Sentence of the Day: From Thad Carhart’s THE PIANO SHOP ON THE LEFT BANK

Self has an inordinate interest in pianos because her mother was a concert pianist: admitted to Curtis at 11, friends with Gary Graffman (who had self and her mother over to dinner at his apartment one night), winner of the New York Times International Piano Competition when she was 14. Dearest Mum played in Carnegie Hall.

Dearest Mum had not one, but two Steinways, one flown into our home in Manila through Clark Airbase.

As far as self knows, Dearest Mum is the only pianist in the world who has two Steinways.

Here’s a sentence from the book self is currently reading, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, by Thad Carhart:

No one knows exactly when the piano was invented.

Why is that interesting to self? Who knows. It just is.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Music: Sylvain Landry Photo Challenge Week 28

The Sylvain Landry Photo Challenge this week is MUSIC.

Here’s a picture of the main stage of New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Took my first tour ever, December 2015. We were only allowed to take pictures when the musicians weren’t rehearsing.

Dearest Mum played a concert here after she won The New York Times International Piano Competition, when she was 14:

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The Main Stage of Carnegie Hall, in between rehearsals: December 2015

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Now: Other WordPress Blogs

It’s almost New Year’s. Self thinks 2015 was her most adventurous year. And that’s saying something. Because she has been traveling a lot since 2011. To Dharamsala. To Dublin, Cork, Galway and Northern Ireland. To Bacolod. To Venice. To Florence. To Edinburgh. To London. To York. To Boston. To New Hampshire. To Banff. To Calgary. To Minneapolis. To Culver City. To Venice Beach. To Virginia.

Funny, it is really ending with a bang. She got a piece picked up in December. And the week after, she began posting a new fan fic story that she thought would be a one-shot but has since turned into 30 chapters. Pure seat-of-the-pants writing. Everlark modern AU. But it starts off with Cheating Peeta. Self is the Mistress of Angst, for sure. It’s like she did her own personal NanoWriMo only in December rather than November. Who’d have thought?

2015 was the year she got her first tour of Carnegie Hall, the place where Dearest Mum gave a solo recital — when she was 14 years old. Which would make the year 1948.

She remembered Dearest Mum taking her to the Russian Tea Room, when she was 21 and a new grad student at Stanford. Self remembered she had French onion soup and cheese blintzes. She asked for the same, when she dropped by the Russian Tea Room earlier this month.

Self doesn’t have family over, she didn’t even get a tree this year, so she has no heartwarming holiday pictures to share. Instead, here are five other WordPress bloggers whose posts on the Photo Challenge — NOW — resonated the most with self:

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Tell Your Stories, My Dear, You Have So Many of Them

So here’s yet another one.

Dearest Mum was a child prodigy who won The New York Times Piano Competition when she was 13 or 14. Self will find that New York Times article if it kills her! Kills her! She played in Carnegie Hall! Self has a picture of Dearest Mum standing on the stage and taking a bow. She’s in a cute little black dress, white socks, and black Mary Janes. And behind her is a full orchestra.

Carnegie Hall is celebrating its 125th Anniversary with Carnegie Hall Stories. If you have a story that involves Carnegie Hall, now is the time to drop them!

The closest she has come to writing about this family history is in the story “Lizard,” when she has Dearest Mum presenting with a kind of incubus stuck to her back. So heartwarming, self always goes for the cozy and reassuring, in life as well as in art!

That story’s in her first book, Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila.

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Manhattan Stories

Shirtsleeve weather, yes!

Lost wallet twice. Got wallet returned twice. Nothing missing.

The soldier in camo who returned self’s wallet (the first time she lost it) found her on the PATH train platform for Hoboken. She had just been about to board the train. She’d just discovered her wallet was missing. She had five seconds of gut-twisting fear. Then the tap on her shoulder.

The soldier was young and didn’t even stick around for self to say “Thank you.” She had to shout it to him across the throng. He heard her, though, because he half turned his head and smiled.

Missed Drew’s concert at Carnegie Hall. To make up for it, she ate lunch at the Russian Tea Room. Cheese blintzes and French onion soup, just like what Dearest Mum ordered for her, 30 years ago. Was it worth it?

Self is determined to work on a story self is writing about Dearest Mum, will post on carnegiehall.org/stories or on twitter #CHstories. Thinking of trekking to where Dearest Mum lived before she got married: Might have been Elmhurst. Might have been Flushing.

In fact, she did write this story. It is finished. She sent it to McSweeney’s two years ago. When she checks Submittable, it says “In Progress.” Self might as well take that as a rejection.

Black eyeliner a must because self gets so little sleep here. The city is like liquid fire. Fire! So, rim black around her eyes, please don’t look at self’s eyebags.

Last night, she was in the East Village, Avenue A. The streets were thronged with people in Santa costumes. She lived on 8th and 1st in the early 80s. She no longer recognized anything.

A young woman got up to read a piece about training in a police academy. “You’re going to be raped,” an officer whispered into her ear. How could he have known that she was raped, five years earlier, at 18.

Then another woman, reading about her hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey: “If you go to Bayonne, it’s because you live there, or you know someone who does.”

Self is also still reading student pieces for her UCLA Extension Writers Program class in Nonfiction writing.

Cacophony, yes?

A woman last night said to self, “You seem very nervous.” Which is probably why self keeps dropping her wallet. When she finally does lose it for good, self has decided, she will head straight to JFK and fly to the Bay Area.

But first, to write.

And it is fan fiction, all the way. Capitol Peeta! She has sworn. She will not abandon him on a train platform flanked by his handlers,  Tweedledum and Tweedledee. She will write this, even if it kills her.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Dearest Mum, Who Played in Carnegie Hall

When she was 14 or 15. She won The New York Times piano competition.

This Manila newspaper article focuses on her fashion style. She picked out the clothes herself. The article describes her clothing choices as very “atonal.”

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Nena del Rosario Villanueva

Dearest Mum had the tiniest waist: 23 inches all around. Alas, self did not inherit Dearest Mum’s fabulous figure. That honor went to self’s older sister.

Growing up, self resisted all attempts to get dressed up. Even after she started giving readings. “It’s about what’s inside,” she remembers saying to Dearest Mum. “No one has the time to figure out the inner you, so why don’t you just make it easy for them,” Dearest Mum would retort.

Self is so perverse that she continued to dress badly. On purpose.

Now, self is finally beginning to come around to Dearest Mum’s way of thinking.

Years and years later, self is in VCCA when she peeks into an artists studio and spies Drew, playing on a piano. She strikes up a conversation. Eight years later, Drew composes a full-length opera based on one of self’s novellas.

Would you believe, self missed a Nov. 19 concert in Carnegie Hall; the violinist played an original composition by Drew. Sometimes self is very, very stupid.

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.

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.

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