It Happened to Me

Life of Joey

Go, go, go, go

Go, go, go shawty

It’s your birthday

We gon’ party like it’s yo birthday

We gon’ sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday

In Da Club by 50 Cent

Today is my thirty-sixth birthday! Yippee!

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been summarizing what’s happened

over all this time, as a sort of “self-diagnostic”, “unexamined life is

not worth living” sort of exercise. In the process, I came up with this

list, which I think you might find amusing…

November 5, 1967

Manila, Philippines

I am born in the middle of a major typhoon that knocks out the power across much of the city.

Another boy, also named “Jose Martin” (Jose is a common name, and

the November 5th is the feast day of Saint Martin de Porres, patron

saint of hot interracial love) is also born that day. It is assumed

that no mix-up took place.

Early 1968

Mon and Dad leave to start their interships in Boston. The plan is

for them to find a place, then send for me. For six months, my

grandmothers take care of me.

This must’ve broken my parents’ hearts.

Late 1968

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Brought from Manila to Boston to be reunited with Mom and Dad. For the

first couple of days, I have no idea who these strange adults are.

March 5, 1969

The best sister a guy could ever ask for is born.

A day or so later

My earliest memory: I’m wetting the floor in the lobby of the hospital where my sister was born. A nun looks at me in shock.

This is the first of many times that I will upset a nun.


Wayne, Pennsylvania, USA

We move to a suburb of Philadephia. I still remember the address:

427 East Lancaster Avenue. Vague memories of St. David’s Nursery

School, the woods of Bala-Cynwyn, grilled cheese sandwiches at the

railroad station with Dad, watching the hourly fountain burst at King

of Prussia Mall.

Dad, an obstetrician/gynecologist, does hormone research for a

paper. His “patients” are horses, since their hormone system is similar

to humans. He asks for a speculum and is shocked to be given something

that looks like a canoe paddle.


Greenhills, Metro Manila, Philippines

My parents’ internships in the US finished, the plan is to return

to the Philippines, bringing “first world” skills back with them. The

plan is to live happily ever after there.

Weeks later, our house is robbed. Mom and Dad are tied and held at gunpoint. My sister and I sleep through the whole thing.

Weeks afterwards, President Ferdinand Marcos joins the Dictator

Club and declares martial law. The US, with Clark Air Force Base and

the Naval Base at Subic, vital to keeping the Russkies in check, turn a

blind eye. The factory of my uncle, P.B. Dionisio, the largest

munitions importer in Southeast Asia, mysteriously burns donw the night

martial law is declared. The Philippines officially become a banana



Mom and Dad visit Benigno Aquino, leader of the opposition, in jail. They decide it’s time to get out of the country.

Aquino will later live in exile in the US. He will attempt to

return to the Philippines in 1983, where he is shot before he even sets

foot on Philippine soil.

December 1974

We leave the Philippines to stay with an uncle in Chicago.

The most money an emigrating family is allowed to take with them is

US$500, a pittance even in those days. Mom and Dad smuggle extra cash

in the pages of magazines. We pass the search.

An hour into the flight, the pilot asks if there is a doctor on the

plane. A Russian circus troupe is on our flight, and one of them is

experiencing abdominal pain. Dad checks him out and determines it’s

appendicitis. Turning back means going through the search and possibly

getting caught, with some very nasty consequences. Thankfully, the guy

is stable and we make it to Tokyo.

Early 1975

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Our first home in Canada: 199 Glenlake Avenue, apartment 501.

During my first day in school, because I am Asian,


I spend first week believing that school teachers are retarded here.

Despite the fact that the Manila and Tokyo are not much farther apart

than Toronto and Vancouver, my first exposure to Japanese culture takes

place here in Canada. We live in the “New Canadian” part of High Park,

and during the early-to-mid-seventies, the Japanese are one of the big

waves of immigrants.


Our second home in Canada. 240 Scarlett Road, apartment 804.


I enter De La Salle College.

In later years, a kid with a goofy name — Keanu — will attend the

same school for one year, where he will be the star defenceman for the

hockey team. He is nicknamed “The Wall”, first for his ability to stop

a puck, later for his ability to act.


My first science fair, with my best friend Pavel Rozalski. We make it to the city finals. Our project: how computers work.

A geek is born.


I discover Dungeons and Dragons.

Summer 1982

Tennis lessons. I learn that I should not be playing tennis. Meet

cute girl, however, although nothing happens. I have not yet learned


Summer 1983

The girl from tennis school has appendicitis, and I visit her at

the hospital and we have an amazing eight-hour conversation. Once she’s

better, I ask her out. Painful coming-of-age hilarity ensues. Will

someday be blogged.

September 1983

Weird Adventure, meet Joey. Joey meet Weird Adventure. The beginning of a lifelong partnership.

October 1983

First kiss. It gets weird. Very, incredibly weird, even for me. Cannot ever blogged, but I will tell the story over a drink.

Winter 1984

My introduction to the world of nightmare dating. She is three

years older than me, too streetwise for her own good and has a number

of scary friends. A descent into terror, but in the end I learn

presence of mind and a street sense that will serve me well. Not

bloggable yet.


Meet my English teacher’s stepdaughter. Try to go out with her.

More painful coming-of-age hilarity ensues, including getting in

trouble with English teacher. Bloggable someday. Maybe.

March 1986

Ridiculous March break trip to Quebec city. Alcohol, girls from North Bay and learning how to say “vomit” in French.

Summer 1986

A school prank, followed by everything else, goes terribly wrong.

The start of one of those life-changing years. You’ll eventually read

about it in the blog.

September 1986

Grade 14 begins. You know, the one after grade 13. Long story.

First roadtrip to Montreal.

November 1986

Second roadtrip to Montreal. Some girl-related hijinks.

March 1987

My worst concert ever. Alas, it was caught on videotape.

Some very important stuff happens here. You’ll eventually read about it.

May 1987

Goodbye braces!

My first synth, an Akai AX60.

July 1987

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Best Date Ever 1a. I live the lyrics to AC/DC’s most popular song,

which is why it’s a favourite of mine. You’ll eventually read about it.

August 1987

New York, New York, USA

Best Date Ever 1b. Round 2.

September 1987

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

First kick at the can at Crazy Go Nuts University.

February 1988

The Double Date of Death.

September 1988

Goodbye glasses!

February 1989

An even worse Double Date of Death.

April 1989

“Win a Date With Joey deVilla” contest held in Golden Words,

the engineering paper. There is a skill-testing question: “What is the

difference between leather and naugahyde?” Half the entrants did not

know what naugahyde was.

Summer 1989

Robertson Strickler helps his friend Cliff sell an old accordion of

his. His parents forced him to take lessons, and he hated every minute.

Rob gives Cliff a lift to the pawn shop, only to find that it’s closed

for the day. The accordion stays in Rob’s trunk for a couple of weeks,

then is moved to Rob’s basement where it will stay for nine years.

“Would you like to come over and see my lava lamp?” actually works!

September 1989

The start of my DJ career.

September 1990

Goodbye academic standing!

Fall 1990

Caught girlfriend in flagrante delicto, got dumped, fired, kicked out of school at roughly the same time. Ultra-bummed.

January 1991

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

I somehow convince my straight-laced friend Robertson to join me at

the GWAR concert in the Rialto theatre in Montreal. I leave with a

changed attitude towards rock performance; Robertson is emotionally


Winter/Spring 1991

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I am suddenly alone in Toronto. All my friends are in Kingston, and

I have no propsects, either work or academic. Parents are extremely

unimpressed that I’ve been kicked out of school. I must formulate a


March 1991

I help organize a lucrative bus tour of hippies to see the Grateful

Dead in Albany. Being the only guy with short hair and most of his

brain cells intact, I am chosen to represent the tour at US Customs.

Hilarity ensues. I raise enough money for tuition. Now if I can just

get back into school…

Spring 1991

DJ lessons and a big boost to my alt-rock CD collection from DJ

Michael X. This will tranform my DJ career at Crazy Go Nuts University.

Summer 1991

Despite the fact that regulations say that I cannot return to Crazy

Go Nuts University after such a disastrous performance, I get back in

on “double secret probation” on the strength of my negotiating skills

and computer science marks. The negotiating skills learned will serve

me well for the rest of my life.

September 1991

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

For the first time as a DJ, I am paid in money and not in beer.

January 1992

My one and only drink-and-dash, New Year’s Eve.

May 1992

One of my cartoons gets the leader of a campus group called

“Students for Free Speech” upset because it makes fun of him. He

threatens to sue me for libel until someone explains to him the irony

of his stance.

June 1992

Many people in my circle, myself included, has a moment where they flip out. Not all at once.

August 1992

I meet the other celebrant at this Saturday’s party, Ashley

Bristowe, at a party. My fine arts student friends and I attempt to

corrupt her sister Ainsley.

September 1992

The great T-Shirt Entrepreneurial Disaster of ’92. In attempt to make money selling T-shirts, George and I lose our shirts.

October 1992

One of my cartoons gets me in deep doo-doo with the

trying-too-hard-to-be-PC student goverment. Aggravation and hilarity

ensue, but I get a date out of it.

November 1992

Best Date Ever 2.


Very pleasant all round. I am the world’s most unlikely big man on campus. The DJ booth at Clark Hall Pub is my little kingdom.

I am the first person in my house to finish Sonic the Hedgehog. My housemate George videotapes the historic event.

January 1994

The “Don Juan on Acid” Year. Things get a little weird.

The best women’s bathroom graffiti about me ever is discovered and brought to my attention.

My first Mac, a Quadra 660AV. I now own the coolest computer at

Crazy Go Nuts University. Suddenly, I’m telnetting, lynxing, gophering,

IRCing and MUDding like mad.

February 1994

We lock ourselves in my room to solve the mystery of Myst.

March 1994

George: “If Joey did it, it must be sordid.”

July 1994

While working at a data processing company, I stumble across a floppy disk entitled The Mackerel Stack. This changes the way I think about computers.

August 1994

A vicious betrayal by a longtime friend, now one of the people on my (thankfully short) shitlist.

November 1994

I’m using images from the Mackerel Stack as video wallpaper while I

DJ. One of the bar patrons recognized the images and tells me that

they’re hiring. I travel to Toronto the next day to ask for a job. They

say they’ll think about it.

January 1995

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

School is (at long last!) over. I’m in the real world — or what passes for it — now.

Drinking copious quantities of beer with Mackerel founders at the Rotterdam pub.

February 1995

Drinking copious quantities of beer with Mackerel founders at the Rotterdam pub.

March 1995

Drinking copious quantities of beer with Mackerel founders at the Rotterdam pub.

“We like the way you drink,” Mackerel founders say, “and you seem to know tech stuff. You’re hired.”

April 1995

First client meeting. Initially a disaster, but it gets turned around.

August 1995

First major product, a promo application for Toyota that’s featured on a nationwide infomercial.

November 1995

Promoted to chief programmer. I rock!

August 1996

Worst vacation ever with nightmare girlfriend. If it were a crime

to be a bitch, there’d be enough evidence to hang her three times.

March 1997

I can read the writing on the wall and go to another multimedia company, Purple Fridge Inc. It’s like Lord of the Flies, except with a paycheque every two weeks.

October 1997

I lead office coup against my own boss at Purple Fridge Inc. Suddenly I’m one of the managers. It’s like a dark Dilbert fantasy.

November 1997

I write the best letter of resignation ever, calling one of the higher-ups a “self-aggrandizing, self-serving grifter.”

I turn 30. Birthday fling with evil ex.

January 1998

The start of a tough year.

My first ever major radio appearance: the Humble and Fred show,

where I explain what the Y2K bug is. I get groans when I refer to

“partying like it’s 1999”.

Spring/summer 1998

A rough time. I’m working 18-hour days building a database app: an encyclopedia of every mall in America.

I accidentally gatecrash a NAACP cocktail party in Chicago. Very good pastry.

May 1998

A week-long marathon programming session leaves me no chance to shave. Suddenly, I realize I can grow a beard and decide to keep it.

June 1998

I start hanging out at a neat little cafe called Tequila Bookworm.

August 1998

Tequila Bookworm hires a curvy waitress with a sexy British accent. Daydreams ensue.

Robertson gives me an accordion that’s been sitting in his basement. I noodle with it a little over the next few months.

October 1998

A life-altering trip to Manila and southwestern Japan. Nothing

unusual (for me) happens, but I see the world differently when I


November 1998

The Tequila Bookworm waitress and I introduce ourselves to each other.

December 1998

A friend calls me to borrow money for crablouse medicine. Hilarity ensues.

January 1999

A last-minute decision to drive from Toronto to Halifax to go to a

rave that a long-lost friend has invited me to. Karl Mohr convinces me

and Chris Cummer that it’s a “12-, maybe 14-hour trip”; in actuality,

it’s 22. We still beat New Year’s with three hours to spare.

February 1999

The waitress and I now chat often.

April 1999

The story known as the “Worst Date Ever”. But would I do it all again? You bet.

May 1, 1999

Accordion taken on its maiden voyage across downtown Toronto. Queen

street stunned that it’s possible to play rock, pop and industrial on a


June 1999

My first radio appearance backing up John Southworth for a live

performance of his album, Sedona, Arizona for the CBC Radio show

RadioSonic. Also among the session musicians: Karl Mohr, Sarah

McElcheran, Martin Tielli from The Rheostatics and Hawklsey Workman.

August 1999

First trip abroad with accordion: Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA to attend…Burning Man! First appearance on MuchMusic.

November 1999

New York City gets rocked with a surprise birthday visit to my

friend George. His girlfriend (now wife) Alicia arrange for me to meet

them at Windows on the World, the lounge atop the World Trade Center.

The people at the lobby, seeing the accordion, mistake me for one of

the band musicians and send me up the supply elevator, letting me skip

the line. We take George to Nobu, where we pose for pictures with Iron

Chef Japanese Masahiru Morimoto (then head chef) and surprise Harvey

Keitel, who wonders who the hell is playing Happy Birthday on an accordion.

December 1999

Cory Doctorow tells me about a little Internet start-up he’s putting

together. “What would you rather do,” he asks, “sell gift ceritificates

on the Web, or change the world?”

New Year’s 1999

A last-minute trip to the Czech Republic to celebrate New Year’s

2000 in a castle outside Prague. Had an amazing time at the party, met

cute redhead. Foiled an attempted mugging and took redhead on Best Date

Ever 3 in the same day.

January 2000

From Prague back to Toronto, then a day later to Vancouver to work

on a one-week programming contract. Learned to snowboard atop Whistler.

Mid-January 2000

First day on the job at Cory’s company, Steelbridge, which would later be renamed OpenCola.

February 2000

LinuxWorld Expo 2000 in New York City!

Second-best moment: leading a parade of a hundred geeks including

CmdrTaco and Hemos from Slashdot down Broadway to the Slashdot/VA Linux

party with the accordion, singing The Clash and Fatboy Slim all the way

there. End up drinking with Hooters wairesses, who try to convince me

to take my date to their restaurant.

Best moment: Best Date Ever 4.

June 2000

Fun tryst in New York.

July 2000

Fun tryst in Washington, DC.

August 2000

Rockin’ DefCon 8 with software and the accordion. Followed by fun tryst

in New York. More accordion appearances on TV, proving that one

accordion is worth 20 PR companies.

October 2000

Approached by OpenCola management: “How’d you like to be our developer relations guy in San Francisco?”

November 2000

One of the best birthday parties I’ve ever had, complete with fireworks, both gunpowder- and girl-based.

December 2000

Move to San Francisco, in what I think will be a long-term, if not permanent move.

January 2001

My first professional public speaking apprerance: DJ Union in Los

Angeles, in front of hip hop, house. acid jazz and other club DJs as

well as very impressed girlfriend. It goes very well. I get invited to

Key Club for private party, shop at Hustler store. Life is good.

February 2001

Big splash at the first O’Reilly P2P Conference. Tim O’Reilly invites me to play accordion at closing keynote.

May 2001

Toronto, Ontario Canada

Called back to Toronto to assist with programming effort “for a

couple of weeks”. Stay becomes permanent after San Francisco office is

closed; my stuff sent back for me.

August 2001

Mass layoffs at OpenCola. I am one of seven employees remaining.

Company now in hands of people with the sense of vision that God gave


September 2001

Osama ruins everything.

November 2001

Birthday party. Some very Three’s Company-style awkward moments.

November 11, 2001

First post to a new blog: the bombastically-named “Adventures of AccordionGuy in the 21st Century”

First BoingBoing link to my blog with the story about the con man who visited twice.

January 2002

Weaselly CFO and even more weaselly CTO give me the heave-ho. I am

a free agent, and assist Paul with Peekabooty, the software that the

weaselly CTO doesn’t think should exist: “People shouldn’t be able to

circumvent their governments, even oppressive ones.” Suggest CTO should

be shipped back to Romanian prison with “By order of fire department:

maximum capacity 200 persons” tattooed on his pasty ass.

February 2002

The first CodeCon, and the best stagette ever.

April 2002

Go-go dancer job. Strange date.

May 2002

Accordion saves my ass from US customs. Literally.

August 2002

Reclaim the Streets puts my liberal/conservative halves to the test when I meet the not-so-smart mob.

September 2002

The worst month in recent memory, for me anyway.

November 2002

One of the best birthday parties I’ve ever had! Attendance was over

100 people at peak; celebrity guests included Bruce from the band I

Mother Earth and superstar chef Susur Lee.

March 2003

Meet cute goth chick with a penchant for tech. She’s a webmaster, too! We kiss after we discover that we think the best line in RoboCop is “Bitches, leave!” Stupidity ensues.

April 2003

A whistleblower reads about the New Girl in my blog and emails me,

telling me she is not who she says she is. This turns into one of the

biggest blog stories of 2003.

July 2003

I join Tucows as Technical Community Development Coordinator.

October 2003

I get to meet some of the faces behind my favourite blogs at

BloggerCon in Boston, and hilarity ensues when Skadz and I go out on

the town.

A week later, I meet more Liz Lawley and Kathleen Fitzpatrick, more faces behind cool blogs!

A week after that is one of my best Friday nights out — I get onstage

with White Cowbell Oklahoma, I harness the power of the accordion to

meet girls and finally have my enocunter with the Mysterious Hot Tub


November 5, 2003

You are here.

Looking to have Best Date Ever 5. Any takers?

25 replies on “Life of Joey”

Interesting life. Gives me some hope, as I’m still at the failing-out-of-engineering stage. Hope for what, I’m not sure, but hope nonetheless

Happy Birthday, Joey. Hope you get around to blogging more. Cannot wait for the promised tidbits.


> First kiss. It gets weird. Very, incredibly weird, even for me. Cannot ever blogged, but I will tell the story over a drink.

What wouldn’t you blog? Can you give us faithful readers a post on what your criteria are on what is unbloggable?

Happy Birthday again. Cheers,


Damn, you rock. Happy birthday. Wish I could crash your party… I hope hilarity ensues, and you blog about it. 🙂

A very colour-fu journey in this life as you know it. I think it would do well as a graphic novel.


They’re appreciated!

Don’t forget that the party’s this Saturday!

Bring some booze, and if you’re interested in some hot-tubbing, a bathing suit and towel.

Happy birthday, Joey! I know I’m just a lurker around here, but I love reading about your life. 🙂 May you have many more interesting and HAPPY stories to share. 😉

I’ll be a “Best Date Ever 5” taker — ‘cept I’m in Texas! I, too, have an accordion — though it’s more of a a kid-styled concertina — and my renditions of Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (for which the harmonics on my baby-cordion are peculiarly suited) across my college campus opened similar social doors.

Happiest of birthdays to you, Joey! Do it to it!

Happy Birthday Joey! Wish I could pop by to raise a toast in person, but Accordion City is a little out of the way… maybe next year. xxxx

Happy Birthday! Next year I’ll try to show my appreciation to you, one of my favorite bloggers, by sending you some Thorntons. They are a favorite of another November 5th baby I know 🙂


A couple of forgotten tidbits-

first “coyote” encounter, and subsequent defenestration.

No mention of the Portugese dry-humper.

— Lara

Happy B-day, Joey! I’d love to come on up for the party, but Mom put the kaibosh on that plan. Party on, and hope that #5 comes soon!

Happy birthday, Accordion Guy! One of the great gifts of the past year has been getting to know you. But as for Best Date Ever 5, remember that I’m a married man.

It wasn’t so much a “coyote” encounter as it was a sudden realization through the boozy haze that we’d be better as “just friends”. There was a mature gentleman hidden underneath that party-boy facade, you know.

As for “defenstration”, I think the term applies only to getting thrown out a window rather than exiting it of your own accord.

And finally, the “Portuguese dry-humper” — I think that incident was covered by the blanket summary of “The Don Juan on Acid Year”. Good times, good times.

Thanks, AKMA!

I may need your priestly services as the result of Best Date Ever 5. Whether that needed service is a wedding or an exorcism has yet to be determined.

(Tried to comment on this from SFO Tuesday night on my Sidekick, but apparently you can’t get here from there…)

1) I got a lot of strange looks from passers-by in the airport while I was reading this, perhaps because I was laughing so hard while peering at my phone. What a delightful recountin!

2) ohmigod…I have a walk-on-part in the best autobiographic blog post ever. Woohoo!

3) Happy (now belated) birthday! Am so sorry to be missing the party. Weez and I will have to celebrate with you belatedly at some point.

Happy birthday man great party. Despite my role as Guy Incog… it was super to see you again. Hot tub truck is amazing.

happy birthday!

i heard your party was great. i’m so glad.

just wanted to say thanks for inviting doug and i into your home (about a week-and-a-half ago) and keeping us entertained. hopefully i’ll run into you again in the future.


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