As Calyx Nears Its 33rd Birthday (in May), Self Asks Once Again: What Is a Landscape?

A few years ago, Calyx Press, whose editorial board self fondly refers to as her “second mothers,” was seemingly at death’s door. They had struggled bravely for many years, but funds were bleeding out. Small press publishing, as loyal blog readers do not need to be told, is an exhausting business. Profits are slim or non-existent, and the publishers rely on the loyalty of a small group of supporters and volunteers. In the year 2003, there were only funds enough to publish one book. And that book, the collective decided, was to be a collection of writings by Filipinas, edited by self and the poet Virginia Cerenio.

Since Calyx is in need of yet another shot in the arm, self would like to quote a few excerpts from the anthology Going Home to a Landscape: Writings by Filipinas. Because of Calyx’s editorial policy, this and others in its catalogue will remain in print as long as there is a Calyx. That single stipulation in self’s author’s contract was worth any number of royalty checks.

First, excerpts from just a few of the many laudatory reviews the anthology has received.

“For these authors… the meaning in their lives and writing involves a state of mind that a Filipina sustains, more than place – specific birth or residency.” – Bloomsbury Review

“It is very rare for me to read a book that resonates so close to my entire being…. Going Home is beautifully crafted, not just a collection … writings like these not only serve as food for our souls, but provide insight into the human consequences of dislocation and dispossession.” – Multicultural Review

“…offers a captivating range of the styles, forms, and concerns which emerge through the disasporic experience … a powerful collection … a dynamic range of voices.… The remarkable achievement of this anthology is the sense of intimacy maintained despite the radical difference and distances which mark the Filipina diaspora.” – Melus“It is very rare for me to read a book that resonates so close to my entire being…. Going Home is beautifully crafted, not just a collection … writings like these not only serve as food for our souls, but provide insight into the human consequences of dislocation and dispossession.” – Multicultural Review

  • * * *

Maiana Minahal: Tired

    Not demon nor god
    just my tired father
    who snaps off the useless bulb
    burning above me.
    Home from another night shift
    at the machine shop,
    grimy at midnight,
    he finds me
    half asleep,
    face down in a book, tired
    from trying to cram
    too much in one night.
    Too young, he thinks,
    to work so hard.
    But he wants me to work hard
    and ace this American country.
    His footsteps fade away
    as I try to shake off sleep
    to tell him,
    no American dream drives me,
    but fear,
    fear of failing to conquer words
    I don’t

Quotes of the Day (Saturday, Day of Mother of All Barbecues, Part II)

Yesterday, self was in the animal clinic, taking Bella for her annual physical. Bella seemed very happy: her tail never stopped wagging, perhaps because she was not with Gracie this time and was now the center of attention? Had to wait half an hour as doctors were occupied with an emergency: an older dog, whose owner claimed it “couldn’t get up.” (Heard later that dog walked into the clinic, wagging its tail and acting as perky as could be. Attendant opined — with a wink — that the animal was “probably just carsick”) Amused myself by picking out book from magazine rack called Chicken Soup for the Cat & Dog Lover’s Soul and found this :

Every dog is a lion at home.

* * * *

Fell asleep around 11, woke up to the sound of Letterman’s voice, it’s probably just past midnight. Reading Rilke:

If you think you are capable of living without writing, do not write.

Quote prompts self-examination. Realize that, unlike Rilke, self can imagine living without writing. In fact, self thinks she would be much happier if she did not feel such compulsion to record everything, this “everything” ranging from mundane conversations to the contents of her desk drawer.

Further, self can remember long periods of not writing when she was perfectly happy. Writing is somehow connected, in self’s mind, to unhappiness. Which then brings to mind another quote, this from her former writing workshop colleague, Harriet Doerr (This woman was a true inspiration: her first book, Stones for Ibarra, published when Harriet was past 70, became a huge bestseller and she got her picture into Vogue magazine. What happened to the movie rights?). Self was at Harriet’s reading at now-defunct bookstore on California Avenue in Palo Alto, Printer’s Inc. Someone in the audience asked Harriet if she were married. Harriet indicated yes, she’d been married 40 years. “Happily married?” the man repeated. And Harriet replied with a question:

Would anyone who’s been married 40 years write if she were happy?

Mother of All Barbecues Part II

Self is kinda bummed that hubby came home early. Self went to watch the 4:40 show of A Mighty Heart, at downtown Redwood City cinema, as she felt in dire need of relaxation before tomorrow’s onslaught of relatives. Self used to have quite a strong antipathy to Angelina Jolie, since she tends to shun women who steal other women’s husbands. But, in discussing issue with niece, nephew, manicurista, and everyone else self comes into contact with on a weekly basis, discovered that everyone prefers Angelina to Jen. “She’s smarter,” niece asserts. “And she cares about world issues.” (OK, OK, enough already!)

Anyhoo, as self was saying, assumed hubby wouldn’t be home until his usual time, 8 PM, and would have plenty of time to do such things as prepare dinner, tidy up living room (where self had left her usual scattering of books and magazines).

But, as self was driving up the avenue toward home, saw hubby’s white car parked up by the curb in front of the house. Good thing she had decided not to drop by Whole Foods for further investigations of the what-to-spend variety! Hubby was madly mowing, in preparation for tomorrow’s Mother of All Barbecues Part II, for which we are expecting 30 people. When self walks in, his first words are: “Wipe down the TV screen.” Next, he wants self to clean the bathroom. AND wipe down all the door handles.

Nothing bores self more than receiving instructions. Especially since hubby also informs self that tomorrow, day of Mother of All Barbecues Part II, he has to work, and will probably only be back at 6:30, when barbecue starts.

At first, self is uncommonly peeved. But then she thinks it will all work out, because with hubby out of the way, self can watch another movie. Or read. Or write a story. And by the time he comes back, guests will be arriving, and he will be so distracted with excitement over playing the role of gracious host that he will forget about self completely. Self knows what to expect because she has seen it all happen before.

Let me just say, before bidding adieu, dear blog reader, that self was so moved by A Mighty Heart, and cannot imagine anyone better suited for playing the role of Mariane Pearl than Angelina. And thank God they did not talk over-much about Danny Pearl’s gruesome death. Who was that woman whose silky voice accompanies movie’s closing credits? The song was so beautiful, too.

Another bonus: got to watch smashing preview for The Bourne Ultimatum, which opens August 3, just before self leaves for VCCA. Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Ketel One’s Fifty Best Films of All Time: The Remaining 19 (Films Self Has Not Seen)

1. Battleship Potemkin
2. Ben-Hur
3. Citizen Kane
4. Dances with Wolves
5. Easy Rider
6. Giant
7. High Noon
8. It’s a Wonderful Life
9. Midnight Cowboy
10. On the Waterfront
11. Psycho (1960)
12. Raging Bull
13. The Searchers
14. Singin’ in the Rain
15. Some Like It Hot
16. To Kill a Mockingbird
17. Vertigo
18. West Side Story
19. The Wizard of Oz

Morning, Last Friday in June: Further Mysteries

    Summer after summer has ended,
    balm after violence;
    it does me no good
    to be good to me now;
    violence has changed me.

    Daybreak. The low hills shine
    ochre and fire, even the hills shine.
    I know what I see; sun that could be
    the August sun, returning
    everything that was taken away —

    You hear this voice? This is my mind’s voice;
    you can’t touch my body now.
    It has changed once, it has hardened,
    don’t ask it to respond again.

* * * *

Stumbling outside after Gracie, making coffee. It’s a cool morning.

Yesterday I hung up the sign: JUST ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE. Now it’s the first thing I see when I enter the garden.

A few weeks ago I mailed a card to an old college friend, whose e-mail I see because we are part of an e-mail distribution list; our batch has its own website, even. But from her there is only silence.

Yesterday I sent pictures of son to an aunt who lives in Carmel, who I haven’t seen in perhaps 15 years. As if that weren’t enough, I even e-mailed a former classmate who recently moved to Singapore. From both of these people, also silence.

The only one who responds is a former high school classmate who lives in Houston, L. And she is the busiest of all of us, because she has her own medical practice, and a six-year-old daughter besides.

The above poem I took from Louise Gluck’s savage book, Averno.

Averno: Ancient name Avernus. A small crater lake, ten miles west of Naples, Italy; regarded by the ancient Romans as the entrance to the underworld.

Brain Cloud, Thursday, 28 June: Watering, Hollywoodland, Farmer’s Market, Doreen’s PALAYOK

Today, self is musing about her English 1C class, which took their finals yesterday. Self thinks it ended on an “up” note. That is, students asked self to pose with them for pictures, which self is sure they wouldn’t have done if they had *hated* the class. So, looking forward to next year and more teaching.

Told hubby self would attempt to water using his “system” of dividing entire yard into quadrants, arranging the hose and sprinklers in perfect diametrical diagonals, and moving every 5 minutes. But, after staring at very neatly arranged hose coils in the side yard, self knew in her heart of hearts that she would never be able to return hose to its perfectly coiled completeness, and the battle was lost before it had even begun: all self’s good intentions went for naught.

Today is San Carlos Farmers Market, which had a wee reference in the Food section of yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle. Article mentioned the “community atmosphere”, and also included a picture of diners on Laurel Street, enjoying the bustling market scene. Self does intend to go (in a few minutes), as she needs to return Hollywoodland to the Blockbuster on the corner of Laurel and xxxx street.

Self’s opinion about Ben Affleck remains unchanged. Movie was so austere and so determined to rise above its tawdry material that even the seduction scenes had no music. In the end, self fell asleep about 3/4 of the way through. When next she opened her eyes, Adrian Brody was on his way to visit his son. Then, credits rolled. Hubby awoke, rubbing his eyes and asking, “What happened? How did it end?” And, sorry to say, self could not enlighten him.

Self will not line up for RoliRoti Chicken, as the past three weeks line has been atrocious. But there are many other things she can purchase: for instance the smoked salmon which she bought last week, and which was instant hit at Cal Shakes picnic. And since now self is on the topic of food, think this is the appropriate time to mention that today self has been reading beloved former teacher Doreen Fernandez’s Palayok: Philippine Food Through Time, On Site, In the Pot (The Bookmark, Inc., 2000). On p. 54 is a discussion of different types of Philippine bread:

Wheat does not grow in the Philippines, and therefore wheat flour was brought in by the Spaniards, along with the techniques of bread-making, and in many cases, Spanish names as well. The most common bread in the country is pan de sal, literally “bread of salt.” This is the breakfast roll that is small, brown, and crumb-sprinkled. Other breads are similarly named:

pan de limon (with lemon)
pan de coco (with coconut)
pan de leche (with milk)

When sliced bread (sandwich loaves) became popular, it was called pan americano (American bread).

A little further on the same page, Doreen discusses Philippine desserts:

Many of the desserts that Filipinos consider “traditional” are Spanish, because native panghimagas, or sweets after a meal, generally consisted mainly of fruits, fresh or sweetened, like bananas, coconut, jackfruit, or guavas cooked in syrup. The dessert repertoire is thus principally Spanish: leche flan (milk custard or creme caramel), buñuelos de viento (wind puffs), turron (nougat), yema (egg yolk sweets), mazapan (marzipan), Cañonigo (meringue with a sauce) and many others, like Brazo de Mercedes (literally, Mercedes’ arm, a meringue roll) and Torta del Rey (the King’s cake).

And at this juncture, there surfaced unbidden in self’s mind a vision of a 17th century Spanish friar, sitting in his little church somewhere in the Philippines, and feeling homesick for a sweet. How, then, self wondered, would he devise his leche flan, if there were no cows to produce the milk? Then self remembered that there were probably water buffalos. And instead of Spanish almonds for the mazapan could he not substitute native pili nuts?

And then self started to think of a story.

Plan for the Day: 28 June

OK, m’lovelies!

Plan for the Day is to:

    drop by local nursery Wegman’s bearing latest sample leaves from sickliest plants (necrotic veins, yellowing, etc.) for plant expert to analyze and diagnose;
    drop by Dairy Queen‘s on Woodside Road for mid-day pick-me-up of strawberry cheesecake blizzard (my bad);
    avoid talking to “Fave” Tita at all costs (Yesterday, after it was decided that self would sacrifice house to feed all her extended family on Saturday, “Fave” Tita inquired when self expected company to arrive. When self said “7 PM”, Tita seemed to be mightily displeased. She then instructed self to e-mail her sons about the time. Which self dutifully did, 7 AM this morning. Then, just as self is just commencing this post, phone rings : it’s her again. Almost pick up, but hastily lower receiver after her number appears on Caller ID. Unfortunately, think she must suspect self is screening calls)

So, day is young, has not yet commenced its usual complications, and self’s first order of business is to decide what to wear, which is most inconvenient, as she has no fashion sense, but anyhoo self’s feeling today is that life is good. See that “Fave” Tita has left a message.

Staty tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Ticklish Question

Ordinarily, hubby would be home by this time and self would be putting dinner on the table. But, hubby called to say he’d be even later than usual: his boss left behind his Blackberry and it fell to hubby to return it to boss’s house. (Hmmm, think hubby should let the forgetful man “stew in his own petard”, as Dear Departed Dad would put it, but hubby explained that boss is leaving on a very important trip early tomorrow morning. Okey-dokey!)

Since self has so much time on her hands (since classes officially ended this morning), today self :

    proposed collaborations with (1) a theatre director and (2) Bacolod cousins, something on the order of offering creative writing classes in family resort, Santa Fe, this all in the space of a few hours (neurons firing in all directions !!!)
    offered her house for Mother of all Barbecues Part II this Saturday. When self informed son of self’s latest pickle: hosting barbecue for 30 people (First it was just going to be visiting aunt and uncle, but one also had to invite their hosts, “Fave” Tita and Tito, and then also the host’s children, and their children’s children, and then the uncle who is working as a security guard, and his three sons, and the Hontiveros girl who had just moved to the Bay Area, and also her parents who were inveighed to drive up again to “check up” on her) well, when presented with this conundrum, son went: “Mom, where are you going to put all those people?” Which was a very wise question; self truly misses son’s wise presence in all things !!

Anyhoo, as self was saying, since she had so much time on her hands, waiting for hubby, and was getting bored with watching people walking to and from the park (Today was first day of summer concerts, and there’s been a whole parade of people walking in front of house, glancing askance at dried-up lawn and peering into living room window, so that self has to duck as low as she can behind sofa cushions), she has hit upon the brilliant idea of writing to Irene, the cook.

Self hunts around for scrap of paper where she wrote down Irene’s address. Ordinarily, self would simply write to Irene at her mother’s house, but last month Dearest Mum had terrific tantrum and fired Irene in mood of extreme and petty pique. So Irene, who has been self’s lifeline, who, every time self returned to Manila, greeted self with breakfast in bed on a silver tray every morning, and a fresh flower in a vase, is gone. As luck would have it, self happened to call just on the day that Irene had to leave. And she and Irene cried together. And self made Irene give her the address of Irene’s daughter’s place in Malabon. And now self is thinking: would it be all right to just write a letter? Or should she include a picture? But if she were to include a picture, shouldn’t she also include money? Because, after all, that would be what Irene needs most at the moment. And why would she send a picture instead of money? And if money, how much? And self feels like she has to ask someone, but there is no one to ask. She could ask her cuz in Virginia, who is a font of practical knowledge. But self would have to confess she was writing to the cook, and cousin might laugh. Okey dokey, better keep it to herself at the moment. Perhaps self should sleep on this question, re-visit it tomorrow, when she is less anxious . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Belated Mother’s Day Wishes for Dearest Mum

Today, dear blog readers, self decided to google the Curtis Institute of Music and put herself on their mailing list. Also called their Library Director and left a message, inquiring if they kept any recordings of their student recitals, as self wished to obtain recording of her Dearest Mum, playing at recitals when she was 14, 15, 16. Because, dear blog reader, am of the firm conviction that anyone who gained admittance to such an august institution, at such a tender age (11?), and from such a ruined country (post-war Philippines, circa 1946) deserves to have monument erected, if not in stone, then at the very least in our memories.

Here is what self found on the Curtis Institute web site an hour ago:

The Curtis Institute of Music trains exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists on the highest professional level.

Curtis provides a personalized education, the cornerstone of which is one-on-one study with some of today’s leading musical artists.

Admission is highly selective, and enrollment is small–about 160 students per year, based on the musicians needed for a symphony orchestra, opera department, and select programs in piano, organ, harpsichord, composition, and conducting.

All Curtis students receive full-tuition scholarships based on merit, ensuring that talent is the sole consideration for admission.

I did all this, dear blog reader, from residual feelings of guilt that have been building and building for years — no, decades. Like a volcano inside self. And finally, today, this morning, by the grace of God self did receive the wherewithal to act on her compulsions.

Perhaps it was yesterday’s conversation with uncle, on the way back to Daly City after lunch at Il Fornaio? Uncle mentioned visiting Tanglewood, and self remembered there is a famous music festival held there every year, and why hadn’t self ever asked Dearest Mum if she wanted to attend? Why not plan a trip for next year? With favorite niece G, who will be back from her fall quarter at Oxford?

Self remembers that Dearest Mum made plans to come to the States this year because, she said, she was finally going to attend a Curtis reunion. But self, knowing Dearest Mum’s propensity for making highly impulsive decisions, decided to call Curtis first, and found that their reunions are held only once every five years, and the last one was last year (2006), and therefore there would not be another one until 2011. At first, self found it funny that Dearest Mum had bought a plane ticket before even checking with alma mater. But now self finds it inexpressibly sad.

Self is also, at the moment, finally reading a book hubby brought her from the Philippines, when he attended his father’s funeral. The book, published by Anvil, is Aparador ni Lola: Past Lives, Precious Objects, edited by Emmie G. Velarde. For two years, the book has lain untouched in its original plastic wrapping. Today, for some reason (also because self has just returned from administering final exams at xxxx community college and can finally say that summer vacation has officially begun), self cracks it open.

Page one, a definition of aparador: armario, armoire, closet, wardrobe

Self will list all the authors listed in the Table of Contents, in case there are readers who recognize the names, and would like to search for this book themselves. Then, will quote when she gets a little further in. Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Jose F. Lacaba: “Dreams That Awaken All But the Dreamer” * Abe Florendo: “Looking for Lilang” * Des Ferriols: “Venerable Aparador” * Marily Ysip Orosa: “Scent of Jasmines” * Bill Formoso: “Anything But Thunder” * Myrna Almario-Adriano: “The Commissary” * Anna Leah Sarabia: “She Wore Business Suits” * Tess Cerojano: “Once and Always, Maria Clara” * Jeannie E. Javelosa: “Parallel Reflections” * Lolita Delgado Fansler: “A Toast to Lola” * Monique L. Buensalido: “As If She Never Left” * Mary Lou Lacson-Arcelo: “As If She Never Left” * Babeth Lolarga: “Rot in the Castle” * Jose Javier Reyes: “Tating’s Secrets” * Elvira Mata: “Your Lolo’s Aparador” * Floy Quintos: “Keeper of Treasures” * Emmie G. Velarde: “The Next Owner” * Jose F. Lacaba: “Funeral Procession”

NYTBR 24 June 2007 (Where, Oh Where Is That June 3 NYTBR??)

Books I Am Interested in Reading (After Perusing the 24 June 2007 Issue of the New York Times Book Review):

(1) After reading Martin Kitman’s review of Bill Geist’s Way Off the Road: Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small-Town America :

Robert and Helen Lynd’s Middletown

(2) After reading Tina Brown’s review of Katie Roiphe‘s Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life:

Katie Roiphe’s Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life

(3) After reading Mary Roach’s review of Christine Montross‘s Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality From the Human Anatomy Lab :

Christine Montross’s Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality From the Human Anatomy Lab

(4) After reading Richard J. Evans’ review of Saul Friedlander‘s The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939 – 1945 :

Saul Friedlander’s The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939 – 1945 and Friedlander’s earlier book, The Years of Persecution, 1933- 1939

(5) After reading Elena Lappin‘s review of Travis Holland’s novel, The Archivist’s Story:

Vitaly Shentalinsky‘s The K. G. B.’s Literary Archive: The Discovery of the Ultimate Fate of Russia’s Suppressed Writers

(6) After reading Marilyn Stasio’s “Crime” column:

John Burdett‘s Bangkok 8, Bangkok Tattoo, and Bangkok Haunts

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