Doppelganger

A few years ago, self received a puzzling phone call from United.

“Ma’am,” the caller said when self answered the phone. “Are you xxxxxxx?”

“Yes,” self said.

“We have your Bible. It got wedged into a crevice at the baggage carousel. Can we have your address so we can mail it to you?”

Self said, “I don’t own a Bible.”

The United guy said, “But it has your name on it.”

Self was having a moment.

“But that can’t be mine.”

Even if self owned a Bible (She does recall having one), she wouldn’t bring it with her on a trip.

But the guy kept insisting it was self’s, because it had her name on it. She actually came very close to believing that she did own a Bible, that she wrote her name on the front of it, that she lost it at SFO because it got wedged in a baggage carousel . . . was she losing her mind?

She doesn’t recall receiving any sort of Bible via snail mail. If it arrived, then where is it? Because after a conversation like that, you can bet she was looking out for it.

Just a few minutes ago, she remembered this call. And an explanation finally finally occurs to her: There must have been another woman with her exact same name on a United flight that day.

Yes, that’s it. That’s the most likely explanation. The Doppelganger explanation.

Dear blog readers: What. Are. The. Odds???

So now she can say she had her very own Haruki Murakami/magical realism moment.

The other she (the doppelganger) carried the Bible around with her. Got off at SFO several years ago. Lost this Bible at the baggage carousel. So it had to have been out of her bag.

Can you imagine someone holding a Bible in her hand at a baggage carousel? First of all, don’t you need two hands to pull off your suitcase? But maybe this woman was traveling with others, so she didn’t have to worry? If that were the case, and she didn’t have to pull her luggage off the carousel, why was she just standing around with the — (Self, can you quit with the de-construction? Because this post is getting very loooong!)

It’s crisis time for the Democrats, Hillary was just diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia, which is actually much more serious than viral pneumonia, and here you are worrying about strangers losing their Bibles?

And isn’t Trump such a lucky son-of-a-gun? His whole election campaign was a high-stakes gamble. He just went for it. And now the only thing standing between him and the presidency is Hillary. And this is such a crazy scenario that self can’t even.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Steve Jobs Photograph

The greatest photographs of Steve Jobs self has ever seen are here, at the Douglas Menuez Photography Archive in Stanford.

When she visited Bletchley Park in June, the tour guide said the first computer was invented at Bletchley Park, by Alan Turing. She saw this thingamajig (really, there is no other word to describe what she saw. Unless it’s the word contraption) that looked like the inside of someone’s cabinet, only with — gear wheels? And wires? It was a codebreaking machine.

That’s funny, self thought. All along, she thought the computer was invented in Silicon Valley. By IBM.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

As You Were

Classes were not cancelled. Self had to teach in the city; traffic was the usual.

Son went to school. He asked for a bathroom pass. He walked down a long, eerily silent corridor of classrooms. Through the open doors, he could hear the drifting sounds of CNN from the classroom TVs.

Her brother-in-law walked from his office in Wall Street, along with thousands. Somewhere midtown, he miraculously caught a cab which took him the rest of the way home.

There’s an article in The Conversation about a doctor attending a medical research meeting in the Brooklyn Marriott that morning. While people streamed out of Manhattan, he and a colleague walked towards Lower Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge; most of the people were heading the other way.

Last year, self was in New York City on 9/11. It was a very anti-climactic experience. Life went on as usual. Crowds drifted on and off the subways. The Grand Central food court was bustling with people. Not one of the crowds milling about mentioned 9/11.

That night, she took a train to Connecticut. It was late; the cars were full of young people. Laughing, talking. Nothing was different from the day before. Nothing marked the day as “different.” There were the usual intoxicated youths, no more, no less. There were no visible signs of increased security, not even in Grand Central.

Self would like the world to know: this nonchalance, it’s so “New York.” And maybe that was the point. We don’t let it change our daily lives, we don’t stop taking planes or trains. We don’t stop trusting people. We don’t stop trusting in the kindness of strangers. We just go on as usual.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Quote of the Day: BRAZILLIONAIRES

Anyone with a little bit of money can buy a Louis Vuitton handbag, of which thousands are manufactured each year. Very few people can buy the new Jeff Koons, even if they do have the tens of millions of dollars required.

Brazillionaires, p. 29

Self’s question is: Why would anyone want to buy a Jeff Koons? A Koons was in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence when self was there with her niece, Irene, last November. It was placed right next to a Michelangelo and it was ugly. Hope it was only a temporary installation.

(Side note: In Florence, on the road to the Santa Maria del Fiori, you will pass a McDonald’s. Which was always packed. Self just could not understand it. When all around were great, really great local restaurants. It must be the convenience.)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

BRAZILLIONAIRES, Further Thoughts

Reading about Brazil is a lot like reading about the Philippines. A lot.

It’s not just the income disparity (Can you believe the Philippine president called POTUS a name — a pretty potent term that you only reserve for your worst enemy! Blush blush!), it’s the chaos.

Yesterday, there was a message from Dearest Mum on self’s cell phone.

She didn’t think anything of it but today she returned Dearest Mum’s call and how self knows that this is real: the maid, someone self has never met, asked who was calling, and when self said BATCHOY (Childhood nickname. Means FATSO. Even her college professors at the Ateneo called her this. Funny, when it’s self’s birthday on Facebook, her Filipino friends greet her saying BATCHOY and then her American friends scratch their heads and say, Mind explaining who BATCHOY is? LOL), the maid said, Oh, yes! Your mother has been waiting for your call! 

Which made self all kinds of guilty.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

BRAZILLIONAIRES: Rich People

Last year, in New York, self made it a point to visit Carnegie Hall, where Dearest Mum gave a piano concert when she was only 14. She had won a New York Times piano competition.

Because self wanted to be as close to Carnegie Hall as possible, she stayed in a hotel only a block away. She arrived with two suitcases filled with books and kept apologizing to the bell hop. She vividly remembers how, when she was in London, a bus driver who was attempting to help her with her bags said, after hefting one:  “I tell ya, it must be nice leaving home knowing you’ve brought all your books with you!”

The New York bellhop said: “Madame, this is nothing. A few days ago, I helped a Brazilian couple, and they had 17 suitcases.”

17 suitcases! Unbelievable!

But now that self is reading Brazillionaires, she believes it.

Because Brazillionaires is all about how Brazil’s richest people (what we in America might refer to as “the 1%) live.

And self now belatedly recalls that one time, when she was visiting a class in Skyline College, she just blurted out, completely unprompted: “I hate rich people.”

And unfortunately, she’ll be reading this book all week.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Rumble Over “Passengers” (Due Out Christmas)

“They photo-shopped her eyes,” someone wailed on tumblr, and showed the un-photoshopped and photoshopped versions of J-Law for the new movie, Passengers (in which her name not only appears over Chris Pratt’s, but BIGGER. Oh no oh no oh no what are they doing to the girl, she doesn’t seem like the type to go for that kind of star treatment).

Years ago, self was reading a review in The New Yorker about a J-Law movie, it might have been one of the X-Men movies, or maybe something even earlier, but in a passing comment the reviewer gave a nod to “Jennifer Lawrence and her formidable powers of concentration . . . ” And she wasn’t even famous then.

It’s her eyes.

And this is what Hollywood does to her: photoshop her until she’s no longer recognizable as herself but looks like some blonde Barbie doll.

No. Hollywood: stop attempting to glamorize this girl. It doesn’t — won’t — work. What are they so afraid of, anyway?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Gil Sorrentino/ Stanford Creative Writing

Dear blog readers, creative writing workshop made self very tense because she honestly had never met any American writers until she got into the Creative Writing Program, and they intimidated the heck out of her. One of her (male) classmates got up and danced on the table before the start of the workshop. Self can only say: she had never seen anything like it and was so amazed. Because if any of her college classmates in Manila had done that, they would have been arrested. Banned from campus. Reprimanded. But here, she got to enjoy the man’s dancing. LOL

In addition, her classmates wrote about things like going hunting. Or going on road trips. She made herself read Jack Kerouac just so she could understand Americans better. The other writers came from different states: Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana. Self was from the Philippines, and she for the life of her could not even open her mouth. Once there was sharp disagreement about one of her stories and self couldn’t even get up the gumption to explain what she was trying to do. Much to her everlasting shame, a fellow writer had to stick up for her and defend her, and then was so overwhelmed by the task that she left the workshop and had to hide in the Women’s Room for a while. And self followed her there but had nothing to say. Self was such a blithering idiot. This woman was kind enough to pick up the cudgels for her and all she could do afterwards was stare helplessly at her? She absolutely had no courage.

Seriously, every time she opened her mouth, she ended up putting her foot in it.

Gil Sorrentino was one of three professors who took turns leading workshop. He was this amazing, experimental writer and before self met him, she didn’t even know what “experimental fiction” was. His most famous book was Mulligan Stew. He led workshop on the day self’s story, Ginseng, was up.

Told from a “we” point of view, and self was so nervous.

After all the discussion, Gil looked at her and said, “What the narrator doesn’t understand is, after everything is said and done, the man still has his pride.”

Self realized that Gil had more sympathy for the old man than for the detached and critical narrator.

She didn’t realize it at the time, but the fact that Gil felt he had to defend the old man was an amazing thing.

Ginseng is narrated by a man whose father is gradually sinking into dementia. The narrator keeps describing all his symptoms while getting more and more amazed: why does the old man insist on putting on a Panama hat before he takes a walk?  Why does he carry around that fancy walking stick? The narrator felt only exasperation.

Self always imagined the narrator as a man because to write about an old person from a woman’s point of view and to be that detached was something self felt she couldn’t pull off.

The story begins:

  • My father is 83. Once he was very handsome, but now he has plump hips and breasts, with dark, pointed nipples on top of two triangles of brown, leathery skin. It is impossible for me to think of him as still a man in the usual sense, in the sense he has wanted me to think of him for so many years.

At VCCA, a long time ago, one of the other writers found this story, she doesn’t know how. He found a copy of the journal that had published it on one of the shelves of the VCCA library and showed it to her. AMAZING!

By now, self has read many, many American writers. She loves Jim Harrison. Part of the reason might be that she loves Yellow Dog and another reason may be that Harrison writes novellas. His stories are set in Michigan’s UP and they are so specific to that place but also so universal. She never got into Kerouac. She adored Cynthia Ozick and Grace Paley.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Forthright Heroine

Self has been musing about literary heroines.

It is a good thing she got a comment from one of her blog readers last week. Made her think more deeply about Northanger Abbey. Made her give it a chance.

She is so glad she did. Thank you, amoralegria.

Self is very bemused by Austen’s heroine, Catherine Morland, all of 17, who prior to spending the season in Bath has lived a very placid country life, where she has received little to no male attention. She is so very forthright in her liking for Mr. Tilney. She feels no shame or embarrassment in putting questions regarding him to Mr. Tilney’s sister. And when another man comes calling, she says at once, “I can’t go out with you; I am hoping to go for a walk with Miss Tilney and her brother.”

BWAH HA HA HA!

She looks for Mr. Tilney in vain, everywhere. Finally, she spots him at the theatre, and spends the length of two entire acts staring at him. In the way we all tend to know when someone stares at us for any length of time, he eventually returns her gaze.

Being a polite fellow, he walks over to her box to greet her. Catherine is thrilled! Absolutely thrilled! (So are readers!) Catherine tells Mr. Tilney how sorry she was not to have gone for a walk with him and his sister yesterday. She was with Mr. Thorpe but she would much have preferred to be with Mr. Tilney. She even tells Mr. Tilney: “I would have jumped out and run after you.”

HAR HAR HAR!

Mr. Tilney, who had walked into the box with a rather distant air, melts at her words, for as Austen writes:

IS THERE A HENRY IN THE WORLD WHO COULD BE INSENSITIVE TO SUCH A DECLARATION?

Dear Jane, self thinks you are absolutely right!

Catherine (who has apparently no filters, reminds self of J-Law) goes on to add: “I am sure by your look, when you came into the box, you were very angry.”

Mr. Tilney: “I angry! I could have no right.”

Catherine: “Well, nobody would have thought you had no right who saw your face.”

Mr. Tilney’s response is to ask “her to make room for him, and . . . he remained with them for some time.”

That’s right, dear blog readers. Mr. Tilney spends the rest of the evening with Catherine Morland. Disarmed by her candor. And that proves that he is a very, very intelligent man.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

It Begins

In the movie self just saw, Ben-Hur actually says “Wow.”

It’s a tad too long, but the final chariot race was thrilling. She saw it in 3D, which wouldn’t ever be her first choice, because 3D usually makes her dizzy, but she was short on time and had to grab the first screening that came up.

And she did not get dizzy! In fact, she forgot she was watching 3D about 10 minutes after the screen went black and this message appeared:

PUT ON YOUR 3D GLASSES NOW.

Today self, having forced herself to re-read the first 30 pages of Northanger Abbey, is finally beginning to see the point.

She must have been so tired earlier, when she first began reading. That’s the only explanation she can come up with for the words dancing like spots before her eyes.

Now, self has arrived at a part where Catherine is sure of her attraction to Mr. Tilney, and is still very equable to her best friend’s brother, John Thorpe. He’s such a natterer. But Catherine is much too nice to drive him away. Besides, she’s too humble and self-effacing to think that she has an actual suitor.

As self realized after reading Middlemarch last year, if a young woman is moral enough and innocent enough, her rich inner life can well prove to be her undoing: She can convince herself of the rightness of self-sacrifice like nobody’s business.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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