WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: The World Through Your Eyes 2

Self was told not to number her Photo Challenge posts, but she just can’t help it. Different moods result in her selecting different pictures, it is simply impossible for her to decide all in one go. So, she will continue numbering her posts that have to do with the Weekly Photo Challenge; but to avoid any confusion, any subsequent posts she makes on the week’s theme (after the first one) will not be shared on The Daily Post website.

Dawn Breaks Beneath the Window Curtains (After Self's First Sleepless Night)

Dawn Breaks Beneath the Window Curtains (After Self’s First Sleepless Night)

This picture was taken in Bacolod.  Hometown of Dear Departed Dad.  The time difference from California is 15 hours.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

A Review of Books About Insomnia (The New Yorker, 11 March 2013)

Since it is a very long time until the next season of Game of Thrones, self has been watching Season 2.  Believe it or not, she has gotten into such a rhythm with watching this show (The Man wants to know why self is so obssessed.  Channeling Ygritte, self tells him:  “You know nuthin’, The Man!” In other words, he better keep his trap shut if he doesn’t want to get plugged with so many arrows he ends up looking like a hedgehog, which was the sight presented by Jon Snow when he dazedly arrived at Castle Black in the final episode of Season 3!)

Anyhoo, it seems she can’t get to sleep at night unless she watches one episode, just before bedtime.  Last night, The Man (who is a Great Tease), played two back-to-back episodes for self, and this was a little bit too much, as then self found that instead of falling asleep at midnight, she was very jacked up.

But, enough with the digressions!  While plowing through her once-again-humongous Pile of Stuff today, Friday, self happened to come across an essay called “Up All Night:  The Science of Sleeplessness,” in The New Yorker of 11 March 2013.  She read the article straight through, from beginning to end, with only one break:  to go to the Redwood City Library and pick up a copy of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (It’s self’s first Hilary Mantel.  Isn’t that crrrrazy???)

One of the books reviewed, The Slumbering Masses, written by a UC Santa Cruz anthropology professor named Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer (What a fabulous name for a professor!), has this to say about our modern pattern of sleep:

Until a century and a half or so ago, Wolf-Meyer observes, “Americans, like other people around the world, used to sleep in an unconsolidated fashion, that is, in two or more periods throughout the day.”  They went to bed not long after the sun went down.  Four or five hours later, they woke from their “first sleep” and rattled around —  praying, chatting, smoking, or making love.  (Benjamin Franklin reportedly liked to spend this time reading naked in a chair).  Eventually, they went back to their “second sleep.”

As for self, she fell into the habit of wakefulness when she became a mother.  So that she would not waste a single minute of the nocturnal hours, she would read next to son’s crib.  When he woke, she would wake, and then read some more.  In this way, self managed to read many, many, many books, all the while son was an infant, and years and years beyond, up to today.

The Man is exactly the opposite:  he falls asleep instantaneously, and sleeps 10 hours at a stretch.  One minute he’s awake, the next —  Bang! —  he’s asleep.  Then he starts to snore.  Loud.  And this makes self so frustratingly envious that she is tempted to pinch The Man’s nose.  But she restrains herself.  She is not the type of person who pinches sleeping people’s noses.  Of course not!

She read somewhere that people who have insomnia live much shorter lifespans than other people.  Which means —  hello!  There is absolutely no time to waste, self!  Get cracking and finish your book!

Another book mentioned in the essay is Internal Time:  Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired, by Till Roenneberg, of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (Again, what a name.  Self can go years at a stretch without encountering one single outstandingly fabulous name, and suddenly, in one essay, she encounters two).  Here the professor categorizes people according to sleep habits.  Some people are larks, which means they are indefatigable early risers.  And other people are owls, which means they stay up all night.  According to the author of the essay, Elizabeth Kolbert (which has self wondering if it’s pronounced like Stephen Colbert’s name, but once again she digresses), “Teen-agers are owls, which is why high schools are filled with students who look (and act) like zombies.”  Self wonders how teen-agers graduate from being owls to being normal?  Or do some people stay owls for the rest of their lives?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Sleepwalker

Self wrote a story about a sleepwalker.  It’s a strange and quiet story.  But perhaps it needs more work, for there hasn’t been a nibble in a year of sending out.

Which leads self to the impulse that made her post:  there have been cities where her insomnia was almost overwhelming.  One of these cities was Hong Kong, which she last visited in 2006.  There was such a buzz in her head, but she forced herself to walk around.  That was the last trip she and Sole Fruit of Her Loins ever took together.

The five nights she spent in Berlin were not bad, by comparison.

In Scotland, last summer, self relaxed.  Something about the sunset coming so late, something about knowing there were other writers nearby, only a floor above.  Once, self went up there, to the top floor, and it felt like a dormitory:  everyone was still awake, at 2 a.m.  Self dragged her blanket with her, up the circular stairs.  “What’s the matter?  What’s the matter?” everyone asked.  She slept so peacefully in Scotland.

In Bacolod, she does not sleep peacefully.  Her nerves are jangly.  But it doesn’t matter, because the hotels have 24-hour masahistas.  Such a place!  She loves Bacolod.  Please, please give her masahe, right now!

When she was 11, she went to Europe as part of a Children’s International Summer Village delegation from the Philippines:  four children and an adult chaperone.  Self remembers vividly all the countries she visited:  the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, and her delegation’s final destination, England.  She was so thrilled by her first sight of the Roman coliseum, the Forum, and Venice!  She remembers going for a night-time gondola ride, and all the gondolas arranged around a circular floating stage, festooned with lights, and a woman singing into the sultry air, and self feeling she would never ever experience anything like it in her entire life (and she hasn’t).  She remembers the twisting alleyways, the laundry hanging from tall, narrow houses, the blur of pigeons in San Marco Square.  She even remembers the dress she always seems to be wearing, in her memories of Venice:  a short white shift, with a small red, white and blue anchored on a wee pocket, just below her right shoulder.

She’s decided to bring her Old Navy red pea coat (the one that she bought a few months ago, for $14.99!).  She loves red anything.  She bought a similar coat when she was in Edinburgh.  Margarita says it will still be cold.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Follow, Follow, Follow

A week or so from now, self is supposed to sleep in Sequoia Hospital, with electrodes fastened to her scalp, so that doctors could study her REM patterns — all in an effort to diagnose and perhaps treat her insomnia.

But now, self thinks all she needs to do is exercise more.  And stop drinking caffeinated products after lunch.

This morning, Stella and Tina took self for a hike along Edgewood Nature Preserve.  Amazing (Stella and Tina were sooo patient and waited while self paused, every couple of steps, to take pictures; This morning’s hike was probably the slowest in living memory, even though her friends were too polite to say so).

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Self (wearing her favorite sweatshirt) and Tina B

Self (wearing her favorite sweatshirt) and Tina B

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The landscape did remind her a wee bit of Scotland.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Personal Library 8

Dear blog readers, when you can’t sleep, because you have dreams that are confusing, it is a very good idea to get up and count books.

Shelf # 3, in the first bookcase in the dining room, has 72 books.

263 + 72 = 335 Total # of Books Counted So Far

Titles include:  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey; Intelligent Quotes from ErapJulie Yap Daza:  The Best of MEDIUM RAREThe Wit and Wisdom of Cardinal S. Sin; Rizal in Spain:  An Essay in Biographical Context, by Miguel A. Bernad, S.J.;  Traps, by Sondra Spatt Olsen; The February Revolution:  And Other Reflections, by Miguel A. Bernad, S.J.;  Ermita, by F. Sionil Jose;  The Heinemann Book of South African Short Stories, edited by Dennis Hirson, with Martin Trump;  The Philippines:  A Past Revisited, by Renato Constantino; Nine Parts of Desire:  The Hidden World of Islamic Women, by Geraldine Brooks; Frida: A Novel Based on the Life of Frida Kahlo, by Barbara Mujica;  Matadora:  poems by Sarah Gambito;  Monogamy:  Stories by Marly Swick;  Goodnight, Cambodia:  a memoir written by Vibol Ouk, with Charles Martin Simon.

Here’s all self has time for this evening.  She’s supposed to be trying to put herself to sleep :-)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Monday Morning: Edith Wharton, By Way of Jonathan Franzen

It is early on Monday morning, the next to the last Monday of May 2012.

Self has decided that she will stay home most of the day —  until, that is, her appointment with her dentist.

A tooth fell out on Friday —  can you imagine?  She wasn’t even chewing.

She’s making great inroads in her pile of stuff, though!  At least, the New Yorkers she’s reading now are only three months old!

In the New Yorker double issue of February 13 & 20, she finds an essay by Jonathan Franzen on the subject of Edith Wharton.  This is a matter of no small interest.  Last July, when self was cooling her heels in Bacolod, she had the House of Mirth with her.  Self doesn’t ever remember reading Wharton before (There are huge gaps in her knowledge:  For instance, it wasn’t until she was 25 and enrolled at Stanford University that she read Moby Dick)

Anyhoo, reading Wharton in Bacolod was an experience like no other (the way reading Saramago’s The Cave in December in Bacolod was like no other.  The way reading Tom McCarthy’s Remainder in March in Bacolod was like no other.  The way —  Eeeeek!  Self, get a grip!!)

Self had insomnia, Lily Bart in the House of Mirth had insomnia, it was the insomnia pity party all around! (In the meantime, there was the pretty laundry lady at L’Fisher Chalet who kept visiting self in her room every three days, to tell self she was so fat)

So, FINALLY, here we are at Jonathan Franzen’s essay.  The title of the essay is “A Rooting Interest:  Edith Wharton and the Problems of Sympathy.”

The purport of the article seems to be that Edith Wharton was a snob.  Not only that, she was a rich snob.  Here’s Franzen:

To be rich like Wharton may be what all of us secretly or not so secretly want, but privilege like hers isn’t easy to like; it puts her at a moral disadvantage.

Wharton lived in a “rich-person” precinct, indulged “her passion for gardens and interior decoration,” toured “Europe endlessly in hired yachts or chauffered cars,” and hobnobbed “with the powerful and the famous.” Her one irredeemable disadvantage was the fact that “she wasn’t pretty.”

So she settled down to 28 years of a sex-less marriage to Teddy Wharton.

Her only sexual relationship was with a “bisexual journalist and serial two-timer,” when she was “in her late forties.”

Enough, Mr. Franzen, enough!  Self thinks that none of these salient facts have anything to do with the way reading House of Mirth would reduce self to a pile of quivering jello, all the while she was imbibing Bacolod rum at the Negros Museum Café!  At the end of every day, self would imagine that she was Gillian Anderson, who played Lily Bart in the movie, wandering the back streets of Bacolod (standing in for New York:  self knows that is quite a stretch), heading for her demeaning job at a hat factory.

Self will proceed:

“In her forties,” Wharton “finally battled free of the deadness of her marriage and became a bestselling author; Teddy responded by spirallling into mental illness and embezzling a good part of her inheritance.”

Ugh.  Ugh.  Ugh.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Self’s Enduring Fascination with Windows, II

Dawn Breaks Beneath the Window Curtains (After a Sleepless Night in Bacolod)

Margaret, Are You Grieving?

The only poem self remembers from high school days in Manila is this one by Gerard Manley Hopkins. She doesn’t know why, but the voice has stayed with her for ages and ages. She can recite the first four lines from memory.

Today, self decided to get out her camera and photograph the maple leaves in her front yard (They’ve been brilliant red all week — beautiful!).  She found herself saying –

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving
Leaves, like the things of man you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

When she was done with taking pictures, she came back inside and found the rest of the poem on Bartleby.com:

Ah, as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Maple leaves and variegated hydrangea by front steps

Same maple tree, but from a different angle

This one’s of a tree in self’s backyard.

Two rejections this week, but self was up for it: She had five straight acceptances — five new pieces, all to be published 2012, including a novella.  The latest acceptance was from Wigleaf.  You try for years and years, and sometimes years go by and you don’t get anything.  And then, a miracle like the Fall happens.  It just happens.

One of the rejections was from a journal in New York, signed by both editors. And saying, in handwritten blue ink: Promise you WILL try us again.

She knew something was up because it had been months and months.  Self started thinking: they either mis-placed it, or it made it past at least one round. And she thought: No, they’ve misplaced it. Because the story was “Crackers,” and it was 20 pages of wild. One of those stories she stayed up all night writing, because it came in such a rush.

Eyebags have been tremendous for weeks.  She wrote another story last night:  “The Not Particularly Likable Woman” — BWAH HA HA HA

That one’s done.  It was just hilarious.  Self wrote about standing in post office lines and what not.  What great fun.  To write about Pie in the Sky and the post office, in the same piece.  Imagine laughing and writing, simultaneously.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Today, the Day Before Skyline College Reading

Just restored a post (“Memories of Adderall Addicts”)  No one looked at it for days, which was why she deleted it.  Suddenly, today, everyone’s asking:  What happened to that review, the one about Adderall addicts?  (Oh, self wants to say, you mean the one about kids in Stanford’s Meyer lounge at midnight???  Kidding, kidding, of course self is kidding!!!)

*     *     *

The house is freakishly cold.  Hubby says not to turn up the heat.  Wear more sweaters.

*     *     *

The Ancient One pants and pants.

*     *     *

Thank God it didn’t rain.

*     *     *

Still have no Thanksgiving Holiday Menu.

*     *     *

A cousin who self hasn’t spoken to in perhaps 20 years left a message on self’s cell phone, inviting her to Glendale for Thanksgiving.

*     *     *

Last night, self had insomnia.  When she has insomnia, she ends up doing the strangest things.  Like submit, for the nth time, to One Story.  Like self can ever write a story as good as Karl Taro Greenfeld’s.

*     *     *

Well, at least self managed to get an essay off to the Asian American Literary Review.

*     *     *

Prism International is still waiting for the signed contract for “Flight.” (Tomorrow, promise!)

*     *     *

Phoebe says “All the Missing” is going to be in the next issue.  She friend-ed them on FB.

*     *     *

No word yet on edits for novella Marife (supposed to be coming out next year)

*     *     *

Drew says hello, he has a new boss.  We have to Skype!  We tried a few times in Bacolod.  What self hates about Skype is this:  the whole world can see your eyebags.

*     *     *

Self loves her pig story.  She just loves, loves, loves.  She keeps adding to it:  pages of utter mayhem.  Stomping.  And the like.  (Self, you have a sick mind.  A really really really sick mind).  She called the story “Pig Babies” until last week, when she decided to call it “Thing.”

*     *     *

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Looking Back: The American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore

Self once served on a selection panel for an artists grant.  The granting organization was in Baltimore, and they flew her over for one night.  Self supposes there must be crazier things than that, but she is still amazed every time she thinks of herself flying clear across the country, staying one night, attending a day-long meeting, and then taking a late flight back to California.  And teaching a full load, the very next day.

In Baltimore, she was put up in a Hilton which was close to the seaport.  Her shoulders and neck flared with accumulated tension but she was determined to see as much of the city as she could.  As soon as she was done with her committee duties, and in the few hours of daylight left before she had to head to the airport, she decided to visit the American Visionary Art Museum.  The museum was the brainchild of a man named James Rouse, who happens to be the grandfather of the actor Edward Norton.

The museum is a commemmoration of “outsider art,” art created by people who have no artistic training, who created out of a deep need to express themselves (Just so you know how committed the museum’s curators are to its vision, there is a whole gallery devoted to finger paintings made by one Betsy the Chimp, whose dates of birth and death are very carefully recorded:  1951- 1960)

She remembers another artwork, a sculpture of a gigantic man, caught in mid-stride.  The image seems to radiate vitality and power.  You have to go close to see:  the figure was constructed entirely out of matchsticks.

In another gallery, she saw a series of intensely colorful paintings, all the work of a woman who was a maid for a rich family somewhere in the south.  All the paintings were done in her spare time.

The main exhibit, at the time self visited, was called “Home & Beast”  and featured the paintings of Christine Sefolosha, born 1955 in the Swiss town of Montreux.  Her father was a fruit and vegetable merchant.  From the museum catalogue:  “During a period of her childhood when she experienced unusual insomnia, her mother took some of her drawings to a psychologist.  One of these depicted a huge crocodile devouring a dark-skinned man.”

After reading that, self looked at the paintings, and all of them depicted a dark-skinned man being devoured by a crocodile.  Clearly this image was an obsession for Ms. Sefolosha.  It turns out that she did marry a “dark-skinned man” from Africa (self forgets which country), followed him back to his home country and bore him two children.  Then, the man left her.  Sometime afterwards, Sefolosha began “painting and drawing again, working mostly on the floor with new pigments and watercolors and often with such materials as dripped tar and earth.”  And all she could paint were images of a dark-skinned man being devoured by a crocodile.  Holy Eerie Coincidence!

At the time, self had just finished writing a story called “Dumpster,” which she chose to set in Baltimore.  The story made one of her brothers want to puke.  Its central image was a severed hand.

Why did self choose Baltimore?  As Negrenses might say, “Ambot!”  (“I forget!” or “I don’t know!”)  At the time that she finished the story, she’d never even been to Baltimore.

After seeing the American Visionary Art Museum, however, self could never forget Baltimore.  And, eventually, after not too long, “Dumpster” was picked up by Mark Fitten, then-editor of The Chattahoochee Review.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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