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Enveloped in traffic in downtown Manilla


On my way back from Cebu in the Philippines, with my then preggers girlfriend, we received word from the crackling cockpit that our plane was making an unscheduled stop in Manila, so all passengers could connect from another airport to their intended destinations.

“WHAT?!” my now-ex girlfriend Susan Shrike (not her real name) shrieked.

Here I was treating her to a magical trip in a mostly Christian country–(plus pagan: the “Bubble Men” of Pilipinas practice witchcraft)– so that our future upcoming daughter, Lizzie, would be born without incident – my father, for example, like Kaiser Wilhelm, was born via a breach birth – and she somehow always seemed to blame me when anything went wrong.

I blurted “Shut up!”

All of the other crude-oil-complected passengers, mostly Filipinos and Filipinas on Philippines Airlines, turned their heads in pretend concern.

No security issues were involved, probably just a build-up of numinous congestion in the clouds, filled with flying metal crosses.

Oh well, I wanted to visit Manila anyway.

Especially since long ago my Grandpa Bob once corrected my pronunciation on what I was putting my Magic Marker ™ drawings into:

Not “Vanilla envelope,” but “Manila envelope.”

“Manila, what’s that?” I responded forlornly way back when, while Grandpa Bob exploded with a gin-and-tonic laughing-attack wheeze sounding an awful lot like the early voice-overs of “Popeye.”

Not long after, I also heard the word “Manila” on the alien TV Grandpa Bob had built himself, much like the set on “The Simpsons.”

And so I listened to the late-breaking news about “The Thrilla in Manila!”

Ah-ha! Muhammed Ali (the artist formerly known as “Cassius Clay”) was scheduled to be nearly beaten to death by a powerful new boxer named Joe Frazier.

I asked my dad if we could go, but he politely ignored me, typing away at yet another book review for Epstein’s rag.

Still, from watching the news instead of cartoons, I discovered that The Philippines Eurasian “natives” flippantly spiel that they “spent 500 years in colonial Spain and 50 years in Hollywood.” They were also noted for “sampled” covers of the spinning 33rpm retro vinyls wobbling on the edge of time. . . .

Until, the last eternal chord of The Beatles song “A Day in the Life” sounds, like a piano dropping.

Or, a plane crashing.

What what? The plane bumped pleasantly on the tarmac.

Grabbing our impressively stuffed Eagle Creek backpacks (filled with freebie stolen towels, soaps, shampoos, and lotions), we lined up like mooing cattle as the plane slowly emptied.

Jogging around the airport, we finally found the correct counter for our onward flights to London Heathrow and New York JFK (I am a temporary resident of both cities).

The polite desk sergeant named “Boy”–a common name in The Philippines–seemed surprised that we were so rattled by the inconvenience. “Unfortunately, Mr. Edwards,” Boy filtered through a terse forced smile, as I studied his nametag, “you must take a taxi to another airport. Very close. But there is plenty of time, so there is nothing to worry about.”

Stepping outside into the open air, whooshing like an oven opened set on high, we said out prayers. Luckily, every inch of this interim emporium was literally crammed with Christian iconography, plus plush Jesus posters. A feeling of preternatural calm ran through my veins like wiper fluid or fuel injection. Susan Shrike cried in relief on our short cab ride away, in a gas-guzzling vintage Chevy straight out of “American Graffiti,” into the unknown, with less than an hour to spare.

Hence, I too began to get the heebie jeebies.

The traffic jam was at best spectacular, moving about five feet every minute. As part owner of an oil company, I didn’t really believe in “global warming” (much like blaming aerosol cans for punching holes in the Ozone Layer). Yet, like a premonition I suddenly came up with a solid theory of time travel, involving writing “Steampunk” and moving faster than a photon.

I won’t tell you if the grimacing cabbie managed to get us to our connecting flight. While trapped therewith, I instead lusted after all the classic antique cars, purring with petrol in a shimmering heatwave, spread out in an obsolete roadshow, in the heretofore unofficial traffic-jam capital of the world!

(Oddly, my chest filled up with pneu-like pride.)

But I will say that I enjoyed this Paid Advertisement in the glossy inflight magazine Mabuhay, which once nominated an article of mine for an ASEAN Award! (I didn’t win.)

Needless to say, not long after, my daughter “Elizabeth” was born fastly with much fanfare in a delivery room in Yonkers, New York, where I played catcher, with our (coincidentally) Filipina doctor urging “Push, push!”

And then as “QE3” popped out of the sheer confusion of creation (once only conjecture, now in fact)– umbilical cord dangling like an oxygen line on a female cosmonaut– I swear that I imagined “Lizzie” saying with a big smile of relief on her face—maybe she was just reading my lips?–“HI DADDY!”

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