Just in Time for the Holidays: A Thought from Robert Greene

We are in the thick of the holiday season.  There are so many bad-tempered drivers on the road.  We are expecting a storm.

Yesterday’s reading by Lysley Tenorio was fun.  He wore a paisley blue shirt and very intellectual glasses.  Rashaan was rocking an embroidered top, patterned black tights, and boots.  Barbara elected to go for the all-black look.  Edwin Lozada was in a tweed jacket.  One of the consular officials wore a necklace of multi-colored pearls.  Niece G wore a very fetching blue plaid blouse, a colorful Indian-looking scarf, and jeans.  Niece surprised self by saying that she would like to go to Manila to lose some weight (Niece, you are gorgeous!  You do not need to lose any weight!  It is self who must lose weight!  But she thinks Manila is not the place for her to do it!  Not with Mesa in Greenbelt 5 issuing its siren call:  Crispy Leche Flan!  Crispy Leche Flan!  Crispy Leche Flan!)

Now, either out of recklessness or sheer exhaustion, self knows not which, she is back to reading Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power.  She flips open the book at random and lands on Law # 13:

When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude.

There is always a fairy tale that illustrates the wisdom of the law.  This one is from Aesop’s Fables.  It is called “The Peasant and the Apple Tree.”

A peasant had in his garden an apple tree which bore no fruit but only served as a perch for the sparrows and grasshoppers.  He resolved to cut it down and, taking his ax in hand, made a bold stroke at its roots.  The grasshoppers and sparrows entreated him not to cut down the tree that sheltered them, but to spare it, and they would sing to him and lighten his labors.  He paid no attention to their request, but gave the tree a second and a third blow with his ax.  When he reached the hollow of the tree, he found a hive full of honey.  Having tasted the honeycomb, he threw down his ax, and, looking on the tree as sacred, took great care of it.  Self-interest alone moves some men.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Reddest Red

Blooming now, on self’s front porch, a miniature rose called Flower Carpet:

Flower Carpet “Red” on self’s front porch

On second thought, self wouldn’t describe the color as such a deep red.  It’s more like an orange-red.  Or perhaps a very saturated pink.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Slogging Through Pile of Stuff

Slogging through pile of stuff is such hard work.  Whenever self casts a baleful eye at the mountain of unread mail and magazines, she feels it growing, like the loaves and the fishes.

Anyhoo, today self dug deep and surfaced with this fascinating document:

A list of things to do in Dumaguete

Actually, it was a download from a travel website, and the actual title of the post is:

Two Days of Eating in Dumaguete City

The writer begins by calling Dumaguete the “City of Smiles.”  (Now, just wait a minute!  Self thought it was BACOLOD that is known as the “City of Smiles!”)

But, for the purpose of just getting on with it, self continues reading:

You can take a tricycle from the airport to your hotel.

You will check in to Harold’s Mansion (Tee hee!  Self knows this place.  The foreign backpackers’ hangout)

You will have breakfast at What’s Up, on Rizal Avenue

You will have lunch at K.R.I.  (There were other things between breakfast and lunch, but they can all be summed up in two words:  Freshening Up)

By now, it will be 1 p.m.  Time to start exploring the city!

You will proceed to the Dumaguete Cathedral.  You will check out the Provincial Capitol.  You will walk around the campus of Silliman University.

You will have merienda (around 4 p.m.) at Gabby’s Bistro, located inside a subdivision called Florentina Homes.  “Aside from a hearty main course, Gabby’s Bistro offers imaginative desserts.”

After merienda (This will take approximately two hours), it is time for a massage.  You will go to the Royal Haven Spa, directly above a furniture store.  And after the massage, you will now be faced with a very momentous decision:  Should you (a) head back to the hotel and call it a night? (b) rest and then have a late dinner? or (c) go straight to dinner?

The correct answer is:  Choose the a or b options.  Do not attempt to go straight to dinner.

At 8 p.m., it is now OK for you to have dinner.  The place to go is Jutz.

After a two-hour dinner at Jutz, go to Hayahay for drinks (Zack and self had dinner here in March!)

At midnight, head back to the hotel.  Of course, the first thing to do upon returning to your hotel is to take a long, hot shower, and sleep.  Now, you have two options:  You can choose to wake up early and have breakfast, or you can sleep until it’s time for lunch.

At 11 a.m. (standard check-out time), you will head for lunch at a pizza place called Neva’s.  On the menu:  “pizza, pasta, and dessert.”

Two hours later, at approximately 1 p.m. (Self has no idea how you are expected to fill up the time between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., but presumably most of the time is taken up with having lunch), go shopping for pasalubong at Sans Rival.  This place is “known all over the Philippines for its silvanas . . . Their jam cookies are good too . . . ”  You can hand-carry the silvanas:  they keep “for about 4 – 6 hours outside the freezer.”

At 2 p.m., head to the airport (After partaking of such fabulous Dumaguete gustatory delights, self thinks it would be no surprise if the traveler experiences slight difficulty fitting into the airplane seat!  Business or First Class will have wider seats, but an upgrade might cost something in the vicinity of $2,000, self kids you not!  She has tried)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Items of Note: Yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle

p. A4, World News:  Ukraine

  • The Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded on Apr. 26, 1986.  It was “the world’s worst nuclear accident.”
  • Since then, at least 28 people have died of acute radiation sickness from close exposure, and more than 6000 cases of thyroid cancer have been detected.
  • The temporary cover over the reactor is called the sarcophagus.  The new cover “will be 843 feet by 492 feet when completed and at its apex will be higher than the Statue of Liberty.”

P. 1 of the Sporting Green:  article by Bruce Jenkins

  • “The Northern California surf season is here . . .  Mavericks broke off the coast of Half Moon Bay last week, at a sort of medium-range size, with the biggest swells yet to come.”
  • Chasing Mavericks is “a surprisingly tolerable Hollywood treatment of the late Jay Moriarty and the Santa Cruz surfing community.”
  • There is a wave in Hawaii known as Peahi (“Jaws”).

Self will keep reading.  Which means:  more posts!

Stay tuned.

Last Wednesday of November (2012): The Philippine Consulate, 447 Sutter Street, San Francisco

There was a purported storm!  Supposed to hit the San Francisco Bay Area with a powerhouse punch!  It was all over the news yesterday and this morning, but when self drove to the City, the weather was practically balmy.

Self had occasion to thank her lucky stars that she lives in California!  A sentiment with which Niece G was in wholehearted agreement, having just come from spending Thanksgiving in New York, which according to her was a frigid 38 degrees.

Tonight, niece and self spent the evening in the cheery confines of the San Francisco Consulate at 447 Sutter.  This is a nondescript building, with some very fab posters of Philippine beaches adorning the various antiseptic hallways.

Who knew such fun was to be had in that consular place?  It was a reading for Lysley Tenorio, whose book of short stories, Monstress, has just been published (and, dare self say, blurbed by some very A-list writers).  It was a surprising evening in many ways, not least because Lysley was rocking a blue paisley shirt!  He read so well, he earned the undying adulation of Niece G, self, and all the consular officials!

Rashaan Alexis Meneses (soon to be in Hawthornden) was there, too, rocking a sort of hip Filipino look, with an embroidered top she said she bought from H & M, and a ‘do that was vaguely 20s Flapper!  And intricate patterned black tights!  And boots!  Self wondered why she can’t dream up outfits similar to Rashaan’s.  Must be because she is hopeless at shopping.  She definitely has inherited none of Dearest Mum’s genes in this regard.  Maybe Rashaan can accompany her some day, as a sort of fashion consultant?

And the story Lysley read was about a faith healer named Papa Felix.  Papa Felix’s performance hinged on procuring chicken livers from Chinatown!  And the story was just so ha-ha-ha funny!  But poignant, too!  How’d Lysley pull that off ???

Afterwards, Niece and self lined up to have our copies of Monstress signed, like a couple of bloomin’ acolytes, and we started to run off at the mouth a little, and you know what?  Lysley is very nice!  He even pronounced self’s name correctly!  That is, he said:  MAH-REE-YA-NEH!  Pronouncing, or should self say enunciating, with all the syllables so phonetically clear and crisp!

Not to mention, self got a copy of Barbara’s latest book!  She can’t wait to read it!  Barb was looking very hip in all black!  You can only get away with all black if you are a true celebrity!  Like Barbara!

The final cap to the excellent evening was that self got a pound of whole beans from Philz Coffee on 24th and Folsom.  They don’t list the coffee blends on a board, one is expected to have 20/20 eyesight and be able to read the labels on the bins behind the sales counter.  Self asked the salesperson to recommend a dark roast, and he recommended “Ether.”  It is so nice to know that, nestled in self’s freezer at the moment (She always freezes her whole beans), is a lb. of this fabulous Ether.  She has to wait until she finishes her current Ethiopian coffee supply, she is a firm believer in the pleasure of delayed gratification.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Amazing Life

Self knows the titles of her blog posts are getting more and more cryptic.  Oh well!  Life IS amazing.  What else can she say?

After dinner, she pulled down a book from one of son’s bookshelves.  Ah!  Winterbirth, the book she got for son from that Edinburgh bookstore, Transreal Fiction.  If she’s not mistaken, it was a signed copy.  Quick check of the title page:  yes!  There is author Brian Ruckley’s signature.  Self remembers asking the bookseller to recommend a book by the “best young science fiction writer in Scotland today,” and he took quite a long time before recommending Ruckley.

Winterbirth is almost 600 pages:  son should thank his lucky stars, she had to leave a lot of her odds and ends behind, because her suitcase was too full.  But this book she could not leave.  And in fact, when son visited earlier this year, self found she couldn’t actually part with the book, not until she had read it.  And son said it was OK.  Because he has so many other things on his mind!  He’d probably have gotten to the book five years from now!

Self now opens the book to the preface:

They say the world has fallen from its former state.

WOW!  Is she glad she kept the book!

Changing gears, today self had her “pre-op” appointment with an oral surgeon.  In little more than a week, she will be having yet another gruesome dental surgery.  In the last decade, she has spent thousands and thousands of dollars on every possible thing:  all for the sake of saving her teeth, which are just bad.

She used to have excellent teeth, until she got to the States and had sole fruit of her loins.  Then, all hell broke loose.  Inside her mouth, that is.

American candy didn’t help, either.

In a little over a week, self is finally biting the bullet and going for an implant.  She’s missed the tooth for about 15 years, why’d she wait so long to have an implant?  Because an implant costs twice as much as a crown, that’s why!

Anyhoo, it turned out to be a rather routine affair:  self was disappointed.  A dental assistant went over the procedure, and it seemed fairly cut and dried.  “There might be swelling and some bruising,” the dental assistant told her.  Oh!  Self said she knew what that was like.  Why, just last month, she had a humongous black eye, and a swollen eyelid, and a lump on her right frontal lobe, and it was three weeks before the last bruises faded.  Even now, when self examines her face in the mirror, she thinks her right cheek is just a shade darker than her left.  Because of course the black eye was on the right side of her face.  And now, when she has had trouble sleeping, the shadows on the right side of her face are blue-grey, almost like the black eye she had in October.

Let’s see, what did the dental assistant say?  For a week, she should eat only soft food like yogurt and bananas.  No extraordinarily hot or cold food, either.  Which means:  no soup (unless cold, like gazpacho), and no ice cream (Boo).

Tomorrow self is going to see Niece G.  At last!  She’s really missed her.  She used to see her much more, but nowadays self’s schedule is very hectic.

We are going to something in the consulate.  Niece G asks if there will be food.  “Of course!” self assures her.  “This is a Filipino reading!  There has to be food!”

It will be one heck of a long drive to the City, and in the last few years self’s nerves (when she drives) are extremely bad.  Honestly, there have been times when self steps on the brakes in the middle of an intersection, and Niece G has to yell in her ear:  GO, TITA!  GOOOO!!!  STEP ON IT!

But that adventure will have to wait until tomorrow.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Reading Prism International 51:1 (Fall 2012) and The Greensboro Review 91 (Spring 2012)

Self wrote a new story this morning.  1,000 words.  She decided to call it “The Forest.”

Then, she dug once again into her Pile of Stuff.  Surfaced with Prism International, Fall 2012.  Opened to the first piece, which happened to be a poem by Kathryn Dillard:


But just as you feel uncertain
of solitude, it keeps you solid.

Oh, self absolutely loved that!

Then, self decided she might as well try another journal, any attempt to reduce the Pile of Stuff is good!  She pulled out The Greensboro Review, No. 91 (Spring 2012). She flipped through the pieces, stopped at a poem by Ramola D that began:

Marking the Fields
for Ned Tanis, 1970 – 1998

For a long time I told myself
I would never write about his death
because it was his death,
I could not use it. I wanted
to keep myself
from becoming
someone I could not recognize,
someone to whom
life or death was merely

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

No Matter What

Many’s the time when self has felt like dis-continuing her almost two decades’ subscription to The New York Times Book Review.  First of all, the review does have rough patches, periods when self finds the reviews neither entertaining nor informative.  Even, pedantic —  meaning, dull.  It fell into a hole a couple of years ago, and self nearly cut it off.  But at the last minute she decided to cancel her Cancel-self’s-subscription request, just for old times’ sake.

In Hawthornden, last June, self was introduced to The New York Review of Books.  Now, that is a really splendid publication.  It would take her days just to finish one essay, she pored over each with the care of an archaeologist.  She began a subscription.  Now she is stuck with both The New York Times Book Review and The New York Review of Books.  How many publications with “New York” in the title does self need?  Shouldn’t self be economizing, especially since America is facing the looming “fiscal cliff”?  In fact, she’s decided to cut off getting a Christmas tree this year, the first Christmas in memory when self thought NOT to get a tree.

But here she is again, perusing a copy of The New York Times Book Review (the one of Nov. 11, 2012).  There are several interesting things about this issue.  For one thing, its Children’s Books section is pretty fat.  So this must be a special issue devoted (for the most part) to children and Young Adult writing.

Second, self learns that John Banville has a new novel out, and here he is writing as himself.  She got rather turned off by his Benjamin Black mysteries, but she likes Banville when he is writing as Banville.

Third, self discovers that Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel (which self has been hearing about for ages) is about a woman who suddenly becomes “frantic with desire, frantic with passion.”  Self used to think of Kingsolver as the Mother Teresa of literary novelists, but the review (by Dominique Browning) makes her want to read Flight Behavior.  Exciting!

Fourth, there is a review of a memoir by Benjamin Anastas, previous literary wunderkind (who self had never heard of —  yes, even though she is an assiduous subscriber to The New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review.  In all probability, she did hear about him, but forgot his name almost as quickly), which shows us what happens when one is no longer a wunderkind —  or, rather, when one’s second book fails to sell and when the third one does even worse.  What happens is:  the writer goes to hell.  Not the real hell (Sadly, we must all die to reach there), but the hell created by self-doubt.  Self will read it!  Might help her counter her usual attitude of hopelessness and What’s-the-use.

Finally —  FINALLY! —  there is one very riveting article about bike racing.  Well, actually, it’s a review (by Geoffrey Wheatcroft) of The Secret Race:  Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France:  Doping, Cover-Ups, and Winning at All Costs, by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle.  But in the course of reading this review, self learns much about that dastardly Lance Armstrong, who led her to believe that one could not only survive cancer, but achieve lasting fame and fortune.  It just takes guts!  And endurance!  And an enormous amount of physical punishment!  NOT!!!

When Our Man Lance won his seventh Tour de France, self was quite upset that Sports Illustrated did not bestow on him the title “Sportsman of the Year.”  Unfair!  She said.  What does a seven-time winner of the Tour de France have to do in order to get recognized?  She forgets who it was who SI chose to anoint that year.

Gee whiz!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Inspiration: Shunryu Suzuki

Self’s calendar for 2012 was something she picked up from, she thinks, Keplers in Menlo Park.

How quickly the time has flown!  The calendar still strikes her as a “new” thing.  She can’t believe that in one more month, 2012 will be over.

The calendar features Zenga paintings from the Gitter-Yelen Collection.  Until this year, she’d never heard the word “Zenga” before (She associates it with a high-tech company).  The back of the calendar contains this explanation:

The mind of Zen Buddhism is revealed through authentic sacred art and profoundly simple wisdom.  Zenga art, Zen-inspired brushstroke paintings, surprise and confound our expectations.  Although created by seventeenth and eighteenth-century monks who were amateur painters, they have startlingly modern appeal.  Each month features a unique Zenga masterwork paired with quotes from Not Always So by Shunryu Suzuki (1905 – 1971), one of the most influential Zen teachers of his time.

The quote for December is:

When you empty your mind, when you give up everything and just practice zazen with an open mind, then whatever you see, you meet yourself.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


This literary journal (Stone Going Home Again:  New Writing from Scotland 28) is so well-traveled.  Self purchased it in Edinburgh, from Blackwell’s.  She toted it to Bacolod.  And now she’s reading it again, here in Redwood City.

This (gloomy) morning, the last day of the long Thanksgiving weekend, self is reading the poetry of a writer named E. M. Buchanan.  Here is what it says about her in the Contributors’ Notes:

A retired schoolteacher, in 2009 E. M. Buchanan completed a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at Glasgow University.  Agin Mischefe comes from the collection of poems and short stories, in English and Scots, backed by a commentary, reflecting aspects of her home ground of Angus on the east coast of Scotland.

Here is her poem yule:

In the crack
o’ the open door atween
the Auld Year an’ the New,
atween the ingang an’ the ootgang,
when derkness is bool-hornit
an’ the nicht is lang

they come

I’ll gie ye the cream o’ the well,
a reid herrin, an’ a bairnie
in a byre.

Here’s a picture that self took of her backyard this morning.  She thinks it fits right in with the poem’s theme!

Backyard, November

And here is another of E. M. Buchanan poems, finis:

In the crack
atween the ebb an’ the flow
when the caunle burns low,
warm bluid growes cauld
an’ yir breith gaes oot
by the open door,
when I lowse the knots
o’ yer windin’ sheet
tak oot the nails
frae the coffin lid,
an yer hands are tume

they will come

OMG, just typing those poems makes shivers go up and down self’s spine, dear blog readers! She doesn’t know what it is, but she finds the language, the Scottish expressions, so fascinating.

Stay tuned.

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