Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday In the Shop on the Day the 49ers Play the Seahawks

It's Sunday, and I'm perched on my stool in the shop just having exchanged a flurry of instant messages with my brother. They were mostly single-word exchanges:

Me: Gracias namiento
Him: Dinero
Me: Puttanesca
Him: Bertoli. Picolina.
Me: Kimbocha.
*20 second pause*
Me: I WIN!

Such a pointless exchange is possible because unlike yesterday, with its welcome parade of customers, today is 49er game day and no one is interested in me or, more importantly, my beautiful toys. I content myself with smiling at people as they rush by in their 49er jerseys, caps, hoodies and, I assume, socks and underwear on their way, I'm guessing, to the party at their neighbor's house. I won't watch the game, but I'll be able to hear quite succinctly the blood-curdling screams, gasps, groans, and cheers from the small deli across the street. In this way I'll be able to deduce who is winning.

I will work a little bit on an essay that I'm writing, and I won't feel guilty. I'll sweep the floor again, dust the tables, re-arrange the German furniture in the Maine-made dollhouse. When, by a small retail miracle, someone does walk in, we will each be bewildered that the other is not watching the game.

Maybe it will be the small old woman who frequently stands outside and smiles at me through the window. Sometimes she comes in, clutching her purse close to her body. She's always in a pink cardigan and elastic-waist gabardine pants, her hair silver and close-cropped. She told me once that she lives in the senior home on El Camino and likes to take walks. Her daughter and grand-daughter live in nearby Hillsborough, but I have never seen them; she's always alone. She moved here from Michigan, she says, after her husband passed away. I think I'm part of a promise she's made to herself to talk to someone, sometimes.

She told me her name, but I can't remember what it is.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sounding the Alarm

Not to be an alarmist, but...okay, well maybe I do mean to be an alarmist...if there's something you want to do or say, you should do it or say it already. Except for unnecessary plastic surgery; do not have unnecessary plastic surgery.

You want to square dance? Then square dance! Not that I understand why you would choose to do that, but still: square dance!

You want to re-read the entire series of Game of Thrones books? Do it! I totally understand why you would choose to do that!

You want to tell someone you haven't seen or talked to in 5 years that you love them deeply and for all time until every river runs dry? Go ahead! At your own risk, that is. If you can't think of another option, that is. If your spouse won't be upset, that is. I can sort of understand why you would choose to do that!

Cut your hair off! Eat Jell-O in its crystallized form! Break into song at the mall while simultaneously eating at, I don't know, Panda Express!

Write the book, paint the canvas, print the t-shirt.

Learn to play the violin! I guess.

Master five yo-yo tricks! Take photos without using an Instagram filter! Toss your iPhone off a bridge!

Time is a finite resource, that's what I'm trying to say. It's slipping away from you even as I type, even as you read. The people you love dissolve into the ether, the person you were yesterday doesn't exist anymore and, per the great poet, the center cannot hold. I repeat: the center cannot hold.

Do the things already.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Teenage Filipina Letter Writing / Daly City / Circa 1982

I'm in thinking-and-jotting-down mode for an essay that I hope to start writing soon.

A new image pops into my head every day, usually during the morning. The hours pass, and this initial picture grows bigger and bigger just like a Bubble Yum bubblegum bubble. Yesterday's image: a zoom in on the loopy, extraordinarily ornamental penmanship of my high school girlfriends—Pinays, all.

As the bubble grew, the image morphed into a densely packed missive written on college rule binder paper with the florid sign-off of "love forever and ever and always..." Then I saw brown hands with tapered fingers, maroon-colored nail polish, and the initials "LM" written in black ink on the web of skin between thumb and firefinger. The hands folded the letter in on itself until it became a self-contained envelope. Then it was pressed against the sender's mouth, sealed with a kiss from cherries-in-the-snow lips.

These letters were transmitted hand-to-hand, or furtively tossed into a locker during passing periods, or sometimes sent via a third party, which was especially thrilling when the third party was a boy. In a black derby jacket. Smelling of Jovan Musk.

Receiving letters and writing them cemented friendships, certainly, but they were also the perfect fodder for betrayal, manipulation, or out-and-out war. The modern-day equivalent is a text conversation, I suppose, but texts don't have the charm of doodles in the margins, or an inked wreath of flowers crowning your name, and they don't arrive intricately folded into origami ninja stars or hearts to discourage tampering. The old days RULE!

I wish I had known how large these letters would loom in my old-lady memory because I would have saved some, and there would be a picture here for your viewing enjoyment. As it is, I'll have to make do with a random internet photo that kind of gives you the idea, but not quite.

That's it for my first, stilted post of 2014. May all that follow be more fluent, more amusing, more...something.