The System

The system is broken. When you have adult children hustling parents off into “assisted living,” and giving up the home they’ve lived in for four and a half decades.

The parents give in because, at the end of life, we all become children again. We become helpless. It makes me angry.

3/4 of I’ll Be Seeing You is about what is past. The past is very pretty. The present isn’t. And the future doesn’t even bear contemplating.

Me thinking as I read: Why would anyone want to look at a bunch of total strangers and do crafts? What is so damn delightful about living in a place where you have the crafts option? Who cares about keeping busy? Why doesn’t “assisted living” have a library?

At the same time, the parents are such a burden to the author. She has meals with them, every gesture delicately described.

To me, the parents are functional. Childish, but functional. In the home, they become truly lost, not themselves. They have to adhere to meals at set times, and talking to people. Isn’t the fun of growing old the fact that you can do whatever you like? Because you’ve earned it, right?

And then the big end-of-life talk. Which comes, deadeningly, at the end. It’s so predictable, and really sad.

This is the third week that my mother has been in hospital in Manila. She got COVID. No one in the family has seen her. No one can visit because COVID is raging through the Philippines. She has a trach.

But she is a fighter to the very core. She is somehow hanging on, and a few days ago they transferred her out of the “critical” section of COVID patients. What I think I am trying to say is: Don’t count the very old out. Never, ever count them out. Give them that last shred of dignity, and don’t count them out.

I am nearly through with this book. On p. 171, author states she hopes her 90-year-old father “will find a friend.” His “assisted living” place offers the author a partial schedule of the father’s daily activities:

  • current events
  • exercise
  • lunch

The children auction off of all their parents’ precious things: “the auctioneer arrives promptly” and offers them five hundred dollars.

I am outraged by the author’s nostalgia for all the events that happened in her parents’ house. How dare she indulge in touchy-feely emotions while her parents aren’t allowed to have them. She expects them to be “objective,” to accept that what is happening is inevitable.

REALLY?????

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Life in Colour: Pink

Another photo challenge!

Life in Colour: a different color for every month of the year. Hosted by Travel Words.

April’s color is PINK.

Here’s a night light self has had since she was a little girl. Inside the cottage (you can’t really see, sorry), a wolf in a bonnet lies under the bedcovers, waiting for little Red Riding Hood to approach. The roof is a bright, cheerful pink.

She brought this lamp with her to the States. The light broke and for many years it stayed broken. Then, a few years ago, in Mendocino, self met a wonderful woman named Jewel — an artist AND an electrician! — who fixed it for her.

Now it shines every night on what used to be son’s old desk.

“Oh, Grandmother, what big ears you have!”
“The better to hear you with.”
“Oh, Grandmother, what big eyes you have!”
“The better to see you with.”
“Oh, Grandmother, what big hands you have!”
“The better to grab you with!”

“Little Red Riding Hood,” from the Brothers Grimm

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The “Fishwife Call”

If Lamorna Ash had written about nothing else except the pubs of Newlyn and the eight days on a fish trawler with six (or was it seven) Cornish fishermen, this book would have been worth the read. But we are only on p. 40, so one can only imagine what other Cornish memories lie in store!

So far, on this eight-day fishing trip, Ash has made reference to Moby Dick and something by Conrad, this interspersed with anecdotes about the crew (Kevin, a flaming redhead and the youngest of the crew is, naturally, the cook. First night’s dinner is “chicken burgers and lovely fucking peas.”)

Speaking of Moby Dick, self read that book for the first time in her first quarter as a Creative Writing Fellow at Stanford. Everyone else was reading Raymond Carver but, self being so obstreperous, she read Moby Dick. It took her, she thinks, something like three months, and she was in pain the whole time.

The trawler’s name is the Filadelfia –why? Next thing self knows, she is trolling her archives for pictures of Philadelphia, her favorite American city next to her own, the city where Dearest Mum attended Curtis (Dearest Mum was only 11 when admitted, and became super-famous, a famous like Britney Spears! For winning the New York Times International Piano Competition, at 14. Her teacher at Curtis was a Madame Mengerva, who told Dearest Mum she should never get married, which is why, when Dearest Mum was 21, she eloped and ended up having five children with Dear Departed Dad)

On p. 40, self reads about the Fishwife Call, that lovely seafaring tradition where “whoever is on watch puts the kettle on, makes mugs of coffee and then heads down to wake the snoozing crew for the next haul” with a hearty ‘Alrightfuckers!’

So interesting.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Getting Through It

It’s been almost a year since the world stopped, plans got thrown out the window, and nothing will ever be the same.

Self thought she’d take a moment to celebrate the things that got her through the past year:

Of course, gardening. Her garden has never looked so great. Every day she watches the oxalis in her backyard get higher and higher. And she just loves it.

Second, books, and her fantastic local library and their curbside pick-up system. She’s been using it since June (Before that, she ordered many books from Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, which is equally fantastic). Also, self would like to thank the AUTHORS of these wonderful books. When self needed to be transported to another place and time, these authors delivered:

Self would also like to thank FREE CONCERTS. The week after everything shut down, St. Bride’s in London began streaming everything. And so did St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco, which used to hold free noontime concerts every Tuesday.

She would also like to thank Cal Shakes, whose summertime Shakespeare was a high point of her summer, as long as she was home in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Her first Cal Shakes was Romeo and Juliet. ADAM SCOTT PLAYED ROMEO. Sold!!!) A few days ago, she got a message that they would mount ONE live production this summer (Dates to be announced), with appropriate social distancing, of course: Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

Also, FaceTime. Self has actually learned to FaceTime with Dearest Mum. It’s been so great.

And The Economist, which managed to come every week (every two weeks lately, since DeJoy destroyed the USPS)

Finally, she’d like to thank her favorite TV shows, because she’d never have gotten through without them: The Expanse (closing with Season 6), Peaky Blinders (closing with Season 6), The Crown.

A big hand also for Trader Joe’s, for being most sanitary of all the different supermarkets she’s shopped in.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

High Body Count: Eddie’s Boy, p. 29

Self loves this book! From the opening scene — the hero’s having a meltdown in a Bentley because he had to kill, it enraged him, can’t people just behave so he doesn’t have to kill them? — she’s been having a fine time!

There are four corpses (already) in that Bentley, and that’s just in the first paragraph!

Plus self loved learning about the excellence of the double-barreled Purdey & Sons rifle (100,000 GBP each, thank you very much!)

Anyhoo, the first four would-be assassins attempted a break-in at the hero’s re-modeled 1650s Yorkshire mansion (technically, the property of his wife, she’s a member of the English nobility). Our hero drives the Bentley to the Manchester airport, where he leaves it (and the four bodies) in the parking lot and waits for a shuttle to the terminal. Unfortunately, a new set of goons try to kill him before he can get on the shuttle. Since it is only p. 29, we can assume the hero survives, which means these assassins must be off-ed, as well.

A few pages later, our hero faces an existential crisis: how can he get rid of the blood spatter on his clothes before entering the plane (to Sydney)?

Digressing a bit: Self has a book to pick up from the library this afternoon. Then, FaceTime with Dearest Mum in Manila. Tomorrow morning, bright and early (4 p.m. London time), she’s registered for a talk by the woman who writes obituaries for The Economist (such elegant examples of the form, she’s even taught them in creative nonfiction classes). There’s another zoom event tomorrow afternoon, fortunately it’s Central time, not such a big time difference as Manila or London: poets Denise Duhamel and Nin Andrews, hosted by Rain Taxi, and free!

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Poetry Thursday: Luisa A. Igloria

from Luisa A. Igloria’s collection Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Crab Orchard Review & Southern Illinois University Press, 2020)

Mother: Three Pictures (An Excerpt)

She is beautiful in that photograph where they are dancing in a
roomful of other couples. She has a beauty mole penciled on her
cheek, slightly to the right of her lip. Her eyebrows are two perfect
arches, her hair a dark beehive. I think there are dots on her dress.
Where is this photograph? I would very much like to have it.

The above, Dearest Mum, when she was a young Filipina pianist in New York City, 1950s.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

She is beautiful in that photograph where they are dancing in a

Appointment in Samarra Redux

Both of self’s parents were readers. The living room was lined with bookshelves, and there were always books on her parents’ nighstands.

Dearest Mum liked Yasunari Kawabata and Yukio Mishima.

Dear Departed Dad liked John O’Hara and John Updike.

One of Dear Departed Dad’s John O’Hara’s books was Appointment in Samarra. Self remembers loving it. The appointment in O’Hara’s novel is the same as the one in the excerpt below from The Silent Duchess, with O’Hara using Samarra as the stand-in for Samarkand. In both versions, the irony is delicious.

This morning, 6:30 a.m., self is racing to the end of The Silent Duchess.

She reads, on p. 226:

  • One does not truly escape by always escaping. Like that character in The Thousand and One Nights, who lived in Samarkand. She cannot remember whether it was Nur el Din or Mustafa. He was told, “Soon you will die in Samarkand,” so he galloped full speed to another city. But right in that unknown city, while he was walking peacefully along, he was assassinated, and as he died he saw that the square in which he attacked was called Samarkand.

Curfew takes effect in her area tonight: everyone must stay home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Lens Artists Challenge # 118: Communication

The Lens Artists Challenge this year comes from Horse Addict. She tells a lovely story about a horse, you can read all about it here.

Voting is a form of communication. As of this morning, 3.5 million Californians, a record, have already cast their ballots, according to KPIX5 News.

A smile is a form of communication.

Siblings have a special form of communication.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Obssessed with Origins

Domingo Salazar, who built the Manila Cathedral, received his assignment (from the Pope Himself) in 1579. He was from Salamanca.

Self has been to Spain only once. She went to Mojacar. Then, Dearest Mum got herself invited to give a concert in Madrid (at the Philippine Embassy), while self was in the middle of an artists residency, and like a dutiful daughter, she left her residency early, took a nine-hour bus trip to Madrid, stayed with Dearest Mum a week, and left Spain, never to return. She remembers the artists in residence with her: there were some amazing painters. She never forgot. They accompanied her to the bus stop. She must have said something about returning to complete the rest of her residency, but she never did. Like an endless foghorn, this pattern repeats. She was supposed to go to Belfast, several years ago, was about 60 miles away, when she got urgently called to Manila, for . . . umm. It’s hard to explain, it seemed like a terribly urgent thing.

Madrid was 1996. You think you have all this time, and then you have no time (Amazingly, it was then that she started being very interested in writing about 16th century Spain!)

What does she remember of that week? The Museo del Prado. El Greco. The broad, leafy avenues. Uh. Dearest Mum’s concert. Of course.

She cannot believe how much time has elapsed, but she feels like exactly the same person. Only, if she were to go back to Spain (like next year, or whenever COVID disappears, maybe never), she would definitely, given what she’s just read, make it a point to go to Salamanca.

Domingo Salazar, First Bishop of Manila.

P.S. One of the painters she met at Mojacar was Eizo Sakata. He gave her two of his sketches (one of the flat-topped mountain across the plains from their artists residence). Had them both framed and they are hanging now in her little house.

Stay tuned.

Process: Stonehenge/Pacifica

Self decided to look through her old MacBook Air (which, judging from the dates on there, had stories dating as far back as 2006) and found an early version of her flash, Stonehenge/Pacifica, which Wigleaf published in 2012.

It is fascinating to compare the two versions. It seems that, early on, Stonehenge/Pacifica was a poem. The line breaks are short:

STONEHENGE/PACIFICA

It was a dream I had, some restless night.
Perhaps one of those weeks/ months/ years
when we were worried about money.
But when were we ever not worried?
First, there was the mortgage,
and then the two.
Then your mother got sick,
and your fathe died.
And my mother I think developed
Alzheimer’s

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

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