The Dorothy & Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at The New York Public Library

I would have loved to apply for this grant, if I wasn’t so worried about my roses (!!)

Call for Applications: Fellowships for 2007- 2008 (Application Deadline: Sept. 29, 2006)

The Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers is an international fellowship program open to people whose work will benefit directly from access to the collections at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street– including academics, independent scholars, journalists, novelists, poets, and other creative writers.

Each fellow receives a stipend of $50,000, an office, a computer, and full access to the Library’s physical and electronic resources. Fellows are required to work at the Cullman Center for the duration of the fellowship term.

To receive an application packet, write to:

The Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers
The New York Public Library, Room 225
Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10018- 2788


Quote for the Day

From George Santayana, as quoted by Bob Herbert in the Op-Ed page of the Aug. 14, 2006 New York Times:

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.

R.I.P, Uri Grossman

The son of author David Grossman, one of Israel’s most prominent writers and peace advocates, was killed Saturday in fierce fighting in Lebanon.

Below is a quote from the New York Times article of Monday, Aug. 14:

Throughout Israel’s first war in Lebanon, from 1982 to 2000, and during the first intifada in the late 1980s, Mr. Grossman and his wife were frequent participants in antiwar rallies and demonstrations. Often they were accompanied by their two young sons, Yonatan and Uri.

Last Thursday, David Grossman joined two other titans of Israeli letters, Amos Oz and A. B. Yehoshuah, to proclaim their opposition to continuing the war in Lebanon.

David Grossman is the author of the novels Be My Knife amd The Smile of the Lamb, as well as a treatise about Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, The Yellow Wind.

Quoting again from the New York Times article:

Menachem Brinker, a literary philosopher, described The Yellow Wind as “the worst indictment produced by an Israeli Zionist writer against the occupation, commensurate with Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night in terms of its importance.”


Lenox Hill, Revisited

This was me, 15 years ago:

I would have liked to say, I took the first plane to New York, but I did not. I am ashamed to say it, but I didn’t at first believe my brother-in-law when he called and said my sister was very sick. I remember listening to his foreign, English voice, and a host of memories came over me– memories of other times, other crises and emergencies, times that left me feeling helpless and angry. And he sounded so matter-of-fact, so English and above it all, and when he said she had strep I thought: Now you are really pulling my leg, you say all these awful things are happening and she has strep? I had wanted to hang up on him, but did not, and the rest of that day I busied myself with office work and did not think about my sister anymore.

–from “Lenox Hill, December 1991”, first published in Charlie Chan is Dead, vol. 1, edited by Jessica Hagedorn

This is me today:

I’m working on a computer in my brother-in-law’s apartment. He still lives in the same place, in the same apartment where my sister developed a form of streptococcal pneumonia which eventually killed her, 11 days after the phone call I wrote of above.

I wrote that story the week after she died. Don’t ask me where I got the strength.

Now my brother-in-law has re-married, he’s happy. It’s all I could have wished for him, this happiness. His hair has gone completely white, but he’s discovered a kindness in himself. Over the years, we sent our children back and forth, from coast to coast, to get to know each other. They’re grown now, my sister’s children and my own: my son’s in Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo; my sister’s two older children are in Stanford and Johns Hopkins. The girl at Stanford, who I’ll call “G”, e-mailed me last year. She’d gotten offers from the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, Pomona, Reed, Brown, and who knows what others. But she wrote: Tita, the reason I’m choosing Stanford is because of you. She’s sweet; she took my book, Ginseng and Other Tales from Manila, with her to Stanford and passed it around . “You have a following, Tita,” she laughs, “with the freshmen in my dorm.”

When my son graduated from high school, it was my brother-in-law who paid for our trip to Boracay. Now we’re here in New York, courtesy of my brother-in-law again, and we have a week to walk around, look at museums (though it’s a Monday and the two I most want to see–the Metropolitan and the Whitney– are closed). We’ll see plays if my money holds up.

My son and his cousins are close. 15 years later, this is what has happened to us. We’ve survived.

New York, Upper East Side

There’s a party in progress when we push open the door to the apartment. Three young men come to the door, stare blankly at me and then retreat to the kitchen. Pretty soon, my 18-year-old nephew, soon to be a freshman at Johns Hopkins, comes stumbling out.

“Oh, hi!” he says. “I didn’t know you were coming…

It’s 11:30 PM on a Saturday night in New York. The 18-year-old’s parents left for Turkey earlier that evening. I arrived from California at his parents’ invitation. Come and stay for a while, they said. It’s been a few years since you’ve been here. The subtext to all this is that the 18-year-old would have been alone in the apartment for two weeks if I hadn’t come. And you KNOW, you just KNOW what happens when an 18-year-old in New York has the apartment all to himself–

Thank goodness I have my son with me, but my son doesn’t want to stay in the apartment. He’s in college himself, he says it wouldn’t be “cool.” So, at 11:30 PM, we deposit our bags and head out again, walking towards Second Avenue.

The plane ride was long and they didn’t serve any food. We couldn’t take any liquids on board and I had to stash my lipstick in my checked-in luggage so I arrived in New York with my lips chapped. But, other than that, the whole airport experience– just two days after Britain announced they had foiled a plot to blow up 10 airplanes headed from Heathrow to America— wasn’t that bad. The security people at the San Francisco Airport seemed relaxed. They cooed over passengers’ babies. No one told my son to empty his pockets. It was cool.

So, we’re in New York, and it’s close to midnight, and we’re walking towards Second Avenue. Here and there are groups of people– doormen chatting, women out walking their dogs, an occasional group of teenagers. Some doorways have couples huddled on the front step, seemingly in deep conversation. This is all so different from Redwood City.

The waitress at Wasabi Lobby on the corner of 2nd and 82nd asks if we are Filipino. I say yes and she says, I have many, many Filipino friends. One man in particular, he was old, he was like a father to me…

Which left me to contemplate this fatherly Filipino man who, she said, had seven children and lived in New Jersey.

We get back, the party’s loud, loud, loud. I am the only adult in the vicinity, but I close the door to my room and let them drink, drink, drink the night away.

You’re only young once.

Bay Area Hawaiian Film Festival


Kawika Alfiche / (650)588-1091

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO: The Aloha Pumehana O Polynesia (APOP) Hawaiian Cultural Center is pleased to present its 3rd Annual Bay Area Hawaiian Film Festival on Saturday, September 23 at 423 Baden Avenue in South San Francisco. This year’s festival will feature an array of films, dramas, and documentaries produced by and about Hawaiians. Each year the festival provides a cinematic voice for the Hawaiian community on the mainland and presents a unique opportunity for Hawaiians to tell their stories, share their language, culture, and history with the general public in the Bay Area.

The festival offers a rare glimpse of Hawaiian perspectives through cinema and will feature films about Hawaiian myths and legends told for the first time in the Hawaiian language; documentaries that explore the Hawaiian monarchies, sovereignty, land rights, and environmental issues; highlights on cultural traditions of Hula; as well as vintage films featuring the world-renowned surfer Duke Kahanamoku and Waikiki in the days of old.

The 3rd Annual Bay Area Hawaiian Film Festival takes place at the APOP Hawaiian Cultural Center, 423 Baden Avenue, South San Francisco on Saturday, September 23, 2006 from 1pm to 9pm. For ticket information call 650.588.1091or . Also be sure to visit

Reading for the Day

From Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s short story, “Innocence”, in the New Yorker, June 26, 2006

… Her disciples sat cross-legged in a circle around her while she spoke of the Absolute, both in its aspect of the inconceivably immense and as the tiny Person no bigger than a thumb within the human heart.

The real Dinesh and the fictional D. had the same attitude toward our absorption in this heady stuff. He said that we lived in an India that had been invented in the nineteenth century by German professors, and that, by keeping our eyes fixed on mystical and mythical abstractions, we failed to look down at the earth and the people crowding it. It was only, he said, when something unpleasant happened to us– a sickness, or some fat shopkeeper cheating us, or a youth groping us on a bus– it was only then that we recognized that we were living in a real place, in a city like any other; and at once our noble, our spiritual India was degraded into a country of thievery and lechery.

Harney & Sons Pomegranate Oolong Tea

It comes in a red brick tin. I saw it while standing in line at my local Barnes & Noble, beneath a sign that said $3.95. The side of the tin said: “Hand Picked Full Leaf Ti Quan Yin oolong, hand-blended with Pomegranate Flavor.”

EFFECTS: Inspiring.

For days, since coming back from Hong Kong, I’d been a little feverish. Yes, the temperature in the Bay Area was a brutal 105 degrees and all around me people were having conversations like this: “Where’d you go to get away yesterday? Moss Beach? It was actually SCORCHING in the City…”

In Hong Kong, I’d stayed at my brother’s vast and pristine apartment overlooking the busy ships of Victoria Harbor. To my left was the Bank of China Tower, all bad feng-shui angles. Directly across my window were the Lippo Towers, two knobby fingers thrusting into the Hong Kong sky, whose previous two owners had committed suicide. I thought of such things all the time in Hong Kong: whether it was bad luck to pick up an umbrella that someone had abandoned on the street (VERY bad luck, my friend Maloy told me) or to drink the red tea that was served in the little sidewalk restaurants (even worse bad luck: you might get dysentery).

In my brother’s apartment was a cabinet that was filled with nothing but tea: Chinese and Japanese tea. I examined these colorful packets every morning: Bojamine, Tenren. Even a few packets of Japanese green tea. I poured myself a cup every morning and night and the steam rising from the hot liquid was unfamiliar and exotic and also bracing.

So, I was back in the Bay Area– or, to be specific, in REDWOOD CITY— and I was standing in the Barnes & Noble, and the sign that said $3.95 (I was almost broke) convinced me that the tea was a good deal.

I grabbed a tin and the check-out girl said: $7.95. Oh. Too exhausted–by heat/ confusion/ jet lag–to argue, I forked over my debit card.

When I got home, I pried open the lid of the little red tin. Inside were gauzy triangles, soft as silk, with little black nubs of indeterminate shape nestled quietly in the corners. The effect was like looking at little clouds.

I lifted each silky triangle and sniffed. A sweet scent, like licorice. Oh.

Every day since then, I take one bag out of the tin. Each time I look and look at the little clouds. It’s always very early in the morning, 5 or 6 AM. I put a cloud in my old chipped ceramic mug. I boil water. I drink essence of Asia.

My Students Astound Me…

So, you know I’m teaching an on-line class for a UC Extension, right? This week I asked my students to write pairs of sentences: the first about a birth, the second about a death. And then I encouraged them to write other pairs (such as falling in love/ divorce).

To tell you the truth, I was tired when I logged on today. The funny thing about on-line classes is, I always under-estimate how much energy they require. And then I get frustrated because I don’t want to feel like I’m tethered to my computer all week.

But when I opened my mailbox, and I started to read, my hair almost stood on end. This was the first exercise I read. It’s by JA, a young Filipina student:

Birth and Death
It is totally charged time. Electric, searing and white. There is
important silence, like the quiet between claps of thunder.

The dull ache everywhere is making lists. The last of everything. I
long for wilderness and hold my breath.

Love and Divorce
Even your hand holding my elbow burns: Forbidden. Walking to work in
my evening dress to the C train. Our train.

There was no way she would give birth again. Not now. She nodded
her way into the clean, white office—knowing things would never be
the same.

Spring Summer

One month a year to be a giddy slut. If only they knew “Paypal”
meant a trip to Paris every year. It’s amazing how little they
really know about me.

I have never seen breasts sag like this. The suit is forgiving in
places, like my ass, but I can feel my own boob flesh sweating
against my body. Little misty pools of big-breasted sweat. The
opposite of sexy.

Violinists and Cellists

Even though she played with technique everyone would kill for, there
was no life moving her music along. She had become an instrument
herself. And her mother was going to shine and polish her like the
trophy she was.

She had never smoked pot before. But on the way to the truck stop it
seemed like the sensible thing to do. No one would find out—and
anyway, she had no idea what else to do in Maine.


What about this book, published in Canada, that I just found out includes one of my earliest stories (“Siko”)!!! Read the rest of this entry »

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