My Love to Paris

CNN Breaking News: People are mourning “the loss of a good part of Notre Dame Cathedral.”

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Luke Perry: Laid-Back American Hotness

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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.

Wavering (a 9/11 Story About Surviving and Feeling Lost)

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Image from BBC ONE : EARTH

The nights seemed to go on forever. The swell of my stomach seemed to grow larger beneath my hot fingers. I thought of our baby’s eyes, open in the dark. I dreamt of pyramids, desert storms, bridges over raging torrents, stars dropping into firmaments, the earth tilting, the baby elephant separated from the herd and wandering alone in a trackless desert.

You used to pride yourself on your constancy.

I lay next to you, listening to the hum of crickets and the sighing of the wind weaving through the walnut tree. Just before dawn, when the night became enormous and silent, I would fall into an exhausted sleep.

You, alerted by the stillness, would stir and mumble, What, what, what.

Nothing, I’d say. I’d wait until your breath slowed once again.

Six months and 9 days ago, I heard the roar of sirens. The day had hardly begun. We’d heard sirens before: the city was just across the sound, the twin buildings edging that narrow tongue of water. The sirens’ wail always seemed more acute as summer wore on. I would imagine hydrants spraying water into the blistering heat, pavements curling and buckling, scarcely able to bear the weight of millions of feet.

I thought: this is how it will always be. 4 a.m., your breath in my ear.

After that day I seemed capable of going without sleep, weeks at a time. The sky was murky; with each breath I inhaled dust from the towers. Her dust, I thought. In me. Her dust.

Papers still occasionally made it across the sound. A page from a desk calendar, once. “Mailed to Ron,” one said, dated August 16, 2011.

The sheets smelled dank. Heat seemed to cement our skin to bed. The garden smells were rank. My belly hurt, but just on one side. Child that was growing there, head curled under an arm. Child with eyes wide open in the dark, wondering what world is this?

I tried to push my thoughts one way. You know you don’t want it, you said one night, tears in your voice. This kind of world, you know you don’t want it.

I thought of the strawberries in the garden, the beagle’s toenails scrabbling against the hardwood floor, your skin.

You were the only one who was late to work that day. Ed, Simon, Niles, Will, David, Harriet, Holly, Sam, Steve, Lexy—even the young receptionist who two days before had announced she was pregnant with her first child—all were at their desks at 9 a.m. sharp.

She must have taken extra time with her make-up, because you had the reservation at the hotel for afterwards. You were always late. How many times did she look impatiently at her watch?

We’d had another argument. You grabbed your briefcase and almost ran to the car. I saved your life. Me and my big mouth. Me and my quarrelsome ways. You can’t bear to admit it, but it is so.

I knew when your thoughts started changing, I knew exactly when. July you became something dark and deep. My suspicions grew, fed by the silence of the hot nights.

In the train, on the way to work, you stayed angry with me. You thought: Why this? Why now? You checked messages on your phone. There were two from me, five from her. Where are you, she typed.

She was already at her desk. Afterwards, I could imagine your anguish, standing at the foot of Tower One. You imagined her, up there. Perhaps she looked down at you, like Rapunzel. Oh if only she could lower her hair! The sky that moments before had been cirrus blue was suddenly clouded, and each breath was like a stab.

You tell yourself she would never have jumped. But she took Steve’s hand and together they flew out the window. Steve was the Deputy Head of Investment Banking. He would have comforted her. He would have told her, You can do it. He must have been the one who took her hand.

You found out over six months later. There was only a shred of one of her fingers. A fireman had picked it up. After a year, there was something else. A ring. Plain gold. Of course, they gave it to Michael.

Did Michael know? I keep asking myself. Did he know?

Then, not even 10 years later, that fireman who rescued you, who gave you closure, was dead, too. Lung cancer. So many rescuers developed that, after.

Who knew wavering would be such a virtue?

You never forgave.

There are times you still say, “I want to die.”

There are those who say you will come back to me. There are those who tell me I must stay strong.

Ten years later, who would have thought? Together, we share bitterness.

————————————————————————————————————–

A Week in the Life

Watched the RBG movie.

Only a week later, RBG would make the news again for a dissenting opinion: She and Sotomayor were the two dissenting votes when the Supreme Court of the United States voted that the baker in Colorado could refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Afterwards, people asked:

Why couldn’t they have gotten someone else to order the cake? The baker would never have known . . .

lol

Self would like to point out that on the basis of the cakes in the bakery (from TV clips), that baker is not particularly good at cake design. So, not much of a loss there (at least, not in her humble opinion). Self wants to offer to pay for a REALLY REALLY fabulous cake and send it to the couple. Even though, of course, the occasion now belongs to a distant past.

Then Kate Spade died.

Then she watched the testimony of the former President of Michigan State to a committee, and heard that Dr. Larry Nasser “volunteered” his services, therefore he never presented a medical bill, therefore there was no accountability either for what he was doing to the female athletes he examined.

One commenter on The Daily Beast pointed out that Dr. Nasser was doing pelvic examinations for ankle injuries. Self thinks that one of the reasons he operated so freely for so long was that Michigan State didn’t want it revealed he was providing all his services for free. And mebbe something about that struck them as mildly un-ethical? The tragedy was that Michigan State was so easily manipulated, when all they had to do was find a competent doctor who was not providing free services. Were they experiencing a budget crisis or what, for 20 years? Definitely the Michigan State president and the US Olympic Committee are culpable. For not just failing to provide oversight, but also for being so stunningly cheap that they thought of Dr. Nasser as a real find! (Well, he was a real find all right: a stalker in sheep’s clothing)

Then she watched Rose McGowan on Dr. Oz.

Then there was an election.

In San Francisco, the mayoral race was (and remains) tight: between a woman and a gay man.

Judge Persky was recalled, with votes in favor at 60%.

The day of the election, self was on the Stanford campus, attending a Feminist, Sexuality & Gender Studies event at Stanford. She learned a lot. Especially from that young woman who did a study of the number of abortion clinics in Texas, and showed that year by year the numbers declined, so rapidly that from a high of almost 300 in 2013, there are only a few abortion clinics operating today in Texas.

The night of the elections, self was so elated over the Persky recall that she stayed up all night, following tweets. In fact, it feels like she hasn’t slept since Tuesday.

Then she had to look up the term “carceral feminism.”

Then she read on Twitter that the recall will have a negative effect on “black and brown people.” (Count self in on one of those categories. Self is definitely not white) So nice to know self is part of that undefined sea of black and brown!

Then she heard Bernie Sanders was weighing in and self thought: No, go away Bernie Sanders.

Then a lot of judges weighed in and said the recall was a threat to judicial independence. Which Persky brought up himself. Which makes no sense because if there really was such a need for judicial independence, why are all county judges elected? Shouldn’t they be appointed?

Also, it’s interesting that most of the people who clamor the loudest against the recall result only spoke up after the fact, when the recall became successful. Which means there is nothing at all wrong with the process. Only, self guesses, the result.

Regarding “concerning blow to judicial independence” and how the recall effect is that now judges will feel “pressure.”

Since Persky was up for re-election in 2022, there was always that pressure. But what the recall did was save many victims who might have come before him between now and 2022. Because self has no doubt that had he remained in office four more years, Persky would have continued to sentence criminals with maximum leniency (especially if they were white Stanford males, like Brock Turner). Digression: Self read somewhere that Turner’s dad questioned why his son should be punished for “20 minutes of action.” Right? The apple does not fall far from the tree.

Then Bourdain died. Self was very, very sad. While he lived, she knew the world could not be a totally bad place, even under 45. Now another iconoclastic voice has been snuffed out, and self is really afraid for what will happen in 2020.

Then self learned from the news that Bourdain was dating Asia Argento, who was sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. And Bourdain, bless his heart, spoke passionately on behalf of the #metoo movement.

What a loss. Mr. Sardonic, Bourdain, was 100% behind #metoo, we could have used more of him.

Then self discovered that Persky is a Stanford grad, so he and self have something in common. She loves the school because she studied Chinese there, and afterwards spent two years as a Creative Writing fellow. That Stanford Law School professor who led the recall movement made her feel truly, truly grateful and proud to be a graduate.

There was a tweeter who said that the Stanford law school professor had no credentials, and was not even a real lawyer. Good thing self checked and saw the tweeter had only 50 followers, she would have responded.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Bourdain: Ugly Crying

Not real. Not real. Not real.

In celebration of food, community, and life, all the food pictures self can pull from her archives in 15 minutes:

  1. Cherries, Belmont Farmers Market, May 2018
  2. Leeks, Palo Alto Farmers Market, April 2018
  3. Giant Tomato, Mendocino Art Center, March 2018
  4. Buko Pie, Philippine Airlines, January 2018
  5. Dearest Mum’s Lunch, Manila, January 2018
  6. UP Town Center, Diliman, Quezon City, January 2018

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

In Memoriam, Liu Xiaobo, Dissident and Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Discovered the poetry of Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, through a bilingual translation from Graywolf, Empty Chairs.

Liu Xiaobo passed away earlier this year. Self can imagine Liu Xia’s pain.

This morning, in Paris, reading Liu Xia’s “One Bird and Then Another:”

One Sunday, the sky was
overcast, but it wasn’t raining.
We went out together and you bought
me a blouse from a boutique.
When it got dark, we went
to a crowded restaurant
and each ate two bowls of dumplings.
On the way back we
were quiet, not saying a word,
feeling slightly uneasy.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Never Forget: The Ampatuan Massacre, 23 November 2009

The victims: 32 journalists (most from central Mindanao), the wife of a gubernatorial candidate, innocent passersby who stumbled on the massacre as it was unfolding

The ditch prepared by the murderers for the dumping of the bodies was so large it accommodated an entire car. No, a van. A mini-bus.

Stay tuned.

9/11: Chelsea District, New York City

This city holds a special place in self’s memories:

  • Dearest Mum began her piano career here, at Carnegie Hall.
  • Self worked here for a year, before entering the Stanford Creative Writing Program.
  • Her sister was married here, 1982.
  • Her sister gave birth to three children here, one of whom was married here, two days ago.
  • Her sister died here, December 19, 1991.

Because self is at the moment staying in Chelsea, here’s a view of this amazing city, on 9/11:

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New York City: 9/11/2017

Here are pictures of the children who were, respectively, six, five and six months old when self’s sister passed away:

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William and Christopher Blackett, 9 September 2017

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Georgina Isabella: 9 September 2017

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

After Violence: Editors’ Note, J Journal, Fall 2012

This morning, self was standing on Platform # 5 in St. Pancras, waiting for the Picadilly Line southbound to Russell Square, when she heard the announcement over the PA system: We invite you to take a minute of silence to remember the victims of last Saturday’s attack on London Bridge.

It just so happens she has the Fall 2012 issue of J Journal here in London, and here’s what she read in the Editors’ Note:

. . .  after muggings in the park or fights on the street, after flood and fire, after 9/11 — why write? Why read? What good comes of either? Aren’t they just flimsy paper shields against what Yeats worries is “passionate intensity,” the eruption of chaos, of hurt and death? No. After violence, after strangeness on the street, after degradation and the jolt of darkness, what do people do? Grab someone and start talking. The writer grabs a pen and arranges events, turns abstractions into images, draws from chaos something to hold, something with meaning. In that way, perhaps writing is itself the first act of justice.

J Journal, A Note From the Editors, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Fall 2012)

Could have been written yesterday.

J Journal is published twice-yearly by the Dept. of English of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th Street, New York City.

Stay tuned.

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