Author Archive for Michelle So


Just don’t drop dead

When I asked cartoonist Josua to draw me a human body being embalmed, he looked horrified and tentative. But seeing how dead serious I was, he took control of himself and began asking me how I’d like the sketch to look.

He couldn’t make heads or tails of my description, which confused me because I was giving it in the simplest of terms. Poor Josua hasn’t watched a body being embalmed and had no idea of how it should be drawn.

“Six Feet Under” has exposed me to the world of embalming, which embalmers naturally consider to be an art. But two authors suggest that given the right chemical solutions, a few tools and some knowledge of the human anatomy, you can do it yourself, assuming you don’t faint and wake up on the embalming table.

Now this was what confused Josua. When I was describing to him how the sketch should look, he was imagining the dead person trying to embalm himself. He took “do it yourself” to mean the dead guy. I explained some more, semaphoring a frigid body with cotton plugged in its nose and being cut open by another person, before Josua realized that I was talking of two people—one dead, the other alive.

Anyway, in their hilarious and medically faithful book “Let’s Play Doctor,” Mark Leyner and Dr. Billy Goldberg give a clear guide on “do-it-yourself embalming.” I suppose that they tucked a short section on embalming in their 206-page book to warn their readers that if doctors fail to keep you alive, you might as well have an idea of what happens to you when you’re dead.

Do-It-Yourself Embalming, as prescribed by emergency medicine physician Goldberg and movie and tv show writer Leyner:

1. Place body on embalming table, and pack the oral cavity and eyes with cotton. (So I was wrong about the cotton-stuffed nose.)

2. Inject the embalming fluid (generally a mixture of formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, methanol and ethanol) into the right common carotid artery (the large blood vessel that carries blood to the head), and drain blood from the right jugular vein.

3. Insert trocar (long needle attached to hydro-aspirator) above belly button, aspirate all major organs in torso (meaning remove them), and then fill cavity with concentrated formaldehyde solution.

4. Remove trocar, wash body thoroughly, and seal incisions.

5. Dress in stylish yet comfortable attire, coif hair, and apply makeup. (Make sure makeup does not give face a deathly pallor or masklike appearance—keep it simple and natural!)

And oh, don’t drop dead while you’re doing the procedure. You need to get the work done. You wouldn’t want the dead guy looking cadaverous.


The idleness of being

I’ve got blisters on my feet from running in new shoes and I have shin splints, and so my legs hurt when I walk.

I went to the city pool to do some laps only to find it exclusively booked for the regional school meet for the entire week.

I called up the yoga center but no one answered.

No running, no swimming, no yoga. Great. By the time I’m fit and good to do all three, my new running shorts, new swimsuit and new leggings would have shrunk. Tsk tsk. They don’t make sports apparel the way they used to anymore.

In the meantime, can someone get me Fernando Verdasco for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Please?

Now what? (from


Oh wow, Steffi!

steffi graf 2Steffi Graf and son, I like. / Photo from

A website that I regularly visit brought me to these pictures of Steffi Graf.

At the close of her ATP tour, she posed for the Swimsuit Edition of Sports Illustrated.  I don’t remember the date of the issue but it was maybe 1999. I kept the copy for a while and only gave it away when it hit me that I neither could wear those bikinis nor play tennis. This truth still stands, sadly.

I admire Steffi for the physical discipline she has imposed on herself. Not many women in their 30s and 40s and slinging motherhood have the fortitude to keep excess weight off.

Me? The only time I don’t lug around excess weight is when I fly. I travel light. (I hate taking small planes because I am weighed at the check-in counter. I see that I am heavier than most of the passengers from my seat assignment, which is the one closest to the cockpit, and it’s not my bag that accounts for much of my total passenger weight.)

Steffi, I like. (Thumbs-up sign here.)


Scoring the perfect gift

TENNIS-FRA-OPEN-ROLAND-GARROSA perfect gift / Photo from AFP

When Roger Federer won Roland Garros, I felt like I won it too from the deluge of text messages I received from my friends. His win couldn’t have come at a better time than on my birthday.

Speaking in French during the awarding ceremony, he might have greeted me as he raised the silver cup in victory. “This is my birthday gift to you because you have been an ardent fan. I cannot believe  you had your own score sheet of this championship match. Not even my lovely wife ever did that. And so, happy birthday and you can now shower,” I believed was what he said.

If anyone disputes my interpretation, speak up and retrieve your head from Robin Soderling’s silver plate.

I indeed kept score of the championship match.

Writing on the clean side of a subscription form for PLDT Landline Plus 2nd Line, I tallied each player’s winners, aces, unforced errors and double faults per game and per set. If I could have gauged the speed of their balls, I would have noted it down too. But a non-tennis player could only accomplish so much with her manual tally.

scorecardBy doing my own scoring, I was not as tense watching Federer play a GS championship match as I was in previous ones when I felt like I was being starched to stiffness.  This time, I took note of ball trajectories and landings but got sidetracked by my emotions when RF and Soderling tied at 3-3 in the third set.

When the statistics were flashed at the end of the first set, I checked my score card and was pleased to see I had the same numbers except for the percentages in the serves and net approaches, which I left to genuine tennis statisticians. I had enough digit concerns for one night.

The second set statistics (the one done by real statisticians) showed that I missed an ace from Soderling and my count of the unforced errors was a few more than the official stats had. At one point in the second set, I got a shared call from three Nadal fans who assured me of an RF win in this year’s French Open. Those guys know about my Federer moments.

I couldn’t compare my third set stats with the official one because I was already beside myself with jubilation when a misfired shot from Soderling ended Federer’s chase for the Roland Garros Cup and 14th GS title.

I couldn’t have gotten a more perfect birthday gift than a Roland Garros Cup for Federer. I wonder if he’d like my score sheet for his birthday.


Energy from a bracelet

phitenFor the past three weeks, I’ve been wearing this aqua titanium-lined silicone bracelet that is supposed to energize me and improve my well-being.  Two friends who lead an active lifestyle and wear the bracelet attest its effectiveness as an energy booster.

This is how the Phiten bracelet, a red MLB Phillies (in homage to Jayson Werth yet I doubt if he wears one), has worked for me:

Of late, my swimming has been confined either to treading the water or wading into it at shoulder depth and then spending the time in it chatting with friends similarly situated. I haven’t swum beyond 10 meters in four years or so until last month.

I’ve been wearing the Phiten bracelet for three days when I swam toward an islet in Guiuan, Samar from a friend’s yacht that was anchored a little more than 50 meters away from shore. I swam back to the yacht after a huge lunch in the islet. It wouldn’t have been a big deal had my body been primed for such a distance.

kayak guiuanTaking the kayaks, my friends reached the islet and then later the yacht, way ahead of me. I might as well have been racing against an old turtle trudging land. I took my time, noting the depth of the waters as long-spined sea urchins became more visible as I got nearer the shore.

Warmed up by the swim in the seawater, I did laps in the 35-meter pool when we got back to The Surf Camp. I wasn’t sprinting like I had to beat Dara Torres’ record or the old turtle’s terrain time. The point being, after four years of not having swum long distance, meaning beyond 10 meters, I managed to crawl non-stop from one end of a 35-meter pool to the other.

The ScreamFrom the way I was catching my breath after the first lap, I saw myself as a meatier version of the subject of Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream. I didn’t find my wind until after the third lap. I swam seven more laps, alternately using freestyle and breast stroke.

I woke up the next morning with a stiff neck.

I have a farm in FarmTown. Since I wore the Phiten bracelet, I now plow and plant faster and my right arm, where I wear it, feels less heavy after hours of moving the mouse.

Since I wore it, I sleep earlier and longer so much so that I have difficulty getting up at 5:15 a.m. to go to the track oval. My running shoes, worn only twice since I bought them, cry for my attention. Soon, shoes, soon.

I will not blame the Phiten bracelet for my hearty appetite because no amount of titanium, whether it be wrapped around my neck or my wrist, can restrain it.

When I told my acupuncturist about the Phiten bracelet, he dismissed its effect as nothing but placebo. Er, Doc, this bracelet, which looks like rubber to you, cost me almost P2,000.  For this sum, it should have an intrinsic remedial value. Wearing it I feel invigorated.

My acupuncturist, who is also a medical doctor, looked at me and said, “It’s the acupuncture that makes you feel energized.” Oh.


Glad Steffi Graf is retired


Back when she was an active player, Steffi Graf was the only female tennis player whose matches I watched on tv. Since she retired in 1999, women’s tennis has lost its appeal to me.

I watched her last match, the Wimbledon finals in 1999, in which she lost to Lindsey Davenport, 6-4 7-5.

After 10 years, I watched her play again last Sunday. I would have missed it had I not been alerted by another Graf fan.

Steffi Graf, playing in two exhibition matches at the grand opening or closing of the retractable roof at the center court of the All England Club, was the same Steffi Graf I last saw play. Well, not exactly the same. She was laughing and smiling this time, a far cry from her stolid demeanor she put on during competitions when she was still in the women’s circuit.

Turning 40 next month, Steffi Graf epitomizes fitness and health. She doesn’t look a pound heavier than she was in 1999 despite having given birth to two children. Her long, toned legs–which have carried her to 22 Grand Slam titles–have always been a source of envy for me and my female friends.

Like what happened in the past whenever I watched her play, I sighed in resignation to the fact that I can never have legs like hers unless I amputate mine and wear prostheses molded like her legs. But even if I did this, I would have to cut my arms as well because they would now be disproportionate to my new legs. Then I would have to wear arm prostheses molded like Graf’s. But even if I now had arms and legs like Steffi’s, I would need to pare my torso, which in its present condition, is not anywhere like Graf’s.

Oh, just kill me.

I’m glad Steffi Graf has retired.


It’s the sportswear

There is no better way to have gestating plans afoot than by entering a sportswear factory outlet in Subic.

The sight of discounted sportswear revived our plan to join a short marathon, return to the badminton court or learn golf. We knew what we wanted to wear and how we wanted to look. If we were going to run, we might as well be wearing a coordinated get-up. If we were going to sweat, we could at least be wearing Dri-Fit.  And if we didn’t make it to the finish line, we would be walking in shoes specified for running.

So we entered the store with thoughts of golf, badminton and running a 10K warming us up for the shopping.

This is how we kicked off our sports plan: We saw something in the racks that we liked, thought of the sport activity that we could wear it for, then asked the saleslady for our size.

I found a combo of green shorts and gray tights that the saleslady said was for running and was being sold at 50% less. Appraising the shorts and tights, I asked myself if I would ever get to wear them for the purpose of their design. Who knows? I asked for my size. But after calculating the probabilities of running and sleeping in them, I returned them to the rack.

I liked the running shorts the athletically built mannequin was wearing. It was 30% less. The saleslady  said it was the last pair, so I said I will have it. To remove the shorts from the mannequin, the mannequin had to be lifted so the shorts could be pulled down. The saleslady, who was only the size of my thigh, couldn’t do this by herself.

All the other sales attendants were busy with the other customers like my two friends who looked to me like they were buying the entire ladies section. My friends and I were recommending shirts and pants to each other, playing up their value in our impending sports-driven life.

I offered to help the saleslady undress the mannequin. So I lifted the mannequin as the saleslady began pulling down the shorts. I bore the weight of the mannequin by cupping its smooth butt and bulgy crotch. It was a male mannequin dressed in women’s running shorts and singlet.

Removing the shorts from the shoe-wearing mannequin was neither quick nor easy. There I was, cupping the mannequin’s butt and crotch, rivulets of sweat forming on my forehead, neck and torso while the saleslady was tugging down the shorts. It was hardly a fun menage a trois.

Finally I had the shorts. I bought it without trying it on. After all the trouble I went through, it should fit me.

We left the store with several purchases, feeling good about ourselves and the future. We felt light and ready to run or play golf or badminton or maybe do all three. We were ready with our sportswear.

When do we start? Uhm, we’re still kinda busy.

June 2018
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