Paris, December 2017

Bloomsbury Square, The Lamb, The First Gulf War

Asymmetry, p. 196:

One afternoon we were sitting in Bloomsbury Square, keeping half an eye on our charges, when Lachlan pointed toward the iron railings on the far side of the park and said that the original ones had been dismantled and melted down for ammunition during the Second World War. These new ones were shorter, and unlocked all day; square’s been open to the public ever since. I could not pass Bloomsbury Square after that without wondering where the old iron had ended up. On which fronts. In whose bodies. It was around this time that the avowal to do away with Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction was accelerating toward its first anti-climax. Blair had declared it time to repay America for its help sixty years earlier and pledged Britain’s commitment to sniffing out all remaining stockpiles of genocidal intent. Forty-eight hours later, Clinton announced that Iraq intended to cooperate; a month after that, UNSCOM reported that in fact Iraq was not cooperating, and lo, the British-American bombing began. I watched the Desert Fox airstrikes with Alastair, sitting in our usual spot in The Lamb, whose ceiling had been strung with Christmas bunting and the bar transformed into a lukewarm buffet of mince pies and a faux cauldron of brandy-spiked mulled wine.

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The Laughter of My Father, by Carlos Bulosan

One of our foremost Filipino writers was a migrant worker who died at 40 of tuberculosis, in a Seattle boarding house.

His name was Carlos Bulosan, and The Laughter of My Father was one of Dear Departed Dad’s favorite books (Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino found this copy for me, previously used naturally!)

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Reading it now, self can understand why. She’s reading the Bantam edition, published August 1946.

p. 2:

Laughter was our only wealth. Father was a laughing man. He would go into the living room and stand in front of the tall mirror, stretching his mouth into grotesque shapes with his fingers and making faces at himself; then he would rush into the kitchen, roaring with laughter.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

One Year Ago: Redwood City, California

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A Cousin’s Farm, Oliva Dos, near the town of Murcia in the Central Philippines

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Near Murcia, Negros Occidental, the Philippines

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Path cleared for a tractor, Oliva Dos, near Murcia

Self lived the first 20 years of her life without knowing there was another Murcia. In Spain.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Archives, University of Santo Tomas, Manila

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Main Building, University of Santo Tomas, Manila: January 2018

The University of Santo Tomas is the oldest university in the Philippines. The first book printed in the Philippines, the Doctrina Christiana, is housed there, in the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Library (named after self’s great-great-grandfather). At the opening, self’s great uncle, who donated the money for the archives, cited a thesis self had written in the Ateneo de Manila, which traced the del Rosario family history back, four generations. But self wasn’t there. Her brothers went, and great was their shock when they heard her name mentioned as the reason the archives exit. (Self couldn’t go because — well, she couldn’t afford the airfare. Husband was out of work. None of her family offered to make up the fare)

She FINALLY got to drop by in January 2018, met the librarians, and took pictures. The archives survive on the generosity of individual donors. Three full-time employees are responsible for digitizing the vast collection.

“How many books have been digitized so far?” self asked.

The answer: 150.

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Self is thinking about the archives because today she decided to try and work on her 18th century novel-in-progress, Blue Water, Distant Shores. Her novel — a product of over-reach, self is no historian — is about a Spanish priest who, in 1736, is sent to the Philippines to fight demons. She’s reading about books by the early missionaries, books like the Ilocano catechism of 1621, translated by Fray Francisco Lopez.

“Your books should be here, ma’am,” she remembers the librarians telling her. “We’ll add them to the display.”

What? No . . .

On second thought! She’ll contact her press right now. Please send copies to the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Archives in University of Santo Tomas, stat!

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Found these copies of self’s third short story collection in the National Bookstore in Gateway Mall, Cubao, Metro-Manila! (January 2018)

Afterwards, self dropped by the Program in Creative Writing, and got to pose for a picture with the professors:

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University of Santo Tomas, January 2018: Creative Writing Program Director Jing Hidalgo is on self’s right.

Dearest Mum’s only response, when self showed her the pictures: Why are you so short?

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Luke Perry: Laid-Back American Hotness

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For NOVEMBER ROAD, Memories of a Long-Ago Las Vegas

Lou Berney’s thriller, November Road, is nearing its mournful denoument. The killer’s getting closer and closer.

NOOOOO!!!

Before we get there, however, there’s the 1963 Las Vegas Strip, where Frank Guidry discovers his past and Charlotte discovers her future.

Las Vegas was the one place self associates with “family vacation” — the one place we returned to, year after year, for about five years. We’d stay at a hotel — either the Bellagio, the Venetian, the Paris, or the MGM Grand — and loll by the pool and take in a show. We’d grow fat at hotel buffets. Here’s a picture of self and son, taken about 15 years ago, at Hoover Dam. How ironic that this is the ONE picture she has of a particular trip. And it’s not even IN Las Vegas.

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With Son at Hoover Dam, Just Outside Las Vegas, a Lifetime Ago

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: COLOR OF YOUR CHOICE

Self’s choice is RED.

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Self at 19, with Masako in Shibuya, Tokyo

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Red Woven Bag from the Philippines, in Self’s Closet

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Self’s Red Knapsack: The Penn Club, London, 23 November 2018

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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.

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