Friday, July 30, 2004

You Can't Catch Me!

The other day at Green Apple, I found a seven dollar remainder copy of the postmodern masterpiece The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith.

That evening while attempting to read the title story to Risa and Vida, I struggled. I struggled because "The Stinky Cheese Man" made me convulse on the floor in an unflattering and uncontrollable fit of snorting laughter. I could hardly bear it, I tell you. Risa and Vida stared at me like I'd suddenly grown a third hand, a fact that only served to spur on my state of mental disequilibrium.

"The Stinky Cheese Man" is a re-telling of the classic "Gingerbread Man" tale in which a cute little cookie fresh from the oven escapes being eaten while he runs around yelling, "You can't catch me!" The Stinky Cheese Man also scoots about daring various characters to catch him. "Run run run as fast as you can. You can't catch me. I'm the Stinky Cheese Man!" he says. But what the Stinky Cheese Man fails to realize is that nobody is chasing him at all. Why? Because his head appears to be made out of a giant wheel of parmesan (with a single wedge cut out), he has a bacon mouth, two olives for eyes, and stinks to the heavens.

Okay. It seems funnier when you're actually reading the book.

I swear.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Warning to Mr. Hollywood

The film rights to Love In the Time of Cholera, the 1985 novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, have just been sold for close to 3 million dollars. If the movie is ever made, here is my warning to the gentleman at Stone Village Pictures who struck the deal:

Love in the Time of Cholera is quite possibly my favorite novel of all time. If you hurt it, if you disrespect it, if either Jennifer Lopez or Catherine Zeta-Jones finagles her way into the role of Fermina Daza, I will hunt you down in your multimillion-dollar Malibu home and stomp on the hood of your Porsche with steel-toe boots that I purchase especially for the occasion. Do not test me. Do not.

(I'm reminded here of "The Princess Bride": My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.)

If you haven't read Love In the Time of Cholera, do it before They ruin it. Here is Florentino Ariza's first glimpse of Fermina Daza:

...As he passed the sewing room, he saw through the window an older woman and a young girl sitting very close together on two chairs and following the reading in the book that the woman held open on her lap. It seemed a strange sight: the daughter teaching the mother to read. His interpretation was incorrect only in part, because the woman was the aunt, not the mother of the child, although she had raised her as if she were her own. The lesson was not interrupted, but the girl raised her eyes to see who was passing by the window, and that casual glance was the beginning of a cataclysm of love that still had not ended half a century later.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Isn't It Ironic? Dontcha Think?

Well, well, well. Seems my writer's group thinks I ought to axe the entire opening scene of "Bernie Aragon, Jr. Looks for Love" and start, instead, with what was originally the second section of the piece:

Bernie often imagined--and why should he not?--that the pretty and not-so-pretty girls he held in his arms under the dimmed lights of the Paramount Dance Hall were the girls he had grown up with in Bacolod. That their hair carried not the scent of drugstore shampoo, but the perfume of coconut oil and salt water. That they were never taller than he, but rather just the right size to rest their small heads against his shoulder. "I'm Kathy," one would whisper into his ear. "That's beautiful," he would answer, silently re-naming her Pansing, Naty, Marites.

And they think it should be longer. Much longer. Which is what they always say about my stories, almost all of which seem to end abruptly--with no conscious effort on my part--at a wimpy eight or ten pages. But I have a fear of boring my reader, I think. Here are two things that I dread:

1) That someone will leave my house hungry
2) That someone will read something of mine and think Good God. Will this never end?

and a bonus:

3) That someone will shave off my eyebrows while I'm sleeping

Good God. Will this never end?

Sunday, July 25, 2004


I stayed up past midnight last night making empanadas. Would I rather have been at Luj's gig wearing hoop earrings and spinning in circles? Well, of course, but 'twas not an option for me. Using my unique brand of logic, I decided to make empanadas instead.

I have come to the conclusion that though I truly desire it, I have no "quiet mind"; I only have "monkey swinging from branch-to-branch mind." The closest I get is when everyone's asleep, and I'm cooking. Anyways, I made the empanada dough and the filling earlier in the day. That way, once the house got hushy at around ten I could get straight to the meditative part of the process: knead, roll, cut, fill, crimp. Over and over and over again. Isn't it so excellent when tangible effort produces tangible reward? Of course, the real reward will come later since I didn't actually bake any of the lovely little half moons. They went straight into the freezer because I'm bringing them up to the lake next week. But more on that later.

When I was all done, I read for a little while and ended up empa-nodding off with flour still in my hair. It was a good night.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Luj Does Mindanao Magic

Though he can usually be found rocking oh-so-hard, Luj will reveal a softer, gentler, ethno fusion version of himself and his guitar at this show with Ilaya on Saturday night. To hear her song "Charlie," give this a click.

Ilaya also belly dances. I'm pretty sure that if you throw a quarter at Luj, he might do the same.

Thursday, July 22, 2004


I know you feared this day would come: the day I finally decided to conquer the learning curve and figure out how to post pictures to my blog. But be not filled with dread, my people! I will not abuse this newly acquired skill. In fact, I vow here and now to spare you any and all Disneyland pictures.

But because I chatter obsessively about them, I only thought it right that I properly introduce my Trio of Terror. That's Lea in the middle (please note the way she's working her hands; she was hatching a scheme, guaranteed), flanked by Vida on the left, and Risa on the right.

Three of 'Em
Originally uploaded by ver.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Just Can't Kill the Beast

It used to be that I looked forward to garbage night. What could be more satisfying than putting seven days' worth of refuse in containers, rolling it to the curb, and having someone else drag it out of your life? Few things, say I.

But for the past month or so, this one simple joy has been stolen from me. By what? By the Peninsula's largest and most horrifying raccoon, that's what. Come Tuesday, it is writ in stone that I shall lay eyes on the beast as it skulks about my property intent on knocking over a garbage can to sate its feral appetites. Of course, as with so many other things in my life, I am the only witness to this monstrosity. Neighbors have never seen it, the spousal unit believes it's a figment of my considerable imagination, and my father simply laughs at me.

But it is real. And what's more, I've only ever seen it raised up on its hind legs. Standing like that, it's easily as tall as Lea. And it does the most disturbing thing: it rolls its massive, fur-covered shoulders and glares at me. It's so big that I half expect it to speak or break into song as if it's not an actual raccoon at all, but a small person in a raccoon costume sent to entertain me. By a very sick person.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Just Six

For some mysterious reason, Page Six--home of salacious gossip seven days a week--ran this bit a few days ago:

July 17, 2004 -- ERNEST Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in six words. The result: "For sale: baby shoes, never used." It's rumored that Hemingway thought it was his greatest work, and it's invariably offered as the standard to which micro-fiction should aspire. Stirred by the mini-masterpiece, BlackBook magazine asked 25 of today's writers to offer their own original six-word story. Some produced more than 10 narratives in less than an hour's time, while others took weeks to labor over a single half-dozen word-set. Among the submissions were John Updike: "Forgive me!" "What for?" "Never mind." From Irvine ("Trainspotting") Welsh: "Eyeballed me, killed him. Slight exaggeration." Norman Mailer: "Satan — Jehovah — 15 rounds. A draw." Rick Moody: "Grass, cow, calf, milk, cheese, France." Tobias Wolff: "She gave. He took. He forgot." Michael Cunningham: "My nemesis is dead. Now what?" And Jerry Stahl: "You are not sh - - . You are!"

So I've been sitting here giving myself a headache trying to think of one, and this is all I've got:

"No more."
"Not really."

It's past my bedtime. Maybe something better will come to me in my dreams. Meanwhile, wanna play?

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Ever So De-Lovely

Yesterday afternoon the spousal unit and I left the wee ones in the capable hands of my brother (he was also watching our other brother's 3 children, the considerable humor of which will not be lost on my family members), and fox-trotted off to a showing of "De-lovely," the film in which Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd play Cole and Linda Lee Porter.

Go. It's worth the $9.50 just to see Ashley Judd's costumes. And to hear Alanis Morissette scring (that's a combination screech/sing), "Bees do it/birds do it/even educated fleas do it/let's do it/let's fall in love." And to be knocked on your ass by Kevin Kline (who knew?). It's worth it for several reasons, but most of all it's worth it because there are many ways to love, and this movie reminds you.

But be warned: you'll spend the last half-hour in a puddle of your own tears.

P.S. This guy at The New Yorker seems to have wanted a documentary vs. a Hollywood film, but it's an interesting review.

Friday, July 16, 2004

No Wonder

Yesterday, when I stopped at a bookstore to pick up Paul O. Zelinsky's stunning, Caldecott-winning version of Rapunzel for my girls, I overheard this exchange between a father and his 9-year-old (or so) daughter:

Girl: Dad, can I have this book?
Dad: If I get that for you, you have to write a two-page book report about it.
Girl: [silent for a few seconds] Why?
Dad: Because that's the rule.
Girl: But why? Why do I have to do that?
Dad: That way I know you learned something.

And then they wandered off, she with the book still in her hands, but not looking too sure of herself. Anyways, I was just thinking that party poopers like this Dad must be among the reasons that reading is in trouble.

Pick up a book, my people. In fact, make it Pinoy Poetics, which is on special thru August 31st.

Monday, July 12, 2004

To Do: Write

What with all this Disneyland business, all this big hair nonsense, all this just-trying-to-get-through-the-day stuff, I haven't done much writing. There's a dull, nagging, vaguely mocking silence where all the stories should be. And so I'm glad that I'm "up" at writer's group next week, and I'm thankful to Marianne Villanueva for inviting me to join because otherwise who knows when I'd get my butt in gear?

Anyways, I'm not so sure which piece to run by the group, but I'm leaning towards "Bernie Aragon, Jr. Looks For Love." And just to remind myself (and anyone else who cares) that I write fiction, I write fiction, I write fiction, I'll post the beginning of the story:

Watsonville, CA., 1929

On his way home from working the morning shift at the Silver Spoon Diner, Bernie Aragon, Jr., aged twenty-seven, stopped to help an old woman. She wore a brown hat with one feather tucked into the band and was struggling to cross the street while cradling an overstuffed bag of groceries.

"Allow me, ma'am."

"How gallant you are!" the old woman said as she transferred her burden into his arms. They walked side by side in silence. After unlocking her front door the woman hesitated, but then ushered Bernie through.

He placed the bag on a small table in the foyer and turned to face the woman. She held a nickel in her outstretched hand. Bernie blushed and said, "If you please, no thank you ma'am."

"Well why on earth did you help me, then?" Her tone was not unkind.

"My mother lives in the Philippines," he answered. "I haven't seen her for six years, and I miss her terribly." Then he walked out the door and shut it quietly behind him.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

She Came From the 80s

I woke up this morning unable to deny it any longer: the 80s fete is tonight. Taking the up-and-at-'em approach, I dove into my closet and discovered the most alarming thing: the Ghost of Cropped Tops lingers. I found a...well, I'm afraid I have to refer to it as "brilliant" because it is...brilliant cropped, cocoa-colored, open-weave sweater complete with a deeply scooped, falling-off-the-shoulder neckline. Such a score, I can't even tell you.

Would my luck hold? Can you even stand the suspense?

Okay, in the seventh circle of my closet I located two possible bottoms: 501 jeans circa 1987 that I had custom-bleached and custom-pegged to...well, I'm afraid I have to say "perfection" because I did...perfection, complete with a rip in the left knee; and black stonewashed Gap jeans circa 1988. The question was...would these relics fit this relic? I futzed around for 20 minutes before deciding to put myself through the trauma of trying on jeans that I purchased oh so many years ago.

The 501s were up first. I slipped my right leg in easy until mid-thigh, cursed softly under my breath, and pulled 'em on with a little bit of effort. The left leg, for some mysterious reason (am I lopsided?), posed no problem. 501s, as you know, boast a button fly. Button one, no problem, button two, no problem, button, slight problem. And button four? Forget about it. Still, they felt pretty good. And if the tank top I wore under my brilliant sweater was long enough, I wouldn't have to worry about the top button. I looked in the full-length mirror and remembered instantly the inspiration for these jeans: Madonna in the "Papa Don't Preach" video! To be honest, I had this whole outfit going on--the black belt and the black flats and the striped shirt.

There was no need, really, to try on the other pair of jeans; I had found my 80s gold. In the hopes of stretching them out a little and making my evening a little more, um, oxygen-filled, I'm wearing them right now. I know, I know, you don't have to say it: if ever there were a time when you wished I could post pictures to my blog, this would be it. Or, alternately, this would not be it.

Also on my to-do list for the day:

1) Cut fingers off my black gloves (don't even lie--you know you had fingerless gloves)
2) Buy teasing comb to create maximum bang effect
3) Buy industrial-strength hairspray to cement maximum bang effect
4) Buy blush and eyeshadow to re-create my former Robert Palmer video girl make-up tendencies

I better go now...

Friday, July 09, 2004

Google Power Part II

Here's part of the follow-up e-mail from Mr. BT, and I re-print it here because it's proof that you can have an effect on someone's life without even knowing (hello DMV Servants of Beelzebub). Mom and Kuya Ricky, you see, don't remember this incident at all. Here's the e-mail:

So I was right! Howdy!

Dear God, no ... not Frank Cecena! :~}

To be precise, I was kicked out of your house without even being in it at the time. Seriously, it's not a happy story.

Ricky had a friend, whose name I can't remember, but I do remember that he was very large, very overweight. And for some stupid, immature reason I always teased him about it and called him "Fatso" rather than by his real name. *sigh* One morning, I called up Ricky and asked him if he could go somewhere with me. And Ricky said, quite evenly (though perhaps tinged with regret and sadness), that his mom would no longer allow him to associate with me because I was such a rude kid. *click*

That hit me like a ton of bricks. A little incident that woke me up, you might say, offering me a glimpse of all the weaknesses I had as a result of a less-than-perfect upbringing. And along with other harsh lessons, it slowly--very slowly--put me on the road back to being, hopefully, a better person.


I guess we all have the power to gently nudge, push, pull, or bodyslam someone (psychologically speaking, dontcha know). Best to use the power for good, not evil.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Google Power

Received this e-mail from one Mr. BT, and I reprint it here with utter disregard for whether or not he wants me to. My actions should come as no surprise, though, because he remembers me when I was a kid and--guess what!--I was such the insufferable brat. In my defense (I'm saying that a lot these days), I am the baby of the family and the only girl.

I've completely lost my train of thought...oh, yes! Here's the e-mail:

SUBJECT: Daly City? Could it be...?

Veronica Montes?


Please forgive this out-of-the-blue email, but I had been doing some research on Our Lady of Mercy using Google, and one of the links it offered sent me to your marvelous, goofy blog. Being the nosy person I am, I read for awhile--and then it suddenly occurred to me that I might know you from several eons ago. (I doubt you'd remember me, however.) If I'm correct, your older brother is Ricky--or I suppose Rick, nowadays. It just so happens that I lived in Daly City from 1962 to 1975, and he and I were good friends for a few years, during grade school. Well ... good friends until I misbehaved one day and your mom almost literally kicked me out of your house, things inevitably souring between him and myself for awhile. Ugh. Not a happy story. So it might
be for the better if you didn't remember me. :*D (But I do remember you when you were a little kid.)

Anyway, after eighth grade I moved down the peninsula, and Ricky and I lost touch.

You might want to mention my name to him. If he doesn't run screaming, I suppose that's encouraging.

Now, after writing all that ... if I am mistaken and I've misidentified you, I apologize profusely.


Come on now! How fun was that? I quickly wrote Mr. BT to tell him that he had, indeed, cyber-bumped into Ricky Montes' little sister and that I must know--immediately--what he did to get kicked out of my house. I also told him that the only friend of my brother's I can recall with any clarity is the one named Frank Cecena. Why? Because I had the world's most insane 8-year-old girl crush on Frank Cecena.

**Waiting, now, for Frank Cecena to Google his own name...**

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Time Warp

Patrick Rosal recently posted a few songs to add to his slowjam list, a list which I admired and then attempted to ignore. Impossible. The wheels on my bus went round and round, and I soon amassed my own little trove of goodies, most of which bring to mind teenage angst and sappy letters penned on binder paper and then folded origami-style before being sent on their convoluted way to their bewildered recipient. Not that I ever did that, mind you. Here's what I came up with:

Switch - "I Call Your Name" (who could forget that falsetto voice claiming "...cuz I'm a man now, baby, a grown man!)
Switch - "There'll Never Be"
Switch - "Don't Take My Love Away"
Heatwave - "All I Am"
EW & F - "After the Love Has Gone"
Culture Club - "Victims"
Stanley Clarke & George Duke - "Sweet Baby"
Lani Hall & Herb Alpert - "Come What May" (I know--corny for days!!)
Stylistics - "You Make Me Feel Brand New"
Ray, Goodman, & Brown - "Special Lady"
Bill Withers - "Ain't No Sunshine"

Someone stop me. Please. If you don't, I might wake up tomorrow morning with my hair feathered, my lips smeared with Bonnie Bell lip gloss, and my neck smelling like Love's Baby Soft.

I Scared a Boy

I don't generally run around doing this (oh, shut up), but at a family party on Sunday, I scared a boy. In my defense, everyone at the party was a known entity: a cousin, an aunt, an uncle, a lola, a whatnot. But the young man--19-years-old or so--paddling rice onto his plate was not. Had anyone else noticed the interloper? Was I the only one ensuring the safety and security of this event? Is my work never done?

"Who are you?!" I demanded. I demanded it gently, truth be told. He was only as tall as I am, after all, and how much damage can someone do when both of his hands are occupied with procuring foodstuffs?

He was startled, the poor thing--almost flipped his plate. "I'm...I'm Luisa's friend," he said. Some of my cousles (this is what I have decided to call male relatives who are technically uncles, but who are a bit younger than I am. Doesn't quite roll off the tongue, I know...), did an elbow nudging har-har-har thing, obviously enjoying "Luisa's friend's" discomfort.

"Oh! Hello," I offered.

He quickly worked his way around the counter in the general direction of the steamed fish. "And who are you?"

"I'm Veronica. Luisa's cousin."

"Oh. Okay." He walked away then and avoided me entirely for the rest of the afternoon. I can't blame him--if I had any choice in the matter, I'd avoid me, too.

And that is how "Luisa's friend" joined the ever-expanding list of people who watch me out of the corner of their eye. Just in case I do something...odd.

This post is dedicated to Lui and her new boyfriend, who look kinda sweet together.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Pan De I-Died-&-Went-to-Heaven

I interrupt this perfectly lovely holiday weekend to report that my aunt, Elena Montes, just gave me a humungous bag of pan de sal from Tropical Bakeshop (with a branch near you! Vallejo, Daly City, Union City...).

In all my pan de sal-ivating days, I have never tasted better. The interior is extraordinarily tender, slightly doughy, faintly sweet. But please understand: as deeply as I care for each and every one of you (with the exception of you, you, and you), I will not be sharing. Please don't create an awkward situation by asking.

Gotta run, and I think you know why.

Friday, July 02, 2004

DMV: Servants of Beelzebub

Preface. It's hard to believe, I know, but my people-reading skills are not what they once were. It used to be that I could deduce a person's intentions from twenty feet away. I could tell if they were going to smile or sneer, ignore or engage. But these days, forget it. See that man walking towards me? I don't know if he's going to fall at my feet and sing a love song (en español, por favor) or hit me over the head with his newspaper. Or both. Makes a girl want to run for cover, I tell you. But I persevere...

The DMV was crazy: you woulda thought Jessica Simpson was inside showing off her Agent Provacateur undies. Luckily, I had a 10:35 appointment. True, I hadn't eaten anything and my hair was in a ponytail (Thursday is Ponytail Day), but because of my 10:35 appointment, I was sure I'd be out of there in time to grab a bite and pick up the girls at preschool. I am that together.

You can't imagine my smugness as I passed throngs of appointment-less people and strode--at random--to Window #7. I asked to be directed to the window where one with a 10:35 appointment should report. I was greeted with an expressionless stare which I believe was meant to convey the message that I had willfully and maliciously breached DMV protocol. I smiled; Mr. Happy did not. "Window #1," he said. He said it like I smelled bad.

The woman at Window #1 appeared perfectly pleasant. I approached with a tentative smile. "I have a 10:35 appointment," I chirped.

"For what?"

"I need to renew my..."

"Your WHAT," she said, cutting me off. "License or registration?!!"

Now, was that necessary? The snapping? I told Mary Poppins that I needed to renew my license. She handed me a number. The same kind of number being held by all the people who did not have a 10:35 appointment.

"What is this for?" I said. "I have an appointment, right?"

"Someone will call that number!" she screeched.

"Why are you yelling at me?" I wanted to cry; I truly did.

She looked up at me over her glasses. "Fill out the form while you wait."

And I was dismissed. The combination of hunger, ponytail, and unpleasant interaction with two extraordinarily mean people had now created a wompdinger of a headache. I called my husband to report this abusive situation. "They're just not motivated, Ver," he said. The empathy this engendered lasted only two of the forty-seven minutes I waited for my number to be called.

At Window #15, I paid my money without smiling. The woman directed me to Window #18, where my picture would be taken. I stood in line behind fourteen other people. When the line had whittled down to only five people before me, I glanced at the paperwork from the woman at Window #15. Where my name should have appeared, it said, "Sandra Ponce."

Oh. My. God.

I turned to the man behind me. Sixty years old, brown V-neck sweater, glasses. I could win this man over. I could. I went into damsel-in-distress mode. "Oh my goodness! The woman at Window #15 made a mistake on my paperwork. Can you please save my place in line while I go back?"


Am I so charmless? (Please tell me. Because if I am, I'm going have to re-think my entire approach to daily living.) I tried again. "But I...I only have 20 minutes before I need to pick up my daughters, and I still haven't taken the written test. I would appreciate it. Please?"

"Um, no."

"You can go in front of me. Please, sir."


And that is how I lost my place in line at Window #18. Back at Window #15, I said, "This isn't my name."

"Well, what is your name?" As if I had lied about my name. As if it were my fervent desire to stay trapped in the DMV for an entire day.

"My name is the name I wrote on the form I handed you."

Without apology, she fixed the error. "I have to pick up my daughters right now," I said. "When I come back, do I just get in line at Window #18?"

"If you don't get your picture taken right now, you have to start all over again."

"But if I get my picture taken I can come back and just take the test, right?"


I looked at the line at Window #18. Twenty people at least. "I have to pick up my daughters right now. There's no way I can stand in that line."

Maybe she could see I was about to burst into tears, I don't know. She said, "Well, come on. I'll take it for you right now."

What was this? Was this kindness? "Oh, thank you! Thank you so much."

She took my picture and then stared at the screen for a second. "Your hair is nicer in the picture on your old license."

"Excuse me?"

"Your hair. It's better in the old picture."

This was really the breaking point, my people. After all I had endured, the last thing I needed was beauty feedback from a woman with corn-nut breath, beanie babies littering her workstation, a stash of M & M's in her top right-hand drawer, and poorly applied eyeliner.

"It's Ponytail Day," I hissed.

She looked at me like I was crazy which, in fact, I was.

Afterword. Yes, the DMV was full of surprises, but perhaps the most surprising thing of all is that I returned a few hours later, proceeded directly to Window #17, and passed the written test. I am an outlaw no more.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

While You Wait...

...for my inevitable DMV report, I leave you with the latest gem from the billboard at that church across the street from Safeway:

Don't wait for strong men to bring you to church.

I'm scratching my head (and various other parts of my anatomy) on this one. Talk amongst yourselves. Best explanation wins...something.