Colum McCann’s “Dessert,” in The New Yorker’s Talk of the Town, 12 September 2011

The Colum McCann essay, dear blog readers, is what self can only describe as epic.  Here’s the first half:

The sky would always be this shade of blue.  The towers had come down the day before.  Third Avenue on the Upper East Side was a flutter of missing faces, the posters taped to the mailboxes, plastered on windows, flapping against the light poles:  “Looking for Derek Sword”; “Have You Seen This Person?”; “Matt Heard:  Worked for Morgan Stanley.”  The streets were quieter than usual.  The ash fell, as ash will.

Everything felt honed down to the necessary, except for one woman who sat alone at an outdoor table in a restaurant on Seventy-fourth Street.  She had just ordered a piece of chocolate cake.  It arrived in front of her, and the waiter spun away.  A slice of two-layer cake.  Dark chocolate.  A nipple of cream dolloped on top.  A sprinkling of dark powder.  The woman was elegant, fiftyish, beautiful.  She touched the edge of the plate, brought it toward her.

At any other time, it would have been just a piece of cake, a collision of cocoa and flour and eggs.  But so much of what the city was about had just been levelled —  not just the towers but a sense of the city itself, the desire, the greed, the appetite, the unrelenting pursuit of the present.  The woman unrolled a fork from a paper napkin, held it at her mouth, tapping the tines against her teeth.  She ran the fork, then, through the powder, addressing the cake, scribbling her intent.

Our job is to be epic and tiny, both.

Ah, Colum, that is exactly what self feels writing is:  “to be epic and tiny, both.”  She will hold that piece of advice in her heart forever.

Stay tuned.


Self would like to live on bihud or tuyo with rice, forever.

Give her talangka, with all its orange-y, spicy richness.

Or soup liberally laced with pork cracklings and bone marrow.

Give her liempo.

Give her ukoy.

Give her inasal.

Give her kalamayhati from Pendy’s.

Yes, give her all the things that are sure to clog up her arteries.

Oh, why couldn’t self have fallen in love with salad greens and vegetables?  With talong and kamatis?

The things that taste so good are Trojan horses.  Self knows.

But at least she’ll be filled up.  At least she’ll never be hungry.  At least she’ll know contentment.

Stay tuned.

Lizares House (Balay Ni Tana Dicang), Talisay, Negros Occidental

The Lizares house in Talisay, referred to as Balay ni Tana Dicang (The House of Tana Dicang) is on —  naturally —  Lizares Street.

Tana Dicang sits in the center (Self digs her native dress!). Dapper man to her right (wearing two-toned shoes -- I inadvertently left his feet out of the photograph -- AARGH) was the first president of the Philippine Republic, Manuel L. Quezon. The other guy might be Osmeña

A bust of Tana Dicang -- Self only wishes she knew the name of the sculptor! The woman lived to be 102. She bore 17 children.

Self loves the basket beneath the bed!

The occupants of the house ate their meals at this simple wooden table, adjoining the kitchen. The formal table and chairs in the house's main seating area were reserved for special occasions.

Self had the best tour guide: Fr. Bernard, a member of the Lizares family. Fr. Bernard is a Carmelite monk.

Prototype of an "icebox", the original refrigerator

Self doesn't know what to call this fruit tree, standing just beside the house.

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