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.

Never Forget This

Self was about to start grad school at Stanford University.

Dearest Mum went with her. We did a jaunt to LA and stayed with a distant relative in Glendale.

The relative’s name was Lucy. She was living with an American guy named Bob. She drank a tall glass of green liquid every morning, she said it was good for you: pure chlorophyll.

Self tried a bit and it tasted disgusting, the consistency of mucus.

One night, Dearest Mum and self returned to Lucy’s home to find it dark, locked, nobody home. We drove around for hours, just waiting for Lucy to show up. This was the era before cell phones, so the only recourse we had were to use payphones.

Dearest Mum spied one in front of a liquor store. She said, Get in there and use the phone.

Self said, What? No! It’s a liquor store!

Nevertheless, self being a very obedient 21-year-old, she got down from the car and used the payphone that was right in front of the entrance. Dearest Mum remained in the car. When self turned around after making a series of fruitless calls to Lucy, she saw that a car had pulled up right next to Dearest Mum. Two men were inside that car, staring intently at Dearest Mum, who was clutching the steering wheel with both hands. Self would call that “a white-knuckle clutch.”

Whereupon, self jumped back into the car, Dearest Mum va-voomed out of the parking lot with screeching tires, and we drove around and around for two more hours, until we were pulled over by a policeman.

The policeman walked over to Dearest Mum’s window and shone a flashlight straight into her face.

What is it, Officer? Dearest Mum coo-ed in her sweetest, most girl-y voice.

Ma’am, we pulled you over because we thought you might be drunk.

What? Me? Drunk? Dearest Mum’s voice dripped outrage.

Well, the Officer said, I see you’re not drunk, Ma’am. But here’s the thing: me and my partner have been following you for a bit because: A) You braked on a green light; B) You switched lanes in the middle of an intersection; and C) This is the fourth time you’ve passed this corner.

BWAH. HA. HA. HAAAAA! Self had to assume her best poker face during the exchange.

Now I’ll tell you what, Ma’am, quoth the cop. You see this big intersection right here? You make a left at that intersection, and you keep going, and you keep going, and you don’t stop until you see this big hotel, and you wait in that hotel for your friend to get home.

Self doesn’t know why it never occurred to her to share this story before.

Stay tuned.

Cover Art: Welcome to Self’s Universe (Actual Cover Art)

For this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, COVER ART, self is posting two actual covers — one of a recent issue of Prism International, the Vancouver-based literary magazine; another for Elmore Leonard’s Raylan, adapted for TV on F/X as “Justified” — and one projected:

FCover Art, Prism International 50.4 (Spring 2012 Issue):  "Soup" by Mandy Barker

Cover Art, Prism International 50.4 (Spring 2012 Issue): “Soup” by Mandy Barker

And here's a picture of the Nora Aunor of her time:  Dearest Mum.  Have you read the story "Lizard"?  You should read "Lizard" (in self's first collection, GINSENG AND OTHER TALES FROM MANILA)

The Superstar of her time: Dearest Mum. She played in Carnegie Hall at 14.

For the past couple of years, self has been working on a novella about Dearest Mum’s concert career.  She’s chosen to call it “Ambition.”  If she ever succeeds in getting it published, this photo of Dearest Mum as a young woman would be the cover.  She doesn’t know who took the picture.

At Books, Inc. today, self's eyes were forcibly drawn to a shelf which happened to display:  xxxxx !!!

At Books, Inc. today, self’s eyes were forcibly drawn to a shelf which happened to display: xxxxx !!!  Self loves “Justified” and is sad about Elmore Leonard’s passing. And the show’s entering its final season. And oh, will Timothy Olyphant ever get an Emmy?  He is THE iconic Raylan.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.




‘One’ : WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is ONE.

“This week, we want to see photos that focus one one thing.”

Dear Departed Dad at 46.  This picture is in the small room she calls her "Office," the one with French doors that open to her backyard.

Dear Departed Dad at 46. This picture is in the small room self calls her “Office,” the one with French doors that open to her backyard.

He was a kind and gentle father.  Most of all, he gave self roots in the soil of Negros Occidental.

In addition to self's fascination with:  a) windows, b) flowers, self is also fascinated by dogs.  This one was in Monsignor "Gigi" Gaston's house in Manapla.

In addition to self’s fascination with: a) windows and b) flowers, self is also fascinated by dogs. This one was in Monsignor “Gigi” Gaston’s house in Manapla, Negros Occidental.

And here's a picture of the Nora Aunor of her time:  Dearest Mum.  Have you read the story "Lizard"?  You should read "Lizard" (in self's first collection, GINSENG AND OTHER TALES FROM MANILA)

And here’s a picture of Dearest Mum. Have you read the story “Lizard”? You should read “Lizard” (in self’s first collection, GINSENG AND OTHER TALES FROM MANILA).  A student at Curtis, she was only 14 when she played at Carnegie Hall.

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.

Power, Family Etc.

“People are only paying attention to you because of the money.”

In other words:  Don’t be fooled.  You’re not that charming or that pretty, etc etc

Bwah ha haaaaa!

A real Bacolod statement, if there was one.

It’s the truth, though.

Bacolod cousins never mince words.

This is a lesson Dearest Mum (below) knew all too well.

You are nothing —  Get it?  NOTHING —  without money.

The Iconic Nena, in her prime

Oh Dearest Mum, sorry for being such a slow learner!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Consciousness: Manila

Like echoes from a distant planet (Apologies for trotting out that hoary cliché), the following tremors reached self, a girl in Manila:

  • Richard Leakey (Homo habilis and Homo erectus have been discovered, YAY!  Archaeology is sexy!)
  • Newsweek and Time (purveyors of “reliable” foreign news)
  • San Francisco (Where the crazy branch of the family lived.  And yet:  Self chose Stanford over other universities.  Why?  Must be because she realized she herself was crazy!)
  • Berkeley = hippies!  And drugs!
  • Acapulco (Her parents honeymooned here).  The main thing to do in Acapulco is to watch men dive from sheer cliffs, straight into the ocean (Self must admit to thinking it was a strange choice for a honeymoon.  This was reinforced by the fact that she did not know any other parents who honeymooned there)
  • I. Magnin.  Dearest Mum’s Dearest Mum shopped only at I. Magnin. To get self ready for grad school, Dearest Mum took self shopping for clothes at the I. Magnin on Union Square.  Self remembers acquiring a whole closet of chiffon dresses.  Needless to say, she never got to wear any of them.
  • Orange Julius (There was a stand inside the Makati Supermarket)
  • Shakey’s Pizza (a whole host of these, all over Manila)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Rogue Magazine Bacolod Issue Redux

Self is never going to lose the Bacolod issue of Rogue Magazine (Philippines)  Never, not in a million years.

She will never forget that Charles Tan Fed-exed a copy to her, either.

It gives her story after story —  and even though she knows her Bacolod cousins didn’t take to the articles too well, all of the pieces are interesting.

The big landowning families aren’t as rich as they used to be because of CARP (the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program), and everyone’s hanging on, just hanging on, to the vestiges of the past (either that or leave for Dubai), but she still remembers the time a cousin invited her to lunch at “21.”  Self happened to glance at the narrow street adjacent, and what she saw was this :  two lines of parked SUVs, most of them a gleaming black, and all of them with drivers patiently waiting.

Here’s an excerpt from an article by Rogue editor Jose Maria Ugarte, “At Play in the Fields of the Lords.”

From these closet liberals grew a dense forest of family trees in Negros, their branches wrangling and tangling together and their fruits bumping.  Some trees stood tall and with a quiet elegance, while others lurched with savage wildness, but they were all interconnected by sex and sugar and they were all disturbingly rich.

And self also remembers her cousin L saying:  “Heaven only knows where you came from.”  Because self is such an oddball and contrarian that she actually wants to retire in Bacolod, a poky small city, not very beautiful, with one great church (San Sebastian), a plaza, shopping malls, and family homes turned into museums.

She remembers Dearest Mum telling her this anecdote, a long time ago:

A Bacolod girl was complaining about the amount of homework assigned by her teacher.  Her father told her, “Hija” (My Dear) “if something will not enter your head, then why force it?”

With stories like the one above, self doesn’t know why the island of Negros isn’t just teeming with writers!  As she told a cousin way back December 2010:  “The Villanuevas may be crazy, but they’re my kind of crazy.”

Bacolod is the closest thing the Philippines has to New Orleans:  ” . . .  because if you play with the same test tubes for too long without washing them,” Ugarte writes,  “you’re going to end up with something weird.”

Ugarte himself has family in Bacolod.  That’s why he can write about it like that.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

From Self’s Story “Picture” (in Her 2005 Collection, MAYOR OF THE ROSES)

This is a story about self’s parents.  It was in Mayor of the Roses, her second collection, published by Miami University Press:

The woman leaning forward is self’s mother.

She’s leaning forward, as if to kiss him.  There’s a mark on his cheek; perhaps she’s done it already.  They are both smiling.

These were my parents in Manila, circa 1956.  They were happy:  they had always been happy.  The happiness of their marriage was like a reproach.

I didn’t think he looked that ugly, but I hear a voice saying, over and over, La unica problema es que no es guapo. It’s a woman speaking, her voice is thick with fury.  It was probably my grandmother.  This, at least, was what my mother led me to believe.

*     *     *     *     *

I am collecting old pictures now.  I don’t know what this tells me about this stage of my life.

Here’s a picture self drew when she was about five.  Who is that woman and why did self draw her wearing a green kimono?  Who knows.  Dearest Mum had the picture framed.

The 5-Year-Old Artist

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

List # xxxx: Things Dearest Mum Thought It Would Be a Good Idea for Self to Learn to Cook

After two years of graduate school at Stanford, self can say with certainty that she could cook only four things well:  bacon, pan-fried steak, rice and scrambled eggs.  She was too busy writing papers!  Or perhaps she was simply too lazy.

Then self broke the news to her family that she was planning to get married.  Dearest Mum then had self enroll in a cooking class taught by Lorivi Reynoso (graduate of an actual French culinary school!).

Here are the items Chef Lorivi taught self to prepare:

  • Waldorf Salad (Very easy!  You only need four apples, 1 stick of celery, 1/2 cup of walnuts . . . )
  • Crepes Suzette (Very easy!  You only need to prepare the crepe batter, then make the orange batter . . . )
  • Pears in Red Wine (Very easy!  You only need 2 Tbsps. of apple jelly, 1/2 cup red wine, 4 pears . . . )
  • Blue Cheese Canapé Spread (Very easy!  You only need blue or roquefort cheese and 1/2 cup cream cheese . . . )
  • Chicken Liver Paté (Very easy!  You only need chicken livers, 1 Tbsp. brandy, a dash of thyme, 2/3 cup butter . . . )
  • Smoked Tanguingue in Dill Sauce (Very easy!  Until self wondered what store in California would sell tanguingue . . . )
  • Mussels Mariniere (Very easy!  One only needs 1 kilo mussels, sprigs of parsley, 1 cup white wine, 1/3 cup cream . . . )
  • Banana Flambee (Very easy!  One only needs 8 large bananas, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup rum . . . )  NOTE:  Self used to adore bananas, until the day she was chatting with a fellow artist in the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and learned that bananas were the most fattening fruit in the entire world.  Then self banished bananas from her sight, forever.  Dear blog readers might wonder why two artists supposedly engaged in strenuous creative work would even care about what they weighed, but just because you are crazy doesn’t mean you can’t be vain!

Wow, self never entertained and unfortunately these were not the type of comestibles one could pass off as dinner . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Waldorf Salad

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