Never Known Such Kindness

Today, self was late meeting a friend for lunch. So even though she knew which train she needed to take, and her Metro Card was newly topped up, she ended up hailing a cab.

The thing about cabs here in New York City is, the cabbies are willing to talk. The one whose cab she hailed today discussed possible routes with her. You see, this is the thing about New York City. Everyone communicates. It’s the only way.

She managed to persuade the cabbie to try her way. He was cool about it.

On the way back, she did take the subway. And lo and behold, a man offered her his seat. A man on the No. 1 train actually got up and offered her his seat. The car was crowded. Normally, self would have been more than happy to accept the man’s offer. But she was getting off at the very next stop. Still, she thanked the man and smiled.

Such small kindnesses mean the world to her these days.

It is so hard, sometimes, to understand the world. But kindness is a language of its own.

Stay tuned.


Directions for the Journey to the Meaning of Reality

While self was wandering around Florence, early this month, she stumbled into the Palazzo Vecchio. Milling about in the lobby were participants in a conference to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani. It was the first she’d ever heard of this man who, one of the conference staff told self, was a much admired teacher and writer.

Self walked away with a brochure of his writings, and wasted no time opening the brochure. She was very struck by this statement:


Then, she read a discourse on the meaning of the word “Thing”:

I would be amazed by the stupefying repercussion of a presence which is expressed in current language by the word “thing.” Things! “Thing,” which is a concrete and, if you please, banal presence which I do not myself make, which I find. A presence which imposes itself upon me. At this moment, if I am attentive, that is, if I am mature, then I cannot deny that the greatest and most profound evidence is that I do not make myself, I am not making myself. I do not give myself being, or the reality which I am. I am “given.” This is the moment of maturity when I discover myself to be dependent on something else.

Self has a story in the New Orleans Review called — THING.

The consonance of her Thing with Monsignor Giussani’s discourse on the word Thing is super-mindblowing! It’s as if self’s frail tendrils of story, and this always-churning imagination of hers, has transported her across the ocean to Italy, simply so that she can receive a brochure at the Palazzo Vecchio where a teacher and philosopher tries to explain the meaning of Thing. Of Thing-ness.

Self’s story is about humanoids in the post-apocalyptic Earth. Where no one looks human anymore. Hence the use of the generic to describe that which-is-neither-here-nor-there. That which is thing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



Fan Fiction for MIDDLEMARCH?

This evening, self began looking up fan fiction for George Eliot’s classic novel, the one she’s currently reading: Middlemarch.

She found not a single one.

But, in the course of her research, she found several highly literary books that have fan fiction. Here are a few (all titles beginning with the letter “M” because she doesn’t have time to search the whole alphabet for fan fiction stories!)

  • Lev Grossman’s Magicians
  • E. M. Forster’s Maurice
  • Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Kafka’s Metamorphosis
  • Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex
  • Moby Dick
  • Jody Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper

Fascinating, simply fascinating.

Stay tuned.

Late Last Night: A Disturbance

It’s late, self hears screaming from next door.

Hyper-sensitized, self is.

The doors here are metal. Must be for a reason.

Finally, a man exits the room next door, laughing.

“I hate you!” the woman screams. Her scream tails off, followed by the man’s loud laughter. “You love me!” he shouts back.

“I hate you!” the woman shouts.

“No! You love me!”

And it goes back and forth like that, neither the man nor the woman giving an inch. And self, who is always on the verge of calling the cops, is just so fascinated by this interaction that she can’t move.

The man has the last word. The elevator comes and he shouts: “I’ll see you in a few days!”

The woman makes no response.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Victory: WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge

From Krista on The Daily Post:

  • . . . I got the chance to test myself, and this time, I won.
  • In your photo this week, focus on the win, the victory — that moment of glory and pride you’ll remember forever.

Wow, what a grrrreat theme!

Looking back on 2015, here are three pictures that represent self’s small victories:

Self was in Florence! As 2015 began, she could never have imagined she’d end the year going there. And having tremendous fun. And loving the city. Here’s a picture of her, on the last night of her trip:

You did it, self! You did it! You accepted your niece's invitation, decided you did have the energy for just one more trip, and ended up falling in love with the city and its people!

You did it, self! You did it! You accepted your niece’s invitation, decided you did have the energy for just one more trip, and ended up falling in love with the city and its people!

Self never imagined, either, that she’d be back in Venice. But here she and her niece were, getting off at the train station in Ferrovia, and waiting for a vaporetto to take them to San Marco Square:

Ferrovia, Venice: All trains to Venice stop here. The last time self was in Venice was spring 2013, with Margarita Donnelly, her friend and mentor at Calyx Press. Margarita passed away December 2014.

Ferrovia, Venice: All trains to Venice stop here. The last time self was in Venice was spring 2013, with Margarita Donnelly, her friend and mentor at Calyx Press. Margarita passed away December 2014.

The one day she and her niece spent in Venice (Only two hours by fast train from Florence), the sun was shining, and San Marco Square was thronged with people. What grace! What a blessing! To be there again, and happy!

San Marco Square, Venice, Saturday Afternoon, November 2015

San Marco Square, Venice, Saturday Afternoon, November 2015

Of course she has to go back. Of course she will go back. She didn’t love Venice when she left in 2013. Or maybe she loved it but she didn’t know it yet.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self Is Learning New Things Every Day! Today, at the Palazzo Vecchio

Self has seen a lot of museums in just three short days in Florence.

This morning, she found her way to the Palazzo Vecchio. Well, it’s not as if she had any actual destination in mind this morning. She simply pointed her steps toward the Dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore and, armed with her Firenze Card (Irene’s idea, of course. Thank God for Irene!), she stopped at:

  • the Cathedral of San Lorenzo (the oldest church in Florence, consecrated by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, in 393)
  • the Palazzo Vecchio

She paid 5 euros for an audio tour at the Palazzo, and boy, was it ever worth it.

Before entering the Museum proper, she wandered around in the lobby, noticed posters for a conference celebrating the 10th anniversary of the death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani and, out of sheer nosiness, asked a woman wearing a name tag who Monsignor Giussani was. The woman told self that the Monsignor was a highly respected teacher and member of the Church, whose writings were very influential.

She also gave self a brochure about the man.

Self began to read the brochure, and she found the man’s teachings exceedingly interesting. Here’s an excerpt from a section called LIVE REALITY INTENSELY.

“There is an experience, hidden yet implied, of that arcane, mysterious presence to be found within the opening of the eye, within the attraction reawakened by things, within the beauty of things, within an amazement, full of gratitude, comfort, and hope — how can this complex, yet simple, this enormously rich experience of the human heart — which is the heart of the human person — how can it become vivid? How can it become powerful?”

Self loves that he used the word “vivid” to describe the intense experience of reality.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Treat 2: Florence!

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme is TREAT:

  • Maybe you’re a savory food lover, or you’ve gone on a beautiful vacation to treat yourself. Perhaps some quiet time alone with a beloved novel is your greatest treasure.

As luck would have it, self is traveling again. And self does love traveling. It is one of her greatest passions.

This time, she is traveling with her niece Irene, who’s from Glendale, California. It was Irene who proposed the trip, something of a first for self!

Today was our first full day in Florence. We walked all over the city. Irene has tons of energy! We also picked up a Firenze Card which, according to Irene, gains us entry into 62 museums.

But, honestly, who wants to go to 62 museums???

This is the first time self has ever done anything like this, though, so what the hey! She is being very “Zen” about everything.

Found a tiny restaurant overlooking the Arno River and tried some Florentine beer: very mellow!

Found a tiny restaurant overlooking the Arno River and tried some Florentine beer: very mellow!

It was a gorgeous, sunny day. Warm, almost like spring!

Overlooking the Arno River. There were lots of boaters out today!

Overlooking the Arno River. There were lots of boaters out today!

We stumbled on this piazza lined with statues, just off the Uffizi Gallery:

We stumbled upon this square by accident, and -- Whoa! Irene met a cute carabinieri!

We stumbled upon this square almost by accident, while heading for the Arno River. And — Whoa! Irene met a handsome carabinieri!

Someone had told Irene that November in Florence wouldn’t be as crowded as it gets in other months. But it was still crowded.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Most Embarrassing Day of Self’s Life

Self was in Shannon Airport, Galway. She heard the PA system come on, and someone say xxxxxx please come to the security counter.

If she’d had her wits about her, she’d have known that the name coming over the PA system was her fan fiction pen name. And there’s no way in heck that there can be two people with that same name anywhere in the universe.

But self is so stupid. At that moment, she just thought, “Huh! Guess I’m not as unique as I thought I was!” And continued reading People Magazine.

Until it came time to board the plane, and self thought, Might as well take out the laptop before I have to stow my carry-on in the overhead bin.

She reached down, to the place where she always keeps her laptop securely tucked away, and gasped.

The space was . . . space.

Self couldn’t believe it. She must have stared at her carry-on for a full minute. Then, it suddenly dawned on her: the name over the PA system! That was HER the security people were calling!

She barreled down the airport corridors, going first the wrong way, doubling back, and when she finally reached the security checkpoint, there was a group of men there, looking at self with a very odd expression on their faces. It’s as if the men were thinking: So is that — ? It can’t be!

Then, self put two and two together and realized: she’d been working on the latest chapter of her fan fiction. It was on the screen. That’s why the security people knew her fan fiction alias. And they must have read some of the story, too. And self just wanted to die. Die! Die!

With as much dignity as she could muster, self identified herself, retrieved her laptop, and returned just in time to board her plane, sweat streaming from every pore.  Too bad for her seatmates, two young guys who looked thoroughly disgusted at self’s ripe smell as she plopped down into her seat, red-faced and absolutely shattered by her near-death experience. These young men were so cute, so adorable, so attractive and sweet-smelling, that self wanted to curl up into a ball and apologize for her dishevelment, for her bad smell, for everything, for being picked to sit beside them, for ruining the start of their trip, for her very existence.

When we arrived at the first stopover, which was Heathrow, both young men jumped from their seats so fast, self didn’t even have time to ask Please kind sirs could you retrieve self’s carry-on bag from the overhead bin seeing as you’re almost twice self’s height and your biceps are extremely toned ?

She was still so discombobulated by the fact that five security men in Shannon Airport in Galway knew her fan fiction pen name. How could she be so stupid? That is the last time, the very last time, she writes fan fiction in an airport.

For the record, this is what self looks like, for REALS. Now you know why the security people at Shannon Airport in Galway could not reconcile her actual self with the fan fiction writer whose chapter they (had probably) just finished reading.

Photo on 8-21-15 at 1.13 PM

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Summer People” : Story # 1 of Kelly Link’s GET IN TROUBLE: STORIES

Daddy in story wakes up his daughter (Sick in bed with the flu, she has self-medicated by taking four NyQuil the night before) by spraying her in the face with a plant mister. The girl notices her father’s packed a suitcase. By way of explanation, he says:

“I’ll be gone some time. A week or three.”

“Where you off to?” the daughter asks.

“Prayer meeting in Miami. Found it on the Internet.”

The daughter tells her Daddy, “I know you need to stay here and look after me. You’re my Daddy.”


The Daddy leaves, the daughter gets herself breakfast (“a spoon of peanut butter and dry cereal”), goes to school, where she dozes “through three classes, including calculus” and experiences a moment of high anxiety when a teacher sends her to the infirmary. Luckily, she is saved by running into an acquaintance named Ophelia Merck, who drives a Lexus.

Ophelia is “pretty, shy, spoiled, and easy to boss around.”

Naturally, painful hilarity ensues.

Dear blog readers, can you believe self heard Kelly Link read this story in a former church? Just last week in Cork, Ireland?

And when self went up to get Ms. Link’s autograph, the ensuing conversation included what it’s like to eat kosher?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Cork International Short Story Festival, September 2015

Self is presently in the beautiful city of Cork.

The Cork International Short Story Festival began yesterday. She was pretty inert yesterday when she arrived in Cork and holed up in her room, eating. Alas, she missed some great readings (And put on at least five pounds. After that dinner last night! The people sitting next to self couldn’t resist remarking that self had ordered A LOT OF FOOD)

Today, self made it to the launch of the Banshee Literary Journal and got to meet one of the editors, Claire Hennessy:

Claire Hennessy, Editor, with the Inaugural Issue of Literary Journal BANSHEE, today at the Cork City Library

Claire Hennessy, Editor, with the Inaugural Issue of Literary Journal BANSHEE, today at the Cork City Library

Self was soooo relaxed. In spite of not knowing anybody, she chatted with a young woman who kept self company while she drank (free) wine.

Wine is so wonderful. Why don’t they serve wine at library readings in America?

Also, self has never been to an afternoon reading in an American library where there is wine. It just has never been done. At least, not to self’s provincial American knowledge.

Then she chatted up two of the three authors who read. One of the readers, Eleanor Hooker, told self that she pilots a lifeboat in her “real life.” How cool is that? Self has never, ever met an American author who can pilot a lifeboat. And write sentences like this:

She lived with us for three days after she drowned.

That is a swoon-worthy sentence if self ever heard one.

Tonight, an American author, Kelly Link, is reading at 9:15. Self is torn. It is pretty cold at night, and there’s a strong wind. The River Lee surrounds Cork on two sides. You can never escape the river wind. And she just wants to be cozy.

But then, she pinched herself. NO! SELF, you did not travel all this way to Cork to nest in your room GETTING FAT! And INERT!

So she told Ger (Chef and all-around Factotum of B & B that self refuses to name because they have very little room and she doesn’t want to have to fight for a reservation next year. Or the year after next) to book her a taxi and Ger said, That is a 10-minute walk from here you will not need a taxi.

But self said Oh indeed I will need a taxi because the wind! And I have a very low tolerance for cold! I was born in the Philippines and lived most of my life in California!

(Self did not actually say all that, but she did impress on Ger that she was serious about the taxi.)

Here’s another picture from the Banshee Literary Journal launch:

Issue # 1, Banshee Literary Journal, Autumn 2015

Issue # 1, Banshee Literary Journal, Autumn 2015

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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