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christine c. salas
christine c salas I HAVE a thing for dark, gloomy, and nostalgic places. Places that allow you to dive in your own thoughts, swim in your personal indulgence (nicotine and caffeine for me), and just drown deep from the hustle and bustle of the fleet of jeeps plying Villa-Pampang and C.Point (most drivers spell it this way, and it reads redundant to me).

It has been almost over a year now since I went to visit "that dark, gloomy, and nostalgic" place. It's called Kalye Lakandula (the reason for its name is evident, if not self-explanatory), but I call simply it "Kalye."

I decided to pay Kalye a visit, after so many months of having strayed away from it. I heard there was a "Naked Exhibit" opening tonight. I decided I shouldn't go alone, for the roads leading to Kalye were infested by rats come nightfall. I found company in Bogs, a friend, after harassing and laying guilt on him for the few night-outs he failed to show up. We met at 8:00 p.m., his time—8:30 on my time. Realizing that Bogs wasn't worth the expletives, and that the night was still young to overkill, I showed some mercy.

So off we drove to Kalye. His car needed some serious yanking for the door to shut. I could almost hear the garbage collectors shouting, and flashing bid cards to buy the poor car. And if I died that night, it should be because I inhaled some fatal kalawang, and not because I smoked too many Winston Lights. Anyway, the car got us to our destination, and this should be the part where I stopped ranting about it. It delivered, and so it must be spared.

When I stepped out of the car (and after kissing the ground to thank heaven I'm alive!), Bogs and I walked through that familiar gate entrance. The gate, as I knew it, was still frugally, yet pleasantly, hugged by bamboo stalks. The gallery's entrance led to a nice courtyard, the Yin and Yang of nature and art. There I saw some familiar pieces—the series of photos of then-resident Kalye cat (pusang kalye) named Mingming, a couple of bonsai plants, the stained and rustic pieces of wooden furniture, some great artworks by local artists, and the huge wind chimes (they're really grand papa's clocks, believe me).

Bong Punsalan, a dear friend in his early 40s, and his bottle of tainted beer greeted us as we went in. The last time I saw him, he sported clean locks, humidified by a household staple—gel. Now, his hair was kissing his shoulders for a fly-away in the works. It felt almost uncomfortable to be there after being a no-show for so long. I wasn't blacklisted or anything, but it felt like skipping class. Common conversation openers flew (Komusta na ka?), blah blah blah segued to checking on other common friends' whereabouts (Komusta ne y Bobet?, Ibat la pa ri Titus keni, Dinalan ya y Dan Dagul keti). I don't know if this is one of those read-between-the-lines kind of thing. I just sucked at reading people's minds or reading what's between the lines. It's either I get the wrong impression, or I hardly get it at all. Emotional chess isn't really for me.

Bong gave me a crash course to the gallery's past activities (there was an exhibit last month, a calendar is due to come out next year, this performer recently played here, that artist is putting up an installation next week...) and the up and coming events (—"Naked Photo Exhibit" opening on December 29). Old familiar friends have also started to drop by, and the seemingly young night suddenly felt nostalgic. I was "nostalgia" personified.

Clearly, I just wanted to see the "Naked Exhibit." But on the sidestep, I guess I just wanted to see that old place again. I didn't get to harass Mingming. She died this year due to lung cancer and liver infection. The cat was always severly exposed to nicotine, and people kept feeding her junk food to get her off the table. Poor cat. I wondered how many lives she had left. (She left three cats, her daughters, if anyone needs a memory recall.) The fine pine wood ashtrays were still there, catching soiled cigarettes, and so was the guitar-less guitar stand. Feel-good music still loomed over the gallery, reminding you, it's just okay to go away for a while.

That's how you find your way back.

[About the author. Christine C. Salas graduated AB Mass Communication at the Angeles University Foundation. At 23, she has already been a college instructor, an English tutor, a periodic writer, a compulsive photographer, a university-based publication editor, and a radio station manager. She is currently an amateur mom (and bum), looking for a "lucrative way to pay back her Maker—creative or otherwise."]

-Posted: 1:11 AM 12/24/07 | More of this author on eK!