A Meme: Long Time Coming

Courtesy of Writerchick, self hereby announces:

THE SIX-WORD MEMOIR

(Originally conceived by Bookbabie)

“Life is not a fairy tale.”

(With apologies, dear blog readers, for self’s appalling lack of originality)

Self now passes the baton to these five fab bloggers:

Kathleen

Luisa

Lavalady

Stella K

Chancelucky

(Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.)

The Latest

Dearest Mum asked self to meet her this afternoon in the Stanford Shopping Center. After circling around the parking lots for half an hour, self swore to herself (through gritted teeth): No way am I getting out of here without getting something.

Aunt who was with Dearest Mum informed self that her step-daughter was currently “on shift” at Williams Sonoma, so self headed there. And caught the dear girl (dressed all in black, even down to tights and flats, and sporting a fetching, new “Posh Spice” bob) bending over one of those $200 Calphalon non-stick roasting pans. “Now,” self told her, teasingly, “I would like the most expensive item in the store, at 90% discount.”

“The sale tables are in the back,” the girl said, with not a trace of irony.

Yikes! She must be super-stressed this afternoon!

Pretty soon, Dearest Mum and aunt showed up, and both women professed an urgent need to check out Nordstrom’s. So we walked to the other side of the shopping center, and Dearest Mum was munching on a box of See’s butterscotch squares that aunt had kindly plied her with, and then she started choking. And choking. And choking. And self had a glass of water handy (Good thing aunt had given this to self, just before scooting off somewhere to fetch her hubby), and then Dearest Mum confided that she always has that reaction when she eats butterscotch squares. And then self wondered why aunt, who knows everything about Dearest Mum, keeps plying her with these choke-inducing morsels?

Thankfully, self and Dearest Mum arrived at Nordstrom’s without further incident. It turned out that Dearest Mum was greatly desirous of purchasing the exact same lipstick that self had been wearing last Friday, at the reading of Brian Dempster and Jay Dayrit at the Chinese Cultural Center on Kearney. Self had no idea what lipstick she was wearing, but aunt (who had suddenly popped up, like a veritable Jack-in-the-Box) became adamant that we find the exact same shade, and then Dearest Mum started mushing all sorts of violet and red shades on self’s lips without the benefit of a lip brush or a mirror, and to all the different shades she had the same reaction: No, that’s not the one. Eventually self was able to escape and hie her mangled lips over to a Kleenex box that a kind cosmetics counter girl held out to her. And, my, now she knows that she doesn’t need the Botox to have lips like Angelina Jolie’s, all she needs is a very determined mom and aunt.

After that, it was on to the handbag section. And aunt immediately zoomed in on a woven straw Juicy Couture tote, with leather handles and all sorts of zippers and gew-gaws. And Dearest Mum exclaimed at how cute it was. And self did a desultory pawing of other bags, but she got a heart attack each time she looked at the prices, because even at 50% off, all the bags self looked over were at least $300. And then, a miracle occurred: aunt put down the woven straw bag, and self took a peek inside and saw that it was only $100 on sale. And it was indeed the cutest thing. And she suddenly burst out with: “I’ll take it!” And Dearest Mum and aunt stared at self with purest hate and envy and Dearest Mum said, “Since when have you liked going shopping???”

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

So now, self is home. And her happiness is complete because, right after tossing Juicy Couture tote to the very highest shelf of her closet, she opened her e-mail and found therein a message from sole fruit of her loins, presently cooling his heels in Valladolid, Spain. And here is an exact quote from his e-mail:

MOM!!! It’s insane here! Internet access may be spotty, but it’s working for now.

SPAIN WON EURO 2008! There was massive celebration! Everyone lit a cigarette at the same time to celebrate, it seems. I couldn’t breathe. Also, 65% of Spain is currently drunk.

Gotta run!

And with that, self bids loyal blog readers Good Night.

Last Night at Lobster Shack

Cousin Jay and his wife Heather joined self, hubby, Dearest Mum, aunt and uncle for dinner at Lobster Shack. Heather, who is a beautiful blonde girl and the savior of not only her husband but of aunt’s entire family, is hugely pregnant. Her baby shower is next week at Il Fornaio in Burlingame, and self has already ordered a stroller shield from Babies R Us.

Jay is aunt’s middle child. He’s working for a start-up. As usual when dining with Dearest Mum, there is no such thing as a simple dinner where people sit down in one place and eat whatever is in front of them. Instead, meals are exceedingly complicated affairs where all kinds of power plays are enacted.

For example:

Dearest Mum must take a bite from everyone’s plate. This is absolutely imperative. Exhibit A: Jay and Heather arrived after the rest of us had finished eating, and ordered for themselves individual cups of clam chowder. When the chowder arrived, Dearest Mum’s eyes lit up: “Can I try?” she asks. And Jay (What a good boy! So expert at reading signals!) surrenders his cup without a murmur, saying only, “You can have it. I’ll share with Heather.”

Dearest Mum must be allowed to order anyone around. For instance, even if self is bending over to take a big bite out of a fried scallop, when Dearest Mum says it is time for her to get up and get water for her cousins, she’d better drop that scallop and hot-foot it to the water table. And so the table is constantly alive with movement, and the waitress’ eyes are spinning, and extra plates must be requested (Dearest Mum: “So we can share”), over and over, until the very end of the meal. And self must not look up, not ever, because she did so once, last night, and saw the entire restaurant staring at the table where sat self, Dearest Mum, hubby (amiably smashed from, oh, four servings of beer: way to go, hubby!), aunt (who protested she could not eat a thing), uncle (who is deaf and who cannot hear a thing, naturally, but persists in engaging in conversation), Jay (wondering why waitress refused to come to our table when he called), and blonde Heather (sweetly smiling, with rather glazed look on her young face).

Anyhoo, the dramatics got self pretty excited, so that she found herself talking and talking and talking. And Jay concurred with self that his mother and self’s mother have the energy of _____ (rampaging elephants?) Even though they are at least two decades older than either of us. And even though self knows full well that aunt and Dearest Mum are truly exhausted, it is imperative that one act as if one is constantly in awe of their tremendous funds of energy. And say such things as: “I don’t know how you do it!” or “I just can’t keep up with you!” And unfortunately, self only realized this recently (or after she was married, at any rate), for when she was growing up in the Philippines, she was buffered from Dearest Mum by the presence of Dad/brothers/sister/maids/drivers and diverse cousins, uncles and aunts, and never had to actually spend more than a few minutes of each day in Dearest Mum’s presence, and so was not subjected to this exhausting one-upmanship which seems to be a trait of Dearest Mum’s family (while Dear Departed Dad’s Bacolod family was completely “laid back” — oh, those lazy Negrenses!)

After dinners like that, self’s nerves go on over-drive and she has to stay up half the night, trying to block out cross-currents of emotion. In the meantime, self surmises that son has left his hotel in Madrid and must now be in Valladolid. Chances are good that she won’t hear from him again until he heads for Paris, a month from now. Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Why “Macbeth”?

Begin with a king (James, son of Mary, Queen of Scots) beset by terrors and fascinated by “the black arts.”

Add a “greeting ceremony” performed during this same king’s visit to St. John’s College, one that featured “three sibyls stepping forward as if from a wood.”

Throw in an accomplished and ambitious playwright.

Mix them together, and what do you get?

For the past two weeks, self has lived in the world of Stephen Greenblatt’s immensely moving Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. On p. 351, Greenblatt writes: “Shakespeare was a professional risk taker. He wrote under pressure — judging from its unusual brevity, Macbeth was composed in a very short time — and he went where his imagination took him. If the cheerful sibyls of St. John’s became the weird sisters dancing around a cauldron bubbling with hideous contents . . . then Shakespeare was obliged to pursue the course. The alternative was to write the kind of play that would put James to sleep and send the thrill-seeking crowds to rival theatres.”

Following, the chant of the “weird sisters”:

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf

Of the ravined salt-sea shark,

Root of hemlock digged i’ th’ dark,

Liver of blaspheming Jew,

Gall of goat, and slips of yew

Slivered in the moon’s eclipse,

Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips,

Finger of birth-strangled babe

Ditch-delivered by a drab

The Philippines on His Mind

The other day, son surprised self exceedingly, when we were walking down University Avenue in Palo Alto, by stopping dead in his tracks, sniffing the air, and saying: “This reminds me of Manila.”

Granted, it was a very muggy day, and there was a haze in the air. It was the day after the raging San Bruno Mountain fire, one of many burning all over California, which hubby and self had seen, way off in the distance, after dropping Dearest Mum off at Daly City uncle’s house, the night before.

Now, son is in Philadelphia. Even though hubby told him not to leave the airport while waiting for his connecting flight to Madrid, he did. He found that the train to downtown Philadelphia and Market Street was ony $7, and he took it.

Then, he got lost. And e-mailed self for directions. But self’s MacBook went ka-blooey, and she could not get on-line. After a miserable two hours, son text-ed again: He’d somehow found his way to an area where there were a lot of historical buildings and was wandering around looking for the Liberty Bell.

All morning, son has been txt-ing self his impressions of the city, which self finds to be a very welcome break from grading papers. Son’s last message is: “The current weather. The people. The mall I’m currently sitting in. Philadelphia reminds me of the Philippines. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.”

And self texts back: “The reason I loved living on the East Coast, the year after I graduated from Stanford, was because I missed the crowds, the heat of Asia.”

And now? Now she doesn’t miss home so much. It follows that she likes the East Coast less.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. This will be interesting.

Running Errands & A Muggy Afternoon in Downtown Palo Alto

First self went to the bank and withdrew more cash for son, as she felt he really should not be forced to scrimp and hang out in unsavoury places, all because his parents are too cheap to provide him with a decent travel allowance. Then she went to the pet hospital to pick up humongous bag of prescription dog food ($50). Then she forgot that she had promised to pass by the Hallmark Store on Laurel Street to get son an address book (Self had assured son that, on this trip, he would make “so many friends” and would want to keep in touch with them all). She did remember, though, that she had to make a stop at Kinko’s just before getting home, to xerox her final exam for her class at xxxx community college tomorrow, and to xerox son’s phone card (which she’d just filled with minutes that morning).

Then self remembered that she’d promised to drop son’s spring quarter grades at the friendly State Farm Agent’s office in downtown Palo Alto, which was the other stipulation before son could avail of the “Good Student” discount. And, since son said he wanted a map of Madrid and Paris (two of the places he will be visiting), self suggested that he go with her to downtown Palo Alto so that they could stop by Border’s. And then Dearest Mum called, and when self told her that she and son were going to downtown Palo Alto, Dearest Mum said she would meet them there.

And, no sooner had self and son arrived at Border’s, and started perusing the travel book section, than Dearest Mum showed up, wearing black and white denim jeans, a white linen blouse, and very cool shades. And while self was looking up a biography of Marie Curie on the “Search Books” terminal, she heard a voice asking for David Henry Hwang’s “M. Butterfly.” And she looked up, and there was her student from xxxx community college, Max H. And she asked him why he hadn’t turned in his final paper. And he said he had, he’d left it on the lectern. But self swore the lectern was bare when she left the classroom. So Max said he would e-mail her his paper, “within 30 minutes.” Then self introduced Max to Dearest Mum, and thankfully they did not chat too long.

Then it took son almost an hour to decide on an Eyewitness guidebook to Italy and in addition self purchased for him a small leather notebook, to write down addresses and some such. Then we all wended our way to Gelato Classico on Emerson Street. And Dearest Mum treated us all to gelato, and self had a dee-lish combination of lychee and peanut butter cioccolato (She’ll have to go back soon to have a second go). Across the street, at Aquarius, “The Fall” was showing, and that’s one of the movies self has been curious about.

“That’s what I’m going to do aaaall summer,” self confided to son and Dearest Mum, “Watch movies and eat gelato.”

And, really, that doesn’t sound like a bad way to spend a summer, not bad at all. Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.a

Quote of the Day: The Gatling Gun

“It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine — a gun — which could, by rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a great extent, supersede the necessity of large armies.”

    – Richard Gatling, inventor of “the first reliable machinegun,” 1877 (as quoted in The Economist, June 14)

Reading for the Day: The June 14 Economist

Perhaps because self is still bemused by her last night’s sighting of some of the Stanford women’s swim team in line at Yumi Yogurt, she reads an article in The Economist with more than usual interest. The article, “Making No Waves,” is about swimsuit technology, and this is how it begins:

Athletes in the ancient Olympics competed in the buff, on the grounds (among other things) that clothes were a hindrance to performance. Modern technology, however, has changed that. In some sports, notably swimming, the right attire can be an enormous boon. Take Speedo’s LZR swimsuit, which was introduced in February. Fully 38 of the 42 world swimming records that have been broken since then have fallen to swimmers wearing LZRs.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Early (June) Wednesday Morning Musings

Self thinks it was 11 when she fell asleep last night.

Son had just returned from visiting a friend in Portola Valley and was sitting with hubby on the couch, watching a horror/comedy flick called “Eight-Legged Freaks,” starting David Arquette. Giant spiders were attacking a group of motorcycle-riding teen-agers across a desert.

Dearest Mum had come and gone, leaving wreckage. Thankfully, self was able to cover up most of the signs of the tornado by the time hubby got home (past 9 p.m.): That is, dishes had been cleared and put away, and even the atrocious (overcooked) shrimp & pasta dinner was mercifully concealed in a pot with a lid. And self had already finished small cup of tiramisu & chocolate caramel non-fat yogurt from Yumi Yogurt.

Speaking of which, what is with that place? Last night, line was out the door (a sure sign of summer) even though the weather was cool. And the people in line were: members of the Stanford swimming team (My, those girls are huge! Self came up to just about their chests); a middle-aged grey-haired lady who refused to respond to self’s small talk, who refused to in fact even look in self’s direction; and a slim female giant in a suit with a cast on one leg who Dearest Mum was giving quite the eye-ful, as she maneuvered adroitly and un-aided to her car (in spite of cast), large serving of non-fat yogurt (two flavors: one brown, the other white with blue swirls) held aloft in one hand. Tita squawking as usual (All self’s relatives incapable of being in a public place without calling attention to themselves).

Then, self returned home (while Tita ferried Dearest Mum to her next appointment: a sleep-over with friend in Hillsborough), fell asleep, and now it is 6:20 a.m.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Oh, What a Lovely World

Self spent almost the entire day with son. Mid-morning, as she was tidying up the living room, her cell rang. It was her friendly State Farm agent, saying that if son did not come in immediately and watch a 10-minute safety video, he would no longer be eligible for his “Good Driver” discount.

“Why? He hasn’t been in any accidents since he got his license,” self said. “Is this a new policy? And, we’re really very busy; he’s leaving in two days for Europe. Can’t this wait until he gets back?”

What do you suppose happened, dear blog readers? You can probably guess.

An hour later, self and son were in downtown Palo Alto. State Farm agent’s office on University Avenue turned out to be next to a rather lively bar named Rudy’s. As self and son walked down University, son seemed to be in rather a reflective mood.

“It’s funny,” he said. “The smells. It reminds me of Manila.”

Downtown Palo Alto reminds son of Manila??? Self was quiet.

“Maybe it’s just that it’s so hot. And why is the sky such a funny color?”

And it was a funny color: grayish, hazy.

Self told son there had been a fire in San Bruno. Maybe it was ash, blowing around?

After son had watched the video (Really stupid: In a series of short scenes, different teen-agers were shown chatting to passengers while driving, and each scene ended in exactly the same way, with an “Oh no!” and then a grinding sound and then a KA-BOOM!), self asked son what he felt like eating, and he asked to eat at Kirk‘s.

Oh, Kirk’s, we had not eaten there in what seemed like years and years. In fact, self had not been to the Town & Country shopping center (at Embarcadero and El Camino) in years and years. And today self noticed that it had been spruced up with stone planter boxes and flowers. But Kirk’s was exactly the same. And self had a Steakburger with Jack, and son had an All-Beef Frankfurter with large garlic fries and a drink. And my, those fries were sooo yummy!

After lunch, self decided that, since son was in her company, an event that has only happened two other times this year, they would go to the bank and self would get him Traveler’s Checks for his trip. And for that she withdrew $500.

Then, upon hearing that son was intending to travel with only the pair of flip-flops he had on his feet at that moment, self persuaded him to have a look at Marshall’s. As they were walking in the store, self, preening with over-confidence (as she had been there with Dearest Mum at least three different times in the past week), said: “Over here they have the women’s stuff, and the men’s stuff is all the way on the other side, at the back of the store –”

And son said, without so much as missing a beat, “Or maybe the men’s stuff is right here?  Under this big sign saying MEN’S SHOES?”

And self was so abashed that she fell completeley silent.

And would you believe, dear blog reader, that Marshall’s had only flip-flops and sneakers? What is this world coming to?

But we then wended our way to Target’s, and there we found Mossimo’s (racks and racks of men’s sandals, all in the same shade of tan). There was only one style of sandal, and it was going for $19.99, and self was so relieved when son found the one and only remaining pair in his size.

And then son and self went home, and self proceeded to water some more. And then Dearest Mum called and inquired if self wanted to meet somewhere. And self said, “Why don’t you just come over for dinner?” And Dearest Mum, who was with aunt and uncle, said she thought that would be a good idea. And now self has decided to cook, courtesy of justoneplate.com, a dish with the stunning name of

Strozzapreti Ai Gamberi

Which translates, self thinks, to “shrimp with pasta.” Because it just so happens that she has, in the fridge: a) shrimp and b) linguini. What a stroke of luck!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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