Sunday, February 25, 2007

Houseband

In a series of rants against writing as a profession (collectively known as the Writing for a Living Sucks series), one of the points I tried to make was this: even if television writing is easily the most profitable of all mainstream careers available for the Filipino wordslinger, TV shows don’t last forever. Nowadays they have an average lifespan of thirteen weeks. The time between the moment a writer receives his last paycheck from a canned show and the moment he receives his first one from a new show is a prime example of a cashless existence. It isn’t as grand as the fucking hippies make it out to be. The days, weeks, months, or (God forbid!) years that a writer spends begging the network for a new show will murder him. Unless you’ve spent more of your time kissing asses than actually writing scripts, you can’t be sure when you’ll get another show.

This is exactly the revolting situation in which I find myself presently.

For these past few months, I’ve spent my time developing a handful of shows, most of which we are planning to produce block time. That means a show produced by an entity outside the network. In effect, said entity is buying airtime from the network and reaping the money that comes from advertisers. The reason we’re doing this is because shows take forever to get approved in-house. Plus, we want reasonable control over the creative aspects of the shows we’re developing. What that really means is we’re too goddam proud to come begging for a show.

The meetings and brainstorming sessions comprise my ‘work’ these days. It consists of going to Quezon City about once a week. And don’t ask me about the money. Though I can’t recall anymore what that looks like, I haven’t yet forgotten the idea that it’s the portal to human happiness.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. I’m not starving-- specifically because my wife is now the breadwinner of our little family. Yes, dear friends. I, Squid Villanueva, am currently a house-band.

I find myself waking up at eight in the morning to cook brunch. At least for me it is brunch. For my wife it’s technically dinner. I muck around the house doing odd chores like washing the rancid dishes from last night (hey, I never said I was good at this shit) until the wifey, who works the graveyard shift of an Alabang call center, comes home. Like any dutiful domestic partner, I feed her and send her to bed. As she sleeps I go out to pay the bills, buy groceries, or go to the market. When she wakes up around five in the afternoon I cook dinner (breakfast from her point of view, of course). She leaves for work at around seven, after which I take out the trash, and then maybe watch a movie on DVD or go pay a visit on some buddy of mine. That done, I reserve the last three hours of my day for my writing, which I’m often too lazy to do anyway so I end up playing videogames instead. Around two in the morning I’m off to bed.

I’ve been reduced to this routine, I’m afraid.

I don’t mind the chores that much since it gives me time to pause and cook up ideas in my head. Besides, I’ve loved going to the market since I was a kid because you see all sorts of people and things there… it’s dirty and it stinks, sure, but it always feels like an adventure-- something sterile mall groceries and department stores abhor. The whole waking up in the morning thing is really weird for me since I’ve been used to writing till five in the morning and sleeping till lunchtime, but I don’t mind that either. Writing on the set and in the field has taught me that with a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of iced tea or Coke I can write any damned place, at any time, and under any circumstance.

What gets my goat is the utter uselessness I feel. Whatever bleeding-heart optimists say, being a housewife (or house husband for that matter) is not a noble job. It’s the recourse of a person who is too afraid of having a life other than as his/her partner’s satellite. Look, both my parents were teachers so my brothers and I grew up around various housemaids and we never resented our folks for that. In fact, I think it would have driven me insane had I grown up with my mother in the house all day, everyday. So no, I don’t think being a house-person is cute at all. Earning money is always better than staying at home and raising the kids. If you were earning money you’d have the power to hire people who will stay at home and raise the kids for you.

“Woman,” I once said to my wife. “Do you resent the fact that I’m not earning money right now?”

“No,” she answered. “You’ve fed me for three years so it’s about time I return the favor, o Lord of Light.”

“You want me to stay as a house-band for three years?”

“Of course not. I’m just saying I don’t mind it, o Warden of Wisdom.”

“But I should be out there hunting wild boar for the family, so to speak. I should have my club at my side. I should be roaring guttural threats at other hunter-gatherers and warning them to stay away from my demesne or else I’ll fucking brain them. So to speak.”

“And you will do all that soon. In the meantime, enjoy the slow pace while it lasts. Now go back into the kitchen and make me a sandwich, o Thane of Testosterone.”

Pwnt.

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