Now Watching: Grissom’s Last CSI

Yay!  Linksys signal strong this evening!  It’s Friday night.  Self had no idea, none, that hubby had any sentimental feelings for William Petersen’s CSI character, Grissom.  However, he has invited self to watch the last episode.  Which is a pretty gruesome episode, dear blog readers (Self wonders:  What does it say about America that perfectly normal people think nothing of watching this series while having dinner?), self has to cover her eyes when the blonde girl strapped to the table regains consciousness and first becomes aware of the various chains and saws about to be applied to her person.

Having finished the episode (with requisite shmaltz ending:  Grissom united with Sara in Costa Rican rainforest–  bleeeah!), hubby now sits self down and insists that, before she starts washing the dishes, she must watch Laurence Fishburne’s first CSI episode.

All right, self will humor the man.  He worked like a dog while self was eating her way through Manila:  he worked Saturdays and even one Sunday, and since arriving she’s eavesdropped on some of his conversations with the office and there have been meetings, many meetings, with potential investors.  And plenty of nail-biting.  And plenty of:  Oh my God, where will we be in a few months’ time?  Will we even still be alive?  But self will force herself to think positive!  Otherwise she’ll never stop kicking herself for having gone to Manila at this extremely critical juncture in hubby’s professional life!

So here she is, watching Laurence Fishburne (who’s grown rather thick in the neck since his Matrix days, in self’s humble opinion).  Hodges seems to have come to the fore.  The new blonde actress is still pretty generic blonde.  Grissom looks handsome in the closing shots.  Self wonders how Marg Helgenberger can maintain such erect posture.

Since the weekend is here (how very prescient of self to schedule her return for a Thursday, rare indeed are the times when she shows such perspicacity), self parses the movies now showing:  There’s a new movie called “Waltz with Bashir” showing in the Aquarius.  Self remembers reading a review while she was in Manila, and the review actually used the word “brilliant.”  The other movie showing in the Aquarius is “Milk,” and self is happy because she certainly does want to see it before the Oscars!

In the downtown Redwood City cinema, there’s a new movie starring Renee Zellwegger, but self only likes that squinty-eyed actress when she’s playing Bridget Jones or appearing in “Jerry MacGuire.”  There’s something called “Inkheart” (Whaddat??)  There’s “Underworld:  Rise of the Lycans” —  self has seen all the Underworld movies, but this one seems to have someone else, not Kate Beckinsale:  instead, the star appears to be the woman who played the puffy-lipped sado-masochistic vixen/police investigator in “Nip/Tuck.”  There’s something called “Hotel for Dogs” (No, no, not another dog movie!)  There’s something called “Paul Blart, Mall Cop” (No thanks!  No comedies unless they star:  a. Robert Downey, Jr.  b.  James Franco  c. Seth Rogen, or d.  Owen Wilson).  There’s “Bride Wars,” which self thought was pretty stupid when she saw it in trailers before going to Manila, but lately Anne Hathaway’s star seems to be on the ascendant, for self read a good review of her performance in the People magazine she read on the plane home.  There’s “Defiance” which —  oh, my, self’s always had extreme hankering to see this movie, not least because she read the book, in 2007, but hubby says it looks depressing.  There’s “Revolutionary Road,” the classy movie of the winter, starring inimitable Kate, who only seems to grow sexier as she grows older, but self doesn’t know whether she wants to see a 1950s “American Beauty.”  Pass on “Bedtime Stories,” pass on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which all her brothers wanted to see as soon as it opened in Manila  (probably because of Oscar buzz for Dear Brad), and there’s “Last Chance Harvey,” which self does want to see, though it’s really shocking how fat Emma Thompson’s calves have gotten (Exhibit A:  the recent Golden Globes, where she was a presenter).  And, if self really wants to be serious about her movie-going, she should see “The Wrestler,” but she doesn’t relish looking at pillow-faced Mickey Rourke for two hours.  And “Doubt” is almost gone (only show as of today was at 10 p.m.)  There’s also “Gran Torino,” which appears to be experiencing something of a lift, and “The Reader” (yet another classy movie from La Kate), and “Frost/Nixon” (but now that self has read all the reviews, she wonders if this movie has anything left to surprise her with).  For some reason, self feels absolutely no compulsion to see “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

First Sign Seen Upon Entering Redwood City

Banner across the top of an office building in downtown Redwood City:

January 20, 2009:  END OF AN ERROR

We’re driving in from the airport.  How clean the air is!  How bright the sun!  Self says to hubby:  “Wonder what that sign means?”

Hubby:  “It’s the Obama inauguration, of course:  January 20.”

Oh, of course.  Self was in Manila.  Lots of excitement there, too, about the Obama inauguration.  In all her years, she’s never felt or seen such hope.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

From Incheon Airport, Seoul

Self’s been checking her e-mail.

This is a very cool airport.  For one thing, wi-fi is everywhere and free.  For another, there is a spa in the basement where, for 15,000 won or approximately $11, self spent two hours alternately dipping into hot baths (42 degrees) and cold baths (24 degrees) along with various other Korean women, and scrubbing herself, and dousing herself with lotion.  Even though she’s only had two hours sleep, and is soon to start on Asiana’s (free) six-hour tour of Seoul’s palaces and temples, she is feeling mighty fine.

Just a few moments ago, self breakfasted in a Korean restaurant called Bon Family’s Restaurant, and for almost as much as she spent for the spa, she had brewed coffee and a bowl of beef and oysters and mushrooms over rice.  Ah, heaven!  She wanted to take a picture of the food but she didn’t want the other restaurant patrons to think she was crazy.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Good-bye, Manila!

Street Vendor, South Super Highway, Manila

Street Vendor, South Super Highway, Manila

The Indefatigable Dearest Mum

Self is dizzy.  She is leaving tonight at midnight, and she has just spent the whole morning and the bulk of the afternoon in the presence of Dearest Mum.  Self made a reservation for a tour of the National Museum with the Director, John Silva, at 10 a.m.  Unfortunately, Dearest Mum decided to have breakfast at 9:30 a.m.

(The reason for the late breakfast is a long long story:  Self was getting ready to have breakfast at 7:30 a.m.  Then Dearest Mum burst in, just as self was about to put a piece of boiled saba banana —  drenched in condensed milk —  into her mouth and announced, “We’re going to mass in Santuario.”  So self had to put down the piece of banana and rush off.  Mass was followed by a novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  Then to a side chapel of Santuario to utter further prayers.  Then to the house of one of Dearest Mum’s friends.  Then to a place called “Market Market” in the Fort.  Then, finally, at 9:20 a.m., home.)

When self reminded Dearest Mum of the time, Dearest Mum scoffed and said:  “It only takes 15 minutes to get to the National Museum from here.”  Which self knew WAS A TOTAL LIE.  But it wasn’t as if she could do anything about it!

Anyhoo, Dearest Mum and self left the house at 9:40 a.m. and arrived at the National Museum at 10:30 a.m. and then had to play catch-up.  Self, exceedingly frustrated, cast glowering glances at Dearest Mum’s back and muttered sarcastically, loud enough (she hoped) for Dearest Mum to hear:  It only takes fifteen minutes to get to the National Museum! But did that faze Dearest Mum?  No, not one bit!  In fact, she was having a ball!  She gawked at all the paintings and engaged John Silva in very lively conversation!  So self had to cut out the glowering act, and try to focus instead on what was directly in front of her, which was for the most part pretty compelling:  she means, how can anyone help but gawp at the magnificence of Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium,” which by the way is a huge painting, bigger even than Picasso’s “Guernica?”  How can one help but get teary-eyed while gazing at paintings like Fernando Amorsolo’s “Burning of Santo Domingo Church, 1942″ or Diosdado Lorenzo’s “Rape and Massacre in Ermita,” painted 1947?

After the tour (which was splendid), Dearest Mum and self had lunch in fab restaurant in an old house behind Malacañang Palace.  Here the food was of such deliciousness that Dearest Mum and self had no less than three desserts!  Afterwards, self asked to be introduced to the chef, who was a very young woman by the name of Suzette Legarda Montinola.  Self gushed and told her that she liked her desserts even better than the ones at Citizen Cake!

It was after the lunch, however, when Dearest Mum’s tirelessness and single-mindedness truly came to the fore.  For at the shop in the National Museum, self had spied some heavy tomes, history books written by an American scholar, and self did not have the cash (The Museum Store could not accept anything but cash, which in self’s opinion is a sad situation that the Museum Director must take immediate steps to correct, because most of the items in the store were at least 500 pesos, and who walks around Manila carrying wads and wads of cash?)  Anyhoo, Dearest Mum insisted we must find an ATM machine in the vicinity, for self would never be back that way, and she was already leaving tonight.

In vain did self protest that she had absolutely no more room in her two maletas, not even for one more pastillas.  Dearest Mum ordered the driver to begin the search for an ATM machine, and it just so happened to be a very hot, muggy afternoon, and Dearest Mum’s car airconditioner was broken.  So the driver took us in and out of the winding streets of Intramuros, and self got to see that the venerable San Agustin Church had been re-painted a horrible, tacky shade of orange, as if it were a wedding cake, and she also got to catch many glimpses of street vendors, and restaurants and stores, all passing swiftly by as in a slide-show, and finally we got to a bank and Dearest Mum withdrew cash and we rushed back to the National Museum, and Dearest Mum proudly bore off five heavy hard-back history books for self to lug home (in a suitcase already bursting with heavy hard-back books, self prays dear hubby doesn’t curse at her for throwing his back out when he has to lift the suitcases into the car), and then we were stuck in traffic for the longest time, next to a stinky estero, and self couldn’t keep the window open even though it was stifling in the car, and by the time we reached Makati, self’s hair was plastered to her skull, and her clothes were drenched as if she had just flung herself into a swimming pool, and self just wanted to close her eyes and sleep.

But Dearest Mum was not finished just yet, oh no.  Now she began to parade outfit after outfit in front of self’s bleary eyes, insisting self must upgrade her California wardrobe with much-needed infusions of silk shantung.  Then, when self complained that she was tired, Dearest Mum insisted on dialing up a masahista.  And self still hasn’t finished packing.  And she hasn’t even had time to bid farewell to her mother-in-law.  And there are things she was hoping to do before she left, that now she will never get to do.  And, well, this is what happens when you have a Dearest Mum.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Reading for the Day: KUNG HEI FAT CHOI!

Today’s post will be something of a “fluff” article.  That is, it will contain nothing of profound political, social, or emotional significance.  Instead, this is a post in which self will attempt to divine her future (which, self is sure dear blog readers will agree, should be of tremendous help in self’s negotiation of the reefs and shoals of outrageous fortune —  in other words, of self’s negotiation of her all-important life)

In Section F-1 of  yesterday’s edition of The Philippine Inquirer is an article entitled, “Kung Hai Fat Choi:  Rat’s Luckiest, Sheep’s Worst.”  The article begins:  “Surely it’s the year of the ox but people who were born under this sign should not be all that thrilled because the year would not be a walk in the park for them.”

It then goes on to say:  “Tigers are next to the rat in terms of luck this year.  They would be lucky in all aspects, from career to business to love life.”  This is just great, for son was born in the year of the tiger.

What’s in store for hubby, self wonders?  For he was born in the year of the sheep.  Not only is he a sheep, he’s a wooden sheep, which sounds terrible but isn’t as terrible as being an iron sheep (so self’s Chinese friends assure her).  Here’s what the article has to say about hubby’s prospects:  “For the sheep, it’s not their best year since they’re the enemy of the ox.  Sheep’s worst year can be countered by using a middle man which is the rooster.  A rooster figure or image would be their lucky charm.  Roosters would also serve as sheep’s best partner since they are soul mates.”  Too bad self wasn’t born in the year of the rooster; she was born in the year of the

Dog:  “Dogs, among the signs, are the ones who can get rich easily.  Dogs are also the only ones who can face the north direction bravely.  He can face financial crises or difficulties easily.  Dogs are also known to be polygamous.  The more women or men they have, the richer they get.  They are also stingy to loved ones, even to family members, but for themselves it would be first-class all the way!  Famous people who were born under this sign are Lucio Tan and Manny Pangilinan.”

Now that, self is sure dear blog readers will agree, is quite an interesting horoscope.  If that were true, why is self not now rich?  Or polygamous?  Or “stingy with loved ones”?  Why is she not traveling first-class on Asiana, instead of going for the 12-hour stop-over in Seoul to save $300 on her round-trip ticket?  Self likes that she is in the same category as Lucio Tan (at last!), but she has no idea who Manny Pangilinan is.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Strange Echoes

All the movies are different.  Self was hoping to catch Angelina Jolie in “The Changeling,” but now a completely new set of movies is showing in her Redwood City downtown cinema.  And something called “Paul Blart:  Mall Cop,” with a no-name star, has been the #1 movie in America for, apparently, the last two weeks running.

Paul Blart ???

Hubby says Gracie is fat and her breath smells terrible.

In addition, he says it is extremely cold (Great:  self is sure to get sick, since 1930s-era house is so poorly insulated).

Self heard from her department chair that she has to set a schedule for coming in to tutor students at the Writing Center.

Self received word that her favorite teaching colleague, AD, has been placed in intensive care following kidney failure.  The message asked the school community to pray.

She heard from the Redwood City Library that her library card had “expired” and she needs to come in to get a new one.

Hubby told her that he will be working late on the day she arrives, “but that’s all right since I’m sure you’ll be jet-lagged.”  When she asks what he would like to do this coming weekend, he responds quickly, “It’s the weekend of the Superbowl.”  Oh, of course!  Self realizes that not once since she arrived in Manila has she heard or seen any news about American football.

Suddenly to move from a world crammed with people to a silent, empty house:  Just a few days ago, self thought that having a house to herself was the very essence of happiness, but now she’s not so sure.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

The Inexplicable

There is a reason, dear blog readers, why self is sleeping next to Dearest Mum in her big narra bed tonight.  The reason is:

We were yesterday in Punta Fuego, we took brother’s boat out to a nearby island.  At sunset, we cast Ying’s ashes on the water, along with flowers and rosaries (This was supposed to have happened last month.  In fact, self posted about it.  Only to find, upon her arrival, a few weeks ago, that it had not yet happened.  Oh, strange mystery of life.  But she is glad she was able to participate in this ceremony for Ying, who self loved with all her heart, who was as dear to self as her own sister).  We said prayers.  Self wished:  “Go in peace, Ying.”

This afternoon, we went home.  Self was alone in the house.  Everyone was in brother’s unit, a few doors down.  Self heard movement on the stairs.  She thought it was Dearest Mum.  She called out, “Mom, is that you?”  No answer.  Self peered down the stairwell.  Saw no one.  A few seconds later, she heard it again: the same sound on the stairs.  She peered down again.  This time, she picked up her bag and practically flew down the stairs and out of the house.  Just a few yards away, she saw Dearest Mum, walking.

“Was that you on the stairs?” she asked.

Dearest Mum said no, she’d never even entered the house.

This evening, we all had dinner at Serendra.  Beautiful evening, a fresh breeze was blowing.  When we got home, Dearest Mum stooped, picked up something from the doorstep.  A rosary.  One of the ones we threw from the boat.

“How did this get here?”  Dearest Mum asked.  “Could your brother have gone into the house?”

“No,” self said.

“It was right here, on the front step,” Dearest Mum said.  She showed it to self.  Yes, it was one of the rosaries self thought she had thrown from the boat.

“Could it have fallen out of your bag?” Dearest Mum asked.

Self shook her head.  The last she had seen the rosaries was on the boat.  At that point, when Dearest Mum asked if self would like to sleep with her in her room, she didn’t have to ask twice.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

The “Yaya” Culture

Self getting so tired of the yaya culture, she can’t tell ya.

She has lived and breathed it for the last 20 days.

Self understands that families here cannot live without the yaya.  To guard their toddlers every minute of their waking life.  To wipe asses and so forth and so on.  To fork food into children’s often unwilling mouths.  To be ordered about.  To give that extra sense of security when one is wandering in a strange place.

And yet, if it were not for Dear Bro’s two yayas, self would be bereft, utterly bereft.  One yaya, Marietta, is 29 years old.  She hails from Bacolod.  She has a college degree, she tells self:  a Bachelor of Arts in “Customs.”  What is that?  Marietta says it is a degree that would have allowed her to work in the Customs area of the airport.  (Self had no idea, none, that such a degree even existed)

The other yaya is Fe.  She brings self her coffee every morning.  She loads self’s cell phone with “Smart” minutes (when not chasing after Dearest Mum).  She has a five-year-old boy somewhere in the outskirts of Manila, that her husband watches.  She sees her son only twice a month, on her days off.  The trip back and forth to her home takes a total of four hours.

Self would like to remember these yayas.  She tells them she hopes they will still be around when she returns (hopefully not for another couple of years).  She darts glances at them when her frustrations with her family are at their height.  She reads in their silent eyes sympathy, or understanding.

Self longs to be back in the absolute isolation of her home in Redwood City, California.  Where she is surrounded by books, only by books.  And the two beagles.  And a TV which is tuned to CNN all day.  And where no one judges whether she is a bad or good daughter.

Then, dear blog readers will be treated once again to excerpts from The Economist or The New York Times Book Review.  Or to self’s opinion on a current movie.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Wanderings: Punta Fuego, Batangas

Sunset, Viewed from the Deck of Brother's Boat

Sunset, Viewed from the Deck of Brother's Boat

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