This Evening, Tomas Transtromer

When self was with Angela Narciso Torres in Venice Beach in November, Angela took self to A Small World, a fabulous bookstore fronting the beach. Self ended up getting poetry collections by Neruda and Tomas Transtromer.

This evening, self is looking through Transtromer’s collection The Great Enigma (Pretty fabulous, that title!), translated by Robin Fulton.

The back cover has the New York Times quoting Transtromer as saying, “My poems are meeting places.”

Oh. Wow. Self can’t even. Just. Kill her now.

Here’s an excerpt from Transtromer’s Balakirev’s Dream:

 The black grand piano, the gleaming spider
trembled at the center of its net of music.

In the concert hall a land was conjured up
where stones were no heavier than dew.

Love, love, love those images.

Stay tuned.

Also Reading Jeremy Denk’s Essay “Piano Man”

It is Thanksgiving Day, 2014.

The best decision self ever made was to order a turkey and fixings from somewhere. And now she has a chance to catch up on all those back issues of The New Yorker that have been building up since last year (and the year before, and the year before).

From The New Yorker of 14 October 2013, an essay by Jeremy Denk called “Piano Man”:

I was saved the first time from financial ruin by a stroke of luck — I entered a piano competition, in London, and won third prize. Years of grad-school indulgences (liquor, Chinese takeout, kitchen appliances) had left me with a Visa bill of forty-five hundred dollars, and I was able to erase it in a flash. All that remained of my glorious prize, of all those months of practicing, was a photograph of Princess Diana handing me my award onstage at Royal Festival Hall, which I faxed to everyone I knew.

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.

Calling Borders (University Avenue, Downtown Palo Alto)

Late last night, self placed a call to Borders, the one on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto.

She learned Wednesday, from a special edition of Publisher’s Lunch, that Borders had declared bankruptcy.  There was also a list, somewhere in the same missive, of Borders creditors.

Right after self read the news, she called Borders.  It was almost midnight, so of course self didn’t expect anyone to pick up.  She was wondering if she’d get a message machine with some kind of announcement, but the phone rang endlessly and self could just picture the sound in that cavernous space …

This morning, around 7:30 a.m., she tried again, and lo and behold, a man answered.

“Ahh, ahhh,” self said.  “Was just wondering what time you open today?”

“9 a.m.,” the man said.

So, around 9:20 a.m., self called again, and a friendly staff member helped her locate a book by James Barron, something she’d been looking for, for a long time:  Piano:  The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand.

Why this particular book?

Because self grew up with two Steinways in her house in Manila, that’s why!

Because Dearest Mum is a classically trained pianist!

Because self always knew that anything less than a Steinway was simply not to be taken seriously!

(Well, maybe a Bosendorfer is acceptable)

Certainly not anything as pedestrian as a Kawai!

This is just information she knew from about the age of 3!

And even though she should not be all that concerned about the fate of Borders (not as concerned, anyway, as she should be about the news that Powell’s has been laying off staff), she knows she will actually grieve if the Borders in downtown Palo Alto closes.  Because this is her idea of a perfect afternoon:

  • movie at Aquarius (an indie movie, something like the Argentine weepie “The Secret in Their Eyes” or British weepie “Never Let Me Go”.  OK, let’s just put it this way:  anything that will make her eyes swell to the size of golf balls, that will give her tear ducts a truly cathartic cleansing and ensure that everything is still in good working order)
  • an enormous serving of green tea and lychee gelato from Gelato Classico, across the street from Aquarius
  • strolling down University Avenue to Borders, there to lose herself in the fiction stacks for an hour or so

Anyhoo, it looks like self will not have to revise this picture of a perfect Palo Alto afternoon.  Not in the immediate future, at any rate.

Stay tuned.

Self’s Recent New York Trip

Self’s last trip to New York — she wanted it to be about music.

She wanted to see Carnegie Hall, the place where Dearest Mum played with the New York Philharmonic, at age 14.

She wanted to go to the Russian Tea Room with Dearest Mum.

Or attend a concert at the Lincoln Center.

Instead, self only had time to watch one concert, and it was one she just happened to stumble on, when she gained admittance to the Whitney.

And the man banged on the piano keys (a Yamaha, self couldn’t help noticing — in Manila, in her childhood home, there were three pianos, all Steinways) with his elbows. And even struck the piano strings with a pack of cards.

Dearest Mum was a student at Curtis in Philadelphia, and self hasn’t ever laid eyes on that august institution.

Self, you are too, too wanting. Always wanting.

Embarrassment: First Memory

I don’t know how old I am. I’m hiding under my mother’s big black piano. I think it might even be the day of my birthday party. I am not, usually, given to hiding under my mother’s piano, but this day is, I recognize, something special. I know it is something special because they made me wear a dress.

I am hiding because I have a crush on one of my mother’s friends. I follow him around like a puppy. Everyone knows about my crush, and I am happy that they know.

At the same time, I’m ashamed, I don’t know why.

It’s my first exposure to something delicate, an emotion I recognize should be a secret. Why is it a secret? I know because of the way people laugh at me when they realize. The laughing at is what causes the embarrassment.

And that is why, dressed up as I am, I am hiding underneath the piano. Which is not a very good hiding place because everyone can see me. All it gives me is more exposure than I intended. Which is exactly the opposite of what I wanted to achieve.

The other thing I ask myself now is: why the piano? Why couldn’t I have hidden in the bathroom? Or under my bed? Or in the maids’ room, where no one would ever think to look for me?

My mother’s piano is a Steinway grand. It is black and the maids polish it every day so that you can almost see your reflection in it. My mother is at this piano every day. If I could, I would probably want to burrow into my mother’s lap. But she must be unavailable — hence the piano?

Conundrums: 3rd day of January 2010

NYTBR 24 May 2009: A Not Very Short List, Including a New Book by Barthelme

Let’s just get on with it, dear blog readers, for this list is longer than self anticipated it would be.  Without further ado, books self is interested in reading after perusing the 24 May 2009 issue of The New York Times Book Review :

1.   After reading Jess Row’s review of Anne Michaels’ new novel, The Winter Vault:

2.   After reading Liesl Schillinger’s review of a new book by Amos Oz, Rhyming Life and Death, a novella, and The Amos Oz Reader, selected and edited by Nitza Ben-Dov:

3.   Frederick Barthelme’s new novel Waveland, which self would have read regardless, whether or not she had read the review by Jack Pendarvis (which is very good, by the way)

4.   After reading Maggie Scarf’s review of Wendy Moore’s new book, Wedlock:  The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore

  • Wendy Moore’s Wedlock:  The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore

5.   After reading Boris Fishman’s review of Georgina Harding’s Read the rest of this entry »

Upon Arriving Home From the Symphony

Self and hubby had, as usual, a grand time at Davies.  The featured performer, pianist Yuja Wang, was fetching in a crimson dress.  She had very white arms and very black hair.  Since self could see almost nothing of her face, she seemed (to self’s very blurred vision) like an apparition.  Something like the ghost in the Japanese horror flick, “Dark Water.” She made deep bows to the audience, flinging her long hair forward over her head.  This girl is a year younger than son.  Like Dearest Mum, she is a graduate of Curtis.  Self toyed with the idea that Yuja is what Dearest Mum would have turned out to be, if she had not gotten married and had five children.  She’d be traveling all over the world in crimson gowns, making deep bows to adoring audiences.  Mind-blowing.

The other interesting feature of the evening was the premiere of a new piece by a 31-year-old composer named Mason Bates (what a fab name!) who was raised in Richmond, Virginia but moved to the Bay Area when he was 23.  This piece was fantastic.  It was otherworldly.  A man in a tuxedo wielded a broom to make swishing sounds against a piece of wood which were then amplified, augmented by actual taped conversation from one of NASA’s first space walks.  It put self in mind of — of course — Star Trek!  Interplanetary travel!  Spock!  Interplanetary travel!  Star Trek!  Spock!  Hot Spock!  Hot!

It was an extremely enjoyable piece.

Upon arrival home, self and hubby approached front door with some curiosity.  Would son and Rebecca be home?  Would they have made themselves dinner?  Would they be watching TV?  Would they be in the garden?  Would the dogs have gotten on Rebecca’s nerves?

But when we entered the house, though all the lights were on, and we saw some of son’s clothes draped over a dining room chair, there was no one inside (except for the li’l crits, of course).  Hubby became insistent that self call son to find out where he was.  “If you think I’m going to call son while he is out . . . no way!  Go ahead, you call him if you want to!”  Which did the trick.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Fourth Day After Arriving From Manila

Today, self had interaction with the following Americans:

  • AT & T technician, who looked at the mess of wires that had been draped over the roof of self’s house for the last 16 years and cut, cut, cut, somehow transforming the nest of wires into one thick cable.  Result:  internet access restored, don’t ask self to explain how he did it.
  • Mauricio the housecleaner:  self convinced herself that he broke her iMac, for it refused to start after Mauricio unplugged it (without first turning it off) so that he could plug in the vacuum cleaner.  Self nearly went bananas, Mauricio refused to take her money.  15 minutes after he left, sorrow and woe on his countenance, self managed to coax the computer back to life.
  • Nice man at Redwood City Nursery, who sold self three calla lily bulbs (“These are yellow with beautiful silver stippling on the petals,” he told self.  Sold!)

In addition, self had phone interaction with the following people in Manila:

  • Mildred, Dearest Mum’s other maid, who answered the phone sounding extremely glum.  Self asked her, “Paano ka na?” (Rough translation:  How are you doing?)  Mildred said:  “Mabuti.”  (Rough translation:  “I am well.”  Self knows that the translation is three words, and the Tagalog word is only one.  But you see how absolutely great Tagalog is?  Whole worlds of meaning can be contained in one word!)   Then self made small talk for about five minutes.  But Mildred sounded very un-enthusiastic, so self gave up.
  • The maid of Mrs. M. Bautista:  Self was looking for Dearest Mum so that Dearest Mum could confirm whether B-flat was her favorite piano key.  Self realizes this sounds extremely lame.  But, at 10:10 p.m. this evening, self was suddenly consumed with the burning desire to have the answer to this question.  And Mildred told self that Dearest Mum was not at home, she was visiting a Mrs. Bautista.  So self called there.  And her call caused, apparently, a tremendous commotion, for everyone in the kitchen (Mrs. Bautista must have at least three maids) wanted to know who she was, and why she was calling Mrs. Bautista when it was self’s Mum self needed to talk to, and then, after long explanation (“I am the daughter of N___; I am calling from San Francisco;  I was just there last week; I know Mrs. Bautista; I am an honest person; I will not steal her valuables; I am a legitimate member of the jewelry-owning class”  —  well, OK, perhaps self is guilty of stretching things a bit, especially when so purpose-driven), mayordoma came on the line and gave self yet another number to call, this one belonging to a Mrs. Maramba.  And this person kept telling self:  It-oh-pour, pour-pour-ser-o, payb-o-pour, sex-sex-sex —  !!!  (Wait a minute, self thought:  Why does this woman have sex on the brain?  It took a further five minutes to sort out the numbers, then the woman insisted on giving self two more numbers, and on went the charade, for about 10 more minutes)

Now, having gotten so many numbers written on her pad, self is quite exhausted and decides she really doesn’t need to know right this minute whether B-flat really is Dearest Mum’s favorite piano key.  Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Time to Call Dearest Mum!

It’s been a long, long, looong day. Self’s best student ran out of the classroom in tears this morning. Self assigned her to lead a group, and then self assigned the most obstreperous boy in the class to that group. Self thought that she’d be able to handle it, as she’s an older student, very cool and collected. Alas, no. At the sight of her teary face, self felt terrible. She managed to hold the class together, nevertheless. Toward the end, terrible boy and his henchmate began to refer to the whip used by a character in the novel as a phallic symbol. Which wasn’t in the least shocking to self. She gave the boys such a bland smile that they immediately became sour and bad-tempered. And then the class ended and self’s better students grabbed their books and made off as if there was a skunk smell in the classroom. One quiet boy hung back and gave self a clean copy of his last long paper, which self had given an “A.” She’d asked if she could keep a copy, and he remembered. Self told him, “You’re a very good writer.” This boy is a tennis player, and self wonders if he ever knew that he had a gift, a real aptitude for reading literature. He has never missed a day of class, and even though the hooligans sometimes take over (as self is really not the type to scream or shake her metaphorical whip, ha ha ha), he has never shown the least impatience, always keeping his face fastened on self’s. For two hours! What a gem this boy is!

Now, self is home. And she thinks she is in dire need of some comic relief. In the absence of Dear Hubby, Dearest Mum will have to do. Self has been trying not to call her since the elections, since Dearest Mum has expressed many negative opinions of Obama. But now, self’s self-control crumbles. She dials Dearest Mum’s number.

Dearest Mum is at this moment cooling her heels in Las Vegas. Yes, dear blog readers: last week she was in New York (“I followed your recommendation and saw A Man for all Seasons! Frank Langella was great! I saw it on Halloween! And when I came out of the theatre, on Times Square, everyone was in costume!”), and now she is in Las Vegas. She is staying with a good friend, who self knows as Tita M, and they are playing the piano all day (Tita M is part of Dearest Mum’s piano playing group, who go by the name “The Ivory Mafia.” Yes, indeed-y, dear blog readers, when Dearest Mum gave a concert in Japantown, several years ago, then-Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown declared that day “Ivory Mafia Day.” And Dearest Mum even has a certificate to prove it!). Tomorrow, Tita M is taking Dearest Mum to a Japanese restaurant in Bellagio (If only Tita M knew how much Dearest Mum secretly abhors Japanese food!).

“She also wants to take me to Spamma,” Dearest Mum declares.

“Spama? What’s that?” self says.

“It’s Supammmma,” Dearest Mum says.

“I don’t know Supammma, I’m sorry,” self says.

“It’s a musical,” Dearest Mum declares.

“Showing there. In Las Vegas,” self says, carefully.

“Yes, and it’s called mmum, ammmum, something like that.”

Self has the awful feeling Dearest Mum is refering to “Spamalot.” But she bites her tongue.

“Only, it’s too cold!” Dearest Mum says. “I’d rather stay home the whole day.”

Hmmm . . .

Self winds up by asking whether Tita M is very depressed about the Obama win. Tita M campaigned strenuously for McCain. Dearest Mum wonders why self is so taken with “that man” (O, who else?) Dearest Mum says he can’t be trusted. (“The same way niece G’s BF can’t be trusted?” self wants to pipe up)

Anyhoo, Dearest Mum sends self packing, after such a question. Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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