We all have songs that remind us of specific periods and events in our lives. Twenty years from now, which song will remind you of the summer of 2014?
Don’t know whether I’ll remember this 20 years from now (I don’t even remember what song reminds me of summer 2013 as it is), but this one just makes me smile. Not only is it such a happy song, but a friend gifted me this song in a greeting card and it always makes me smile every time I think of it.
As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?
I’m at the same age as the women I used to see,
primping themselves pretty,
working out at the gym,
looking more beautiful than the women they replaced -
still bound to their men, like a phantom limb.
They had their own children,
who learned to live with their lies
seeing a man not their daddy flit through their lives
going to school with the true ones, the ones who bore his name
but they learned to live with it, and why not?
it was only shame.
It turns out that your neighbor on the plane/bus/train (or the person sitting at the next table at the coffee shop) is a very, very chatty tourist. Do you try to switch seats, go for a non-committal brief small talk, or make this person your new best friend?
In the world we live in now, everyone else is engrossed on what’s on their smart phones and tablets, ignoring the people sitting next to them, or simply tuning them out. Most often than not, I’ve had the best experiences with people who love to talk – unless they’re talking about politics or religion, then I’m out. Here are a few that have stood out:
I once sat next to a young neurologist (“It’s ‘neurologist,'” he said. “Not ‘urologist.’ A lot of people get them mixed up.”) on a flight from L.A. to NYC. At first, we were both engrossed in our books, then the in-flight magazine and finally, tired of all that, we introduced ourselves. When he learned I was a massage therapist, he told me that he, along with other neurologists, dentists and orthodontists, were currently looking into the link between migraines and TMJ syndrome, and having had orthodontic braces when one was younger. He asked my opinion about how massage could possibly help where medications often fall short, because honestly, he didn’t like prescribing all the medications he was prescribing if bodywork could take some of the edge off. We talked about other things, of course – where he lived and practiced (Detroit) and and places to visit.
Another time, I sat next to an inventor. He could have been pulling my leg completely, but he said he held the patent to this blue flame lighter and other inventions. He used to live in California, he said, but he got tired of being sued by everyone who claimed to have come up with the invention first that he ended up moving to Arizona (or was it Nevada) where if someone wanted to sue him, then they had to pay for his attorney fees as well. Since his move, the lawsuits went from 100 to 0, he said, and he could concentrate more on inventing the next big thing. He commuted between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but it didn’t bother him because the one-hour flight between both places was just about the same time it took from the Valley where he lived to Los Angeles, where he did his deals (when he was living and getting sued left and right in California).
While we didn’t exactly become best of friends from then on (the doctor did leave me his business card so I could call him should I visit Detroit), we did connect in a non-digital way, learn something new about one another, and generally had a wonderful face-to-face (not FaceTime) time.
It’s something I miss when I sit in a coffee shop and see everyone, while in the company of their friends, staring into their smart phones, “connecting” if you will with “friends.” We don’t even see the color of their eyes, the way they look at us, smile at us, really connect with us. Instead, we do it with emoticons and a lot of guessing all because we don’t see the context of the words – which then leads to a lot of misunderstandings and needless drama.
So yes, in general, I don’t mind chatty people. As long as it’s not about religion or politics, then go ahead and talk to me.
“Izzy, I’ve learned the hard way that to have any kind of a future you’ve got to give up hope of ever changing your past.”
Gutted, I really am
all because of the story you wrote
so good, so sad, so real
how cruel you are,
to make me feel -
torn between characters
good people every one
you’ve gutted me, wrung me dry
now I’m all undone
*Don’t get me wrong. It’s an amazing book. A bit frustrating at times because you fall in love with the characters and they’re just to human and fallible, and…and now that Tom and Izzy and Lucy have managed to dig a hole so deep inside my heart, part of me wishes I never read it…because darn it, it hurts.
When was the last time you watched something so scary, cringe-worthy, or unbelievably tacky — in a movie, on TV, or in real life — you had to cover your eyes?
When I was a kid, my mother would take me, my brother (my older brother was smart enough to be ‘busy’ doing other things) and all my cousins to the movies – horror movies to be exact. Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Amityville Horror, Halloween, Prom Night, Carrie, Poltergeist, Dead & Buried, The Changeling – just to name a few.
All of us were scared half to death from what we saw onscreen and since we were all under 12 years old then, we had nightmares because of it. Still, we went because none of us wanted to be called a scaredy-cat, or in the dialect, talawán.
By the time I turned 16, I’d had it. The last horror movie I saw with my mother left me with nightmares of someone hammering a large nail into my forehead, a scene from the movie that has never left me to this day. Recently when I asked my mother if horror was indeed her genre, she said it actually wasn’t. She just got a kick out of scaring the crap out of the kids.
I do still watch a few scary movies though – like Pan’s Labyrinth, La Orfanata, The Others and one of my favorite zombie movies, 27 Days Later. But I’m definitely more picky. No Rob Zombie movies for me, or gore-fests like Saw.
The last time I covered my eyes (though I left a slit between my fingers to still see) was during a scene in Hannnibal, the TV series starring Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Lawrence Fishburne and Caroline Dhavernas. It’s one of my favorite, if not my favorite, show on TV.
It was the episode (Takiawase) which guest starred Amanda Plummer as an acupuncturist I would not go to for pain relief at all – not even if you paid me.
“Takiawase” also features a guest appearance by Amanda Plummer Pulp Fiction‘s Honey Bunny, as the honey-obsessed/acupuncturist killer-of-the-week who lobotomizes her clients. Hannibal wouldn’t be the same without some truly horrifying images on display, and “Takiawase” offers the first scene in which this critic just had to look away.
One night, three months ago now, while driving one hour each way to one of my gigs, I heard a song on the radio that made me drop everything else I was writing. I wouldn’t know its title, nor hear it again till two months later (which I announced on Twitter because I’d been looking for it forever), but it stuck with me, seeping through my pores against my will.
At that time, I was in the midst of writing this historical fiction novel. My heroine, Luna, was in deep, deep trouble, and the hero, Dev, was — well, it doesn’t matter what he was doing now because the entire story got steamrolled to the side all because I heard this one song that changed everything.
In a matter of days, maybe less than a week, I wrote my first 15K words. The heroine was forming slowly – and begrudgingly, we were getting to know each other. And the hero, well, he had the guise of one Michael Fassbender, and the way his character, Erik, wriggled his way into my writing was slow but sure. And just like the song, I may not have known its title or its singer then, but I knew, or rather felt, its message.
The night “Finding Sam” was born was April 28 and months later, I’m getting to the finish line, when I ready myself to say good-bye to Sam and Erik and let them live their lives without my meddling. But there is one character in the story that propelled Sam and Erik’s stories forward, and that is the character of Rosie, whose name appears in the novel’s opening line (and one that I probably will keep there, even for publication).
Readers who stumble upon Finding Sam have written about how the story makes them cry, and I’ve seen how people read Chapter One in the morning, and eight or ten hours later, they’re voting for Chapter 40 (it’s not done yet). It’s a marathon read, but one that’s made me realize just how far I’ve come after hearing a song one night, and at first wondering, do men really think that way about love or is it just a way to sell records? to asking myself why the hell am I writing something as vulnerable as this? Who am I writing this for?
And it made me realize, really realize, that the real muse for Finding Sam isn’t its main character, artist and vulnerable Sam. Nor is it the patient and stalwart Erik.
It was Rosie, Sam’s friend who starts the novel, well, dying.
Rosie is my friend, Pam. I met her on my first day in massage school 17 years ago and we became good friends long after massage school was over. Each month, we got together and exchanged massages (newsflash: most massage therapists don’t get regular massages) at my office, then spent 2 more hours having burgers, or Thai food and lots of coffee.
It was to Pam with whom I shared my secret passion for writing. Up to that point, friends I spent more time with knew me only as the party-loving, always laughing (probably because she was drunk) girl who couldn’t spike a volleyball – but never knowing that I preferred writing more than playing.
It was to Pam to whom I told my wish to write a story set in 1895 Philippines, complete with a brief summary of my characters and little tidbits about my home country. Not even my family knew about it. Pam had this knack for listening to you that made you just want to spill your life story. She was the best – hands down – massage therapist I’d ever allowed to touch my body, because she touched hearts just by being there with you.
My last conversation with Pam was over three years ago, when she called me just as I was getting ready to leave to see clients. Though Pam was always the one on time all the time, she was also someone worth being late for.
It was during this conversation that she asked me how my novel was shaping up – over ten years since I told her about it, and had actually NOT written a word. Pam wanted to learn what happened to Luna, my heroine, and whether her story would continue because she would certainly love to read it when I finished writing it, and when I’d publish it.
But Pam would never get to read my story.
She died a week later — I think, from a pulmonary embolism, for her radiation and chemotherapy treatments had left her with two blood clots just biding their time. Her final wish was not to have a memorial held for her, and I remember how perplexed and angry I was then as to why, for I needed the closure. I needed to talk about her, and all the good she had done for me by being my friend.
Most of all, I just needed her.
It’s been three years since Pam’s been gone. She would have been 55 or so and probably giving massages still, her waiting list probably longer than the three months’ wait that it had been before her cancer diagnosis. Since she’s been gone, I’ve distracted myself with other things, like spinning wool into yarn and gushing over an actor — yet always feeling an emptiness that I knew only one thing could fill. This time, there seems to be no escaping Pam’s memory, and her desire to one day read my stories.
Which means, now I write.
And now Pam’s in this story that came out of nowhere, all because I heard a song that touched my heart and my soul – and maybe through this song, she finally got through to me. And though her character in my story is dead, she’s not forgotten.
Instead, she propels the story forward. And not just this story, but every story that I’ve written ever since I remembered exactly who it was I was writing for.
It was never for the actors, the so-called muses. It wasn’t to inject myself as the heroine, as some people scoff is what writers really do (and even if we did, they’re just jealous we can plant ourselves into our worlds). It’s not even for money since I haven’t made a dime .
I write for me – and because of Pam, the real muse.
Sherlock Holmes had his pipe. Dorothy had her red shoes. Batman had his Batmobile. If we asked your friends what object they most immediately associate with you, what would they answer?
It depends who you talk to,
depends who you ask
about what object people associate with me
once we take away the mask
Some would probably say it’s my hair
for it’s so thick and shiny, they say,
while others will say it’s my hands
for I knead their aches and pains away
and some will say it’s my smile
though these days it’s rare for it to shine
but though he’s no object, it’s really my boy
for this time, before he grows any older,