|Tonight's LUSHiious purchase|
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Assumption: anything accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof
In March, while in New York, I saw the Broadway play, Wicked. Back in my hotel room that night at the Park Central on 7th Avenue, I ruminated over the complexities of this Ozian play, adapted from Gregory Maguire’s novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. As I thought about poor Elphaba, the notorious WWW, I couldn’t get Kermit the Frog’s melancholic dirge out of my head: It’s Not Easy Being Green...
I loved everything about Wicked, especially the “innuendo, outuendo” word play built upon the rich anti-philosophical musings of Galinda, the “I happen to be genuinely self-absorbed and deeply shallow!” Good Witch of the North: "Magic wands, need they have a point?" But underneath the deeply shallow layers of humor, civil rights, and animal cruelty, I stumbled upon my very own “bizarre and unexpected twister of fate”—a confirmation of a theme that I have been formulating over the past several months after a series of odd relationship blows. My theme revolves around the problem of assumption and the fallout that can occur from the mindless action of making both rational and irrational assumptions.
First of all, I have an innate aversion to the word. Assumption. It starts with the prefix, ass-, which reminds me of other unpleasant words: assail, assault, assassination. As an avid friend collector, (try 1,101 on my steadily growing facebook page), I make every effort to steer clear of making assumptions about people. If I’m perplexed over someone’s actions or appearance, I search for facts first, ignoring the temptation to lump everything into one big hairy assumption and jump to my own most-likely misguided conclusions. Concerning the two or three people in my life who have recently assailed me with their misguided assumptions, all I can say is that I wish they had gotten their facts straightened out before lashing out against me. It hurt quite a bit in each of these non-related incidents, but as vexed as I felt, I could not conjure enough anger within me to retaliate. This is probably because my rendition of Kermit’s song has always been It’s not easy being mean.
For Elphaba, her green complexion sets others off when they see her. People assume she’s been cursed and treat her accordingly. Because of this wicked assumption, Elphaba’s dedication to helping the helpless goes unnoticed. She has taken care of her wheelchair-bound sister, Nessarose, all her life. She also cares deeply about the mistreatment of animals to the extent that she is sure the Wizard of Oz can solve the problem. "After all," Elphaba says, "that's why we have a Wizard."
When she becomes outraged over a frightened lion cub in a cage, Elphaba casts a spell that causes everyone except her one admirer Fiyero to gyrate out of control. Elphaba and Fiyero then steal the cub and set it free in the woods. Then she casts a winged spell on a host of caged monkeys, only to discover that Oz is not a wizard after all, and that the flying monkeys will be used as spies to further oppress the rest of the animals.
Even Elphaba’s sister, Nessarose, turns against her after Elphaba saves a munchkin named Boq by turning him into the Tin Man. Boq assumes that Elphaba turned him into the Tin Man because she’s evil. The lion cub that Elphaba and Fiyero freed at Shiz becomes the Cowardly Lion, and everyone assumes his cowardice is Elphaba’s fault because "…if she had let him fight his own battles when he was young, he wouldn't be a coward today."
After these assumptions begin to haunt her, Elphaba tries to cast a spell to save Fiyero's life but thinking she has failed again, she sings “No Good Deed” and succumbs to her wicked status.
Ultimately, when the Scarecrow is revealed to be Fiyero, transformed by Elphaba's spell, Elphaba fakes her death, which must be kept secret even from her finally trusted friend, Galinda-turned-Glinda, to protect her. Glinda mourns her green friend's death but the citizens of Oz celebrate it, while Elphaba and Fiyero secretly leave Oz forever.
L. Frank Baum would have marveled over the way Broadway has funneled his classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, into an interpretive whirlwind of true friendship, one that surpasses color and the wicked assumptions that have destroyed one green girl too many.
At least Kermit’s a frog, I thought to myself as I drifted off to sleep that night in New York. He’s supposed to be green…
Friday, May 7, 2010
What’s most unique about the Bangkok Chef is that it’s built into a garage that used to be an obnoxious karaoke bar. I say obnoxious because for two years I lived in an apartment directly across the street from it, suffering through hours of nightly drunken serenading and middle of the night brawling, accompanied by sirens routinely howling into my interrupted dreams.
I eventually resorted to praying on my balcony before bedtime that the patrons would get tired earlier and go home, or that they’d all spread a bad case of laryngitis amongst each other. The praying became ritual, to the extent that I strategized with God for ways to transform the a-melodious hellhole into something more pleasant. Maybe the owners would convert to literary folk and transform the garage into a shabby-chic bookstore. Maybe they’d strike it big in Vegas and relocate to a more affluent, off-island location. More specifically, I simply prayed it would become a “fruitful” place.
After two horrific years of Englebert Humperdink and Mariah Carey wannabe’s, I caved in and moved out of the apartment, feeling somewhat defeated by the unanswered prayers. But less than a month after U-hauling it out of there, I drove into the shopping center’s parking lot and did a double take at what had been the infamous karaoke bar. Freshly painted green, the new sign in front of it read, OPEN MARKET. For the first time, the metal garage door was rolled wide open, so I peeked in and discovered the most direct answer to any prayer I’d ever offered.
(there's the apartment on the left of the sign)
Mangos, papayas, lychee, and bananas occupied every corner of the shop. An angelic chorus filled my head as I beheld a football-sized pineapple. The OPEN MARKET generated so much business that within a few months, not only were they selling fruit, but they also began to offer a simple array of home-cooked Thai food (my favorite eating genre), at a great price. The business instantly flourished. People lined up into the parking lot all day and night to buy sizzling hot crispy noodles, panang curries, and other traditional Thai specialties. I evangelized all my friends and co-workers to pay homage to the Bangkok Chef and led many hungry souls into this divine establishment.
The Bangkok Chef has become so fruitful that they have recently opened a second restaurant in the affluent Manoa Valley. I go there religiously and always leave with a satisfied smile and stomach full of praise.
(the Manoa Valley location)
Saturday, March 6, 2010
My fond Mad Hatter memories, combined with my love for Lewis Carroll and Johnny Depp, convinced me to see the film on opening night. In a nutshell, I enjoyed it. Tim Burton’s darkish chaos, combined with hookah-vibrant colors, produces a surreal half-dream, half-nightmare experience. My only serious complaint is that the scenes sometimes rush by at such a spinning teacup speed that I found myself questioning what it was that I had actually seen—a slithering fish butler?…a man with how many folded chins?...an aqua-colored vaporizing Cheshire Cat? The images tantalized me, but only for brief moments when I could accurately process them. The Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) stole my heart most. She was horridly fantastic with her demanding “Off with your head!” rants.
I’m sure left-brained critics out there will slam the film for its lack of plot and whatnot, but right-brained dreamers like me will hail the film for successfully spinning us down into the wonderful rabbit hole of harebrained tea parties and smoking caterpillars.
Friday, February 26, 2010
I am nocturnal through and through, and once I’ve tied up the uncounted sheep and forced Mr. Sandman into a submissive choke-hold, that’s when I let down my hair and bask in the moonlight. During those enchanted night hours, I usually ruminate on theoretical nonsense while knitting or writing. Sometimes I toss around catchy titles for new blog entries. Oftentimes I wrangle plot ideas and conjure up quirky characters. Still other times, when the creativity wanes, I make mental lists and categorize them by topics.
My pet peeve list covers a lot of ground—so much so that I could probably do individual blog entries for each one and have a full year of material. I’m no whiner, that’s for sure, but once a month or so I indulge on a good rant or two. Allow me to humor you with just a smidgen of what drives me batty.
Shirt tags. Even the softest, most innocent tags that barely brush my hyper-sensitive skin send me reeling around the room in search of scissors. If no scissors can be found, I will rip these itchy, scratchy little devils out with my bare hands, sometimes leaving a gaping hole where the diabolical tag once dwelt. Thank God for Old Navy, et al, who have learned to print the needed info directly onto the inside of the shirt.
Garment hanging straps. An annoying cousin of the shirt tag, these ridiculously long pieces of synthetic fusion are designed to help your dress not slip off the hanger. The problem is that they rarely ever stay in the dress while you’re wearing it. Or they get tangled in your bra and make you squirm all night (sorry men, you’ll have to just imagine this one).
Mechanical pencils. Someone’s making a fortune out there. The lead breaks every time I press the pencil to the paper. Refills are never to be found when I need them, and I need them constantly because those pantywaist pieces of lead only last for but a few words. I can buy 48 regular old #2 pencils and a sharpener for the price of one mechanical disaster of a pencil, and I’m set for life.
Chalk. For the first ten years of my teaching career, I had to use chalk every day, and every day, I had to shrug off the urge to throw my piece of yellow lung dust across the room, not only because of that scratchy sound it makes, but because it’s so…ewww…chalky. This was also a major problem during my gymnastics years, when I had to cake my hands with the ultra-dry stuff before mounting the uneven bars. Ew.
Dry erase pens. Oh these are much better than the chalk they have superseded, but what I discovered after my first day of teaching at a dry-erase board is that these multicolored felt wonders make me really HIGH! I remember a classroom full of bedazzled students, spinning and contorting after I wrote out a long Asimov passage on my brand new sparkly white board. Twenty-two faces all merged into one big academic blur and a crashing headache followed. Now they make “odorless” versions, which (perhaps psychosomatically) still give me an occasional psychedelic moment.
Newspaper. Thank God for the Internet! No more blackened fingers, ink-driven sneezes, and funky folding and unfolding of those large, awkward sheets of newsprint. No more annoying Sports sections assaulting me with those creepy escort ads. Thanks to my Mac, advertising pop-ups are never an intrusion, and I can juxtapose the L.A. Times with the Honolulu Advertiser in a few seconds flat. The only part of the actual newspaper I still handle with my bare hands is the crossword puzzle, which absolutely must be done old-school, with a pen—never at a keyboard.
Cling wrap. First of all, it’s dangerous. Those razor-sharp teeth are always primed to take a chunk out of my thumb while I’m picking around the roll trying to find the beginning, only to tear some off and salvage whatever isn’t clinging to itself. Foil may be more expensive, but it always does its job more efficiently, and it’s sparkly.
Spiral notebooks. Designed for right-handers, these torment us lefties when we write in them because the harsh metal loops dig into our delicate wrists. On rare occasion, I’ve been able to find one designed for troubled southpaws, but they cost way more than they’re worth.
Phony radio voices. Come on, do they really have to talk that way?
Phony anything. With the exception of faux fur and some silk plants, everything else that is not genuine makes me cringe. I especially loathe digital pianos, lip-sync-ers, and plastic stuff (especially faces and/or body parts).
One-sided communication. It’s like hitting the ball over the net and never getting it back.
Under-estimators. The only thing I like about them is when I get the delighting opportunity to see them slump when their negative predictions are derailed.
Snobs. Except for a few dutiful grammar snobs, all the rest should be forced to watch videos of themselves in action.
Political correctness. This oxymoronic phenomenon has sent everyone reeling into a verbal quandary that has caused more controversy than the issue itself.
Auto correct. This over-zealous digital task-master forces me to indent when I don’t want to and refuses to allow me to write e.e. cummings in lower-case. Trying to disengage Auto-Correct requires a PhD in Microsoft.
Lap-tops. Don’t get me wrong, I love my lap-top. It’s just that along with this handy portable wonder come three annoying conditions:
- iburn. Caused by placing lap-top directly on bare lap. Symptoms include itchy, burning red spots that may last up to two hours.
- ipinch. Caused by opening lap-top on bare lap. May result in a 12-inch blood blister.
- icramp. Caused by spending hours on the lap-top, especially with excessive use of the itsy-bitsy mouse pad
Monday, February 8, 2010
After two and a half years of disciplined writing, I have completed the first draft of my novel, entitled Bum-bye. At 59,412 words, this quasi-memoir has both healed and wrenched me beyond expectation. In fact, if I had known how painful it would be to unearth key parts of the story, I would have never started the work. But somehow during my first MFA semester at Pacific University, under the wing of author John Rember, I abandoned a complicated piece of speculative fiction about a toxic stream and dove into what Rember claimed would be “…something people will want to read.”
In previous blog entries, I have posted a couple of snippets from Bum-bye and was pleased with the sparse but encouraging comments that came back to me (let it be known that writing is a lonely business, and getting feedback, even critical feedback, affirms that we are indeed being read by someone out there somewhere). Other artists—like potters and painters—have the benefit of being able to show off their work upon its completion. They don’t have to tell inquisitive onlookers to wait just a few more years to get a glimpse of their most recent creations. This is the rub we pen-wielders must endure.
So to celebrate (quietly), I am going to post the ninth chapter, one of my favorites, from Bum-bye.
I make it to my Wines and Foods of the World class ten minutes late and frazzled, but it doesn’t matter because the teacher isn’t here yet either. She’s a senior flight attendant with an undisclosed airline, so she’s been late a few times. She’s tough, too. I lost ten points for not spelling Cabernet Sauvignon and Gewurtztraminer correctly. Being Portuguese, I’ve been told that wine is in my blood. I believe it, but that doesn’t mean I’m a huge fan, especially if it’s cheap and tastes like dirty old wood. In fact, ever since I got plastered drunk in the eighth grade with a bunch of so-called friends, I’ve made an effort to steer away from alcohol.
What I remember from that nightmarish drinking experience are fragmented scenes. The new wild girl at my school named Gigi, whose dad was a popular TV news anchor, hired us a stretch limo to drive us to Skateway. In the limo, Gigi busted out six baby bottles and filled them up with Jack Daniels. She said, Ready, set, go! We sucked down our bottles, and I won, which meant they would have to pitch in and pay my way into the roller skating rink. Along came the chili cheese nachos, spinning around on the table where I tried to lace up my skates. Then in slow motion, when I stood up, took a few staggering strides on my skates, I lost my balance and grabbed onto the first thing I could find, which happened to be a towering guy wearing black spandex pants. Then there was vomit. Lots of vomit. All down the front of the spandex guy. Then blackness fading in and out—me propped up against the wall on the floor in a bathroom stall. More blackness. Then chilling wind slapping my face while riding in the back of a pick-up truck. Then a blurry bed. Then Gigi’s creepy dad. Then a head-crashing morning.
* * *
The class is an hour-and-a-half long, and I’m in the back of the room with my notebook. I open it to a blank page and start scribbling out random words in the margin.
I repeat these words to myself until it becomes a mantra. Broken. Missing. Absent. Locked. Tired. Hungry. Lonely. Clock. Broken. Missing. Absent. Locked…
The girl next to me nudges me awake when Ms. Senior Flight Attendant flounces into the room. She puts a small ice chest and a paper grocery bag on her desk and doesn’t apologize for being late. Instead, she projects on the screen a huge page of notes for us to copy, entitled, Cheese. Fromage. Queso.
Spread across the screen is a descriptive list of cheeses and their corresponding countries. Gouda—Holland. Brie, Camembert—France. Gorgonzola—Italy. Havarti—Holland. Feta—Greece. Swiss—United States (go figure). I copy the board, but it doesn’t register because all I can think about is what she’s got in that ice chest.
“Well,” our instructor says, “are you all ready for the tasting?”
The Asian guy on the other side of me says he’s lactose intolerant, and the gum-chewing girl says she hates cheese. Great, my stomach and I are agreeing, more for us.
The instructor bats her chunky false eyelashes as she tells us to line up behind the table, single file. With a flick of her wrist, she displays the gourmet crackers like a magician would display a deck of cards. She gives us ten small index cards with the names of the various cheeses on the table. We are to take a cracker and a slice of cheese and eat it, as she says, with contemplation. After each taste, we are to match the card with its corresponding cheese. I’m seventh in line, and I'm dizzy.
When I get to the first cheese, I put a piece on the cracker and my teeth sink into its butter-like softness. It must be Brie. The instructor reminds us to put our names on the back of our cards, so we can find out who gets the prize for labeling the most cheese samples correctly.
“What’s the prize?” I ask her.
“Cheese, of course,” she snaps at me like I’m a blazing idiot.
“How exquisite,” I say, batting my naked eyelashes.
She’s not impressed with me, and at this point, I could give a rip. I need to eat, but since I wasn’t paying much attention while I took notes, I’m going to go with my gut instinct and guess...with contemplation.
Each cheese has its own unique flavor, texture, and color. One is so smooth it tastes more like Velveeta, which cannot be possible at this fancy table. Another is brittle and tastes a hundred years old. The one I like most is smoky, like a bon fire. I’m in cheese heaven as I make my way to the last sample, which we’ve been warned is “strong.” When I bite into it, it bites back. Strong is an understatement. It’s more like demonic. I swallow it down anyway then take an extra handful of crackers with me to my desk.
The instructor is checking all of our cards, one by one, as we all sit around and chat. She turns to us and smiles like a tired flight attendant should smile.
“Well, I see we have a cheese connoisseur in the room. Let’s give a hand to Gabriella Johannon.” She pronounces my last name correctly, saying the J as a Y.
Everyone claps as I come up for my prize, which happens to be an assortment of all the cheeses we sampled, along with a box of those gourmet crackers.
“Gabriella guessed nine of the ten correctly,” she boasts. “I’m very impressed, Gabriella.”
“Thank you, Ms.…oh…crap. I forgot your name.”
“Pudenz. Inez Pudenz,” she says, emphasizing the second syllable of both names.
“Sorry, Ms. Pudenz. I’ve had a hard week,” I say to her in front of the class. Clutching the cheese and crackers to my chest, I force myself not to choke up. The gum-chewer girl stares at me like she’s watching a soap opera. After class, she catches up to me in the parking lot and says, “Is everything okay?”
“Yes,” I tell her. “Want some?”
“No thanks. Remember, I’m the one who hates cheese. I almost barfed when I tasted the last one.”
“Me too,” I say.
“Well, I’ll see you next week then?” she says as she’s getting into her car.
“Hope so.” I get into my car and bust out the cheese and crackers before I start up the engine. Pungent
vapors are wafting out of the sealed package of the demonic cheese. Gorgonzola. I’d throw it out if I knew where the next meal would come from.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
While the show is not going to land in my top-ten, I did allow a self-indulgent blog entry to bloom out of it because of the many times I have been told I look like someone I’m not.
It started when I was a young teen at the beach. An older lifeguard told me once that I reminded him of Sally Field in the 1965 sitcom Gidget. Since I only knew Sally Field from TV's The Flying Nun, I had a hard time making the connection until a few years later when I saw a Gidget rerun.
Then came the Valerie Bertinelli phase, whom I know is much prettier than me, so whenever people would compare me to her I would joke that perhaps I could pass as her homely younger sister. Although now that we are older and more…let’s say…distinguished, I can see a closer resemblance. Perhaps when we're in our 80's, no one will know who the real Valerie is...
One incident that still cracks me up happened in the mid-nineties when I was rushing to get to a bathroom in the San Francisco airport. Two women were shuffling behind me, whispering loudly to each other. “Just ask her,” one of them said, while I sat there, perplexed. “You ask her,” the other said. I had another flight to catch, so I hurried out of the stall, lugging my carry-on, and washed my hands. That’s when I was confronted with the big question: “Aren’t you Jennifer Jason Leigh?”
“Who?” I replied. They looked at each other and sort of giggled.
“The girl from Delores Claiborne.”
I immediately pictured Kathy Bates as I glanced at my travel-worn face in the mirror.
“You don’t mean Kathy Bates, right?” I tried to clarify.
“No,” one of them said. “You look exactly like the other whacked out girl in that movie.”
“Oh great,” I said. “Sorry.” We parted awkwardly and I barely made my connecting flight.
But it doesn’t end there. When I became a teacher in 1995, I had to put up with comparisons to Xena (ya-ya-ya!) Warrior Princess...
Spidey’s main squeeze, Kirsten Dunst (I wish)...
And for a few months in 2008, it was rogue politician Sarah Palin.
My personal favorite comparison, however, came from my sweet little boy Noah when he was about four years old. He had been watching the DVD Mighty Joe Young, starring (ready for this?) Charlize Theron.
“Mommy!” he came storming into my bedroom. “The lady in the gorilla movie looks just like you!” Then he took a closer look at me and added, “Except she has a perfect face.”
Finally, to end this blog on a non-self-absorbed note, here are two family members who also have uncanny likenesses. My pretty cousin Cheryl and her counterpoint, Eva Longoria...
And lastly, my now nineteen year-old son Ryan and the ever-so-cute Anakin Skywalker...
"Hey, aren't you that Anakin guy?" He gets that a lot!