Tago Jazz Cafe camouflages itself into the late December night, against a wall of streets that seems to have taken roots over the years. The soot of the neighbouring EDSA finds its way into the crevices of the converted old house. Mixed media pieces line the abode, all screaming nostalgia— some of which over-pours into an old sofa, whispering a familiar “welcome home” to those who come in.
I rush into the hive of sleepy lights, like Cinderella way past her curfew. I am too late,the carousel would have turned back into a pumpkin, and the horses, into rats. This is the first time I am meeting fellow storytellers in the flesh, although some, I’ve already been calling best friends forever.
It is Marky who looks back first, sensing my arrival. He then looks away, then looks back again. I scream his name, expecting an eruption of big smiles and even bigger hugs. But I forget, this is Marky Ramone Go, the man whose smile (or the evasiveness of it), is proverbial. I smile to him still, kicking myself in the gut upon remembering that I forgot my present for him, something that may warrant a grin. After all, his Nomadic Experiences all began with Jack Kerouac.
Beside him, Claire gives me a chinky-eyed beam, introducing his boyfriend, Rem, almost as instantly as she tells me she is lobbying for a “Love Found” theme for February’s blog carnival. Rem was Claire’s Hello Stranger, she adds, pregnant with pride. “This is the lady who has my dream job,” I told Jonat, referring to Claire’s stint at Rappler, as he extends a handshake to Claire, then to Rem, his fellow “Love Found” 😀
Gay, as usual, was arresting; a walking version of glossy magazines: insecurity-inducing. Because really, how could have Luna come out from that very flat tummy? And how could all the beer she guzzles at parties does not go into her thigh and arms like it does in mine? Life is unfair.
The guy beside Gay, I automatically recognised from the threads. “Love Mindanao!” I exclaim, never modest. His eyes light up as he beamed a close-na-agad-tayo smile. I know immediately, this person is a force to be reckoned with.
Sandwiching Marky with Claire is Kaiye, whose name I honestly couldn’t pronounce, so I pretend I don’t recall it. But I know this kid of course, as I know all pretty girls, and in PTB, she is one. We talk about Endette, the other half The 2 Broke Girls duo, and the pros and cons of working in tandem. She picks up a box of Lemon Cupcake (Was it lemon cupcake?) from the table and offers me a piece. She has brought it from Boracay, she says. I happily indulged, bite after filling bite.
I feel it is necessary to at least kiss everyone hello, as an apology for my tardiness. I proceed to greet two guys, whose faces are familiar but whose names and/or blog URLs I could not, for the life of me, recall.
Then it was time to greet Melo, while he sits on the far end of the long table, like a bronze icon, ever-smiling. The rest of the conversation with him whirls past in a blur, and I stand motionless like a fan seeing an idol for the first time. When he asked me about my prize from the top 15 poll, I managed to squeak “flash drive” in between “uhms”. And it isn’t all. He asks me if I read Zafra. BEST. PICK. UP. LINE. EVER. He then fishes out one, two, three (three!) autographed Zafra books from his rucksack and hands those into my waiting palms. I shoot Jonat a look that can only mean, “I can die now, I swear.” Jessica is the only female that has that effect on me.
The band starts playing, blues and jazz, I am told. (I do not know music, btw, shoot me :P). Then enter El Presidente, Darwin, fashionably late, ushered in by Gay. He says hello to everyone, then a big one to me. Suddenly, I feel responsible for the impression that my brand of written word make. I fear that the reality of my haggard self would do disservice to the Royal Rockness brand I so narcissistically cultivate. But Darwin is gracious, and after secretly circling in the buffet table for the band people, takes a seat beside me.
We make small talk amidst the blaring of instruments, and it is at this point that the other guys chime in and grill Darwin on the rumours around his traveling (love) life. As soon as I get the chance, I ask him about the two guys in the group whose names I couldn’t recall.
“Pinoy Boy Journals, of course.” I muse to myself. Jeric. Cute. Suddenly, It is not so sad anymore that Edcel Suyo is already off the market.
Photo is by CJ Serrano, from Tago Jazz Cafe’s Facebook page. Posted without permission. Will be taken down if need be (couldn’t not find any photographic evidence from that night in my camera. :/)