NYTBR April 1, 2007

Books I Am Interested in Reading (After Perusing the Apr. 1, 2007 Issue of the New York Times Book Review) :

(1) After reading Sarah Wildman’s review of Giles Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past :

Giles Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past

(2) After reading Michael Crichton‘s review of Jerome Groopman’s new book, How Doctors Think :

Jerome Groopman’s How Doctors Think

(3) After reading Nicholas Fox Weber’s review of Carolyn Brown’s Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years With Cage and Cunningham :

Carolyn Brown’s Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years With Cage and Cunningham

TV Viewing Last Night

This morning: sick.

Yesterday, stayed in xxxxx community college until 2, meeting with students. Went home, watered front and backyard: 13 buckets. It was chilly and there was a high wind, but hacked stubbornly at the clay-like soil around the azaleas and roses and trees.

Hubby’s been coming home late, 8 or so, since he started his new job this week. It’s a start-up, only 15 people, and it means long long hours. Felt ill and tired, so stayed on couch, flipping through channels. 800 channels, and all I could dredge up was Maury, Guiding Light, and Jewelry Television. Finally, found an old Nicolas Cage movie, City of Angels.

Viewing matter improved considerably after 8, when hubby got home: then we watched Bones, part of a Warriors/Trailblazers game (Warriors won! Which means they’re officially in the playoffs!), and next thing I knew, David Letterman was on and his guest was Edie Falco of The Sopranos fame. I stayed up just long enough to see what Ms. Falco was wearing — since she is probably self’s age, hoped she would show up wearing something absolutely smashing and sexy. However, when Ms. Falco appeared, she was wearing something shapeless and black, and self could only see her face in profile, so couldn’t tell about her make-up.

Groggy. Grab my book of O. Henry Prize Stories. Open to p. 52, which is where I left off last night. Holy cow! I cannot make heads nor tails of what I am reading. But I have an absolute rule that, when reading story collections, I can never backtrack. Which is sort of like buying a car and swearing you will never go in reverse. But if any blog readers could help me get situated, here is my starting point this morning:

Excerpt from “The Broad Estates of Death” by Paula Fox

They all heard Mrs. Coyle nearing the shed as she crooned to the chickens. She entered the room carrying a small tray on which a plate crowded a jelly glass of milk. “Here you are, Ben. Show your boy how you can eat!”

She put the tray on the dresser, walked between Harry and Amelia, and began to plump up the thin pillows behind Ben’s head, arranging his shoulders against them with demonstrative efficiency. Ben’s eyes were half-shut, but his left hand moved convulsively. His right arm was immobile on the cotton coverlet. Once the tray was on his lap, he stared up at Mrs. Coyle. With ferocity, as though the sentiment had been hoarded until this moment, he said, “I don’t want this stuff!”

Mrs. Coyle, her authority questioned, was at a loss. She sighed heavily. “Well — then I’ll attend to my other charges,” she said, crossing to a door on the other side of the room Amelia hadn’t noticed. It led to another room, into which Mrs. Coyle disappeared.

Harry asked Amelia for matches. As she began searching her bag, Mrs. Coyle reappeared, her plump hands each placed on the heads of two children who clung to her skirt.

Framed by folds of cotton were the pale protuberant foreheads and silken-skinned faces of two little girls, thick pleats of skin around their slanted eyes.

What, oh what is happening here, dear blog reader? Can anyone tell me?

Further questions:

    Who, in God’s name, is Mrs. Coyle ??
    Is Ben some kind of invalid ??
    Who is Amelia ??
    What’s with the disappearing into other rooms and Amelia not noticing ??
    What’s with the two little girls with “the thick pleats of skin around their slanted eyes” ??
    Does slanted = Asian ??
    And is Paula Fox in fact fox-y ??

Peek at the back of the book: Paula Fox has published books for young people, as well as novels and stories. The Coldest Winter: A Stringer in Liberated Europe, a memoir, is her most recent book.

Which doesn’t exactly tell us anything. Now long for the fulsomeness of the Best American Short Stories author notes, in which you learn not only where author grew up, but also where author now lives or teaches, as well as other pertinent information such as: which Creative Writing Program author studied in.

Oh, what to do, what to do, dear blog reader? Hubby’s left for work, leaving me alone and unmoored (and sniffling into kleenex) in living room. Nothing for it but to plug gamely on. As Deng Ming-Dao says in the book 365 Tao, which self picked up (for 99 cents) in a Goodwill store in Honolulu:

The accused stands helpless before the judge
Pen is poised to determine right from wrong
In one arbitrary stroke,
Life is suddenly decided.

The Year Thus Far

Lately, self seems to have hit something of a snag, dear blog reader. But here is a list of what has transpired since the beginning of the New Year:

    Gave two out-of-town readings: San Diego State and University of Hawaii at Manoa (fun!)
    Been included in new anthology (Oakland Out Loud: think that was a mistake since self does not live in Oakland, but let us not look a gift horse in the mouth)
    Participated in Lamon at Bisyo roundtable/ panel discussion, moderated by Joel Tan, at Bayanihan Community Center.
    Bought fab new cookbook: Memories of Philippine Kitchens, by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan
    Had story listed as finalist in Summer Literary Seminars annual contest, for July workshops in Kenya or St. Petersburg.
    Awaiting new issue of Sou’wester, where self has a story.
    Bought new wallet from Edward’s Luggage (50% off) since Dearest Mum completely forgot that she had promised to bequeath to self her “lucky” lizardskin wallet before returning to Manila.
    Saw one very rousing movie: 300
    Finished series Rome (sob)
    Got hubby to hang faux Tiffany lamp over dining room table.
    Began teaching new English class at xxxx community college (Jury still out on that one)
    Received a gazillion rejections, both via e-mail (Kenyon Review) and snail mail (too many to list)
    Been accepted to VCCA for August residency, and also got invited to Anderson Center for July residency (which sadly had to decline)
    Had my car’s oil changed (after eight months).
    Survived hectic visit of Dearest Mum without having nervous breakdown (priceless)
    Had lunch (yesterday) with Fave Tita at Hotaru in San Mateo, during which learned of next onslaught of relatives, coming May 5 (but not Dearest Mum, thank goodness)
    Discovered a knack for growing clematis, as currently have three — one pink, one lavender, and one white — all profusely blooming.
    Have new niece: sister-in-law gave birth April 8.

Today, self is at home, having successfully negotiated 8 to 10 (atrocious time!) class and office hours at xxxx community college. Yesterday freakishly cold, insisted on watering (10 buckets), now feel onset of cold. Looking forward to weekend, which remains blessedly free of engagements: perhaps movie Disturbia.

Currently reading: The O. Henry Prize Stories 2006. Opening story is Edward P. Jones’ (great) story, Old Boys, Old Girls, which was also in Best American Short Stories, but year 2005. Second story, by Jackie Kay (You Go When You Can No Longer Stay) is very, very funny.

Best American 2005 was OK, but many of the stories sounded the same, as if they could all have been written by the same (male, white) person (except, of course, for the Edward P. Jones, and a super story by Rishi Reddi, and one absolute knockout by Alice Munro). Believe O. Henry is more balanced, as ratio of women writers to male writers roughly 50 / 50.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

10th Annual United States of Asian America Festival, San Francisco

Presented by Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco
Info: (415) 864 – 4126
info@apiculturalcenter.org

Our Stories/ Our Way: API Artists & Illustrators with Children’s Book Press
May 3 – May 26, Panel May 19: 4 – 5:30 PM
SOMARTS Cultural Center, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco
Admission: Free

Curated by Nancy Hom, this exhibition showcases the work of award-winning and up-and-coming Asian American artists published by the pioneer of multi-cultural children’s literature, Children’s Book Press. Featuring the work of Carl Angel, Tomie Arai, Shiraaz Bhabha, Nancy Hom, Felicia Hoshino, Conan Low and Hideo Yoshida.

Love Stories: Queer API Women’s Films
Saturday, May 5: 7 PM
SOMARTS Theatre, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco
Admission: $ 8.00 advance, $ 10 at door

Featuring: Tina Bartolome’s “Balikbayan Confessions” * Katie Joaquin’s “Spoken Smoke” * Tonilyn Sideco’s “Sleeping Through the Gospel” * Narissa Lee’s “Love in Chaos” * Vanda Chong’s “Tuberose” * Christine Liang’s “Infinite Breath” * Laurie Koh’s “Between the Lines” * and Debbie Ng’s “Troo Bloo”

Pinay Stories
May 12 : 8 PM, May 13 : 3 PM
SOMARTS Theatre, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco
Admission: $ 13 advance, $ 16 at door

Eight emerging Pilipina American performers and writers in a work that “is a raw and euphoric reflection of our colonial selves”. Featuring : Aileen Suzara, Aimee Suzara, Aureen Almario, Charity Ramillo, Grace San Pablo Burns, Irene Faye Duller, Lolan Sevilla, Tina Bartolome, Stephanie Sampang and performers from The Alleluia Panis Dance Theatre

Spotlight Stealerz
May 26: 8 PM
SLGBT Community Center, Rainbow Room, 1800 Market Street @ Octavia Street
Admission: $ 10 advance, $ 12 at door

A Los Angeles-based theatre/comedy performance troupe, the group “was created, founded and based on the writings” of Adelina Anthony, Alison de la Cruz and D’Lo.

Back from Honolulu: It’s a Terrible Day

Plane from Honolulu gets in at 6:03 AM, have 8 AM class. Was late, of course. Greeted by irate Dean at door to classroom. Hey, hey, what else is going to happen today – – –

Gave students outline of plans for the coming week. After class dismissed, walked to Admin building to drop off class roster.

Hey, a man said, Did you hear? 22 dead at Virginia Tech.

I did not know this man from Adam. What a gimp, I thought.

Then, one of the staffers I knew turned and said, It’s true. And I noticed a little knot of people gathered in front of a computer terminal, everyone peering at the screen.

What, it’s true? I said.

Yes, the staffer said. It’s true.

Went home. Read e-mail from Dean, a reprimand for being “absent without leave.” Should have called in sick instead of rushing from airport like a madwoman. Neck aching tremendously. Watered backyard, nine buckets. Switched on TV. Amazingly, self had forgotten about the Virginia Tech news but now saw that instead of “Judge Alex” on KTVU, the president of Virginia Tech was speaking to a crowd of reporters, and the banner at the bottom of the screen said: 31 dead at Virginia Tech.

And I couldn’t, just couldn’t believe it, and I tried and tried to call son at Cal Poly, because he is the RA in charge of one of the freshman dorms and the news must be causing some consternation there, and I could not reach him.

End of Week/ Trip Report

Three hours more till self gets dropped off at Honolulu airport.

Just finished viewing movie “Infamous“, with Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, and Daniel Craig (four out of five stars: Daniel Craig tremendous as killer Perry Smith)

Imbibed today: typical Hawaiian breakfast at Zippy’s (two eggs over easy, Portuguese sausage, two scoops of white rice)

Bought: three vintage Hawaiian note cards ($5 for 2)

Ate lots and lots of Filipino food. Today, for lunch: huge halo-halo at Max’s Fried Chicken in Waipahu.

Sold: all my books (excellent)

Bought: 4 boxes of chocolate-covered Macadamia nuts; one T-shirt (from Coffee Talk Coffee House in Kaimuki) for son; 1 14-oz. pack salted macadamia nuts; 1 8 oz. package mixed almond and pumpkin crunch (for airplane); 1 8 oz. bottle finely ground rock salt w/ garlic, cilantro; 1 book (from the Goodwill on Waialae Ave.): 365 Tao by Deng Ming-Dao (99 cents); 4 10-oz. vacuum-packed packages of Kona Coffee (2 dark roast) from Hilo Hattie’s at Ala Moana Center

E-mails to students: various

Taken for a ride: only once (not bad)

Buses taken: 3 (#2, #4, #13 to Chinatown and back)

Trolley rides: 2 (to DFK Galleria from the Ala Moana Center)

Friends made : maybe four or five ? (good, better than average)

Average hours of sleep a night: 4 1/2

Number of solid introductions vs. “so-so” : two out of two (excellent)

Number of business cards exchanged: 7

Tchismis sessions: one (very long, hours)

Sightseeing: Nu’uanu Pali, Filipino Community Center (Waipahu), Kalihi, Chinatown (very brief, mostly North Hotel Street, numerous speak-easies)

Weather: mostly balmy, occasional rainshowers

Late-night reading material: still Best American Short Stories 2005, no new stories worth mentioning, am on third to last story, by Tim Pratt (“Hart and Boot”), beginning very promising (Man emerges from hole “covered in dirt from head to toe, naked except for a pair of better-than-average boots”)

Pounds gained: (probably) many

State of Mind: sluggish but improving

Why Today Was the 12th Most Gorgeous Day etc. etc.

I got to see Honolulu’s Chinatown.

I got to eat in the Makai Market Food Court in the basement of the Ala Moana Center, and saw Spam listed as an item in the “Beach Boy” Special.

I bought boxes of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts from Long’s for $1.79.

I got to look around the Hawaii State Library, and see facsimiles of historical documents like the World War II Instrument of Surrender in the Pacific, signed by Japan, the United States, China, and Great Britain.

The Indayog sa Wika at the Philippine Consulate was so much fun!

I got to chat some more with my fave student of this trip (I so lucked out when she was selected to introduce me) Nicole Phillips.

I got to hear voices of Hawaiian writers like Michelle Cruz Skinner, Zack (who rocked), Darlene Rodrigues, Amalia Bueno.

I got to see a performance by the Kalipahu Dancers.

I got to eat pansit and embotido for dinner.

I got my second lei of the week.

I got a bright orange T-shirt with logo Pagtatagpo: Sa Indayog Ng Wika

(I think) I sold all my books (!!!)

I was given a ride back to U of Hawaii campus with three riotous dames in a cute mini-cooper.

When I turned on the TV, a Keanu Reeves movie was showing: Sweet November

Honolulu: Day Three

This will not be a stellar post, dear blog reader. For one thing, even though self fell asleep without any difficulty (last memory: staring up at ceiling fan whirring overhead), was awake at 3:52 AM. Yuuuuuccch!!

Eyebags : tre – MEN – dous!

Reading tonight is at Philippine Consulate!

(Interesting observation: birds do not start singing until well after five AM. Then stop abruptly when day heats up, which is now.)

Also, self has just discovered that people who run tours here on Oahu are not really interested in drumming up business. Looked up “Pleasant Holidays” in Directory, as wondered if self could avail of package to one of surrounding islands, like the ones they offer in Hong Kong to Macau, Lantau. Unfortunately, no main number listed for Pleasant Holidays, only hotel branches. So, decide to call branch at Hilton Hawaiian Village. Lady who picks up does not seem to know what I want, keeps referring me to other tour operators: Discover Islands, or Eno something something, lack of sleep may have slurred speech somewhat, but did not think self was that incoherent.

Keep insisting, But aren’t you a tour operator?

Lady wants to get off the phone fast.

Decide to try another tour operater, Roberts. Get passed around by voice mail. Wow! Have I just uncovered the bug in this seemingly perfect paradise?

Finally, stumble upon an 800 number for previous tour operator, Pleasant Holidays. End up at “corporate.”

Let my fingers do the walking through big fat phone directory’s yellow pages. More calls, all end up in corporate offices of Hawaiian Travel Islands, E Noa Tours, etc. etc.

Realize that the expectation is that anyone flying in already has a package. For someone like self, who plans on the fly, this place is hell. Find self longing exceedingly for lack of bureaucratic tangle in Asian cities like Bangkok, Hong Kong. Decide to follow Zack’s itinerary: # A bus to Waikiki, Ala Moana Center for shopping (even though self is on very limited budget), then trolley to Pearl Harbor. On the way, will pass by Doubletree to pick up Joi Barrios.

I NEED COFFEE!!!

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Honolulu: Day Two

Plan for the day, dear blog readers, is: Do not eat.

Am afraid overdid it again yesterday, what with yummy lomi and laulau and haupia, but in the midst of composing this most excellent post, catch self already formulating plan to return to Ono Hawaiian Foods on Kapahulu Ave and have meal before panel begins this afternoon (!!@@##)

Plan # 1, to find a way to get connected to internet, was readily accomplished (with only a short walk — which afforded self the opportunity to go exploring around University of Hawaii campus, where happened upon several pagoda-like structures nestled among trees, and a very pretty Japanese garden, where self was beset by mosquitoes who fed ravenously on self’s bare calves) by 5 PM.

Plan # 2, to attend panel with Joi Barrios, was unfortunately not accomplished, but self made up for that this morning by reading up on aforementioned author, and got to listen to audio of very funny poem called “Yankee Doodle Goes to War.” Zack told self she, too, was staying at Lincoln Hall, but apparently no longer, she is now staying somewhere on Waikiki. Well, will meet her this afternoon, as we are on the same panel (Speaking of which, have not planned what self is going to say, know my assigned topic is something to do with the “visibility or invisibility” of the Filipino American writer, thank goodness Zack said we each have only 10 minutes, just as well not to “over-prepare” –!)

Today, Plan # 4 (Plan # 3, as have already mentioned, is to refrain from eating, if possible) is: FIND COFFEE, ASAP. You see, self was up at 4 AM, looking up tours on the web (one-day round-trip to Kauai only $73!). Since it was 7 AM in California, that’s not so bad. Slept at 11 PM, California time (8 PM here), so actually that’s, like, eight hours sleep, which is about double the number of sleep hours self has been getting nightly, the past two weeks.

Unfortunately, in spite of long sleep, self still feels like she wants to sleep some more, and wonder if this is weather-induced (heat), or due to other environmental factors (ceiling fan, birds trilling outside window, distance from xxxxx community college), or due to advancing age.

Dearest Mum did also complain about feeling tired all the time — unfortunately, her “tiredness” was nowhere in evidence during her last visit, as she was on mad carousel of shopping, calling niece, dining with niece, etc. etc. and it was self who felt as if she would keel over, especially after last dinner when Dearest Mum and titas were in Milagros and niece and self were in A Tavola and getting the two groups together required Herculean re-arrangement, actually involved waiters from Milagros carting food from Dearest Mum’s table to A Tavola, and witnessing famished Mum and tita devouring burritos so that when A Tavola waitress brought menus, no one was hungry. But, I digress.

So nice to glance outside window and see there a huge green hill, and, as self told Zack yesterday, place feels sleepy, like Bacolod, where self used to spend summers as a child. “Hawaii is a nice place to grow up in, and you come back here to die,” Zack said. Presume he meant this is not a place for someone who wants to feel connected to the larger world. But, on Kapahulu Avenue yesterday, saw Japanese, Hawaiian, Filipino, African American and assorted races just going about their business, and self thought that was very nice, was actually reassuring. A man stood bare-chested on his balcony, reciting and making supplications to heaven with upraised arms. Zack observed man had a nice physique, but, “crazy on meth, probably,” he added.

In spite of coming from place also known for its “diversity”, feel San Francisco is not really diverse, as groups live in sharply demarcated areas, as witness Chinatown, Japantown, Daly City (Filipino-town), Oakland (African American), etc. etc. And, mostly, groups do not overlap. (Oh, there is also a very white San Francisco, which probably includes Shorensteins and everyone who attends those fab parties chronicled in The SF Chronicle).

OK, OK, enough already with the sage comparisons. Almost 7:30 AM, reception desk is open, will inquire as to COFFEE!

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Currently Ensconced in Abraham Lincoln Hall, University of Hawaii

It has taken me the better part of five hours, dear blog reader, but through sheer persistence have finally gotten someone to help me figure out how to connect to the internet from my room in Abraham Lincoln Hall, on the University of Hawaii campus.

Out the window of my third-floor room, I have a view of a narrow path and two gorgeous purple bougainvilleas shaped like trees (and, allow me to impart the observation to loyal blog readers that this campus is so beautiful, so filled with many gnarly old trees and pagodas and temples, tucked here and there among the buildings. Such as pagoda next to Abraham Lincoln Hall, which was apparently donated by the King of Thailand). No air-conditioning, but nice vigorous ceiling fan only adds to ambiance, fancy myself in some W. Somerset Maugham novel.

Hope Ate Ruth will forgive me for not going to Southeast Asian Writers Panel at 3 PM today, featuring Joi Barrios and Cambodian poet U Sam Ouer, but was utterly wiped out by the time Zack dropped self off at Lincoln Hall.

First of all, it was HOT, and I couldn’t remove my jacket because I’d eaten too much Laulau and Poi and Haupia at lunch in Ono’s Hawaiian Foods on Kapahalu Ave., and stomach was *quite* distended, would have been too embarrassing to reveal how much. Besides, all self really wanted to do was sink on the bed and watch CNN and maybe read.

Did force self to walk around a little bit in the late afternoon, and came to a beautiful Japanese garden, during investigation of which acquired five or six huge mosquito bites. Went limping back to hall, wondering if mosquito bites would still be evident tomorrow; have decided to wear dress/ skirt for self’s panel.

It is only 6 PM! (But 9 PM in California). Call to hubby revealed him in the backyard, shoveling poop, the leftover of last night’s dinner of corned beef and cabbage heating up in crockpot. It rained this morning, for which self was grateful, as plants would not suffer unduly from self’s prolonged absence.

Anyway, very happy to spend rest of day in this clean room. Have chatted quite a bit with young woman at front desk (who is from the mainland, she told self). Student (looked Filipino) came up and helped self get connected (no wireless; had to walk to Hale Manoa and buy ethernet cord from vending machine for $5). Other denizens of the hall are scholarly-looking middle-aged women, and one woman in black leggings with neon-green circles and a red turban (possibly an artist). Self presumes everyone is here to do research or attend a conference. Vending machine in basement sells only Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Mist. But Hale Manoa vending machines have ramen, potato chips, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Doritos, etc. etc. And apparently there is a restaurant nearby that delivers Hawaiian pizzas. Actually, self would be really content to hole up in room for next four days, reading and writing. But, well, have to do what self came here to do — feel slightly guilty now about skipping panel. But tomorrow, will perform as valiantly as expected.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

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