31 January 2011

The Prick

Yesterday morning, I was walking along the East Service Road on my way to Martin's house, where he was recovering from the flu, when a white car pulled up next to me and honked. At first, I thought it was a taxi thinking I might want a ride, so I ignored it. But as as I kept walking, it kept pace with me, so I decided to check if someone I knew was inside.

I expected to see one of Martin's friends or family members waving at me, or at least a cab driver. Instead, in the driver's seat was a chubby guy in a striped polo shirt with his mouth open, one hand on the wheel, and the other hand moving quite vigorously up and down in his pants.

I immediately looked straight ahead and kept walking as if I hadn't seen him, but I moved the long, spiked umbrella I'd been clutching in my right hand to my left. I firmly swung it back and forth across my body, just stopping the wooden handle short of where the guy's headlight would be. I think he got the idea, because after the second swing, the car stopped following me. I didn't look back to check; I just kept walking till I'd safely reached Martin's neighborhood and house.

We watched TV and then went out to dinner. It was a fun day together, but I couldn't get the incident out of my mind. "Don't worry about it," Martin said. "It was just some weirdo. I'll take care of you."

Still, I'm rattled. It's not so much the act that's shocked me--I've seen a homeless guy getting himself off on the doorstep of an ukay-ukay--as it is the intention. This was more than a leery "Hi, miss" or wolf whistle, and I feel more disturbed than annoyed.

I keep wondering if there was something else I should have done. I can't clearly remember the guy's face, just the black hole that was his mouth. I had my phone in my pocket; should I have taken his picture? Gotten his plate number at least? I'm not even sure about the car model. After I'd gotten some distance away, but before I'd reached the gate of Martin's neighborhood, two white cars passed me. One kept going down the service road, but the other went through the gate. Is there a chance I'll see this weirdo again?

What did I do to get his attention? It's not like I dressed like a ho that morning. I wore a loose T-shirt, slippers, and shorts. When I asked Martin if my shorts were too short, he said no (but maybe he's the wrong person to ask, haha). I don't wear flashy/any make-up, and even if I did, I can't see how the guy would have seen my face as he'd pulled up from behind. I obsessed about it to the point that, while walking around the mall that night, I avoided looking at other people and kept checking my reflection in the store windows. 'Oh God,' I kept thinking, 'I look like a skank.'

What if he hadn't been just some weird guy? What if it hadn't been broad daylight? What if I'd listened to people's advice and gotten a cute little folding umbrella instead of this clunky man umbrella?

Part of me wishes I'd connected--really taken out a headlight or even his windshield, but I know that's just anger talking, and there's no telling how the guy would have reacted. Some might say that swinging my umbrella the way I did might not have been so wise, either, but it was my first instinct then and will likely be my first instinct in the future.

I know some girls have had it much, much worse. I should be glad that was all that happened and that I'm safe now. But why doesn't it feel that way, and what do I do with the anger?

22 January 2011

Microwave Cookery Update

I've expanded my repertoire!

This is supposed to be a delicious mac & cheese with franks (sorry for the noise and dimness; I took this picture with my phone). It wasn't, because I didn't have flour and thought I'd use crushed Granny Goose corn chips instead. I also didn't have franks, so I used some awful processed ham that someone had given me. I thought that cooking the ham into something else would make it taste better, but I was wrong. The sweetness of the corn chips and the sweetness of the brand X ham just didn't go well with the cheese.

The original recipe was from this book:

The next time, I tried cooking this tuna and macaroni casserole and was more successful--yay!

"Pasta again, Kat?"

I don't want to buy all these different ingredients and screw up and waste food and money, okay? I know that the Betty Crocker book has all this roast pork and rum cake and what-have-you, but--baby steps.

Next time, though, I'll use more onions and pepper (which I used instead of the curry powder, because I didn't have curry powder; I also skipped adding breadcrumbs because I didn't have any. I basically read the recipes, went to the grocery, and bought what I remembered. That's why I have an unopened can of tomatoes). The recipe called for a small onion, and I didn't know what "small" meant, so I just used half of a regular red onion. I think I'll also try a different soup base, because the cream of chicken kind of overwhelmed the tuna. But it was still good, and much, much better than the previous culinary attempt.

Mixing the soup, tuna, and onions while the pasta cooked

Pasta mixed in

It worked! But does it taste good?

Yes, it does!

Thoughts on "Certain Women"

I just finished Certain Women by Madeleine L'Engle. In it, a young actress, Emma Wheaton cares for her dying father David--also an actor, and a great one--who's sort of obsessed with a role that he never got to play, that of the biblical king David. Their family saga is interspersed with and often paralleled to that of the king, in turn told as the actors and playwright discuss how each scene should be written.

It sounds like a cheesy TV movie waiting to be made, but I hope I can assure you that it is not. Still, it is also not many things that people tend to look for in books these days.

Ms. L'Engle's prose is very understated, and her pace is gentle; some might say slow, but I'm not one of them. I mean, you can't really expect some gripping thriller when most of the action takes place at dinner tables at the end of the day and on an old man's boat in the lonely Pacific Northwest (which, now that I've read about it, I'd like to visit). Instead, I think the author's own background in the theater shows in the way she lets the story and characters reveal themselves through dialogue and reflection.

This may be a failing in that it sometimes sounds as if the character is only talking so that the author can get everything out there--again, like in plays. One of my favorite scenes, in which Emma and several of her half-siblings (both Davids had many wives) gather around the piano and discuss an absent brother, sounds like this at certain points.

But I'd also like to believe that in those days, (the 1930s-60s), people actually talked to one another like that. In the end, I also feel that I know more about the characters than they actually said, which I always think is a good thing. And even if some characters don't get more than a few lines (and most don't get much physical description) I also like the feeling that I know who each character is--considering the number of wives and children each David had, this is something. Her characters are human, flawed and in some ways desperate, and if they are flat in some ways, the author actually admits it at one point.

I will say that the buildup to the one violent scene in the book wasn't subtle enough; from the moment Ms. L'Engle first dropped a hint that it was going to happen, I knew who was going to do what to whom. Was it intentional? It does make me wonder how the victim walked so blindly into it, but perhaps like me, who once gave my phone number to not one but two creepy strangers who asked, this person wanted to assume the best about the villain.

I will also say that the way the scene was written was cheesy and has probably been used to write such scenes a thousand times before. I hope it doesn't make the crime any less brutal.

Because Ms. L'Engle goes back and forth between Emma's story and the Bible story of King David, one might assume that she's being preachy. It's easy to assume this given how Ms. L'Engle weaves her faith into nearly everything she's written (or at least everything of hers I've read*), but I think making this assumption is wrong. Throughout the book, Ms. L'Engle shows just how open to interpretation a Bible story can be. It's definitely worth noting that many of the discussions about the king, his wives, the prophets, and God's likely intentions are held by an Episcopalian, a Baptist, their somewhere-in-between-granddaughter, an admitted adulterer who's slacked off religious practice, and the agnostic playwright. All their talk made me want to crack open Samuel I and II again to see what I might make of it for myself.

All that said, I will concede that it may not be interesting to people who aren't interested in the Bible, much less religion. It might also take some getting used to if you're not already accustomed to the way Ms. L'Engle writes about faith.

Can I tell you, though, that David's is probably one of the most gripping in that whole book? Once you get past the giant-slaying, there's still all the war, polygamy, singing, drama, prophecies, more war, and, of course, death. It's practically a soap opera--and it would probably contend for the title "All My Children."**

Anyway, I enjoyed the book. If you find it, I hope you'll at least read it.

*I'll admit here that I'm a L'Engle fan; here's what I've read: the whole Wrinkle in Time series, including the saling-pusa fifth book, An Acceptable Time; The Arm of the Starfish; A Ring of Endless Light; Walking on Water (non-fiction); Penguins and Golden Calves (also non-fiction); The Joys of Love; and Certain Woman. It's also kind of fun to catch Ms. L'Engle recycling; there's a conversation about Chekhov in The Joys of Love that appears again in Certain Women. I think she only reused it, though, because she assumed that Joys was never going to be published; it only came out after her death.

**Fun fact: While in the theater, Ms. L'Engle met the love of her life, actor Hugh Franklin, who would later star in "All My Children."

09 January 2011

Between the Lines

After this morning's rain, the line that separates the sea from the sky is starting to reform. I'm supposed to be looking up things that I can use for my articles, but instead I'm looking at my family photos, reading, and watching Martin's face.

I don't know if they were there before, but there are deeper lines at the corners of his eyes when he smiles. I remember, nearly two years ago, I held his face in my hands and stared, imagining how he would look in thirty, forty, fifty years' time. Now, I can't help but think, It's starting. It feels too soon.

I guess I'll make no secret about it. I'm thinking of going home. It won't just be for vacation, but for--well, however long it takes for me to come to terms with having to leave again. The darkening on my father's cheeks, the weariness in my mother and grandmother's eyes, and the gruff voice coming out of my youngest brother's yet unlined face--I want to be there to see and hear them over time, to get used to age at all its stages, and not for it to surprise me every time I come out of the baggage claim. More than mere escape from the self-absorbed city, I want this.

Martin is better than I at this diving deep into work, this tuning out stuff, stuff. I don't know whether I'd like that gift--maybe then I'd be keeping tabs on the International Consumer Electronics Show, studying Android, or reading up on aftermarket car alarms, instead of writing this--or if I just need more time to tamp down these feelings, bury them under my more everyday concerns.

I'm a little scared of what would happen to us if I did go home. While I don't doubt that he would be a better long-distance boyfriend than my first and last, I'm afraid that being apart, and in such different places, would only further underline our differences. I particularly mean those that have come about because we've been so shaped by these places.

(Dooown't stop! Beh-leeeeeeaven!)

I'm afraid that when I come back (because I have to come back), I'll come out of Arrivals and also be at a loss, at the sight of whatever new lines are there on his face.

I wonder if it would in fact be better for me to stay here and just keep trying to get used to it. If I'm going to end up back here, anyway, I might as well. But then, it's been three years; you'd think I'd have found a way by now.

Hang on; it's time for lunch.

04 January 2011

Note to Self

There are things you should remember from the past almost-two-weeks, such as:

1. Walking to the gully with your dad, dog, and brothers on Christmas Day; Mikko cool in jeans while we wore old PE pants too short to cover our ankles; taking a turn at a long root to scale the gully wall and having a rock land on your knee--the ugly purple and yellow bruise that formed afterward; opting for the slippery fallen tree instead of the concrete bridge over the ravine that cut through the golf course; Buster under the faucet.

2. Going again to the gully on New Year's Day; looking at rocks and things and swinging a natural wooden "finglonger" around while they stuck piccolo firecrackers in the cracks of the gully walls; the way the white dust fell like water from the wall after a little blast and then became a cloud once it hit the gully floor; the lab foaming at the mouth and straining at the leash as the fuses burned and then galloping across the sand to sniff at ground zero.

3. Tracks on the fairway shortly after sunrise; the short grass under your bare feet because the slapping of your slippers sprayed your back with dew; Dad; Dad's back and the dog trotting at his side as they walked before you toward the early morning sun.

4. Lola worrying herself into illness over her siblings and the family land; a pot of lugaw at every meal because she no longer eats regular rice; a long duster, blue and tawny batik, a knit sweater and a scarf from her eldest grandson; repeated refusals to go to hospital; sitting alone on what used to be the family church pew.

5. Your complete inability to remember (or believe) the fact that your grandfather spent his last Christmas in the hospital, in 2004.

6. Mom needing help to stand up and complaining about her knees upon entering an air-conditioned mall; keeping your head down and smiling as she hands you task after last-minute Christmas task; being tekky, e; Christmas dinner at the Hapit Anay carinderia; giving up the computer so that she can work on the liturgy; squash seeds.

7. Riding in the back of the pickup with your brothers after buying fireworks; the pineapple fields in various stages of planting; the air getting colder as you drew nearer to home.

8. The first time you decided not to go to the Clubhouse to watch the fireworks with the rest of the neighborhood (excluding years in which holidays were spent outside of Kalsangi) at midnight; late lunches and dinners.

9. The unspoken acceptance that Momon is no longer too young to watch what he has long understood; 3 Idiots, Rancchodas Shyamaldas Chanchad (zubi dubi zubi dubi pum parram), Mithter Rathtogi; returning briefly to the days before everyone had a laptop and jockeying for turns, when Mon put Spore on the only computer with a graphics card good enough; Bosher; good questions, smart answers, and sharp snark; watching the DVD of his performance at the high school battle of the bands just minutes before you had to leave for the airport.