Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vice or Must-have?

This internet shopping thing is a vice. I hate to think what goes through the head of our mailman, who has known and been a friend of KDM's for several decades. You see, we live on the rural route; our mailbox is a quarter of a mile downhill from our house. Whenever something comes in the mail that exceeds the capacity of the standard mailbox, the mailman has to drive to our front door, honk, and if no one answers, step out to leave the package(s) on the door step or the swing chair.

And he has had to do that A LOT lately. If he suspects that his old buddy is married to a shopaholic, I can't blame him.

Since I can see this is just going to be a dry, hot, blah day, and since I'm in somewhat a confessional mood, I'll list my latest orders:

Book 1: How to Cook without a Book, by Pam Anderson (to understand the inner workings of food so I would never, ever, need recipes again.)

Book 2: Perfect Recipes for Having People Over, by Pam Anderson (for calming my paranoia over entertaining, and to compensate my grief for not winning the 3-day weekend with Pam Anderson at Ree Drummond's ranch). 

Book 3: The Power and the Glory (yes, Jan, one of those books I've never read; and for a glimpse into the inner workings of an imperfect priest), by Graham Greene

Book 4: The Dog of the South, by Charles Portis (to accumulate credits of fanship for the author of True Grit)

Not-a-book:  a couple of pan scrapers (to fill the purchase gap in order to get free-shipping; and yes, I just maybe perhaps possibly most definitely need them too!)

Yes, internet shopping may be a vice, but can't you see that I can't possibly live without these things?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Day: Planned and Unplanned

Of all the things I listed in my previous posted plan, here is how some turned out:

1. Painting from Best Buy parking lot: Check.

I arrived at 7:30 sharp, immediately set up to work. The view is an airport and environ. Despite the haze hanging over the entire field, the several layers of distant mountains were still visible in varied purplish blue. The Best Buy was built on what used to be a hill top, hence the bird-eye view which attracted me in the first place. The elevation caused a practical problem, though: the constant wind threatening to topple at any moment my easel which is pretty much just a skinny legged tripod. Having no time to waste, I decided not to use the easel but to prop the board on my lap instead. This allowed me to hang on to my painting when the wind blew hard. I soon discovered while I had control over the painting, I had to struggle to keep the sun hat on my head.The sun was climbing high and I desperately needed that hat. For the next five hours I battled to keep the hat from being lifted off my head and carried across the parking lot.

Things went pretty smooth. I stayed till past noon with practically no interruption save the wind. Because I was in a side lot for employee parking facing away from the customer parking, and set up behind a row of cars, I was out of the public view for the most part. The only exception happened when a youngish looking FedEx driver who apparently was there to deliver merchandise to the store, honked behind my back. He very politely, but persistently asked me how much I would charge for the picture despite my repeated answer that it was just a beginning sketch for a bigger painting, and that I was far from completing it, and wasn't sure I wanted to sell it. I don't know how sincere he was about buying the picture, nonetheless I was touched by his young and serious manner. If he was indeed sincere, I would be touched by that too, that in the current economic situation someone would give a thought for buying a painting.

2. The stovetop grill pan: Check.

My original plan of shopping after painting didn't quite pan out. Half way through the painting expedition, I got a call from KDM, who was supposed to see me at the parking lot with coffee and a pencil sharpener which I forgot to bring in my hurry to leave the house. He reported that his truck wouldn't start possibly due to a bad battery. Now he needed a ride to town to have the battery tested and buy a new one if needed.

So the rest of the day went like this: I wrapped up my painting, drove home with my tongue hanging out and in blurry vision (always after I paint), downed a large glass of cold water (check that, too) and a bowl of cereal, helped KDM load up the bad battery and headed back to town (we live 25 miles outside it). A little more than an hour later I was in a store looking for my grill pan, and found one for a very good price. By the time we got home, it was close to five o'clock.

3. Grilled eggplant: No.
4. Ten more pages of Dorian Gray: No.

Somehow I was satisfied with how the day went. The painting sessions yielded a lot of thoughts on painting better, which only make me want to go back to do some variations.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In the Plan for Tomorrow

  • Get up early, hit the road with my painting gears to the parking lot of Best Buy in town over looking the airport, do a quick oil sketch or two; quickly pack up and desert the parking lot before the first curious soul approaches me wanting to know what quaint thing I am up to doing.
  • On the way home, stop at Saver's, the big resale store, on the way home, hunt for a used stovetop grill; if Saver's doesn't have it, to one of the other stores nearby, hunt till I find one. I love grilled vegetables but have never cooked any because I don't do outdoor grilling. I'm a girl, remember? These hot days make me dream of grilled veggies so much that I have to find a way to cook some myself. I love grilled shrimp and salmon, too.
  • Get home before the air turns sizzling in 100 degrees.
  • On getting home drink a large glass of iced water without stopping to breathe. 
  • When I have caught my breath again,  I'll clean out and wash off the goo in and around the fridge.
  • Put some lotion on my hands to eliminate the odor of residual paint thinner and Clorox. 
  • Sit down to read ten more pages of The Picture of Dorian Gray by the effusively wild Oscar Wilde.
  • Get up and stretch.
  • Go to the kitchen, season the stovetop grill if I have one and it's new; wash it if I have one and it's old; spray it with some oil.
  • Grill some egg plants, sprinkle them with some sesame seeds.
  • Eat them with some cold noodles. 
  • I'm running out of plans for the rest of tomorrow. Any ideas?
I have to stop now to read five more pages of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Must-have Mustard

By the way, if you need something of a mood improvement, buy yourself a bottle of French's Dijon Mustard with Chardonnay, put it on any ole hot dog and eat it, preferably without ketchup. You'll surely feel better. I like it so much I have an extra bottle in the pantry. I have what I call "My Dijon Mustard with Chardonnay Insecurity."

Feeling Weird

Not motivated to write much. For brevity's (and lethargy's) sake, let's just say that things have been weird, as regarding my sense of time and mysterious changes of my body.

I'm not sure what's going on. My pal/soul-sis Jan posts about her reactions to hormonal changes. I certainly haven't reached that biological landmark, yet I feel that I've somehow stepped in the similar marsh of scrambled sense of self. Maybe it's a sympathy thing? Like growing pimples to match your best friend's?

Last week, I bought three pairs of granny shoes (you know the kind) on a same day. It put a ding on my sense of style but I don't care. It's only a matter of time before my sense of style peels off clean anyway.

But I don't like feeling weird. I need to do something about it.

On a slightly more active note, I manage to paint consistently. I don't post the paintings because I've made a pact with myself not to be preoccupied with exposing my current work. They are part of yet another learning curve. Whenever I get on a learning kick, I fall into the sincere, thorough, even serious mode. My mom and elder sister used to tell me that the seriousness I have in learning was my precious (of not only) redeeming quality. They really told me that. Parents and elders tend to not mince word in their commentaries in my native culture. They'll tell you that you're fat if you are, which is one thing I do dread on going home.

I'll close here. I have changes to make about my life. I don't know what, but I'll put a stop to this feeling weird thing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Of Vegetarians and Sloth

Haven't been writing much lately. Well, haven't been doing much anything. Yet, May zoomed by, leaving me baffled as to what happened to it. It could have at least stopped to say "Hi," right? But no, It. Just. Zoomed. On. And. By.

Well, I DID go to two wedding parties, and ate my first Vegan meal at one of them. Not bad, but neither was I seduced.

You may check out what Vegans do here. Anthony Bourdain calls the food cult "a Hezbolah-like splinter group" of the Vegetarians. But you don't want to imitate Tony, who can be uncharitable. I already like him too much. He appeals to the uncharitable side of me.

Speak of the Vegetarians, I have a story. In a previous life, I worked with a good number of engineers from India, as with many from East Europe, say Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, along with Caucasians of various shades and geographical origins. Most of these people were somewhat "citizens of the world" due to constant inter-continental travels to work on job sites.

One of the Macedonians, let's call him Ivan, told of his experience in India, where vegetarians are common mostly due to religion. Ivan had just brought in another fellow Macedonian, Michael, to their Indian job site. Michael was painfully introvert (I met him later in China), not speaking much English didn't help. One evening Michael found himself seated at the hotel restaurant, along with Ivan and other expats. The waiter routinely inquired each guest if he was vegetarian so he might ask the kitchen to prepare his food accordingly. "Sir, are you Vegetarian?" the waiter asked Michael. Pained that he had to speak, Michael looked at his comrades for rescue. "He's asking if you are Vegetarian," Ivan repeated the waiter's question in slow motion. "Oh no. No. I'm Macedonian." Michaels answered the waiter.

Sorry for the digression. What I really wanted to post, is something to illustrate how I've been feeling and acting of late. Watch the protagonists in this YouTube video, they are me. The Churchmen named a sin after these guys. Or, is it that these guys were named after the sin?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Remember This Day

June 4th, an ordinary day for people of this country and around the world, extraordinary yet politically unspeakable in my native country, People's Republic of China.

Twenty-two years ago this day, I was attending a friend's brother's wedding in a Northern Chinese city. By the time the ceremony ended, and the wedding caravan entered in the heart of downtown area, the town's traffics came to near-stops. Throngs of people were piling into the avenues, many more streaming into the streets, mostly anxious-looking college students. One of them was up in a tree speaking to spectators into a bullhorn. His words were interrupted by shoutings issued by his fellows students with raised arms. We weren't close enough to hear what they were saying but we knew right away that something had gone bad. Just a few weeks ago the Army had arrived in the nation's Capital with armed men and tanks but hardly anyone believed they would open fire on students and citizens, who had been occupying the Tianmen Square protesting corruption and demanding free press since April.

After we inched back to my friend's house, we changed into street clothes and walked back to downtown to find out what had happened. When we got to the entrance of an underground mall, we saw pamphlets and hand-written posters announcing that the People's Liberation Army had started firing at students in Tianmen Square in the wee hours of that morning, killing many. My heart was beating wildly as I took a pamphlet from a young man passing by, my eyes fixed on the haunting black characters written in brush and ink on stark white paper. People around me were all looking around in confusion and anxious to know more.

Early the next morning I took a taxi to the train station to head back to where I lived. It was raining and when the taxi was stopped by some men near the train station, I realized that the streets looked different and strangely empty except for a few people moving about in hurried pace. There were buses and tires blocking all of the main entrances and intersections. I got out with my bags to walk the rest of the square toward the terminal. I stopped to ask someone passing by what was going on. He told me that students and bus drivers were setting up road blocks and some were taking the train to Beijing to support fellow students and protest the killings.

As soon as I got back to my dorm I threw off the bags and turned on Voice of America. I did not own a TV and even if I did, I could not believe a word the official media said. A mere decade before, getting caught listening to VOA would have meant prison time. But since the late 1980s the government loosened its grip on people's private activities, and I had used VOA to learn English. When the students' protests deepened the government took total control of the State media (there wasn't any other kind), I had to rely solely on VOA to get the truth. With what had transpired in the past 30 some hours, I knew I would have to take my listening underground very soon.

It was a massacre.

In the following days my VOA was scrambled almost non-stop.

Terror took grip of the country. Posters of twenty-one most wanted student leaders were plastered everywhere. Official TV was showing a charred body hanging from an overpass, allegedly burned by the students, hour after hour, day after day. Beijing was under martial law. Foreigners were taking the earliest flights out of China. Students were still taking to the streets in various cities but were immediately cracked down by armed police. I huddled over my little radio and through scrambled waves heard students speaking to foreign journalists just before or on their way into hiding or fleeing the country. There were sobbing and wailing, recordings of gunshots and shouting and screaming amid rescuing activities.

Time of sorrow. Time of snuffed-out hope.

My two nieces were born in that year, 1989. They are twenty-two now. They know nearly nothing about what happened in that year, in the Capital city.

Oh My People.