Saturday, January 31, 2004

Jets, Sharks, and 4-Year-Olds

If, by chance, you have two four-year-old daughters, do not let them manipulate you into watching "just the beginning...just the da-da-da-da-da part" of West Side Story. I mean, it's sort of hilarious the way they refer to the Jets and the Sharks as "teams," and you can't help but be touched by the way their innocence makes it impossible for them to fathom why a bunch of young men who dance so very nicely together can't be friends, but you also can't help but be annoyed by the endless barrage of questions. "Is that the Jet team? Or the Shark team? How can you tell? Why are they doing that? Where are they going? Which team is that guy on? Is that all the guys on his team? Where's the rest of his team? Where are they going? Why are they running? Are they fighting? Why is he mad?"

If you let them watch "just the beginning," they will then somehow convince you to let them watch, "the part with the girls in the shop." You will then select the "I Feel Pretty" scene from your prized Special Edition DVD and they will sit, enraptured. They will have very few questions because, thankfully, the scene is self-explanatory as long as you inform them ahead of time that Maria is very happy because she has a new "lovey-dovey."

But then, of course, they will want to know who the "lovey-dovey" is, so you will have to select the "At the Dance" scene. This will confuse them because Maria arrives at the dance with the unfailingly polite and well-mannered Chino (played by the obviously pinoy Jose De Vega), who is heartbreakingly dismissed when Maria espies her beloved Tony who is, um, much taller than Chino. You will then have to answer several questions about how it can happen that one girl can have two lovey-doveys.

This line of questioning will continue until it is time for them to go to bed. They will probably still be talking about it when they eat their yogurt in the morning. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


I like to think of it as an experiment in extreme television: tonight I switched back and forth between MTV's Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica and a PBS documentary on ancient Greece.

Did you know that all speeches made in the Athenian courts were timed by a water clock? They could only last as long as it took one rather large jar of water to siphon off into another. Meanwhile, Jessica had a "hard booger" that she feared might lead to a nosebleed.

It was exhausting, I tell you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The Slightly Evil Reporter

...And so a reporter from a speck of a newspaper calls to ask me some questions about Going Home to a Landscape. I very politely tell her that I would love to answer her questions, but is there any way we can do the interview via e-mail because I have three small children at home, and it's difficult to get a quiet block of time for a decent telephone call. "Um, no," says The Slightly Evil Reporter. "I try to avoid that if at all possible."

Oooookay. I could understand if she were asking me questions about my involvement as a bridesmaiden in the recent Britney Spears wedding debacle and needed to 1) gauge my sincerity by listening to my voice and 2) make sure I tweren't (is that a word? if not, it should be) weaving an elaborate Web of Deceit in my effort to milk my position for, let's say, $25,000. But she wasn't.

She just asked me ten questions along the lines of, "Is there anything about the stories and poems in the books that ties them all together?" Questions, I might add, which would have been simple to answer if one of my twins hadn't been yelling, "Mom! I'm in the bathroom! I pooped! Can you come here? Can you come here!" while the other one tugged on my jeans and repeated—you know, in case I couldn't hear the one screaming from down the hall—"Mom! Vida's in the bathroom! She pooped! Can you go in there? Can you go in there?" and the third one, the smallest, applied a vast amount of Hello Kitty sparkling lip gloss in the vicinity of her mouth.

I don't remember any of the answers I gave to The Slightly Evil Reporter. Would you?

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Teeny Tiny Miracles

1. I finished a story. Which is the sort of thing that always catches me off guard. I type that final period, there is a temporary suspension of time, and then my head swivels from side to side and I say (if only to myself), "Ha? Wha? What just happened?"

2. Lea has now been flipping, flopping, snorting, and breathing softly in her own bed for a full week. If only Ms. Chatelaine were having as much luck potty-training her puppy. I, meanwhile, have re-discovered the joy of reading in my bedroom at midnight.

It's the little things.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Repressed Tiger Beat Memories

While Professor Weez and my brother continue their Barry Manilow lovefest on my comments board, I will take a moment to tell you all about an e-mail I received yesterday from my childhood friend, Paul, who has been reading my blog for lo these two months without taking even forty-two seconds out of his busy day (if only he'd stop the ridiculous habit of riding his bicycle to work...) to say, "Hello, oldest friend I have in the world. How are you?"

Instead, after a silence of five months (during which he ignored two e-mails and a Christmas card), he writes, "Oh, about all the groovy things you say you did not have when you were a child, you did. I remember Shaun Cassidy crap in your room."

I have no memory of this; I am as horrified as you, dear reader.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!

I made the strategic mistake of uttering the words "Bay," "City," and "Rollers" during a message board discussion about which bands one would most like to see reunited. I was joking, of course, but my cyberpal Kareem said, "I knew it! Vmontes likes tartan plaid and mullets!"

To which I grin and say, "And your point is?"

I may as well add here that the first album I ever purchased with my very own scrimped-and-saved money was an offering by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. My seven-year-old sensibility was deeply moved by the alarmingly corny lyrics of the unforgettable "Billy Don't Be A Hero." In this classic 70s ditty, a young and strapping soldier has been called off to war. The refrain goes...

Billy, don't be a hero, don't be a fool with your life
Billy, don't be a hero, come back and make me your wife
And as Billy started to go,
She said keep your pretty head low
Billy, don't be hero, come back to me

How can you not love that? (A rhetorical question, people. Please refrain from answering.)

You're probably thinking I was lost forever, right? That I went on to faint at the sight of The Osmond Brothers. That I had a Leif Garrett lunch box, a Shaun Cassidy pillowcase, and an Andy Gibb "Shadow Dancing" poster (okay, well, I did have one of those). But you would be mostly wrong! Thanks to my family's intervention, I weathered the Tiger Beat years unscathed. When I was about twelve years old, I braved the crowds to attend my first concert, and I'm happy to say that it was Earth, Wind & Fire at the Oakland Arena.

I think it was in September. Yes, that's right. The twenty-first night of September...

Sunday, January 18, 2004

MLK Rocked

Madame Elouise Oyzon just posted this link, and I am inspired to follow suit. Turn up the sound so that you don't miss a single word of truth from Martin Luther King, Jr..

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Fingers Crossed

For the following reasons Lea, my almost 2-year-old, sleeps in our bed:

1. I was too lazy to perform the elaborate machinations required to persuade her to sleep in her crib when she was a baby. I had already displayed my strength in battle with the other two, after all; they sleep easily and without incident in their own beds. With nothing left to prove, I grew complacent. This, by the way, is the reason I am not an Olympic...swimmer. For example.

2. She is my final baby. This does things to you.

3. The spousal unit had no complaints about our extra bedmate (she doesn't sleep on top of him, you see; only me). Without anyone poking a stick at me to kick her out, I grew complacent. This, by the way, is the reason I do not sweep under the...dining room table more often. For example.

But today! Today we made a big to-do about going on an adventure to IKEA, the mecca of impossible-to-pronounce and hilariously inexpensive items for hearth and home. We bought her a bed. It's 11:45 at night, and she's still sleeping in it. In about fifteen minutes, I'm certain she will wake up. Because I am lazy and complacent, I will end up taking her to our bed, and at about 3:00 in the morning I will be awakened by the horrible sensation that someone is cutting off my air supply. It will just be her, sleeping across my neck.

But who knows? I could get lucky and breathe well through the whole night. It's 11:49, and my fingers are crossed.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Not So Good At This, But What the Hell...

The divine Marianne Villanueva has invited me to speak to her Women's Lit class at Notre Dame de Namur sometime during March or April. Seized by a bizarre form of stagefright (her class only has ten students, for chrissakes) I put off answering her for days.

I did a number of these class visits in conjunction with Going Home to a Landscape a few months back, and I pretty much sucked. I don't field questions well; I'm a bumbling, stumbling excuse for a writer. When a bright-eyed nineteen-year-old asks a question like, "What is your number one purpose for writing?" you should really take a moment to think about your answer. You should not (because you fear silence) begin with, "Oh, wow. Good question..." and then ramble incoherently for 90 seconds until it becomes clear to everyone--including the kid who walked into class fifteen minutes late and then promptly fell asleep--that you have no idea why you write, who you are, or how it came to pass that you ended up talking to them at all.

But I'm going to Marianne's class anyway. So there.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

So Much For Hope and Dreams

My idealism was short-lived, and I have chosen someone new--someone who loves me for me--to host my comments (such as they are).


Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Awww, I Didn't Know You Cared...

Thanks for your e-mail messages, my peoples. Seems that my comments thingy is all messed up because, in the beautiful words of Blogspeak's owner, "...the bastards that host it decided to suspend my account." I'll leave the code in for now because I believe in hope. I believe in dreams. Dammit, I believe in life.

Oh, the drama of blogging.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Mandarins, Clementines et al

The Fuji apples have all disappeared from my neighborhood grocery store, so I've been buying only oranges. Lots of them because on any given day, my daughters can easily polish off eight. I smell of oranges. Which made me think about that Gary Soto poem called--big suprise here--"Oranges."

Ignoramus that I am, I started to search madly for it on my bookshelves until I realized that all I had to do was google the words "gary," "soto," and "oranges," to have it magically appear on my computer screen. It was like a gift. And so I'll share it with you:


by Gary Soto

The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge. I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore. We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted -
Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth. I fingered
A nickel in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn't say anything.
I took the nickel from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter. When I looked up,
The lady's eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all

A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl's hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Secret Hideaway

I've been sneaking out of late, trolling like a…oh, never mind. I've been going to the library, okay? Something I haven't done since my days at SFSU, when I had fantastic big 80s hair, wore excessive eyeliner, and thought I was Miss Fancy Pants because of my Joan & David shoes (where did I get that idea? Why did no one correct me?).

When we lived in Santa Barbara, I went to the library once a week, but strictly as a literacy tutor for a young mother of four who always showed up at the appointed time, but was never interested in doing any work. I've marked that experience as one of the great mysteries of my life, and perhaps it will one day make it into a story. Anyhoots, I didn't loiter at that particular library because it was a smelly sort of place with unfortunate, unbathed folks sleeping in the stacks.

But oh how I love the library here in Burlingame. It's old and vaguely Spanish, with heavy, glazed tiles that send the click of visitors' heels bouncing off the high ceiling. I veer left upon entering and stride into the room with the arched glass windows, dark wood and deep, Mission-style leather chairs. I'll ease into one of these or, if my iBook isn't charged, I'll claim a cubby and plug in. I don't read in the library; I just write.

It's a little like home because I can sometimes hear the sound of kids filtering over from the children's area, but they're not mine and they’re not asking me for graham crackers or announcing their intention to pee shortly or engaging me in a rollicking debate about why they should be allowed to walk outside without shoes. So while I can hear the noise, I don't have to listen.

That's all I need sometimes. Just forty-five minutes of that.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Karaoke Terror

Leny, Michelle, and Barbara Jane are all aflutter about singing karaoke. Their lovely eyes are rolling back in their heads as they wax eloquently about Tagalog song chips containing hundreds of tunes that can be inserted into gold, silver, or black microphones. Barbara Jane is partial to 80s rock ballads. Leny wants to coddle her inner chanteuse. Michelle wanders the aisles of Wal-Mart singing out loud to Elton John's Daniel.

It's a phenomenon.

And so I've come to believe that I'm the only Filipina (with the exception of my cousin Lui who, though more than amply talented in every other area of her life, cannot hold a tune), who would rather stand naked in front of four hundred people than sing karaoke. That's saying a lot, people. I have, after all, given birth to three children.

I feel so alone.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

It's On

After a brief winter break, my little ragtag online writing group is back in action with Noelle Q. de Jesus as this month's Captain, My Captain. Noelle, by the by, edited the recently released Fast Food Fiction (Anvil, '03). You can read a nifty review right here.

My Captain has proffered the following writing prompt for this week:

Before she was even aware she was awake, before she even opened her eyes, there was the rain and the sound
of it filled her dark room.

I've only been there twice, but I'm already thinking of the Philippines: warm rain on salty skin, the heat pressing down, the sensation of wilting where you stand.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004


The other night, as frequently happens, I was staring at my computer screen and feeling stuck in the mire of my own writing. Sometimes grabbing a book at random from my shelf and reading for a few minutes helps to snap me out of it, so that's what I did. Raymond Carver, I decided. I turned to a story I'd never read before—"Feathers"—and prepared to be schooled.

Oh, dear.

Instead of schooled, I was annoyed. It was as if Mr. Carver had written down disparate items on slips of paper, placed them in a hat, shook them up, pulled out three, and then refused to get up from his typewriter until he had forced a story out. In this case, the three items were 1) a peacock; 2) an ugly baby; and 3) a plaster mold of bad teeth. When I finished reading I said to no one, "That was ca-rrrrap."

Of course, it's two days later and I haven't made any progress on my story because all I can think about is "Feathers." Which is probably why Raymond Carver is/was Raymond Carver, and I am just me. Lesson learned.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Re-Solving It. Again.

Oh, I get it now. RESOLVE. As in RE-SOLVE. An attempt to devise clever new solutions for our problems and shortcomings. For the tiny quirks that make us (or so I've heard)—on occasion—something less than charming.

And yet.

And yet I don't want to formalize anything. The pressure is too great; failure is inevitable. Let's just say that I'm suddenly drinking lots of water and that I'm working on new stories. This, too, should be noted: close to midnight on New Year's Day, while the rest of my household slumbered, I broke in my New York City Ballet Workout 2 DVD.

And I'm still sore.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

It's Good For You

Mizzzzz Barbara Jane Reyes edited this selection of poetry for the online journal fusebox 3. I enjoyed every last poem, but have a special affinity for the first piece by one Patrick Rosal. Click and read. It's good for you.