang Ernie Baron never got angry.

Mang Ernie does not only host trivia shows but he also invents things. He invented the Baron antenna. He is also a master of alternative medicine. He promotes cleansing diet using water energized with cosmic energies by his little aluminum pyramids. He also sold herbal medicine called ptio-pito. Pito-pito (seven-seven) is supposed to cure everything from asthma to cancer, from allergy to heart ailments.

Did I mention that Mang Ernie died of heart attack?

AM radio programs, the only words I can use to describe them are, nostalgic and provincial. The music is simple: folksongs, country, and kundimans. The advice well thought. The news is editorial. The commentaries are sharp and biting. The DJ’s are parental, brotherly. There are jokes, stories, testimonials, etc. It’s like…I don’t know…it’s like you’re home.

We’ll anyway, back to my chicken pox. Aside from looking like a salted watermelon seed endorser, I got over that painful and itchy episode in my life with few scars.

Who’ll notice them scars anyway? What with all that pimple crater on my face…

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