Date: June 14, 2009

Wrapped In Plastic, It's Fantastic

Me and a few friends tried to score tickets to some frou-frou independent film a couple of days ago at EDSA Shangri-La when we came across the woman herself, my own personal writing idol, Miss Jessica Zafra.  I tried writing like JZ at one point in my life and realized I can’t do it.  I still respect and “idolize” her very much in the way she uses the English language.  I was about three feet away from bowing at her feet, or at least stealing her glasses.

One of the most memorable essays I loved from the Twisted series was her series on wrapping books in plastic covers.  Since tomorrow marks the beginning of the school year, I’m reminded all of a sudden about plastic school supplies, and books and notebooks wrapped in plastic.

I never really did master the art of wrapping anything in plastic covers; Mother and my cousins did all the wrapping work for us.  The first day of school greeted you with a schoolbag with plastic-wrapped everything: books, notebooks, plastic envelopes with the multiplication tables and spelling booklets wrapped in plastic, your plastic pencil case with your plastic pens and plasticine erasers still in the plastic packaging, the crayons still wrapped in tamper-proof plastic.  If it rains, Mother packs everything up in plastic bags before packing them up into our school bags.

Every parent in elementary school pretty much did the same thing Mother did, and that had interesting consequences at the classroom.  When we took out a notebook, the plastic covers were stuck to each other, and we ended up taking out three or five notebooks at once.  We all took out ballpens from their plastic packaging, and the garbage bin eventually gets filled up with plastic rubbish.

Mother always took the time to bring us lunch, until we were old enough to go home for the lunch break.  The rest of our classmates had lunchboxes.  The days of Army-style tin lunchboxes weren’t hip back in the early 1990s.  Only thumb-sucking baby-types came with those Panini Disney Princesses or Lion King lunchboxes that were effective containers for Tupperware.

Everyone was (literally) saddled with a giant hulking schoolbag, so the in thing were those all-in-one lunchboxes complete with juice container and plastic forks.  White-and-red Coleman containers were made of awesome, but the black ones with small containers for viands and rice and cupcakes were the standard for us.  If you didn’t like the corned-beef-and-eggs or luncheon-meat-with-eggs or hotdogs-and-eggs your mom spent around ten minutes cooking for you.

That didn’t do much for eating habits that meant using up more plastic.  Lunches were usually left uneaten or thrown away, so almost every kid made a beeline for sidewalk snackage.  Or Trump cards and goma for sipa or Chinese garter.  Zoom Zoom cheese snacks were cool, because of the plastic soldiers – or if you’re lucky, dodecahedral two-peso coins – that you get for the fifty-centavo snacks.  Snow cream was popular although it did taste like plastic (and led to mild cholera), but the highlight of everyone’s day was cotton candy spun from converted Singer sewing machines.  Iced Gem Cookies were cool and all, but I’ve always had a soft spot for strawberry-flavored Yan-Yan.

These days, the backpack is now a convenient container for non-school-y stuff; a laptop, some pens, a portable ashtray, some knick-knacks here and there, and bus and train tickets that remind me that my innocent childhood – spent ostracized from playgrounds and playing around with Legos – has come and gone.  No more plastic covered stuff, no more plastic stuff.  Kids are off to their Neverland of learning and building up their memories tomorrow.  For us, who wax (rant) lyrically and nostalgically about days gone by, those memories will stay just as they are: days gone by, wrapped in the plastic of time itself.

Bollocks on that, but yeah, “starstruck” was a good way to describe being just a few feet away from Jessica Zafra.

Mitsuharu Misawa (1962-2009)

As a fan of professional wrestling, I write this entry to pay tribute to one of the legends of puroresu, and professional wrestling in general: Mitsuharu Misawa.

The Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Online reports that on June 13, 2009, the legendary Misawa received a wrestling maneuver that knocked him unconscious, causing him to suffer and die from a heart attack in the ring.

For 28 years, Misawa made his name not only as the second Tiger Mask or the innovator of many wrestling maneuvers (like the Tiger Driver and the Emerald Flowsion), but for his technical prowess and skill in the ring.  His matchups with legends like Akira Taue and the late great Jumbo Tsuruta have made him a legend in the eyes not only of Japanese puroresu fans, but of wrestling aficionados all over the world.  His rivals and foes in the ring read like a who’s who for any wrestling fan: Keiji Mutoh, Jun Akiyama, Kensuke Sasaki, and (arguably) his greatest rival to date, Toshiaki Kawada.

The long, storied career of Misawa led to many titles and honors; if there’s any debate on who was “the greatest wrestler in the world,” those in the discussion would make a grievous mistake to not include Misawa.  Besides being a skilled technician in the ring, Misawa was also a wrestling promoter who took the Japanese puroresu world by surprise.  After leading and leaving All-Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) after the death of Giant Baba, Misawa founded one of the most innovative and recognizable pro wrestling organizations in the East: Pro Wrestling NOAH.

Unlike the stereotypical pro wrestler, wrestling was the central point of Misawa’s career.  Misawa won titles and the respect of the international audience for his skill and technique in wrestling.  He had an extensive array of attacks and moves incorporated with technique that made him one of the premier wrestlers in the world.  Stiff strikes, counter-wrestling, submissions, and innovative slams and suplexes were consistent in Misawa’s wrestling repertoire.  Misawa was without peers as a singles wrestler, but shone through as a tag team specialist as well.

A wrestler’s wrestler, Misawa earned the pounds of gold he wore around his waist not because of storylines and gimmicky segment-breaks, but because of his wrestling style and skill that takes years to hone and master.  For a time, Misawa was arguably the most famous and renowned wrestler in Japan, if not the world.  Misawa was a multiple-time world champion with AJPW, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), and his own NOAH promotion.

The death of Misawa in a wrestling ring is tragic and saddening, but it again puts him in a place where he is without peers.  In the tradition of Japanese wrestling, Mitsuharu Misawa now stands with icons who have departed this Earth, like Baba and Rikidozan.  Yet Misawa stands alone, not only as a champion wrestler, an innovator of offense, or an ace promoter, but as one of the figureheads who brought a kind of sophisticated, professional, engaging wrestling back to the squared circle.

Mitsuharu Misawa will be missed, but his legacy will be remembered, continued, and will live on.  Thank you for the wrestling, Mr. Misawa.