Foolish Things

  • As a result of dropping by the Robert Frank exhibit at the Cantor Art Center on the Stanford Campus yesterday, self got it into her head that she would very much like to own a Leica.
  • After leaving the Robert Frank exhibit, self fully intended to go to Aquarius in Palo Alto and watch Rory Kennedy’s “Last Days in Vietnam.” But she did not.  Instead, after filling up with gas, she went home.  And today — alas! — that film is no longer showing.
  • Self hasn’t looked at her story “The Peacock.”  Not once.  Not since it was workshopped at Squaw. She has no idea what to do with that story. It just sits there, like a lump on a log. Taking up space in her computer. In her store of unfulfilled projects. She wanted it to be a memoir about her and Dear Departed Sister-in-Law Ying. She wanted it to be desperate and lonely, the voice of a soul lost in the Cambodian wilderness after failing to connect with the splendor that is Angkor Wat (Dear blog readers, do you know that there’s a RAFFLES HOTEL IN SIEM REAP???)
  • Self has wanted to replace the desert of the front lawn with trees — perhaps olive trees — to screen her house from the busy street. But she’s remained staring at that patch of bare, weed-choked dirt for 10 years. It sounds really lame to keep bringing up the drought.

Ugh, ugh, girl. Why can’t you just do? Why must you always be re-hashing the old, or rehearsing for the future? To what end?

How quickly you forget: just yesterday, you got word from Witness that a piece you sent them eight months ago is going to be in their Translation issue.

As for somehow missing “Last Days in Vietnam,” “Gone, Girl” is showing in the Redwood City Century 20 and she heard from a friend who read the book that it’s actually pretty good. Self is not a Ben Affleck fan — seems he is pretty much a control freak with his wife, and no doubt he took care to present himself in the best possible light in this new role — but what the heck? Maybe she just wasn’t in the mood for another hard-hitting documentary yesterday, maybe she should just try and ignite a new respect for Ben Affleck? She did like “Argo” a lot. He’s not a bad director.

And if she’d managed to watch “Last Days in Vietnam” yesterday, she would have missed seeing the San Francisco Giants’ nail-biting victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. She would have missed seeing the way the two teams went head to head all the way to the 9th inning. She would have missed that sweet, game-ending homer.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Between 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Today, self is choosing to interpret the week’s Photo Challenge, BETWEEN, as a choice between this or that.

21 Choices in Claremont: So hard to choose between Golden Nugget or Oreo Mudslide! Self finally decided on # 19: Golden Nugget

21 Choices in Claremont: So hard to choose between Golden Nugget or Oreo Mudslide! Self finally decided on # 19: Golden Nugget


Unrelated to food but still related to the theme of BETWEEN, here is some brotherly advice offered by Hamlet to a distraught Ophelia.

You’d be surprised how many people still say this to women nowadays, especially women who seem to be on the verge of . . . something.

Hamlet's advice to Ophelia

Hamlet’s advice to Ophelia

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Southern Vivid

In a few days, self is hopping on a plane and heading south to visit Sole Fruit of Her Loins.  It’s been an age, almost a year, since she’s been down there.

Which is a pity because self hugely enjoys the southern part of her home state.  Movie nut that she is, how could she not?

The southern part of California is like the northern part, only everything is bigger and the weather is always warmer.   South means huge palmettos, gardens as lush and colorful as a Rousseau painting, Vroman’s, and The Huntington Botanic Gardens.  It means Claremont and driving and malls that feel shiny and new and women with great tans and poodles.

It means cavernous movie theaters where you get to pick a seat based on a seating chart (Just like in the movie theaters in that mall in Magalang, Pampanga!)

Anyhoo, travel energizes self.  Always.

And, son and Jennie are there.  Which means self will not be alone, as she usually is during her hectic peregrinations.

Now, she will have dinners to share and people to talk to.  She will discover new restaurants (though the milk shakes down south are humongous.  Those could keep you going two full days, at least)

And you know what else is down south?  Her Villanueva relatives from Bacolod —  woot hoot!  For some reason, they all settled down there.  All except for niece Ri Na, who’s in Sacramento (Must visit her soon!)

Yesterday, self received both good news and bad news.

The good was that she got an e-mail from the editors of the Crab Orchard Review that her short story “Crackers” had been accepted for their special issue on writing from The West and Beyond, which is planned for publication in September this year.

Right after that, she got two contest results, and naturally she did not win or even place.

Back to the good.

Ever since self got that e-mail from Crab Orchard Review, she’s been checking her “in” box almost every two hours, just to make sure she didn’t dream the whole thing.  Because, folks, she’s been sending her stories to this particular magazine for decades.  She sometimes panics and thinks:  It’s a mistake!  They didn’t mean to put self’s name on the acceptance letter!  Someone will apologize and say, That letter wasn’t meant for you!  It was meant for someone else!

Anyhoo, self still hasn’t gotten the retraction, so she still feels pretty great.

Deciding which books to bring along is harder than the decision about what to wear.  First of all, BLGF is 1000-plus pages and is, moreover, hardcover, so if self decides to bring it she will have to check in her luggage.  Must. Discuss. With. Jennie.

Self happened to glance at her text messages just a minute ago, and there’s another message from Jennie to dress “business casual” for an event she’s taking self to.  Oooh, fun!  Self asks Jennie whether that means a suit, or can she just wear a skirt and sweater?  Does she need to bring along pumps?

Self had almost decided to leave BLGF behind, in favor of some less prodigious paperback, when she gets yet another Jennie Text:  Bring your books!


Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Ouch! Poor Head! And Other of Self’s Friday Foolishness

It is Friday night.  Spent it at home, as usual.  Reading.

There was a bit more excitement today than usual, since self kept at least one of her appointments (for acupuncture) and felt the delicious pain of needles in the webbed skin between her fingers.  She keeps telling the acupuncturist that she has insomnia, but the acupuncturist looks increasingly skeptical. And self can’t bring herself to say outright that shortly after the treatment begins, she just wants to maybe pass out from sheer relaxation. Starts snoring. Almost rolls over, even with needles sticking out of her shoulders and hands.

After that, it was — oh woe is me!  Does she or does she not stick to her Beginning Yoga class?

Last week was fine, but the people taking the class were definitely not beginners.  The instructor came over to talk to self, and self told her, “I don’t even know what legs are.  Seriously.”  The instructor asked self if she had ever taken yoga before, and self said, “Yes.  When my son was about five. And I haven’t had any regular exercise since then.  Unless you count gardening.” The instructor was very encouraging, but self kept protesting that she was really, really hopeless — “What? Me? Don’t be fooled by externals. I’m a wilting flower.” Just the thought of taking another class was giving her hives, practically.  So she walked into the yoga place and told the woman there that she’d do a make-up class on Saturday.  And the woman handed self a schedule of classes, and the woman said she’d recommend the Vinyasa Flow class.  Hmmm, self thought.  Vinyasa Flow sounds infinitely better than Beginning Yoga.  She told the woman yes, she’d try Vinyasa Flow.  And as soon as The Man came home and self was assured she had a listener (albeit unwilling), she tried saying Vinyasa Flow. And kept repeating it, all through the evening.  Vinyasa Flow.  Vinyasa Flow.  And was so satisfied with her pronunciation and everything.  Felt like an expert.  Vinyasa Flow.

Then she unfortunately stumbled into Crouching Tiger to order take-out, and even though there was no one else there, they told her it would be 20 minutes before her order was ready.  And Pickled, the women’s clothing boutique, is right next to Crouching Tiger.

Self picked out a couple of things from the Sale racks.  Another customer was getting extreme attention.  Self glanced at her.  Blonde.  Jeans.  Nothing great.  Cool.

Self tried on tops.  Hoooly Cow!  Looks like it wasn’t such a good idea to flake out on Yoga Class!  The muffin belly was clearly in evidence.  Honestly, it’s been almost six months since self entered a fitting room, six months, it turns out, of complete and total denial.

But — too late now!  Armed with a feeling of rebellion, self emerged and told the woman what she would really love to try on were jeans.  Quick as a wink, the woman returned with two pairs of skinny jeans.

Skinny jeans?  How could anyone look at self and think she would look good in skinny jeans?

Besides, isn’t self a tad old to be wearing skinny jeans?

Nevertheless, self was bold.  She tried on the first pair.  Ooooh, these jeans were stretchy.  Looked at herself in the mirror.  For some reason, she looked less fat.  Or was that just a result of her writerly imagination, always ready to put a positive spin on the narrative script?  This is why self should stick to speculative fiction.

Anyhoo, the skinny jeans were soooo slimming.  She felt — no, actually looked like Rod Stewart in his heyday.  Or mebbe like Jagger.  This was the era of the late 70s. Maybe early 80s.

Wearing skinny jeans almost made self feel like prancing.  Actually, prancing.

It is really, really hard to be serious when one is wearing skinny jeans.  Self, straight to disco!  Karaoke bar, hello!

And maybe that’s what self really needs:  something to take her away from the Pain!  Pain as in — after endlessly reading and re-reading The Hunger Games books (instead of plowing ahead with Divergent, which she first cracked open two weeks ago), self has decided that the best is still the first.  It’s the best because Peeta is so wonderful.  In Catching Fire, the second book, the Peeta of Book 1 is replaced by an infinitely less interesting Passive Aggressive Peeta.  And Katniss is so Not-Herself.  She’s not making any hard decisions, or even any decisions, just dithering around, feeling mostly empty and unfulfilled.

It needed a kidnapping by the Capitol to make possible yet another Peeta Transformation.  This 3rd Peeta is an improvement over the second Peeta, but still in no way close to the First Peeta, the one who got stuck with Katniss in a cave, and instead of dying became — ascendant!  Like the Phoenix!  If only he’d stayed that way instead of becoming the Wounded Bird of book 2!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Latest Developments in the Life of Self

A niece in southern California has her own business designing cute tops.  She sent self a message that they’d be doing a one-day yoga and fashion event in early February.  Oooh!  Self is always looking for the smallest excuse to go to southern California!  Because Taciturn Sole Fruit of Her Loins lives there!  And she didn’t see hide nor hair of him over the holidays! And that’s how she got sick, felled by the H1N1 or whatever that virus is!  But now she is mostly over it, which is why she’s madly reading a) Divergent; b) The Hemingses of Monticello; and c) Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, which she decided to read today while slurping her Ramen noodles, and — this just goes to show how certain books can only be read in a certain mood.  Perhaps because the weekend is starting, and she signed up for Beginning Yoga, she is feeling oh-so-relaxed.  Which meant, the very same RWS that bugged her so much yesterday was suddenly extremely entertaining today.  And self saw that she was actually only 2 pages from the end of the chapter on Zagreb. So, she’s going to give BLGF another shot.

Another item of interest is that she decided this week to play SuperLotto, for only the second time in her entire life.  She bought QuikPik at Safeway, and forgot that the winning numbers were announced on Wednesday.  Anyhoo, she suddenly remembered today, went to CALOTTERY.COM and found that the winning ticket was purchased from Circle K in Lake Elsinore. Which means it was not her.  Boo.

Finally, self is reading the San Francisco Chronicle of last Tuesday and finds that the hackers behind the Target data breach have been identified as two Russian teenagers who live in a city on the Volga River.  One of them was “close to 17 years old.”  What is this world coming to when several million people can be held up by a Russian teenager on the Volga.  She also learned a new term:  “malware.”  That’s short for malicious software.

More finally, she finds out that “account information stolen during the Target security breach is now being divided up and sold off regionally.”  Two “Mexican citizens” were arrested at “the border with 96 fraudulent credit cards in their possession.” Which means, according to the South Texas Police Chief who made the arrests, that the data sets are “obviously” being sold off “by region.”

And the ultimate Finally, self last week received a phone call from a man who said he worked for “a credit bureau” and said it was absolutely urgent that she call them back.  It was such a weird message that self decided to ignore it.  And the credit bureau person never called back.

So, here’s what self decided today:

  • She must continue playing more Lotto.
  • She will try as much as possible to stop using her credit cards.  Any credit cards.
  • She will try to stick with the yoga classes even if she turns out to be the fattest, oldest, and most uncoordinated member of the class.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Beginning THE COLLECTED STORIES OF LYDIA DAVIS: Story 1 is Called “Story”

Here’s how the story (“Story”) begins:

I get home from work and there is a message from him:  that he is not coming, that he is busy.  He will call again.  I wait to hear from him, then at nine o’clock I go to where he lives, find his car, but he’s not home.  I knock at his apartment door and then at all the garage doors, not knowing which garage door is his —  no answer.  I write a note, read it over, write a new note, and stick it in his door.  At home I am restless, and all I can do, though I have a lot to do, since I’m going on a trip in the morning, is play the piano.  I call again at ten forty-five and he’s home, he has been to the movies with his old girlfriend, and she’s still there.  He says he’ll call back.  I wait.  Finally I sit down and write in my notebook that when he call me either he will then come to me, or he will not and I will be angry, and so I will have either him or my own anger, and this might be all right, since anger is always a great comfort, as I found with my husband.  And then I go on to write, in the third person and the past tense, that clearly she always needed to have a love even if it was a complicated love.  He calls back before I have time to finish writing all this down.  When he calls, it is a little after eleven-thirty.  We argue until nearly twelve.  Everything he says is a contradiction:  for example, he says he did not want to see me because he wanted to work and even more because he wanted to be alone, but he has not worked and he has not been alone.  There is no way I can get him to reconcile any of his contradictions, and when this conversation begins to sound too much like many I had with my husband I say good-bye and hang up.  I finish writing down what I started to write down even though by now it no longer seems true that anger is any great comfort.

I call him back five minutes later to tell him that I am sorry about all this arguing, and that I love him, but there is no answer.  I call again five minutes later, thinking he might have walked out to his garage and walked back, but again there is no answer.  I think of driving to where he lives again and looking for his garage to see if he is in there working, because he keeps his desk there and his books and that is where he goes to read and write.  I am in my nightgown, it is after twelve and I have to leave the next morning at five.

This is why writing is so fantastic.  You get bummed by something, you sit down and write about it.  If you can squeeze even one paragraph from the experience, you are still OK.

But, seriously, how great was the voice in “Story”? And as for the neurosis:  literature is filled with shrines — no, entire monuments — dedicated to neurotic behavior.  Self thinks it is interesting that writers who see neurosis so clearly are never themselves thought to be neurotic — in fact, they are almost always described as being “honest, insightful and brave.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Mysteries, or: Why Is Self Always So Confused?

Self cannot for the life of her figure out why The Man returns from the office bearing bushels of corn, fresh tomatoes, oranges etc etc, and even tomato plants, week after week.  Someone in his office plies him with the produce.  Last night, self was just congratulating herself on finally having consumed the last two pieces of corn from Anonymous Donor, when The Man walked in the door with —  a whole armful of new ears of corn.  Whoever this person is, we must write a thank-you note.  Or send a box of Godivas.  The Man says everyone in his office gets provided with produce by this generous farmer/tech worker.  So now this is the way self imagines The Man’s office:  big glass building, industrial park in East Bay, farmer/tech worker, drives to work in a pick-up laden with produce, hands them out.  Self had a long career working (first as a program administrator, then as a part-time teacher) and not once in all that time did any office colleague approach this level of generosity.  No corn, no tomato plants, no oranges, no giant Harry & David pears.  Nothing.  Funny, but we’ve attended two office parties now, and on both occasions self and The Man have sat in splendid isolation with people The Man doesn’t know.  Except for one sort of plump, lively girl who kept asking The Man to snap her picture.  Self does remember her because she was extremely, extremely giggly.  Is Giggly Girl the Farmer?

Is self going to be able to enjoy watching James Franco and Seth Rogen’s movie “This is the End” (Eric D. Snider rating:  B) or is she simply too old to sit through a movie that Snider calls “a bawdy, marijuana-scented inside joke about the Apocalypse”?

How does one Tweet?  She has currently six followers.

When she backed her car out of the driveway yesterday, both the brake light and the oil change indicator on her Dashboard lit up.  Does this mean her car is finally going to give up the ghost?  She offered it to Sole Fruit of Her Loins for the summer, as he has a job in Menlo Park.  If her car did indeed give up the ghost, how will son get to work?  More important, how will self be able to do anything?  Won’t this mean having to get a new car?  No, two new cars, one for son and one for herself?  Who can afford buying two new cars simultaneously?  Possibly The Man?  Can she even broach the subject with him?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


There are things she has to decide:

  • Should she bring a pound of Peet’s coffee, because Margarita said it would be nice to be able to make coffee in the apartment and her supply is getting low?
  • Should she forget toting along a few of her favorite magazines:  One Story and The New Yorker?
  • Should she bring along Traveler’s Tales:  Italy?

Here are the books she is definitely bringing with her:

  • Alexei J. Cohen’s Moon Handbook of Italy
  • DK Eyewitness Guide to Venice
  • Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses (She began it last night:  yes, she did indeed read to the very last page of Don Quijote)
  • Little Heathens:  Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm in the Great Depression, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish (The book title is almost as long as the book!)

She’s also bringing a print-out of all the movie locations used in the Nicolas Roeg movie Don’t Look Now (Just to show you the difference in approach:  Margarita’s all-important print-out is of the walks taken by Donna Leon’s Inspector Bruni!)

There are the directions to the apartment where Margarita will be waiting:  Vaporetto to San Toma, Stop # 2.  At end of calle, make a right.  Continue towards Campiello S. Toma.  Pass a bar (Ciak Uno).  Pass a little bridge.  Pass Casa Goldoni. Pass Nomboli Café.  Follow calle all the way down to the water, then make a right.  Look for apartment.  (Margarita’s directions read, verbatim:  “There is a right turn that needs to be made after the Casa Goldoni, but no street appears on the map, so the line running through the map just ends on the street Goldoni is on —  but there’s a right turn there somewhere!”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

May 18 is Stanford Worldwide Alumni Volunteer Day

This is such a neat idea, self doesn’t know why she missed this event last year.

Months ago, the Stanford Alumni Association put out a call for all alumni to devote one day, May 18, to doing volunteer work.  Everyone who registers gets their name listed on the Stanford Alumni site, along with the name of the organization they’re volunteering for.

This year, self is a registered participant.  She still, however, hasn’t identified which charity she’ll be doing volunteer work for.  It has to have something to do with writing, self thinks.  Like doing a creative writing workshop in a prison.  Or, since self likes gardening, she could try helping out in a community garden.  Or, since she loves books, she could volunteer at her local library.  Or, she could do a workshop for senior citizens.

For the longest time, self has been hearing about how the local branch of Wounded Warriors needs volunteers to drive vets to their doctor appointments.  Some of the vets are paraplegic, others are suffering from Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder.  Either way, they can’t drive.

Ah, choices, choices.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

NYTBR, 21 October 2012

Oh what to do, what to do?  Today self is running around completely like a chicken without a head!

First, she had to call Petco 3x to connect with a groomer (to bring The Ancient One to have her nails clipped–  The Man of course did not have the time while self was in Bacolod.  He did enough:  at least The Ancient One was still alive when self arrived home.  Still alive, and still kicking!  Still able to recognize self and wag her tail!)

Where are all the Christmas decorations self put up last year?  She swears she had boxes and boxes.  But when she hunts around in the garage, she only finds two, filled with tacky plastic poinsettias.

Never mind!  She is busily engaged with stringing the almost bare trees with fake holly and fake poinsettia.  She would have had real holly if the gardener she used, about seven years ago, hadn’t chopped down one of the gigantic holly trees in her backyard.  By accident, the woman said.  How does one cut down a full grown tree by accident?  Well, to tell you the truth, self hated that tree because it was so tall and blocked out the sun and she could never grow flowers.  When The Man came home, however, he was so beside himself he wouldn’t speak (to anyone) for months!

The remaining holly tree remained tall and proud, right in the middle of the backyard, but stopped producing red berries.  It just stayed green all year long.  Finally, self consulted an arborist who told her that hollies need to be fertilized in order to produce berries.  That is, one needs to have both a male and female, in close proximity.  Aaaach!  So the tree that got cut was the mate of the remaining holly tree, and now self is punished forevermore by never having any more holly berries.

Self is also going back and forth between a novel, the Ruth Rendell mystery she began yesterday (The Monster in the Box —  absolutely gripping so far, though self must admit she hasn’t gotten very far, maybe just 10 pages in), the reviews from the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times Book Review of 21 October 2012.  She was going to blog about the books reviewed in the Wall Street Journal, but she happened to leave the WSJ in the living room, and now she’s posting from her desk, and the New York Times Book Review is conveniently already next to her MacMini, so she might as well go ahead with that.  Luckily, there are many interesting reviews in this issue.

Now then!  Self will just go ahead and list ALL the books she’d like to read, never mind who or what review prompted the decision, OK?  Time is of the essence!  It takes self an hour just to get The Ancient One from the front door to her car!  Plus another hour for the way back!  And she still hasn’t decided what to cook for dinner!

Okay, okay, self will concede that a bunch of the following books are from the “By the Book” interview with David Mitchell (who self has never even read:  She’ll get to Cloud Atlas in maybe 10 years —  if she’s still alive)

  • Silence, by Shusako Endo (Self read this in college, but this is a book that is certainly worth re-visiting)
  • The Makioka Sisters, by Junichiro Tanizaki (There is a fabulous film adaptation)
  • One Man’s Justice, by Akira Yoshimura
  • Grass for My Pillow, by Saiichi Maruya
  • The Doctor’s Wife, by Sawako Ariyoshi
  • all the novels of Simon Lelic
  • Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami (which self remembers reading, and feeling lukewarm about.  She will give the book another go)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood (Another book she wants to re-visit)
  • The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (She saw the movie, with Viggo Mortensen.  Accch!  Super-dark.  But self is not afraid)
  • Purpose, a memoir by Wyclef Jean with Anthony Bozza (A memoir by Wyclef Jean???  Need one say more?  The reviewer believes in tackling this memoir as a first, he calls it “a gem.” Self, run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore!)
  • No Easy Day:  The Autobiography of a Navy SEAL, by Mark Owen (whose real name is Matt Bissonnette —  Self is not giving anything away here.  His real name is used in the review, as well as in reviews she’s read elsewhere, including in the Wall Street Journal)
  • Tibet Wild:  A Naturalist’s Journeys on the Roof of the World, by George Schaller (Just as self would read anything written by Wyclef Jean, she would read anything written by George Schaller.  But to dear blog readers who may not know who George Schaller is —  never mind the explanation, take self’s word for it, he is one of the last great scientist-adventurer-writers.  No dilettante he, he has spent “months almost every year” for the past 30 years in the Chang Tang Highlands of the Tibetan plateau, a place where, as reviewer Constance Casey reminds us, “Getting your boots muddy here can mean frozen toes.”)
  • Phantom, Jo Nesbo’s latest crime novel
  • Salvation of a Saint, by Keigo Higashino, in a translation by Alexander O. Smith with Elye Alexander
  • Goodbye for Now, Laurie Frankel’s second novel
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Frankel’s first
  • Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce
  • Self-Made Man:  One Woman’s Year Disguised as a Man, by Norah Vincent
  • Infrared, the latest novel by Nancy Huston

Gadzooks!  So many books, so little time!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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