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.

Mondays: Quote of the Day (3 February 2014)

Self just can’t get over having to type year “2014.” It feels momentous because of Philip Seymour-Hoffman.

By sheer coincidence, the story self has been reading in The New Yorker of 20 January 2014, by Akhil Sharma, begins this way:

As far back as I can remember, my parents have bothered each other.  In India, we lived in two concrete rooms on the roof of a house.  The bathroom stood separate from the living quarters.  The sink was attached to one of the exterior walls.  Each night, my father would stand before the sink, the sky above him full of stars, and brush his teeth until his gums bled.  Then he would spit the blood into the sink and turn to my mother and say, “Death, Shuba, death.”

“Yes, yes, beat drums,” my mother said once.  “Tell the newspapers, too.  Make sure everyone knows this thing you have discovered.”  Like many people of her generation, those born before Independence, my mother viewed gloom as unpatriotic.

The title of the story is “A Mistake.”

Self fervently wishes that 2014 will turn out to be a good year.  She did finally do some things she’d been wanting to do for months:  she decided to visit Sole Fruit of Her Loins this coming weekend, and she signed up for yoga classes (which have been extremely fun).

And while yesterday turned out to be a terrible day for Peyton Manning, it was good for California because it rained steadily (at last! Though we’ll need lots more to get through the drought).  Self and The Man caught the Oscar-Nominated Short Films (Animation) at the Aquarius, and afterwards had coffee around the corner at La Boulange.

Of the short animation films, self’s favorite was Feral, directed by Daniel Sousa.  The Man said it was “too dark,” but self liked that it was.  The one she found the most corny was Room on the Broom, an entry from the UK which featured some very heavy hitters doing voice work: Gillian Anderson, Sally Hawkins, and Simon Pegg.

Which brings us back to Philip Seymour-Hoffman.  Self found out while perusing the web, late last night, and it was terrible.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Beginning 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

What does the word BEGINNING mean to self?

The first sentence of the prompt on the WordPress Daily Post says it all:

HELLO 2014.

It means discovery and inspiration, whether that means a fresh take on dressing (White on white looks so good in the summer!), or a monument in the town of Vicenza, to a man who set out with Magellan on “the first voyage around the world,” and memories of New Year’s Day (2012).

White on white is fabulous. I'll try this look soon as the weather warms.

White on white is fabulous. Self snapped this picture in Stafford Park, during the Wednesday evening summer concert series.  She can’t wait to try this look soon as the weather warms.

Statue of Antonio de Pigafetta, chronicler of Magellan's voyage around the world, only one of 33 survivors.  The statue is in Vicenza, Pigafetta's hometown.

Statue of Antonio de Pigafetta, chronicler of Magellan’s voyage around the world.  Pigafetta was only one of 33 survivors who made the voyage home. Magellan died in the Philippines.  The statue is in Vicenza, Pigafetta’s hometown.

Dutch Goose, Menlo Park:  Watching last year's Rose Bowl.  Stanford won, ending many years of drought.  That was a lot of fun.

Dutch Goose, Menlo Park: Watching last year’s Rose Bowl. Stanford won, ending many years of drought. That was a lot of fun.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Beginning: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Self chose to post about beginnings by listing New Year’s resolutions:

1)  Never forget:  This is a picture of the flowers she left on her Dear Departed Dad’s grave in Bacolod, in October. The flowers she left are a promise she made, to honor his memory in person, every year, in the city where he was born.

Self bought these flowers for the flower arrangement she left in the Bacolod cemetery where her Dear Departed Dad is buried.

2)  Self is posting this second picture to remind herself:  It is good to feel GOOD.

Life is good, especially when one starts the day with a free breakfast and fresh mango juice:  Self took this picture in her beloved Bacolod.

Life is good, especially when one starts the day with a free breakfast and fresh mango juice: Self took this picture in Bacolod.

3)  Before last summer, she hadn’t seen a Cal Shakes play in four or five years.  From now on, she will go every year.  This is a promise.

Cal Shakes in Orinda.  The play was Oscar Wilde's

Cal Shakes in Orinda. The play was Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan.”  Jessika R accompanied her, and we had much wine.  It was August.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Plan for Today (2nd Saturday of December 2013)

Self is going to Bindlestiff in the City.

She is going to watch four Filipino movies back-to-back.  And self knows it sounds a little bit like overkill, but she already paid, so she is fully committed to this course of action.

She asked The Man if he was interested in coming along, but he stoically refused and went off to watch “The Hobbit:  the Desolation of Smaug,” in 3D.

The first movie self is lined up to see is at 3 p.m. : LOVE, ILOCOS AND OTHER TALES (84 min., in Tagalog and Ilocano with English subtitles) –  Directed and written by Jhezel Finones, the film focuses on “local television programs of national import, like Biag Ko (My Life), Journal List and Love, Ilocos.

Followed, at 5 p.m. by PUREZA, THE STORY OF NEGROS SUGAR (110 min., in English, Tagalog, and Ilonggo with English subtitles) — Directed by Jay Abello, the documentary takes “an unflinching, exhaustive look at the rise and fall of the Negros sugar industry from different points of view — the landowners, the workers, government officials, the academics, the social workers.”

Followed, at 7 p.m.  by DINIG SANA KITA / If I Knew What You Said (88 min., in Tagalog with English subtitles) — Directed and written by Mike E. Sandejas, about two polar opposites — a deaf boy and a troubled girl rocker — who cross paths in a mountain camp.

And then (hopefully, self’s neck will be able to hold out) she will watch her final film of the day:  Peque Gallaga’s Bacolod-set SONATA.  Since the film starts at 9, and self remembers how long Gallaga’s other Bacolod movie, ORO, PLATA, MATA was, she figures she won’t be home until well past midnight.  She reminded The Man to leave the porch light on, because she hates having to stand around, fumbling for her house keys, in complete darkness.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Day Before Thanksgiving 2013

Self is reading her UCLA Extension students’ work (This is not work; it is fun).

They had to hand in their final assignments yesterday, and self has to send feedback over the next few days.

Since it is just herself and The Man at home (Sole Fruit of Her Loins is attending a swing dance contest in Palm Springs, and Jennie is driving home to Las Cruces New Mexico), self does not feel any pressure at all to have a Thanksgiving table laid out.  She did, however, buy a prime rib roast; The Man says he will barbecue it in the backyard.

She has looked at the movies currently showing and is very excited to see that Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” has arrived at Palo Alto Square.  Moreover, “All is Lost” is still showing, as is James Gandolfini’s last movie (whose name self is blanking on at the moment; it’s a romantic comedy with Julia Louis-Dreyfus)

She looks over her reading list and adds a couple more books:  Annette Gordon-Reed’s The Hemingses of Monticello:  An American Family; a novel about Guatemala by Sylvia Sellers-Garcia, When the Ground Turns In Its Sleep; Alix Kates Shulman’s 1972 autobiographical novel, Memoirs Read the rest of this entry »

Miami, FL: Noir-ish

Traveling again.  Now, self is in Miami.  There was a brief stop-over in Atlanta, which was warm.

Pale blue scarf, bought it two years ago, in San Luis Obispo.

Pale blue scarf, bought two years ago, in San Luis Obispo.  Took it off in Atlanta — the airport was WARM.

About Atlanta:  From the air, the sight of trees in all their fall riot of color was heart-stopping.  The light slanted a certain way (It was mid-afternoon).  The land looked lovely, reminding her of some areas of Virginia.  Manassas?  Alexandria?

Self saw her first “Sean Jean” shop, in the Delta concourse.  The clothes were like Gap meets Levis.

She tried the bacon and cheese fries from Nathan’s.  It was bigger than a triple decker and was so goo-ey.  But the large glass of lemonade (95 cents) was DIVINE.

Now, ensconced in the Doubletree behind the Hilton in downtown Miami, self confesses to wee disappointment:  the lobby and restaurants are very swank, but the rooms themselves — well, the corridors run here and there, like a warren, and the carpeting is tacky and old.  The color theme is BROWN.  Self grabbed a bottle of water, opened it, and then saw (too late, as usual) the sign:  Each small bottle of water is $2.95.  The wi-fi has to be paid for.

The Man insisted on renting a car, and the hotel charges a parking fee of $29.  “Do we REALLY need a car?” self asked the man.  “Can’t we just WALK AROUND?” “Well,” The Man said, “We can’t WALK to South Beach, can we?” Self wonders why he always seems to have an arsenal of these quips, which leave her tongue-tied.  Of course!  South Beach!  It would be CRAZY to be in Miami and not experience South Beach!

To add insult to injury, The Man demanded that self trundle along the GPS navigator that brother-in-law gave us in 2008.  When he logged the hotel address into the device, it could never “lock on”:  It kept trying to give directions to the hotel starting from REDWOOD CITY, CALIFORNIA.  Also, he engaged the clerk at Budget Car Rental TOO LONG in conversation, wondering aloud whether he should or should not get insurance.

Also, he went by himself to have dinner and found an Argentinian restaurant somewhere in the hotel that served huge steaks and good Malbeq (Self doesn’t even know how to spell Malbeq.  She never even heard of Malbeq until this evening.  She doesn’t know how The Man was able to figure out there was an excellent Argentinian restaurant on the premises.  She’s getting EXTREMELY hungry just typing this)

Self has just started reading Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer, and suddenly it strikes her that this is the PERFECT book to be reading in this hotel, in Miami.  The place (what she’s seen of it so far) is so noir.  Excellent convergence!  Maybe self will even be inspired to write a noir-ish story while she is here.

Isn’t Carl Hiaasen from these parts?  Maybe she will bump into Mr. Hiaasen at the Miami Book Fair!  Self hurriedly googles the Miami Book Fair Schedule of Author Events.  Apparently, highlights occur on Saturday.  There are some authors self loves, like Nathaniel Philbrick.  Like Sharon Olds.  Like Dave Barry.  But there is no Carl Hiaasen, boo.

Here’s a picture of the hotel room.  She wonders who did the large painting, somewhat reminiscent of an Olazo:

Doubletree Hotel, 1717 N. Bayshore Drive, Miami

Doubletree Hotel, 1717 N. Bayshore Drive, Miami

She was feeling resigned to the room until she started heating some water in a coffee cup and (too late, again!) saw a black spot at the bottom of the cup.  Something like a bug.  Hopefully not a spider.  Eeeeek!!!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Reading List Morphs

Self has decided to forgo the pleasure of reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, in favor of Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum.  Both are — gadzooks! — super-heavy books, and since self knowns nada about the gulag, she feels she’ll be better off tackling a straightforward history.

In the meantime, self finished David “Game of Thrones” Benioff’s novel, City of Thieves.  It was a very entertaining read.  Self knows that is a weird thing to say about a book written about the siege of Leningrad, but indeed it alternated scenes of horrific brutality with scenes of levity — sort of like the TV series “Game of Thrones”!  What a coincidence!

Over the weekend, she began reading a book called Remarkable Creatures:  Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of the Species, by Sean B. Carroll, a professor of molecular biology and genetics at the University of Wisconsin.

The book starts, naturally, with Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle.  In a notebook Darwin labeled “Zoonomia,” he wrote this:

Organized beings represent a tree irregularly branched some branches far more branched — Hence Genera. — As many terminal buds dying as new ones generated . . .

Wonderful, the way the notebooks show Darwin’s mind grasping for explanations of what he saw in the Galapagos!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Already Friday, the 2nd of August 2013

It is August already!

Self feels as if she blinked, and the world went into over-drive.

Brian Wilson signed with the Dodgers (WAAAH!), Ariel Castro was sentenced to life in prison (You lousy shmuck!  The word “Monster” is too good for you!), the darkest of her recent stories got to be her first acceptance of the year 2013, she got rejected (again) by MacDowell and the Sewanee Writers Conference, and she saw various wonderful exhibits, including the one on Richard Diebenkorn, at the de Young until Sept. 29.

She also:  celebrated her birthday in Orinda, at the Cal Shakes’ Sunday matinee performance of “Romeo & Juliet,” and afterwards got to utter words of praise to the actress who played Juliet, Rebekah Brockman, in person.  Juliet was walking with Mercutio, and self would dearly have loved to congratulate him on HIS acting, but since one of his memorable scenes was the one where he drops trou and moons the audience for about two minutes, she got all confused and wondered if he would think she was some kind of perv if she said something like, “Loved your xxxxx !”  So she merely addressed her remarks to Juliet.  Who was busy checking messages on her cell phone and said, “Thanks.”  (In addition to the play, which was fabulous of course, self ordered 50 pieces of lumpia shanghai for a picnic on the CalShakes grounds before the performance, and my did those go fast!)

The Picnic Grounds at Cal Shakes, just before the 4 p.m. performance of "Romeo and Juliet"

The Picnic Grounds at Cal Shakes, just before the 4 p.m. performance of “Romeo and Juliet”

Today, she had to get a new purse, since the one she’d been using for months got a nasty big hole.  She didn’t actually have to buy one, all she did was look in her closet, where she has a whole box of woven purses from Bacolod and Manila, which she buys over there for something like 50 US cents:

Made in the Philippines!

Made in the Philippines!

When she’s through with posting, she will get busy cooking menudo, and then bring Sole Fruit of Her Loins to the San Jose Airport, where he has rented a car to drive to San Luis Obispo today.  Oooh, this is the busiest summer in ages.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


Self finished reading it today.  Afterwards, early evening, she sat and watched two brown birds fighting each other over the bird feeder.


The last 100 or so pages of Sister Carrie were excruciating, because it took such a long time for Hurstwood to die.  First, the man became completely passive, child-like, wanting Carrie to cut down food intake so as to make it possible for them both to live off her salary as a member of a chorus line.  Carrie, being a creature of some perspicacity (and also beauty: almost all her advantages are somehow derived from that), loses all respect for him, but what makes the last fourth of the book so painful is watching how passively Hurstwood takes her rejection.  Thankfully, Carrie is not the brooding sort:  after she makes the decision to leave him, she doesn’t bother herself with thoughts of his fate.  (But, self couldn’t help wondering, what will happen when Carrie herself grows old?)  So we just follow along, watching Hurstwood’s descent.

At the same time that self found the disintegration of Hurstwood’s personality truly appalling, she couldn’t look away.  She had to read all the way to the bitter end.

Self tends to read the classics at odd moments in her life.  For instance, soon after she’d started in the Stanford Creative Writing Program, she decided that she must read Lord Jim and Moby Dick, while everyone else was reading Raymond Carver or Flannery O’Connor.  Then, while she was pregnant, she remembers reading (and loving) War and Peace and wanting to name son after Prince Andrei Bolkonski. Then she carted along to Stanford Hospital, where she delivered Sole Fruit of Her Loins, Bleak House. In retrospect, what woman in her right mind chooses to read Bleak House at such a moment?  Just as well she had no visitors.  She was able to read for two whole days.  The nurses simply could not believe how self could read with such dedication.  Later, while son was a mere infant, she remembers reading (and loving) Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker.  She gave a copy to son when he was 12, but though appropriately grateful, he declined to crack the cover.  It sits now, in virginal pristine condition, on a shelf in son’s room.

And now to 2013:

In the cold of February this year, she tackled Graham Greene’s The Human Factor.  Self has read Greene before, but this time, a slim novel that would usually take her a few days to get through ended up taking almost two weeks (Loved it)

Her next classic was Anna Karenina.  Holy cow, that book took her a whole month to get through.  Strangely, she did not find herself loathing Vronsky.  Afterwards, she rented the Keira Knightley movie from Netflix.  Awful.  The most ludicrous movie she has ever seen.  Worse even than The Lair of the White Worm, directed by Ken Russell.  She can’t even begin to describe . . .

But, onward!

She was going to re-read War and Peace, but that would have taken half a year, and she was shortly to leave for Venice.  Instead, she tackled Don Quijote, finishing just two days before leaving on her trip.  That was the most incredible novel.  At first, she didn’t think she’d like it, because everyone has decided (from the very beginning) that Don Quijote is mad.  And she doesn’t like reading 900-page novels about people who’ve already been diagnosed.  But things got interesting when Sancho Panza entered the mix.  Then, the book became a work of pure pathos.  And on almost every page, self found herself laughing out loud.  Just ask The Man, he’ll tell you.

The next book on her reading list is The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.  What a title!  She loves it almost as much as she does the title of the Kafka story, “The Hunger Artist.”  In the foreword to The Leopard, di Lampedusa grumbled that he couldn’t “do a Ulysses.”  So he decided to set his sights on a more attainable goal:  describing “twenty-four hours in the life of my great-grandfather, the day Garibaldi landed.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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