Night Before Thanksgiving: Having a Glass of Wine, La la la la

The son has arrived.

Yes, the one and only fruit of self’s loins is actually in the vicinity.

He is at this very moment with his dad indulging in the one must-do every time he visits: dinner at Colonel Lee’s Mongolian Barbecue in Mountain View.

This hallowed (if shabby) place was self’s first introduction to “cheap eats”, Stanford grad student style. And this place is still mobbed by Stanford students when in celebratory mood — like after winning the Big Game, for instance. Which, come to think of it, hasn’t happened in seven years. (But, once again, I digress)

But why is self not partaking of Colonel Lee’s fare with hubby and son? Why is she all alone in Redwood City, watching a Law & Order re-run (so delicious, Sam Waterston’s intelligent wrinkling of the brow– definitely no botox on that face) and sipping a glass of Chardonnay (She opened the bottle herself, one of those from hubby’s stash– she didn’t ask permission and she didn’t mangle the cork, hurrah!!!).

Son’s first question to self was what we were having for Thanksgiving dinner. To which self enthusiastically replied: Roast Prime Rib! Son’s only response was a frown and then silence. Which was deeply puzzling to self. Whereupon self inquired what was the matter, and son muttered something about “should have remembered we aren’t a traditional family.” @@!!##

Which remark had self sputtering and asking, “What do you mean? I mean, what exactly are you saying, son? I thought you loved prime rib!”

“Yeah, but it’s Thanksgiving,” son said. “Thanksgiving is for turkey.”

Good heavens! Son has been completely brainwashed by his Cal Poly evangelist friends! Help, help, help!

And then, after hubby has joined us, self suddenly remembers that Draeger’s is on her way home. And if she leaves Mountain View right this minute, she might even be able to snag the last cooked turkey in the deli. And so self rushes off without partaking of wondrous eat-all-you-can dinner at Colonel Lee’s. And she finds herself in absolute crush of people in Draeger’s. And all the deli plates are cleaned out (or almost all, self is rather prone to exaggeration). A homeless man is begging outside but self doesn’t even have time to pull a dollar from her wallet. And she decides to get the smallest uncooked turkey, and it’s a miracle that this turkey is so tiny it only costs $24 (The cooked version was $44). And she’ll have to figure out how to cook this darn thing tomorrow. But she is so happy that she quite enjoys looking at the Christmas lights they’ve already strung up on Santa Cruz Avenue.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: From J. M. Coetzee’s YOUTH

Self finished reading Middlesex yesterday. Unexpectedly found herself breezing through second half of the book, like a galloping racehorse. Reason for this unseemly haste still a mystery.

Anyhoo, today self is reading Part 2 of J. M. Coetzee’s autobiography, his follow-up to Boyhood, Youth.

On p. 16 (Quite a feat to get here, since today self also had to: (1) read much of the next book she’s reviewing for SF Chronicle Book Review (2) grade tons of student papers (3) read and correct more student papers for three hours at NDNU Writing Center; and (4) watch Michael Clayton!), there’s a description of an encounter Coetzee and a friend have with a wandering milkman. This is South Africa, pre-“truth & reconciliation”. Coetzee and a friend named Paul have missed the last train to their destination, so have decided, on impulse, to walk the 12 miles thither. And, just past midnight, they encounter the milkman. Self thinks the encounter is Chekhovian in the extreme. Moreover, there’s the interesting fact that Coetzee refers to himself in the third person, as “he” (in much the same way that self refers to herself as “self”):

The milkman is young and handsome and bursting with energy. Even the big white horse with the shaggy hooves does not seem to mind being up in the middle of the night.

He marvels. All the business he knew nothing about, being carried on while people sleep: streets being swept, milk being delivered on doorsteps! But one thing puzzles him. Why is the milk not stolen? Why are there not thieves who follow in the milkman’s footsteps and filch each bottle he sets down? In a land where property is crime and anything and everything can be stolen, what renders milk exempt? The fact that stealing it is too easy? Are there standards of conduct even among thieves? Or do thieves take pity on milkmen, who are for the most part young and black and powerless?

He would like to believe this last explanation. He would like to believe there is enough pity in the air for black people and their lot, enough of a desire to deal honourably with them, to make up for the cruelty of the laws. But he knows it is not so. Between black and white there is a gulf fixed. Deeper than pity, deeper than honourable dealings, deeper even than goodwill, lies an awareness on both sides that people like Paul and himself, with their pianos and violins, are here on this earth, the earth of South Africa, on the shakiest of pretexts. This very milkman, who a year ago must have been just a boy herding cattle in the deepest Transkei, must know it. In fact, from Africans in general, even from Coloured people, he feels a curious, amused tenderness emanating: a sense that he must be a simpleton, in need of protection, if he imagines he can get by on the basis of straight looks and and honourable dealings when the ground beneath his feet is soaked with blood and the vast backward depth of history rings with shouts of anger.

Brain Cloud, Tuesday Evening in November: Watching MICHAEL CLAYTON, and a Talk on the Politics of Motherhood

Self dashes into house, absolutely famished. Had nothing to eat all day but one hot dog with pickle relish at Bayshore Century Park 12, where self got to swoon over gorgeous George in Michael Clayton. Of course, right after that self had to floor it to Belmont, where she put in three hours at NDNU Writing Center. When she arrived, speechless (but only 5 minutes late), the other Writing Center occupants were deep into a discussion about in vitro fertilization (!!@@##)

What can self say about Michael Clayton? First of all, watching movies in the old theatre on Bayshore, self is in a continual state of suspense, wondering if this time projector will behave as it is supposed to. Twice before now, projector has failed to run and self has had to leave disappointed. Today, the audio was exceptionally loud, and then suddenly the sign telling people to turn off their cell phones came on-screen. And — nothing else happened for 10 minutes. Finally, one of the extremely forbearing patrons stood up and went to look for management, and then the previews came on, and self got to watch two movies she thinks look really good: Vantage Point (with some of the most handsome assassins self has ever seen on-screen, as well as Forrest Whitaker); and, well, self’s brain cells must be going because she can’t remember what the other preview was at the moment; all she remembers is that it looked pretty exciting.

Self thought Michael Clayton was superb, just superb. She loved everything about it: from the sleek cinematography, from George Clooney and Tilda Swinton’s rightness for their roles (How self loves that Tilda’s body looks like that of a normal woman’s, love handles and all), to the extremeley intelligent script, to Tom Wilkinson’s magnetic voice-over in the very opening scenes (talking of stopping in the middle of Manhattan’s 6th Avenue, and feeling covered with goo), to Sidney Lumet — yes, Sidney Lumet is in this movie, imagine that, dear blog readers! And self thinks this is the best role she’s ever seen George Clooney in, better even than the one in Syriana where all he did was look pudgy and righteous — though Danny Ocean is a close second.

Anyhoo, self had an enormously satisfying afternoon.

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R.I.P. Peter Zinner, Film Editor Extraordinaire

Three iconic movies that colored self’s life in Manila:

The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
The Deer Hunter (1978)

Aside from the fact that the three aforementioned were directed by Italian Americans (Please excuse the type-casting, dear blog readers) and introduced self to the wonders of Al Pacino, Robert de Niro, Chris Walken, and Meryl Streep, they all benefited from the attentions of a genius editor. At 9 PM last night, self was in Whole Foods and picked up the last copy of Monday’s New York Times. On the Obituaries page, she read this:

Peter Zinner, a longtime Hollywood film editor who worked on the first two “Godfather” movies and won an Oscar for the 1978 film “The Deer Hunter”, died on Tuesday in Santa Monica, California. He was 88.

Now self knows why The Godfather: Part III was so awful. It was not edited by Peter Zinner.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Strange But True XI: “Hot Fuzz”

This evening, hubby suggested, in rare mood of beneficence, that we try ordering a movie from our On-Demand service.

After all, since being rudely cut off from HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax a month ago, self has been languishing, reduced to spending evenings grading papers while ESPN commentary punctuates her brainwaves.

So, self and hubby go down the list: Bug? Lavalady enthusiastically suggests, plus Ashley Judd is seen for many minutes with no clothes. Disturbia? No, no, not Shia LeBouef!!! Breach? No, no, not Ryan Philippe!! Hot Fuzz?

And, at this juncture, self recalls that every time she surfs the tag “Movies” on WordPress, the Featured Blog, which has remained unchanged for almost a year now, is myBlog’s Hot Fuzz movie review.

Self has actually clicked on this blog to read more, and here’s what she reads:

Saw on DVD
Rating – A-

A top London cop (Simon Pegg) is ready to die of boredom when his superiors transfer him to a sleepy English village to work alongside a blundering but well-meaning young constable (Nick Frost). Craving some real action, the big-city bobby may just get his wish when the town begins to stir with a series of grisly “accidents.” Is foul play afoot in this seemingly idyllic hamlet? Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) directs.

The boys had seen this in the theater so I am playing catch up. Simon Pegg is a hilarious. First “Shaun of the Dead” and now this – if this guy makes a movie you go see it. Simple as that.

To which post there are four responses, the first of which goes:

thrashassassin Says:
Sep 26, 2007 at 0:23
I don’t get it, is that all of the review, am I missing something?

(Ha ha ha ha ha ha!)

And the fourth of which says:

Nicholas David Says:
Oct 24, 2007 at 5:29
I watched this movie over the weekend and I must say, I wasn’t really impressed. While I absolutely love Shaun of the Dead, this movie doesn’t come close. I desperately tried to love it because of the previous movie, but I couldn’t get myself to do so. Being a huge fan of the movie Point Break, I found the PB reference scenes hilarious.

And, oh my God, self never in her wildest dreams imagined she would be mentioning Keanu and Hot Fuzz in the same breath, but she is in absolute agreement with Nicholas: the Point Break references are hilarious.

And, by the way, hubby has been laughing his head off for the last 90 minutes, and there’s still half an hour to go. Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Brain Cloud, Third Sunday of November 2007: Considering “Beowulf”, Shredding Files, and Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones

Well, today self did not get to see No Country For Old Men, dear blog readers. Which is just as well, for self picks up Friday’s edition of The New York Times and A. O. Scott, in the course of reviewing Margot at the Wedding, says: “If you are interested in gore and gunplay, you can seek out Saw IV or No Country For Old Men.”

Which is not to say that we did not come close, mighty close to watching a movie today. After partaking of chorizo con huevos at neighborhood La Azteca, hubby and self went to downtown movie theatre. We noticed a small crowd standing in front of it. Theatre, as it happened, was closed.

“What time is it?” hubby asked self.

And self checked her watch and said that it was 11 AM. And just then a man stuck his head out the theatre door and said the theatre would open in “just a minute.”

At which point hubby walked straight up to the glass doors and peered inside.

And self said, “The man said they’d open in just a minute.”

And hubby said, with supreme exasperation: “I know, but I’m trying to see what movies are showing.”


Beowulf was showing on two screens. But self told hubby that she had read on that one shouldn’t even try to see it unless one could watch it in 3-D. Otherwise, one would simply be missing the whole magnificence of it.

And hubby inquired where we could obtain the 3-D glasses.

And self said they would probably hand them out at the theatre, but she wasn’t sure.

At which point hubby said he’d changed his mind, he’d rather go home and garden. Besides, he said, son would probably want to see that when he came up, and it would be good to see it with him.

Anyhoo, after getting home, self found herself seized with unaccustomed energy and resolved to clean up her file cabinet. She then busied herself shredding every piece of paper in her files that was more than 10 years old. Which process took her over an hour. All she saved, out of a drawerful of files, were a few receipts for Toys R Us, December 1990 (ha ha ha ha ha!). In fact, she shredded so many files that several times paper shredder made terrible groaning sound, which sounded exactly like a cow moo-ing. And hubby would yell from the bedroom, where he was once again looking up football stats, “What are you doing to the paper shredder???” And self would say, “Oh nothing, it’s just jammed, is all. I’ll have it working again in a jiffy.” Well, self did not actually say “in a jiffy,” that’s so very Hugh Grant of her, but she said something else to that effect.

And then, she started watching, which showed, first, Jerry Maguire, and then Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. So, self surmised it must be a Renee Zellweger retrospective of some sort. Self had read somewhere that Bridget Jones II was just terrible, a humiliation for Renee, but watching it now, self thinks Renee is hilarious, simply hilarious! And Colin Firth is not bad, either (Has the man had hair implants? — Self seems to remember him having distinctly less hair in A & E’s Pride and Prejudice) Self remembers one reviewer saying why in God’s name did the director have to make his star humiliate herself by showing her fat butt parachuting out of an airplane or a helicopter or whatever, so when that scene came on, self found herself waiting for the humiliation, and instead she found herself laughing so hard, she nearly fell off the sofa. So there, smug reviewer for xxxx magazine!

And now, back to shredding. Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Brain Cloud, Third Saturday of November 2007: Out and About in Redwood City and Various Places

The phone was silent. Self meandered all over Redwood City and environs. These were the places self went to yesterday:

    Safeway to buy the New York Times (It was Saturday but the store had only copies of Friday’s)
    Redwood City Downtown Library to borrow Anne Tyler’s The Amateur Marriage (Self on something of an Anne Tyler kick — of the books on her desk waiting to be read, three are by this writer)
    The dog groomer’s (Gracie as usual pulling back on her leash so that groomer has to drag her across the linoleum floor like a sack of potatoes; she does this every time, even though we have been taking her to the same groomer for almost four years)
    Peet’s in Downtown RWC, where hubby had peppermint mocha and self had eggnog freddo. Afterwards, bearing our drinks, we did what we always do: crossed the street and browsed among the knick-knacks in Gourmet Haus Staudt Gifts & Cafe.
    Honeybaked Ham store in Belmont, the one on El Camino right after Ralston, to buy a 7-lb. ham and three condiments (pineapple chutney, cranberry chutney, and corn relish). On the way there, passed Davy Glen Road and mused on the time self’s aunt lived at the very top of said road, in a beautiful split-level with a swimming pool. Then self’s uncle got cancer, everything went to hell in a hand basket, the house was sold and the family moved to a small-ish house in Redwood Shores, where self’s uncle eventually passed away.
    Walgreen’s, to get Tylenol PM (While there, observed that a diverse array of women, teen-agers as well as senior citizens, were carefully examining the Neutrogena display. When self walked over to see what all the fuss was about, she found: lip plumpers, lip gloss, face powders, blushes, mascara)
    Safeway again, because self forgot that we had run out of paper towels

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Mother of All Roasting Pans

Yesterday, after teaching class at xxxx community college, and after lugging home all of Voltaire Villanueva’s psychology books from his mailbox, self dropped by Bloomie’s and picked up Mother of All Roasting Pans.

This roasting pan (which self had “pre-paid” in a “pre-sale” three days ago) was so big that, after saleswoman handed the box to self, using the biggest brown shopping bag available at Bloomingdale’s, it kept dragging on the ground (despite self’s best efforts to heft the darn thing) while self walked to her car. Which is to say, box was almost as tall as self.

Interestingly enough, right after Bloomie’s self had to drop by the post office (to drop off another entry in yet another contest: Self is of the opinion that, as she seems to be in a zone with regards to contests, she might as well start sending out her work like crazy). And there self got into a conversation with a Filipina who’s been working at the Post Office for almost as long as self’s been living in Redwood City. The conversation revolved around — what else? — what we were going to cook for Thanksgiving (Self was not being obnoxious, dear blog readers. For some reason, yesterday post office was absolutely empty). My P.O. friend asked if self was going to cook a turkey, and self replied in the negative because, she explained to friend, it always ends up too dry.

And P.O. friend then asked self if she had ever tried deep fried turkey. And self thought (to herself): Only a Filipina could bring up the notion of deep-fried turkey. But aloud she said no, she had never tried such a fabulous dish. And P.O. friend recommended that self try Popeye’s, which was a brand self had never heard of (Self learns new things almost every day!), and so self had to come out with the notepad and pencil and write down: Popeye’s.

Then, P.O. friend went on to say that her brother makes the most delicious turkey, and what he does is inject it continuously while cooking. Oh! self said. So you’d need a special instrument? And P.O. friend said yes.

Anyhoo, last night, after fab dinner at newly discovered RWC restaurant, Pho Dong on Broadway, self was reclining on couch when out popped the idea to show off her fabulous new Calphalon roasting pan to hubby. And, even though he was watching a very exciting college football game, hubby expressed interest in seeing the marvel. So self dragged the box over from the kitchen (must have weighed about 15 lbs.), and inside, nestled lovingly in a veritable jigsaw of cardboard padding, was the thing itself, which was huge, and about five inches deep; and then, the rack, on which self could already imagine a juicy prime rib roast, dripping with fat; and then two evil-looking sharp-tipped prongs (for lifting, self supposed); and finally a baster with a needle-like steel insert that self deduced must be a stainless steel injection turkey baster (!!@@##)

Isn’t self’s life so full of such wonderful conundrums? She’ll be talking to her P.O. friend, that friend will bring up turkey basting, she’ll open up the box for the roasting pan she dragged home from Bloomie’s, and therein self will find a super-duper, huge turkey injection baster.

In the meantime, hard-anodized non-stick Calphalon mother of all roasting pans is sitting in all its glory on kitchen counter because, alas, it will not fit in any of self’s tiny kitchen cabinets.

“Where shall I put this thing?” self wonders aloud.

Hubby advises sticking it in the oven, which suggestion self deems to be a good one. So, after removing all the racks from inside the oven, self is finally able to put giant roaster away.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Some Things Self Knows (That She Didn’t Know Twelve Hours Ago)

(1) Self’s Gracie gets extremely exercised by the sound of children’s voices.

Next-door neighbor’s daughter is having a birthday party in their backyard, and Gracie has been barking non-stop for almost an hour.

(2) Self never knew, until five minutes ago that is, that the Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction and the AWP Award Series in Short Fiction are one and the same thing.

Self would like to petition the organizers of these awards to please merge the two because self, who has to write a letter of recommendation for someone, is getting mighty confused and needs to check 100 times to see that she has actually written the correct award on the correct letter, all of which has the undesirable effect of keeping self from finishing that story that she knows, she just knows, will win some fabulous award (perhaps a Pushcart, or an O. Henry — after all, it really would be too tragic if self’s only acquaintance with these awards would be as an also-ran/finalist) — when she finally does get around to finishing it and sending it out, that is.

(3) There is someone named Voltaire Villanueva in the world. Yes, and he even teaches at self’s community college — imagine that, dear blog readers! And, furthermore, has the mailbox either just above or just below self’s. And is most likely a psychology professor — as makes perfect sense, with a name like that.

Today, self finally had the time to check her mailbox and it was simply stuffed with all kinds of books. And self grabbed the whole pile and threw them into her knapsack and nearly dislocated a shoulder. And when self pulled out the books, after she had arrived home, the first book was Psychology for Living, 9th Edition. And self thought the publishers had really gone crazy, trying to push a psychology book on an English professor. Until, that is, she read the name on the address label and saw the name “Voltaire Villanueva.”

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Reading About “Adab”

According to an essay in Parabola, “Adab: The Sufi Art of Conscious Relationship”, by Kabir Helminski, adab is “the ability to sense what is appropriate to each moment and to give to each its due — a continuing process of refining one’s speech and actions. To have adab is to be cultured.” Below is a passage from the beginning of the essay:

It has been said that the highest attainment of Sufism is nothing but good character. What is meant, however, is not a rigid moralism but a natural, spontaneous beauty of character that is the result of a long maturing process of transformation. The ripened fruit of this kind of practice is not an abstract and impersonal ideal, but a person with whom you would like to sit down and have a cup of tea.

At mention of “tea,” synapses start firing in self’s brain, and before she knows it, self has drawn up a list of authors she would most like to have a cup of tea with, people whose conversation self thinks would be so inspiring that she could live off the ideas for the rest of her life.

So, without further ado, dear blog readers, here are the authors, living or dead, famous or infamous, that self would most like “to have a cup of tea with”:

Carlos Bulosan, because self wants to ask him how he was able to write all those books while laboring in the fields all day, and how he was able to get into The New Yorker without an agent.

Doreen Fernandez, because we could talk endlessly about food, and life.

Jeffrey Eugenides, because self could ask him what the deal is with Berlin, and see if he remembered Riika.

Paul Theroux, because he is one of the bravest writers self knows.

Linh Dinh, because self has been in his presence before, and it is never enough.

Marcel Proust, because self wants to know how he did it.

Elizabeth Samet, because self would like to copy the reading list of the literature courses she taught at West Point.

Franz Kafka, because self wants to know how he endured what he did.

Ian McEwan, because self thinks he is just brilliant.

Jean Vengua, and any of the writers from Going Home to a Landscape, because of course self loves their work.

Nathaniel Philbrick, because self want to know how he does it.

Zhang Dai, because to self he represents the holy.

Joyce Carol Oates, because self wants to know if she is really as dark/ moody in person as self expects her to be after reading her writing.

Liesl Schillinger, so self can tell her to her face how much she loves every review she has written, even the ones where she doesn’t like the book.

Ann Packer, so self can ask her what Nancy Packer was like as a mother.

Samrat Uphadyay, Joan London, and J. M. Coetzee, so self can tell them how much she adores their books.

Clarice Lispector, Rosario Ferré, and Rosario Castellanos, because self feels we are all sisters under the skin.

And, since self’s fingers are getting a wee bit tired, will stop here and wish all good-night.

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