Thursday, September 30, 2004

Before the Clock Strikes Twelve

Not to get all political on you, my people, but this is fresh from the Kerry-Edwards blog:

Based on the money that is raised by midnight tonight, the Democratic Party will make key decisions about how much to spend and where to spend it. We want those decisions to be based on the strategy choices that will win the election, not financial constraints.

I donated yesterday when an amazingly earnest 20-something woman stopped me as I strolled down Burlingame Avenue. It didn't hurt one bit. Now you try.

And hurry.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Rice, Rice Baby

So my question is this: Have you ever gone seven days without eating rice and then, upon eating rice fresh from the cooker on the eighth day, found that the whole world is sparkly again?

I have.

The More Things Change

I used to name things. I named shirts for a company which, when pronounced in Pig Latin, sounds like Anana-Bay Epublic-Ray. I named poorly-made toys. I named, for example, the Topsy Turvy Turbo. It was a red plastic car that flipped over when it ran into a wall or some other solid object. I named soups, too, but I can't recall any of them. The product never made it into the stores, something that could very well be my fault.

I wrote instructions. How to make a bird house. How to survive in an avalanche. How to escape an angry bear. How to hone the blade of your carving knife. How to create your wedding registry for a company which, when pronounced in Pig Latin, sounds like Illiams-Way Onoma-Say. How to keep from getting lost in a California desert. Of course I cannot now remember how to do any of these things.

I wrote those signs in museums that nobody ever bothers to read. A 40-word history of the first known horse in America. A 25-word introduction to San Francisco's Italian fishermen. Lots of signs about glaciers, plant life, Native Americans, and the orchards that used to blanket Los Altos.

I urged customers to purchase outrageously-priced scented dishwashing soap, scented candles, and scented lotions. Explained the benefits of 18/10 stainless-steel. Suggested that this handpainted platter from Italy, these Moravian cookies, this glassware from Poland, or the Queen of England's toaster could somehow brighten their lives. I penned mini-stories to grace the back of a set of six dessert plates, the front of which depicted French waiters on ice skates (dead serious here, my people) performing various waiter duties.

I sent countless extraneous words out into the world.

And look! I'm still doing it.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Reading, 10/2, AACP

So pleased to be reading with Oscar Peñaranda, some of the Seven Card Stud with Manangs Wild gang, and others this Saturday to celebrate the (re)opening of Asian American Curriculum Project in San Mateo. The schedule is still shaping up. We're going non-stop from 1:00-4:00, and it looks like this so far:

•Frank Samson discusses The Forbidden Book: The Philippine-American War in Political Cartoons by Abe Ignacio, Enrique de la Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, and Helen Toribio.

•Various contributors read from Seven Card Stud with Manangs Wild. ...Our grandparents, parents, uncles, siblings, and assorted relatives and friends live once again, gathered around gambling tables, migrant camps, pool halls, and dining rooms.

•Oscar Peñaranda reads from his new book of short stories, Seasons by the Bay. Signing to follow.

•I'm up next representing Going Home to a Landscape.

•Poetry from Tony Robles and Oscar Peñaranda.

all on Saturday, October 2nd, at:

Asian American Curriculum Project
529 East Third Ave/San Mateo, CA/94401

If you raise your eyebrows at me, I'll raise my eyebrows at you. Deal.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Game of Baseless Admonitions

I was about a hundred pages into Norman Rush's Mortals when I ran into this paragraph and could not stop laughing. Here is Ray Finch ruminating on recent changes in his marriage to Iris:

There were other things in their the game of Baseless Admonitions, where one of them would shout completely arbitrary or inappropriate injunctions and warnings and accusations at the other, like You love only gold! or Be true to your school! or...what others? This means war! Christ, there had been dozens of these canards and where were they now? You mate with any beast! had been another one, thank you very much. Why had the game dropped away? This was an interesting question, and so was the question of who had been the first one to stop initiating these exchanges.

Of course I've been inventing Baseless Admonitions ever since. Mine are Baseless Admonitions Addressing No One In Particular:

You favor paisley!
Nothing but rubbish!
Remember the Alamo!
Your torpor grows old!
Men don't have bangs!

I am so easy to entertain. Pleasant weekend, one and all.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Accidentally Fabulous

It happened because of the garlic fries. The Trader Joe's garlic fries which, by the way, are especially good if you ignore the official cooking time and let them get super-crispy.

This afternoon I opened the oven door to retrieve said fries and was blasted in the face with 425º heat. I turned my rosy little cheeks away, but felt something odd happening to my eyes. At first, I thought it was my contact lenses drying out in reaction to the heat, but by tuning in a little more to my body I realized it was my eyelashes. Something had happened to my eyelashes. Singed? About to fall off? I suppose part of me wasn't that interested in finding out because instead of trotting to a mirror, I continued prepping the girls' lunch, right down to hulling the strawberries and making the chocolate milk.

I settled them at the table and headed to the bathroom to check on the damage. Along the way I wondered 1) how long will it take to re-grow a full fringe of lashes? 2) why was I so distracted that I put my face right smack in front of the oven when I leaned over? 3) what sort of environmental minutiae would assault my eyes now that they were not protected by lashes? and 4) is there any culture in the world that values eyelashless eyes?

I looked in the mirror. My eyelashes were, lovely. The intense temperature must have reactivated the quick coat of mascara I'd given them this morning. And the fact that the heat blew at me curled them in a way unrivaled by any eyelash curler--even that fancy one from Japan.

Rest assured I will not be repeating this dangerous little beauty trick again. For now, though, you can sign me...

Accidentally Fabulous

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Advanced RoShamBo

If you happen to run into me this week, you might notice that I am unable to concentrate on our conversation. That my eyes dart around, unfocused, uneasy. At my temples you may detect a thin film of perspiration. It's because I am panicked. I am panicked because I have an image in my mind that will not recede. It is of Risa and Vida entering kindergarten next Fall as two grossly under-accomplished little girls.

You see, all around me kids are either on their way to, late for, just got home from, or about to sign-up for...Soccer! T-ball! Art! Piano! Violin! Basketball! Swimming! Karate! Gymnastics! Tap! Ballet! And, for all I know, quantum physics, Esperanto, and ornamental horticulture. One family around the corner has their two children signed up for nine different activities. My kids? My kids mostly just hang out with me. And if it counts for anything, they generally display superlative table manners.

Anyways, at this age I thought it was best to restrict "enrichment"-type business to one class a season per kid. But now I'm thinking maybe I've just been too lazy to drive them around. Is this true?! I can't quite tell. And so to right my (possible) wrongs, I've spent some time this past week putting them on waiting lists for this and that. Peer pressure. I love it.

In the meantime, I will take comfort in one small fact: Risa and Vida reign supreme at RoShamBo* and are not too shy to prove it. Hopefully, this will be enough to separate them from the pack.

*We used to call it "Jack 'n' Poy" when we were kids, but a casual glance around the Web reveals that this is probably just a hilarious misunderstanding of the Japanese "Jan Ken Pon." "Jack 'n' Poy" sounds so Filipino-ish, though, doesn't it?

Monday, September 20, 2004


...The Chatelaine appreciates fine wine and fine shoes...

So Shoe Me

One Shoe
Originally uploaded by ver.
A few years ago at a little store in Laurel Heights, I bought a long, almost impossibly narrow black skirt with a bit of gathered train. To carry off this skirt with the requisite drama, I went on a serious search for black shoes with a vertigo-inducing heel. Without question, the best person to bring along in these instances is Kuya Mike, a man who has devoted an entire room in his flat to the care, preservation, and display of his shoes.

Off we went.

We quickly zeroed in on these shoes (and though you only see one in this picture, I will continue to refer to them in the plural, ya smarty pants); in fact, I didn't even try them on. But I did wince as I forked over the $300 required to claim them as my own. My brother, who frequently commits this sort of spending folly, was a calming presence. "You'll wear them forever," he said.

This was true. They pledge allegiance to no trend; despite the exaggerated point of the toe, they are decidedly classic. But...kinda sex-ay. Okay, overtly so. Which is why in the eight times I've worn them, I have never paired them with a short skirt. For that, my people, would be vulgar--especially when wearing these stockings.

I quickly learned that certain men react to these shoes should I say?... a certain way. A way that--at first--simultaneously embarrassed and outraged me. But then I realized how freakishly little it had to do with me at all. Few of these staring fools even look past my ankles. They become so fixated on my shoes that I am simply obliterated from the equation. Which is fine by me. And so I am free to observe their fascinating (if fairly gross) behavior in the same way that, let's say, a woman on the other side of the restaurant would.

And what I think I observe is this: they are into the shoes because the person wearing them is, in fact, held captive. She can't run away (hell, she can barely walk) in these shoes: he's the lion, she's the newborn gazelle. But what they seem to overlook, these men, is that she could easily slip the shoe off and--using the tip of the heel as a weapon--take out an eye.

These are my favorite shoes. Of all time.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

She Fills Up My Senses

I know what she looks like. I am intimately acquainted with her writing style. If quizzed, I might even be able to reconstruct a day in her life. And now I know the sound of her voice. One day she will add scratch 'n' sniff to her blog, and I will be able to deeply inhale the scent of tinola, simmering on her stove.

But for now, check out the singular Weez and her adventures in audio blogging.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Elusively Illusive Huntsman, Etc., Etc.

Yesterday while the girls emptied my linen closet of sheets, pulled all the chairs away from the dining room table, and constructed what they alternately referred to as a cottage, castle, apartment, and hideaway, I worked a little on my huntsman idea.

My huntsman, it turns out, is the bodyguard/driver of the spoiled second wife of a Filipino media, um, tycoon. So far he has scored some drugs for her and ignored her coarse attempts at seduction. Oh, shut up. I know it's all very "Movie-of-the-Week," but at least I'm writing.

Then this morning there was a message in my inbox from "TheElusiveHuntsman." I did the Looney Tunes doubletake--what the...? Did I wake up in the middle of the night, invent a fake e-mail addy, and write myself the whole story while half-asleep? Maybe I did! How excellent would that be? Of course, the fact that "elusive" was spelled "illusive" should have raised my antennae, but it didn't. I blithely opened the message guessed it...Viagra spam.

In other strange internet happenings...have you been using the new Blogger nav bar with the "Next Blog" button? I click it sometimes and usually end up visiting the blog of someone who writes only in Portuguese, a techie guy who might as well be writing in Portuguese, or one of those teenage girls who insists on typing every other letter as a CaPiTaL. Not good. But the other day after I had finished checking out what was new with Gura, I clicked "Next Blog" and arrived at...Jean's class blog (which I can't re-locate, or I'd link to it for ya)! What were the chances of that?

The only problem is that I will probably now begin to obsessively click "Next Blog" just to see if that kind of thing will happen again. A lot like video poker, in a way.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Saturday, The Beach

Flying Fish Grill
Originally uploaded by ver.
A perfect Saturday goes something like this: pack up the kids and head to Half Moon Bay. Turn right on Montesina, park on the cliff. Keep your fingers crossed that your children, who have sprinted far ahead and out of sight on the winding path, are not injured or abducted before you catch up to them.

They are not.

Watch said children play tag with the water. Notice how their screams are not half as loud when compared to the roaring of the ocean. Walk around picking up only smooth grey rocks. Make plans to put them in a huge hurricane lamp on your mantle. Note also the white rocks. You will gather only the smooth white rocks next time, and put them in another huge hurricane lamp on the other side of the mantle.

Laugh when Lea gets knocked over by a wave, stands up, and gets knocked over again. Smile while you watch the spousal unit take care of her.

After another hour, trek back to the car. Head out of town, but stop for lunch at the Flying Fish Grill first. Eat two of what are arguably the world's finest fish tacos and some fairly excellent polenta fries. When you're done, walk next door and buy eight ears of the last of summer's white corn.

Eat the corn at dinner while you discuss exactly when you will return to the Flying Fish Grill.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Writing group tomorrow night. I love the drive: climbing up to 280 as the sun sets warm on the Peninsula, cruising through the omnipresent fog of Daly City, the loving look I send in the direction of the In 'N' Out as I catch it on the left out of the corner of my eye, and then the approach and glide into San Francisco.

If there's not much traffic, it's only a little over twenty minutes, door-to-door. But it turns out that twenty minutes is just enough time to help ease the transition between making guitars out of Kleenex boxes and rubberbands (don't ask...) and offering up solid feedback on someone's story.

I'm aiming for balance, you see.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

A Little Bit-A Ding-Ding

Things got a little bit ding-ding at the baby shower I attended today. There is, of course, good ding-ding and bad ding-ding. The good ding-ding was the masseuse. Because, really, who can't use a little 15-minute kneading on a Sunday afternoon?

The bad ding-ding was...the "blessing ceremony." In the invitation to this event, the hostess included a blank card onto which we were supposed to offer up some advice, a quote, a prayer--anything we felt like sharing with our preggy friend (p.f. from here on out). What I didn't understand is that we would sit in a circle, relax our bodies, close our eyes, and take three deep breaths in which we were supposed to envision our p.f. on the inhale, and our collective feminine energy on the exhale.

I didn't understand that we would then be forced to complete the sentence, "If you were my best friend you would know that I..." Or that we would have to expound on the blessing we'd brought (I ended up using a poem by Langston Hughes). Nor did I realize that we would then choose a bead to "infuse" with the blessing. This caused a problem for me. How, exactly, was I supposed to infuse the bead? Hold it to my forehead while reciting the poem? Stick it under my tongue? Run in place for ten minutes and then sweat on it? I opted for running my thumb over it and saying, "Nice bead. Good bead."

We then had to make a necklace for our p.f. using the various beads we'd chosen. In the throes of labor, our p.f. is supposed to hold this necklace in her hand (let us hope it's not the the same hand that grips her husband's throat as she screams, "Why did you do this to me?") and gather strength from the blessings. Which is actually kind of a sweet idea.

But still very ding-ding.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Howzabout We Renew the Ban on Assault Weapons?


The national ban on military-style assault weapons will expire on Monday, September 13th, unless President Bush and Congress act now. President Bush promised to renew the ban, but instead he's letting it expire -- he has refused to call on Congress to deliver it for his signature. For 10 years the assault weapons ban has taken the deadliest weapons off our streets, cutting their use in crimes 66 percent. But beginning Tuesday the 14th, an 18-year-old will once again be able to buy an AK-47 assault rifle in most states. We can stop this if we speak up now. President Bush and Congress must renew the assault weapons ban, not let it expire.

Just click here.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Muse Stopped By

Finally, some writing inspiration. And, yes, I realize that the chances of this inspiration disappearing in a demoralizing cloud of smoke are almost guaranteed because I'm bringing it to light too early here. But I'll take my chances; superstitious or not, I couldn't possibly write any less than I've been writing.

The other night, Lea chose Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs (just once I want to see it as "dwarves." I've never seen it as "dwarves.") as her bedtime story--the very cool, highly graphic (as in the artwork) Laura Ljungkvist version. After we finished reading I turned out the lights, turned on the noisemaker and, as often happens, I started to fall asleep, too. In those weird moments between waking and sleeping, my brain latched onto the character of the huntsman. His actions are essential to the story, yet he never takes up more than a few lines in any telling I've read. It's basically always as the 1898 version has it: day the Queen called a huntsman and said "Take the child away into the woods and kill her, for I can no longer bear the sight of her. And when you return bring with you her heart, that I may know you have obeyed my will."

The huntsman dared not disobey, so he led Snow White out into the woods and placed an arrow in his bow to pierce her innocent heart, but the little maid begged him to spare her life, and the child's beauty touched his heart with pity, so that he bade her run away.

You never hear about him again. So I've just been thinking...what's his story anyways?

Summer 04

It's officially over.

Big Drink
Originally uploaded by ver.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Karma, Kinda

In retribution for my gross abuse of Skittles, I was punished by the Universe.

Forty-five seconds before we were to leave for a birthday party, Lea staggered into the bathroom crying, calling for me, and spitting up something pale pink and slightly foamy. I wiped her mouth repeatedly as she continued to spit up the stuff. I stuck the washcloth into her mouth to swipe down her tongue. I asked her over and over again what she'd eaten and grew increasingly panicked when she couldn't stop crying long enough to tell me. I sniffed the washcloth; it smelled of nothing. Which meant that it wasn't candy. Not good.

I gave her a sip of water and--get this!--a couple of Skittles, which immediately stopped her blubbering. I settled her on the couch and walked slowly around my bedroom (that's where she'd been when this started) trying to figure out what happened. There was a streak of pale pink on the carpet near my bed. After a few minutes, a little voice at my back. "It was there, Mama."

"Right here?"

"Under." She pointed under my bed. I bent way down and peered at the dust bunnies. I should vacuum under there more often.

"What did it look like?" I asked.

"Like a circle."

"Like candy?"

"Like a Skittle."

Turns out she had digested a stray Advil which does, indeed, look exactly like a Skittle. I called Poison Control and felt like a criminal. I briefly considered explaining that, well, an Advil looks like a Skittle. But that would have made it clear that my child ate it because she thought it was a Skittle. And then I would have felt obliged to explain why I allow my 2-year-old to eat Skittles (hint: it is entirely her Lolo's fault). I had to suck it up; there was no way to spin it.

"Oh, she'll be fine," said Poison Control Guy. "At her weight, she'd have to digest...let's see...about twenty Advil before they'd do any damage."

At the party, she seemed a little more subdued than the experience (i.e. cake, balloons, lollipops) warranted. She was, I suppose, feeling no pain. Which was more than I could say for myself.

Bad, bad mother.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Teacher's Pet

The instructor for my (still grimacing as I type...) Meanings of Motherhood class called me last night at about 6:00, and immediately aroused my suspicion. What kind of mother calls another mother at 6:00? Our knives are out at 6:00! We're crushing garlic, slicing onions, handling raw meat! We cannot leave these kitchen hazards unattended to answer phone calls! But then I realized, with a sort of bemused astonishment, that I am not the center of the actual universe (only of my universe) and that not every mother has to worry about having their sharper-than-Satan's-nails cutlery out on the counter.

Still, the question remained: how could I possible take this phone call?

The answer: five Skittles each, quickly dispensed. I then ran upstairs, hightailed it into the bathroom, and locked the door. I had bought myself ten minutes, tops.

She was calling, she said, to get a sense of each of her students and better tailor our reading and discussion to our particular needs. How old were my children? she asked. And what issues interested me? Funny how I so desperately wanted to offer up a good answer; I suppose we never lose the desire to please our teachers.

"Um," I began with my usual lack of vocal prowess (why hadn't she just e-mailed? I'm good at e-mail), "let's see...motherhood as it relates to politics is interesting to me. I read somewhere--and I have no idea if this statement is based in fact--that if every mother registered to vote as a Democrat in Florida had voted, Gore would have won the election. Also, why don't mothers earn Social Security benefits? Aren't we raising children who will eventually support the system? Doesn't that count for anything? And I'm fascinated by the perception of motherhood in popular culture--the so-called "war" between working moms and stay-at-home moms, breastfeeding moms and bottle-feeding moms. All that. And the effect that motherhood has on artists and writers. Things like that."

I could hear the kids starting up the stairs. They are like a herd of wild horses. But louder. "More Skittles, Mom! More Skittles! Can we have more Skittles? Just three more Skittles? Puh-lease?"

I told her I had to go, she thanked me profusely, and I said how much I was looking forward to class. Which I am. Because another thing I'm interested in exploring is how bribing children with Skittles relates in any way to any of the myriad Meanings of Motherhood.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Some Good Reading...

...over at Narrative Magazine: Joyce Carol Oates, Don Lee, Lynn Freed, et al. Registration is free, and you can download the stories in PDF format or read them as HTML.