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.

Letterman Last Night (Friday, 21 December 2012)

Naomi Watts was the guest on Letterman last night.  The musical number was by Darlene Love.  When Love began belting it out, self almost felt like getting up and daaancing!

It was so very nice to see Naomi Watts.  Self loves her.  Looooves her.  She loved her in King Kong, and she loved her in The Painted Veil.  She also loved her in The Ring, even though self kept her eyes closed for about a third of that movie.

So, Watts was on Letterman last night, and she looked grreat.  Her hair was long and straight (like it usually is), her skin looked fantastic, and she was wearing the greatest shoes!  Granted, most of the time the camera didn’t show her shoes.  But when she was walking to her seat, she did have the cutest shoes.

Her gold cuff bracelet were pretty fab, too.

This morning, self left a message with son.  He and Jennie are driving to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to spend Christmas with Jennie’s family.  When son called back, he said that they were already in Phoenix.  “Be careful!” self kept repeating.  “Be careful, so many loonies out there!”  She was thinking of Newtown.  She’s pretty anxious right now.  Eeek!  The Man even had a (rare) nightmare last night.  Self had to turn on the light.  He was so agitated.

Then she asked son which movies he’d want to see when he comes up, 2nd of January.  “Did you want to see Guilt Trip?” she asked hopefully.  “No,” son said.  He sounded most definite.  He said he and Jennie had already decided they would see Les Miserables together, on Christmas Day.  And they’d already seen Silver Linings Playbook.

“Didn’t you just love it?” self burst out.  “That Jennifer Lawrence is such a cutie pie!  She got nominated for a Golden Globe!”

“Yes,” son enthused.  “And so did the movie!”

Awww, it was just the cutest film.  Self will root for it come Oscar time.

Jennifer Lawrence and Naomi Watts are self’s two most favorite actresses (Except she doesn’t like Jennifer in Hunger Games.  Jennifer should, in self’s humble opinion, just leave those action roles behind.  Drama and/or comedy are really her forte).

And self also likes Keira Knightley.  She wants to see Anna Karenina (only it is sad and will probably make her cry).

Others whose movies never (or almost never) misses:  Amy Adams, Elizabeth Banks, Kate Beckinsale, Emily Blunt.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Happy Turkey Day Quotes of the Day!

Rrrring! Rrrrring!

Hello, Bianchini’s!

I’d like to cancel an order for a turkey?

Diestel or Mary’s?


Regular turkey or Organic?

No, not organic!

OK, regular turkey then. What size?

10 lbs.

(After a very fraught pause)  Ma’am, there is no such thing as a 10-pound turkey.

There isn’t?


Well, that’s what the butcher put down.

I don’t see any orders for a 10-lb. turkey.

OK, good, maybe he didn’t take my order? Then you won’t have to cancel anything!

* * * *

Overheard on TV, ESPN: Commenting on 49er blow-out over Chicago, and the performance of 49er back-up quarterback, No. 7 Colin Kaepernick:

    There are so many ways to dive into this guy. Every throw he made, there was true commitment in it. If he was going to be successful, it was going to be on his legs!

Wow! These guys are practically salivating! There are not enough superlatives on the PLA-net to describe Colin Kaepernick!

P.S. The quotes above were not all by the same commentator. But self was typing too fast to recall which commentator said what. Deepest apologies, dear blog readers!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Stream-of-Consciousness, Monday Before Thanksgiving (2012)

Costco!  Listerine Discount Coupon!  Turkey!  No Turkey!  Pumpkin Pie!  No Pumpkin Pie!  Glendale for two days? No Glendale for two days!  Son for Christmas!  NOT!  Pumpkin Pie!  No Pumpkin Pie!  Whole Foods Pumpkin Pie!  No, Pamplemousse Pumpkin-spiced Sponge Cake!  No, Pamplemousse Caramel Streusel Apple Tart!  Tree: real or fake? $200 for fake? That’s it: No tree!

Calls:  Margarita!  Irene in L.A.!  Venice!  March!  Floods!  Credit Card!  Venice!  No, Bacolod!  But, no handguns!  Girl, the black eye!  Remember the black eye?  Somnambulism!  Insomnia!  Black Eye!  Bacolod!  Champagne!  Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider!  Honeybaked Ham!  Marylee!  Turkey Day!  Merwin’s Poem About Airports!  Ingrid Wendt!  Venice!  Philadelphia!  Margarita again!

Lawyer!  No, no lawyer!  Enough with lawyers!  Think:  Family!  Think:  Good Thoughts!  No Lawyer means more money!  More money in the bank!  More money for Venice in 2013! And more money for pumpkin pie! And greeting cards!

And again, questions! So many questions!

    Why is there a big black umbrella in the trunk of self’s car? Who put it there, and when?
    Whose brass key is that in the trunk, nestled beneath the big, black umbrella? To what drawer or safe does this key belong?
    And why is Bella The Ancient One still content to live, when we give her no particular care, other than to wipe up her pee and administer twice a day Glucosamine and pain medication?


    , isn’t it ungrateful (nay, even


    to say that, when Bella has provided our family with so many years of unstinting and unquestioning devotion?

W. S. Merwin’s poem in the October 15, 2012 New Yorker (Self is mindful of the fact that the trunk of her car is still full of totally unnecessary purchases from Costco, all waiting to be off-loaded as soon as self finishes this post, but anyhoo) is such a hoot  Here’s the first half!

Neither Here Nor There

An airport is nowhere
which is not something
generally noticed

yet some unnamed person in the past
deliberately planned it
to be there

and you have spent time there
and are spending time there again

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Barack’s Journey, Cont.

Self called home about an hour ago.  She wondered why The Man wasn’t picking up.  Suddenly, he got on the line, sounding very harassed:  “I can’t skype now,” he said, hurriedly.  “I have to hand out candy.”

OMG!  Self completely forgot!  It is Halloween in the States!  Self’s favorite holiday (next to Christmas)!  She usually buys pumpkins and sets them on the front steps, and puts lighted witches in the bushes, and strings ghoulish faces across the picture window in the living room.

Last Halloween, a Yeti sprang up from the bushes, and self actually screamed, she was so surprised.  Naturally, the kid laughed his head off.  But it is all in good fun (For the life of her, she can’t figure out how someone that tall —  the kid looked to be about six feet —  could crouch behind the bushes without her noticing)

“How many kids have come already?” self asked.

“32,” The Man said.

“You’re going to run out of candy,” self said.

The Man said he thought that would happen.

“You’ve got to turn off the lights when that happens,” self said.  A darkened house signals any other trick-or-treaters that it is no use coming to the door; there is no more candy.  She was about to say “Hope you don’t get TP’ed,” but decided that it might produce in The Man even more nervousness than he already seemed to be exhibiting.

Self is quite satisfied that The Man has risen to the occasion and done a yeoman’s job of keeping up the Halloween spirit.

Not only that, The Ancient One is still alive.


Self decides not to ask about the state of the garden.

The last third of Dreams From My Father, by President Obama (she hopes she can keep referring to him this way, for the next four years) is about a trip Obama took to Kenya, his father’s native land.  His observations so closely parallel self’s own, it’s almost eerie.  Here’s an excerpt:

It wasn’t simply joy that I felt in each of these moments.  Rather, it was a sense that everything I was doing, every touch and breath and word, carried the full weight of my life; that a circle was beginning to close, so that I might finally recognize myself as I was, here, now, in one place.  Only once that afternoon would I feel that mood broken, when, on our way back from the market, Auma ran ahead to get her camera, leaving Granny and me alone in the middle of the road.  After a long pause, Granny looked at me and smiled.  “Halo!” she said.  “Muuwa!”  I said.  Our mutual vocabulary exhausted, we stared ruefully down at the dirt until Auma finally returned.  And Granny then turned to Auma and said, in a tone I could understand, that it pained her not to be able to speak to the son of her son.

“Tell her I’d like to learn Luo, but it’s hard to find time in the States,” I said.  “Tell her how busy I am.”

“She understands that,” Auma said.  “But she also says that a man can never be too busy to know his own people.”

If dear blog readers care to, they can search the archives of this blog for self’s December 2010 and January 2011 postings from Bacolod.  You will note that self was reading Jose Saramago’s The Cave, and then Antonio Muñoz Molina’s Sepharad.  You will find in those posts almost exactly the same tone of wonder, amazement and gratitude that Obama displays, in the passage above.

She is so moved by Obama’s book, so incredibly moved.

Stay tuned.

Great Fortune Cookie Wisdom

Ordered take-out from Crouching Tiger, as it was exceedingly hot, and self was quite out of breath after hauling around 20 buckets of water for the plants.  The Man called twice, both times sounding extremely upset because he had been asked to stay late.

“I might have to stay until 9!” he exclaimed.

Self decided that meant he would probably be home at 7 p.m.

And, you know something, dear blog readers?  Self was absolutely correct!  Shortly after (or before) 7 p.m., The Man walked in the door.  Self doesn’t know about you, but coming home at 7 p.m. does not qualify as “late.” 8 or 9 or 10 p.m. can be considered late.  Not 7 p.m.  In the two hours’ grace provided by this “late” arrival, self managed to:


Txt son that she would be seeing him shortly (No answering txt from son)

Feed The Ancient One.

Order take-out.

Of course, since Crouching Tiger is a Chinese restaurant, included with the cartons of mu-shu pork and lamb with scallions were two fortune cookies.  Self put one on The Man’s desk, and opened the other one.  It said:

You will step on the soil of many countries in your lifetime.


Stay tuned.

4 Books From The New Yorker’s Briefly Noted, 2 April 2012/ The Travails of a Wednesday

The first two books on this list are novels; the last two are nonfiction:

A Partial History of Lost Causes, by Jennifer Dubois

“An American woman, fleeing a slow and humiliating death from Huntington’s disease, arrives in Russia in search of an answer to a question posed by her dead father:  What is the proper way to proceed when playing a game one is destined to lose?”

These Dreams of You, by Steve Erickson

“An unemployed professor and former novelist finds himself ineffectually resisting bankruptcy and foreclosure; his wife becomes obsessed with finding their Ethiopian daughter’s natural mother, who may be alive and in trouble.”

Brave Dragons, by Jim Yardley

“Yardley provides incisive accounts of basketball’s history in China and of the N.B.A.’s desire to monetize its popularity there, alongside colorful portraits of the players and hangers-on.”

Monty and Rommel, by Peter Caddick-Adams

“Near-contemporaries, both men were wounded in the First World War and became Field Marshalls in the Second.  Both, Caddick-Adams suggests, were master communicators, and perhaps should not have been promoted from the battlefield, where they excelled, to a strategic level, where they did not.”

*     *    *     *

This has turned out to be quite a trying week, dear blog readers.

For one thing, the husband has been playing this tiresome charade where he pretends to be sick and coughs right in her face.  This, she knows, is because she is about to leave for Scotland, where he imagines she is going to go wild downing bottles of Talisker (On the other hand, things could be worse:  the man could actually be sick, in which case, it will only be a matter of hours — no, minutes! —  before she herself is laid flat with the viral flu)

Self has told him time and time again that she is going away to work.  Not only that, she has looked up the temperature in that part of Scotland and the lows are 43 degrees.  She decides to compare to Redwood City (which is quite chilly today, self is wearing three T-shirts and one pullover, as well as thick socks, and because the wind is so brisk, she has decided not to step out of the house at all) and feels quite faint when the temperature for her area, right now, is 70-something degrees.  She thinks back to Dharamsala and remembers how she shivered under four comforters, even with the heater right next to her bed and going all night (It was one of those old-fashioned coil ones, it reminded her vaguely of a Westinghouse electric fan, and she dreaded knocking it over in her sleep because she was sure she would end up burning to death), and she’s already decided to pack sweaters and thermals and thick socks and woolen scarves, etc etc etc

She happened to give a call to British Airways and was informed that there are no airports in the vicinity of Cambridge (where she has a friend she’d like to meet), and she’s better off going to London and catching a train south.  “Cambridge is south?” self repeated, rather stupidly, and the British Airways woman said, “You are heading to Edinburgh, which is north.  And Cambridge is in the other direction.  South.”

This reminds her of the time, just a week before she left for her first trip to India, when she ended up asking the husband whether New Delhi was near Calcutta. (Her brain feels like it’s been on hold for the past year, dear blog readers.  Perhaps one day, she’ll put it all down, in a book)

Bella The Ancient One got stuck three times in the doggy door.  But it is The Ancient One’s heroics that truly move self, for the dog is about a hundred-plus years old (in equivalent human years) :  still she crawls manfully through that damn doggy door, up and down a flight of stairs to the backyard, to pee.  Self has suggested to hubby that we put a ramp over the stairs, but he thinks it is good exercise for The Ancient One to go up and down steps.

The vet just called, asking why self had not yet picked up The Ancient One’s pain pills ($86 for a month’s supply)

Son called and mentioned that he wanted to know how much it cost to rent a car for a week, and self replied that she couldn’t remember but suggested he try Dollar.  She reminded him to mention that he is a Triple-A member, for the 10% discount.

What else?  She got form rejections from Third Coast and Tin House.  She persists in thinking that the one from Tin House was slightly encouraging.  It was worded:  “Sorry to have to turn you down this time.”  It’s those last two words, “this time,” that self keeps re-playing in her head.  They must really want her work, self thinks.  Or why would they even bother to put “this time”!!!  Perhaps she didn’t get the standard standard rejection, just the medium standard rejection.  Or the slightly standard rejection.  Whatever it is, self is sure she didn’t get the out-and-out rejection from Tin House.

(Which neighbor is it that keeps trundling trash cans back and forth across the sidewalk?  She swears she must have heard that dragging-the-trash-can sound at least five different times in the last two hours.  Every time she peeks out, the sidewalk is empty, and the trash cans are still in place.  Maybe it’s just some kid, dragging his skateboard across the cement . . . )

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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