The Link to The City of 10,000 Buddhas

Self went to school with Shari Epstein, who teaches in the City of 10,000 Buddhas. She’s been wanting to see this place, forever and ever.

Last year, when self was staying at the Mendocino Art Center, she called The City of 10,000 Buddhas in Ukiah, and got the number of Shari, and Shari and self spoke!

Happiness!

But self never did make it to Ukiah. Because once you get into Mendocino itself, you enter a different state of mind. It’s like Brigadoon. Everything just floats away, so mesmerized are you by the sight of Ocean! Ocean! Ocean!

Since Rogue One is out, and self is planning to see it, and because she can’t stop worrying about Princess Leia and refuses to give 2016 the pleasure of even one more death, she is wondering whether she should really make one last effort to see Shari Epstein.

This morning, she calls The City of 10,000 Buddhas and is told that if she wants to enroll in a course on the Buddha mind, the course is three weeks. Starts January 8.

Self has known for the longest time that she needs a good mind cleanse. A three-week course on Dharma Buddhism might not be a bad thing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Apple Care Customer Service

Apple Care gets Five Stars!

She was on the phone last night with a young woman named Kanisha who patiently walked self through all the procedures and helped self download stuff that she didn’t even know she needed. The entire call took over two hours, that is how clue-less self is about the latest software!

She decided to call Apple because of her extreme frustration with Hewlett Packard customer service. They pass you on to a third party provider, which is pretty common nowadays but unfortunately that third-party provider started harassing her.

Seven voice mail messages in one day? 10 e-mails in one day? Not to mention the invasion of privacy from the viewcam they switched on without self knowing? It was horrible: self had to change all her passwords and cancel all her credit cards because those vendors were able to get into her laptop so easily, no telling what kind of information they were able to steal before she caught on to the viewcam. And the calls were all like: We just want to make sure you are happy with our service; please return this call. SEVEN TIMES, and plus e-mails. She ended up having to call Verizon and have three numbers that they were using blocked. She also googled the numbers: two were 855, but one was a New York City area code. Go figure.

She thought of telling Apple she’s been a loyal customer for decades and all she needs to do is figure out how to print from a new laserjet printer. She’s had this MacBook Air since 2011 and it’s definitely out of warranty, but she decided it was worth a shot. Maybe they could help her figure out how to connect to a Hewlett Packard laserjet?

The first thing Kanisha did was ask what operating system self had, and that was sooooo out-of-date Kanisha couldn’t even. Kanisha showed her how to download a new operating system, then learn how to navigate it, and that took over two hours.

Self told Kanisha, “I’m sorry I’m really not tech-savvy. This must be the longest customer service call you’ve ever been on.” And Kanisha was so sweet. She said: “No, ma’am. Not by a long shot.”

And today self is so happy because not only can she print (finally!), she also has a brand new operating system that makes her screen so much sharper and everything’s so much more efficient, and when she asked Kanisha how much it would cost for the downloads, Kanisha said, Nothing. No, what she actually said was: It’s free.

It’s free are possibly the two most beautiful words in the English language. Especially at this time of year.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Hewlett Packard Customer Service

Self has only ever used, her whole life, Hewlett Packard laser printers. So fantastic. Spit out high-quality pages at superior speed.

Last Saturday, self was getting a new printer set up, went on the Hewlett Packard website, spent a whole day going around different areas for “community support” (aka NO personal support), finally got a live person in India, was so happy, and so was he, because he said:

THERE YOU ARE.

??????

He took his time, and after half an hour (or, could have been forty-five minutes, until self said she had to go) nothing was done.

This person kept calling back on Sunday, and Monday. Left 7 messages on her cell.

7.

Self called back, finally, and HOLY COW the man was a heavy breather. Like, really heavy breathing. So self said, “Wait a minute. Are you viewing me right now?”

Instantly, all breathing stopped, and then the call continued at normal breathing, HA HA HA HA.

But self kept thinking about that call, so last night she called the San Francisco Police. And the man on duty said, “Can you come in? Bring your laptop with you. In the meantime, get a hold of Hewlett Packard. Talk to a manager.”

Which self did, half an hour ago. Apparently, they already knew about self’s name etc etc (self had spoken to someone in Costa Rica this morning, who said he’d get back to her “in two minutes” but after two hours she decided she was never going to hear back from this person).

This time, lo and behold, she actually spoke to a live person named Barbara in Hewlett Packard Corporate in Palo Alto. And the first thing Barbara tells self (non-recorded call, too bad; Barbara said she was taking everything down as we spoke, so self decided to cut it short, because mebbe she thought self was threatening to sue HP? Seriously? Self is only trying to report that somehow, someone trying to use the Hewlett Packard website will get directed to a Heavy Breather in some foreign clime)

“That’s nothing to do with Hewlett Packard,” is the first thing she tells self.

Oh really? Because self has a $600 Hewlett Packard laser printer, she has always used Hewlett Packard laser printers, and —

“Sounds like you were scammed. You should always be careful with online scammers. They’re everywhere,” Barbara says. (Self is para-phrasing. She is sure Barbara got everything down exactly, but Barbara wouldn’t give self her last name). “Next time, be more careful.”

Ma’am Barbara? Self is a Stanford graduate. She was a Fellow in Creative Writing. She wants to let the world know that Hewlett Packard DOESN’T CARE. Or maybe they do, not just today. Because if you are ever so stupid as to go on the Hewlett Packard website, and find yourself talking to someone in India, you should know that that person is up to no good, and you should hang up right away.

And self finally had to say, “You know, I have no intention of suing HP — ” which absolutely sent Barbara into a tizzy, as if self were in fact THE SCAMMER from India. And this was part of a con. Self only said that because of the weird way Barbara was acting. AS IF self’s ulterior motive was to set up HP.

You know, San Francisco Police never questioned self, when she called. They told her to COME IN.

Self had to change all her credit cards (which means, all the gifts she paid for on Paypal will not be delivered) and she had to change all her passwords. It’s been such a LOVELY day.

Self told Barbara all the numbers she had stored in her cell, apparently Barbara is such a whiz at multi-tasking that she was calling the numbers as self spoke, and she said: None of those numbers are good. As if self was LYING!

Well, duh. Okay. The point was not to catch those thieves (as if that were even possible), but Dear Barbara was acting as if self was so stupid.

Barbara, you are a woman, yes? So maybe you’ve never been panted over on the phone. Maybe you have lived such an ordered, pleasing life that the possibility of even getting a call from a scammer in India will never be on your event horizon. Do you have to make the caller (a fellow sistah) feel stupid? And self knows for a fact that Barbara made her feel stupid. How does she know? Because self felt obligated to tell her that she was a Stanford grad. When self has to go to that length, she is struggling for some shred of dignity or respect or whatever. And she did not get it from Barbara today.

So, self ended up saying (Amazing! She’s not usually so hung up on the Stanford thing), “Barbara, I am a writer. Not only am I a writer, I’m a Stanford graduate. Not only am I a Stanford Graduate, I was a FELLOW IN CREATIVE WRITING. So please, I am not stupid. Okay, so I’ll never call those numbers again. But I think you should know, because I got into this situation because I tried to get Customer Service from Hewlett Packard. And there was NONE forthcoming.”

Self is sure Barbara is googling her right now! Barbara made self spell her first name and her last name (and it’s so easy, she’ll probably land on this post, right away! Well hello there, Barbara! We meet again! Such a pleasure!)

Stay tuned.

#aleppohasfallen

America is not, and can never be, an isolationist country.

We are not this, okay? We are not.

TheFreezecover_concept02-3.png

Isolation breeds extinction.

Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations:

  • “Are you incapable of shame?”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Doppelganger

A few years ago, self received a puzzling phone call from United.

“Ma’am,” the caller said when self answered the phone. “Are you xxxxxxx?”

“Yes,” self said.

“We have your Bible. It got wedged into a crevice at the baggage carousel. Can we have your address so we can mail it to you?”

Self said, “I don’t own a Bible.”

The United guy said, “But it has your name on it.”

Self was having a moment.

“But that can’t be mine.”

Even if self owned a Bible (She does recall having one), she wouldn’t bring it with her on a trip.

But the guy kept insisting it was self’s, because it had her name on it. She actually came very close to believing that she did own a Bible, that she wrote her name on the front of it, that she lost it at SFO because it got wedged in a baggage carousel . . . was she losing her mind?

She doesn’t recall receiving any sort of Bible via snail mail. If it arrived, then where is it? Because after a conversation like that, you can bet she was looking out for it.

Just a few minutes ago, she remembered this call. And an explanation finally finally occurs to her: There must have been another woman with her exact same name on a United flight that day.

Yes, that’s it. That’s the most likely explanation. The Doppelganger explanation.

Dear blog readers: What. Are. The. Odds???

So now she can say she had her very own Haruki Murakami/magical realism moment.

The other she (the doppelganger) carried the Bible around with her. Got off at SFO several years ago. Lost this Bible at the baggage carousel. So it had to have been out of her bag.

Can you imagine someone holding a Bible in her hand at a baggage carousel? First of all, don’t you need two hands to pull off your suitcase? But maybe this woman was traveling with others, so she didn’t have to worry? If that were the case, and she didn’t have to pull her luggage off the carousel, why was she just standing around with the — (Self, can you quit with the de-construction? Because this post is getting very loooong!)

It’s crisis time for the Democrats, Hillary was just diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia, which is actually much more serious than viral pneumonia, and here you are worrying about strangers losing their Bibles?

And isn’t Trump such a lucky son-of-a-gun? His whole election campaign was a high-stakes gamble. He just went for it. And now the only thing standing between him and the presidency is Hillary. And this is such a crazy scenario that self can’t even.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

BRAZILLIONAIRES, Further Thoughts

Reading about Brazil is a lot like reading about the Philippines. A lot.

It’s not just the income disparity (Can you believe the Philippine president called POTUS a name — a pretty potent term that you only reserve for your worst enemy! Blush blush!), it’s the chaos.

Yesterday, there was a message from Dearest Mum on self’s cell phone.

She didn’t think anything of it but today she returned Dearest Mum’s call and how self knows that this is real: the maid, someone self has never met, asked who was calling, and when self said BATCHOY (Childhood nickname. Means FATSO. Even her college professors at the Ateneo called her this. Funny, when it’s self’s birthday on Facebook, her Filipino friends greet her saying BATCHOY and then her American friends scratch their heads and say, Mind explaining who BATCHOY is? LOL), the maid said, Oh, yes! Your mother has been waiting for your call! 

Which made self all kinds of guilty.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Verizon Customer Service

No one else seems to be bothered by Verizon as much as self. She’s made so many complaints over the years that Verizon follows HER on Twitter.

But the first time you get a bill for $1,700, you will never, ever forget it. It took self almost a year to pay off. That was because in 2012, she went to a writing residency in Hawthornden, in Scotland, then afterwards went to London, Amsterdam, and Paris. She enrolled in an International Calling Plan before she left the States, but Verizon did not tell her that she needed a different plan for each country she traveled to.

This morning, self decides to inquire why her bill this month is almost $200.

She even went on a plan before going to Canada for the Calgary Stampede.

The man, who she’s sure is Filipino, thankfully does not ask her (as every other Customer Service person seems to do): “Are you Filipino? I’m Filipino, too!” The last time, self said something like, “Yeah, so what’s that got to do with my bill?”

Sorry, it’s just that she hates calling Verizon, and hearing laughter and shouting and singing in the background puts her in a very bad mood. And the partying always happens when she gets her call answered in the Philippines. And then follows the inevitable question: “Are you Filipino?” Or: “What’s it like to live in the States?”

And then there’s the raucous background noise, the hooting and hollering and laughing. She knows it’s just the way Filipinos are: we’re a very social people (well, except for self. Self is a wet blanket.) But, when she has a problem that she needs to get fixed, and the person she is speaking to is surrounded by revelry, it makes self absolutely livid!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Story “Rufino” (from MAYOR OF THE ROSES, Self’s 2nd Collection)

Towards the end, he couldn’t wear any clothes. They had to cover him in banana leaves.

It was in July he died — I couldn’t believe it. A voice on the phone told me.

“Rufino died na.” It was my mother speaking. Naturally, she had to be the one to break the news.

I was staying in a friend’s house in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In the mornings, fog blanketed the hills. We heard the mournful mooing of invisible cows. One or another of us would look east, toward where we heard Neil Young had his ranch, wondering whether we’d catch a glimpse of his pink Cadillac that day.

*     *     *     *     *

Mayor of the Roses was published by Miami University Press in 2005. The press was known as publishers of the American Poetry Series. Self’s collection was the first book of fiction that Miami University Press ever published.

Heartfelt thanks to Brian Ascalon Roley for bringing the manuscript to the attention of the press and Keith Tuma.

The collection’s been taught at Bates College (Maine), Pampanga Agricultural College (Magalang, Philippines), Skyline College, and Stanford University.

One story, “Lenox Hill, December 1991,” was in the syllabus of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, in a course on Ethics and Medicine.

Finnick and Peeta: Another Phone Call (From Self’s WIP Hunger Games Fan Fiction AU)

Dear blog readers, just to clear up any confusion: Self writes fan fiction. So she’s going to be putting snippets on this blog occasionally. It is her Super # 1 Stress Buster. She started in November, and now her story’s up to 20 chapters. It’s so much fun, like playing. Wherever she is, whatever she happens to be doing, she is never too tired to churn out another chapter.

She only writes one kind of fan fiction: Hunger Games. And she ships Everlark.

In her AU, Peeta is the sole Victor of his games. He and Finnick are best buds. When Peeta’s home in 12, he and Finnick keep in touch (Oh, and Katniss is married — to Gale. So Peeta has a very solitary existence. So saaaaad! Peeta is self’s Super # 1 Favorite Hunger Games character. She can write him 50 kinds of angst, and it will all be good. Sad, but good)

Since self is in Mendocino, and happens to be learning a lot about ship-building (from the newspaper The Mendocino Beacon, and from chatting with the librarian at the Mendocino Community Library), she gave Finnick a plaything: his very own boat.

Peeta’s kept in touch with Finnick, all through the winter and spring. Finnick is his life-line. Peeta talks about his painting, or the weather, and Finnick talks about fishing and about swimming. They know their lines are tapped, but they still take pleasure in knowing how the other is doing.

In April, Finnick tells Peeta that he’s building himself a boat.

“How big?” Peeta asks.

“As big as I can make it,” Finnick says. “50 feet? I have local help.”

Peeta is happy for him. The last time Finnick was home, he barely got to look at the ocean before he got called back. He’d been home less than a week.

Peeta asks Finnick when he thinks his boat will be ready and Finnick says, probably a year. Then they both fall silent. There are rumors that Snow will have all the Victors — even the non-working ones, even the ones who’ve retired years, decades ago — to spend six months of every year in the Capitol. It’s another humiliating aspect of their lives, that they have so little actual control over their happiness.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Today, Fourth Thursday of January (2013)

Just to show you how self’s life has been going of late, she had trouble remembering what her last post was and needed to be reminded:  It was Jerry Brown’s State of the State Address, and that was just a few hours ago.

Anyhoo, she decided to treat herself to lunch at Little Madfish in Sequoia Station.  This tiny little nook is always busy, especially during lunch hour.  Self first took a look through the plate glass window and was encouraged to see two genteel-looking, elderly ladies having lunch within.  Thus encouraged, she entered and was seated right next to these two genteel ladies.  Which was excellent, because she was able to eavesdrop and heard them discussing a friend whose “breasts were all gone,” and then one of them was planning a trip to Hawaii, and the other was wondering whether she should throw a Superbowl party.  Both had British accents, self kids you not.

Self was quite embarrassed to learn, after she had ordered her two-item lunch (Two items is $7.95, with miso soup, green salad, and plain rice; three items is $9.95), that the two ladies were splitting same.  It looked tiny, however, and self is sure she could not have split anything with anyone else.

She ordered chicken katsu and avocado roll, and was very surprised to be touched on the shoulder several times by the waitress (She doesn’t think waitresses usually engage in touching of customers’ shoulders.  But the restaurant IS tiny, and it WAS very crowded).  When the chicken katsu came, self was so confused because it looked and tasted exactly like pork katsu.  But she did not complain because she was hungry.

She had with her a Wall Street Journal, just purchased from Barnes & Noble (which started carrying the Wall Street Journal again, after several years of not carrying it).  She looked up a novel by Joanna Hershon, and they had no books by this author.  She also looked up a biography of John Mortimer (author of the Rumpole books) by Susan Grove and published by Viking, but the bookseller couldn’t find any Barnes and Nobles that carried it, boo.  She adored the Rumpole books.

It was slightly cold, but not really chilly.

The man she wanted to help her spray her fruit trees was supposed to come yesterday, but on Tuesday he left a message that he wanted to know first “exactly” what self wanted to have done.  So self called him back, and he was having his hair cut at a barber shop and could barely (he said) hear her.

Hmmm, what else?  Last night self watched a show called Suburgatory and was laughing so hard because of an impromptu rock act by Ana Gasteyer, performed while wearing what looked like powder-blue PJs.

Then, she got a letter from Anvil Collections saying she owed them $109 for 10 copies of her book, The Lost Language, which had been delivered to Daku Balay in Bacolod and languished there for two months.  But of all things, they sent an invoice to Dearest Mum in her house in Ecology.  And self really doesn’t blame Dearest Mum for not wanting to pay, since self hasn’t seen her in two years.  The letter said she had to pay them TODAY, so self called Anvil in Manila and was very surprised because the man who answered the phone was so slurry of speech.

“Is this Anvil?” self demanded of the man.  “Is this Anvil Publishing?”

“Yaaaaah,” the man said, in something like three-quarters time.

“May I speak to your Collections Department?” self asked.

“Yes, ma’am, but —  but — ”

“But WHAT?  Speak up!” self demanded.

“It is 3 in the morning, ma’am,” the man said.  And at that point he really sounded —  ill or something.

“Oh!” self said.  “So sorry!  I must have woken you up!”  (Which, come to think of it, makes no sense.  Because why would someone be SLEEPING in a publisher’s office, at 3 a.m.  Unless he was the janitor and was just catching a few zzzzs)

“Ma’am, can I please have your name and number for Collections to call you back?” he asked.

Surprisingly, this sounded like a very sensible idea.  But self found herself hesitating and then said, “Go back to sleep!  I’ll call back in a couple of hours!”

Then she put down the phone before the man could come up with any other bright ideas.

Finally —  self cannot tell a lie —  she had to give up on reading The Collected Stories of J. G. Ballard, which was the next book on her reading list, since she finished Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs late last night (It just sort of petered out; self doesn’t remember what happened in the last 30 pages.  Nothing bad happened to anyone!  After all that angst!  All that anomie and existential alienation and minute parsing of the weather!).  The Collected Stories of J. G. Ballard is a behemoth.  The first story is called “Prima Belladonna” (Or was it “Bella Primadonna?”  Aaargh, self is losing it!)  It was written in 1956, and it’s about a woman with “insects for eyes.”  It was interesting, but not enough to make self want to push on.  Especially since she has a gimpy neck, and it would have been a real grind to keep lugging that 5-lb. hardback around for the next two or three weeks.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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