Reflections, Yesterday

Feb. 12, 2015: Saw this outside the Stanford Bookstore.

Feb. 12, 2015: Saw this outside the Stanford Bookstore.

It was warm yesterday! While walking around the Stanford University campus, self saw that someone had stuck glittery red hearts around the planter box in front of the Bookstore. The Post Office looked exactly the same. They’re tearing down Meyer. Which means self will have to re-write the stories she’s set there. Yes, she does have stories set in Meyer Library.

The students she spoke to yesterday certainly made her think. Yes, she told them, the stories in Mayor of the Roses were written while she worked at Stanford at various administrative jobs.

Did you ever go to The Bridge (24-hour free counseling service on campus), someone asked. Of course! self replied. Didn’t everybody?

Self told the students that she had a more recent story about the Bridge, but in tone the story is as different from the one in Mayor of the Roses as night and day. In self’s story, which appeared in Waccamaw, the Bridge is a counseling hot-line called 1-800-U-R-Saved. The story is “Bridging.”

She talked about her Creative Writing Program years, and how she felt at the time she wrote the stories in the collection. She really really wanted to take a picture of Professor Miner’s copy of Mayor of the Roses because it was completely marked up. Notes on the margins, arrows pointing every which way. Looked like a piece of post-modern art.

She told the students she was writing science fiction now.

The time was really too short.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Depth 5: About Self’s Attachment to Books

Books, for self, are the ultimate uncharted territory.

The depth of her love for books knows no bounds.

She was running low on her copies of Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila and Going Home to a Landscape: Writings by Filipinas, but her publisher sent a box of those to Mendocino last week and they arrived safely.

Two other books: Mayor of the Roses and The Lost Language, are in Gallery Bookshop on Main Street. Those copies she signed.

Self ordered more copies of her books. They arrived from the publisher last week.

Self ordered more copies of her books. They arrived from the publisher last week.

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino: A shelf in the science fiction section (BATTLE ROYALE meets LORD OF THE RINGS)

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino: A shelf in the science fiction section (BATTLE ROYALE meets LORD OF THE RINGS)

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Story “Rufino” (from MAYOR OF THE ROSES, Self’s 2nd Collection)

Towards the end, he couldn’t wear any clothes. They had to cover him in banana leaves.

It was in July he died — I couldn’t believe it. A voice on the phone told me.

“Rufino died na.” It was my mother speaking. Naturally, she had to be the one to break the news.

I was staying in a friend’s house in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In the mornings, fog blanketed the hills. We heard the mournful mooing of invisible cows. One or another of us would look east, toward where we heard Neil Young had his ranch, wondering whether we’d catch a glimpse of his pink Cadillac that day.

*     *     *     *     *

Mayor of the Roses was published by Miami University Press in 2005. The press was known as publishers of the American Poetry Series. Self’s collection was the first book of fiction that Miami University Press ever published.

Heartfelt thanks to Brian Ascalon Roley for bringing the manuscript to the attention of the press and Keith Tuma.

The collection’s been taught at Bates College (Maine), Pampanga Agricultural College (Magalang, Philippines), Skyline College, and Stanford University.

One story, “Lenox Hill, December 1991,” was in the syllabus of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, in a course on Ethics and Medicine.

Memory and Nostalgia: “Sutil” in The Threepenny Review

The Threepenny Review, Fall 1995

The Threepenny Review, Fall 1995

Still one of self’s favorite pieces.  It begins:

I was last home for my father’s funeral.  I say “home” even though I am an American citizen now, sworn in with a twenty-piece Navy band in the grand ballroom of the Marriott Hotel on Fourth and Mission in San Francisco.  Yet, “home” for me was always that other place, that city James Hamilton-Patterson describes as “a parody of the grimmer parts of Milwaukee.”

I’ve never been to Milwaukee, so I can’t tell whether this is true or not, whether Manila really is like a parody of a city in the far north of this country (or at least what I imagine to be the far north, in a general region of the country I associate with heavy snow and Laverne and Shirley).  But that it is different from here, of course.  It is the differences I loved.

When I was last home, which was for my father’s funeral, I slept with my mother in the big wooden four-poster in my parents’ bedroom.  This bed, handed down from my grandfather, was familiar and reassuring.  It was of heavy wood, a wood that doesn’t exist today in any Philippine forest, having been cut to extinction.  It may have been called “molave.”  I am not sure of this, as I am not sure of so many things about my culture, which I think I received very young, too young really to understand context or value.

DSCN1211

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Lists, January 2013 Edition

The most number of years between visits to Manila:  5

The longest self has ever stayed in Manila since she left for grad school:  4 months

How long it took her to see Ground Zero after 9/11:  7 months

The number of years it took her to produce her one 9/11 story:  8 years

The number of pages in her 9/11 story:  4 pages

The number of pages in Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila:  100

The number of pages in Mayor of the Roses, her second collection:  181

The number of pages in The Lost Language, her third collection:  153

The number of pages in her novella, Jenalyn, out this month from Vagabondage Press:  80

The number of years it took for her to complete her fourth collection, Magellan’s Mirror:  4

The number of years it took her to find the right ending for “Silence,” the story that was shortlisted for the O. Henry Literature Prize:  3

Total number of years she spent in Stanford as a grad student, first in East Asian Studies and then in English with a concentration in Creative Writing:  4

Number of books she read in 2012:  39

Number of books she read in 2011:  44

The longest period of time between checks of Facebook:  a few hours

The number of times she has been to Corregidor:  2

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Today, Third Thursday of September (2012): Class Visit, Skyline College

It was very cold and foggy on the Skyline College Campus.  The last time self was here was almost a year ago, November, reading with Zack.

Now, she was visiting two of Prof. Liza Erpelo’s classes.  Liza is an Associate Professor in Skyline’s Language Arts Division, and Coordinator of the Kababayan Program.  She is absolutely tireless.  Self loves her vision, her energy, and her smarts.  Self learned today, from Liza’s introduction of her, that Liza credits Jaime Jacinto with inspiring her to bring Filipino writers into the classroom.  She said that one of the writers Jaime invited was self!  Oh, she remembers!  It was shortly after Calyx Press published her first book, Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila!  How wonderful Jaime was, and all the Filipino writers who welcomed her with wide open arms into their little community:  Lou Syquia, Virginia Cerenio, Oscar and Luisa Peñaranda.

As self is always fascinated by interiors, here’s a peek inside Liza’s office, for the benefit of dear blog readers:

Liza is an avid San Francisco Giants fan, as anyone can tell from this little arrangement:

The little green and white box contains a Posey figure! In the framed photograph: Liza’s husband Jeremy and their daughter Aubrey.

The Giants won again today!  The magic number is dwindling (Self believes it’s now 4).

Would you believe, after speaking to two classes and having a fabulous lunch at Tribu with Liza and her new Fulbright (who, of all things, turns out to be from Bacolod!), self dashed to her car, took a wrong turn somewhere, and ended up in Half Moon Bay.  But it was a beautiful day!  And the beaches were gorgeous, simply gorgeous.

Coda:  The book the students had to read and write a paper on was self’s Mayor of the Roses.  A young man (not Filipino —  interesting that they sign up for this Kababayan class anyway) asked self a question about “Extinction” (This is her one ZYZZYVA story.  Howard Junker sent it back to her with a scribbled note:  “Needs to be MORE wild!”) which, self was bemused to learn, was not one of the stories Liza had assigned.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

What Does Self Know? A Post About Erdrich, Ephron, Facebook, Kasischke, and Tagatac

The book she returned to the library a few days ago, Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves, which self couldn’t finish, stays in her memory.  While the book she is currently reading, Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck is getting just a wee bit tiresome.

In the Fall 2012 issue of Willow Springs is a poem by Laura Kasischke called “The Drinker.”

Self has always envied this writer’s last name, she doesn’t know why.  She likes to repeat it, pronouncing it wrong, of course.  Boy, what if her last name were Kasischke and people wouldn’t know she was from the Philippines blah blah blah.  The worst of it is that now she decided to get at least 30 Facebook likes for her second collection, Mayor of the Roses, and there are some who say, “Hope your sales increase!” as if that were the point.

But, self, what is your point?  Facebook is a marketing tool.  Isn’t it?  Isn’t it?  Guess that’s the way it comes off and who knows why self set herself this goal for the week, she just thought:  How awful it would be to die and only have five people who “like” Mayor of the Roses!

She knows it came out quite some time ago, but still it hurts that the woman who reviewed it for the Chronicle gave it only two stars on Goodreads (The woman is not Filipina, thank goodness, or it might hurt more)

So, back to the Kasischke poem.  Here are the first two verses (and for the rest, you’ll have to go to Willow Springs)

“The Drinker”

Who paid his taxes
Who raised his children
Who buried his dead
Who put his fist through the drywall once
And, once (just

once) sipped
from another man’s cup

But who never arrived late for the christening
Who kept, as suggested, his receipts,
Who, when the crippled girl needed
his seat, leapt
to his feet

Who

    was smarter than we were, truly, so that
    in order to under-
    stand us he needed to drink

And, finally, a fragment from Geronimo Tagatac’s short story “What Comes After Nineteen” (Chautauqua Literary Journal, Issue 2, 2005).  Self has been reading Tagatac’s stories here and there, and is much impressed and wonders if he has a collection?  She’d love to buy it, if he does.  He deserves to be widely read:

“What Comes After Nineteen”

When she looked up, the guy was standing there, on her side of San Pablo, holding a cardboard sign that proclaimed “East.”  He had the easy look that her father had when he appeared to her, three days after his funeral on a Berkeley street.  And the hitchhiker stood, as her father had, with most of his weight on his right leg.  Around him the same indentation in the air, as though he were leaning against the background of the street and might push through it and vanish.  He was smiling like a man who’d solved a complicated problem.  Much later, Sandina would wonder why she stopped for him.

Self found, after googling, that Geronimo lives and writes in Salem, Oregon.  Which makes him practically shouting distance from the fabulous folks at Calyx Press.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Extinction: Landscape by Stella, Story by Marianne

Landscape by Stella K

That’s not really the title of the photograph, but Stella agreed to send self a copy of the photo, so that she could feature it on this blog.

And here’s a story from self’s collection Mayor of the Roses:

Extinction

They knew about shade but they had forgotten about the particular shadows made by leaves and branches.  I felt it was important to expand their knowledge in this direction.  They were disbelieving when I told them about tree roots, how they snake across the soil, looking for water.  Perhaps they confused my descriptions of roots with some malignant form of animal life.  Their eyes, still and dark, like pools, gazed out at me, expressionless.

A long time ago, the people of P had put their history down on the bark of trees.  They had used leaves as books, and reeds as pens to scratch their flowing script.  Since the trees have expired, these people have lost their history.

I thought I felt nothing for the place but later, when I was back home, I missed certain things:  the dry soil, the blank, expressionless faces of the people.  And I made a list.  A list of remembered things.  I put the list away in a safe place.

About Stella:  Self first met Stella through the kind auspices of Dear Departed Doreen Fernandez.  Stella’s picture of self is the one on the back cover of Mayor of the Roses.  Here are some things about Stella that self only discovered today, when she read the “About” section of Stella’s blog:

  • She only has one good eye.  (reminiscent of the photographer who took those iconic nude shots of Marilyn Monroe, two days before her suicide.  Self knows because his photographs of Marilyn were featured in a recent issue of Vanity Fair.  Self forgets his name.  Lawrence something?)
  • She shoots with a Hasselblad (This self knew)
  • Someone in Senegal once mistook her for Jackie Chan.
  • She writes.  Evocatively.
  • She once had a bit part in a Philippine horror film.
  • She is on a vegan health-food kick and so far self has proved immune to her example because, just 15 minutes ago, self scarfed down five caramel salt macarons from fave Redwood City bakery, Pampelmousse.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Bataan Day/ Discovering a Book List

Bataan Day is tomorrow, April 9.  It is the 70th anniversary of the surrender of combined U.S. and Filipino forces to the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

How sad is this day?  The husband’s grandfather, a brigadier general, was one of those who surrendered on the Bataan Peninsula.  He made it as far as Fort Santiago, but disappeared shortly thereafter.  No one knows what befell him.  He was simply gone.  His eldest child, the husband’s father, was 16 years old.

Self was reminded of this very important anniversary by Hyphen Magazine.

Self also discovered this list of novelist Abha Dawesar’s Favorite All-Time Books.  It is a very eclectic list. Self decides to print it out so that she can start reading the books on it.

Towards the bottom of the list, self finds her second collection, Mayor of the Roses.  It follows right after Zack’s second book (after Rolling the R’s), Primetime Apparitions.

Mayor of the Roses, the title story of self’s collection, was published in Hyphen Issue # 6.

The list appeared in Hyphen Issue # 7.  Which must have been some time ago, for now Hyphen‘s current issue is # 24.

Self is tickled pink to be included on a list that begins with:

  • The Symposium, by Plato
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
  • Notes From the Underground, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

From Self’s Story “Picture” (in Her 2005 Collection, MAYOR OF THE ROSES)

This is a story about self’s parents.  It was in Mayor of the Roses, her second collection, published by Miami University Press:

The woman leaning forward is self’s mother.

She’s leaning forward, as if to kiss him.  There’s a mark on his cheek; perhaps she’s done it already.  They are both smiling.

These were my parents in Manila, circa 1956.  They were happy:  they had always been happy.  The happiness of their marriage was like a reproach.

I didn’t think he looked that ugly, but I hear a voice saying, over and over, La unica problema es que no es guapo. It’s a woman speaking, her voice is thick with fury.  It was probably my grandmother.  This, at least, was what my mother led me to believe.

*     *     *     *     *

I am collecting old pictures now.  I don’t know what this tells me about this stage of my life.

Here’s a picture self drew when she was about five.  Who is that woman and why did self draw her wearing a green kimono?  Who knows.  Dearest Mum had the picture framed.

The 5-Year-Old Artist

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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