One Hundred Words A Day
The Power of Clean Dishes
It is a great comfort to hear the familiar sound of a dishwasher at work in the night, to hear it gurgling and humming, to hear the sound of water being pumped, swirling round and gushing out, as the washing cycle switches phase rhythmically.
It is also comforting to know that, whatever comes tomorrow, there will be hot dishes waiting, sparkling forks and spoons, spotless cups and bowls. Nothing would be wrong that could not be fixed, when the clean dishes are waiting for their share of hot food, when the child is hungry and waiting, and at mealtime, the whole family finally gathers.
To the Unsung Soldiers on Veteran's Day
You who walk down the dark alley without A gun,
Your enemies are hatred, poverty, ignorance,
You stand in a kitchen washing the days' grimes, facing the sun
You teach at the dining table, spooning out calculus and poetry, a complicated dance.
You the little sister setting up the dishes
You the boy scout leader, walking side-by-side with each boy, until they're well prepared
You the soccer coach, referees, team parent,
You who bite the bullet, giving the time that you yourself have not yet spared.
You the veterans of love,
you the unsung soldiers in the war against humanism
whose fire comes not from a metallic barrel but from within your spirit,
Your battles will never end. I celebrate your heroism.
I wonder if anybody ever took The Beatles' suggestion to write a 1000-page novel about a Paperback Writer
named Lear? The storyline is simple: Lear was a middle-age, unhappily married man who, like most middle-age man, was unsatisfied with his life and wanted some ways to escape his reality.
It would be simplistic to assume that Lear's story was banal. Its universal appeal was in its theme of human conflicts: a man's longing, disappointment, stale love, aging, etc.
I wonder how many books it would take to explore the depth of a man's desperation when his life has turned into quicksand? It was too easy to associate Lear's problems with money, the lack of it as suggested this song's lyrics. It was much harder to figure the lackluster vision of men when they possess the world, as in the case of many illustrious men, like Prince Charles, like New York's Eliot Spitzer, like John Edwards.
It would take the imaginations of a writer to put into comprehensible words the fertile landscape in the mind of such men.
|Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?|
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It's based on a novel by a man named Lear
And I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer,
It's the dirty story of a dirty man
And his clinging wife doesn't understand.
His son is working for the Daily Mail,
It's a steady job but he wants to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer (paperback writer)
It's a thousand pages, give or take a few,
I'll be writing more in a week or two.
I can make it longer if you like the style,
I can change it round and I want to be a paperback writer,
If you really like it you can have the rights,
It could make a million for you overnight.
If you must return it, you can send it here
But I need a break and I want to be a paperback writer,
When Wrong Is Right!
Men long to be with Estella because she never allows one to marry her. She lives up the street with a small dog that barks at every passersby, but louder than her dog's bark is Estella resounding laugh from inside her living room.
Estella does not own a husband, but she enjoys the visit of her guy friends, who come and go all day, bringing her flowers and providing her their housekeeping services, fixing this and that for her, offering her legal counsels, sharing their own problems with their wife and kids with her.
She has a way to carry herself that makes all of these males to wish for her, but do not think it correct to take liberty with her. I suspect that each and everyone of these men often dream to exchange all that they have accumulated in their grown up years: career, status, money, even their family, to be with her for the rest of their life. Only Estella does not allow the trap to come down on her. She often tells me: "Husband and kids are the punishment God sent to Eve's descendants. Love is the disguise of that bottle of poison each married woman mistakes for the fermented wine of happiness. I prefer a dog's faithful companionship to the bondage with a man. But it takes courage to digress from the path well trodden, I reckon."
The logic of Estella is like a fool's logic. It defies the norm, but its contrary simplicity seems eerily reasonable that I often query my own sanity for not perceiving the truth in Estella's wisdom. It maybe too late for me, but I can still save my daughter from the pain of slavery. Should I act on it?
The Enemy is Alive
Sarah reported this morning that the black spider is not dead, but has resumed her activity, rolling the corpse of the dead pincher bug into a cocoon of sticky web, maybe for later consumption. After her morbid task, the killer disappears into the doorframe, leaving behind the object of her labor, which the house vacuum consumes in no time by the afternoon.
Sarah is no longer interested with the victorious soldier, nor the casualty of war. Her day is immediately filled with other activities that occupy her mind fully. But her mother's mind keeps rewinding the image of a struggling insect with its pincers biting the air. She can not detach herself from what it evokes in her, her fruitless attempts to orchestrate her kids' life into a harmonious concert, fighting against a pop-culture which values are so alien, which power is so strong comparing to her feeble command, which attraction is instantaneous while her guidance takes years to influence.
Like that pincher bug, she is losing the battle fast, while the enemies are many and winning.
She Spins a Web of Death
From the tone of Sarah's voice, she knows she has to drop everything and run. It is one of those unique moments a mother has to connect, or to instruct, or to salvage. A wise mother knows per her instinct that moment, and cannot choose to ignore her calling. She has no other choice, but to heed it, if she is wise.
Sarah said excitedly: "It's a spider, you need to kill it, a black widow."
Her daughter knows she is the only one in the house who can kill, who has no mercy. For the sake of her children, for the order of the household, it is necessary that someone know how to exterminate. She does not mind to crush, to spray, to poison. To be an effective mother, she has to be heartless, inflexible, practical, and at the same time, loving, adaptable, full of fantasies. She is now ready to kill. But as she bends down with her house slipper ready to strike, Sarah crouches on the floor and exclaims: "Watch! The spider is attacking a pincher bug. Mom! It's scientific. Let's see what happens. "
Both of them sit on the floor observing the killing ritual. The black spider is frantically battling a pincher bug, using all her eight legs. Already, she has wrapped half of the earwig in a sort of white cocoon, while the remaining torso of her prey is writhing, trying hard to free himself.
She agreed with Sarah that it is indeed a rare scientific moment for both of them. At length, Sarah gets up and declares convincingly: "The spider wins the battle. But she is resting now, with all her legs spread out. The pincher bug is dead."
Her mom had left the morose scene, but now returns to verify her daughter's observation. Both insects are immobile, suspended in a fragile web. They both looked lifeless.
That's war ... two enemies entangled in the web of Death, sharing the same fate.
"It's also a life lesson, Sarah!" Her mother murmurs pensively.
The English Grammar
To me, the English grammar is kilograms of nightmare, especially when I am faced with verb tenses. I was born where the same word was used to express an action made in the past, present, or future. I needed only to add already to express a done-deal act, or will for the future actions. Where I grew up in South-East Asia, all deeds well done are praised for generations. There, a misdeed once committed was judged as if it was committed anew each day, by the father, then the son, then the grandson. The fateful action in the past continues to shadow a person’s path towards his future.
In my culture, the present blends with the past and merges into the future. We were made to suffer the wrongs of our forefathers and bathe in the glory of our children. We were taught to save our happiness for the next life and pay for our past sins. We marry for our parents and keep our silence to secure our children’s future. We sow in the present to reap only in the future and arrive to the end of our life cycle a tumbleweed of regrets. So I embrace this new culture where nothing would be of consequence, where old mistakes could be easily forgotten, and new beginning awaits at each life’s corner, until I walked into my first obstacle in this new land: the English tenses. Here, the weight of the past deforms each action-word, sometimes involving Ed, sometimes not; and the burdens of the future acts are not always lifted with will, but sometimes relieved by would. Wood? Beats me!
An ESL teacher once explained to me about the interwoven relationship between the English past and Ed in regular actions. I often ask myself, “Is it fair that Ed was condemned to a life haunted by his past? or should he be judged and condemned then but exonerated now?” Can anybody explain to me without confusing me further what action is regular and what is not, and why should Ed discriminate the irregular folks?
My teacher further advised me to forget about Ed when dealing with the irregulars. She completely confused me when she added, as if she has found a solution to my problem. “If I were you, I would only dwell in the present. It’s easier for non-English major. Try to keep everything in the present.”
Why my present has anything to do with an English Major is out of my grasp. Why an English officer needs to familiarize himself with the irregulars, I never knew. For my sake, she advised that I memorize the irregular actions the same way I learned the multiplication table. "Do you ever try to analyze why two times two is four when you learn the table? Of course not. You recite it until you know it by heart. Same with the irregular folks. Just imprint them in your heart and you'll be fine." She gave me a long list of lie, lay, lain; lay, laid, laid; do, did, done, etc. and I was forever lost in the kilograms of nightmare she handed me. I missed my Ed by the second recitation of this list.
I still am, thirty years later.
I cook, clean, pick up the kids,
clean again, cook some more, and now I'm done
with cooking and cleaning and kids ...
I voted, raised children, fed the dog, and loved a husband
I've written hundreds of words, each day, for over a month
I've driven to writers meetings, submitted my work, explored the options ...
Yesterday, there was a fire almost disastrous, scarring acres of land along the 60 Freeway.
Yet, I wrote.
The laundry washed and folded, stacked and put away
I am useful. Yet I've written, conquering another day.
How reproachful are the eyes of my terrier, his hung leach besought
down he lies at my feet, his fur warm, willing to stay.
I wrote, as a deceptive cadence was played
I wrote, while over the strings a persistent bow swayed
I wrote, when the sky darkened and the owl hooted
Oblivious to time,and space, wrote as if I prayed.
The Naked Truth
When I asked my twelve-year old son why on earth he was running stark naked to the family room, crossing in his path the glass door on the street side, he grinned mischievously and said: "I'm a piece of God's art in this living museum."
All I said to him after that answer was to be ware of Weeto, it looked like he wanted to take a sample of that piece of dangling sausage. Dan was not at all concerned about the possibility of being mutilated by our white terrier. So I casually added: "I don't think Mona Lisa is pleased with what she sees. She's used to Rodin's caliber and you look more like a walking skeleton."
Dan was very sensitive about Mona Lisa's glance. He quickly turned his gaze to the reproductive painting in our living room, and there she was, with her enigmatic mirth and eyes that followed and judged. Dan broke into a fast run back into the bathroom, screaming: "Aah.... She is haunting me."
I chuckled, thinking: "Son, you are my naked truth. In you will reflect all my hope, dream, ambition, success and failure, my rebirth and death."
The Agonizing Moment of the Lost Words
She is a poet but now she agonizes for words
She types and types but only the letters appear but not the words
Alphabets without substance, devoid of meanings
absence of images, mute of sounds
Where are the words that convey?
She is writing but fails to tell a story
Her words crawl like ants on this screen, searching for meaning in the pot of honey
In the beginning the words are created to differentiate men from beast
but the beats retain their hearts while men lost themselves in words cry miserably
She constructs from the crumpled words
from the dust of the caves full of cuneiforms
Her images are the worms of the earth tilting its soil,
In the end she has written ... she has weathered her storms.
The brothers speak to each other once a week. Tom usually calls while driving back home from work to catch his brother in his bedroom watching Simpson. Tom knows he should not interrupt Phil's favorite show, but he interrupts his brother anyway. He has no other choice. If he does not call during the time he commutes, he'd never call. There would be no time for any relaxing conversation once he gets home and switches gear to immerse in the role of father and husband. And vice versa, Phil would be asleep by then, and to interrupt his slumber would be an anathema.
There is never much development in the brothers' conversation. Tom always opens the first line inquiring about Phil's state of health, to which Phil politely replies: "I'm fine. Then ...."
Tom: "Nothing much happens at my end. How's Linda?" Linda is Phil's wife.
Phil: "She's fine. Anything else?" This is the cue for Tom to cut short the conversation. In the background, he can hear Marge's voice asking Bart Simpson where his father has gone. He does not understand Phil's taste, what's so good about The Simpson that a person like Phil, who is always pressed for time and impatient to move on to his next social engagement, to dedicate an hour each day in front of his screen following the development of the episodes.
Tom asks his brother: "What did you send Cousin Arthur for the birth of his firstborn?"
Phil gets irritating at his brother: "Why should I send something, he does not need anything from me. He can afford it himself."
Tom: "It's supposed to be a gift, Phil. Nobody needs a gift, you give because you care. It's the thought that counts."
Phil: "Well, I thought of Arthur's son. He's a healthy baby."
Tom: "I can't walk in your shoes, Phil. But anyway, give my regards to Linda and the kids. I'm home. Talk to you later."
Phil: "Bye Tom. By the way, if you need a blender, I just bought a fantastic one. I'll lend it to you for a few days. It is one of the best, they said. Bye, I've got to go."