Reading for the Day: A Surprise Discovery

It is 9:06 PM. Tomorrow, hubby and self are driving to San Luis Obispo (Since we already have rental car, might as well head south, right? At least, that was the decision we made, just last night). Today, though hubby dangled possibility of watching Eastern Promises in front of self all morning, thereby keeping self in a state of acute nervous anticipation, he eventually changed his mind (as he does 50% — no, 75% of the time) and decided he’d much rather watch the college football games.

The man was up uncharacteristically early — 8 AM. Which meant self had to stop writing when she was just getting started. The rest of the day was full of inane conversations on the order of: “Who’s playing now?” “What’s the score?” “What a stupid fumble!”

Self called son twice. The second time, he picked up and self told son that his parents would be arriving shortly. That we in fact would probably be in San Luis Obispo at 11 AM on the morrow. And son asked if self and hubby could meet him at the Mission, for he planned to attend the 10:30 mass (!!@@)

Following which, self and hubby engaged in yet another of their habitual conversations:

Self: What is happening to him? I’ve never known him to be so religious! Is he becoming some sort of Christian?

Hubby: Leave him alone.

Last night, while watching “Weeds”, and observing Mary Kate Olsen’s character telling Mary Louise Parker that she was saving her virginity for marriage, self opined that son would end up with one of those Christian types. Hubby’s response, which self is begining to find quite tiresome: Leave him alone.

No, self will not leave him alone, for college, self feels, is the time for son to go hog-wild and experiment with all sorts of alternative lifestyles. Never in a million years would self have suspected that the alternative lifestyle son would be getting into would involve Christian rock, mass on Sundays, and line dancing.

Self (to hubby): I know what will happen when he’s 40! He’ll have a raging mid-life crisis! He’ll start wanting to do all the things he missed out on when he was in college!

Hubby: (Grunt)

Self: I’ll have to warn his wife.

Hubby: Leave him alone.

Self: What’s with that place? Why are there so many Christians? Why aren’t there more Asians?

Son’s friends come from places like Fresno. Visalia. Vallejo. When son brings friends home with him, self has the feeling his friends regard hubby and herself with perturbation, as she is sure she is nothing like their mothers, she is so lackadaisical about keeping house. And hubby is definitely not like any of their fathers: During football season, he forgets about everything and sits with eyeballs glued to the TV screen and yells if anyone in the vicinity talks too loud.

One friend of son’s always comes in and hugs self, hugs her as if she’s a long-lost buddy, and self has to extricate herself with an “Excuse me,” and then she stays a good arms-length away for she really doesn’t like all that touchy-feely stuff, for instance she only likes hugging son, not anyone else. Sometimes, she’ll hug hubby. But that definitely is the extent of her hugging.

Anyhoo, this evening self decides she’s in the mood for some light reading. So she picks up In Our Own Words, and opens the book at random, and the first thing her eyes land on is a story called “Sum Total”, which begins this way:

You realize, standing in front of a clam-shell urinal at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, that hitching a ride north in the back of a pickup when it’s raining as hard as you’ve ever seen it, and you only have one change of clothes, is maybe not as great an idea as it seemed the night before. Then it was brilliant, full of possibility. The kind of trip that would immediately turn into a memory; the kind of story you could already remember yourself telling. And now it’s only a very wet, very cold ride for five hours in the rain with a guy who, for some reason, calls you Nelson and tells you that if you need to get high you should follow him to the bathroom at this hotel you’ve just stopped at.

“How do you mean ‘high’, exactly?” you ask.

He looks at you funny, so you decline the offer, head to the bathroom across the lobby from the one he went into. Once there you congratulate yourself for making the day’s responsible decision, then chide yourself because, really how hard is it not to follow some strange man into a roadside hotel bathroom when ‘high’ might or might not mean what you think it does?

Back in the truck, you are convinced that the world is flooding, that the water is rising in great biblical waves all around you. You imagine everything being washed away, which is strangely comforting, because in a way all you want is is for this whole day to be cleaned off, forgotten about.

Anyway, our hero, after a series of unfortunate encounters, winds up in downtown San Luis Obispo, which he sums up as “pretty dead.”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

And the author of this riveting tale? Jensen Whelan, who resides in Vallingby, Sweden. Will self’s confusion never end?

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Upon Contemplating the Week Just Ended

Self watched 3:10 to Yuma and cried (Self, you’re such a sucker for mis-understood heroes!)

Self found out Zack is going to be in San Francisco this week (Yay!)

Self is happy that no one laughed or talked while discussing former student Kevin K’s poem, “There for Six Months” (about his brother going to fight in Iraq). In fact, students who were most hooligan-ish on Wednesday were now staring at self with uniformly intent gaze. Wherefore this sudden rapt attention? Could it be that students actually identified with Kevin’s references to Pink Floyd? To his mention of making ramen noodles for lunch? Or to his ironic asides (see: abuse of power, see: corpses)? Kevin, wherever you are, self wishes to extend her most sincere gratitude, for this one poem alone has succeeded in firing the imagination of untold numbers of self’s students, ever since you wrote it for self’s Creative Writing class at San Francisco State, way back in 2004.

Self thought she was going to write something great after reading Mei Yao-ch’en, but perhaps not. Here is the poem she read, right after getting home from the movie:

Mei Yao-ch’en’s “On the Night of the Fifteenth Day of the First Month I Go Out and Return”

Only depression if I stay at home:
out to the festival to ease my pain.
Every man, rich or poor, is together with his wife;
my heart is moved only to greater grief.
Pleasures cloy so easily as old age comes;
I would go walking but desire fades.

If self had access to her trusty laptop a second after reading that, self might have written something poignant and lyrical about the weather (light drizzle) or about the fading light of late afternoon. But, alas, since self had to wait a couple of minutes for laptop to boot up, by the time self was actually able to post, all she could come up with were the following lines:

Self is happy she got to see Christian Bale;
looking at his handsome, mud-stained face eases her pain.
Pleasures are few and far between but how soon they are forgotten
When staring at Mr. Bale’s craggy cheekbones.


Self! Have you no sense of proportion, no sense of shame? That is possibly the worst, the most embarrassingly bad poetry that has ever been written! Why inflict such on loyal blog readers? And you claim to be inspired by sage Master Mei Yao-ch’en (1002- 1060) who was one of Dear Departed Professor James Liu’s favorite poets of the early Song!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Horoscope of the Day or, With Gratitude For All Good Things, Trois

Self has stumbled home from her last class of the week, at xxxx community college. Neck aches something awful.

This morning, self rented another car, as yesterday afternoon’s little foray downtown to see The Brave One impressed upon self the realization that she cannot live without a car. Not that the walk was all bad. It just so happened that self reached Sequoia High School just as school was letting out for the day, and she then got to merge with groups of high school kids, all dressed in varying shades of black and very thick eye-liner, and self was almost convinced she had dropped into another planet. Also, as self is extremely short, and everyone was going hither and thither because of gabbing on a cell phone or listening to an iPod, self almost got trampled several times.

Anyhoo, this morning self got another car. Then drove to xxxx community college and delivered her lesson for the day. Horoscope (which self always reads before setting out for the morning) was:

The crazier your ideas are today, the better! They’ll awaken everyone’s creativity.

Which admonition self found to be extremely comforting.

So, self set off for class, all bright-eyed and hopeful, in spite of the fact that yesterday a student named Sargon who reminded self of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the guy in Brick, wrote at the bottom of a quiz (whose answers he left blank): Giving a quiz on a syllabus is absurd. This style of teaching is not for me.

Aaaargh!!! Self knows that giving a quiz on a syllabus is absurd. That is why she tried so hard to make it interesting, giving essay-type questions instead of multiple choice, and giving students room to express their opinions freely. Which obviously Sargon did.

And today he was not in class, and neither was his friend, a cute girl named Alex. Oh, well! They missed an absolutely riveting lecture self delivered on former student Kevin Kostelnik’s poem, “There For Six Months.”

Now, self is at home, trying to recoup from a weekful of stresses. Thank God she decided to rent a car this morning, since that enabled her to pass by Menlo Park Library on the way home and rent Nathaniel Philbrick’s Sea of Glory. She was also able to buy lamb chops from Draeger’s. And just being able to do these two things helped self immeasurably, as she then began to feel much calmer and happier.

Now, she’s flipping through The Economist of Sept. 15-22 and stumbles upon picture of some guy in a pompadour and shades. Self thinks it is an Elvis impersonator until she reads the caption: For Once, a Former President Gets His Comeuppance. And that is when self realizes she is looking at a picture of former Philippine president Joseph Estrada.

So then self reads the accompanying article with more than usual interest, and learns that:

On September 12, after a six-year trial, a special court found Mr. Estrada, a former film actor, guilty of “economic plunder” during his presidency and sentenced him to life imprisonment. It ordered the confiscation of $87 million amassed from protection money from illegal gambling operators, embezzled tobacco taxes and commissions from insider trading.

What a fall from grace for the man who was elected in 1998 by the widest margin in Philippine history! Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

What Is A Car — Er, Self Means: A Friend

Self is at home, brain numb. Numb, numb, numb.

Got back from another exciting day at xxxx community college, where self was told by police that even with medical disability parking placard (which kind physician told self to obtain from DMV, because after all, she does have a very gimpy neck) she will get a ticket if she parks in any staff lot without the requisite parking permit (which she of course slapped on that other car, the one that’s languishing at mechanic).

She already had ticket from Monday. So, this would be her second ticket this week. What did self do? In a stroke of genius, she decided to appeal to Dean. Who, wonder of wonders, took self’s side, and herself placed call to police department, requesting that they not ticket self’s rental car.


Then, self went home. Decided to find out from Dollar how much more she would pay if she kept car two days beyond contract. Dollar informed self she’d pay $100 more. So, just like that, self decided she would return rental car forthwith. But how would self get back home? This was indeed a problem.

Self surmised she could always take a bus. Of course, no knowing how long that would take– probably an hour, as buses seem to come only every half hour in her area. And then self would have to walk two miles from El Camino to her house. Which meant she’d better change into sneakers. And then, and then —

But self is simply too tired. She thinks: isn’t there any other way to do this?

At which point self finds herself calling trusty Sandy (who self remembers has Wednesdays off from the dentist’s office where she works as hygienist).

What are friends for, self wonders? How many times has self called on Sandy in her hour of direst need? Such as the time she was stranded in Italian restaurant and it was late and there were no taxis and Sandy had just had hip surgery and was hobbling around with a cane and never mind calling hubby because he was as usual somewhere else? Yes, self (feeling terrible) did place the call, and Sandy came and hobbled into the restaurant and collected self and drove her home.

There is no one else self can think of to ask in times of need.

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Dear Evelina –


The Filipina Women’s Network’s nationwide search for the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the U.S. has ended and YOU have been selected a Most Influential Filipina Woman in the U.S.

The “Nicole” award category honors Filipina women whose words, actions, and activism, inspire others to act and revolutionize our society’s way of understanding traditional beliefs and customs. This category is inspired by “Nicole” who sparked an international dialogue about women’s rights, national sovereignty, and international law as she steadfastly pursued justice against her rapists.

FILIPINA “PINAY” POWER 2012: Changing the face of power in America
Developing tomorrow’s Filipina leaders today

This prestigious recognition is conceived as a working award – the Final 100 are invited to mentor a protégé and both leaders are invited return to the Filipina Summit in October 2012 to celebrate the partnership.

The announcement of the Final 100 list is the highlight of the 5th Annual Filipina Summit which will be held October 25-27, 2007 in Washington D.C. We have designed two events to honor the Final 100’s outstanding work –

1) Gala awards dinner on Thursday evening, October 25, 2007
2) “Kwentuhan” – the power of telling our personal and community stories and how to develop your community legacy by partnering with a Filipina protégé – Friday evening, October 26, 2007

When Filipina women come in unity, a strong and positive result is achieved. When distinct personalities come together in unity – sharing their strengths and differences – a new dimension of excellence is created.

Once again, congratulations on your selection. We look forward to your reply and see you at the summit!

In Filipina sisterhood and on behalf of the 100 Most Influential Selection Committee –

Marily Mondejar
President, Filipina Women’s Network

Search Committee for the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the U.S.

Maya Escudero, Ayala Foundation USA & Genevieve Herreria, Levensohn Venture Partners

Cecille Rebong, Consul General New York
Elena Mangahas, Co-Chair, Little Manila Foundation
Fay Olympia, Editor, FWN Magazine & V-Diaries
Marily Mondejar, President, Institute for Image Management
Nida Recabo, MSW, Baptist Hospital of Miami
Nini Alvero, Philippine Trade Commissioner
Rose-Ann K. Ubarra, Youth Coordinator, FAHSI
Sonia Delen, Senior Vice President, Banc of America Leasing
Weng Sanchez, Consul General Shanghai

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Last Night

When hubby came home last night, self was having a rest on the sofa, and watching a movie called “The Prince and Me”, with Julia Stiles. Self did not even get up, as she usually does, but continued to lie on the sofa.

Message (unspoken) to hubby was: I am tired. Do not disturb.

Whereupon hubby began to suggest that self was too hasty in okay-ing repair on car’s timing chain. “Did you get a second opinion?” the man suddenly wanted to know.

Ah, no, actually, self did not.

“Why didn’t you call the Nissan dealership?” hubby wanted to know.

Well, that is a very. Very. Good. Question. Which self was in no mood to contemplate last night.

(Quarter going to hell in a handbasket. Good thing self didn’t say anything to hubby about the parking ticket. Or the lost electric toothbrush. Or the fact that she is so absolutely intense about her writing. At the moment. Which is a very rare thing. Too bad this rare moment had to coincide with the start of class at xxxx community college)

This morning, self decides that she needs to tone down her excellent ambition. Do wife-ly things, like water the lawn (If ONLY we could put the sprinklers on a timing system, self suggests to hubby. Which idea hubby vigorously rejects, for he says the sprinklers are out of whack, and even with a timer lawn would still have bare spots, blah blah blah. Okey-dokey, so self guesses that hubby would like her to water by hand. Hopefully, none of self’s students know where she lives or one look at the lawn and they might lose all respect for her)

Okey-dokey! Last Sunday afternoon, self was picking up a rental car from the San Francisco Airport, and the rental counters were clogged with people. It was as if all the airlines had gotten together and decided to deposit their passengers in San Francisco at the same time. Rental counter personnel were going crazy. Self stood in line for an hour. She passed the time by chatting on her cell with cousin in Virginia, who, as usual, was cooking. Cousin informed self that she is on quite a reading kick.

“I read the book you recommended,” cousin told self. “It’s quite interesting!”

“Which book was that?” self inquired.

“You know! YOU recommended it to me! The one about the arranged marriage?” cousin explained.

“Oh, Arranged Marriage! By Chitra Divakaruni!” self exclaimed. And wondered why half the people in line then turned to stare. Must have been the words “Arranged Marriage.” Self shook her head calmly at her fellow-sufferers, as if to say: “No, it is not I who have engaged in an arranged marriage. Don’t get the wrong idea.”

Anyhoo, by the time self reached the front of the line, the rental counter people were in hysterics.

“What kind of car do you want?” they practically yelled at her.

“Economy,” self said.

“None available. We can give you a mini-van.”

“No! I can’t drive a mini-van!”

“But it’ll be the same price as a compact!”

“But I don’t know how to park! I am very bad at parking! And I have never driven a mini-van in my life!” (Not true: self has driven a mini-van. And crashed it into a brick wall while she was backing up. Self saw no need to impart this information to Dollar Rent-a-Car, however)

“All right! You’ll have to wait an hour!”

“My, you’re busy today!” self ventured.

“Flight was delayed an hour, and then it was like a train of falling dominos.”

“Oh, I see,” self said calmly, and then inquired, “Where do I go while waiting?”

“You can go anywhere you like.”

“But is someone going to inform me that my car has arrived?”

(Barking) “Yes!”

“So how will you find me?”

“I am going to shout, at the top of my lungs, MARIANNE!!! All right???”

Okey-dokey! Self decided she’d better get out of there fast. And she found a little coffee shop selling coffee and potato chips, and began to snack. Snack, snack, snack. And after one hour, she heard “MARIANNE!!! MARIANNE!!! MARIANNE!!!” And self jumped up, upsetting her coffee, squeaking, “I’m here! I’m here! I’m here!”

And she got a silver car, and after a few errands, drove home.

Hubby was peacefully browsing the web. He didn’t even look up when self came in. But he did inquire: “So you got your car?” Which was, like, really a stupid question, because how else did he think self would make it home from the San Francisco Airport?

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

End of Day Report: 24 September 2007 and A (Very Short) Excerpt from a Short Story

Self is alive. That is a good thing.

(Self, you idiot. Why would you not be alive? Is there anyone of your acquaintance who is not alive? But, once again, I digress)

Here are some not-so-good things that happened to self today:

    Mike from repair shop called and said that he thinks the problem with self’s car is the timing chain; it needs to be replaced. And the bill for the labor alone, he’s pretty sure, will be “at least $1,400.” “But, can you give me the total including parts,” self insisted. “$2,000” was Mike’s succinct reply. Self is amazed, simply amazed that after receiving this information, she was still able to conduct a class at xxxx community college.
    Dentist called: she would like to see self tomorrow. This, as loyal blog readers know, is not a good thing. Especially since self left her electric toothbrush behind in Marriott at Sherman Oaks, and has had to resort to manual brushing, which does not have the sonic “boom” effect of her trusty Sonicare (Similar model costs $139.99 at Costco, self has decided to put off this expense for the moment — that is, until she has finished paying off car repair) which is supposed to dislodge food particles from hard-to-reach crevices of self’s mouth. Self realizes she is straying into “gross” territory. Self will hold her tongue now.
    Self, after circling college parking lot at least 20 times in a fruitless search for parking, decided that it would be better to get a parking ticket than to be late for her first class of the quarter. Self was still late, and yes, she also received a parking ticket.

Here are some good things about today:

    Self does not have to teach a 6 PM class on Ethnic Literature, as class was cancelled due to low (Read: 2) enrollment.
    Hubby had to work today. Which meant self could switch channels from ESPN. So she watched, in this order: “The Lake House”, with Sandy Bullock and Keanu Reeves; Oprah, a special on Bipolar Disorder; Jerry Springer, where self was able to watch someone in a white wedding dress getting completely banged up in fistfight with her fiancé’s other girlfriend; and Paula Deen on Food Network.

Self pulls out one of her old stories (one that she never succeeded in getting published) and decides to share it with loyal blog readers. See, she was going to quote from “A Shinagawa Monkey,” but decided that Dear Haruki has enough people tooting his horn for him. Whereas, self has no one except self. So self might as well toot her horn for herself as much as possible. Even if it does strike some readers as obnoxious.

Let’s see, the last time self posted excerpt from this story (“Dumaguete”) was several months ago. So loyal blog readers will have forgotten all about how it began. Self will present brief re-cap below:

This story focuses on a nine-year-old boy traveling with his mother. And the mother, who is in all likelihood suffering from bipolar disorder (undiagnosed, hence self’s interest in Oprah today), keeps forgetting that she is with her son, and keeps running off here and there, leaving son anguished and panicky and feeling abandoned, and by the way the mother doesn’t even bother telling her husband where she is going, and so no one knows where the nine-year-old and his mother are, and the boy is homesick and wants to see his father. So, this is the situation:

Will I ever see him again, Carlos asked, and to his horror tears began to well up in his eyes, though just a little.

Of course you will, his mother said, patting his back. Her hand was cool. He could feel the imprint of coolness on the back of his t-shirt.

Of course you will, his mother said, looking intently into his eyes. He was again caught in that gaze, that green-eyed gaze that seemed to speak of nothing so much as time and sadness. He didn’t know why his mother should have the green eyes, when all his classmates’ mothers had brown; why she didn’t seem to love his father and threatened to leave him after every argument.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Eggs, Breakers Café: Déja Vu

Yesterday, hubby and self once again partook of breakfast at Breakers Café. This was shortly after self had been forced to leave trusty Mercutio (Ah yes, self’s Altima does in fact have a name) at King’s 76 on Woodside Road. Restaurant was full, but we were able to snag seats at a table right by the kitchen. (And, for the first time, self noticed that there was a portrait of the café owners at the bottom right corner of the wall mural).

Once again, hubby and self requested coffee. Once again, self asked for “the two egg breakfast.” And once again, self did want to say “coddled” eggs, has been wanting to say this ever since getting back from Virginia, but has only managed to insert the term into one of her post-VCCA conversations, which happened to be at this same restaurant, several weeks ago.

Since self already tried asking for “coddled eggs” here, she knows that all she will get in answer from the waitress will be a blank stare. So she tries to come up with another way of describing her order, and the waitress is waiting, waiting, with pencil and pad poised, and self tells herself to think, think, think. The presence of the waitress must be putting undue stress on her for her memory bank is coming up empty, completely empty.

Finally, self decides to try asking for “soft-boiled eggs.”

Again, there is the blank stare. In fact, self thinks this was the exact same waitress who stared so inimitably when self requested “coddled eggs” several weeks ago. What are the odds, dear blog reader?

And again, waitress has to ask: “You mean poached eggs?”

And once again, self nods miserably.

And hubby and self then proceed to eat humongous plates of hash browns, eggs, and linguica (even though self has already had a pre-breakfast breakfast of banana nut muffin and Aged Sumatran coffee).

Upon departing the premises, self and hubby pass the bird cage. The bird inside is whistling. Sometimes it says things like, “Hello beautiful!” But now it is merely whistling.

Herewith, a lame rendition of the whistling: la la la la la la la la

Self turns to hubby, indicates the bird and says, “That bird can talk.”

Oh? hubby says (without speaking — this response self inferred from the raised right eyebrow)

And why is that parrot choosing to be so mum this morning, self wonders? Or perhaps it’s just being mellow — mellow as in, don’t expect me to perform for you every day, you idiot. Which, come to think of it, is probably what Dearest Mum felt when Dearest Lola would trot her out to all her friends in Iloilo and request that Dearest Mum play a Mozart concerto.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

With Thanks for All Good Things, Part Deux

Self would like to begin this post by listing all the things for which she should be grateful. Such as:

    the fact that she has a roof over her head. Admittedly, this is a rather strange thing to be grateful for, for who in self’s acquaintance does not have a roof over his/ her head? Nobody.
    the fact that she is not George Clooney — which means all her ribs are still intact
    the fact that she is not Britney Spears — who is accident-prone these days, and also, even though self is a few pounds over her desired weight, she does not have to worry about exposing her jiggly belly to the entire world, as Britney had to do for MTV Video Awards
    the fact that she is not O. J. Simpson. Or, for that matter, Floyd Landis
    the fact that hubby is a hypochondriac, which means that he pays close attention to his own health, and if he feels the slightest bit ill, self can trust him to take himself off to the nearest emergency room without self having to lift a finger, and so self is spared the guilt of having failed to notice this or that symptom of, let’s say, pneumonia, and she doesn’t have to behave like those characters on All My Children or General Hospital who are always saying, “Oh my God, I didn’t know he/ she was dying of cancer–!!” This is indeed a matter deserving of no small thanks.

So, today, after Call # 1 from Tita E, self decided that she would drive to Hillsborough and pick up packet sent by Dearest Mum, at the first opportunity. That way, self would still have most of the weekend in which to relax and prepare for Monday class(es).

But first there was the matter of the strange noise that had started coming from her engine yesterday. Self did not quite trust that her car could safely be hauled off to Hillsborough. Perhaps she’d better have it looked at before making the trip. So, self decided to call her trusty neighborhood service station.

Hubby, overhearing self’s conversation with mechanic, said helpfully: “It’s probably just a branch caught in the undercarriage.” (Which has happened to self before, dear blog reader. Last week, in fact, while self was on Stanford campus meeting a friend, a passer-by began yelling at self. And self stared at her with mouth open like a complete idiot and did nothing. So woman walked right up to self’s car, reached underneath and pulled out — oh my God, the most humongous tree branch self had ever seen. To think self had been dragging this thing around for who knows how long–!!)

Anyhoo, self’s response to hubby was to go ha ha ha, and to say yes, it probably was just a tree branch or something of that sort, and with that self took herself off to service station. Amazingly, on the way to service station, noise seemed to have disappeared. So self started feeling most silly. And when she arrived at service station and started describing weird noise to an attendant who looked about the age of her son, she felt even sillier. Then self handed over keys to attendant, who went to her car and started it, and suddenly the whole car started to shimmy and vibrate in the most weird way, as if it was getting revved up for an explosion, and self thought to herself: This is not good. Which turned out to be the very same thought voiced by attendant.

Next thing you know, a group of mechanics was clustered around self’s car. They peered into the bowels of the engine, and self saw one of them checking the oil (which self had forgotten to do for something like, oh, the past year). Then, head mechanic approached self and told her she must not drive the car under any circumstances, she might be putting herself in extreme danger.

“So you heard the noise?” self asked. “It might just be something loose –”

“We think it’s the engine block,” mechanic said.

And self is smart enough to know that, oh oh, this is really not good.

Anyhoo, there now rose in self’s mind, unbidden, the memories of all the misfortunes that had befallen self over the past week, to wit:

    forgetting her electric toothbrush in Marriott in Sherman Oaks (She called the hotel as soon as she discovered her toothbrush was missing, but of course they claimed to have no knowledge of it)
    having to make appointments with dentist and periodontist who cluck their tongues over sad state of self’s dentition, then turn around and charge her thousands of dollars (insurance only pays 50% for crowns, and you can forget implants, even though self thinks she would look really good with a couple of those)

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Call # 1: Today, Saturday, 22 September 2007

This morning, early, self walked outside with Gracie into the semi-dark of the backyard. It was raining, the rotting wood of the deck was slick and self detected several planks which had worked free of the old nails. Then, self spent minutes rooting around in the shed, looking at old journals. Who knows why she has begun this particular early-morning activity? It started after she returned from VCCA.

After reading a little in the shed, self went back to the house, seated herself at the dining room table, and opened up the laptop, preparatory to writing.

Suddenly the phone rang. In the silent house the effect was startling and explosive. No one ever calls self, and especially not on a Saturday, and not ever this early in the morning. The first thing self did before picking up the phone was glance at the clock on her laptop screen: It said 8:16 AM.

Self decided to forgive the caller and picked up. She heard the familiar voice of Tita E. Tita E. launched right into her message without preamble, not even asking if she’d called too early. Self thinks Tita E must still still have been on Manila time. She must have been awake for hours, simply waiting for a halfway decent time to call.

Tita E is not strictly self’s Tita, but self calls all her Dearest Mum’s friends this. Her Dearest Mum’s friends are Erlinda, Carminda, Amelita, Gladys, Cora (before she passed away last July), and Bonnie. Self has called them all Tita for as long as she can remember.

Tita E tells self that she has brought something for me from Dearest Mum. She doesn’t even have to tell self what it is. Self knows these are papers for Bank of America, who are still insisting that Dearest Mum pay for the fraudulent charges that appeared on her debit card last spring. The saga never ends. The latest is that Dearest Mum received a letter from the bank in late July. Said letter requested Dearest Mum to respond in writing by July 13. Dearest Mum is indignant. She tells self over and over, each time self calls, that the envelope was stamped as received in the Makati post office on July 17. So how could she have responded by July 13? Dearest Mum keeps repeating, over and over, the stamp was July 17.

Self had called her to greet her a Happy Birthday. But now all of that is forgotten, lost in the drama of the recalcitrant Bank, the annoyance, the miscommunication.

Dearest Mum tells self, for the nth time: They want me to call them in person, but their Customer Service is in Phoenix, and I have to stay up till midnight to get anyone. Dearest Mum wants self to go to the Bank of America in Burlingame and talk to a nice lady she met there in March, a Katherine Alviso. Who self believes has left the bank, for self has tried going to that branch three times, and each time Ms. Alviso is never there.

Dearest Mum says to bring her friend in Hillsborough with me. They will pay attention to her because she lives in Hillsborough (She has curly white hair and always dresses in Talbots suits). Dearest Mum is agitated, her voice shakes. Self is agitated, too. She tells Dearest Mum, Why are you doing this? Why don’t you just close the account? If you have to go through all this trouble every time . . .

And Dearest Mum says, Not before I get my money back, I won’t.

Self says, why don’t you find out who is doing this to you? Hire an investigator? Because it keeps happening.

Dearest Mum says, That person has stolen my identity.

Yes, self says, but don’t you want to find out who it is, who has stolen your identity? You keep going to the bank and —

And how, Dearest Mum interrupts, could they expect me to be in two places at the same time? In March, when those charges appeared, I was in California! And all those charges were made in Manila!

So self has to hear it all over again, as though Dearest Mum were arguing a case to self, as though self were not her daughter but someone, a third party, whose sympathy must be elicited at all costs. And her mother is so very good at telling this story, and self thinks: What is the point? Is she rehearsing for the time when she actually gets through to a live person in Bank of America Customer Service?

I tell Dearest Mum that perhaps she should write a formal letter of complaint. And self will find out who the President of Bank of America is, and Dearest Mum can send the letter to him, DHL even. Dearest Mum and self finally agree on something. Yes, Dearest Mum says. That sounds like a good idea.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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