Trying to Rush Through

SPOILER ALERT, naturally!

He was frightened by how much he was about to fuck up, by his lack of desire to stop himself, the rising anticipation at the prospect of falling down, failing harder, and going straight to tilt; he’d known from the moment he left the bar exactly where he would end up.

The Leavers, p. 159

Self will attempt to pick up the pace on reading The Leavers, which she began four days ago. It’s incredible how much the MC manages to mess up, and she’s only halfway (Lisa Ko is an endlessly inventive writer; there’s always a new disaster waiting, just around the corner, right now the novel has the feel of a massive pile-up on I-5, where more cars just keep piling on)

By p. 159, the MC has managed to alienate: his former childhood best friend; the former childhood best friend’s mother; the white couple who adopted him as an 11-year-old; his high school best friend and another high school best friend AND the other high school best friend’s boyfriend; an acquaintance who loaned him $2000; various loan sharks. That’s probably why in part III (She cheated and read goodreads reviews), the MC has fled to China to find his birth mother, who’s another ace at running away — she left him all alone in an apartment in the Bronx when her American dreams didn’t work out. But she loves her son, she truly truly loves him. Don’t let her total abandonment fool you, that was all due to her poverty, her inability to speak English, fate etc (Screech!)

When self woke up this morning, she was determined — determined — to be done with this book today. But, the best-laid plans and all that.

Stay tuned.

The White Parents Take Their Chinese Foster Kids to a Chinese Restaurant in New York

Good scene. Thanks, Lisa Ko. Deming Guo is now Daniel Wilkinson. Kay and Peter are Deming/Daniel’s foster parents. :

The dishes came out fast and were limp, reheated. Turnip cake, broccoli, shrimp dumplings. Angel stabbed holes into the side of a dumpling and even the solitary curl of steam was lackluster.

“Delicious,” Kay murmured, scooping up food for Deming’s plate. The meat tasted old. His mother would never have eaten food this bad.

“This is one of those off-the-beaten-path places,” Elaine said. “We’ve been coming here for years.”

Jim turned to Deming. “You must miss this, Daniel, having authentic Chinese food.”

“We went to the Great Wall that one time,” Peter said.

Deming recalled the tempura and pad thai he’d picked at during a visit to the buffet table at the strip mall restaurant.

The Leavers, p. 88

Past Squares 19: Souvenirs

Can you believe it’s THE LAST WEEK of Past Squares? WAH! It’s been such a fun challenge. Much gratitude to Life of B for hosting so many wonderful Squares Challenges.

Self’s roof sprang a leak during the last storm. Everything inside the closet was soaked, so she had to haul everything out and decide what was worth saving.

There’s a map of the New York subway system (!) and a poster that was probably something son made when he was an RA for Muir Hall, Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo.


Moon Palace: Feelings

The narrator’s only known living relative, an uncle, decides to form a singing band when the narrator enters Columbia. He tells his nephew, So long, we’ll meet again, I’m sure of it, here are 1493 books and my suits.

So the narrator wears that suit “every day, from the beginning of the year to the end . . . I realize what a curious figure I must have cut: gaunt, disheveled, intense, a young man clearly out of step with the rest of the world.”

(He’s supposedly saved later on by someone named Kathy Wu, and if that turns out to be some stereotypical Asian female, self will immediately stop reading.)


When his uncle dies . . . Oh you didn’t know his uncle dies? Well, his uncle dies.

When his uncle dies, he arranges the funeral, cries for four-hours straight, sleeps with a gray-eyed prostitute, then heads back to Columbia.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Share Your Desktop: June 2021

Not sure how old she was here: perhaps in her 40s?

Self’s desktop this month is Dearest Mum, wearing traditional Filipino formal attire (the scoop back, the butterfly sleeves) at her beloved piano.

Her name was NENA DEL ROSARIO. A graduate of Curtis Music Institute in Philadelphia (which she entered at 11), she won the New York Times International Piano Competition at 14, played twice at Carnegie Hall, passed away 4 June 2021. Long, hard fight: she got covid in Manila in March.

Much love to her nurses: Sol, Amy and Rodelyn.

In Memoriam, Dearest Mum: PEONIES

A friend brought these from her garden when she heard about Dearest Mum.

I’m also posting for Cee Neuner’s Flower of the Day (FOTD) Challenge.

Three years after her first appearance in Carnegie Hall, Dearest Mum played there again, for the New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concert, Main Hall, 5 January 1952. She was just 16.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Self Learns New Things Every Day

So far, in her reading of The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of Civil War, by Jonathan Daniel Wells, self has learned that:

  • “The classic dish Lobster Newburg, according to legend, was actually developed by” a wealthy slave trafficker named Ben Weinberg, a prominent member of the New York Maritime Exchange.
  • The biggest slave traders “were natives of Portland, Maine . . . that town was infamous for helping to outfit ships” for the slave trade.
  • One of the most prominent defenders of the slave trade was a lawyer named Gilbert Dean, a graduate of Yale and justice of the New York Supreme Court whose law firm, Beebe, Dean, and Donohue, on 76 Wall Street, “not only aggressively defended accused slavers, but also sued accusers for libel,” which included “officers of the British navy” who had apprehended the captain of a slave ship and pressed charges against the ship’s captain and its owners.
  • The SDNY was so famously nonchalant for “prosecuting slavers” that a Captain Cornelius E. Driscoll boasted that “you don’t have to worry about facing trial in New York City . . . I can get any man off in New York for $1,000.”

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

New York City in the 1790s

Here’s the sentence of the day, about the beginning of the New York Stock Exchange.

Based on earlier models of exchanges like the Dutch East India Company’s trading in the early 1600s and Frankfurt’s even earlier stock exchange, a handful of New York businessmen had begun to trade shares under a buttonwood tree in 1792.

Chapter Three, The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War, by Jonathan Daniel Wells

New York in The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War

Three people self knows have COVID. And she found out just today. She was going to get more stamps at the Post Office, but after she got the last text, she turned right around and went back inside.

Which means, she’ll have to rely on her books to carry her through, like she did in the start of this pandemic, when she blazed through the first five books of The Expanse (and discovered the TV series).

The book she’s just starting is The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War, by Jonathan Daniel Wells, whose main setting is early 19th c New York.

The last time self was in New York, she stayed in the Bowery. The pictures below are from that time.

Wells does a very good job at evoking the setting. Here’s a description from Chapter One:

  • Most streets were unpaved, so dirt and mud were everywhere, and horses provided the main means of transportation. The city would have smelled different than it does today, with wafts of horse manure mixed with the smoke from burning hearths and factories and the stench of an inadequate sanitation system. The loud shouts of the stevedores, bricklayers, lumber merchants, and others working in the city added to the noisy movement of railroads and omnibuses, not to mention the constant whinnying of horses pulling people or goods.

A book like this rewards immersion.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

New York City, April 2020

Self suspended her subscription to The New Yorker a few months ago, since the pile of unread issues was getting ridiculous. She’s now just working her way through March/April.

But that resolution (not to renew The New Yorker) lasted just two months. There was a 20% off sale for former subscribers, and she signed up just like that. Her new subscription starts with the Dec. 7 issue.

In the 13 April 2020 issue, David Remnick in the Talk of the Town:

  • The streets of New York City are so desolate now that you half expect tumbleweed to blow along the pavement where cars and cabs once clustered. There is barely a plane in the sky. You hear the wheeze of an empty bus rounding a corner, the flutter of pigeons on a fire escape, the wail of an ambulance. The sirens are unnervingly frequent. But even on these sunny, early-spring days there are few people in sight. For weeks, as the distancing rules of the pandemic took hold, a gifted saxophone player who stakes his corner outside a dress shop on Broadway every morning was still there, playing “My Favorite Things” and “All the Things You Are.” Now he is gone, too.

Self is preparing to teach a 10-week course on Creative Nonfiction for UCLA Extension’s Writers Program. She enrolled in a class that helps teachers prepare.

Self has to turn in a video Welcome message this week. She printed out the instructions and they were three pages. She is not enthusiastic. Not to mention, her looks have really gone downhill this year: she hasn’t been to a salon in months, everything about her appearance is really rough. She’ll have to do some extreme intervention. On herself. She planned 10 different outfits to wear for each of the 10 Zoom classes. Which will make her feel more confident. Also, will choose a room with nice background (art, maybe?). No bedrooms cause that’s just tacky.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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