I Sing the Body Electric, or, Happy-Happy Joy-Joy …

Cold, cold, cold night. Internet (and sanity) have been restored. Very nice man came yesterday afternoon in a white AT & T van. He looked at the line leading from our (Jurassic) Speedstream 5360 modem box. This line is an amazing thing– it snakes down our hallway and around corners and into our bedroom where it is plugged securely into a jack just behind our headboard.

Man says, “Hmmm, do you have a filter?”

Yes, I say, pointing out a box which is attached to ANOTHER line leading from jack behind our headboard to somewhere beneath piles of discarded cell phones/ junk mailers/ old Sports Illustrated magazines under hubby’s desk.

“Where does this line lead to?” man asks, indicating line disappearing under hubby’s desk.

“Uh, I don’t know,” I said. Which was the absolute truth.

“Husband use it for anything?” he asks.

“Uh, I’m pretty sure he does,” I say. “Maybe his laptop?”

“Well,” man says, “You already have a line to the laptop, THIS one,” and he indicates a very prominent white cord which does in fact also connect waaaay back down the length of our hallway and back to little black modem box on my desk.


“So,” man says. “THIS line, which goes nowhere, has a filter, but the one to YOUR computer doesn’t have one. So, what if I take off the filter from THIS line, like so–!” And voila, he really does pull off the tiny little thing he calls a filter. “And what if I put it on YOUR line,” he says, and voila! It’s all done quicker than I can blink an eye.

“And,” man says, “let’s try logging on from your computer again.”

So we wend our way down the hallway back to my tiny little office, and give two taps on the keyboard, and wait a few seconds, and suddenly all lights on Speedstream are lighting up like crazy, it’s like Christmas or the Fourth of July. I stand there with my mouth open and I simply cannot believe it.

“Well,” man says. “I guess that fixed your problem.”

Ahhh, I stand there dumbly. Because I simply can’t believe that — this– little thing– which hubby had on a line leading under his desk to God-knows-what hidden pile of treasure– was actually the Rosetta Stone to all our internet anguish of the last few days.

But, nice man went off with a wave, and I rushed to the telephone, simply dying to impart to hubby the momentous events of the afternoon, and after all was said and done I didn’t miss any e-mail, not even from any member of my family (who e-mail me about once every six months, I kid you not), and now I’m getting ready to read a paper by student Jonathan Y. on “Othello”, which I decided to end the semester with, under the misguided notion that class would end on an “up” note, and I’m reading Jonathan’s words and my eyes are slowly closing, cloooosing:

“Iago is a uniqe and well known character in the play. His character makes him the bad guy of the play. The dialogue he presents is of evil gesture. In reference to his hatred of Othello, he is simply filled with negative moods. In addition, he uses Roderigo for his own purposes without concern for what might become of him…”


Home, Sweet Home– NOT!

The Gods, dear blog reader, have not been kind.

As my Daily Horoscope says: “Something that seems settled suddenly changes direction.”

Or, to put it another way: “You’ve got to learn to take your lumps.”

Or, fond platitude: “You’ve got to take the bad with the good.”

Which is just another way of saying that when hubby and I returned from nice Thanksgiving break with son in San Luis Obispo– what?

Was the brand-new flat-screen HDTV missing? (No.)

Had the plants and flowers expired? (Almost, but not quite.)

Was Gracie terribly traumatized by being boarded at the San Carlos Pet Hospital, site of her mastectomy, for three days? (No, she was spoiled with fluffy blankets and walked twice a day, quite a big improvement over at home, where we remember to walk her once a week, if she’s lucky …)

No, even worse than all of these– we could not log on to the Internet.

First, I tried, for something like four hours, in a tizzy over the very important messages I must have been missing.

Nothing. Then, after I passed out exhausted on the couch, hubby roused himself from the USC/ Notre Dame game and tried, for the next four hours, exhausting both himself and myself and I tell you there’s nothing pretty, dear blog reader, about our arguments when we are both at the point of exhaustion.

So then I called AT & T Internet service and got a series of Filipinas — I kid you not; I know exactly when a Filipina answers the phone, no matter how fluid the English. In fact, said nice Filipinas at AT & T Customer Service seemed to recognize moi as Filipina as well, and then wanted to ask me a series of questions, to wit:

How long have you been living in the States?
Do you like it there?
Where is your house?

And to all I had to bite my tongue to keep from uttering: Just fix my internet service, damn it!

Well, the next day dawned bright and clear, and– no internet service.

Instead, when we picked up the line that we use for our computer connection, we now heard, at all hours of the day and night– the KNBR sports station. Yes, I could pick up the receiver at any time of the day or night and find out who won the Gonzaga/ North Carolina or Stanford/ Rutgers basketball games. I could rattle off the scores to this or that football game and find out exactly how many yards passing Tony Roma had thrown for the Dallas Cowboys. Yes, all this information courtesy of our phone, which I could pick up at any time of the day or night and listen, as to an oracle, while the announcer did a play-by-play. (And why, of all things, a SPORTS radio station– why not something like NPR?)

Why, God, why?

Which is why I’m now in the reference room of the Redwood City Library, letting our dinner burn (May hubby not return until I’ve finished typing this.)…

Life is full of surprises, isn’t it?

In Muir …

“Your thumbs must be full of callouses,” Hubby tells son.

They’re sitting side by side on the couch in son’s room in the dorm. Son’s playing “Devil May Cry 3” with hubby offering encouragement. He also suggests helpfully to son that son, upon graduation, may want to move back home.

“I don’t want to live in the Bay Area,” son says phlegmatically. His fingers are moving like lightning over the controller.

“There is no shame in moving back in with your parents,” husband intones. “It is a practical move. To save money.”

Son is diplomatically silent.

This is the same dorm where he started his college life, two years ago. The campus is completely deserted. Tomorrow, when we drive back to the Bay Area, son will be entirely alone.

It’s creepy walking down the quiet hallways. Every student has gone home for the Thanksgiving break. Son has to make two rounds every day: one early in the morning, and one before 10 PM. He has to make sure no one is lurking in the building who shouldn’t be there.

I know that if I were alone in this building, alone on an empty campus, I would be thinking Grudge 2 and completely freak out. I would imagine a long-haired ghostly woman floating down the corridor toward me and would be so overwhelmed with fright that I would not be able to move and would be apparition’s first victim.

Oh, well. Do not, of course, mention any of this to son.

Re-stocked his fridge — which was completely empty — with food to sustain him for the next three weeks. Upon arrival, hubby and I were distressed to learn that son was living off two huge cartons of Kix cereal from the local Costco.

Went to Copeland’s Going Out of Business Sale in downtown Chorro St. (sale only 10%, some weird kind of “going-out-of-business” sale!) and bought him new Mizuno running shoes, track pants, and socks.

Had steak dinner at Tahoe Joe’s.

It was a gorgeous day. Sky blue, blue, not a single cloud. At one point, passed Emerson Park and everyone was looking up and gesticulating. What? At approaching clouds?

There was a huge flock of birds flying in arrow formation, swooping here and there just above us.

Suddenly, the streets that yesterday were completely empty (except for in front of the movie theatre) were now full of people. The bar hubby took me to while son was doing his time at the front desk of the dorm was completely full, at 2 PM. Bartender made me a nice coffee drink with Kahlua, Bailey’s, and a shot of chocolate liqeur. Yum, yum. Afterwards, stumbled getting off the bar stool. Sorry.

Not ready to go back yet. Why is it that the weather always seems so much nicer here?

Beaches we have stopped at: Pismo and Avila.

Restaurants: Pierside, Pismo Beach; Fat Cat’s, Avila Beach; Denny’s on Madonna Road; Corner View Bar, downtown SLO; Tahoe Joe’s, Madonna Road

Purchases: two bars of Magnolia-scented goat milk soap; soft knit baby hat and baby shoes for new niece Alyssa; New Balance running shoes for hubby; and everything else for A

Most excellent meal: Everything

Now son suggests we go out for some ice cream. Though hubby and I are full to bursting from dinner, we readily agree. Son suggests Bali’s, somewhere on Foothill Boulevard.

More later …


Weather: Warm. In fact, excellent.

Day: Sunny

Surf: Low

Town: Empty. In fact, deserted.

Thanksgiving Dinner: Tilapia in Lemon Sauce at Denny’s on Madonna Road

After-dinner Activity: “Casino Royale” at downtown movie theatre; hubby, son and I only non-whites in huge audience (creepy), but Daniel Craig excellent.

Son is on his rounds, checking the dorm, one of his activities as Resident Advisor. He’s in charge of Muir, the Freshman Math & Sciences Dorm, which is empty this weekend except for son and one other student, a boy named Will who did not hear hubby and I banging on front door because he was too busy playing “Halo.” Husband and I sat on the ground in front of dorm, exhausted after hectic Wednesday getting car/dogs/ house/ garden/ job/ classes squared away and then driving south early in the morning.

Most Interesting Sight: people lined up in front of the Best Buy on Madonna Road, getting ready for Black Friday

Also: Found out son can do dead-on impression of Borat.

More later …

Look! Look! Look!

The best thing about my serving on the panel for the xxxxxx Arts Foundation was that they flew me over to Baltimore for one night; I got to see Shawn Wong; and the panel ended its deliberations hours early, so that I was able to catch a cab to the Inner Harbor, where I checked out the American Visionary Art Museum.

Look! Look! Look! say signs at the main entrance and just outside the second floor galleries, where the current exhibition is “Beast and Home.”

The young lady at the registration desk wanted to know if this was my first visit. When I said it was, she asked, “Do you know what visionary art is?”

I said that I did. Isn’t that outsider art?

Yes, she said.

And here, let me tell you, loyal blog reader, that I had never been in a place so moving. Here were artworks created by people with no formal training– people who included paranoid schizophrenics, somnambulists, murderers, even a chimpanzee named Betsy who lived in the Baltimore zoo from 1951 to 1960. Also: housewives; people who heard voices; mailmen.

The words “Look! Look! Look!” were the words of a mailman who built a huge tower (words fail me at describing it– perhaps a cross between Burning Man and an Alexander Calder mobile) by a highway near his home.

Do any of these names ring a bell? Christine Selosha; Ionel Talpazan; Andrew Logan; Axel Erlandson; Stanley Wright; Leslie Payne; Leonard Knight.

One of them was a Swiss woman who grew up dreaming dark nightmares of a man devouring a crocodile. She subsequently married a man from South Africa and produced painting after painting of a dark-skinned man devouring a crocodile, whole series of which are on the walls of the second floor of this Baltimore museum.

The others? Well, one of them kept journals of all his plane trips; another built a reflective egg; Another built a 1,000-pound spaceship model; yet another created a telephone booth that could never house a telephone (except maybe a cell phone).

Who are these visionary artists? They are people with no formal training. One, an African American woman, cleaned houses all her life (She lived to be 90) but turned her home and garden into a paradise of brightly colored paintings and collages.

Another was a tubercular man who carved a huge wooden statue of a walking man. The man’s torso is thin and caved in, just as the man himself might have looked, were he to be seen standing naked in front of a mirror.

Another — a man who lived for a time in Humboldt, CA— collected Civil War memorabilia and glued them together to make phantasmagoric sculptures.

In one of the galleries are a series of paintings of an artist’s “cousins”– all of them imaginary.

You get the picture.

These are artists who made their art simply to suit themselves. Who spent decades of intense devotion to creating a single piece of art. Who actually do not think of their work as “art”. Who see their work instead as a fulfillment of a personal vision.

Today, oh loyal blog reader, I’m a little manic, a little sleep-deprived. It’s my day to exercise “compassion” but I’ve already done at least one non-compassionate thing, which was to e-mail someone at ODU to inquire about the reimbursement for my airfare to their literary festival a month ago.

Hubby awoke early, got dressed, and then sat down on the living room couch as if he had all the time in the world and nowhere to go (Can you hear my teeth gnashing?) He then, after I thought he’d gotten safely out the door, returned three times, each time walking by me as I typed to get something or other from the bedroom.

It’s very hard. But, compassion, I tell myself. The theme of the day is compassion, compassion, compassion …

Daily Horoscope

Today, I have a PLAN. Daily horoscope says: “Put some of your compassion to good use.”

Am half-asleep still, (only 6:37 AM!) but look forward to a day exercising my “compassion” (which, let me tell ya, sometimes feels in very short supply after a whole day spent with my little darlings in xxxxx community college).

Whatever. Promise to do my best to fulfill horoscope’s exhortation.

Now looking forward with some anticipation to the day (whereas a few moments ago all I wanted to do was crawl right back under the blankets and forget there was ever such a thing as English 1A). The day before me a blank text, on which I will choose to exercise ONLY certain responses, the “compassionate” ones. Hope this is good feng-shui or whatever, perhaps will be rewarded with happiness, fame, and/or money and Jimmy Choos–!!!

Looking over things I KNOW I have to do today:

(1) Drop off dogs at San Carlos Pet Hospital, where they will board while hubby and I drive down to San Luis Obispo.

Compassion rating (on a scale of 1 to 5): O, because little tykes will be stuck in metal cage over the long weekend and I know Gracie will be howling and trembling like crazy, seeing as she now has very BAD memories of the place from her mastectomy a month ago

(2) Pick up rental car from Thrifty counter at San Francisco airport

Compassion rating (on a scale of 1 to 5): Also O, because strictly business transaction

(3) Ask hubby if he wants me to pack him a lunch today

Compassion rating (on a scale of 1 to 5): Probably 2. Only takes me three minutes to prepare a sandwich.

Stay tuned!

Books Whose Rankings I Have Looked Up Today on Amazon.com

My own, of course: 338,293


Book has languished in the Amazon.com cellar — 1,xxx,xxx — for most of this year. Suddenly last night, have moved from abysmal to “not bad”. WHAT HAS HAPPENED?

Did someone decide to order a batch for Christmas give-aways? Unlikely. After all, San Francisco Chronicle Book Reviewer Anhoni Patel has suggested that my publisher “include a margarita with every copy” because “you will need it.”– HA HA HA HA!

Can it actually be possible that some teacher out there is using it as a text? Whatever the case may be, find ranking of 338,293 to be fairly acceptable (ONLY 299,000 books ahead of me, from the millions and millions in the Amazon.com cyber-store — !!!)

And, here’s the ranking for Eric Schlosser’s follow-up to Fast Food Nation:

Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs and Cheap Labor on the American Black Market: 108,360


Gap between myself and Mr. Schlosser not that large, might even be infintesimal — ONLY 200,000 books between us, after all!! And HIS publisher is mighty Houghton Mifflin — !!!

Give myself tremendous pat on the back. Will now go back to grading English 1A papers with renewed sense of purpose.

Book I Am Interested in Reading (After Perusing the Nov. 19, 2006 Issue of the New York Times Book Review)

After reading Rachel Donadio‘s end-paper essay, “The Art of the Feud” (Hey, I didn’t know Richard Ford could spit! Thank you, Rachel.) :

Tom Wolfe’s widely-panned 1998 novel, A Man in Full

Was that the one he wrote while lurking about the Stanford campus as writer-in-residence, the one that chronicled the sex lives of supposedly randy Stanford undergraduates? Sadly, no, oh loyal blog-reader. In an earlier version of this post, I mis-spoke . . . (That book was “Charlotte something”– it’s finally coming back to me…slooowly …)

Brain Cloud, 19 November: Niece, Honeybaked Ham, Best Travel Movies

Yesterday was pure joy. Why? Because:

(1) I did not grade a single paper (which is not to say that there weren\’t any papers TO grade — there were, at least three piles of them)

(2) I saw my niece at Stanford. Admittedly, the only reason she called was because she needed a ride to the airport, but. Still. We met in the morning (A dozen other Stanford students, similarly waiting for rides, were standing on the sidewalk in front of her dorm, all looking giddy and expectant. Ah, youth!) and had a scrumptious breakfast at the Laurel Street Cafe in San Carlos — she had the \”French\” crepe: ham, swiss cheese, and egg; and I had the \”New York\” crepe: smoked salmon, cream, capers, and lemon. Mine was divine. Niece\’s would have been divine if she, inveterate New Yorker that she is, hadn\’t fallen for the buckwheat version (\”I\’ve never had a buckwheat crepe before, Tita. They don\’t offer that option in New York!\”). To make up for disappointing taste of buckwheat, she ordered a \”Grand Ma\” crepe to take with her to the airport, but it looked so good sitting there in its styrofoam container that she finished the whole thing in three big gulps.

(3) Hubby and I indulged in our annual indulgence of buying a HUGE Honeybaked ham, 7 1/2 pounds, which is terribly indulgent since there are only two of us who will eat it, but– then again– who cares?

(4) We stopped by Blockbuster on the way home from purchasing said ham, and rented a movie, which is something we had not been able to do since late summer.

Which brings me to my next topic (Apologies for the many digressions, loyal blog reader. But your patience will be rewarded.)

Conde Nast Traveler had a poll: Which were the best travel movies of 2005- 2006?

I missed the deadline — September 25 — by almost two months. But here are the list of movies I would have nominated, if I\’d had the chance to fill in the ballot. Following the Conde Nast contest guidelines, I\’m going August to August. And, I only list the movies I have actually seen. In a theatre.

The Beautiful Country (Vietnam and Texas)
Brokeback Mountain (Wyoming, purportedly)
Casanova (Venice)
The Constant Gardener (Berlin; Kenya; London)
The Da Vinci Code (Paris; London; Scotland)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (England; Scotland)
Inside Man (New York City)
The Lake House (Chicago)
The Matador (Mexico City)
Pride & Prejudice (various estates in England)
Syriana (Dubai; Geneva; Washington, D.C.)
Thank You for Smoking (Washington, D.C.)
Transamerica (all over the U.S.A.)
Walk the Line (Arkansas; California; Memphis; Nashville)
Wedding Crashers (Maryland)

Of course, don\’t be a dummy, this is not a list of the best movies of 2005- 2006 — as you can tell by inclusion of execrable Da Vinci Code!!!

#amreading: The Known World, by Edward P. Jones

I’m currently reading a mesmerizing first novel by Edward P. Jones, The Known World.

I’m nearing the mid-section of the book, and am at a passage where a “patroller” named Skiffington, one of those semi-official enforcers who tracked down errant slaves and returned them to their masters, is returning from a mission. Tired, he sits down to rest under a peach tree. To refresh his mind, he takes out his Bible. Flipping through the pages he comes across a story in Genesis: the story of Lot and how two angels disguised as strangers came to visit him.

Jones writes:

“The men in the town came to the house, wanting Lot to send out the strangers so that they could use them as they would use women. Lot sought to protect the strangers and offered the men his virgin daughters instead. It was one of the more disturbing passages in the Bible for Skiffington and he was tempted to pass on, to find his way to Psalms and Revelation or to Matthew, but he knew that Lot and the daughters and the angels posing as strangers were all part of God’s plan. The next morning, the angels laid waste to the town. Skiffington looked up and followed a male cardinal as it flew from left to right and settled in one of the peach trees, a red spot on shimmering green. The female, dull brown, followed, alighting on a branch just above the male’s head. Skiffington’s daughter had always felt such pity for Lot’s wife and what happened to her

(in case you forget, dear blog reader, she was turned into a pillar of salt);

but Skiffington had no strong opinion either way about what happened to her.”

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