Sunday, January 30, 2005

I Beg Your Patience (In A Ranty Way)

People with children are sometimes an inconvenience to those who are—for whatever reason—child-free. Once, on a flight from Calgary to Vancouver, the spousal unit and I (still in our dating phase) had the back of our seats kicked non-stop by a kid who looked to be about six years old. After an hour without any attempt by his mother or father to stop his behavior, we did what we would never do now that we are parents: we went a little ugly-American on the family. "He's just a kid!" the mother yelled in defense.

She was right. But she was wrong not to at least attempt to curb his zealous feet. The burden lays on the parents, and believe me, most of us know it. Which is why I do my best to cause little or no hiccups when out with the kids. It is why we lie outright to our children, inventing vaguely menacing characters like Good Manners Guy and The Green Witch, both of whom I'm sure I've discussed here before. Heaven forbid anyone think badly of my children or—perhaps even worse, I'll admit—badly of my mothering.

Because of the extent I go to avoid taxing those who are taxed even by the sight of kids (you're so easy to spot; you may as well have a flashing neon sign over your heads), I am often shocked by the impatience I am occasionally met with. Like in a parking lot when the person in the space next to mine wants to pull out, and screams—screams!—at me to shut my door even when they can plainly see I'm making sure my child is secure in her carseat. Well, you know what? Nine times out of ten, I do shut the door. Nine times out of ten, I am hyper-vigilant of whether or not my very existence is annoying someone. Of course, that's a ridiculous thing to try to explain to the person screaming at me. But still.—Don't effing scream at me. You're dealing with stuff, I'm dealing with stuff. The least we can do is be polite.

This seems like a good place to inject that once, when passing by two late twenty-something women, I heard one whisper, "Oh, look. She breeds." I wanted desperately to whip her Ambercrombie & Fitch ass, but that would have undermined most of our "Use your words, not your fists," work. So I turned the other cheek, even while I was mentally flipping her off. Breeder? How rude is that?

I'm reading this book (quite amazing, so far), and it points out that today a woman could conceivably (a pun! a pun!) engineer her life to be lived in almost complete isolation from children, whereas women used to exist in "dense webs" of female relationships that made that type of isolation impossible, even if you wanted it.

So...until you exhibit that you are friend, not foe—like with a smile, say, or a return of the greeting that my kids will inevitably offer—I'm going to assume you're one of the isolationists. And I beg your patience.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Fashion Don't

It's bad enough that most of the world thinks we're stupid. Now Vice President Cheney represents us at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz wearing a parka, cheap-o beanie, and hiking boots? He might as well be picking his nose in that picture.

We are. We're so stupid.

Best-Laid Plans

I was in a writing funk. You know this, right?

And so I was hoping my blog hiatus would translate directly into writing. I blog almost every day, after all. It seemed logical that I could just transfer the blogging time (brief as it is) into writing time, and end up with...something. Of course it didn't work out that way, and the time I normally would have spent blogging and blog-hopping was spent reading short stories instead. This was by no means a waste of time, of course. It just wasn't what I had in mind.

I read from anthologies, mostly: O. Henry Prize, Best American, Babaylan. And some Chekhov, Ellen Gilchrist, Gina Berriault. It's always Berriault who makes me catch my breath. How beautifully she wrote—even the titles can break your heart: "Women in their Beds," "Nights in the Gardens of Spain," "Like a Motherless Child," "The Light at Birth." She taught at SFSU for awhile, I believe. Maybe we bumped shoulders waiting in line for a slice of pizza deep in the bowels of the student union. Maybe something rubbed off, and it'll come to pass years from now.

Anyways, for a variety of reasons (and in spite of my "ethnicity? choose one" hyper-sensitivity), I am now de-funked.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Is My Comment Thingy Busted? Really?

Update. The lovely gura has something to say on the subject...


Paul just sent me this e-mail, to which I replied—in all caps—"There is no 'other!'" And I mean that literally and figuratively, of course. Anyhoots, here's the message:

Hey what’s up? Just stepped away from a power meeting. First, your response button does not work on your blog and if it did I would tell you to mark “other."...My kids and I are Italian, Filipino, and Mexican...I’m an other. I like being an other.

Hey, the only reason I picked you first in kickball was that you were better than the boys, and you were my best friend.

Cheers. Back to the meeting I go.

Yes! I was better than the boys. I knew it, dammit. I knew it. *stares dreamily off into the left corner of the kitchen*

Tony Robles weighed in via e-mail, too, and confused me to such an extent that I have now decided just to mark "Guamanian" and be done with it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

"Mindblowing Decisions...

...cause head-on collisions." Remember that Heatwave (wow—check that jumpsuit action!) song? I mention it because in the process of filling out Risa and Vida's kindergarten registration papers, I was stopped short by the following question:

Ethnicity? (please circle one): Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Filipino, Amer. Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Indian, Guamanian, Hispanic or Latino, Chinese, Laotian, Samoan, African-American, Japanese, Cambodian, Tahitian, Korea, Other Asian, Other Pacific Islander, White.

Circle one? How, exactly, am I supposed to do that? More to the point, why should I have to? And here's possibly the most annoying part: if I do not care to identify my child's racial/ethnic group, The District is required to make the designation for me. What's a mom to do?

Now's not the time to be shy, my people. Speak your mind.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Scenes From the Week, Moving Backwards

At writer's group, telling the story of the first time I met Marianne Villanueva. We were reading together for this book, and because it was my first reading ever, and I knew nothing and nobody, I was experiencing a deep, deep uneasiness, which manifested in sweaty palms and an irrational fear of my face displaying—perhaps—a smudge of peanut butter or some other food substance. I had arrived embarrassingly early, of course, clutching my copy of the book like it contained the secrets of the universe. Marianne, by contrast, crept in late and slipped easily into the chair beside me while Jay Ruben Dayrit read his story, "The House of Prime Rib." She leaned over and whispered, "Can I borrow your book? I didn't bring one." And that is how I realized that Marianne is the cool girl from the Senior class, while I am the dweebie Freshman.

At my perch, reading blogs. Suddenly seized by the long arms of jealousy and thrown around for a bit. Eh, it's healthy.

At my perch, reading the news. Laughing out loud because the President "vows to end tyranny." Whose, exactly?

At the pediatrician's office. Vida takes a stand on immunization, screaming bloody murder while I wrap my legs around her to keep her from kicking. To minimize her squirming, my arms encircle her waist. The spousal unit holds the remaining parts of her steady for the nurse, who performs her job admirably while Vida recites a litany of everything she hates: shots, nurses, doctors, life. And then it's over, and I can see she feels a little silly.

At the kitchen counter. Slicing flank steak, admiring my work.

At the mirror, taking stock. Conclusion: I need a haircut. Badly. I also need to drink more water.

At the center of the 3-way conflict, kneeling. "It's Martin Luther King Day," I admonish. "What would he say if he saw you fighting?" The bigger ones already know, so I turn to Lea. "Lea, what would he say?" And she says, "Use your words, not your fists." We all nod at her. "Sorry, Mama. Sorry, guys."


So...I need to take a blog break and do some real writing, people. El serenito has his mHYeow-bernation; I have my ver-bernation.

Be back soon.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Speaking of Kickball...

What was your pitch of choice? I always used to say "Medium bouncy!" with the hope of connecting with the ball on a bounce and launching it way over the heads of the outfielders. Choosing "Fast and smooth!" had its advantages, too, though.

In elementary school, my best buddy Paul was always a team captain (is it fair, though, to only designate the best players as captain? Do they still do that in school?), and he always picked me first despite the superior kicking power of boys whose names I can't now remember. And so I was just thinking: I owe Paul a thank you because our kickball days were an excellent early lesson in loyalty.

Also speaking of kickball (listen up Gura and Rhett!) instead of opting for the typical bachelor/bachelorette parties, my little cousin and her now-husband hosted a rollicking kickball game, complete with many homeless park dwellers who ended up picking sides, coaching, and cheering wildly. They only problem is that they had it the day before the wedding, and there was more than one person limping on The Big Day.

And finally...the spousal unit insists that I have now placed all my fellow bloggers in shortstop positions. Could this be right? I need to re-organize.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Schooled by Risa

The other night as I was drying Risa off after her bath, I said, "Hey—finish this sentence: 'Having a bath is like...'"

She answered without hesitation. "True love," she said, all swoony.

"Really? How is taking a bath like true love?" I was disappointed, I'll admit. I thought she was just talking to talk, just repeating the phrase "true love" because it's so often a part of the stories she plays out with her sisters.

"Because when your mom or dad give you a bath, you are cared for."



And because he asked so nice, I declare my cousuncle Paqui the new shortstop on my kickball team.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Oh, Bother

Because this is the birthdate of A.A. Milne, the powers who declare such things have declared today "Winnie the Pooh Day." This is fine by me, especially since Eeyore, in all his gloomy splendor, once had this to say about writing: "This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it."

This pretty much sums up my current (and no doubt fleeting) thoughts on the subject.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Desperately Seeking..."Young Pinay Beauties?"

The best part about tacking Sitemeter onto my blog is being able to see the search words that lead people here to my nest. Here, a few of my favorites from the last few days:

1) young + pinay + beauties
2) disney + princesses + belle + with + ariel + sex
3) dragon + beard + candy
4) philippine + short + story + lolo's + bride
5) read + stinky + cheese + man
6) mary + louise + parker + adam + duritz
7) tatarin + women + oppression
8) white + girls + cornrows

I must comment, I must:

1) No comment.
2) There are sick, sad people roaming about.
3) Actually, there were more than a dozen of these last week. I think I oughta be paid by the manufacturer.
4) That someone would google one of my short stories is...hard to believe. Who are you?
5) Hahahahahahaha!
6) See? I'm not the only one who wonders about Adam. That's what I call him: Adam.
7) A college kid writing a paper, no doubt.
8) I wouldn't put it past me, but I cannot remember ever blogging about white girls and cornrows.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Kitchen Police

Dad is home from the hospital with orders to maintain a low sodium diet. I find this simultaneously sad and hilarious. Needless to say, my parents needed a visit from The Kitchen Police. So this afternoon we went to visit, and I demonstrated that, yes, it's possible to cook an edible meal using less than a 1/4 teaspoon of salt (nice to meet ya, Mrs. Dash). I ended up improvising chicken breasts with crimini mushrooms and caramelized onions, couscous, and cucumbers with a little feta. I was in luck because compared to the food in the hospital, my little meal was a veritable explosion of flavor.

With lunch done, I moved on to confiscating dangerous items from the kitchen. Here's a partial list of things removed:

1) Seven packages sinigang soup mix (Knorr and Mama Sita's)
2) Three packages Hawaiian-style curry sauce mix
3) Two packages afritada menudo mix
4) Two packages Mama Sita's palabok gravy mix
5) One package Mama Sita's barbecue marinade mix (940 mg of sodium in one tablespooon!)
6) Two containers garlic salt
7) Two bottles patis (one Filipino, one Thai)
8) Five containers soy sauce (three standard, one with calamansi, one especially for sashimi)
9) One jumbo bottle Maggi
10) Seaweed salad, hot dogs, spam
11) Chicken bouillon
12) Two containers iodized salt, one large box kosher salt

I'm so thirsty.

p.s. Thanks, all, for your concern. You're awfully nice.

Friday, January 14, 2005


My Dad is in the hospital with the kind of problems that sedentary, tobacco-addicted, Filipino-food eating, sugar-loving, and deaf (in that he dismisses with a snort any suggestions for changing his lifestyle) people will sooner or later meet. The nurses (all Pinay, thank God) think he's a little wacky because he refuses to take off his jeans, UGG boots, or baseball cap. "I gotta be in charge of something," he says, by way of explanation.

He's incorrigible, stubborn, and maddening, but with a soft side that makes it all forgivable. After going to the Bindlestiff reading last year, for example (and no doubt inspired by Miz Barbara Jane, Jean, Gura, and all the other poets who read), he wrote a poem. He is not a writer, mind you. And his reading is self-restricted to the newspaper and fly-fishing magazines. But I will share his poem because...well, because it's my blog.

They were launching a new book.
A gathering of writers, poets, comics, enthusiasts of the written and spoken word.
My daughter was reading her part. The spotlight lit up her face.
My vision was blurred. It was difficult to see clearly.
I kept wiping tears.
Macular degeneration.
Wet type.
Getting old is a pain, man.

So, you see, I'm crazy 'bout my Dad. And because I am the baby of the family and the only girl, the feeling is mutual. No wonder, then, that yesterday I was speeding at a brisk 85 mph down a crowded stretch of 280. The stereo was screaming (you know that song--I'm breaking my back/just to know your name...?--it makes me turn the volume up) when I heard a strange sound. I thought perhaps it was the wind, so I glanced at the trees lining the highway. They were still. I clicked the stereo off. What is that sound?

Then my truck fell.

Or so it seemed. I checked my side-mirror and saw my back tire roll onto the side of the highway. Holy fucking shit. I said, "Okay, okay, okay, be calm." I hit my emergency lights, pressed slowly on the brake, turned my steering wheel subtly in the direction I was being pulled, and moved two lanes over (very telling that it's easy to do 85 in the third lane of 280) until I was safely out of the way.

I had just called the spousal unit and was in the middle of unnecessarily hyperventilating when a truck pulled up in back of me. And that's where the drama ends. Because it was a guy from some auto shop, and he changed my tire for fifty-five bucks.

Oh, but wait! There's more! While Dad and I sat in his room eavesdropping on the highly inconsiderate amount of activity occurring on the other side of the curtain (the patient was asleep, but his television was on full-blast, and he had at least six people in his room, all screeching into their cell phones), he said, "Hey."


"Tell Mom to get rid of all the sticks before I get home."


"Yeah. I tried to quit two weeks ago, but then she went out and bought some."

"Okay, good."

"You should go home now, Toots."

And after awhile, I did.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

When All Else Fails: A List

Things I Was Unable To Do Today:
•Drive while simultaneously locating the Lion King CD, retrieving a My Little Pony from under a seat, and passing a Triscuit to the car's third row.
•Comprehend why a kid's Pooh-bear belly is so cute and why an adult's is...not so much.
•Eat at McDonald's (this since the day my friend D. forced Fast Food Nation on me).
•Make small talk at the gym.
•Snag a comfy chair at the bookstore.
•Any of these, with the exception of this one, which is an everyday occurrence in my house.

Things I Was Able To Do Today:
•Drive while applying lipstick.
•Eat 3/4 of a Clementine Cutie in one bite.
•Cook dinner while blogging, answering e-mail, overseeing children's play activities, and writing thank you notes.
•Restrain myself from keying a car festooned with one of those unintentionally hilarious, Bush-loving "'W'" Stand for Women" stickers.
•Slip my truck into three parking spaces whose meters were already sufficiently fed.
•Write, though not fiction.

An okay kinda day.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Pain In the Cerebellum

As a favor to someone I adore, I agreed to edit an essay written by an academic who shall, for my purposes, remain nameless. I'm sure this person's points must be valid or perhaps even brilliant, but I can't be certain because reading the text is like slogging through mud with 20-lb. weights wrapped around my ankles while someone bangs on my head with a hammer. In fact, it sounds a lot like this essay which, it turns out, is "completely meaningless and was randomly generated by the Postmodern Generator" using the Dada Engine, a system used to generate "random text from recursive grammars."

I don't know what any of that actually means, but what it means to me is that you have to go to a lot of trouble to write in a way that nobody can bloody understand. It would be so much easier on both writer and reader--don't you think?--to keep it simple. I'm not advocating "dumbing down," mind you. I'm just saying.

This reminds me of a story my brother told on our family message board when one of the threads was getting too convoluted (he just wanted to talk about shoes, but people were insisting on an involved discussion about someone's thesis topic). In the sixth grade, his teacher taught the class this familiar song:

Show me the way to go home
I'm tired and I wanna go to bed
I had a little drink about an hour ago
And it went right to my head.

She also taught them this version:

Indicate the way to my habitual abode
I'm fatigued and I want to retire
I had a little drink about an hour ago
And it went right to my CE-RE-BEL-LUM

I can only hope that she did this as a lesson in effective communication, rather than as a song for sixth grade truants to sing as they sipped beer behind the bleachers on the upper field. But you never know.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Late Lunch

I've been quite busy here prepping for R & V's first-ever kid party tomorrow. In fact, this morning I glued sparkly plastic jewels around the edges of the paper plates. Why? Because I'm insane.

But this is not the point.

The point is that I just ate a late lunch of last night's leftover Prueba de Cerdo, which is a dish I've made for years, but which has never been quite as good as it was just now. I think it's because I've never eaten it when the wind is throwing rain against the windows, all the girls are down for a nap, and the scent of chocolate cupcakes is rising from the oven.

It's the small things, people, the small ones.

Happy weekend, all.

Friday Random-Ness

Interesting things floating through my in-box...

A cousin of mine whom I (strangely, very strangely) hardly know at all, is Assistant Director for the Revival Arts Productions presentation of Nick Joaquin's Tatarin. Joaquin adapted it from his short story "The Summer Solstice" (what, by the way, would we do without Ian's amazing Philippine Literature site?!). Anyhoots, here's the lowdown:

January 3, 2005, Hayward, CA - Revival Arts Productions, the Bay Area's up and coming Filipino Theater company will be performing their first full-length play, Tatarin, on January 20, 21, 22 and January 27, 28, 29, 2005 at the Cal State University, Hayward Studio Theater.

Tatarin, the critically acclaimed play by the late Nick Joaquin, has been regarded as one of the most powerful dramatic pieces portraying the sexual, social, and political liberation of the Filipino Woman. Set in the Philippines during the 1920s, clan patriarch Don Paeng finds his status challenged by a taboo ritual called Tatarin. In this secret ritual, lower class women gather to liberate themselves by defying gender oppression through their discovery of power from within. During this moment of seduction, Don Paeng's wife, Lupe, is slowly enticed to join. Amidst the male dominated society, the lady priestesses or babaylans intentionally set the Tatarin during the Procession of St. John the Baptist to throw the suspicions off their practices and cry out, "Women are goddesses and men are slaves that obey their every wish."

Revival Arts Productions takes pride in showcasing Tatarin.

Venue: Studio Theatre, California State University, Hayward.
25800 Carlos Bee Blvd., Hayward, Ca
Dates: Thursday (1/20), Friday (1/21), Saturday (1/22), Thursday (1/27), Friday (1/28), Saturday (1/29)
Time: 7:00pm - doors open 8:00pm - show starts
Pricing: $3.00 students (with ID), Seniors/Kids (under 12), $6.00 general admission



And in other e-mail news, a neighbor of mine sent a message with the alarming subject line (in all caps and with multiple exclamation marks, no less) of "Keep Our Children Safe." So despite her capital and punctuation abuse, I pretty much had to open it. And I'm glad I did because it sent me to a web site for Megan's Law, where you can enter your zip code, county, or addresses of parks and schools to see the names, photographs (especially helpful), addresses, and crimes of sexual offenders living in your area. I guarantee this will freak you the eff out, but it's good information to have. So check it out right here.


I also received an unnecessarily snippy e-mail from another neighbor. When I wrote back, I said, "Are you in a lousy mood or sumpin'? Cheer up, Charlie." His name isn't Charlie, but I like to drop quotes from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory whenever possible. I've got Wonka on the brain.

And with that, I'm signing off for now...

Thursday, January 06, 2005

This Is Pretty Good

It's like the opening scene of Fahrenheit 9/11, but with a better ending:

Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (a Democrat from Ohio) and Senator Barbara Boxer (our girl in Cali) have filed their objection to the extreme shadiness that went on in Ohio. So now (literally--right now!) there are two separate two-hour debates going on in the House and the Senate.

I've now stopped stomping my feet and repeatedly holding my breath until my face turns blue: the outcome of the election will not change. But at least we can start to clean-up the obviously dirty dealings of jackasses like Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I’m a Star, Baby

Every Wednesday, a group of twelve or so young adults with special needs comes to the gym for a workout. The gym staff, along with their two teachers, puts them through their paces, teaching them how to use various cardio machines and all the cybex gizmos, how to properly hoist free weights, stretch, and whatnot. I have to say it looks like a pain-free, helluva fun job. This group of learners is more enthusiastic than Olivia Newton John in the “Physical” video, I tell you. They are bursting with joy even while sweating and utterly out of breath.

Maybe it’s selfish, but I’m so happy every time I see them trudging up the stairs at 10 am (you can set your watch by their arrival). This was especially true a few weeks ago when I was losing my battle with the elliptical trainer thingy and I couldn’t seem to find anything on the iPod to ease my torture. Not even Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You.” (Okay, so now you know. Let the mocking begin.)

But then! But then M., the one in the group who always has his tube socks pulled way up over his knees, hopped on the machine beside me. “Hey,” he said.


He explained that one of the staff members told him that if he could do just a 15-minute workout on the machine, he’d be “The Man!”

“Oh yeah?” I said. “You’ll do it no problem.”

“Yeah!” He began to run in earnest and seemed to find his zone almost immediately.

I played random Prince songs and kept going. When I had about 8 minutes left, I thought eff this. I’m going shopping.

But then! But then M. said, “You’re a star, baby!” I looked over at him and couldn’t tell if he was talking to me. On the chance that he might be, I took off my headphones. “That’s right! A star!” He made a whooping noise, which made me smile in spite of myself. I still didn’t know if he was talking to me, but at that point it didn’t really matter. “I’m takin’ you to Hollywood! Hol! Ly! Wood!”

Fastest eight minutes of my life. And while he didn’t take me to Hollywood, he did take me through those last lousy minutes.

And, yeah, I felt like a star.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Cosmo HeGood

Okay, my Cosmo Doogood's Urban Almanac is one of those impulsive and often ridiculous newsstand purchases I make during any given month. I am only slightly loathe to admit that during this particular binge I probably also indulged in the completely-unrelated-to-life-as-I-currently-know-it wallpaper* and caught up on the ever-evolving saga of breasts in Hollywood (which, in case you had any question, have always been completely unrelated to life as I know it). But sometimes it's the impulsive things you do that bring on the smiles.

And so it has been with Cosmo Doogood. Did you know, for example, that yesterday was Memento Mori Day (or for those of us not versed in Latin: Remember, You Die Day)? That the sun set at 4:45? That it was the day in 1892 on which J.R.R. Tolkien's mother screamed in agony on her birthing bed? And that the moon was in conjunction with Jupiter (okay, I have no idea what that means) at precisely 7:23 PM? Well, now you do.

But because I am the owner of Cosmo Doogood's Urban Almanac and you are not, I knew before you.

Monday, January 03, 2005


About fifteen years ago at a shop in Philadelphia, I found a tiny lacquer pin with silver letters that pronounced "Us=Them." I picked it up instinctively and had it wrapped as a Christmas gift for our friend R., who happens to be gay. Though I didn't understand it at the time, it was an attempt to eliminate the dangerous mindset that separates us so neatly from each other or from The Other. Leny recently blogged about this "othering," this tendency to pull a "there-for-the-grace-of-God" number every time we think about--for example--the recent disaster.

Like many, I was disconcerted by the media's use of the 2-year-old Swedish boy separated from his family in Phuket. When some talking CNN head somberly proclaimed that "...he may very well become the face of this tragedy," I thought how the hell do you figure that?! And then, of course, there was the focus on the ordeal of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, who was also vacationing in Phuket. The fact that she graced the cover of the magazine in 2003 was repeated several times as if it were some sort of key fact in understanding the gravity of the situation. And that's the point where I sorta gave up on mainstream media.

But then Leny and her post came along, and I realized that in being annoyed with the coverage of these two particular stories, I was guilty of my own kind of othering. In fact, I'm guilty of that quite a bit (hi Republicans!). So with many thanks to Leny--and with apologies for the mangled writing and any lack of logic in this post--I'd just like to repeat...'s Us=Them.