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.

Yellow 4: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Visiting friends in Benicia (good friends of The Man from his college days in the Ateneo).

And their garden is beautiful! So fecund!

And the sun was out today! The sky is so blue!

Here are the spots of yellow self saw today:

Zoe, 9, got this sewing kit for Christmas! And it has yellow fabric that Zoe is preparing to make into a dress!

Zoe, 9, got this sewing kit for Christmas! And it has yellow fabric that Zoe is preparing to make into a dress!

Afternoon was fading, the light against the side of the house was sort of yellow:

Mona and Randy's house, as seen from the backyard, in late afternoon, Christmas Day 2014

Mona and Randy’s house, as seen from the backyard, in late afternoon, Christmas Day 2014

The lemon tree in the backyard has the biggest, fattest lemons, almost the size of grapefruit!

The lemon tree in the backyard has the biggest, fattest lemons, almost the size of grapefruit!

It’s a very, very beautiful, yellow afternoon, today in Benicia.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Christmas Eve 2014: Remembering That Time Self Went to Tonle Sap Lake

Self is looking at all the books she acquired in 2014 (Quite a lot, even though she’s got hardly any bookshelf space left). One of them is Colin Poole’s Tonle Sap.

“Tonle Sap” means The Heart of the World. That’s a very fitting name for this large lake, bordered by four countries: Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand.

The reason self brings this up now is: She was there, 10 years ago, with Ying.

Ying, who died in 2008, in Tel Aviv.

She remembers Ying telling one of her dear bros that the trip was “girls only.”

So it ended up just being the two of us: Bangkok first, then Siem Reap. In Siem Reap, we hired a car and driver and he took us to Tonle Sap.

Self remembers Ying telling her: “You are far more adventurous than any of your brothers.”

Self thought that trip to Angkor Wat and Tonle Sap would only be the first of many, many trips. But Ying got leukemia. She didn’t even last a year from the date of her diagnosis.

Life just isn’t fair.

How Did Self Get Here?

She took a summer course in Creative Writing from John L’Heureux. He told her he thought she should apply to the Creative Writing Program. Because she was out of ideas about what to do with her life (Her ideas only carried her as far as six months into the future), she dutifully applied. She got in. She had no idea she’d spend the next two years sitting around a table with 11 other people, talking about each other’s writing as if it married. No idea that writing, at least in America, was considered very hard work. She didn’t know why her fellow fellows spent so much time in Antonio’s Nut House on California Avenue.

She didn’t know that the tall skinny lad with the piercing green eyes who was called Read the rest of this entry »

Gone But Not Forgotten 4

To self’s way of thinking, this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN, is about impermanence and nostalgia. With that in mind, she chose these three photographs: a drawing her son made when he was five; an ice sculpture from the Hometown Holidays event in downtown Redwood City, last weekend; and a Christmas tree ornament (part of an already large collection that just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year)

About the tree ornament: last year, self got a puny little tree (4 feet). It looked, after self had succeeded in hanging about half her stash of tree ornaments, like it was miserable. Self means, the tree looked miserable.

This year, none of these small, puny Christmas trees for self! She went for the six-foot.  And, in the unlikeliest development ever, self succeeded in man-handling that gorgeous tree from her car to the living room, completely unaided. Now, bliss.

A Crayon Drawing Son Made When He was About Five

A Crayon Drawing Son Made When He was About Five

Hometown Holidays, Saturday, Dec. 6, Downtown Redwood City

Hometown Holidays, Saturday, Dec. 6, Downtown Redwood City

Tree Ornament: I bought a set of these last year at the Filoli Holiday Bazaaar. Missed the one this year, boo.

Tree Ornament: Self bought a set of these last year at the Filoli Holiday Bazaaar. Missed the one this year, boo.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Gone But Not Forgotten 3: Courthouse Square, Redwood City, Saturday Dec. 6

Yesterday, December 6, was Redwood City’s annual Hometown Holidays event. The children loved the petting zoo!

Petting Zoo in Courthouse Square: Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014

Petting Zoo in Redwood City’s Courthouse Square: Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014

Son’s first pets were goldfish and guppies. Next, love birds. Third, rabbits.

He had a black-and-white rabbit named Spot that a friend gave us. It was a huge jackrabbit. When it peed, the spray was phenomenal.

We gave Spot away when we acquired Bella, our first beagle.

Yesterday, we ogled the animals in the petting zoo in Redwood City's Courthouse Square. There were pony rides!

Yesterday, we ogled the animals in the petting zoo in Redwood City’s Courthouse Square. There were pony rides!

The pony rides were also very popular.  If son were small, he would flip over the pony rides!

Children were enjoying a section with real snow!

Children were enjoying a section with real snow! Who wouldn’t enjoy getting into a snowball fight?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Gone But Not Forgotten 2: This Week’s WordPress Photo Challenge

For this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, we’re asked to commemorate what’s “gone but not forgotten.”

Straw Angels: They were a present from Ying, who passed away Sept. 11, 2008.

Straw Angels: They were a present from Ying, who passed away Sept. 11, 2008.

Self has a lot of doggie tree ornaments. Once upon a time, she had two beagles.

Self has a lot of doggie tree ornaments. That’s because, once upon a time, she had two beagles.

This last photo shows a bench next to Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. Self has passed that particular bench so many times. She only noticed the sign on the bench a month or so ago.

Memorial Bench, Stowe Lake, Golden Gate Park

Memorial Bench, Stowe Lake, Golden Gate Park

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Various Achievements, 2014

Self’s been to southern California a lot this year. And one of the nice things about being in southern California is: There are a LOT of her Dad’s side of the family living there.

Had dinner with one branch of the Villanuevas at Max’s in Glendale (There’s a branch in South San Francisco that was one of son’s faaaavorite restaurants when he was growing up), which included Llana, the daughter of self’s first cousin Eddie Villanueva (or Estoy, as everyone in Bacolod calls him), Llana’s husband, and Llana’s stepson. Oh joy!

Llana (in the middle) is the daughter of my Manong Eddie, which makes her my niece!

Llana (in the middle) is the daughter of self’s Manong Eddie, which makes her self’s niece! She is absolutely adorable.

Another thing readers of this blog might have gleaned is that self has a weakness for ice cream. She loves discovering new ice cream flavors and new ice cream stores. One of the places she’s been hearing about FOREVER is Mitchell’s Ice Cream in San Francisco. Even though it’s right around the corner from the place where her writers group sometimes meets, she’s always been too intimidated by the line snaking out the door to stop for a look-see.  Finally, though, self decided she just couldn’t let more time go by without trying Mitchell’s ice cream. She went in and ordered “young coconut” (buko) Oh my, it was heavenly:

Mitchell's Ice Cream is Nirvana!

Mitchell’s Ice Cream is Nirvana!

This was also the year when self saw her first hedgehog! Self spotted it at the San Francisco Zoo.

Self seems to have terrified this adorable little hedgehog, huddled in a pen in the San Francisco Zoo.

Self seems to have terrified this adorable little hedgehog, huddled in a pen in the San Francisco Zoo.

This is an event of some significance because self has been on such a tear, writing story after story after story, and in one of her new stories (science fiction, started while at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland), hedgehogs play a very important role (Just because self had never, ever laid eyes on an actual hedgehog wasn’t an impediment to writing a story featuring hedgehogs). A very mean boss who happens to be Earthstar makes pejorative remarks at a peon and calls him a “lousy hedgehog.” Which is just about the worst insult one can utter, in the year 2104.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  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.

 

 

 

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