Monday, October 31, 2005

The Fabulous 'Hood of Love

I love my neighborhood.

More specifically, I love the people who inhabit all the surrounding abodes and who can count on each other throughout the day for conversation, a rolling pin, emergency babysitting, eggs, chicken broth, school pick-up and/or drop-off, playdates, contributions to good causes, meals, books, a dvd, outdoor heaters, extra tables and chairs, advice, recipes, the thing that plugs into your car lighter that charges your laptop, news, gossip, laughter, pressure washers, a swim, solicited and unsolicited opinions, tapemeasures, etc. etc.

I believe this is rare.

We've lived many places—Vancouver, B.C., Georgetown, Alexandria, Santa Barbara, San Francisco—but this is the first time we've ever been part of a community. If you offered me, say, a 2-hour massage and a plate of french fries, I couldn't name more than two other people (San Francisco acccepted) from each of those places. I used to hope I wouldn't die while the spousal unit was traveling for work because nobody would know. He'd return from a week on the road, open the door, and be greeted by my lifeless body splayed on the floor. Not so good.

So anyways, I appreciate this place and all these good folks more than I can say, and tonight when we hang out while the kids gorge on obscene amounts of candy, I will remember to be thankful.

Happy 'Weenie, all.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Veronica Needs.

I generally do what The Wily Filipino says because, well, he's way smarter than I am. And so this is why I googled "Veronica needs." Let me present the top 10:

1. Veronica needs a diary!

2. Veronica needs to dump Duncan.

3. Veronica needs to work on the stakeout skills.

4. Veronica needs to find the crooked man who faked the sports teams' annual drug tests...

5. Veronica needs to go.

6. Veronica needs to find someway to get the boy back before her ex-husband moves several thousand miles away.

7. Veronica needs to make extra money.

8. Veronica needs a lot of help with her English, including speaking, reading, and writing.

Unfortunately, this is where the search breaks down and things like "Veronica Zwieback can fill your realtor needs," begin to appear. Bah! Never mind, I'll just finish the list myself:

9. Veronica needs to eat Whoppers:

10. Veronica needs to stop forgetting to post this:


Maybe if your child is A Very Naughty Boy, it isn't a wise choice to dress him as a ninja assassin for the Kindergarten Halloween party. I'm just...saying.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Snail Mail & Strange Male(s)

I'm feeling like quite the lucky duck, what with the snail mail treasures that continue to appear in my mailbox. Among them, a very kind postcard from Marianne Villanueva:

and a note from The Wily Filipino himself, accompanied by artwork from Izzy:

I have the same set of notecards as Sunny, by the way, and am betting that most of us do. Let's use them, people! (I'll have to add images later because Blogger is being rude and uncooperative)

An aside: why is it that two heterosexual men on an outing together will often go to great lengths to avoid any semblance of intimacy? Today, as I engaged in my Wednesday ritual of lunching solo and people-watching, I saw these two guys arrive at the restaurant in the same car, walk in with a space of four feet between them, and take seats at the counter leaving, of course, one empty stool between them. They occasionally grunted at each other while eating. I have seen these kinds of men sit in a booth, but position themselves diagonally. Cuz heaven forbid they maintain full-frontal eye contact. This reminded me of riding MUNI and watching young males sit back-to-back and talk to each other over their shoulders. Sometimes when the bus was empty, they'd sit a number of rows apart and yell at each other. Cuz heaven forbid they share a quiet conversation.

Boys are weird.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Beasts Beneath My Window

At 2:00 this morning, the spousal unit and I were awakened by the horror-movie sounds of two animals (type unknown) either

1) making mad, passionate, beastly love


2) attempting to rip each other's hearts out for the purpose of a) nourishment; b) kicks; or c) sating their mutual beastly hatred.

Really, it was gross. The sounds were guttural, yet melodic. A cross between a newborn's cries, a gurgling brook of blood, and the stifled scream of a C movie actress about to be slain by a masked fiend with mommy issues.

"WTF? WTF is that?"

"Raccoons or something."


And then for some reason, I proceeded to have the world's longest cough attack. Not wanting to disturb the SU's sleep any further, I took my pillow, dug hopelessly for blankets in the linen closet (I produced three infant ones that the girls now use for their dolls), and lay down in the den. I placed blanket #1 over my feet and knees, blanket #2 over my center, and blanket #3 over my top, where it rested just under my chin. Then I tried not to move, for moving would upset the delicate balance of blanket coverage. Needless to say, not much sleep. At 3:25, Lea awoke screaming "Mom! Mom!" I stumbled down the hall and into her room, actually quite thankful for at least being in a bed with actual blankets. She threw a leg over me, kissed my forehead, and promptly fell back asleep. I, however, did not.

I woke up forty minutes late. Forty minutes! And yet, and yet...I made it out the door on time looking quite put together and with the children properly fed, dressed, coiffed, and jacket-ed.

This is dangerous.

Do you know why this is dangerous? Because it proves that I can actually sleep in for an extra 40 minutes and still meet our time obligations.

If there were a way to circle this back around to the Beasts Beneath My Window, I would. But it turns out...I'm not that good.


RIP Rosa Parks

Friday, October 21, 2005

More on Beauty

Thoughts on beauty are hurling through cyberspace faster than you can say "Imelda." Joanne's even started a whole blog on the subject. Gladys is putting together a panel which turned into a conference which will likely morph into God only knows what. She of the rhinestone barette and sparkly pink lip gloss is talking anthology. And Bino? Bino's not only looking for his Pinoy Holiday Blogger Party invitation, he's ready to throw his dollar's worth of centavos on the table and points out—quite accurately—that the "Miss Unibers" chapter (and, hell, the whole novel!) from Umbrella Country more than entitles him to deliver his treatise on beauty. To which I can only say...bring it, Bino!

Meanwhile, I was reading an interview with Nigerian writer Chris Abani, who has this to say about African writing:

African art must exist in an appreciative context that is outside of the power of Westernization to reduce or empower. We allow access to the Western reader but also say we don't care about what you think. This is what we are trying to show you. If you get it, fine. If you don't get it, we don't care.

And while this has all sorts of obvious applications to our writing, all the recent discussion made me think about his words in terms guessed I'm so annoyed with how I continue to choose to feel angry about being fetishized, objectified, made invisible/inconsequential, thought of as "less than," etc. etc. I want to pull a Chris Abani, at last. I want to say—and truly feel—If you get me, fine. If you don't, I don't care.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Free Falling

Seriously, I could watch this for hours. I wonder if there's a way to make it into a screensaver?

Fund Free Mammograms

Only 12 days left for the Breast Cancer Site's "fund free mammograms" campaign. All you have to do is click. Ah, so free and easy...

See how easy?

Overheard @ Safeway

One line over at Safeway, a young brown man wrote a check for a few items and handed it to the (also) brown checker-ess. Unfortunate timing being what it is, there appeared to be some malfunction in the cash register's check verification function. These things are generally cleared up in a few minutes, a person's groceries are bagged, and they make their way out to their car, navigate their way home, and consume their beer and potato chips in peace.

Not so for this guy.

For this guy, minute after minute passed until everyone within listening distance grew uncomfortable. I was genuinely feeling for him until...until...until he said this to the checker-ess: "This isn't happening 'cuz I'm brown is it?"

Fifteen seconds of silence.

The checker-ess, who looked for all the world like she could have actually birthed the young customer, then assumed a voice so frosty I will never forget it. She said, "I'm brown, too."

At this point, I was almost overwhelmed by my maternal instinct, which was directing me to walk firmly over to this boy-man, take him by the shoulders, and say, "Look at me. Look at me, right here in my eyes. Okay, this is unacceptable behavior. What's the right thing to do now?"

And he would say, "I dunno."

And I would say, "Yes, you do. Think about it for a minute."

And he would mumble a pouty, "Sorry," to the checker.

But I didn't do that. I left with my bags, and have been thinking about it ever since.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Here She Comes...Miss Whatever

Lots of interesting discussion over at Gladys' about the phenomenon of beauty queendom as it applies to Pinays. Oh so luckily, this was never a "thing" in my family, at least not amongst my generation. Our mothers and lolas, of course, held various and sundry titles. So while I find the modern concept simultaneously vomit-inducing, embarrassing, and hilarious, I confess to being awash with a nostalgic feeling of "Oh, look!" when I see, for example, this photo of my Mom at a fashion show/beauty parade of some sort.

I don't know how to account for this.

Maybe it's simply because it's touching to see pictures of your parents when they were so young. Or maybe it's because I harbor the mistaken belief that it was a more innocent time, and that the vintage cult of beauty has nothing whatsoever to do with today's bizarre abomination of what used to be a little bit of lipstick and some powder.

I guess I'm just in denial because of course objectification is objectification, and the old-school pageants surely built the shoddy runway (heh heh) for what happens in our community these days.

Anyways, this topic has always fascinated me and often makes its way into my fiction. In one of my stories, "Beauty Queens," two young girls schlep around their Lola's wake, supremely annoyed that the woman they remember as fierce, brave, and loving is, after her death, being recalled most memorably as a beauty queen.

So I'm counting on Gladys to arrive at the blogger party with her tiara slightly skewed. And her scepter? Her scepter should be used to impale...something. Suggestions?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Return of the V.

Tentatively re-entering the blogosphere, here. I've decided to take Jean's advice and not try to force things. All I get for it, after all, is a page of the world's clunkiest prose. And I'm sure you've figured out by now that I care nothing for clunky prose, clunky shoes, clunky jewelry, or clunky anything, really.

I shall now focus on the many bright moments that have happened on the premises in the last few days:

1) Playdate with Izzy and The Wily Filipino! (aka Sunny). I have to give it up for Izzy, who held her own while in the company of three extremely loud and unsubtle children. Izzy is very Zen. Here, she is a superb influence on Lea, who would normally be sitting atop the table trying to decorate cookies using only her toes:

When Sunny & Izzy first arrived, Vida said, "So, how do you and Sunny know each other?" And I said, "Actually, we don't!" We had, in fact, never met. Unless, of course, you count Sunny walking out on an event at which I was reading (something about my piercing voice and unholy delivery of material, methinks). Anyways, we became fast friends and are now hatching a master plan for...hold on to your Ashton Kutcher wedding fedoras for this one...a possible Pinoy Holiday Blogger Party. We shall see.

Now, for your viewing pleasure,one pan of the girls' Halloween cookies right before they were put in the oven (prizes, I think, for anyone who can identify what shapes, exactly, these are supposed to be):

And here are the remains, along with sugared-up smiles from 3 out of 4 playdaters:

Thanks for the pictures, Sunny!

2) A postcard from an albino monkey in Nashville! Yay!:

3) And a big 'ol fat letter from a certain poet whose certain 2nd book has just been accepted for publication by a certain publisher. Yay again!:

I was so ridiculously excited to receive a letter that I tore it open as I walked back to the house, promptly sat down on the porch to read it, and ignored all screams and pleas for help from my kids until I was finished. The sun shone through the leaves on the birch trees, and I was happy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Requesting Permission To...

...oh, wait.

I don't have to request permission.

It's my blog.

And so: I'm taking a breather, my lovelies.

To patch the holes in my bucket.

And whatnot.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hole In the Bucket

Have you ever gone to the well, dipped your bucket, and—with complete faith—hauled it up only to find it...empty? Believing it's some kind of mistake, did you dip it again? And get the same results? It's like that with my writing now.

I'll admit I haven't quite found my rhythm with this whole Kindergarten and preschool thing. There were supposed to be these pockets of time in the week for writing (that was the idea, anyway), but hell if I know where they are. At night, I'm like anyone else: my body and mind call for rest. But maybe night is my missed opportunity? I don't know, but something's gotta give.

I'm gonna go bang my head against the wall for a bit now. And tomorrow? Tomorrow is another chance.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The I-Can't-Focus-On-One-Thing Post

So much fun to read all about Michelle & Rhett's Super Gigantic Big Day right here, here, here. And look! The gorgeous bride and handsome groom found some time to get in on the blog action. I love all the pictures.


Yay! Kepler's—finest bookstore around these parts—has survived a brush with death.


Candy corn is so...1975? I believe it's time for Pumpkin Heads to ascend to their rightful place in the Halloween candy hierarchy. But you must pronounce the name of this candy thus: pun • kin • hayeds.


Lorna Dee's new book is ready, willing, and able to satisfy your every poetic desire. Special deal for blog buddies!


The "Call to Pens" circle is on the mend, people! Weez is soon to send a letter to Nick and receive one from Eileen. Phew.

Meanwhile, Bec celebrates penpal-ism.


And, finally, a picture of the little ones as they sauntered into the Big Fresno Fair:

This was, of course, well before the cotton candy.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Little House on the...OH. MY. GOD.

It's some thirty-odd years later, and I can still remember exactly where the Westlake branch of the Daly City Public Library shelved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Some kids got their jollies (do you remember that? do you remember "getting your jollies?") high-stepping it to the 7-11 on 87th Street for a Baby Ruth and some Red Vines, but I wasn't (usually) among them. No, no, no. If you were looking for me, you could find me at the library, diligently working my way from Little House in the Big Woods through The First Four Years, while keeping a safe distance from the trenchcoat-wearing Library Flasher. Ewww. Ewww.

Anyways, today whilst kickin' it with Lea at the bookstore, I decided Risa and Vida were ready for their introduction to the Little House books. I snatched up a nice copy of Little House in the Big Woods, all excited at the prospect of sharing my precious childhood memories (okay, except for the Library Flasher part) with the next generation of book lovers.

Precious memories my arse.

On page 3, Laura is menaced by wolves. On page 4, she wakes in the morning to take her customary look at the beautiful oak trees in front of her house and sees...a dead deer hanging from a branch. On page 6, Pa skins the sucker, builds a smoker, and prepares venison to last through winter. Next, heroic Pa rescues the family pig from the clutches of a black bear in the middle of the night! On page 13, Laura is covering her ears so she does not have to hear this very same pig squeal as Pa and Uncle Henry take a knife to its throat. But, and I quote, "...After that, Butchering Time was great fun."

I cannot even describe the looks of abject horror on the faces of my daughters.

And yet...I continued. By the time Pa removed the pig's bladder and blew it up as a balloon for Laura and Mary to play with ("They could throw it into the air and spat it back and forth with their hands."), I was laughing so damn hard I could barely breathe. Seeing me laugh like this made all three kids start laughing, too, and we ended up writhing on the floor, gasping for air. "Okay, okay, that's enough!" I said. "No! NO! Read some more!"

So I did. I finished off with the section where Pa skins the pig's tail and thrusts a sharp stick through the large end so Laura and Mary can get their jollies roasting it over some blazing coals. "It was nicely browned all over," exults the omniscient narrator, "and how good it smelled!"


Speaking of pigs (and other farm-type animals), we're off to the Valley for our annual trip to the Big Fresno Fair.

You are so jealous.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Got a Pen? Find a Pal.

Ah, the lovely Ms. Lorna Dee Cervantes (she really was named after Lorna Doone shortbread cookies, a small box of which I insist on purchasing whenever we're on a road trip that necessitates a stop at a gas station. And, no, I do not share.) is keeping The Pen alive! She received my letter, and has this to say on her blog:

If you're reading this, email someone whose blog you read & admire for their address now. Write & mail a letter if you're feeling blue and think they are too. Include something cherished. (post art!) Let me know if you do. ps - beware! oops, forgot BC is a foreign country! Make sure you include the correct postage. (Overheard in Blogville: "How much is a stamp?") 37 cents, last I counted, in Aztlan. And, btw, I don't count, I'm expecting something cool from Nick! Try for someone who hasn't received one yet.

Thanks to penpal Ver for this light, for keeping the pens and friends flowing.

Please indulge my impulses and allow me to channel Eileen Tabios for a moment:

Moi generates light.

And this makes me happy. But, wait, there's more happiness to announce! Hold on to your broomsticks...the wily filipino and his itty-bitty Izzy are coming over for a Halloween cookie-making playdate.

You are so jealous.


P.S. Is the rumor true? Does Nick give good mail? Do tell.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

How to Go From Zero to Happy in 5 Minutes

The thing about my family's web site is that it is full of mystery. First of all, people register and we have no idea who they are. When someone finally asks, the resounding silence echoes through cyberspace.

There's also this: my cousin Luj, who rejuvenated our already considerable family devotion by putting the whole site together, has concocted an elaborate and utterly impossible to understand system of participation levels. These levels are, of course, named after food. I believe I've been stuck on "Gulaman Level" for more than a year now. And I have made 951 posts. Nine hundred and fifty-one! Should this not grant me "Lechon Level"? And what is the penultimate level, anyway? We have no idea.

But the most mysterious thing about the site is its uncanny ability to cheer you up when life is sorta sucky. Take just now, for example. Just now I was thinking, "Whoa, despite my many blessings, these past few days have been sorta sucky." So I began to idly scan the photo album, and I came upon this photo, which was like a refreshing glass of ice water thrown directly over my head. These are some of my cousins:

Look at those beeeeyooootiful faces! This made me happy. And then I listened to some Alejandro Fernandez and became happier still (I admit to this only because I have been living in fear of ob outing my little musical secret). Now, I'm fit to burst and am going off to put pen to paper.

'Til the morrow, gentle people.

Monday, October 03, 2005

"Everything's Scary"

I'm spent.

I don't know if I can emotionally stomach another morning running from preschool in tears. What's the problem, you ask? For a week now, Lea has been in freak-out mode when I take her to school. The amount of mental and physical energy this requires is astounding. By 9:30 in the morning, all I want to do is climb into bed. A brief chronicle of my descent into Hell:

Day 1: "Mama, I don't want you to go," she says. This is the first time she's expressed any sort of trepidation about being left at preschool. Believing it's a fluke of some sort, I stay with her for a few minutes. A few minutes turns into 45 minutes. For some reason, she snaps out of it at that point, and I leave.

Day 2: "Mama, I don't want you go to," she says. Again. I stay for fifteen minutes. Then I go to Teacher J. and ask him what I should do. He tells me that this is her way of saying that she loves me and if there is any possible way for her to stay with me, she will attempt to find it. When you're ready, he says, kiss her good-bye and tell her you'll see her at Celebration Time. After ten more minutes, I do this. She wraps her arms and legs around me like a monkey, and I bring her to Teacher JP. I pry her off of me, and leave her with him. I then run out of the classroom bawling. Teacher J. meets me in the parking lot and gives me a hug. "It's hard," he says. To which I silently reply, "No fucking shit." When I call the school 30 minutes later, they tell me she's having a great day.

Day 3: She will not get out of the car. "I'm scared," she says. The tears stream. "Everybody's scary." I attempt, unsuccessfully, to refute her claim. I do and say all the stuff I'm supposed to say and still she will not get out of the car. I leave her there and go into the school. "I can't even get her out of the car," I say. We talk child psychology for a few minutes. As usual, the theories are perfectly sound. Executing the "solutions" is futile because the damn "solutions" don't work. Finally, I say, "Okay. What would you do if you were me?" Three teachers say: "Bring her in." I don't see her in the car at first. Why? Because she has climbed all the way into the back and is crouching in the corner. I can't pull her out. I have to release all the seats until it's totally flat and I can drag her out. She's crying, she's doing the stiff-as-a-board move, she's begging. I manage to carry her down the stairs while she screams, "I want to go home! Where it's cozy!" Teacher JP takes her from me, and I make for the stairs, crying as usual. When I call the school 30 minutes later, they say she's doing "super."

And when I get there to pick her up, she's all smiles and cotton candy. She talks incessantly about painting and playing and singing and whatnot. When we pick up her sisters, she tells them, "I had a great time at pweeeschool." And I guess she did. And I guess this is going to get easier.

But I'm not going to count on it just yet.