Top 5 literary landmarks in SF

It was day ____ (I’ve lost count) of sheltering in place in San Francisco, but today was also my birthday. To take advantage of the empty streets and zero traffic, my hubby took me to five literary landmarks in SF. Some were revisits, but it was great to visit a few new places. 

Here they are in the order we visited them: 

  1. John Steinbeck’s apartment  ( 1901 Vallejo Street)

 

 

2) Robert Frost Plaza (1 California Street

 

 

3) Jack Kerouac Alley and City Lights Book Store (Grant and Columbus avenue)

 

 

 

4)  Waverly place (China town in SF)

 

 

5) Maya Angelou’s high school  (George Washington High School 600 32nd Ave)

 

 

3 reasons to live with a DJ

  1. The Dj will always have music for you
  2. The DJ will introduce you to dj platforms like twitch
  3. The DJ will create a Janet Jackson mix and live stream for you while you take a break on the treadmill, while wearing your $5 sandals from Hawaii and pajama pants from Target.

41 years old

I have a confession to make: I turn 41 in two days, and it’s the first time in a long time I’m not motivated to celebrate. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or if there are more important events in the world to draw attention to. The thought of celebrating while others are fighting for their lives seems insensitive. I do understand that I have the privilege of breathing. That in itself seems like something to celebrate or at least acknowledge. Last year on my 40th birthday, I went to Las Vegas with a group of friends to watch a Janet Jackson concert. A year later, I will be at home with my husband, our 5th month sheltering in place. If I’m lucky, I can blow out candles and exhale.

Here are some pictures from last year…

Beach, please.

Along the foamy shore, I sink my bare feet in the moist land. Clumps of grainy sand stick between my toes. I avoid the earthy broken shells and black and white feathers sprinkled throughout the path. A red plastic bucket with a yellow handle floats in the white and grey water. Seagulls flap their loose wings but dip with wings as straight as the cross in the choppy ocean. My ear is pressed against the opening of a conch shell, a thunderstorm brewing inside.

 

Jump roping in the living room!

Since sheltering in place, my husband and I have used the rooms and furniture in our house to serve multiple purposes. We learned that since we are staying home more and more, we’d have to make adjustments to how we live. Now, rather than fighting the sheltering in place and sulking, which we did for a few weeks, we realized that life couldn’t stop just because we can’t go outside.
One of the ways we have adjusted is utilizing our dining room table. For the first few months of sheltering in place it was no longer where we ate our meals, but it was used as our puzzle table and my sewing station. But now, for five days out of the week, my husband uses it to set up his dj equipment for his daily live stream. He hops on Twitch or Instagram and hosts a thirty minute mix to an average of 20- 40 viewers, Monday- Friday, with an occasional live stream over the weekend. Part of the table is reserved for his laptop, mic stand and speaker, which we still eat next to. At our feet, under our table, and on top of our area rug is where he stores his controller, cables and plugs that I’m careful not to kick or step on while eating our meals.
My office also serves multiple purposes. I have a meditation pillow, my sewing desk and now my stand up desk that I use for work. This room was once my writing room, but now that I’ve been working from home, it’s difficult for me to separate work like from my personal life. I can’t seem to write at my desk because now it’s where I have a set up for zoom calls and my work laptop where I am constantly preparing documents for work. Now, I’m learning to enjoy writing my stories and blogs in other places in the house like on the couch, in bed and at the dining table.
We have also found ways to work out at home. Behind our couch is a treadmill that I use a couple times a week. I still enjoy jogging outdoors, but when sheltering began in March and facts were still unknown about COVID, my husband and I found ways to work out in doors. I did workouts via zoom in the bedroom and a few times my husband used the living room to jump rope! Thankfully we have very patient neighbors below us, so we haven’t had a complaint.
Carrying on with our hobbies and finding ways to still do them indoors hasn’t been easy. Our house is cluttered, space is limited and it feels like my husband and I are living on top of each other. And even though we clean our house regularly, no matter how much we sweep and vacuum it doesn’t take away the agglomeration and clutter of DJ equipment, jump ropes, exercise equipment, books that occupy our space. Yet there’s something very comforting and satisfying knowing that in a two bedroom condo, within 800 square feet, between two people with unique personalities, there’s a dedicated place, within steps of each other to sew, to jump rope, to play music, to meditate, to read, to write, to eat, and to sleep. We’ve definitely adapted and will continue to do so, but sometimes when I walk from room to room, it’s hard to imagine ever needing a reason to leave.

Follow my hubby’s jump rope journey here: Mel Got Jumped https://www.instagram.com/mel_got_jumped/

Follow his deejay account here: DJ Mel SF https://www.twitch.tv/djmelsf

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My hubby jumping in our living room

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My former writing desk that I now use for work

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Our dining table that my husband uses to DJ his live streams

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the treadmill and jump ropes we use to work out

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my sewing table in my office

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our home that serves multiple purposes

Walking in the wind

There’s a pathway behind our condo that is about ¾ of a mile long. It runs along the side of a small body of water where remnants of trash are collected and fat black birds perch on the chain fence. Despite this, lately, it’s a popular trail that many pedestrians utilize for jogging, walking, skateboarding, biking in groups or solo. 

Since sheltering in place, this pathway is more occupied than ever. Many people flock here for many reasons. However, despite what brings people here, one thing is clear: people want to be outdoors. 

It was a cold day in South San Francisco today. The sky was grey and there was an unrelenting breeze throughout the day, even when the hidden sun was at its highest. It was not the ideal condition to be outside, especially for late July. I even considered staying home, in the comfort of my sweater and thick blanket. 

Yet people were outdoors, some even braving the elements with no jacket. Kids were riding bikes, pedaling against the strong wind. A woman who looked older than my mother held on to her hat with leather gloves. Typically, on a day like this, the trail would be empty, the cold and chill acting as instant repellants. But considering how peoples’ lives have been dramatically altered, and how

more and more people are spending time at home, perhaps a little wind, trash, and breeze won’t deter people from temporarily enduring the bleak conditions. 

woman in white and red floral dress standing on green grass field

Photo by Joshua Abner on Pexels.com

Romantic Comedies

The last ten years, I made a commitment to read mostly writers of color in literary fiction. I reveled in works by Lahiri, Morrison, Alvar, Coates, Ward, Murakami, Adiche, Cisneros and chose titles from lists such as the Pen Awards and The New York Times. As a Filipinx writer, there was something profound about reading work that carried representation of issues and struggles that pertained to my life. These novels are usually deep reads, addressing issues such as race, family, culture, assimilation and diaspora. As of late, I’ve taken a break, not only from reading but the types of books I’ve been reading. 

I have found a new genre:  contemporary romance. If you’re wondering what this is, think My Best Friend’s Wedding, Crazy Rich Asians, How Stella Got Her Groove Back.  Yes it’s true, and I’m into it. I have no shame or qualms about this new discovery. My fascination with romantic comedy novels started a few months ago when I made a promise to my husband that I would balance my book selection by adding 1 or 2 “lighthearted” books with my serious books. As we started sheltering in place, I needed to escape and my serious books thrust me in worlds that weren’t too far from the real world I was living. After each book I read, I felt no respite or inspiration. Not to say that the books weren’t well written. They are. I think I was mentally drained and needed to laugh. 

In contemporary romantic comedy novels, I’ve found glee in reading through humorous plot lines and young, often naive, characters who are hopelessly in love in clubs, hotels and bars in New York and Los Angeles. I’m in delight with the idea of kissing strangers in the dark or drinking martinis after work while laughing through unconventional follies and complicated jovial circumstances. It’s a breath of fresh air for me. And I thank my husband for introducing me to this genre. 

Thanks to his suggestion, I’ve enjoyed reading again. I know I will eventually make my way back to literary fiction. For now, I’m laughing and finding fulfillment in these new pages where love is the only able force to surmount obstacles. 

 

I Failed in Being a Couch Potato

For the entire day, I had one goal: watch movies. It was an intentional decision, and one that I’m proud to say I didn’t fully commit to. It’s now 8:00 pm, and I’m going into my third movie, which isn’t a lot for one day.

I wanted to take the day off because I’m going back to work soon, so I’m not sure if I’ll have another day where I can afford hours wasted away. Sure there’s a lot I could be doing like jogging, sewing my apron, reading my book, listening to a podcast, but I wanted a day to dedicate towards watching the movies I have been meaning to watch. 

After dinner, I hadn’t planned on it, but I got on the treadmill and speed walked for 15 minutes, then I got on the computer and I decided to write a blog. As much as I wanted to solely focus on watching movies today, my intuition was telling me I at least had to walk a few minutes and write a few lines. After the jog, I needed fresh air, so I relaxed for a few minutes on our porch. As I sat out and enjoyed the setting sun, I caught a rare sight: a hummingbird flew in front of the property tree. I recognized the bird by its long beak and wings. Had I not made the decision to jog, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get a glimpse of this beautiful bird. Although I didn’t get to watch as many movies I would have liked,  I at least saw mother nature, even for a moment, in real life.

 

flying hummingbird

Photo by Cristina Andrea Alvarez Cruz on Pexels.com

My obsession with teeth

For some it’s the eyes. For others it’s the ass. For me –it’s teeth. This is the first thing I notice when I meet someone. I consider the following: are the teeth strong and rounded or sharp and jagged? Is it obvious that this person is a smoker, flosser, caffeine drinker? Do they whiten their teeth, wear braces, have a retainer?  Are the gums strong? Do they have a full set of teeth? Do they have baby teeth, molars, veneers or any silver fillings? How often might this person floss, gargle, or brush their teeth? I know these questions risk the chance of me sounding pretentious and the reader being dismayed by my judgmental cavalierness. But full disclosure:  I care very little about what the teeth actually look like. I care more about if the person takes the time to properly care for their teeth.

My obsession with teeth started at a young age and my visits to the dentist. 

As a child and adult, I visited the dentist regularly. I went to the dentist every 6 months for my routine cleaning and check up. As a child, after the cleaning, I looked forward to receiving a sticker. As an adult,  I look forward to the confirmation that I have no cavities. In my own simple way, getting encouraging news from the dentist is one of the rare places where I can look forward to getting good news about my health. My teeth — my oral hygiene — has always been something that I’m proud of. It’s the one thing about my condition about my body I can control. The other parts of my health I have less control.

For example, when I visit the optometrist, I’m told my vision gets worse every year. It doesn’t matter if I wear my daily contacts or glasses; at every yearly check up, I’ m given a stronger prescription to correct my vision.  At my doctor visits, according to the BMI chart, I’m considered obese. I’ve gained weight, despite my running, practicing yoga, and eating a more plant based diet.  At one point, I was even considered pre-diabetic. Then there’s the ringing in my ears, the popping in my left knee and the bloating around my waste line.  As I’ve gotten older, my body is rapidly responding to my aging, and the disappointing part of this acceptance is that for the most part, most of these ailments are out  in my control.  Which is why, at the very least, I celebrate my teeth. I take pride in my routine: using a soft bristle brush, opening my mouth halfway to reach the back of my molars, brushing, twice a day, for at least two minutes, flossing with a thick dental floss, and applying a dime size amount of Sensodyne toothpaste. Occasionally, if I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll use at home teeth whitening kit. But I’m protective over my enamel, so this is a rare experience for me. 

Now that the world is responding to COVID and viral transfers are still widely unknown, I’m unsure when I’ll see my dentist. I’m about four months over due from my routine check up, and my doctor has no plans of opening up his office anytime soon. I’m thankful that my dentist is putting the public’s health as a priority. And I know that seeing the dentist is not a pressing matter considered the deep unrest the world is experiencing at this moment. My desire to have a cleaning pales in comparison to  those whose are fighting their lives.

Not visiting the dentist is just one of the things I have to adjust to in new COVID terrain. And in hindsight, I should care less about how people care for their teeth. In these current times, with people wearing mask and practicing physical distancing, teeth should be the least of people’s health concern. But like I said, my teeth is my signifying measure that I have done something right in terms of my health. There’s a large chance that I may not get the opportunity for my dentist to affirm this. But I can be comforted in knowing that the small decisions I make everyday to preserve my long standing healthy teeth are taken seriously by me, even in vain.

Here are some of my favorite teeth pictures from the last 8 months…

My writing process during sheltering in place

Tonight I attended a virtual reading with Lysley Tenorio which was moderated by Mia Alvar. I am a huge fan of the both of them as they both write stories with a Filipino American lens. At the end of the reading they allowed the audience to type in questions in the chat.

In blue, my question is below:

 


His response wasn’t something I expected. He basically said that despite having won literary awards, given fellowships and having a secure job, this didn’t allow him to write as much as he wanted. He confessed that he didn’t write for years.  His stories and characters, for the most part, lived in his heart and head and he thought about them all the time, yet he still didn’t write, especially after his mom died. He mentioned that sometimes life gets in the way, not necessarily forcing you to stop writing but because sometimes writing involves a process, not a practice.

His honesty spoke to me. I assumed an accomplished writer like him, with two books under his belt, wrote all the time. I imagined the stereotypical  image of a writer hard at work at an oak desk with a soft lamp and a sturdy underwood typewriter with classical music playing in the back ground. I envisioned Tenorio typing away, taking occasional breaks only to stretch or crack his neck or take sips from his cup of whiskey. The words naturally flowed from his brain to his fingertips as he punched each typewriter key with vigor and fervor. Instead, the truth is probably similar to the process I currently have.

I, too, go for days, weeks, months, even (at one point) one year without writing. Yet when I do, often times, like now- it’s usually away from a desk or without a typewriter or alcohol. Instead, I’m at the kitchen counter, sitting on a swivel chair with my feet up, glaring at my Macbook Air with cookie crumbs nestled between the  greasy keys of my keyboard while I take sips out of 7.5 fl oz can of diet 7 Up. There’s no soft music or light; just the fluorescent light over me and the silence behind me. One aspect of this situation that resonates a smudge of the truth of the glamorous version I envisioned is that at least I’m writing– maybe not in the most ideal environment or practice, but at least, I suspect like Tenorio, the words are easily flowing from my mind and onto the virtual page. 

 

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Here is sceenshot of me with my two favorite authors: Lysley Tenorio and Mia Alvar.

 

I love a coconut

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This isn’t a picture from yesterday, but I love this picture because we were coming back from the beach.

For a week, I have been looking forward to visiting my sister, brother-in- law and niece. We settled on the idea of making do-it-yourself pizzas. I went to Sprouts and spent about $100 on ingredients including two types of dough, three vegan cheeses, and a gourmet mozzarella ball. We had premier wine and watched a thriller starring Nia Long.

The best  part of the day though?

When I cradled my niece on my lap and calmed her back to her nap. Her curly hair feathered my cheek, and for a moment, she smelled like a ripe coconut. 

Being productive with plants and aprons

I have been operating  at 70% for the last 3 ½ months. My processing time and ability to finish tasks have been slower than normal. I abandoned a 1,000- piece puzzle when it was 80% complete. I have been sewing the same apron for the past few months. I started reading books only to abandon them 30 pages in. I can’t remember a time when I’ve been this uncommitted. 

But in a course of two days, I did the following: 

  • Wrote a 5 page APA style research paper for my online class
  • Listened to the my school board’s five hour presentation and motion for distance/ hybrid learning and police at school
  • Ran 2.5 miles
  • Wrote and posted two blog entries
  • Sewed two straps on my apron 
  • Sat on my tiny porch and enjoy my newly potted plants
  • Made a call to the DMV
  • Went grocery shopping to make pizzas with my niece tomorrow
  • Jump roped with my husband
  • Helped select music for my husband’s dj mix live set
  • Wrote an email to my landlord to negotiate our rent
  • Told a former student that I’m proud of her for getting a new job (she’s still eating the chocolate I sent her)
  • Watched a documentary on being vegan 
  • One hour phone call with a colleague 

This is not a list that has any one profound accomplishment. It’s a list that demonstrates that although I am still sewing my, what seems like, never ending apron project, or I haven’t opened my book in two days or replaced puzzles with plants, I can still be proud of the activities my body can do, the conversations I have taken the time to prioritize and remind myself that talking and caring for plants can be just as mentally challenging and rewarding as completing a puzzle. 

Dog Eaters

I first heard about Filipinos eating dogs when I was in the 7th grade. I was in the library where a cultural forum was being held with student representatives from each cultural group from the school. Our Filipino representative was an 8th grader who was widely known in our group of friends; he was “Mr. Popular, Mr. Cool.” He often wore a Cross Colours denim jacket, won multiple breakdancing battles and had a sister who could sing like Whitney Houston. If anyone was going to speak on my behalf, I guess he was the best.

The moderator asked each panelist, what is one thing you would like the audience to know about your culture. I was expecting “Cool Joe” to offer many insights: the traditional dances, attire, music. Because his family was musically inclined, I thought his remarks would head in that direction. “Cool Joe’s” response: “Filipinos do not eat dogs.”
There was a palpable gasp in the room. Some snickered. Others had a look of disgust. Me? I was in shock- literally. I had never heard this accusation before. I thought about all the dishes my mom and family made and the only two that were out of the ordinary from the American palate were balut and dinuguan. But dog meat? It seemed bizarre, uncivilized, savage. I thought about all the stray dogs during my visits to the Philippines- the ones who roamed the streets, ate leftover rice and mango skins, who despite all the trash they rummaged, had ribs protruded from their lanky, malnutrition bodies. Why would anyone kill them? I immediately accused “Cool Joe” of lying, and I suppressed anything he said as a fact. I was humiliated by his misrepresentation.
For me, dogs were never served for dinner, or for any special occasion, nor known to be hidden meat in adobo, pinakbet or kare kare. Dog meat was not a known cuisine. I’m pescatarian now but growing up, my family ate the usual: chicken, beef and pork. Sometimes we’d have special proteins like oxtail, squid and pork belly. but the idea of consuming dogs seemed foreign. Because it wasn’t in my reality, this taboo simply didn’t exist.

It wasn’t until last night that I was reminded of the truth. I had encountered my first real example of dog eaters from an unexpected place: Jose Vargas.
Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize winner, PEN award receipt and writer of Dear America, a novel that chronicles his life as an undocumented immigrant. In one of the chapters, Vargas wrote about his acclimation in the United States and how, in a middle school version of show and tell, he told his classmates about his pet dog Rambo who was killed, ceremoniously, for his mom’s birthday.
Believe it or not, this was the first time I had witnessed someone testifying what I once thought was once a figment of my imagination, was now confirmed as the truth.
I was visibly upset. I put the book down and told my husband right away. My voice cracked. I felt my eyes welt. My reaction came from a disturbing, true place.
The following day i went down the rabbit hole and googled dog meat consumption. I found out that it in the Philippines, eating dog was once a traditional consumption but is now a very popular commercial consumption. It is the “third most consumed meat, behind pork and goat but ahead of beef,” and half a million dogs are slaughtered every year for consumption.

The stray dogs are dognapped, rounded up off the street, paws tied with steel cans around their noses. Half of the dogs don’t make it alive to their final destination.
I wondered about all the times I had reached out my hand and felt the comfort of thick, soft dog fur or the salty licks on my cheek or the wet nose nuzzled on my neck. Our family dog Friday, before she passed away from cancer, walked with me for 5 miles in the rain and never left my side. Or how our current family dog Lucky sits on top on my feet when we’re snuggled in bed and I can hear her deep breaths through my goose down blanket. It’s hard for me to fathom that someone, a family, let alone an entire half of a country is looking for their dog while the other half is eating them.
I know that many animals are killed every year for consumption. I don’t shame anyone in their dietary practices. I understand that at the end of the day people need to eat- cow, pig, dog- to stay alive. Sometimes there’s no choice. And there is no shame in eating certain proteins for cultural, traditional reasons. In fact, some countries believe eating cows is barbaric! The food chain is a complex and vast one.

When I think about my 7th grade experience in the stuffed crowded library, I often wondered why “Cool Joe” chose his remarks as his last impressions to the audience. Obviously, it was something that meant a great deal to him. It certainly wouldn’t be the first thing that would come to my mind if I was asked about my culture. But it was 7th grade. Stereotypes, subjugation, bullies were often at the crux of peer acceptance. Perhaps eating dog was more of a reality than I had accepted. Either way, I’m not sure why “Cool Joe” left with that last impression. As an 8th grader, he was brave enough to address it. Despite the reaction, he taught the audience, including myself, a difficult truth to swallow.

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“Friday” she was our first dog

 

Free Creative Writing Class 


Do you want to write a blog, a book, a song, a poem or do you have a story you want to write but don’t know how to get started? Or are you suffering from a case of writer’s block?
This free creative writing class will take you out of your rut and into practice. In this Saturday workshop, Sheila Enriquez Navarro will help you tease out the creative impulse that has lain dormant beneath obligations, fear, laziness, or just plain confusion at how to get started.
Writers of all types and levels are invited to delve into the fundamentals of craft and process in this relaxing and encouraging environment. We’ll read good writing. We’ll brainstorm ideas, and complete a variety of free-writing exercises. We’ll dive into lively discussions and pause for brief workshops. Most importantly, you’ll find your writing voice.
Throughout the session, students will engage with their personal observations and experience and emerge with ideas and inspiration about how to keep going the day AFTER class ends.
Only 8 spots available. Simply fill out the questionnaire and you will be contacted if you are selected.

***This is a free class and a community art action project on behalf of the English department at Mills College***

***Event for adults only

Here’s the link for the questionnaire:

https://goo.gl/forms/ePI7mMorzY6GSbMl2