Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My Apartment, Cormac McCarthy, and Other Ramblings

This past weekend was a time to catch up on personal things --- finish apartment cleaning, continue to organize all my personal paperwork, start income tax preparations, etc. I did manage to finish cleaning the apartment. This is always the most tedious task to do around the house, but it has to be done. I finally put up the two sets of art work that I had purchased in Amberg, Germany, last October. I stayed in Amberg for two days for project meetings at nearby Grafenwöehr. The first set consists of two oil on canvas paintings depicting rural scenes in the Tuscan region of Italy. I placed these two in my kitchen/dining room. The second set of painting is a trio of modern art paintings in red and orange. I placed these on the main wall of the living room. (See pictures below.) I have also began to place on picture frames my collection of posters from museum I have visited recently. I started collecting museum posters during European backpacking trip in summer of 2002. Most of them are framed and displayed in my Seattle home.

The following pictures are of my Wiesbaden apartment - living room and dining room/kitchen. The pictures look almost distorted because of the high ceiling, 10+ ft. I will show other parts of the apartment in future blog posts.

I also had time to finish Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Before I give you all my accolades for this novel, I will first tell you how Cormac McCarthy became my favorite author. This past October and November, there were separate articles in Newsweek and Time magazine about an upcoming film adaptation of McCarthy's No Country for Old Men by the Coen Brothers. The Coen Brothers are known for their eclectic films from the last twenty years. Along with the story of the movie, there was an interview of McCarthy and the Coen Brothers. I found the stories about the upcoming film and the interview to be quite fascinating. Both articles were extolling the virtue of the film and touting the most evil villain, in film, ever. The interview was interesting in that the normally recluse McCarthy partakes in a pseudo-interview with the Coen Brothers. It was not a standard interview because it did not have the reporter asking questions; it was McCarthy asking the Coen brothers, and vice versa. This got me interested in watching the upcoming film. I have heard a little bit of McCarthy, his works, and the many prestigious awards that have been bestowed on him as a writer.

Not long after reading these magazine articles, a fundraising book sale was held at my workplace. I was browsing through all the books when I noticed a book by Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses. Although I was never interested in horses or western novels (I just assumed that these were the genres that this book came under), I decided to purchase the book because it was written by an author I had just read about and the book was for $1 only. The book turned out to be a good read. This novel garnered McCarthy the National Book Award for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. I finished the book on the train ride from Prague to Nürnberg during James’ Thanksgiving holiday visit. I was so impresssed with this book that I wanted to read other books by the author. And yes, the book was a lot more than a book about horses and the west.

I saw the movie No Country for Old Men with Ron and James, over the holidays, while in Seattle. It was a great movie, but I was surprised and somewhat disappointed at the ending. The movie ending gave me an impression that the movie was incomplete, analogous to having your dinner shortened abruptly whilst enjoying a wonderful meal. As you know the film adaptation won several prizes, including Academy Award’s Best Picture. I decided to buy the book before I left Seattle to find out more about the movie’s abrupt ending and see if the novel ended similarly. During the flight to Germany, I could not put down the book. I completed reading the book a few days later. I now have a better appreciation on the decision to have that particular movie ending. I will leave this as a future blog discussion.

Back to the novel The Road --- it is a well written novel. I was thoroughly engrossed by its plot. In a post-apocalyptic setting, it tells the story of a father and his young boy as they journey their way from the bleak environment they are in to warmer coastal location, which they hope will provide a more livable and less harsh conditions. It is a story about hope, sacrifice, love, and the strong bond between a father and his son. They move through the devastation searching for food and shelter, while trying to keep safe from roving bands of murderous gangs also in search of food. It's their compassion for each other that keeps them alive in the face of total destruction on Earth. It is also a story about what our future could be after a cataclysmic event. The book does not indicate what event led to the conditions. We do not know if it was a nuclear event, an extraterrestial object hitting the Earth, or a massive disruption originating from the Earth's core. We do know that it wipes out most of the people, plants, animals, cities, forest, etc. – almost the entire civilization.

I recommend this book highly. It is a classic, in my eyes, and should be considered so, if not already. It is tragic and emotional, yet full of tenderness and hope. I will mail my copy of the book to one of you guys and you can pass it on when you complete the reading. I would suggest everyone read it. You can wait until the book gets around to you or you can purchase the book. It is well worth the amount of time you put into reading it or the few dollars you spend to buy the book.

Continue to "carry the fire." Those who read the book will know what I mean.

In mid-January, I was at the American bookstore in Wiesbaden looking for more books to read when I came across this book. By the sticker affixed on the front cover, I guess it had been a book selection by the Oprah Book of the Month club. I did not buy the book for this reason. Nothing against Oprah, but I would rather choose a book out of my own volition. I purchased the book because I had enjoyed the two previous books from the same author.

Because of a couple of magazine articles, I have become acquainted with McCarthy’s works. I knew very little of him except for a few book titles, and awards and prizes that had been bestowed on his work. His entire body of work is not that expansive; I will try to read a few more of his other novels, including the other two books on his “Border Trilogy,” which All the Pretty Horses is a part of. I now have a new favorite author. Mr. Ernest Hemingway moves down a notch to make room for Mr. Cormac McCarthy.

Okay, I will have to move on. I warned you guys about my ramblings. Concerning my other New Year’s resolution --- to lose weight. I am now down to 105 kg or 231 lbs. That is down 11 lbs. from the final weigh in of 242 on Christmas. My goal is to get down to 215. My food intake amount is still about the same, but I have stayed away from snack–type foods, sodas, and fast food. Home cooked meals are healthier and a lot cheaper. I am also doing one hour of walking three times a week; and the other days, 20-30 minutes walking.

I do have an amusing anecdote about the last weight loss contest among Michael, James, Mia, and myself. James, Mia, and I were doing our final weigh in to determine the amount of weight loss during the last five month period. When stepped on the scale, Mia and I could not stop laughing. I still weighed the same. Even after all the hard work I had been doing for the last five months, I still weighed the same, 242 lbs. People downstairs in the house were probably wondering what all the commotion was about upstairs where our weigh in was: It was me and Mia laughing hysterically and uncontrollably because I did not lose one single pound. I had been vigilant during my first three months in Wiesbaden. I had even boasted on my e-mail updates on the amount of walking I was doing when I first moved to Wiesbaden. But the last two months leading to the final weigh in late December, I had regressed – especially leading towards the holidays. There were just too much treats in German Christmas markets, at the office, and being in Seattle the last week prior to weigh in.

I don’t think I will ever reach the twig version of myself as shown on the following photo. Back then, I can eat three hamburgers with fries and a large soda for a snack. It’s amazing how much your metabolism slows down with age, especially if you are essentially inactive.

What am I doing posting this photo? I look like a geek. Check out the stylish hair, eyeglasses, and the classic athletic shorts. Oh, well. Sometimes, you have to laugh; even if it is at your own expense. And believe me, I laughed so hard when Mia sent me this photo. The photo is with Ate Linda and Mng. Luz, I would guess around 1978/1979.

Before I forget, I would like to extend my congratulations and birthday wishes to Lola Nanay. Happy 80th --- may you have many more. Below is a picture of her taken Christmas 2004.

I will end the post with a few more family and travel pictures.

Kung Fu Ron – Don't know what prompted this pose from Ron. Picture is in front of a floating Chinese restaurant in Amsterdam and taken early fall of 1998. As well as Chinese cuisine, the restaurant also specialized in Indonesian specialties. We enjoyed an Indonesian, multi-course dinner with our tour group. This was near the end of our 19 day organized bus tour of Western Europe. Seeing the historical sites and the scenery from countless towns and cities during this trip reinforced my interest and fascination with Europe.

Jessica and Ina with Mickey – Look at Ina's eyes. You can sense her controlled excitement in meeting Mickey, first hand. Imagine seeing and meeting for the first time, a character you’ve seen many times in print, tv and film, books, toys, and other merchandise. What delight Ina must have felt.

Anticipation a la Nathan – You can see Nathan eagerly awaits the next name to be called as to who is next to open a gift. He is also hoping that it is he who gets called next. Notice the beads of sweat dripping from the side of his head. Photo is from Christmas 2004. Christmas is always a special time for kids. Christmas with the family is always a treat for the little ones. It has gotten so much bigger than before, but still with the same excitement. In the past, we would make all of them sing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," once or twice, before starting the gift opening. Each kid’s present was opened one at a time, so that all the kids got to see everyone’s present and to make them appreciate each and every present. Each kid was armed with a large garbage bag to store their already-opened present. With the really young ones, sometimes you can see the excitement as they start to tear through the wrappings, then the anticipation turns to disappointment if the gift turned out to be clothes rather than toys.

“Fallen Leaves” exhibit in Berlin's Jewish Museum. The artist encourages walking on the countless metal face figures on this exhibit. The faces seem to be screaming or writhing in pain. As you step on each one, a sharp screeching noise is produced because of the contact with the concrete floor and the other metal figures. Photo was taken November 2007.


  1. Janice Grace Antonio09 March, 2008 04:26

    Hi Uncle Alban! I'm glad to see that you're doing fine in Germany. Your apartment looks really nice! The style is so you.. kinda like a German-ish version of your house here in Seattle. It's also good to hear that you're making a lot of progress with your New Years resolutions with blogging and losing weight. I myself have resolved to eat healthier.. meaning NO mcdonalds or fast food in general! That probably reminds you of the time we went to California and ate El Pollo Loco, except I was weird and wanted to eat mcdonalds. I even brought it inside the El Pollo Loco restaurant. But I guess I have bad restaurant moments.. especially when I'm with you. Hence "super salad / soup OR salad" and those chocolate stains on my pants which looked like something else but were DEFINITELY chocolate. I hung out with Kuya Michael and Mia today and somehow it came up in conversation. It seems like everybody knows about my blonde moments now, but they're fun memories that are linked to you, so i guess it's all gooood! =)

    I also wanted to let you know about something that always reminds me of you. A couple weeks ago i heard "Tears In Heaven" by Eric Clapton randomly, I don't even remember where I was. But just hearing the song reminded me of you and how it was one of the songs you would always sing on kareoke. I remember you singing it one time at Uncle Amboy's a couple years ago. It's just one of those songs that you sing so well! Just thought i should share that with you. =)
    Anyway, I hope things are exciting, fun and adventurous for you over there! Keep us updated with everything!


    PS- Can you take a picture of one of your gig posters? What's it like being so famous.. Is the name Elvin Antonio well-known over there? If so, I totally claim that I have a famous uncle in Germany that plays the acoustic guitar.

  2. Janice,

    Sorry, my days of playing the guitar and singing in public are over. My gigs at the Irish Bar at Eagle Base in Bosnia happened on weekends from Dec 06 thru Apr 07. I closed Eagle Base in June 07. You know, I never kept or taken any pictures of the gig posters. It would be nice to have as a keepsake of the times when my fear of being in front of a crowd was suppressed. I do have a copy of a short video at the end of one of my performances. I may have to include it in a future blog. Who knows, I will not be surprised if one of the European Union soldiers were to post a video of me performing. So if you see a video of a guy singing and playing the guitar with eyes closed and all the contorted facial expressions, it isn't me. I was able to see a short video of my performance and I immediately deleted it for the same reasons. The one and only copy I have is a short, dark video at the end of a song.

    And yah!?!? (to get the full effect, my facial expressions and vocal intonation would have to be included.) We were so embarrased to sneak you in to the El Pollo Loco with your Mickey D stash. I still remember this because it happened at an El Pollo Loco in my old 'hood in Rancho Cucamonga. Don't worry, I have also had my moments. Remember at Buca di Beppo (I'm sure Joyce does, because she reminds me of this incident always), when I was reading the dessert menu. When I came across the tiramisu, I read "tasty fingers" rather than "lady fingers." Everyone at the table was looking at me funny. Huh, tasty fingers??? Somehow, it did not occur to me that I read it wrong. I'm sure it was the lighting and my new glasses. That's my story and I am sticking to it.

    But beware, I may relate other "Janice moments" in my posts. Like the New York city incident in Vegas. Just kidding. Enjoy your last couple of months in high school.

    Uncle Elvin