‘One’ : WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is ONE.

“This week, we want to see photos that focus one one thing.”

Dear Departed Dad at 46.  This picture is in the small room she calls her "Office," the one with French doors that open to her backyard.

Dear Departed Dad at 46. This picture is in the small room self calls her “Office,” the one with French doors that open to her backyard.

He was a kind and gentle father.  Most of all, he gave self roots in the soil of Negros Occidental.

In addition to self's fascination with:  a) windows, b) flowers, self is also fascinated by dogs.  This one was in Monsignor "Gigi" Gaston's house in Manapla.

In addition to self’s fascination with: a) windows and b) flowers, self is also fascinated by dogs. This one was in Monsignor “Gigi” Gaston’s house in Manapla, Negros Occidental.

And here's a picture of the Nora Aunor of her time:  Dearest Mum.  Have you read the story "Lizard"?  You should read "Lizard" (in self's first collection, GINSENG AND OTHER TALES FROM MANILA)

And here’s a picture of Dearest Mum. Have you read the story “Lizard”? You should read “Lizard” (in self’s first collection, GINSENG AND OTHER TALES FROM MANILA).  A student at Curtis, she was only 14 when she played at Carnegie Hall.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Today, Fourth Thursday of January (2013)

Just to show you how self’s life has been going of late, she had trouble remembering what her last post was and needed to be reminded:  It was Jerry Brown’s State of the State Address, and that was just a few hours ago.

Anyhoo, she decided to treat herself to lunch at Little Madfish in Sequoia Station.  This tiny little nook is always busy, especially during lunch hour.  Self first took a look through the plate glass window and was encouraged to see two genteel-looking, elderly ladies having lunch within.  Thus encouraged, she entered and was seated right next to these two genteel ladies.  Which was excellent, because she was able to eavesdrop and heard them discussing a friend whose “breasts were all gone,” and then one of them was planning a trip to Hawaii, and the other was wondering whether she should throw a Superbowl party.  Both had British accents, self kids you not.

Self was quite embarrassed to learn, after she had ordered her two-item lunch (Two items is $7.95, with miso soup, green salad, and plain rice; three items is $9.95), that the two ladies were splitting same.  It looked tiny, however, and self is sure she could not have split anything with anyone else.

She ordered chicken katsu and avocado roll, and was very surprised to be touched on the shoulder several times by the waitress (She doesn’t think waitresses usually engage in touching of customers’ shoulders.  But the restaurant IS tiny, and it WAS very crowded).  When the chicken katsu came, self was so confused because it looked and tasted exactly like pork katsu.  But she did not complain because she was hungry.

She had with her a Wall Street Journal, just purchased from Barnes & Noble (which started carrying the Wall Street Journal again, after several years of not carrying it).  She looked up a novel by Joanna Hershon, and they had no books by this author.  She also looked up a biography of John Mortimer (author of the Rumpole books) by Susan Grove and published by Viking, but the bookseller couldn’t find any Barnes and Nobles that carried it, boo.  She adored the Rumpole books.

It was slightly cold, but not really chilly.

The man she wanted to help her spray her fruit trees was supposed to come yesterday, but on Tuesday he left a message that he wanted to know first “exactly” what self wanted to have done.  So self called him back, and he was having his hair cut at a barber shop and could barely (he said) hear her.

Hmmm, what else?  Last night self watched a show called Suburgatory and was laughing so hard because of an impromptu rock act by Ana Gasteyer, performed while wearing what looked like powder-blue PJs.

Then, she got a letter from Anvil Collections saying she owed them $109 for 10 copies of her book, The Lost Language, which had been delivered to Daku Balay in Bacolod and languished there for two months.  But of all things, they sent an invoice to Dearest Mum in her house in Ecology.  And self really doesn’t blame Dearest Mum for not wanting to pay, since self hasn’t seen her in two years.  The letter said she had to pay them TODAY, so self called Anvil in Manila and was very surprised because the man who answered the phone was so slurry of speech.

“Is this Anvil?” self demanded of the man.  “Is this Anvil Publishing?”

“Yaaaaah,” the man said, in something like three-quarters time.

“May I speak to your Collections Department?” self asked.

“Yes, ma’am, but —  but — “

“But WHAT?  Speak up!” self demanded.

“It is 3 in the morning, ma’am,” the man said.  And at that point he really sounded —  ill or something.

“Oh!” self said.  “So sorry!  I must have woken you up!”  (Which, come to think of it, makes no sense.  Because why would someone be SLEEPING in a publisher’s office, at 3 a.m.  Unless he was the janitor and was just catching a few zzzzs)

“Ma’am, can I please have your name and number for Collections to call you back?” he asked.

Surprisingly, this sounded like a very sensible idea.  But self found herself hesitating and then said, “Go back to sleep!  I’ll call back in a couple of hours!”

Then she put down the phone before the man could come up with any other bright ideas.

Finally —  self cannot tell a lie —  she had to give up on reading The Collected Stories of J. G. Ballard, which was the next book on her reading list, since she finished Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs late last night (It just sort of petered out; self doesn’t remember what happened in the last 30 pages.  Nothing bad happened to anyone!  After all that angst!  All that anomie and existential alienation and minute parsing of the weather!).  The Collected Stories of J. G. Ballard is a behemoth.  The first story is called “Prima Belladonna” (Or was it “Bella Primadonna?”  Aaargh, self is losing it!)  It was written in 1956, and it’s about a woman with “insects for eyes.”  It was interesting, but not enough to make self want to push on.  Especially since she has a gimpy neck, and it would have been a real grind to keep lugging that 5-lb. hardback around for the next two or three weeks.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Power, Family Etc.

“People are only paying attention to you because of the money.”

In other words:  Don’t be fooled.  You’re not that charming or that pretty, etc etc

Bwah ha haaaaa!

A real Bacolod statement, if there was one.

It’s the truth, though.

Bacolod cousins never mince words.

This is a lesson Dearest Mum (below) knew all too well.

You are nothing —  Get it?  NOTHING —  without money.

The Iconic Nena, in her prime

Oh Dearest Mum, sorry for being such a slow learner!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Consciousness: Manila

Like echoes from a distant planet (Apologies for trotting out that hoary cliché), the following tremors reached self, a girl in Manila:

  • Richard Leakey (Homo habilis and Homo erectus have been discovered, YAY!  Archaeology is sexy!)
  • Newsweek and Time (purveyors of “reliable” foreign news)
  • San Francisco (Where the crazy branch of the family lived.  And yet:  Self chose Stanford over other universities.  Why?  Must be because she realized she herself was crazy!)
  • Berkeley = hippies!  And drugs!
  • Acapulco (Her parents honeymooned here).  The main thing to do in Acapulco is to watch men dive from sheer cliffs, straight into the ocean (Self must admit to thinking it was a strange choice for a honeymoon.  This was reinforced by the fact that she did not know any other parents who honeymooned there)
  • I. Magnin.  Dearest Mum’s Dearest Mum shopped only at I. Magnin. To get self ready for grad school, Dearest Mum took self shopping for clothes at the I. Magnin on Union Square.  Self remembers acquiring a whole closet of chiffon dresses.  Needless to say, she never got to wear any of them.
  • Orange Julius (There was a stand inside the Makati Supermarket)
  • Shakey’s Pizza (a whole host of these, all over Manila)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Rogue Magazine Bacolod Issue Redux

Self is never going to lose the Bacolod issue of Rogue Magazine (Philippines)  Never, not in a million years.

She will never forget that Charles Tan Fed-exed a copy to her, either.

It gives her story after story —  and even though she knows her Bacolod cousins didn’t take to the articles too well, all of the pieces are interesting.

The big landowning families aren’t as rich as they used to be because of CARP (the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program), and everyone’s hanging on, just hanging on, to the vestiges of the past (either that or leave for Dubai), but she still remembers the time a cousin invited her to lunch at “21.”  Self happened to glance at the narrow street adjacent, and what she saw was this :  two lines of parked SUVs, most of them a gleaming black, and all of them with drivers patiently waiting.

Here’s an excerpt from an article by Rogue editor Jose Maria Ugarte, “At Play in the Fields of the Lords.”

From these closet liberals grew a dense forest of family trees in Negros, their branches wrangling and tangling together and their fruits bumping.  Some trees stood tall and with a quiet elegance, while others lurched with savage wildness, but they were all interconnected by sex and sugar and they were all disturbingly rich.

And self also remembers her cousin L saying:  “Heaven only knows where you came from.”  Because self is such an oddball and contrarian that she actually wants to retire in Bacolod, a poky small city, not very beautiful, with one great church (San Sebastian), a plaza, shopping malls, and family homes turned into museums.

She remembers Dearest Mum telling her this anecdote, a long time ago:

A Bacolod girl was complaining about the amount of homework assigned by her teacher.  Her father told her, “Hija” (My Dear) “if something will not enter your head, then why force it?”

With stories like the one above, self doesn’t know why the island of Negros isn’t just teeming with writers!  As she told a cousin way back December 2010:  “The Villanuevas may be crazy, but they’re my kind of crazy.”

Bacolod is the closest thing the Philippines has to New Orleans:  ” . . .  because if you play with the same test tubes for too long without washing them,” Ugarte writes,  “you’re going to end up with something weird.”

Ugarte himself has family in Bacolod.  That’s why he can write about it like that.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

From Self’s Story “Picture” (in Her 2005 Collection, MAYOR OF THE ROSES)

This is a story about self’s parents.  It was in Mayor of the Roses, her second collection, published by Miami University Press:

The woman leaning forward is self’s mother.

She’s leaning forward, as if to kiss him.  There’s a mark on his cheek; perhaps she’s done it already.  They are both smiling.

These were my parents in Manila, circa 1956.  They were happy:  they had always been happy.  The happiness of their marriage was like a reproach.

I didn’t think he looked that ugly, but I hear a voice saying, over and over, La unica problema es que no es guapo. It’s a woman speaking, her voice is thick with fury.  It was probably my grandmother.  This, at least, was what my mother led me to believe.

*     *     *     *     *

I am collecting old pictures now.  I don’t know what this tells me about this stage of my life.

Here’s a picture self drew when she was about five.  Who is that woman and why did self draw her wearing a green kimono?  Who knows.  Dearest Mum had the picture framed.

The 5-Year-Old Artist

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

List # xxxx: Things Dearest Mum Thought It Would Be a Good Idea for Self to Learn to Cook

After two years of graduate school at Stanford, self can say with certainty that she could cook only four things well:  bacon, pan-fried steak, rice and scrambled eggs.  She was too busy writing papers!  Or perhaps she was simply too lazy.

Then self broke the news to her family that she was planning to get married.  Dearest Mum then had self enroll in a cooking class taught by Lorivi Reynoso (graduate of an actual French culinary school!).

Here are the items Chef Lorivi taught self to prepare:

  • Waldorf Salad (Very easy!  You only need four apples, 1 stick of celery, 1/2 cup of walnuts . . . )
  • Crepes Suzette (Very easy!  You only need to prepare the crepe batter, then make the orange batter . . . )
  • Pears in Red Wine (Very easy!  You only need 2 Tbsps. of apple jelly, 1/2 cup red wine, 4 pears . . . )
  • Blue Cheese Canapé Spread (Very easy!  You only need blue or roquefort cheese and 1/2 cup cream cheese . . . )
  • Chicken Liver Paté (Very easy!  You only need chicken livers, 1 Tbsp. brandy, a dash of thyme, 2/3 cup butter . . . )
  • Smoked Tanguingue in Dill Sauce (Very easy!  Until self wondered what store in California would sell tanguingue . . . )
  • Mussels Mariniere (Very easy!  One only needs 1 kilo mussels, sprigs of parsley, 1 cup white wine, 1/3 cup cream . . . )
  • Banana Flambee (Very easy!  One only needs 8 large bananas, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup rum . . . )  NOTE:  Self used to adore bananas, until the day she was chatting with a fellow artist in the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and learned that bananas were the most fattening fruit in the entire world.  Then self banished bananas from her sight, forever.  Dear blog readers might wonder why two artists supposedly engaged in strenuous creative work would even care about what they weighed, but just because you are crazy doesn’t mean you can’t be vain!

Wow, self never entertained and unfortunately these were not the type of comestibles one could pass off as dinner . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Waldorf Salad

The Daku Balay, July 2011

Self spent summers here as a girl . . .

View From the Main Lobby, Balay Daku

The Balay Daku was the first all-concrete house built in Bacolod City.  It had a working elevator that went up to the fourth floor.

Now it’s been converted into an office.  There are four floors of Villanueva secretaries —  oh my!  On Wednesdays, a man comes from Iloilo to practice “healing reflexology” on the employees.

The secretaries come from towns like Murcia and Magallon (now re-named “Moises Padilla”)

One of the delights of self’s childhood summers was being allowed to choose baye-baye, empanada, fresh lumpia, pinasugbu, suman, and other delights from the woven bilao of a vendor who came walking slowly down the main driveway, every day.

Self thought she was dreaming when, mid-morning, she saw a young man walking down the driveway with a bilao full of food.  Let me see, she ordered him.  He put down his bilao and this is what self saw inside:

The only thing new from the time when she was a child was the siomai.

Self bought a third of the bilao and distributed food to the secretaries.  Total:  160 pesos ($2.63).  The vendor (whose name was Nestor) was very abashed at having to relieve self of so much money.

Jerry is the Father of Ida, Dear Bros’ Passionate Adherent

Self spent some time interviewing a man called Jerry, who started working for the Villanuevas in 1952, when he was 32 years old.  He is now 81 and still goes to work in the Balay Daku every day.  He remembers a time when self’s Dear Departed Dad had an hacienda near Mambucal, named after Dearest Mum:  Hacienda Nena.

“Your father was always soft-spoken,” he told self.

“I look like my Dad, don’t I?” self asked him.

“Yes,” he said.

And now, self is off to meet another cousin.

Today is her birthday.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Lily Bart, Insomniac

Almost to the end of The House of Mirth.  What a novel it has turned out to be!  If only Wharton’s writing hadn’t been so florid.  In certain passages, the sentences are as full of cornucopia as a baroque cathedral.

Still, self loves the characters.  And Lily Bart’s gradual degradation is very moving.

Towards the end, Lily’s love for Selden has such clarity.  It is the only clear thing in a life filled with confusing messages and rationalizations.

That a beautiful woman should be forced to earn her own keep is a travesty (or, it was in Wharton’s time.  No, perhaps in an earlier generation’s time as well.  Self remembers Dearest Mum saying, more than once, that self’s grandmother didn’t think Dearest Mum’s younger sister needed to go to college because she was so beautiful, she was sure to marry well.  That it turned out all tragically wrong for self’s aunt is further proof that Wharton’s steely unsentimentality about a woman’s place in society is still resonant today).

Here is poor Lily Bart, forced to make a living by working at a hat-making factory:

She began to rip the spangles from the frame, listening absently to the buzz of talk which rose and fell with the coming and going of Miss Haines’ active figure.  The air was closer than usual, because Miss Haines, who had a cold, had not allowed a window to be opened even during the noon recess; and Lily’s head was so heavy with the weight of a sleepless night that the chatter of her companions had the incoherence of a dream.

Self, searching around for a suitable image to illustrate Ms. Bart’s deepening insomnia, found this photograph of window shades:

Window Shades, Bacolod, One Afternoon in July

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Believe It or Not, Self IS Working

In spite of the heady arrival of summer (Sun!  For the second day in a row!  Now self has to start hauling around the old green watering bucket!), self’s writing continues at a brisk pace.

Which is not to say all is sweetness and light. Yesterday she received two (or was it three?) rejections.  One of them was from the “fastest responder” in the literary journal universe, anderbo.com.  Dear Anderbo Editors, self wants Read the rest of this entry »

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