Last Night

Niece G was with Dearest Mum.  Hubby and self were heading home from the Airport (Got in at 7:20 p.m.  Virgin America is a really “fun” airline!  Self loved the Filipino stewardess, all bubbly smiles.  For $2, she got a bright pink set of earphones, and ended up watching multiple episodes of “Two and a Half Men”) when she got the text:  Hurry!  We’re in Redwood City!  It’s scaaary driving with Dearest Mum!

So we met up and went to City Pub and had dinner of fried calamari and pub burger and steak burger and tried the beer sampler and the waiter was very nice and we had a very good time and we dropped niece G back in the City because she has to teach tomorrow and then we went home and self fell asleep at past 1 a.m. (which, she just realized, was 4 a.m. in NYC)

Before she went to sleep, she saw two dead potted plants and took them inside and soaked them with water and counted eight snails nestled among its stems and went on a rampage of sorts, picking them off, even the tiniest itty bittiest baby snail, with some wadded up tissue.

Then the li’l crits set up their whining at 6:30 a.m.  Gracie seems to have lost a little weight.  Hubby maintains that self was feeding her too much, so he halved her food.  And apparently, aside from whining piteously at 6:30 a.m. and eating her own crap, she is none the worse for wear.  Bella is per usual:  indifferent to the world, except when it comes to her walks.

The weather was cooler than when she left, and the Bougainvillea Purple Queen had undergone some kind of transformation:  before self left for New York, it was all stems and nothing growing.  Now, it is absolutely bursting with leaf.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Today, Upper West Side

Pinkberry:  mango and watermelon swirl.

Isabella’s on Columbus and 77th.  Honeydew and prosciutto salad.  Tiramisu.  Glass of white wine.

Penny, always so good to see you!

Happy with work.  Self finished a play!

A toast.  Penny and self had a toast.

Gorgeous weather.

No problem getting a cab.

Back to San Francisco today.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Nourishing Spirit: Peter Godwin

Self may be getting on in years, but her love for the Splendid City remains undiminished.

Today, as she rode in a cab back to brother-in-law’s apartment after a long day of work, she craned her neck at every storefront, every street corner.  The cab had to take an alternate route because of all the blockages caused by the pesky UN General Assembly.

The book self was reading when she left California, and which she is almost finished with, is Peter Godwin’s memoir of growing up white in Zimbabwe, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun.

How she loves this book.  It didn’t engage self immediately, but she stuck with it, and last night, as she read, she found herself shedding big, fat tears.

Was it because he describes so movingly the death of his father, a Polish Jew who re-fashioned his identity in Zimbabwe and tried to obliterate his Jewishness, even breaking ties with former family members?

Godwin hates Mugabe.  He does not shirk from identifying characters by race:  the black doctor, the black policeman, the black classmate.

In the last couple of pages, Godwin is trying to help his newly widowed mother by organizing his father’s office files.  Going through cabinets in his father’s study, he discovers a cabinet:

They contain clippings of all the pieces I have ever written, carefully glued down and meticulously cross-referenced.  Every review of my books and TV documentaries.  Every ad for every book reading.  Videos of all my programs.  It is a master record of my entire career.  My father has been minutely following it, the career he officially hoped I would abandon in favor of “a real job.”  And the pages show signs of some serious wear and tear.  Of having been well thumbed.

“He would come in here some nights and get them all out and just sit here on his own reading through it all,” says my mother, who has entered with a mug of chicory for me.  “And he would rewatch your old documentaries too.  It was almost as though he was seeing the world through your eyes.”  I struggle to hold back tears.

“He was very proud of you, really,” says my mother, putting her hand on my shoulder and squeezing it.  “For some reason he found it difficult to tell you.”

I just start to howl, and the egret flaps away up over the burned bougainvillea.

Just Another Day in The Splendid City (September 2010)

Apologies, dear blog readers, if this post is somewhat disjointed.

But self has been trying to write poetry.


Virginia Woolf, self discovered from the book she is reading (Moments of Being:  Unpublished Autobiographical Writings of Virginia Woolf), used no punctuation.  They were put in later, by her husband (and editor, how convenient), Leonard Woolf.

Crowds are thicker than ever

Especially on Second Avenue

Now self thinks the tenor of the demonstrations is growing serious

There are more more more policemen.

At the Whitney, a pianist played with his elbows

On a Yamaha Baby Grand

Intermittently, he reached into the body of the piano and banged the strings

with a pack of cards.

Hmm, self thought.

Very “Philip Glass.”

Afterwards, a young man in the audience (wearing Bermuda shorts, probably a tourist), raised a hand to ask a question:

“What is your relationship to your music?”

The performer said:  “I don’t understand the question.”

No nasty cabbies today.

Not like yesterday:  the cabbie smoked and smoked.

And today, two cupcakes

From the Purple Elephant Cake Boutique

On 82nd and Lexington.

And self follows up the two cupcakes with a glass of ice-cold Amala Springs Chardonnay (2008).  HA HA HAAAA

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Crazy-Making: Ahmadinejab Protesters, NYPD, Blockades of First Avenue and Other Excitements

Today, dear blog readers, self was finally able to get back on-line.

Why?  Because she is in Penny’s West End Apartment, of course!

Previous to that, self was in cousin’s apartment in Tudor Place, and that area is just crawling with cops, security personnel, UN types, rangers, attack dogs, etc etc etc.  Apparently, the UN General Assembly is in session and Ahmadinejab is in the area and —  one simply cannot believe the chaos!  Even late at night, self looks out the apartment window and sees lines of white vans heading into the UN Compound, guarded by scores of NYPD.  What are they delivering, self wonders?  Surveillance equipment?  Barricades?  Sanitation supplies?

Today, there were protesters waving placards, and groups of black-frocked Hasidim, as well as big, beefy policemen with profanity-laced speech, and even a hot dog and hamburger stand set up for the exclusive delectation of members of the NYPD.

There was an accident that occurred just feet from self and Dearest Mum, at the Northwest corner of Second Avenue and 40th.  (A huge truck broadsided a black limo, which then hit a taxi)

Today, self had the exciting opportunity to trundle Dearest Mum’s luggage all the way from Tudor City Place to Grand Central —  uphill.

After Dearest Mum was safely ensconced in the bus to JFK, after self had told the bus driver to deliver Dearest Mum to Terminal 2, she stood by the sidewalk and waved encouragingly, but Dearest Mum was already on the cell phone to someone and didn’t look up.

Afterwards, the apartment felt strangely empty, so large is Dearest Mum’s vitality and presence.

Now, self has two more days alone in the Splendid City.  The weather here has been gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Grand Central Station, the Filipino Wedding Reception to End All Wedding Receptions

You know, it is a markedly different thing to be showing up in Grand Central Station with a woman wearing a leopard-print coat studded with sequins (Dearest Mum, who else?).  Suddenly, the whole space seems to be anointed with a certain air of elegance, finesse, and je ne sais quoi.  Self has been in Grand Central Station many, many times —  always, flying from one appointment to another, her heels banging the floor as hard as she can make them.  She doesn’t look right, left, above, or below, she just heads for the exits or the train platform.

This evening, self and Dearest Mum were walking at a rather leisurely pace.  So self had plenty of time to gawk.  My, that is one beautiful architectural marvel!  Funny, it was thanks to Dearest Mum that self realized that!

Also, self can never forget this supreme moment:  Dearest Mum saw the Filipino guests in tres bonga evening attire (You don’t understand what “bonga” is until you’ve seen a formal wedding reception in Grand Central:  Just imagine Imelda Marcos to the nth power), congregated on a balcony.  But she didn’t know how to access the balcony, so she goes and accosts two huge, beefy New York city cops, and they just stare at her, at this tiny woman in sequined leopard-skin coat bedecked with jewels, and —  let’s just say, it takes a lot to cause a New York City cop’s mouth to hang open.  Self was left lurking in the background, wondering if the cops thought she was a maid or something.

Anyhoo, shortly thereafter, self and Dearest Mum were able to join the other guests at the wedding reception. A few of the highlights:

  • A Filipino disco band playing the most assaultive disco music self has ever experienced (Not since the days of Donna Summer, etc etc)
  • Among the hors d’oeuvres on the buffet table: a large platter of lechon —  but no lechon sauce!  What’s up with that?  Self refuses to eat lechon without the sauce!
  • The names of the bride and groom, and some kind of heraldic crest, outlined in laser lights along one entire wall
  • A sit-down dinner featuring the renowned chef, Charlie Palmer (of course, the reception was at Metrazur).  Self overheard more than one guest remarking that they couldn’t wait for the food to be served.  Unfortunately, there were many many toasts, and many many speeches, and much dancing.

As to Dearest Mum, every time self craned her neck, she saw her at the front of a crowd of people, swaying by herself to the disco music.  Though self was flat out exhausted by the very exciting events of the day (Self is here for work —  creative work; the timing with Dearest Mum’s visit was pure coincidence.  Fortuitous or infortuitous, only time can tell!), Dearest Mum wanted to partake of the merriment, and drain that glass of pleasure down to the very dregs.  She handed the wedding couple a box filled with something that made the bride shriek, grab Dearest Mum by the shoulders, and SOB!!!  Not even self did that during her own wedding!!!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

New York: A Love Story

Has self written this one already?

Self loves every aspect of this city, most especially :

  • The bad-tempered cabbies
  • The tiny apartments crammed with knick knacks
  • The endlessly stoic endurance of the people who live here

The apartment self and Dearest Mum are in, on the 15th floor of Tudor City Place, overlooks the East River.  Self can see, across the water, the spires of many buildings, and a red neon Coca-Cola sign.  The muffled roar of traffic is endless.

Dearest Mum had gotten take-out matzo ball soup, bread, and pastrami (so rich and laced with fat!  Not like the kind they sell back in Cali-fuh-nia!) from the Carnegie Deli (established 1937).  She had saved a copy of the airline magazine, which has a smiling Robert de Niro on the cover (Self can hardly wait to read the interview with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Ryan on their new movie).  Really, self is very happy here.  She doesn’t know what it is:  in JFK, shortly after exiting the plane, and before getting to Baggage Claim, she stopped and looked at herself in a passing mirror. My God, could that really be self?  In California, her face is as wrinkled and dry as a prune.  Here it is —  actually plumped up.  She has no wrinkles.  New York, here comes self!

(Just as self anticipated, though it is late and Dearest Mum is fast asleep, her cell keeps ringing.  Shut up!  Leave us alone, you crummy hangers-on!  Self tosses the cell phone in a closet and hides it under layers of her cousin’s sweaters.  Damn if she’s gonna be bothered by that infernal ringing at all hours of the day and night!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Self’s Brain is FRIED

In just a few minutes, she has to be at the Notre Dame Writing Center.

AND Dear Hubby has just informed her that, unless she completes everything on a 20-item checklist before she leaves for New York on the morrow, we will not be able to take advantage of the super-duper low mortgage rates that are probably the only good side-effect of this current recession.

Hello!  Self was mostly at home today, this morning, this afternoon, and she had plenty of time.  Now, she has to spend a couple of hours in the Writing Center.  And there’s sleep, of course.  She has to get some sleep before boarding the plane.

As usual, where plans involving Dearest Mum are concerned, things are always complicated.  Dearest Mum told self it would be “crazy” to spend anything more than the (supposedly only) $12 bus fare from the airport to Grand Central.  But self google-mapped the apartment where she and Dearest Mum will be staying, and it’s eight blocks from Grand Central, and she just cannot imagine herself trundling a suitcase through the busy streets of downtown Manhattan at 8 pm on a Friday evening.  There’s only one thing for it:  she’ll have to take a cab, and then pretend to Dearest Mum that she actually took a bus!  (In case dear blog readers are confused, Dearest Mum left ahead of self.  That is, she flew to New York earlier today)

It has been such a thrilling month, September 2010.  This month, self discovered that Dearest Mum was in New York just two weeks ago —  for one night.  And self’s cousin went with her, and kept completely mum about it, even though she had just e-mailed self the day before.

And, two weeks ago, self had no idea that the son of a good friend of Dearest Mum’s was going to be getting married and, even more exciting, that the wedding reception would be in Grand Central Station.

Yesterday, self didn’t even know hubby was contemplating re-financing, and today he suddenly told self that we must do everything by today.

This was the month when self was supposed to be at Hawthornden, writing her heart out.  Instead she is here, dealing with Dearest Mum and assorted hangers-on, home mortgages, obese beagles, and almost the entire shoe section of Nordstrom’s Rack.

But —  banish the thought!  What is writing compared to dealing with a family like self’s?

Yesterday, Dearest Mum walked into self’s garden, greatly astonishing self, dear aunt in tow (of course).  She had bought self 25 pairs of shoes from Nordstrom’s Rack.  There were Stuart Weitzman loafers (in olive green and grey —  original price:  $285), Enzo Angiolini flats (about 10 of those, ranging from metallic bronze to patent leather black, to red), and Dirty Laundry gladiator sandals (red, black).  When self expressed concern that she did not have room in her closet for 25 new pairs of shoes, Dearest Mum dismissed her anxieties.  “So?  Just throw the old ones out and replace them with these!”  Oh, how brilliant!  Self only wishes the thought had occurred to her sooner!

The absolute last straw is that self discovered Noynoy (our new Philippine President) is traipsing through the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City next week.  In his wake, a sudden onset of relatives, who ask self to book their hotels for them.  To think, if self had been in Edinburgh, she would have missed all the excitement!  Alas, there are only three tickets available to Noynoy’s speech in San Jose next week, and none of those tickets are for self.  Which is just as well, since self doesn’t think he is the most scintillating speaker.

Anyhoo, if there’s one thing that’s absolutely certain, it’s that self is getting on a plane tomorrow morning.  And the stupidest week of the year will finally come to an end.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Tonight: “1000 Ways to Die”

Self, it’s taken you so long, so many decades of your life, but you have finally discovered the way to get on the good side of Dearest Mum:

Never, ever say no.

Last night, self and niece G and Dearest Mum and all the relatives within 50 miles were in Lobster Shack.  Self splurged on a $30 bottle of Wild Horse Central Coast Chardonnay recommended by the waitress.  Considering that self and niece had already had two beers apiece before dinner, by the end of the night we were both flyyying high!  Telling stories about McCain, Tea Parties, niece’s dad, her roommates, you name it!

Today, self wondered whether she should give Dearest Mum a call.  But no!  She decided instead she would go to the Stanford Shopping Center and buy herself some Estee Lauder night cream!  Then she decided to get an extra jar for Dearest Mum.  Then, she just had time to drive home, and wrap up the cream in loads of gold tissue paper, before one of self’s aunts called (Dearest Mum has her own cell phone but she never, of course, deigns to use it, so it is always one of self’s aunts who calls and then passes on the phone to Dearest Mum)

Whacha doing, aunt inquires.

Self:  Nothing.

Aunt:  Oh, ’cause your Mom wants to see you.

Self:  Fine!  I am doing absolutely nothing.

Aunt:  So it’s OK for us to drop by?

Self:  Of course!  Anytime!  I am absolutely available!

After aunt hung up, self went flap-flap-flap all over the house, sweeping, washing counter-tops, dumping buckets of water on plants, feeding li’l crits, combing her hair, changing into decent clothing, hiding the ugly sneakers she uses around the house, spritzing air freshener into all the bathrooms, etc etc etc

Self was just wrapping up watering the front lawn when aunt pulled up with Dearest Mum.  Then we went inside.

“Want water?” self inquired.  Turns out Dearest Mum had just treated all to the most humongous lunch of:  grilled pompano; lumpia; fried rice; pinakbet; and so many other dishes that self could not remember them all.  Where oh where was this fabulous repast?  Self could not get an answer out of her aunt, her uncle, or Dearest Mum.

Anyhoo, Dearest Mum had bought self about 20 blouses from Nordstrom’s Rack, in the most fabulous colors:  lime green, orange, yellow etc etc  (Oh Dearest Mum, if you had dressed self before her reading last February, that blogger would not have said self looked like a “grandma”!!!).  Normally, self would have resisted such clothing.  Today, she finally applied her hard-won wisdom:  Yes!  Yes!  More lime green!  More orange!  More yellow!  More!

After Dearest Mum left, self tried to get back to her usual routine, but after a whirlwind like that (Self also just learned that on their first night in New York, she and Dearest Mum are attending a wedding reception —  in Grand Central Station.  What?  Self never heard of a wedding reception in Grand Central before!  Dearest Mum inquired:  Do you have anything to wear?  Self mumbled, Ah, a dress?  Dearest Mum thought for a minute:  “I seem to remember you have a pantsuit,” she remarked.  “Yes … ” self replied.  “In black?”  Dearest Mum asked.  “Yeeees,” self replied.  “Good.  Wear that.”  Okey-dokey!)

Good thing, after hubby gets home, he starts watching something on the History Channel about snipers.  Self watches while the Marines send two men to hunt and kill a vicous Viet Cong squad leader (a woman, it turns out), with code name “Apache.”  Okay, after watching how the Marines hunt and kill this woman, hubby next turns to that edifice of tasteful programming, Spike TV.  And here we are on a show called “1000 Ways to Die.”

Want to know what a Spanish Donkey is?  It’s a method of torture devised in the Inquisition, which involves putting cannonballs on the victim’s feet (up to 400 lbs. worth of cannonball), and positioning the victim over a sharp wooden platform.

Ever heard of anyone being killed by a pigeon?  After watching the show, you will say yes.

Ever known what happens when you drink denture cleaner?

Ever known what happens when you give mouth-to-mouth to a dead raccoon?

Dear blog readers, it has been such an entertaining day.  Self believes she will land in New York bananas, absolutely bananas.

Stay tuned.

Latest Book Deals, Courtesy of 9/13/2010 PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Latest e-letter from Publishers Weekly has announcement of the following deals:

Fiction Debut

  • Aatish Taseer’s A Tremor in the Earth, “a family saga about Indian, Pakistan, and a young man straddling these two worlds as he attempts to make his way in an environment full of toxicity and moral danger,” to Faber for publication in Fall 2011


  • Author of Governor General’s award-winning The Law of Dreams, Peter Behrens’s Calling Me Through Thunder, “which follows a man and his family during the first half of the twentieth century, as he leaves behind abject poverty to become a North American railroad magnate,” to Pantheon.
  • Winner of the Somerset Maugham Prize for White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr. Fox, “reinventing of the titular Bluebeard-like English fairytale, in nine variations on a twisted love story about a novelist and his frustrated muse,” to Riverhead Books.


  • Tim Parks’s Teach Us to Sit Still, “about his transformative journey through a debilitating medical condition that eluded diagnosis or conventional treatment, ultimately finding relief through self awareness, Buddhist meditation, and a process of emptying the head, with detours into the realms of literature, art, religion, and philosophy,” to Rodale

There were other fascinating deal announcements, such as The Transformers Vault, “covering more than 25 years of the Transformers Universe history, from the toys to the animated series, live-action movies, comics, and collectable merchandise, and feature never-before-seen images and inside information,” but, alas, self needs to get back to her writing!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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