Quote of the Day: Nelle Engoron on the Latest Episode of “Mad Men”

Good morning.  Self is in dire need of caffeine fix:

Self's first action, every morning: starting some coffee. This is Kenyan from Peet's.

She greets The Ancient One:

Bella is 16 Years Old

Bella was born on Sept. 30, 1995.  If you multiply her age by the number 7, that translates, in “human years,” to 112.  The irony is that she out-lived self’s other beagle, Gracie, who passed away in April 2011.  Gracie was not even 10 (Mourn, mourn, mourn)

But, pardon the digression, dear blog readers.  What triggered this post was a Salon.com review of the most recent episode of Mad Men, “Tea Leaves.”

The author of the review is a name new to self:  Nelle Engoron.  According to her bio, she is “a freelance writer, Open Salon blogger, and the author of Mad Men Unmasked:  Decoding Season 4.”

In today’s Salon.com, she writes:

. . .  life is like waiting all night in a crowded concrete hallway thinking you’re about to meet the Rolling Stones, only to find out that you’ve signed a deal with the Trade Winds instead.

All youthful dreams die, and adult life is the long, slow accommodation to the way things actually are versus the way we not only hoped but believed they’d be (As Henry puts it later in a more hopeful context, “This is what it could be, but it’s not gonna be.”)

But self begs to differ with Engoron.  Sometimes, youthful dreams do bear fruit.  Exhibit A:  Self’s life, in the past year or so.  In the meantime, self has hopes —  some very high hopes —  for her 15-page pig-story-of-the-apocalypse, “Thing.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

A Wakako Yamauchi Turtle

Any animal that appears in a Wakako Yamauchi story is no ordinary animal. Self knows this because she is currently reading the Yamauchi short story, “Dogs I Owe To” (Self posted about the story three hours ago and — fortunately or unfortunately — she has still not yet arrived at the end. That is, in three hours, self has only managed to advance a further two pages.  In fairness, self did cook dinner and also successfully revised a 28-page short story).

In a Wakako Yamauchi story, an animal becomes a vessel for unbounded humor and pathos.  Here, for example, is a passage about a turtle:

In our twenty-five years of marriage, we had one child, Joy.

My husband was a kind and indulgent father.  He gave Joy anything she asked for:  goldfish, chicks, hamsters, a turtle who fell out of his dish and disappeared.  Years later I found him under a dresser.  He had died silently in our bedroom, dehydrating in agony while we slept, made love, made war.

Which brings to self’s mind a memory of the following animal, encountered on her most recent trip to Bacolod:

This turtle lives with Manong Freddie and Manang Marilou on GV & Sons Street in Bacolod City.

Whenever self visited Manong Freddie and Manang Marilou, she could never resist bending down to have a closer look at this fabulous creature, who struggled valiantly against the sides of his red plastic tub, slipping and scrabbling, in a vain effort to reach self (as if he had fallen in love.  Whether with self’s face or with her voice, self truly cannot say.  She rarely elicits reactions of this sort, from animals or humans.  But she was always flattered by the turtle’s affection)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

That Wakako Yamauchi Dog Story

So here is self, settled back home, and able to resume reading the Wakako Yamauchi story (“Dogs I Owe To”) she began reading in Bacolod.  She still hasn’t gotten to the end, but can feel it coming.

This is such a beautiful story.  The language is restrained and yet painfully wrenching.  A Japanese American family adopts a pet, a dog named Dickie.  Many things happen to the family after they adopt Dickie: a baby dies, the family is forced to move out of the Imperial Valley, bankrupted by debt and just general bad luck.  There is a tremendous earthquake, which they all survive, but not much else does.

The narrator’s parents tells her that she must be Dickie’s “executioner.”  That is, it is up to the narrator and her brother to figure out a humane solution to getting rid of this dog, this extra mouth to feed, one that this impoverished family can ill afford.

They decide to leave Dickie in the place where they had last moved from, where nothing remains of their former hopes and dreams:

I said good-bye in my heart because it seemed hypocritical to say it out loud.  I couldn’t speak to my brother, who was dealing with his own emotions.  I watched Dickie run after us until the road turned.  I prayed he would find his way back to the Augustas and that they, with kinder hearts than ours, would feed him, give him a drink, and pat him now and then.

That wasn’t the last time I saw Dickie.  For years he came to me in my dreams, always running, running to me.  Sometimes I’m on a bus, sometimes in a stranger’s car.  Once his back appeared to be broken, but he continued to run.  I am always watching him from a window, on a moving vehicle, my heart cut out of me.

We never returned to Imperial.

Self wishes to thank Lillian Howan, from the very bottom of her heart, for putting this collection of Wakako Yamauchi’s stories together.  Self feels so lucky:  she gets to read this collection in dribs and drabs, usually when she is flying to or leaving Bacolod.  She’ll always think of the book this way:  bookends to the brief periods when she is out of herself.  When she ceases to be a mother, or a wife, or a teacher or even a writer.  In Bacolod, she is nothing, simply her father’s daughter.

It’s funny how, in the story excerpt above, the narrator mentions seeing Dickie in her dreams.  For some reason, self’s dream life expanded considerably on this last trip.  She dreamt when she was on the airplane, both going to and coming from Bacolod.  She dreamt every single night of her trip, except for the one week where Zack joined her.  The dreams were usually nightmares, involving family members she hadn’t seen or spoken to in a while.  Once (on the plane to Bacolod), she dreamt about being attacked by a bunch of ferocious gorillas who had escaped from a zoo.  Another time, she dreamt that Dearest Mum was knocking on the front door of her house in Redwood City.  Knocking and knocking and knocking.

Self dreamt about her brother-in-law, Richard, and about her husband.  She dreamt about lizards and about losing her way in the intricacies of an unfamiliar house.  Each dream was long and complicated and always ended ambiguously.

When self got back to Redwood City, the dreams vanished.  What does this mean?

Stay tuned.

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