Dear Doreen on Tatoy’s

Here are the places self is hoping to visit, this January, if she can rustle up enough funds, that is 🙂 Self decided to bite the bullet and not teach for a couple of months, hence she has to be extremely vigilant about finances.

Bacolod (imperative)
Iloilo (also imperative)
Naga (imperative)
Iriga (semi-imperative)
Manila (only for a few days, imperative)

Yikes! Self will definitely run out of funds and/ or time. Dearest Mum brushes aside self’s anxieties: January is sooo far away! Even self’s brothers haven’t given a thought yet to her returning (after three years, shows you how much they miss her)

But self is starting to read up/ research places to visit, things to do, food to eat!

A few days ago, she mentioned Claude Tayag’s list of “hole-in-the-wall” eateries in Manila. Then, she reached for Dear Mentor Doreen Fernandez’s classic Lasa: A Guide to Dining in the Provinces (Who published this book? Self certainly hopes it is still in print!) Imagine self’s excitement when she discovered that Doreen describes several of the restaurants included in Claude’s list! (Mind you, Doreen’s book was published almost 20 years ago!)

Here’s what she wrote about Tatoy’s:

The restaurant has 96 bamboo tables, and they are fully occupied, especially at lunch time. Customers come walking, on tricycles, in cars and jeeps, and even by the busload. It is a veritable dining Mecca.

The owner, Honorato Espinosa, is a humble, quiet man in rubber slippers, who oversees the operation by moving unobtrusively about like one of his employees. He started with a few tables, selling only litson manok (inasal to Ilonggos) stuffed with tanglad and tamarind leaves and roasted over charcoal. When it gained popularity, he bought a similar but larger adjoining restaurant. He serves only native (bisaya) chickens, leaner than the poultry-bred, and raised by him. These are marinated in a secret tenderizing and flavoring formula.

Wow! Tatoy’s sounds like a precursor of the “free-range, organic” chicken trend! Self is there, self is soooo there . . .

Happy Accidents: How Greek Pottery is Like Writing

Last summer was Before.  Self was doing a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.  It was hot.  There was a swimming pool.  Dinner began at six every night.

Every few days, self would walk from the main residence to the office, down a lane that led past a white gazebo, to have someone photocopy passages from the books she happened to be reading.

There’s a stack of such photocopied pages in a file folder by self’s desk this morning.  The top pages are about Greek pottery.  Self doesn’t know the title of the book, or even who wrote it.  Here’s what she reads:

Defects in the preparation of the clay, in the construction, in the glazing, in the firing, all are revealed when the vase emerges from the kiln.  That there were plenty of mistakes and mishaps in Greek vases as in modern ones becomes evident when we examine even museum pieces.  We see many cased of warped lips and sagged shoulders, of dents and cracks, and of red spots in the black glaze.  Spalls —  that is, chips produced by particles of limestone which became embedded in the clay and then explode in the fire —  are not infrequent, likewise rifts in the glaze, caused by a more rapid shrinkage of the glaze than of the clay.  Occasionally the different sections in which the larger vases were made were not put together successfully.  For instance, the body of a column krater in New York was not set straight on the foot; it leans slightly to one side; consequently neck and handles had to be shaped irregularly so as to produce a level top.

Sometimes the body is not the usual pinkish buff but has turned gray, owing to a reducing fire.  Occasionally the different fragments of a vase differ in color (from pink to gray), the vase having evidently been broken at the funeral pyre and its various parts subject to different conditions.

When a Greek pot was broken that was not the end of it.  There are many instances of broken vases repaired with rivets in antiquity.  Generally only the holes are preserved, occasionally parts of the bronze rivets also.  The repairs sometimes go right through the decoration, even when this could have been avoided.  Pots were obviously prized for their use as well as their beauty.

Self loves this notion of art, this appreciation of its functionality, this contentment with imperfection.  Elsewhere in this section, there is this singular utterance:

The test of a pot comes in the fire.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Saturday Before the 2008 Elections

It’s raining, it’s pouring.  Self had to drive to the City.  Almost turned back at Burlingame, the traffic was horrible.  But she persevered.  At her destination, she got treated to her first ever taste of something called a “Princess Cake.”  It had a green layer of marzipan.  Inside was fluffy white slices, separated by layers of raspberry filling.

At the gathering, self found that everyone was stressed, possibly more stressed than she:  several people were having to find new abodes, one person was in between jobs, and another’s company was experiencing severe revenue shortfalls.

On the way home, rain was murderous.  Self’s car wiggled from side to side, but self white-knuckled it to Daly City so that she could pick up some “comfort food” from Goldilocks.  The place was eerily empty, and no one seemed interested in serving self, the lone customer.  That is, eight saleswomen were gathered behind the counter, chatting to each other.  Self didn’t feel like she could interrupt the gay proceedings by shouting, “Hoy!”  Eventually, however, someone did take notice, whereupon self bought 24 pieces of polvoron (ha ha ha ha!) and hubby’s favorite, cuchinta.

And then self went home.  Hubby had been ensconced on couch all day, watching football games.  He blithely informed self of the results of several games:  Stanford won, University of Washington got trounced again, and no. 1 Texas was on its way to being upset by no. 7 Texas Tech.

Self saw the phone message light was blinking. It was yet another group calling for self’s support of some petition or other.  Here are the messages self has received the past week:

  • From Senator Barbara Boxer:  No on Prop. 4
  • From Janice Hirohama of the League of Women Voters:  Yes on Prop. 11
  • From Diane Howard, Vice Mayor of Redwood City:  No on Measure W
  • From Bonnie Shatun of the CA Teachers Association:  No on Prop. 8
  • Yes on Prop. 7 by some group describing itself as “Green”
  • From Janice Hirohama again

The voter information pamphlet that arrived in the mail some time ago has pages and pages devoted to Measure V and Measure W, Measure Q and Measure R.  Each measure has an “Impartial Analysis,” an “Argument in Favor of”, “Rebuttal to Argument in Favor of,” an “Argument Against”, and a “Rebuttal to Argument Against.”

Self also learns that there are actually six people running for President of the United States.  Aside from McCain and Obama, there are:

  • Alan Keyes (American Independent Party)
  • Ralph Nader (Peace and Freedom Party)
  • Bob Barr (Libertarian Party)
  • Cynthia McKinney (Green Party)

Self learns that one of her neighbors, Ira Ruskin, is running for California State Assemblyman.

In addition, there are the following Propositions:

Proposition 1A:  the “safe, reliable high-speed passenger train bond act”

Proposition 2:  Initiative requiring “standards for confining farm animals”

Proposition 3:  the “Children’s Hospital bond act”

Proposition 4:  Initiative to require “waiting period and parental notification before termination of minor’s pregnancy”

and let’s not forget the vital Proposition 8, which would “eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

There are, of course, many other Propositions, but self is nodding off (although it’s not even 10 p.m.) and so must bid dear blog readers good-night.

Iain Kelly

Fiction Writing

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