Constellation/ Bedroom

Self uses son’s room as her de facto “office.”

Here’s what it looked like tonight, after self had strung up some icicle lights in his windows:

Dear blog readers can just see, to the right of the desk, the outline of the K’Nex construction son built — all by himself, in something like one night —  when he was around nine.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

From VITA MERLINI (“The Life of Merlin”) by Geoffrey of Monmouth

Self is currently reading Bryan Sykes’ Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland, and it is wicked good.  Land bridges, Ice Ages, brutal Saxon invaders, legends (about King Uther Pendragon and the wizard Merlin, no less)  — every page has kept self absolutely enthralled (Pretty hard to do when sole fruit of self’s loins is visiting, let her just tell ‘ya!).

Self thinks she first learned of this book several years ago from reading The New York Times Book Review.  (Undying gratitude, oh esteemed NYTBR!)

On p. 31 is a passage from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini (The Life of Merlin) which describes how a mortally wounded King Arthur is taken to the idyllic isle of Avalon:

After the battle of Camlan we took the wounded Arthur to Avalon.  There Morgan Le Fay placed the king on a golden bed, and with her own noble hand uncovered the wound and gazed at it long.  At last she said that health could return to him if he were to stay with her for a long time and wished to make use of her healing art.  Rejoicing, therefore, we committed the king to her, and returning gave our souls to the favouring winds.

So what happened?  Arthur never actually died ???

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The First Most Gorgeous Day of Winter 2011

Self was at the San Francisco Airport.  It was still a most gorgeous day.  That is saying something.

The sky was so, so blue.  She was on her way to pick up son.  “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” was playing on the car radio (It is so odd to be listening to reindeer songs while stuck in traffic on the 101!)

She missed her exit because, just at the moment when she should have switched to the furthermost right lane, she was diverted by a thought of the photographer Stella K, who told self just a few days ago that she will be in Bacolod in February.  And self had just e-mailed her about visiting a sugar central.  And then, whoops!  She saw the sign for the airport, but to her right was a senior citizen in a bright red jeep, and this feisty elder just would not give way, even though self kept waving her arms and smiling and going yoohoo.  Self finally made a mad dash to the right (luckily, no police cars in sight), and suddenly


All hell broke loose on Highway 101 South.  And who was it causing such a ruckus?  A lone Asian woman in a beat-up grey car who was furious because self was trying to edge into her lane.

Hey, Asian woman!  Can’cha see there’s another Asian woman here?  We Asian women have to stick together, be like sistahs!

But no way!  Asian woman in beat-up grey car was definitely not into the holiday spirit.  So self ended up having to take the San Bruno Avenue exit.  Then she was in some building with the rental cars.  Then she was in a parking garage that was off limits to all but police cars.  Then she was seeing all sorts of freeway signs sprouting all over the place.

Self wanted the terminals, dammit!

Then, her cell toodled.  And because self knew it was son, she picked up, even though she knew it was AGAINST THE LAW!  And son had arrived!

And self bleated, “Just a minute!  I am parking!” (Self, you are such a liar!  But one must maintain one’s image of cool to sole fruit of one’s loins!)

And son said, “I’m out here on the curb already!”

And self replied, “Then I won’t park!  I’ll loop around!”

And son said, “OK!”

Then, just as self was looking madly for any signs pointing to the terminals, she found she’d somehow arrived at Terminal 2/ Arrivals Level.  And not one minute after she’d spoken to son, she saw him waiting right in front of her.  Like a mirage.  A veritable miracle.

And self was all so Happy Happy Joy Joy!  But she couldn’t show it, because it is essential for a mother to maintain at all times a mien of imperturbable cool.

Anyhoo, how very strange because, after that, even though self’s neck had begun a tell-tale throbbing hours earlier, when she was madly circling the parking lot of the Main Post Office on Broadway, she felt suddenly pain-free. And when she got home, she even managed to do a little work in the garden. And noticed that a small abutilon in the side yard was suddenly blooming with the deepest orange flowers. And there is just no explanation for such a phenomenon, because self has not watered in weeks.

She also ordered a Shooting Star from the Solutions catalogue (20% off!) even though there is no way it will arrive by Christmas.

*     *     *     *     *

On another front:  Self had a piece picked up by Rhino!  She just learned from a message from Angela Narciso Torres!  Thank you, Angela, you just made self’s entire month!  (That’s the fifth piece self has had picked up for 2012.  Funny, she’s always had this superstition that her “lucky” years are odd-numbered years.  Maybe not.)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self’s Reading Life (Mostly in Nonfiction): December 2011

Self just read to the last page of French Women Don’t Get Fat.  It got boring towards the end, this book about all the ways in which French women are unlike American women but simply don’t get fat.  They love champagne, they love chocolate, they don’t “do” gyms, but they don’t get fat.  Why?  Because they are so individual, they treat wine as nutrition, and bread as a staple of life, and believe in the quality of chocolate.  No Snickers bars for your average self-respecting French woman!  Only artisanal chocolate will do!

Still, self is very, very surprised when she realizes —  it’s taken her a full two weeks to finish this book.  A book she’d normally skim in a few days.  What is happening to self?

Last week, she had her regular lunch with Connie at Stanford.  Connie has been the Program Administrator at East Asian Studies, ever since self was a student in the program.  Connie happened to ask, what did self do all day, how did she fill in her time?  Self is so busy, she almost doesn’t have time for these lunches with Connie, but when Connie asked her the question, it was almost embarrassing, self honestly couldn’t answer.  It’s not like she has a regular job, or writes five hours a day.  No!  She is simply trying to keep her balance.  By keeping in touch with people in the four corners of the earth!  And gardening!  And caring for her 16-year-old beagle!  And calming all her husband’s many fears about her upcoming trip to India!  And calming her own fears!  And reading!  And doing laundry!  And putting up Christmas decorations!  And dropping off food at the post office and the doctor’s!  And, and —  self doesn’t know what she does all day.  Connie is right.  She has absolutely no right to even think she is busy.  After all, all she does (75% of the time) is observe, and think, and witness.  Honestly, that is all she does.

Anyhoo, back to self’s reading:  the next book on self’s reading list is by Bryan Sykes (“author of the bestselling The Seven Daughters of Eve,” it says right under his name on the book cover), a book called Saxons, Vikings, and Celts:  The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland.  In the preface, Sykes describes how he was once asked to do an analysis of a woman named Wilma’s DNA and “the test showed that, on her mother’s side, Wilma was descended not from the ladies of the English county of Hampshire, as she had always believed, but from a native American, probably either Sioux or Cherokee.” (!!!)

Self has been on a nonfiction streak for a while.  In July, August, and September, she was on a novel-reading streak (Of which the three best were Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader, and Harry Mulisch’s The Assault), and before that she was on a three-month travel-book reading binge (Of which her favorite was unquestionably Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts).

Last week, just before she got sick, she also ordered from Arkipelago Books (1010 Mission St., San Francisco) a copy of Benito Vergara, Jr.’s Daly City:  Pinoy Capital.  She has been so interested in this book, for ages and ages.  She called the bookstore, and Marie Romero (the owner) answered and took self’s order, and two days later the book came in the mail.  Thanks, Marie!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Win Win” : # 41 in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s “The Year in Media” List

“Toy Story 3” is on TV. Flu symptoms are finally abating.

A few days ago, self discovered an old set of Christmas icicle lights in son’s closet. She’d forgotten there was actually a time when she used to decorate his room with Christmas lights. She took the lights out and tested them today: all the bulbs lit. She kept them on all day, lying against the window. Tonight, finally, feeling her strength returning, she got up and began hanging them. Boy, she did a terrible job. It would be better to have two people to string the strands in an even line, especially when one has no hooks and one is simply pasting with transparent postal tape, but the husband was busy. Anyway, she got the lights up, any which way, then ran outside to the sidewalk. Amazingly, the strands had arranged themselves in two perfect triangles, one in each window pane. A miracle!

This week’s issue of Sports Illustrated has “The Year in Sports Media.” #1 (out of a list of 50) was Chad Harbach’s book, The Art of Fielding. #5 was the final season of “Friday Night Lights.” #41 is a movie self saw way back in March, which she keeps forgetting to include in her “Year’s Best” lists: Win Win.

Here’s what SI has to say about the movie:

Shoestring-budget indies with March release dates don’t often end up awards-season fare, particularly those that quietly come and go, grossing less than $11 million along the way. And yet Win Win, writer-director Tom McCarthy’s likable chamber piece about humaneness, high school wrestling and marital fairplay (try selling that), remains the best sports film of 2011, an unlikely but legitimate Oscar sleeper.

Paul Giamatti is at his understated best as Mike Flaherty, a small-time New Jersey lawyer struggling to stay afloat in a lousy economy while volunteering as the coach of a losing suburban wrestling team. Mike keeps his financial worries from his wife (Amy Ryan), but they’re extracting a physical and emotional toll.

(The rest of the item contains spoilers. Nevertheless, SI commends Win Win for avoiding “the corn-fed self-righteousness and familiar tropes of, for example, The Blind Side.” Since self never saw The Blind Side, she can’t say whether this comparison is justified or not. But she liked Win Win, a lot.  Especially the performance of the young boy who plays the high school wrestler.)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Christmas, Oh Christmas

Self has the flu.  She has not stepped out of the house since Thursday morning.  This flu really struck with a vengeance.  Luckily, self had a stash of pictures in her camera …

Here’s a look at the Elizabeth Gamble House, Waverley Street, downtown Palo Alto (Free and open to the public, Monday to Friday).  Self walked through the entire house and encountered not another soul.  Outside, in the garden, a woman was sitting on a bench reading a book.  Self thinks she has just discovered a wonderful retreat:


The book self began reading a week ago is French Women Don’t Get Fat:  The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, by Mireille Guiliano.

Mireille used to be overweight (when she was 17), and her (Parisian) mother, instead of humiliating her by calling her “fat,” very discreetly arranged for Mireille to see a dietitian named Dr. M.  This kind soul was so circumspect that Mireille didn’t even know he was weaning her from food.  He started her on a daily food journal, and …

Well, the point is, Mireille says it is OK to eat as much as one wants of salmon, oysters, scallops, etc, and we would all do well to follow the French habit of shopping every day in farmers markets.

Which (here comes another digression:  It’s less than two weeks to Christmas, memories are crawling out of the woodwork like termites) puts self in mind of the time she was doing a residency in Mojacar, this tiny village in the south of Spain (which is probably no longer so tiny — which, in fact, might probably have exploded by now with Danish and English retirees), when she used to spend weekends visiting markets with Eizo Sakata.  Eizo went everywhere with a hat, and when he found a fruit that looked particularly pleasing, he’d take it back to Mojacar and use the juice on a painting.

Let’s see, what was self supposed to be writing about again?

Oh, yes, French Women Don’t Get Fat.

Self is now on p. 103.  Mireille provides a very helpful sample Spring Menu.  And here are the items she lists therein:

Breakfast:  yogurt *  cereal with strawberries *  slice of whole wheat or multigrain bread *  Coffee or tea (Why does Mireille capitalize Coffee, self wonders?  Not that she has anything against coffee.  Self in fact loooves coffee — That’s enough, self!  You dingbat, coffee is the first word of a new line!  It’s like in a poem, don’cha see?  The first word of each line, whether it’s Yogurt or Cereal or Coffee, is always capitalized.  This is known as:  the Editor’s Rule of Consistency # 3!)

Lunch:  Asparagus flan * Green Salad *  Cherry clafoutis without dough *  Noncaloric beverage

Dinner:  Pea soup *  Grilled Spring Lamb Chops * Cauliflower Gratin *  Rhubarb compost (Did self just write “compost”?  She meant compote, of course!  Pardonnez moi!) * Glass of red wine

Well, see, this menu plan doesn’t work for self.  Here’s what works exceedingly well for self:

Breakfast:  Coffee (Aged Sumatra), black

Lunch:  More Coffee (More Aged Sumatra), maybe a dollop of half’n half

Dinner:  Everything self missed out on during the day, two servings of those

In addition:  No snacking during the day, not even one cupcake.  No soft drinks, even though the husband drinks Coke so ostentatiously, even flirting with self and making goo-goo eyes while polishing off his can.  No gelato and no frozen yogurt, no matter how many times self’s errands take her to downtown Palo Alto.  No potato chips, even though self has been hitting the Walgreen’s every day in the hunt for the elusive Benadryl, and the Walgreen aisles seem to be crawling with at least 20 different kinds of potato chips and a dozen different kinds of dip.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Net Round-Up, 2nd Tuesday of December 2011

Today, self was at the Elizabeth Gamble Garden in downtown Palo Alto.  It’s been perhaps a decade since self was last here, even though the garden is only a few miles from her house.  In contrast to how things appear when self visits her home country, the Gamble Garden seems to have grown.  Like the universe, everything seems bigger and wider:  the trees, the pathways, even the house itself.

When she got home, she walked The Ancient One.  A lady stopped to pet the poor ol’ dog, who seemed hardly to notice, so intent was she on maintaining forward motion (all her bones creaking, such are the vicissitudes of great age)

Self pulled herself together today and got something going into the crockpot this morning.  So by the time she stepped back in the house, the kitchen smelled heavenly (She made chili with sausages, ham, lentils and white beans, with plenty of chopped garlic and onions.  And some cayenne pepper.  Come to think of it, it’s more potaje than chili)

Then she decided to check out a few of her favorite sites.

Kathleen’s latest post on True Love, Six Kids, and One Old House moved self to tears.  Happy, happy, happy 55th, Kathleen!  You’re as beautiful as ever and just the loveliest writer.

Used Furniture Review has “Arts and Literature From the Deep South:  Episode 1.1” with Brian Oliu,  three poems by Joshua Young:  “Spotlight Center Stage – Sunday, 8:00 a.m.”;  “Enter Stage Right – The Preacher” ; and “Enter Stage Left – The Usual Suspects,” a very amusing story called “Instructions for Disposal of Dangerous Materials” by Gerri Brightwell, and a story by Jacqueline Doyle called “You’re the One, Baby.”

Wag’s Revue still has The Music Issue (Issue 10).  Self loves, in addition to the pieces, the great cover of something that looks like Rodin’s The Thinker, only covered with green — fungus?  Moss?  Clover?

The latest in “Ask Alys” (Gardening Columnist for Britain’s The Guardian) answers the question:  “Why are my bramley apples pitted with brown spots and inedible?”  The question just before that was:  “Which cherry plum should I plant?”

Café Irreal’s Issue Forty has a very interesting story by Steve Toase:  “The first tree I saw hitchhiking I nearly didn’t stop.  Not out of prejudice, you understand, but surprise.  I pulled onto the hard shoulder and reversed.”

Eric D. Snider has reviews of “New Year’s Eve” (D- :  And to think self nearly saw this movie yesterday!), “Shame” (in which Michael Fassbender plays a sex addict.  Self would have been more interested if he had played a shoe addict.  Or something less mainstream.  Sex addicts are everywhere, you don’t even have to look like Michael Fassbender to be a sex addict.  You can be gross-looking and still like to have sex.  In fact, if you’re gross-looking, it makes it more interesting if you’re also a sex addict.), “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (Alas, this one only merits a C+ from Mr. Snider), and “Hugo” (B+)

Fawlt Magazine has not updated in ages and ages.

Home Is Where the Boat Is has a sumptuous holiday table setting:  absolutely gorgeous:  the plates, the bright red tablecloth, the Christmas greenery, the pine cones.  And close-ups of a book called How To Find Flower Fairies.

On The Writing Disorder, Marko Fong has a wonderful short story, “The Art of Peace,” from his collection Inventing China, “which looks at various ways overseas Chinese created their own notions of Chinese identity and culture.”  Part 1 (“Salt and Porcelain”) begins:  “Thanks to my grandmother, I may be the only person who knows the real origin of General Mo’s chicken.  Even though I’m not much of a cook, I may also be the only person who knows the proper recipe for the popular dish that combines boneless balls of chicken with a hot sweet sauce.”

*          *          *          *          *

Don’t forget to buy a book from our very own Arkipelago Books in the Bayanihan Community Center on Sixth and Mission!  This bookstore is a real gem.  Marie Romero keeps it going on sheer grit.  It’s as iconic to the San Francisco Filipino community as St. Mark’s Bookshop is to the New York literary community.  Among the books you can order:  Zack Linmark’s excellent Leche, Theodore S. Gonzalves’s Images of America:  Filipinos in Hawai’i, Jessica Hagedorn’s latest, Toxicology, and Remembering Rizal, an anthology of poetry, plays, essays and artwork on the 150th anniversary of Jose Rizal’s birth, edited by Edwin Lozada.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

A Little After Midnight (the 2nd Saturday of December 2011)

It is very, very cold.  Even though self is wearing two sweaters, she still shivers.

The moon is very, very full.

Self hasn’t quite lost it:  she remembered to throw a sheet over the orange tree.

Stay tuned.

Today, the 2nd Friday of December 2011: Snow Globe, New Camera, and Watching “The Rabbit Hole”

  • Bought a snow globe!  Only $11 from The Artisan Shop (all proceeds benefit the Lucille Packard Children’s Memorial Hospital at Stanford) in Allied Arts Guild on Arbor Road in Menlo Park!
  • In addition, self ended up buying herself a new camera from Costco! A Nikon Coolpix S8200 Digital Camera, (the bright red model)!  As luck would have it, she also found her old camera — In fact, self had the sneaking suspicion that if she bought a new camera, she would end up finding the old one soon after:  Murphy’s Law!  And self’s intuition was proved 100% correct!  Wonder if Costco will take a return if self’s already wrangled open the packaging???
  • Got a new Macy’s Gift Catalogue in the mail!
  • Wrote three more Christmas cards!
  • Finally finished watching her current Netflix movie, “The Rabbit Hole!”  And discovered that Eckhart and Kidman are very good together, and Kidman most certainly deserved the Oscar nomination she got last year for her performance!

About halfway in, self discovered that the plot was almost exactly the same as the plot of self’s story, “Dust!”  (On-line in The Writing Disorder, Winter 2010 issue)

Yes, the exact same plot.  Imagine that?  How could self and whoever wrote “The Rabbit Hole” have been thinking along the very same lines?

By the way, Tammy Blanchard, the actress who plays the younger sister of Nicole Kidman is very, very good.  Self had never heard of her before and had to google her.  Her performance is never less than deeply convincing.


Self’s favorite part of the movie is the conversation between the kid who accidentally killed Kidman’s son, and Kidman: “I might have been going too fast. It was a 30-mile-an-hour zone, I might have been going 31, 32.  I wanted you to know.” The kid delivers his lines with just the right amount of awkwardness and penitence.

On another front, self made the discovery that Another Chicago Magazine, from whom she was anxiously waiting to hear (She had mailed a story, August 1 of this year), has been defunct since 2010 — And all this time, self was sure her story was percolating to the final round!

And now self will devote the rest of her evening to reading stories from her UCLA Extension students (This was another excellent class, full of brave, risk-taking students.  She thoroughly enjoyed the last couple of weeks)

Coming up Sunday:  meeting with Niece G in the City.  Yay!  Self always enjoys adventuring with Niece G!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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