Spring 2012 starts with an homage to love, labor, family, and Mattel

There’s a first for everything and this spring’s first is a personal essay published in Doveglion Press. “Barbie’s Gotta Work” is about love, labor, and ironing underwear for golf fanatics in east county San Diego.

Here’s an excerpt:

Barbie’s Gotta Work
By Rashaan Alexis Meneses

Under the most surprising contexts, I’m constantly reminded of the efforts my parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins have contributed for the sake of our family. In 1930, my maternal grandfather arrived from Limisawa, a small island in the Gulf of Leyte where Magellan landed and held the first Filipino mass. With nothing but a pail of adobo in his hand and in serious need of a warm coat, no sea breeze or monsoon could have prepared him for the San Francisco chill that greeted him in his new home. Before arriving, he had raised and supported his brothers and sisters by managing their small family farm in the Phillippines. With my grandmother working at his side as well in the States, my grandfather juggled three jobs while raising his children.

Born in California, my paternal grandmother shuttled across the Central Valley following the harvests as many Mexican migrant families do. She doesn’t count her adolescent days picking tomatoes and prunes as official jobs because every kid in her family and in the surrounding neighborhoods worked the fields. For my grandma, hop-picking was the perfect excuse to get out of the house and meet the young, military-rated 4F men who committed backbreaking labor on the hopyards…

Read the entire piece here.

Image from Jemboy’s World

“Tropical Island Fun with Barbie and Miko” January 26, 2009

The Barbie Travel Agent Set was a surprise gift from Santa who, ironically, had designs to usher and initiate me into Third Wave Feminism:

Image from The Henry Ford Museum, “Happy 50th Birthday, Barbie!” March 2009

New Fiction on UC Riverside’s “The Coachella Review” Fall 2010 Online Issue

Once in a blue moon, mountains are moved, seas are shifted, and your Salonniere gets lucky enough to have a piece published. If you like Thai food, love/hate Los Angeles, or enjoy quirky short fiction, please check out my short story, “Like Fish to Ginger” included in The University of California, Riverside’s The Coachella Review Fall 2010 online issue. Many thanks to SMC Fiction MFA’ers for helping to make this possible. And, if it strikes your fancy, please pass the word along to friends, family, colleagues, students, blogs, tweets, Facebook, etc. Thanks for all your wonderful support.

Try a taste:

Like Fish to Ginger

By Rashaan Meneses

Before I set out to make my mark in Los Angeles, I chased Sunee. We met in a steamy noodle house in the Dusit District of Bangkok where I elbowed my way from dishwasher to sous chef. Sunee worked as hostess. Both seventeen, she knew exactly what she wanted, and it wasn’t me. Like with a delicate soup, I had to know when to stir and when to let the ingredients meld on their own. For seven months I coaxed her to me, savoring every minute of it, the taste of falling in love. This was all ages ago when cooking was like breathing.

Check out the entire piece, about a 15-minute read, at The Coachella Review.

Los Angeles

“the many ways in which our individual memories, histories, and stories may intersect with our cultural memories, histories, and stories”

Poet and Professor Barbara Jane Reyes covers the University of San Francisco fiction talk and workshop for her class “Filipino American Arts” in her post “Random: Culture, Commodity, Performance, Production”

…I am also thinking about erasure and invisibility (so, what’s new?). Last week in class, we discussed Lysley Tenorio’s story, “Save the I-Hotel,” which moves back and forth between the 1930’s and 1977, specifically the day of the final evictions of the I-Hotel. The story follows two men, laborers named Fortunado and Vicente, who are I-Hotel residents during that entire time period. We get the kind of care they exhibit toward one another, one helping the other find employment, sharing space however cramped, protecting each other from white male violence, keeping each other company when loneliness and homesickness are consuming, lending a coat to keep the other warm. It’s very tender. How do these things not amount to love, and how is this love never romantic? So that’s that, about erasure and silence; we simply cannot know that 100% of the Manongs were hetero, though we never ever hear about Manongs who were not.

I am also thinking of Rashaan Alexis Meneses’s visit to my class, also last week. She discussed how she came to her story, “Here in the States,” from the anthology Growing Up Filipino II, and her series of stories about immigrant workers in our urban areas (specifically, Los Angeles), what things about their American lives we never know because even though they’re omnipresent, we never ask them to tell us their life stories. She talked about the process of writing these stories and considering an audience who may not have the same cultural knowledge, how much to explain and translate, and how to explain and translate, while balancing what the story needs, at what pace it needs to move, from whose point of view it must be told.

She also conducted a writing workshop for my students, based upon memories, items that always occupy a special or significant place in our memories, and how to go about writing about these things. We started with a list of seven items and from there, did a freewrite engaging all the senses. I like this, the practice of keeping a written inventory of memories to which we can always return as artists. I like how this practice can bring to light the many ways in which our individual memories, histories, and stories may intersect with our cultural memories, histories, and stories. My students had some really great responses, and were, for the most part, quite open about why those items were so important to them, and where they are now in relation to these items. I later on told Rashaan about my mental inventory, and that I always go back to the same memory; all of th.e items on my list pertain to that memory of visiting Papa’s house in Gattaran when I was six…

Read the rest of the post here.

More coverage on the fiction workshop at the University of San Francisco will be forthcoming…

Paradise Found in the City of Angels: Tasty Tips and Sights to See

When Gaspar de Portola, Father Juan Crespi, and their men in 1769 tramped their way through the swamps and wetlands of what we know as Los Angeles, they were greeted with dozens of temblors, fire, and fog. You can find paradise among the urban sprawl in the City of Angels. You just have to know where to look.

Eats:

Figtrees on Venice Boardwalk at Venice Beach
Mimosas and a tasty brunch with the California sun beating down at you while the Pacific breaks on the shore ahead, can life get any better?

At Home in Venice, Los Angeles

Fatburger
So good 2Pac, Ice Cube, and Biggie Smalls have memorialized their burgers. An absolute L.A. gem. To experience the full Angeleno flavor try the West Hollywood spot (7450 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046).

Sawtelle Kitchen in Little Tokyo, West Los Angeles, near UCLA
The best of Japanese meets rustic French cuisine without taxing the wallet. The mussels with linguine in a green curry sauce is unforgettable. They also have a red snapper with an almond crust that I’m still dreaming about. While dining here, you can also check out the original Giant Robot.

giant_robot_1_web

Photo from AmpRadio 97.1 “Shop on the Cheap”

Urth Caffe (original on Melrose in West Hollywood)
Tasty organic fare at the edge of Hollywood. Last visit, while enjoying a savory chicken salad sandwich with Indian curry, a customer who sat nearby, apparently a professional music video dancer, got into a fight on his cell phone with his agent because he didn’t want to share the stage with a famous R&B star. Very low-key LA scene, which can be a really good thing.

Soot Jeep Bull in the heart of Koreatowwn
Hardcore Korean BBQ with charcoal grill! Wear clothes that you won’t mind end up smelling like you’ve come from a campfire. You will want to take a shower after eating here, but the BBQ fare is the best, hands down.

Sights

The Getty Villa off PCH, north of Santa Monica
The museum specializes in antiquities, meaning a little bit of a yawn, but the architecture is breathtaking. Clinging to the Malibu cliffs you feel like you could just float off into the Pacific Ocean. Translation: Elysium at the edge of chaos.


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Photo from Jaunted: The Pop Culture Travel Guide’s article “Getty Villa One Hot Ticket”

LACMA or Los Angeles County Museum
Fave museum in LA proper featuring old and new work and a Japanese Pavilion styled as a mini Guggenheim.

The Getty, Los Angeles
This Getty’s perched in Beverly Hills, west of the 405 affording a 180- degree vista of La La Land. It’s nice…but its not the Villa.

And, because you just can’t visit a city without enjoying a sip of their potations:

Tiki Ti
A historic drinking hole in Hollywood, you must designate a driver for this spot, and if your DD plans to have a drink, he/she should not finish it! Deliciously sweet and potent tropical concoctions, this dive bar is famous for knocking you off your feet. Huell Howser of PBS’ California’s Gold frequents this joint. Enjoy yourself, but, seriously, drink responsibly here.

P

Photo from the Tiki Ti home page.

William Boyd on London’s Parks

From Sunday, June 21, 2009 The Guardian | Culture | Books | Fiction, Boyd “takes an A-Z literary tour of London’s Parks” in his article “‘Its all too Beautiful'”. Brilliant method of organizing a stream-of-conscious essay!

Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, in the pantheon of English literature, perhaps best illustrate the split between the “town” writer as opposed to the “country” one. It is a very 19th-century juxtaposition, made particularly acute and particularly obvious as the industrial revolution took its remorseless grip on the nation. The widespread development of the city park, in turn, was largely a 19th-century phenomenon. The filth and foetor of the Victorian metropolis made the green spaces all the more important. I have a history of London composed solely by its maps, and one can see the exponential growth of the city over the centuries reflected by the steady appearance of its parks, like green islands in the burgeoning, cross-hatched grid of London’s streets – not so much the city’s “lungs” as the city’s verdant archipelago in its dark and grimy sea.

Definition of a park. It’s time to establish precisely what we mean by a “park”. I’m thinking principally of London, but I feel this definition will fit all parks in all cities of the world. There are certain determining characteristics, necessary conditions, for park status. First, there must be tall, mature trees, the older and taller the better. Second, the majority of the trees in the park must give the impression of random planting…Read more

The story of our time and the City of Ourselves

At Home in Venice, Los Angeles

In search of a suitable port for Spanish galleons coming from Manila, Antonio de la Ascension arrived on the island of Santa Catalina with Spanish troops in 1602. Ascension recorded one of the first written historical accounts of Los Angeles and it’s native peoples, who would later be called the Gabrielinos, after the San Gabriel Mission.  Antonio de la Ascension recorded the encounter in “Along the Coast, 1602” published in Los Angeles: Biography of a City.

The soldiers ran all over the island and in one part of it fell in with a place of worship or temple where the natives perform their sacrifices and adoration. When the soldiers reached this place inside the circle there were two large crows, larger than ordinary, which flew away when they saw strangers, and alighted on some nearby rocks. One of the soldiers, seeing their size aimed at them [the crows] with his harquebus, and discharging it, killed them both. When the Indians saw this they began to weep and display great emotion. In my opinion, the Devil talked to them through these crows because all the men and women hold them in great fear and respect.

Ascension depicted a very violent genesis of a city where cultures have always seemed to clash and collide. Today, over eighty languages are spoken in the City of Angels. Culture clash is a way of life. In his, inaugural address, “A City of Purpose” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa  affirmed, “Los Angeles is not only the one city that best embodies bold dreams. It is the destination of people’s imaginations, all around the world, whether or not they ever set foot here.” For some Los Angeles is a dream of promised American ideals and for others it is a nightmare of urban sprawl and catastrophe. In commemorating the death of Raymond Chandler, the LA Weekly also commemorates El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles. Judith Freeman in her article, “Raymond Chandler: 50 Years Dead,” writes:

He said he was the first to write about Los Angeles in a realistic way. To write about a place, he said, you have to love it, or hate it, or both, alternately, the way you do a woman. Vacuity and boredom were futile. L.A. never bored him. He found it banal, maybe, but never vacuous. He both loved it (when he first arrived in 1912) and hated it (by the time he left in 1946), until finally, he said, it became a tired old whore to him. Never mind that he, more than any other writer, helped to turn Our Lady of the Queen of Angels into a woman of the night. He got this city better than anybody else, its rhythms and rudeness, its gas stations filled with wasted light, the houses in canyons hanging in the blackness, the smell of the air, the feel of the winds, the very pulse of the place, which is why his novels never seem dated: He captured the essence of the city, not just its temporal surface…

Toward the end of his life Chandler said, “The story of our time isn’t the story of war or the atomic bomb. It’s the story of an idealist married to a gangster and how their children and home life turn out.” He could be describing The Sopranos.

Only it isn’t The Sopranos. It’s us. It’s the story of our time, just as he said, the unending and timeless tale of America, with its idealists on one end of the ideological spectrum, and its gangsters on the other, be they Wall Street crooks or your ordinary garden-variety thugs. We are the children he spoke of. And we are still waiting, 50 years after Chandler’s death — with ever more urgent concerns filling our minds — to see just how our collective home life will turn out.

Seismically fractured and infinitely diverse, the experiences Angelenas/os face are not strictly unique to the City of Angels but mirror the world. Chandler knew this and gave us to ourselves. His words still haunt a city that represents the very best and the very worst of our nation. Our City of Angels, the place that I called home for so long, will always be a reflection of ourselves and our inextricable links to [an]other.