Posts Tagged ‘los angeles’

how i spent my u.s. vacation (short story)

Heartfelt thanks to Palanca Award-winning writer Ichi Batacan for encouraging me to write this story, and Kenneth Yu for publishing it last April on his Philippine Genre Stories website.

Much of this is based on true stories. Truth, after all, is always stranger than fiction, precisely because it really happened.


So. The girl, I was told, was not Silva’s but another man’s – the woman’s husband. She had left him because he was beating her. Late one night she crept out of their shack carrying only a duffel bag of clothes and her young daughter; hitching up the skirt of her duster, she got astride Silva’s Yamaha motorcycle and off they sped into the night and a new life. Only for him to disappear mysteriously five years later.

Ray said, but that’s not what really happened.

You mean Silva didn’t run off with another woman?

No, said Ray. Tatay’s friend told me this:

A Spyderco Endura knife like this one features in the story

Boyong Silva was a neighbor of theirs. He was a drunkard. He spent the days getting soused with cronies, who, like him, relied on their wives to keep them fed and sheltered in the barong-barongs, the shacks of scrounged wood and galvanized iron that littered their community like rat’s nests.

He’d come home late. The wife would be asleep. She took in laundry and would be tired to death after a day bent over a washtub, scrubbing clothes by hand, the chemicals in the harsh detergent bareta eating into her hands, pitting the rough brown skin with red wounds that stung when she immersed her hands in water. After that she’d iron the dry clothes. The damp, the heat, the hard labor, they take a toll.

Read the entire story here.

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pop goes the world: la-la land

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  10 May 2012, Thursday

La-La Land

Los Angeles, California – From the fresh, wide-open spaces of Iowa, it’s a jarring shift to the cacophony and color of LA. It is late spring and the days are warm, the nights chill. Buildings and homes of wood, adobe, and concrete line the roads and blanket the hills. Cars zoom on cracked roads. Garish neon lights spell “open”, “cerveza”, “deli”.

The 134 in Los Angeles. 

It’s a bustling, vibrant city, like Manila but sped up a hundred times faster. Scenes flash by like in a film.

At a ritzy bakery, two well-groomed men complain about the two queues that have formed in front of the pastry cases. “What’s with the lines? Is this a tourist destination now? I’m going to the Glendale branch.” “But it’s way hotter here in Burbank!” “Did you see that woman, she cut the line! Stupid hag.”

Downtown, a Latina crosses the street in front, an iguana slung over a plump shoulder. She smiles to herself.

In a deli in Westwood, a blonde in her sixties argues with a man whose cap is on backwards. “I need financial help!” she says, swigging white wine. It looks like it is not her first glass. He remonstrates with her, sotto voce. She becomes more agitated. “Then sure, let’s stay here! I’m ordering more wine.” He tells her they must leave. Staggering, she gets to her feet. She is wearing a baby-doll nightgown, with a black lace peignoir as a robe, and knee-high boots. She adjusts her scanty clothing by tugging downward on her neckline to expose her sagging, wrinkly breasts.

She tells her story in a deli. 

And so on.

LA is, after all, home to Hollywood and the big-name studios that dominate commercial filmmaking. But in real life there are no actors, and there is no director to yell “Cut!”

There are no retakes. You have only one chance to get it right.

The city is hyper fast, jigging on dope and speed and it’s getting to me. On the way home after a day of sightseeing, there’s heavy traffic on the freeway and cars stutter to a standstill. I suffer a bout of hypertension.

Back where I’m staying, my host says it could instead have been a mild panic attack from the stress of travel and prescribes aromatherapy.

He draws me a hot bath and hands me a precious bottle of vintage Tasmanian lavender oil, instructing me to pour two capfuls of the oil in the water. “Lavender relieves stress and anxiety,” he says. “Immerse yourself.”

A bottle of vintage Tasmanian lavender oil. (Visit 

The scent of the oil, borne on the curling steam, suffuses my senses as I ease into the hot water. I sink into the fragrant pool. I hear my heartbeat, amplified by the water, at first rapid, slowing to a regular thump-THUMP. I am more aware of my body, and myself. I calm down.

Minutes pass. I hear my friends outside the bathroom door. “Do you think she’s alright?” “She’s having fun,” my host says.

When the water is lukewarm I emerge from the bath, relaxed and ready for sleep. More of the oil is rubbed into my spine. A soothing slumber claims me.

When I wake, my host’s longhair cat, Meeps, twines himself around my ankles and leads me to the kitchen screen door. We stare through it at the garden beyond. The trees and foliage are lush, almost tropical in their exuberance. I do not know their names but I enjoy them anyway.

Meeps at the kitchen door. 

Yes, this is also LA – a place where people advocate exotic healing remedies, let plants grow wild and riotous in their gardens, and shelter wanderers in their homes and anoint them with flower oil and bless them with peace.

The jacaranda trees sport majestic purple plumage in the Los Angeles springtime. 

Then one morning I read news of the Andi Eigenmann-Albie Casino bar brawl and the Raymart Santiago-Claudine Barretto-Mon Tulfo airport fight. A video of the latter shows the celebrities and their entourage engaged in a screaming, kicking, and punching melee. They are actors, but this time they’re not acting. In both instances, you can almost smell the testosterone and the rage. LA does not have a monopoly on drama.

My host would have said only one thing. “Throw them all into a lavender bath.” ***

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S in May 2012, without effects or edited with Instagram and/or Snapseed.

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LA angst

This is the zeitgeist of Los Angeles, I suppose.

“LA Angst”, billboard at Citywalk, Universal Studios, Los Angeles, California. Photo taken 9 July 2009.

I haven’t found out who the artist is, but it’s got a very Roy Lichtenstein flavor to it.

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cottage dreams

I have built a house, in my dreams. It is small, cozy, intimate, magical, whimsical – a cottage.

This is a Moody cottage, one of thirty or so “pixie houses” built in Los Angeles in the ’30s and ’40s by the four Moody sisters, who pooled their talents on these projects. Photo by Ricardo de Aratanha, LATimes. See the story and enchanting photo slideshow about Moody cottages here.

My cottage has exposed roof beams, shiny wooden staircases and floors, a tall steep roof, low ceilings, and diamond-paned casement windows that I fling outward to let the breeze in.

My aunt owns this “green and white” cottage in Baguio City that dates back to the ’30s or ’40s.

It is surrounded by lush plants and flowers – tea roses, morning glory, irises – in a garden that turns misty after a summer rain.

In my cottage, white lace curtains frame the view of sun and sky. They flutter in the wind that blows in through the open shutters.

The interior is filled with familiar old furniture, polished to a warm patina by the years. Hand-stitched quilts – earth tones of tan, brown, rust, olive, and orange in winter, pastels of pink, lavender, blue, and sunny yellow in summer – are draped over the backs of couches and chairs.

Embroidered and framed samplers hang on the walls beside watercolors and paintings and vintage black-and-white photographs. Books line the shelves.

There are fresh flowers from the garden on the fireplace mantel and on the sideboard in the dining room, pink and red roses in a goldfish bowl and white lilies in an antique vase.

The kitchen is cheerful and welcoming and smells like apple pie, all cinnamon-y and nutmeg in a flaky baked pastry crust. I offer you a slice on a bright blue Fiesta ware plate and we sit at the white enamel kitchen table and perch on stools and eat and talk in a room flooded with sunlight.

When evening comes we sit in the living room in front of a crackling fire. A scented candle on the coffee table throws off a vanilla aroma. You read or strum a guitar with nimble fingers and sing to me while I needle in a leaf pattern with dense rows of satin stitches or pen a letter on creamy notepaper, drawing the inkwell closer to dip my nib.

We talk about the books we have read and not read and the stories and songs we have written and have yet to write.

And when night falls we lay our heads on pillows strewn with rose petals, snuggle under more quilts to keep toasty warm, and kiss each other good night.

And the cottage creaks and sighs as old ones do, as it watches over us while we dream and yet again dream, now and in the years to come.

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marge piercy – “to have without holding”

I found this poem at Jessica Stanley’s wondrous website Something Changed.

A pocket garden in a Los Angeles home. The garden faces the street, but is hidden from public view by a high wooden wall covered with vines and creepers. July 2009.

To Have Without Holding

by Marge Piercy

Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.

It hurts to love wide open
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives.

It hurts to thwart the reflexes
of grab, of clutch; to love and let
go again and again. It pesters to remember
the lover who is not in the bed,
to hold back what is owed to the work
that gutters like a candle in a cave
without air, to love consciously,
conscientiously, concretely, constructively.

I can’t do it, you say it’s killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
You float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor’s button blue and bobbing
on the cold and hot winds of our breath,
as we make and unmake in passionate
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.

Marge Piercy is a feminist novelist, poet, and social activist.

Wiki: “Piercy’s poetry tends to be highly personal free verse and often addresses the same concern with feminist and social issues. Her work shows commitment to the dream of social change (what she might call, in Judaic terms, tikkun olam, or the repair of the world), rooted in story, the wheel of the Jewish year, and a range of landscapes and settings.”

Marge Piercy. Image here.

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blaze precious

Twilight in Los Angeles. July 2009.

In my mind you blaze as precious metals

Skin pale silver, smile sun-golden


In me you live forever.

Where am I in you?

In the dark corners of your heart where the light doesn’t touch

Am I there?

I find you in all the warm open spaces of my soul

But I am lost in your eternity

Of secret shadows.

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rod mckuen: looking for a friend

Shared with me in 1989 by sportswriter Joel Atencio.

looking for a friend


if one thousand men

walking through this world

room to room to room

then home again

ask the favor of your friendship

know that i am one

within the thousand.

if one hundred men

making do within this world

in city places or the kindest country

fall down fighting for your friendship

know that i am on the battlefield

amid the hundred.

if twenty men

who know and knew this world

from crested hills to uncrowned valley

send letters breathing friendship

expect my letter soon

among the twenty.

Photo taken in Los Angeles, 11 July 2009.

if one man living in this too-grey world

running crooked paths or pacing pavements

comes in need of friendship

be not amazed or disbelieve,

i am that one man.

if no one comes to you

carrying a new world in his arms

or at his back in a rolling wagon

offering to you out of friendship

know that I have been detained

but even now am on my way

still no one comes to you

within this world

when two dozen years or half of that has passed

come and seek me out

for i’ll be lifeless in a grave and gone.

perhaps you were hiding

or concerned with other things

but know that while I lived

i went on looking.

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lawrence alma-tadema: spring

In 2002 I was in LA and a friend of mine, Marian Domoje, took me to the Getty Museum. It was an utterly beautiful place. I could have stayed there the entire day, wandering the quiet, well-lit halls, admiring the paintings and photographs, sculpture and antique furniture.

In one of the halls I chanced upon this work. It was hung close to the entrance and reached almost floor-to-ceiling. This and all other photos I have seen do the original work no justice. Up close, it is breathtaking. Each brushstroke is pure genius.

“Spring”,  Lawrence Alma-Tadema

I like my art “traditional realist”. Abstract and modern leave me cold – those splotches of color? Ik could do as well, if not better. It requires genuine drawing and painting skills to create works that live and breathe, that are like windows you could step through to enter another world, the artist’s world that he created from his own imagination.

Immerse yourself in art and visit worlds of wonder. You’d be doing your soul a favor.

See more of Alma-Tadema’s works and those of other realist painters at

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