Last Day of July (2007): Morning Status Report

So far this morning, self has engaged in the following activities :

  1. Discovered two fillets of ling cod in her refrigerator. (Results of sniff test: still palatable)
  2. Read (two pages) of Goya book.
  3. Blogged (3 times previous)
  4. Surfed (Barb and Oscar’s blogs about Bei Dao reading)
  5. Called: Frank L of Silicon Valley Community Foundation (Left message)
  6. Ingested: one cup of coffee, one juicy plum
  7. E-mailed: 2 x (Recipients to remain undisclosed, self does not wish to be that transparent)
  8. Google-searched: Philippine flowering plants (See “Nostalgia for a Lost Self, Part IV” post)

Questions of the Day:

    Will self be able to determine why Azalea “Happy Days”, despite assiduous watering, looks so terrible, or will she have to bother Wegman’s (local plant nursery) with her silly questions yet again?
    Will self ever be able to get herself out of pajamas by noon?
    Will self be able to write another story by the time hubby returns tonight?

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Today: Celebrity EyeCandy, and the “Disgusting Doings” of 18th-Century Madrid

It’s amazing, simply amazing, how easy it is to fritter away a whole day when it’s a Monday in July and one does not have to teach (for a month yet, at least) and the TV happens to be on Celebrity Eyecandy, which hits new low of nastiness by, first, showing a series of bikini mishaps by the usual suspects Nicole, Paris, Britney, etc. and now has moved on to showing celebrity wedgies. God, god, god, here’s the UCLA Identity Alert that was mailed to all UCLA employees in December 2006 and self still has done nothing about it.

So far today self has successfully avoided calls from The Window Factory and has successfully managed to leave message on voicemail of Program Administrator at California Council for the Humanities (Would loyal blog readers like to bet that call will not be returned? Not, that is, until next grant application deadline has passed?) Pretty soon, self will have to get moving to Costco as lines get impossible after 4 PM. Her orange bag’s on the seat beside her, in fact has been at readiness for the last two hours. But each time self thinks she will walk out the door, she remembers something else she has to google (such as, right now, Greyhound website, for fares from Roanoke to Amherst, VA, if indeed there is such a route).

Self apologizes for having written such a lame post, dear blog reader. This morning, she is stupefied, absolutely dumbstruck, at the sight of blog stats shooting straight up to the stratosphere (This has to be some kind of joke — ???) smashing previous record of “most views in one day” (158).

Today, too, self received e-mail from Miami University Press that told her that suddenly, in the last month, sales of her collection, Mayor of the Roses, have doubled.

What on earth is going on? Can reading about Goya save self? Self is at the moment engaged in reading about how Spanish dramatist Leandro Fernandez de Moratin (1760 – 1828 ) decries tendency of his contemporaries to describe

the life and customs of the most miserable rabble: tavern keepers, chestnut-sellers, pickpockets, imbeciles, rag sellers, blackguards, jailbirds, and, all in all, the disgusting doings of the Madrid slums . . . The cigar, the gambling house, the dagger, drunkenness, dissipation, abandonment, all the vices of such people rolled together, are painted in seductive colors . . . If theatre is the school of behavior, how can one correct vice, error, and absurdity when the same people who ought to be amending them are propagating them?

Which reminds self that she needs to buy today’s New York Times. Forthwith.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Last Monday in July: A De-Construction of the Summer/ Weekend, with Assistance From Poetry

I e-mail my sister-in-law, Ying: Dearest Mum left two sets of pills with me. One is Alaxan, the other is Ponstan. What are they for?

I am reading Joel Tan, letter for my half brother at war:

what drifts into yr mouth when you’re asleep
granite grit desert ash you gurgle bubble
breath dreams of sand babies my hair has grown
since you’ve gone i’ve vowed not
to cut it until your safe return brother
i am a ribbon waiting

I think of the letters I have written this summer, of the phone calls I have made. Only one response came back to me, an e-mail from L in Manila. How many friends have I lost, this summer? Four? Five? Six? Should I not have made that phone call, left that message, tried harder to see xxxxx when he/she was in town?

Yesterday at Bei Dao’s reading, I think I made friends, I don’t know how many. It may have been just one, though in my head is my wishful thinking that it was more like two or three. The lady standing behind me in line for the books was someone I read with last May. She recognized me; she said she had finished writing two books in the year since.

Barbara and Oscar sat in front of me. The two, together: a writing couple always strikes me as a miracle. In the Q & A, Oscar had a question for Bei Dao, a very good question: Did Bei Dao write more for himself? For the Chinese people? Or was he writing more for the international community? I strained to hear Bei Dao’s halting answers, which were being translated by a young woman in gray. Recall only that Bei Dao said something about his “ideal reader”, which could have been anyone.

The people selling books seemed overwhelmed by the number of people lining up to buy. But didn’t they know: this was Bei Dao?

It’s 8:36 on a Monday morning, the last Monday in July. What happens now?

There were too many roads, too many versions.
There were too many roads, no one path —

And at the end?

    — Louise Gluck, “Prism”

Carlos III, Chocoholic

From Robert Hughes’ biography of Goya:

In most of his dealings with the world and the court, Carlos was a man of singular rigidity, perhaps the most punctilious monarch ever to occupy the Spanish throne . . . His favorite metaphor of political life was the clock, with its cogs and wheels tick-tocking along in a regulated, invariable pattern. Each morning a chamberlain who slept outside his room awoke him at 5:45 precisely. The king rose, said his morning prayers, and meditated on his sins until 6:50, and at 7:00 entered the robing room, where his pulse was taken and his vital signs noted by doctors, surgeons, and herbalists. There he washed, breakfasted, and drank the first of the cups of chocolate he would consume in the course of the day, served by his Neapolitan pastry cook. (The royal appetite for chocolate was such that he was served from a giant, steaming urn that could hold gallons of it. He was, however, slightly embarrassed by his own chocoholism, and would cue his staff to replenish his cup by carefully looking the other way.)

Reading(s) for the Day: Bei Dao, Goya, and The Women’s Review of Books

Because self is so easily inspired by everything these days: by Bei Dao, who she got to see in the flesh this afternoon, at the Chinese Cultural Center in San Francisco (and self will forever be grateful to Sabina Chen for sending her the e-mail that told her he was coming); by the book she’s currently reading (Goya, by Robert Hughes); by an issue of The Women’s Review of Books that she just happened to pick up (July/August 2006), and because hubby has not yet started the movie he so thoughtfully rented for self from Blockbuster: Keeping Mum, a movie self has never heard of, but which stars, if you can believe this: Rowan Atkinson (aka “Mr. Bean”), Patrick Swayze, Kristin Scott-Thomas (of The English Patient) and Maggie Smith (Grand Dame of English Thespians), self simply wants to share with loyal blog readers how moved she was by Bei Dao’s humanity.

Self bought a book of his essays, Midnight’s Gate (She would have bought his autobiography, Autobiography of Failure, but it hasn’t been translated — yet), and all hail to the publisher, New Directions, for starting a series called Rainmaker Translations, which, self reads on the book’s inside cover, is a series “meant to encourage a lively reading experience of contemporary world literature drawn from diverse languages and cultures,” and of course self had to have it signed by the Great One himself, and when he was bending over her book self said, apropos of nothing in particular, “I’m from the Philippines,” and that made him look up (for some reason), and then self added, “But I studied in the Stanford Creative Writing Program” (and, I know, I know, WHEN will self ever stop bringing that up, for that was 20 years ago, for God’s sake, but every time she does the reaction is always something like what happened next) and he stopped, actually stopped writing, and looked self straight in the eye, and repeated, “You’re from Stanford?” And self said, “Yes, and I actually have a degree in Chinese Studies.” And the man said, still with that penetrating look, “You speak Chinese?” At which point self said, “Yes, I had to take 45 units, that is, the equivalent of three years. But — ah– don’t ask me to speak Mandarin, because — ah– it would be too embarrassing and — ah — Mr. Bei Dao, did anyone ever tell you how young you look for your age???” And a huge, I mean HUGE smile broke out on Mr. Bei Dao’s face, and in the meantime self was stumbling away thinking, Self! You’re too much! Simply too much! Next thing you know, Mr. Bei Dao will think you’re a stalker or something!!!

Anyhoo, self went home. And cracked open Midnight’s Gate first thing. And pored over Bei Dao’s calligraphic signature, and the date: July 29, 2007 (looks like his hand might have slipped over the first “0”). And the first line of his book is:

I moved to New York because of a conflagration.

OK. That’s enough for now, self needs time to get her mind in gear, this is one book she’ll definitely be bringing on the plane flying to Virginia.

Self resumes reading the Goya. Here she reads:

For thirty-nine years, from 1789 till his death in France in 1828, he was steadily employed as a court painter.

Thirty-nine years! Imagine keeping at anything for thirty-nine years! And self was just wondering if she could possibly sustain the energy for this blog for more than one or two years! Now self tells herself: Don’t be such a ninny! If Goya could work at court for 39 years, you too, self, can sustain this blog for thirty-nine years! (Of course, Goya was probably being paid for his efforts, whereas self is doing this blog for the benefit of humanity and — once again, I digress.)

Then, buoyed by the magnificent knowledge that it would indeed be possible to keep at this blog for another 39 years, self decided to read The Women’s Review of Books. And her eye immediately fell upon a review of a book called The Woman in the Shaman’s Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine. And self thought: Now that sounds like a mighty interesting book!

Imagine her astonishment on learning that the reviewer had the absolutely appropriate name of Serenity Young. And, even more astonishing is the first paragraph of the review, which self generously provides for edification of loyal blog readers, below:

Barbara Tedlock has written an important, readable book that combines the argumentative intellectual reasoning of the scholar with the intuitive emotional reasoning of the shaman. Tedlock is uniquely positioned to undertake this task. She has outstanding credentials as an anthropologist, and in the course of her fieldwork she was initiated as a shaman among the K’iche’ Maya of Guatemala. She is the granddaughter of an Ojibwe healing shaman, and she writes about the summers she spent with her grandmother and what she learned from her.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Ellen Bass Poetry Workshop

Self has heard only good things about Ellen Bass’s workshop, so when she heard there was an opening, decided to share with all . . .

There’s an opening in the women’s poetry workshop that meets Wednesdays 1-4 PM at my house on the west side in Santa Cruz . It’s open to both beginning and experienced poets who are seriously interested in studying the craft of poetry. For more information, please contact my assistant, Shalom Victor at victors75@rattlebrain.com or you can call her at 831-423-3064.

The fee for the first seven sessions is $250. My schedule for the rest of the year is a little choppy, so these are the dates we’ll be meeting:

August 8, 15, 22
September 12, 29, 26
October 17, 31
November 7, 14, 21, 28
December 5, 12, 19

Thanks very much,
Ellen

——————————
Ellen Bass
ellen@ellenbass.com
www.ellenbass.com

Self’s Penultimate Attempt to Finish Reading the Spaghetti Story

All right, here we go again: This morning self is once again making lame attempt to finish Murakami’s The Year of Spaghetti.

Why? Why? Why?

Why does self feel that unless she actually finishes it, she cannot, as it were, move on, begin new projects, slay new dragons, etc. etc.?

But, there it is: self is stuck on this story.

Which reminds her that, at recently concluded Foothill Writers Conference, self enthusiastically read excerpt from another Murakami story, and students looked at self expressionless, and finally someone said, “Why would anyone find that inspiring?” (Ha ha ha ha ha! Since self is a practiced teacher, quick on her feet, she made a ready reply. Unfortunately for dear blog readers, she can’t recall what her response was)

So, without further ado, the excerpt:

“I’m sorry?”

“I said I’m cooking spaghetti,” I lied. I had no idea why I said that. But the lie had already become a part of me — so much so that, at that moment at least, it didn’t feel like a lie at all.

I went ahead and filled an imaginary pot with imaginary water, lit an imaginary stove with an imaginary match.

“So?” she asked.

I sprinkled imaginary salt into the boiling water, gently lowered a handful of imaginary spaghetti into the imaginary pot, set the imaginary kitchen timer for eight minutes.

“So I can’t talk. The spaghetti will be ruined.”

She didn’t say anything.

“I’m really sorry, but cooking spaghetti is a delicate operation.”

The girl was silent. The phone in my hand began to freeze again.

“So could you call me back?” I added hurriedly.

“Because you’re in the middle of cooking spaghetti?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“Are you making it for someone, or are you going to eat alone?”

“I’ll eat it by myself,” I said.

Last Sunday in July: Plans for the Day

Today self thinks she will wend her way to the Mountain View Farmers Market.

Why? Because a few moments ago self happened to be reading an article about Cuyo in Filipinas Magazine, and in the article a young boy leans his bike against a tree, seats himself on a low concrete wall, and proceeds to consume a lunch of mais (boiled corn). In such roundabout ways does self come upon the inspiration for her daily activities.

Also, this afternoon, self will wend her way to the city, specifically to the Chinese Cultural Center, to listen to Bei Dao. And there hopes to be transported. To another realm. Which will make her forget about crick in her neck. Which this morning happens to be exceedingly painful, self has no idea why, since yesterday all she did was watch a movie and eat, for goodness’ sake.

If anything else transpires today, if any surprising developments ensue, self will be sure to blog about it, dear readers. In the meantime, stay tuned.

Guilty Pleasures: Bacon Soup, Carrot Cake, and Gelato

Self is looking over the post she wrote late last night and thinks now that “bacon, potato and spinach” soup does not sound like all that great an idea, though it tasted absolutely dee-lish and self wishes she had made more. First of all, there is the cholesterol, as self fried almost half a “rasher” (according to the recipe: Donna Hay is Australian) of bacon (which was heavenly, just to smell the bacon frying at 7 PM at night on a Saturday, when she knows you are not supposed to cook bacon at night, which incidentally reminds self of the time last summer when she and son were in Palawan, and there was nothing but seafood all around, and suddenly one night son got a craving for pancakes, and the restaurant, instead of blinking an eye, delivered to son the most enormous stack of heavenly, fluffy pancakes she had ever seen — once again, I digress).

Anyhoo, aside from that sinful soup, self also had half a slice of carrot cake with walnuts. The slice was supposed to be for hubby, but unfortunately for him he fell asleep right in the middle of A.I., and after staring at it for what seemed like hours, self gave in to craven impulse to take a bite and, well, you know the rest, dear blog reader.

Lastly, self had two enormous scoops of gelato from Vivaldi’s/Chocolate Mousse on Laurel Street in San Carlos (She can never be sure what the bakery is called now: for years it was Vivaldi’s, then one day the owner told her it was now Chocolate Mousse. But everything stayed the same, and self can’t recall even seeing a sign advertising the new name, anywhere). The young girl who works behind the counter must have a religious fear of people going away hungry: if you happen to come on a Saturday afternoon, you will so luck out, because the “two scoops” of gelato at Vivaldi’s are almost double the two scoops at Gelato Classico in Palo Alto, and cost almost a dollar less. Of course, Vivaldi’s does not have the range of flavors of Gelato Classico: for instance, they do not have lychee, or peanut butter cioccolato. But they do have dulce de leche, and moccha-chocolate chip, and peanut butter sundae and . . .

But, self will not rattle on, as just writing about food causes her to gain a pound.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Last Saturday in July: Talking to Son; Watching Harry, Watching Barry

Today, self and hubby were supposed to be in Paso Robles. But hubby made self cancel our hotel reservation when it turned out repairing son’s 92 Civic was going to cost us $3000.

Yesterday, son and self were chatting and son inquired why his dad did not want to get him a new car; wasn’t it enough that son was working as an RA for two years straight, thereby saving us thousands and thousands of dollars in room and board? He must have saved us $18,000 at least; couldn’t we use that for a new car?

Self said she thought son liked being an RA; if he didn’t like it, he shouldn’t have applied for the job.

Son said he did like it, but it was a lot of work, too. And self felt very very bad, but she did stick up for hubby and say she was sure hubby would get son a new car, but son had to give him time, his dad needed to “work up to it.”

So, tonight son is working the concert at the California Mid-State Fair. Self asked him this morning whether he was enjoying the job. He said it was “all right” (cryptic). Self asked him who was on last night, and son said Bob Dylan.

Oh! Self became very enthused. That must have been GREAT, self said.

Son said Dylan was “all right.” But he didn’t want anyone taking zooms. So the whole night son and the others had to keep admonishing people who they thought might be starting to zoom in.

Wonder why, self said, thinking aloud. Then she said, “Maybe he doesn’t want anyone noticing his wrinkles.”

“Maybe,” son said, then added that Dylan wore a hat and a suit and had the black eye make-up.

Then self asked son who he had enjoyed listening to the most, so far, and his answer somewhat surprised self, for he said Stevie Nicks.

This afternoon, self and hubby watched the Harry Potter movie at the old cinema on Bayshore (When is that thing going to close? Self is afraid to ask). It was so much fun sitting in the old seats, now admittedly looking rather tatty. But the theatres are huge compared to the ones in the new cinema in downtown Redwood City. And what this does is allow self to sneak looks around her without attracting attention.

So, today, self watched previews for a new Santa movie starring Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti as Santa. Self laughed at preview and thought it looked like a movie she would want to see. Next, a mercifully brief preview called, self thinks, Bratz. Then, the Bourne movie preview (Great). Then, an animated Disney feature which, after the wonders of Pixar, looked to self exceedingly lame. Then, a preview of The Golden Compass, yet another adaptation of a children’s book. This one is getting the full star treatment, with Nicole Kidman in the cast, and self thinks it is so amusing to see Eva Green flying in mid-air (Is she supposed to be a witch?), and Daniel Craig with sideburns and a goatee. Then, finally, some sci-fi smasheroo action film called, self thinks, 10,000 B.C., coming summer 2008. Shades of 300.

Self liked Harry Potter movie, although it did dodder along a bit, at least compared to movie # 4. But she thought movie was big improvement over the book, an 800-page behemoth that self forced herself to spend one whole month reading, a couple of summers ago. At first shot of Daniel Radcliffe, self almost gasped: he has grown! Self read somewhere that each of the Harry Potter kids will be millionaires when they turn 18, since all the money from the Harry Potter movies is being held in trust for them until then. God forbid they should turn into — never mind who they should not turn into, self is sure everyone knows who self is referring to.

Now, at home, quite sated after dinner of soup (bacon, potato and spinach soup from Donna Hay’s The Instant Cook: highly recommended) and leftover roast chicken. Hubby’s flicking back and forth between A.I. (appalling movie, with Haley Joel Osment playing robot child, and why does everyone behave as if they expect distraught mother to accept little robot as replacement for son who has been in a coma for five years??) and the Giants, and every time Barry comes up to bat everyone seems to hold their breath, but self thinks it is all so meaningless. To his credit, when Barry fouls out he walks off the plate smiling.

July is almost over, self can hardly believe it.

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