Dancing with Emmitt

Help! This is an emergency!

Want the number to call to cast my vote for Emmitt Smith and his partner Cheryl Burke before tonight’s Dancing with the Stars finale!

One thing about this new 40-inch flat-screen HDTV– I end up spending entire days on the couch, as I did yesterday. Did not grade a single paper. Instead, sat as if mesmerized, examining fascinating skin pores during close-ups of Anthony LaPaglia on Without a Trace (re-runs on TNT) and Hugh Laurie on House.

Last night, found myself watching Dancing with the Stars with bated breath as the two final pairs–Emmitt and Cheryl; Mario and that Russian lady with the the rather harsh mouth– duked it out by displaying their mastery of three different dances: mambo, rumba, and “free-style”. Thought Emmitt was going to jump into my lap. Without a doubt, dimple-boy Mario had nothing on Emmitt’s fancy footwork! Found myself reaching for the phone to dial the 1-800 number to cast my vote for Emmitt and his partner, something I have never ever done in the whole history of reality TV. Hubby, however, stopped me with this trenchant warning: “You’re going to have to pay for the call.”

This morning, cringe at the thought of Mario (who, come on, admit it— I’m sure has taken dancing lessons before) taking glittering trophy home to display in (possibly) gargantuan bathroom. Immediately regret prevarication of last night and decide to be fierce and decisive! Google web sites frantically (even though I haven’t finished my lesson plan for class in xxxxxx community college, which starts in less than an hour), but, alas, cannot find listed number for the show, get only amateur reviews of last night’s “Dancing” episode. Kicking myself. And today I teach THE WHOLE DAY, cannot sneak out between breaks or even get close to a computer. Thank God xxxxxx community college faculty meeting ends at 6:30. Will rush home, see what I can do . . .

At long last…

40-inch flat screen HDTV behemoth has arrived, dwarfing everything in the living room and making us look like the kind of people who think nothing of spending entire weekends watching football games on ESPN.

Am quite happy, however, because now I know where hubby will be every minute of the weekend for AT LEAST the next year or two šŸ™‚

Reading at Redwood City Main not too bad. Indulged in my penchant for digressive prattle, stopping frequently in midst of reading (“Mountains”, a story I read in its entirety for the first time– Wait a minute, found myself thinking, why does this sound like memoir???) to comment on this or that aspect of Philippine history. Felt quite comfortable because no member of family in audience, and friends numbering only two: Martha and Edwin.

The rest were: teacher from Menlo College, Gil Patterson; nice Redwood City Librarian who arranged the reading, Roz; member of Library Board Rudy M.; and a sweet old lady who sat patiently and waited for at least 15 minutes for the reading to start and afterwards stretched out a quavering hand to purchase a copy of my first book, GINSENG AND OTHER TALES FROM MANILA.

I had fun. I talked about manananggals and lizards. Impaktas and Kapris. The Baltimore museum I fell in love with on last week’s trip. Baguio and Masferre.

Excellent, excellent, excellent …

On your mark, get set ….

Some upcoming readings:

at the Redwood City, CA Main Library
1044 Middlefield Road (at Jefferson)
Redwood City, CA 94062
Nov. 9 (Thursday): 7:30 – 8:30 PM

at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of the American Indian
Fourth Street and Independence Ave., S.W.
December 8, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

I’m participating in a Filipino Literary Panel as part of the Smithsonian South Asian Literary and Theater Arts Festival. My co-readers are Peter Bacho, Luis Francia, and M. Evelina Galang. Come to hear us talk about the sources of our inspirations and the impact of Filipino American writers on American literature. For more information, please visit www.apa.si.edu/APA_Events.htm

Books I Am Interested in Reading (After Perusing the Oct. 22, 2006 issue of The New York Times Book Review)

(1) After reading Nathaniel Tripp’s review of Michael Weisskopf’s Blood Brothers: Among the Soldiers of Ward 57 :

Blood Brothers: Among the Soldiers of Ward 57

(2) After reading Toni Bentley‘s review of Alex Kuczynski’s Beauty Junkies: Inside our $15 Billion Obssession with the Beauty Industry:

Beauty Junkies: Inside our $15 Billion etc.

(3) After reading Colson Whitehead‘s review of Richard Powers’ new novel, The Echo Maker : The Echo Maker

(4) After reading Neil Genzlinger’s reviews of Ken Jennings’ Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive World of Trivia Buffs and Bob Harris’ Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in “JEOPARDY!” :

Bob Harris’ Prisoner of Trebekistan

(5) After reading Marilyn Stasio’s “Crime” column, two books by Icelandic crime writer Arnaldur Indridason: Jar City and Silence of the Grave

(6) After reading Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s end-paper essay, “Cabin Fever” : Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Football Season

Who among you, oh loyal blog readers, have a football-loving husband? Mine is absolutely crazy about American football, and has been for years, ever since he set foot in the good ol’ US of A.

Funny, he hates sports himself, and his most strenuous activity is walking the dogs. But he can sit on the couch and watch American football for hours. (He also watches Manchester United and Arsenal, but that’s another story entirely.)

I tell you this because I’m in the middle of a deeply fascinating book, Zoe Heller’s What Was She Thinking?, which was nominated for the Booker Prize several years ago.

It’s about a 42-year-old teacher and her affair with a 15-year-old “fifth-former”, as they’re known in England.

I had just returned from the ODU Lit Fest, I had tons of catching up to do– grading, etc.– but I found myself staying up until 1 AM last night, reading, even though I knew I’d show up with tremendous eyebags for my morning class at xxxxx community college.

Then, this evening, I curled up on the couch. Things in the novel were coming to a head. I itched to know how it would all turn out (bad, of course). Gossip was beginning to spread. 42-year-old sexy teacher seemed stunningly impervious. I had reached p. 211 (the novel is only 258 pages long) and holier-than-thou narrator, Barbara, was trying to get up the courage to confess to 42-year-old sexpot that she had betrayed her secret to a colleague.

42-year-old’s 17-year-old daughter has run away from home. Sexpot calls narrator to come over and commiserate. Her husband is elsewhere in bowels of huge English house. Sexpot winks at spinsterish narrator Barbara and confesses: “Of course I was also up very late last night with Steven.” (Steven being the randy 15-year-old.) Sexpot “grinned naughtily.”

“I’m afraid I did a rather dangerous thing,” sexpot confesses to spinsterish Barb. “I sneaked him into the house after Richard (the husband) and Ben (the son with Down’s syndrome) had gone to bed. We were in the basement together for an hour.”


At this point, just as every hair on the back of my arms feels like it is standing on end, so engrossed am I in this marvel of a novel—

“OOOOOOOOHHHHH,” my husband bleats in my ear.

Which is precisely what I felt like shouting, at that very moment (along with other choice epithets), at this marvelously stupid character.

How uncanny the man’s timing is.

I look dazedly at the TV screen, where assorted men in white and blue uniforms are scrambling around.

“Is that the team of that guy, that TO, who tried to kill himself?” I ask, trying to pretend that I’ve not gone partially deaf.

Uh-huh, hubby says. He has a wicked gleam in his eye. In fact, he looks like a cat that has swallowed a mouse. Assuredly, he must have peeked over my shoulder and known that I was at this most crucial point in my reading. Is there such a thing as men’s intuition, I wonder? And how did it happen that I, a writer, have ended up with a man so marvelously endowed with the uncanny ability to know what actions will MOST disconcert me…


This festival is turning out to be– well, pretty darn good. Was quite down-in-the-dumps yesterday over absence of Mayor of the Roses, but am now fully recovered. Other than a few minor mishaps this morning (such as spilling coffee over myself while foolishly trying to manipulate room coffee maker), I am feeling happy. Even managed to glance over the copy of the local paper, The Virginian-Pilot, that they leave outside my door every morning. Very helpful, that.

On the front page today are photos of Thelma Drake, Republican, and Phil Kellam, Democrat, who are running against each other for a seat in the U.S. Congress. On p. A3 there’s an article on the five soldiers who are awaiting trial for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Mahmoudiay, Iraq. On p. A5 is an article de-bunking claims that DHEA steroid supplements and testosterone patches slow the aging process. I read this article with more than passing interest. Conclusion seems to be that, no matter how much we try, we will all grow old. Helpful thought.

Last night’s main reading featured Dagoberto Gilb. This author has a kind of shambling charm. He walks on to the stage and starts simulating an absent-minded professor. Shuffles papers, takes his wristwatch off and makes a great show of positioning it on the lectern, asks Tim Seibles how much time he has, etc. etc. Then he launches into the oh-my-God funniest rendition of a true tale about his pal Riley whose predilection for getting high did not prevent him from acquiring a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from UTEP.

In the intros, Dagoberto was revealed to have been a carpenter. He says he told no one about his writing. I first heard about this man in the pages of The Threepenny Review. In the 1990s, he and I appeared in several issues of said literary mag. Now he has gone on to acquire an agent and publish many other books. Let me tell you that the auditorium last night (which looked like it could seat a good 300-400 people) was packed.

Started to worry about my own reading, later today (at 1:30 PM). I do not have the shambly charm of Dagoberto. In fact, my voice is rather thin and wispy. Also, I am very short, barely five feet, and I worry that no one will be able to see/ hear me from behind the podium. Failed to anticipate this problem and brought only flats. Oh, well!

Yesterday, met a grad student named Berry and his Filipina daughter, Angel. Turns out Angel’s mother left and is now in Japan with her new boyfriend. She left Angel with Berry.

Berry seems like a well-meaning dad, but when he tells me, right out of the blue, that two years ago he and Angel were evicted from their apartment, that the bank froze his assets and the two had nothing to eat, I throw an alarmed glance at Angel, sitting in the back seat. She is poker-faced but seems to be breathing rather quickly. “Are you all right?” I ask her. She nods silently. She says she’ll skip class and try to make it to my reading today.

Neck aches, but what can you do. Only one message from English 1A students (bad). Amy Hoffman finally replies: she likes my review of Dao Strom’s latest and will publish it in the Women’s Review of Books (success!)

Hmm, what else? Oh, yes, last night a few of the writers, including myself (and I shamefully admit to taking advantage of every opportunity for a free meal), were treated by Tim Seibles to dinner at Magnolia Steak. Wonder if I can try that again tonight, which will mean the third night in a row that I get the freebie dinner. Last night, could have sworn Tim cast a skeptical look my way when I walked in. Maybe will find alternative dining spot tonight. I hear Freemason Abbey, walking distance from the hotel, is quite good. Interestingly, the restaurant is located inside a 127-year-old church, which sounds enticing.

(To be continued…)

Books I Am Interested in Reading (After Perusing the Sept. 24, 2006 Issue of the New York Times Book Review)

(1) After reading Marilyn Stasio’s regular column on crime writing, every book mentioned in it. To wit:

Henning Mankell’s THE MAN WHO SMILED
Dick Francis’ UNDER ORDERS
David Pirie’s THE DARK WATER
Paris Minton’s FEAR OF THE DARK

(2) After reading Uzodinma Iweala‘s review of Aminatta Forna’s first book, ANCESTOR STONES: Aminatta Forna’s ANCESTOR STONES

Winner: The Most Gorgeous Description of Handbags I Have Ever Read…

It’s THE DAY AFTER, THE DAY AFTER, THE DAY AFTER (Oh loyal readers of my blog, you know of the event WHEREOF I SPEAK).

I’ve let my blog go fallow. Daily views shrinking to an infinitesimal eight a day. Here’s the rescue my exhausted brain needed: THE MOST GORGEOUS DESCRIPTION OF HANDBAGS I HAVE EVER READ. It’s by Andrea Lee, in the Sept. 25, 2006 issue of The New Yorker:

The “who”: Members of literati glitterati assembled in Milan apartment behind La Scala. The “why”: launch of Isabel Allende’s latest (whereas when I fantasize about personal book launch, pinnacle of success would be to have said launch at the Goldilocks on Westborough Avenue in Daly City…)

Parked (on the couch) were five enormous crocodile handbags of the latest designer styles– bags as large as Christmas turkeys, groomed and bedizened, glistening and scaly as pet dragons, exuding, in their reptilian complacency, a subtle air of menace. More than a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of bag, lined up like Porsches outside a nightclub.

Now that’s what I call writing…

(Hello! Why can I not use the b-quote feature on my circa 2000– read, Jurassic– iMac? Why must I still resort to marking off quotes in my text with tired old open/close quotation marks??? Benefactor who can deliver me a spanking new MacBook Pro, where are you? Son’s nifty HP computer is down in Cal Poly. Even though son has decided to spring surprise visit on us this weekend– ensuring that I will spend many hours of my last weekend before leaving for ODU litfest doing laundry— he is leaving computer in San Luis Obispo. Must wait till Christmas break to be able to do fancy stuff like block quotes, insertion of images, etc. etc. Still two months away… aaargh!)

NYTBR Oct. 1, 2006

Books I Am Interested in Reading (After Perusing the Oct. 1, 2006 Issue of the New York Times Book Review):

(1) After reading Ligaya Mishan’s review of Brian Morton‘s new novel, Breakable You:

Morton’s new novel, Breakable You

(2) After reading Gary Shteyngart’s witty end paper, “Ten Days with Oblomov: A Journey in My Bed”: the new translation of Ivan Goncharov‘s novel of the Russian uber-slacker, by Stephen Pearl

Kapitan Tiago

Short, light-skinned, round of body and face thanks to an abundance of fat, which according to his admirers comes from heaven and according to his enemies from the blood of the poor, Captain Tiago appeared younger than he actually was; one would have thought he was about thirty or thirty-five years old. At the time this story unfolds, the expression on his face was usually beatific. His head was round, small, and covered with hair as black as ebony, cut long in the front and short in the back. There were many things going on inside that head, people used to say. He had small eyes– but not Chinese-shaped— whose expression never changed. His nose was thin but not flat, and if his mouth had not been disfigured by an abuse of tobacco and buyo, a plug of which stuffed into the side of a man’s mouth can alter the symmetry of his features, one would have to admit that he had done a good job in believing himself to be– and presenting himself as– handsome. Despite that abuse, he kept his own teeth white, as well as the two his dentist had loaned him, at twelve duros a tooth.

He was thought to be one of the richest property owners in Binondo, and one of the most important planters in Pampanga and in Laguna de Bay, because of the land he owned there, particularly in the village of San Diego, whose value and rents rose every year. San Diego was his favorite place because of its pleasant spas, well-known cockfighting, and the memories it held for him. He spent at least two months there every year.

— from the Penguin 2006 translation of the Noli Me Tangere, by Harold Augenbraum

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