“The Dreaming Spires”

Self is still on Ch. 7 of Stephen Westaby’s Open Heart. It’s a very gripping chapter. Everything unfolds in Oxford, hence “the dreaming spires” (repeated twice in this chapter, the editor must have really liked the expression).

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  • It was almost 8:00 a.m. The summer sun shone brightly on the dreaming spires. I left Katsumata to close the chest and went to warn the ICU about the impending arrival. Something different. For the next twelve hours, Julie’s critical period, she would have no pulse.

As Westaby explains in the previous paragraph, pulse “was much less important than blood flow . . . it didn’t matter whether the blood had pulse or no pulse in it. Flow was the key.”

Further on Julie’s condition:

  • Her kidneys had quit. She would need dialysis for a few days. And she was a little yellow. The liver was suffering as well. By most criteria, she had been dead. But we hoped she would live now. Good or what?

Self would say Julie just won the Lotto. Because Westaby was paged, and because he was willing to come in despite not being on call.

He goes to the patient’s anxious family and they can read his expression: despite “mask dangling down and blood on my theater shoes, I looked pleased.”

Whew! What an event! Like a real battle, and the outcome: “Julie was still alive.” The doctor’s not sure about brain damage, though.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

“A Good Wife and Mother”: Rosario Ferré

The day of my debut as a writer, I sat at my typewriter for a long time, mulling over these thoughts. Inevitably, writing my first story meant taking my first step toward Heaven or Hell, and that made me vacillate between a state of euphoria and depression. It was as if I were about to be born, peering timidly through the doors of Limbo. If my voice rings false or my will fails me, I said to myself, all my sacrifices will have been in vain. I will foolishly have given up the protection which, despite its disadvantages, at least allowed me to be a good wife and mother, and I will justly have fallen from the frying pan into the fire.

Recommended Reading: Rosario Ferré’s short story, The Youngest Doll, from the collection of the same name

Milkman, p. 39

Three sons are abandoned by their parents. It happens this way:

  • They had written a note, said the neighbours, but had forgotten to leave it; indeed primarily they had forgotten to write it and so had written it then forwarded it back from their undisclosed destination when they reached it, not deliberately undisclosed but because they hadn’t time or memory or understanding to put a sender’s address at the top. According to the postmark it was not just a country over a water, but a country over many, many waters. Also, they forgot their former address, the house they’d lived in for twenty-four years ever since getting married until twenty-four hours earlier when they left.

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Self: Guilt is a country. Sometimes in order to go forward, one must have a memory wipe.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

A Cousin’s Farm, Oliva Dos, near the town of Murcia in the Central Philippines

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Near Murcia, Negros Occidental, the Philippines

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Path cleared for a tractor, Oliva Dos, near Murcia

Self lived the first 20 years of her life without knowing there was another Murcia. In Spain.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

CHARLIE CHAN IS DEAD, Vol. 1

For the workshop this weekend, re-reading some old stories to show different ways of writing memoir. In particular, thinking of a story called Lenox Hill, December 1991, which Jessica Hagedorn included in the anthology Charlie Chan is Dead.

When Jessica contacted self to solicit a piece, self had nothing, nothing, nothing.

Her sister had died just the month before. She did keep a diary, though.

The diary became the story. The first story in what later become a cycle of grief stories: Mayor of the Roses (Miami University Press)

For a while, a course called Ethics in Medicine, taught at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, included the story in their syllabus.

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

EMMA: So Many Characters!

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Vol. I Chapter XI

Introducing Mrs. and Mr. John Knightley

Mrs. John Knightley, Isabella, Emma’s sister:

  • Mrs. John Knightley was a pretty, elegant little woman, of gentle, quiet manners, and a disposition remarkably amiable and affectionate; wrapt up in her family; a devoted wife, a doting mother, and so tenderly attached to her father and sister that, but for these higher ties, a warmer love might have seemed impossible . . . She was not a woman of strong understanding or any quickness . . .

Mr. John Knightley, Emma’s brother-in-law:

  • Mr. John Knightley was a tall, gentleman-like, and very clever man; rising in his profession, domestic, and respectable in his private character; but with reserved manners which prevented his being generally pleasing; and capable of sometimes being out of humour. He was not an ill-tempered man, not so often unreasonably cross as to deserve such a reproach; but his temper was not his great perfection; and, indeed, with such a worshipping wife, it was hardly possible that any natural defects in it should not be increased.

Stayed up until the wee hours, reading. Find Emma to be a hilarious character, or at least the way Jane Austen writes her is hilarious. She is so naive in her goals, and so incorrigibly snobbish.

Stay tuned.

Still On P. 27 of THE DOOR

  • All the time, my stepfather was shaking and swearing, because call-up letters were flying around like birds.

This evening self suddenly thinks about her World War II novel (244 pages) and realizes it has no heart. The only thing it describes is how an 18-year-old is sent into the mountains with the enkargado.

When Bacolod was occupied, self’s Dear Departed Dad was 12. The Japanese High Command chose the biggest house in Bacolod to commandeer. Which at the time was Dear Departed Dad’s family’s house.

It had a winding staircase made of imported Carrara marble! With a working Otis elevator! Of course the occupiers must have marveled about how that house had come to be, in such a small island in the center of the Philippines.

Must have been pretty tense, right? When self knew her grandfather, he was an old man in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down. He was always that way, always a sublime paralytic in her memory. It wasn’t until six years ago that self learned that her grandfather suffered the stroke during the Occupation.

There’s a war story self’s Dear Departed Dad told her about how, one day, everyone in Bacolod was made to line up around the Plaza. There was a prisoner seated in the middle of the Plaza and he was beaten pretty badly. The guards wanted him to point out his accomplices. Right when two of my father’s uncles passed in front of the prisoner, his guards gave him a particularly vicious beating. And his arm came up and he pointed, without thought. And he was pointing at one of my father’s uncles. Who was immediately taken away and never seen again.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: WOOD

Another Cee Neuner Fun Foto Challenge! For the next few weeks, Cee asks us to take inspiration from a photograph. Here is the photograph for Week 3.

Self got to spend time in the City yesterday. She was with her niece Angela, who introduced self to the wonder of Tea Bear Café, whose walls were either real or synthetic wood. And self has no idea what the dice were meant to represent:

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Saturday, 28 July 2018: Tea Bear Café, San Francisco Chinatown

And there’s an adorable picture of the bear in Tea Bear!

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The Bear Has Its Close-up

And here’s the view just outside the café: Washington Park, where a Chinese dance performance was happening.

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Washington Square, Chinatown, San Francisco

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Third Character in THE SUMMER BOOK

The third character on the island, who mostly doesn’t make an appearance, not for many pages, is the little girl’s father. He represents a powerful mystery. Why doesn’t he accompany the little girl on her island explorations? Where is his wife?

This mysterious man gradually assumes shape and definition, first from the mention of his worn bathrobe. His relatives try to throw it away but it comes floating back to the island, smelling strongly of seaweed, and then he wears it everyday the rest of that summer.

There’s another section, when he leaves the island to get supplies, and there’s a storm. He is delayed, and the grandmother has to talk the little girl into believing that he’s in no danger, while her eyes constantly scan the horizon. The moment the grandmother catches sight of a rim of white surf on the horizon (which is the father in his boat, powering through the storm, and drenched through), there is such a powerful relief in the grandmother, and in self.

It was blowing hard, and the sun was setting. She was far-sighted and saw the boat half an hour before it reached the island — a moustache of white foam that would appear at irregular intervals and sometimes vanish entirely.

A few sections later, a mysterious boat pulls up and beaches on the island. The father “puts on his pants” and runs to the shore to greet the visitors. He never comes back that night. The girl hears music coming from the boat and wants to go check it out, but her grandmother says they have to wait for the father to come and get them. They wait and wait, but of course he never does come, and the little girl is furious.

Who is this man? This mysterious figure who is always stuck in the house (unless he is putting on his pants to run towards visiting boats) and does not roam the island as his daughter and mother do?

p. 134:

The guest room was cool and quiet, and Papa sat working at his desk on the other side of the wall.

“I like it when he’s working,” Sophia said. “I always know he’s there.”

Self is enjoying this book so much; she regrets that she’s gotten close to the end.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

THE SUMMER BOOK, p. 95

This book just keeps getting better and better. Self loves it.

p. 94: “Sophia’s father had a special bathrobe that he loved.”

Some of the relatives, arriving to give “the island a good cleaning,” decide that the bathrobe has outlived its usefulness and carry it down to the water to float away.

The robe, however, returns, borne by the waves and smelling of seaweed.

p. 95: “Papa wore virtually nothing else that whole summer. Then there was the spring when they discovered a family of mice had been living in the robe.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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