For The Daily Post Photo Challenge COLLAGE: July 2017, So Vivid

Everything Summer 2017:



  • Discovered an old stash of photographs of Dearest Mum in her younger days.
  • Explored the inside of son’s closet in 2431 Hopkins Ave., Redwood City.
  • Rediscovered one of self’s most treasured books.
  • Had dinner with Jennie, son’s fiancée, at Himalayan Café in Old Town Pasadena.
  • Found artwork by son (when he was in grade school).
  • Got a Birthday present (for self) from son and Jennie: Nude Awakening (Self is so WOKE!).
  • Amused by a giant stag at the end of a driveway in the Pasadena hills.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Collage 2: Dearest Mum

She attended Curtis, won the New York Times International Piano Competition, and played at Carnegie Hall when she was just 14.

Self’s nephew, William, is getting married this September in New York City. Not sure if Dearest Mum, who lives in the Philippines, will be strong enough to attend, though.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Reading Life 2016

October 2016

  1. Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission (history), by Hampton Sides
  2. A Short History of Women (novel) by Kate Walbert

September 2016

  1. The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine (nonfiction), by Ben Ehrenreich
  2. Brazillionaires (nonfiction), by Alex Cuadros

August 2016

  1. Northanger Abbey (novel), by Jane Austen
  2. Swimming Studies (memoir), by Leann Sharpton
  3. The Course of Love (novel), by Alain de Botton
  4. The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Sketches (travel book, poetry), by Matsuo Basho
  5. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone (essay collection), by Olivia Laing

July 2016

  1. The Green Road (novel), by Anne Enright
  2. Girl Waits With Gun (mystery), by Amy Stewart

June 2016

  1. The Girl on the Train (novel), by Paula Hawkins
  2. My Brilliant Friend (novel), by Elena Ferrante

May 2016 Read the rest of this entry »

WIP: Memoir-ish

This is what I know of her past: She played in Carnegie Hall when she was just 14. I have the picture. It’s black and white, and in it my mother is round-faced, and her thick, curly black hair is held back by a hairband. Behind her, there is an orchestra.

To hear my dear departed aunt Terry tell it, my mother’s family took the train all the way across the country, starting in San Francisco. They wound up in Flushing. Self’s mother went to Curtis. She became classmates with the pianist Gary Graffman.

Honestly, self should do more with this story.

Stay tuned.

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.


The Year 2015: Very Stream-of-Consciousness

First Margarita Donnelly Prize for Prose. Mary Gaitskill. New York, New York. Carnegie Hall and Dearest Mum (Last night, front row seat, Trio Solisti. They killed Brahms. Absolutely killed it. Three standing ovations. From a New York audience. No joke). Florence & Venice with Niece. “Crackers” in Crab Orchard Review. Fan Fiction (self’s WIP: about Peeta as a prostitute!!!) garners more hits. London-Ireland-York (the last for the first time). Central Park walks. Middlemarch (swoon). Writers Group meet-ups. Twitter Hashtag Games & Folklore Thursday. Victorian Steampunk and Shadowhunters. Believing in dragons. Stay tuned.


Carnegie Center’s Weill Hall, Before the Trio Solisti Concert Last Night

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.


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 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.”

nena del rosario 001

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.

Mockingjay 2: Cry, Cry, Cry

Self can’t believe it.

She can’t believe IT’S OVER!

She caught the 1:20 p.m. screening at the AMC Loews almost directly across from the Lincoln Center, a few days ago. Only a block away from Alice Tully Hall, where Dearest Mum once played (when she was still a teen-ager). So ironic that self hasn’t yet been to a concert in Alice Tully Hall but here she is sitting in AMC Loews with a bucket of popcorn on her lap, anxiously awaiting the final film in The Hunger Games franchise. But ever since Niece Georgina recommended Suzanne Collins’s trilogy to self, self has been on a Peeta kick. Yes, her favorite character in The Hunger Games isn’t Katniss, it’s Peeta. And it’s always going to be Peeta. Forever and ever and ever .

J-Law, you were awesome! Every time the camera zoomed in, your facial expressions were so on point! Thank you for your portrayal. Now there’s talk of making a pre-quel with some younger actress. Ixnay! Self would much prefer a sequel: with you again.

Woody Harrelson, you were equally great!


And so were you, Elizabeth Banks! That scene where you bid Katniss good-bye, decked once more in your Capitol finery (How could Effie get away with dressing like that in District 13? Wouldn’t Coin have frowned on that kind of extravagance?), self found it so affecting.

It was nice to see Philip Seymour Hoffman’s smirk, one last time.

Although she didn’t initially agree with the choice of Donald Sutherland to play the role of President Snow, boy did he kill his part in this final installment. That conversation he has with Katniss near the end, when he says he doesn’t believe in waste, the part where he makes Katniss start questioning Coin’s motives, that part was made infinitely more believable because of Sutherland’s trademark sardonic delivery.

OMG, Finnick’s death was worse than it was in the book. Because it was so — graphic. And he was calling out to Katniss. And self almost couldn’t bear it.


JENA. JENA MALONE. Talk about the perfect Johanna. Mockingjay Part 1 suffered tremendously from her absence. But she was back! And self loves Jena/Johanna. Truly loves her.

P.S. Julianne Moore as Coin — her pupils had a disconcerting tendency to go all to black, and she looked like a soulless witch. Which, self guesses, was the point.

Tallies: One super-hot Galeniss scene, at the very beginning. Unfortunately, instead of pressing his advantage, Gale mopes. And mopes. And mopes some more. And, honestly, if self were Katniss, she wouldn’t have waited for Peeta. Even though self is Everlark to the max, if Liam were hanging around all the time, being all loyal and supportive, she would not blame Katniss at all for switching affections.

J-Hutch, if only there were more of you Not-Hijacked. If there was one flaw she saw in the film, it was that the end didn’t allow enough time for the “growing together” of Katniss and Peeta. Self was waiting for it, she was waiting for the voice-over narration, she ached to hear J-Law’s throaty voice say “Peeta and I grow back together.” But it was not to be.

There’s a scene where hot Peeta is bent over planting primrose bushes while Katniss sneaks up behind him. The camera starts zooming in on — ahem! Never mind. But no, F-Law was extremely respectful and provided no more than two or three seconds of  J-Hutch bent over. Please!

Not even the teeniest hint of anything in the end, just that cuddling thing K and P do, then — babies! Toast babies!

Ugh! Not enough time in the end! The end! The end!


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