Friday, March 29, 2024

Gabo the Pilgrim

Note: This piece was originally published on August 5, 2022, in PNM.

Full disclosure: Although I’ve read a few of the major works of beloved Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez (“One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Autumn of the Patriarch” and “Love in the Time of Cholera”), I have never read his short story collection “Strange Pilgrims.”

So when the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) in Mexico City invited journalists to a literary talk — titled “Gabo the Pilgrim” — on Wednesday, July 27, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the publication of “Strange Pilgrims,” I was both excited and quite unsure. Excited because I’ve always been a big Gabo fan, but unsure because I didn’t know what to expect in the talk, and I would have wanted to come prepared — I would have read the book first, so I could ask more informed questions.

I discovered quickly that my doubts were unfounded: I not only discovered a great deal about the book, but also about the life of García Márquez and a few little-known tidbits about him.

“Strange Pilgrims,” a collection of 12 loosely related short stories, was not published until 1992, but the stories were originally written by García Márquez in the ’70s and ’80s, during a period of his travels.

The speakers at the literary talk — Orlando Oliveros, Jaime Abello and Alvaro Santana Acuña — discussed why the short stories in the collection had an autobiographical bent in them, and that readers will not only find Gabo the fictionist, but also Gabo the pilgrim in the book’s pages.

Abello, director general of the Gabo Foundation, discussed how García Márquez had travelled all his life: first exploring his beloved Colombia, going around Latin America and then finally hiking off to Europe.

García Márquez, who worked as a journalist before he found his true calling as a fictionist, was also able to travel because of his work. A committed leftist throughout his life, García Márquez covered the Cuban Revolution for media outlet Prensa Latina in Havana, and also travelled to its New York office.

One interesting tidbit about García Márquez, according to Oliveros — the literary editor of the Gabo Center — is that despite the Colombian novelist’s love for travel, he was terrified of flying. And the fact that the aviation industry when Gabo was a young journalist was basically still in its infancy didn’t help alleviate García Márquez’s fears of stepping inside a Douglas DC-3 commercial airplane.

For his part, Santana Acuña — curator of the Gabriel García Márquez exposition that had also recently opened at the MAM, and which will run until Oct. 2 of this year — talked about how García Márquez didn’t stay in one place for long and the fact that his domestic travels around Colombia were spurred by a personal tragedy — when his grandfather died. Gabo then started moving around Colombia frequently: around Cartagena, Baranquilla and Bogota.

Oliveros also said that García Márquez learned a great deal more about his identity as a Colombian and as a Latin American during his travels in Europe than when he was travelling around Colombia and Latin America. The fictionist met fellow Latin Americans in the cafés of Paris, for example: Argentinians, Mexicans, Guatemalans and Venezuelans. This led Gabo to ask himself and his fellow Latin Americans: “What can we do as Latin Americans, what can we contribute to the world, if we do not fight together?”

But back to the short story collection “Strange Pilgrims.”

Like I said at the beginning of this article, I haven’t read it yet. And so I need to stop right here to order a copy on Amazon.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The Jogger

Many years back, when I was still living in Cebu City, there was a running craze.

This running craze came on the heels of a badminton craze.

I was never really a fan of badminton or running. Back then I used to lift weights. Then I switched to indoor cycling (also known as spinning). Then I dabbled in boxing. And then I discovered Freeletics, a series of bodyweight exercises that you can do anywhere -- I downloaded .pdf copies of three guides, the Strength Guide, the Cardio Guide, and the combo Cardio & Strength Guide ("Freeletics is a sport. The core of Freeletics is a set of predefined high-intensity workouts. All workouts are bodyweight only. You always do them as fast as you can. They only take between 5 and 45 mins on average. Workout times will be used to measure performances and progress and to compare to other athletes," says the introduction to all three guides). 

Fast forward many years later, and I'm still doing Freeletics, but through an app that I downloaded on my phone. The Freeletics app is, obviously, more advanced than those .pdf guides -- you can personalize your workouts based on your needs. 

But then I figured, why not incorporate running into these bodyweight workouts too?

Sorry, not running, JOGGING.

Why not incorporate JOGGING into these bodyweight workouts too?

I won't call myself a runner; I jog. I slog. I can call myself a slow runner, but why not use the more appropriate word instead? 

I'm no runner. I'm a jogger.

Back when there was a running craze in Cebu, the company I was working for sponsored a run. Of course, all employees were encouraged to join the run. So my then-girlfriend (now my wife) and I signed up for the shortest distance, the 5K.

But because life happens, I ended up not even finishing the run. The night before the run, I came home stinking drunk, to the wife's chagrin. I told her I'd still try to run the next day, and that there would be no problem waking up early in the morning.

And so I woke up early in the morning. We took a taxi to the event and lined up at the starting line. 

After a few steps, I felt like puking. I took a taxi back home and slept off my hangover. The wife ended up finishing the run.

Many years later, here in Mexico City, the company that the wife worked for organized a run. All employees were encouraged to join the run. So the wife and I signed up for the shortest distance, the 5K.

This time we both finished the run. I promised her I wouldn't drink the night before. The problem was, even though I was sober, I was in no shape to run even a 5K. Sure I did bodyweight exercises, but the stamina you need for running is another thing. So I ran-walked the entire 5K, finishing at a very slow time. (I was a little bit faster than the wife, but not by much. She also ran-walked the entire 5K.)

When I decided to take up jogging a few weeks ago, I vowed to take it seriously. I downloaded a couch-to-5K app, and signed up for a 5K run in Puerto Vallarta, which at that time was more than two months away. That way, I'd have more than enough time to prepare. I'm more than halfway done on my training now, and so far, so good. I've also had a lot of help from a group I recently joined on Facebook, Slow AF Running Club. There are a lot of tips for the slow AF runner. 

One of the most common tips is to run as slow as you can.

In other words, jog.

It's still three weeks away from the run, but I'm feeling good. 

But more importantly, I'm comfortable enough now to call myself a jogger.