Thursday, August 29, 2002

Moving target

My pages, three in all, are nearly out of the way. But my day's fortunes could still spin into a seething disaster. Between now and printing time, around 8 pm, my whole work could very well go back to square one. That's thanks in no small part to having a string of smart bosses checking what we, the paper's workhorses, do. They, the bosses, just crack the whip. No, the back-to-square-one analogy is misleading. It's more like a station of the cross each day. Just that the stripes are unseen.

And it doesn't help that they've been at it longer than we, the work horses, have been. So they're quite familiar with the shortcuts and compromises, commissions and omissions that their underlings are capable of doing which, in turn, can also jeopardize their necks.

But the prospect of going home early on a Thursday makes my cells feel a bit more relaxed. A little consolation after a rather long day. Fridays and Eid are to the Gulf what Sundays and Christmas are to (some of the East and) most of the West. Becha know dat awredy. I showed up for work pretty early coz I knew I'd be stuck with one of the three or so pages, my day's tasks. Lazing my ass in bed for as long as I like --- or want, or need -- tomorrow is an idea that makes my eyes droop right now in great expectation of a horizontal rendezvous. With my two soft pillows, that is.

But hold it just yet. An assignment comes in for 7.00pm -- to interview the "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" host for a feature story. Wachamacallit (Wag kayo makulit!). Eish hada! Just when I thought my day's finally over...

For nearly a month now, I've been shuffled from one segment of the Tabloid (each segment represents four pages) to another. That's a sub's job for you. But quite frankly, I'm just a glorified lay-out artist now. Thinking of heads, kickers, blurbs and checking typos -- plus a little rewriting here and there -- are run-of-the-mill tasks for an otherwise tile-setting affair. No reason to think about masochist tendencies here but I'm kind of enjoying this gig. It's like a moving target all the time. But a spur-of-the-moment assignment like this game show host whatsisface?

I heard Tabloid is one of the sections that people do read. For the cats and dog ads, I should think. Can you believe it... I've become the cartoon man for nearly a week now, going through Garfield, Dilbert, Andy Capp and all their non-siquitur crap. It's a refreshing break from having to deal with Modhesh, Dubai's home-bred mascot (which turned into a merchandise industry, including stuffed toys, school supplies and a Mario-like PC game for Dh75). But I didn't know I'd end up loving the paper's comics section.

This could be my last canine day in the paper, too. Those stamp-sized pictures of lost and found pets -- with their homely descriptions and the vet's advice corner -- make my heart bleed for these animals. But wait. Am I being too Westernised faster than I imagined?

I'm reminded of Quiapo, where enterprising Chinese businessmen turn feline meat into siopao, either asado or bola-bola. Dunno how true those tales are. I like either -- or both -- just the same. Must be the rat in me that wants to get back at the poor cats. But the "K-9" section reminds me of "Asucena", a fave of Ginebra fans in my home region. I'm talking about dog meat, of course, kaldereta-style. That sleepy corner of the Philippines where I grew up in is full of alcoholics that truckloads of sugarcane-based agua de pataranta are dumped there more than once a week. It's a place where dogs are never considered man's "best friend". They are loyal, all right. But best friend? Nah. Best pulutan, yes.

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