My friend Carl dropped by to deliver some fountain pen ink, and to check out where his kids were going to attend Halloween. While we were chatting at the steps of our building, HE notices the business name. So I whip out my phone cam.
Nothing innocuous about a truck delivering bottled water. Until you enlarge this photo and see that the business name is “Watering Heights”. LOL!!! Of course the humor is totally wasted on the bewildered guy making the delivery.
I woke up too early today. I then went back to bed holding Jeffrey Steingarten’s The Man Who Ate Everything. True enough, I fell asleep after three pages discussing The French Paradox, particularly how red wine could be good for the heart.
I dreamed we were at the house where my dad grew up on Pacdal Road, in Baguio. There was a big reunion and Auntie Caring was serving her famous buko pandan dessert. I was minding three small children, when suddenly Lola Mama walked over and put her arm around me. She was speaking in a mix of schoolteacher English and Ilokano, and then she shoved a USD50 bill into my hand. I was surprised, and straightened up, and behind me there was my dad chatting with my two aunties Lota and Josie. At that moment the air smelled like pine resin, and I looked down at my grandma and smiled. She used to be taller than me, but today I was the taller one. I leaned over to kiss her and smelled her hair that had been brushed with coconut oil. That used to be my job when I came home from school, massaging her hair with coconut oil. I gave her back her money and told her to give it to Auntie Caring instead.
Behind me, Auntie Josie was pink with laughter. Lola Mama had gone to the kitchen.
And then I awoke. In real life this sort of gathering happened only twice – once when the Caccams and the Sisons went on a tour of Northern Luzon, and later, when Lola Mama passed away when I was 16; I hadn’t dreamt of her in years. Auntie Lota passed away shortly after that, and Auntie Josie a few years ago. The dream felt like Christmas when I was a kid. The only thing missing was Auntie Josie’s cookies.
Holding your heart to my ear
I slept, and dreamed of swimming in a sea
Salted by sixteen million unnamed living colors.
I reveled in the refracted sunlight, in the
Pleasant, muted low roll of waves.
You’d think sound has no weight
But it does, on the second hand of a clock
Ticking its way to rude, real daylight.
The snooze button is set for a bit more
Time to float around inside my head, enough
Time to surface gently, to slide my heart
From the crook of your arms carefully back
Into its own breast pocket, and my self
Back behind my eyes.
All the sounds of traffic have been
Singing a raucous welcome a while now.
From the mosquito to the barking dog, to the
Frying bacon sputtering in fat, to the neighbor
Sweeping her yard, happily singing off-key,
To the mobile phones of the world. It is Saturday.
There’s the pied piper bell of the ice cream man,
And children running, running.
Outside, our butter sun is coaxing leafy
Transformations. My morning voice loses its croak.
You pluck my smile to stir into your cup
Full of the liquid blackness between stars.
The repeated peals of silver against porcelain
Have a satisfying rhythm. You swallow love whole,
Your Adam’s apple bobbing in approval.
Copyright 2009 Mona Caccam
(for TDM, after reading Margaret Atwood)
NY designer Stefan Sagmeister talks about the value of taking a periodic sabbatical. After every seven years he closes his studio for an entire year and takes off in search of inspiration, a new paradigm and life lessons to bring into the next succeeding years of work.
You think: “Of course he can afford to do it. I can’t.” Well, standing away from your own work for an hour out of every four pays homage to the idea. In a world where everything seems to be due yesterday, rest and resting the brain still makes sense, only some people make better use of those “free” hours to think of ways to do quality work that only takes two hours instead of four. There are days I am the latter, and there are days I wish I was.
Check out the dog humor – particularly the “walking dog lamp” – and see how a seemingly innocuous image creeps into surreal, self-indulgent projects that in themselves initially don’t seem to have commercial value, but are actually a thought process at work.
by Margaret Atwood
Your lungs fill & spread themselves,
wings of pink blood, and your bones
empty themselves and become hollow.
When you breathe in you’ll lift like a balloon
and your heart is light too & huge,
beating with pure joy, pure helium.
The sun’s white winds blow through you,
there’s nothing above you,
you see the earth now as an oval jewel,
radiant & seablue with love.
It’s only in dreams you can do this.
Waking, your heart is a shaken fist,
a fine dust clogs the air you breathe in;
the sun’s a hot copper weight pressing straight
down on the think pink rind of your skull.
It’s always the moment just before gunshot.
You try & try to rise but you cannot.
Margaret Atwood speaks the language of my head best. I try to go on anyway.
The other day our cook came upon a treasure trove of cassava at the fresh market. She decided to make one of our favorite comfort foods, cassava bibingka. We like this particular recipe because it reminds us of the cassava bibingka we used to buy from the UP Shopping Center from Aling Mary, way back when I was a kid. Aling Mary’s bibingka had lots of salty cheese and had a dry-ish topping to counteract the sweetness. We’ve adjusted the recipe below (our version in parentheses) to reflect that. I’d like to credit the book this recipe came from, but I believe it was photocopied from someone else’s recipe book.
Cassava Bibingka by Mariquita Villanueva Adriano (from a photocopy)
2 cups sugar (home version: 1 cup sugar only)
3 cups thick coconut milk
1 cup evaporated milk
7 cups raw cassava, grated
1/4 cup butter, melted
young buko strips (optional)
banana leaves for lining pan (optional)
For the topping:
1 cup thick coconut milk
2 tablespoons flour
1 can condensed milk
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons grated cheese (or more, to taste. Use salty cheddar or a mix of leftovers.)
Recipe: Serves 12
1. Beat eggs and sugar till lemon colored. Add the rest of the ingredients. Pour into a greased 9″ x 9″ pan lined with banana leaves. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit / 175 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes.
2. Mix coconut milk with the flour. Add condensed milk and cook over medium heat till thick. Add egg yolks and mix well. Return to heat and cook 5 minutes more. Pour over baked bibingka, sprinkle with grated cheese and broil till golden brown.
I posted this because people asked on Facebook. Enjoy!