On keeping a journal

Frau am Schreibtisch (Woman at writing desk ) by Lesser Ury

Keeping a journal is, I believe, a vehicle for creating myself, my sense of selfhood. Every page of my dairy is to be breathed with my heart that does not have to entertain anybody but myself.  It’s also proof that I have lived situations which today would seem uncertain and fretful, that I have climbed up the paths of my life thus far to reach the peaks so ambitious, so adventurous. Above all, I want to bring out every treasure that is buried deep in my heart. So writing day in and day out in my Midori Traveler’s Notebook is my daily ritual to remember what it is to be me, which is always the whole point of doing it.

I carry about my traveler’s notebook  everywhere I go to write my journal and reading pointers from books I read, and some occasionally attempted drawings for practice. There are three notebooks: One is used categorically for my freedom of thoughts, feelings, and just about anything that is to be kept only for myself. It’s not to be shared by anyone, so my soul can rest herself there. Another one is for notes I take from reading that I need to refer to when I write book reviews. And the last one is reserved for jotting down anything out of brainstorm, from devising storyboards for my short stories, to scratching some images of my poems, to making bullet lists to do, and to practicing my newly inspired drawings for more balanced nourishment of my soul. Most of the times – that is 5 days a week – before heading into my job, I usually go to a coffee shop and write in my beloved Midori. It is during this writing time when I feel creative and special out of the melee, out of the existential horrors of every day, and out of the humdrum of daily life.

I love combining drawings and a variety of crafting to my writing to heighten the expressions of feelings and deepen the depths of thoughts in the way I want them to. The only obstacle I have to huddle is drawing. As someone whose aesthetic standard is as high as that of Pope Julius II, who commissioned Michelangelo to fresco the Sistine Chapel,  I only wish I could draw things I see to its exactness with fine details. But then I always remind myself of the adage: “A flower does not compare itself to other flowers. It just blooms.”

In the Garden by Celia Thaxter

Therefore, keeping a diary is a veritable record of myself, a personal treaties on the breadth and depth of being who I really am. It sounds grandiose, but writing in my Midori gives rise to the elevation of my weltanschauung in reflection of contextualizing concepts and beliefs kept in me and also helps me unearth hidden treasure in the realm of unconscious mind. And by creating a kind of work relating to the crafts of the arts, I like to think that I am fulfilling my purpose of life to live a meaningful life, for the sake of ego qua meaningfulness. That said, I like to cherish Kurt Vonnegut’s advice that the arts are what makes the human life bearable and livable in dealing with existential matters of daily lives, for practicing any form of the arts – however clumsily or amateurishly done –  is a noble means to attend My Secret Garden of Mind full of Begonias of Fancy, Roses of Beauty, Tulips of Passion, Lavenders of Devotion, all blooming and bountiful around Spring of Eternal Youth.












Friends in need are friends indeed


“Hey Ed! What are you up to this Sunday? Aren’t you going to a regular Sunday morning Mass with your wife and daughter?” Ralph asked his ever affable chum who stopped by his fruit stand early on the morning of an ordinary but blissful Sunday. Non-conformist he may be, Randy is a deeply faithful man who believes in the existence of God and prays for his divine guidance in his heart, never proselytizing his belief and forcing it on others. He is like Henry David Thoreau, who never went to church in his lifetime but practiced Christianity in everyday life by appreciating the beauty of nature and the love of humanity in its pristine essence in his poetic sensibilities. Ralph is proud of being a bohemian poet/fruit vendor as a confirmed bachelor, who has disembarrassed himself from the burdens of attending martial responsibilities and duties. That being said, seeing his married friend Ed Beaver gives him an associated feelings of sympathy and curiosity, of confinement and comfort, all packaged in the Pandora’s Box of Conjugal Life.

IMG_4095“Hey, Ralph. Well, I am coming from the church after dropping them off there. I would rather bask myself in the Sunday morning sunshine than sit on the dreadful pew and suffer an hour or so by enduring the fidgeting and disquieting of the little ones who have not reached the intelligent  age of learning the Catechism preparatory to their First Communion. These kids… are recalcitrant urchins! Moreover, the parents are complacent about teaching their children how to behave properly in church! That would be no point of hearing a Mass amid the shambolic commotion! That would be a sacrilegious irreverence!” Upon decanting his subdued disaffection toward the uncivil, Ed felt his mind was taken off the anxiety and anger. It’s always so reassuring to talk to Ralph, who’s at once a good listener and reliable friend, thought Ed, who continued: “By the way, do you know Andrew Redfox just opened his mobile hotdog shop? He started it a couple of weeks ago on Grand Avenue, and it got quite successful! The newspaper covered a favorable article about his business a week ago, and people have been talking about his hotdogs and waffles, all handmaid by his wife Monica. Did you try any of the food?”

IMG_4001Ralph heard about the news but did not venture to try the proverbial hotdog or waffle yet because although Ralph was a benign character well balanced with intelligence and humor, he’s quite lazy, succumbed to the habitual routine of staying put in one place, which is his fruit stand. Ant yet, as a self-professed bon vivant, Ralph’s spirit was willing to fly over to Andrew’s hotdog van and have a bite on it, for a hotdog is one of his favorite food in the world. “Yes, I knew Andy’s new hotdog business. Do you want to go there later today? I am planning to wrap it up at 4:00 PM today. Hope Andy’s open today.” “That sounds great, Ralph! Yes, Andy is on the counter today because Andy said he would need to reach his projected profit by the end of this year to pay off his overdue rent fees. You know Andy had been out of job for eight months, and his unemployment benefit was on the brink of being exhausted when his daughter Julie had also lost her job… So this is his big breakthrough in his drifted life, I presume.”


Hence, both Ed and Ralph went to Andy’s hotdog van and saw it was a success by a glance at a long line of customers to buy hotdogs or waffles, all handmaid at home by his wife Monica according to her honest-to-goodness family recipes passed down from her Belgian maternal great-grandmother. The men were happy to see their friend starting anew once again from the bottom of his existential dilemma beset by economic deprivations and hoped that this new fortunate chance to right the ship of his reinstated life accompanied by his family would sail through. After all, helping a friend in need is what good friends can do because friendship can double the joy and cut the grief in halves. Isn’t that what friends are for?




Coffee with Bach and Thoreau

La Patisserie by Jean Beraud

It was still early when she got to downtown. And it was still an hour early before her day at the office was to start. That feeling of earliness needed to be indulged by the leisure of solitary coffee time at her regular coffeehouse that had lovely outside seating where you could enjoy a capricious respite with a cup of coffee and watch the swing of things, the world in motion, and the parade of the human race. That time was precious time for Julie, and it was to be observed religiously  in a way the Vestal Virgins guarded the sacred fire in the temple lest it should die out, as that would mean the peril of the Eternal City. The aroma of freshly brewed hazelnut coffee could do so many wonders, and one of them is vitalizing your listless, half-awaken stupor under which you would find yourself an unconscious somnambulist or a peevish whiner. This rhapsody of morning coffee is also testified by a testimonial of Johann Sebastian Bach, the father of Baroque music, who described himself as a “roast goat” without having a cup of sensuously aromatic coffee in the morning.

Julie, as a faithful myrmidon of the power of wonder beverage, got her first morning hazelnut coffee and placed herself in the corner of her regular coffeeshop to set her cognitive functionality for a work day in motion by reading her subscription on Kindle Fire and writing down some notes from the reading. In fact, there was a set of rules of reading Julie adhered to: reading hardcopies on her commuter train and Kindle in coffee-shops because she found such modus operandi of reading quite congenital to her mental exercise. So there she was, doing what she always did, unless otherwise there was anything else that called for her urgent attention to attend before her work hours began. Then when her silver pocket watch indicated twenty minutes to nine, Julie headed for the office. That was how Julie began her normal work days. That was how she began to live another existential everyday.

That particular morning, which was Friday, was a lucky one, for no exigency was awaiting for her to execute first thing in the morning. Julie was a legal assistant at a litigation firm, where a myriad of pleadings, discoveries, settlements, and confrontations were norms of the trade. And it had been only a week since a happy chance placed her into the position offered by goddess Fortuna, who had finally countenanced her new future on the frontier. Yes, it was a frontier, a new land of unyielding dreams, high hopes, and exciting desires that Julie had felt deprived of in that grey, grim land by the Atlantic Ocean. Even Henry David Thoreau attested such tenebrous somberness of the ocean as a Sea of the Old Habits and Constraints that bound people in the Memory of their aborted wishes and crushed ambitions and encouraged them to migrate to the Elysian Fields by the Pacific Ocean, which he romantically compared to the River of Lethe in his poetic pathos. Reader, you might think it as a humbug or even a jest in your most postmodern mode of thinking in the ethos of textual parallax thriving on non-platform media. But when you become known that our life is still woven by the Fates under the supervision of Fortuna and that you are made of spirit, fire, and dew, you will swivel your head in wonderment in recognition of Thoreau’s poetic perspective on the Exodus to a New Land where nature is all the more conspicuous by the relative absence of the Gothic skyline that rudely dominates the vault of heaven on the Other Side of the Continent. Julie knew it all, and that was why she wanted to start anew in the West, where the Lethe of the Pacific flew, where the rugged hills and primitive mountains setting against the deep blue ocean still maintained the rustic charm of a village maiden.


Morning Train


She should have caught the first morning train to the city instead of debauching her first cigarette of the day upon her arrival on the platform. She knew smoking as the first thing in the morning wasn’t the most salubrious thing to do, but she had to. It was her way of relieving her mind of its cares, anesthetizing her strains of everyday life for the moment of her sybaritic indulgence, which was the only hedonistic practice Julie insisted on keeping because no other things were permitted to her, literally, apart from all the virtuous and sensuous delights of all human creatures that denied her access.That’s probably a pathetically lame excuse for smoking, and the militantly health-conscious, priggish, and principled public would love to lambast her and her smoking habit not because they really care about her health but because they just do it, since anti-smoking is now the ethos of this ostensibly egalitarian era, the zeitgeist of New Social Totalitarianism that dictates Social Science Model Behaviors. And although Julie was never a forceful character, she was a free spirit with proud individuality, declaiming against the mob psychology that was grounded on suitably fashionable stance for demotic mores. She defied it in her own way, in her own solipsistic way.

The act of smoking could be conceived as one of the most highly advanced forms of humankind ever since the dawn of civilization when Prometheus, an ingenious and recalcitrant Titan, fashioned man out of clay and water, and then stole sacred fire for mankind to kindle civilization. In this regard, manipulating fire in the ritualistic process of lighting a cigarette and emitting smoke from it can be regarded as a sacred ritualistic performance to pay homage to the benefactor of civilization. Also, Ahura Mazda, a lord of heaven and light and the only true god of the prototype of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – Zarathustra, aka Zoroaster by the Greeks, was manifested in the form of Sacred Fire, symbolizing Purity, Illumination, Warmth, Enlightenment, and the Zeal. And there were also the Vestal Virgins, the ancient Roman priestesses who kept the celestial fire of Hestia, the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and domesticity.

Like the tortured thinker Kierkegaard anguishing over his existential conflicts caught between actions and religion, Julie was wretched in this world of collapsed grand narratives, fake news, volatile subjective opinions, hypocritical truths, and inflated egos, all fallen apart and adrift on a sea of the postmodernist detritus. What are am I in now? Are humankind really progressing for betterment or gearing up for its own destruction?

According to the ancient Greek peasant/poet Hesiod, known for didactic elements in his poems, there are Five Ages of Mankind: the first one is a “Golden Age,” governed by the Titans, the first generation of Greek mythology, where no words for sickness, war, and discord existed. You see, the Titans were alright for humans although their own children raised war against their parents, even castrating Uranos, the first ruler of the universe, the sky, Titan of Titans; the second one is a “Silver Age,” a reign of Zeus and the Olympians who were very much like us in temperament and characters with the exception of supernatural endowments of immortality, talents, and beauty (but not in the case of Hephaestus, the lame and ugly god of fire and blacksmith, and the husband of Aphrodite). Humans lived only 100 years, most of which were suspended in childhood, consequently making them sophomoric, childish, and disputatious; then came a “Bronze Age,” chockablock with warriors and more warriors spending their time in the office of war and conflict; the next “Heroic Age” was a modified version of Bronze Age in the sense that the characters of war were tinctured with noble and epic elements as in the case of Homer’s “Trojan War” in which Hector, a Trojan prince and the greatest warrior and Achilles, the Greek version of Hector, Odyssey, the timeless voyager, and Aeneas, a Trojan refuge who later founded Rome, the ancestor of the feral brothers Romulus and Remus; and the last and the lasting one is the “Iron Age,” in which we all live now. Hesiod might have foreseen where we are now in his poet’s eye; it’s a world of vehement contenders vying for the sponsorship and the possession of the beautiful, the powerful, the fortunate,… THE FITTEST. It’s a world of social Spencerism that yoked Darwinian evolutionism into philosophy to champion eugenics. And what will be the next age be like? Julie was curious, but then she was soon past caring because she wouldn’t live to tell anyway.

All of the aforesaid musing triggered by her smoking kept her occupied while waiting for the next train to the city. Julie looked around her at the station that began to be full with another batch of commuters, more men than women at a glance. Funny, Julie thought. Are there more men working in the city than women in this town? Or is it because there are just more men than women in this town? Anyway, the men looked just average without distinguishing outward appearances. Julie knew that beauty was only a skin deep, but being a highly aesthetically person, she could not help but observe physiognomies of whoever she saw in view. As a matter of fact, even the intellectual like Francis Bacon also took a person’s physiognomy into consideration that he even rationalized phrenology, a divinity by shapes of skulls. And then there was Karl Lagerfeld who realized that the look was what others made interested in your soul.

Woe betides anyone who would disagree to this dictum of our time, for she or he would be a downright hypocrite! The human faculty is instinctive, sentient, and physical. Beauty as an essential objective of intelligence is what calls a beholder’s attention to the other elements of its possessor in the sense that the poster of a movie gathers spectators to the doors of the movie theater.

Moreover, Julie could see what others could not see or decided to ignore because it’s regarded as trifle. Her sense, sensitivity, and sensibility were extraordinary to the point of exquisite uncanniness. Then, she jeered at the thought and dismissed it as a hocus-pocus, all jumbled up with meaningless bits of harebrained abracadabra in a shambolic array of grim masks that languished with faint tweaking in the left corners of their lips. That was another way of visceral escapism she sometimes took to bring herself to a different place from the rabble that seemed to belittle her nondescript exotic existence that didn’t fit their circle, their legion of the beauty. That’s the existential issues Julie had to face everyday – an acute sense of isolation, an unquenchable feeling of rejection, and a sentient awareness of her aloneness… To escape from the excessively dour, namby-pamby sentimentality, Julie looked at the magnificently rustic beauty of mountains and hills outside the moving windows of the train and fell into a reverie of the 19th century Wild West where she as a Pony Express Rider was riding on a rapid mustang across the land to deliver a Letter of Hope to a final station in the city.


trumpet volunary – beginning

This is a beginning of my novella about a woman striving against the limitations imposed on her by reality with her fierce individuality and queasiness in her belief in destiny or fate. Her investment of spiritual discernment is her congenital gift, but that which makes her special defenestrates her to the perimeter of society like a cunning woman or herbalist in the Elizabethan England. Is she then a middling between an angel and a demon? Her search for meaning of her so-called life, the secret of her existence is the linchpin of this daringly attempted story I have decided to conjure up in the peculiar alchemy of fiction. 


“Bedroom in Arles” by Vincent van Gogh

It was a cool, bright mid Monday morning, but Julie was still in bed, in bed with her still tenebrous somber spirit returning to possess her once again because she – yes, that is Julie Fustine, a single, plain woman nearing to the acquisition of stoicism in life – fell into a reverie of perfidious rebelliousness. But let the description of Julie not complacently settle on your a priori premature postulation that she was one of those feckless, mediocre, and nondescript women deprived of what the world could offer to being a woman. Nary a one bit. Her inner world was always in a perpetual restive tempest propelling her to sail adrift on her sea of life fraught with existential strains of life, which stunned her venturesome spirit and moored it in the stony stasis of inertia that was killing her softly. She was a hostage to fortune confined in existentialism that did not allow her all the privileges and rights of womanhood and femininity due to a covenant arbitrarily made and entered into by and among her ancestors and an ancient entity prior to her birth.

All this, all this preposterous truth was nothing but a real, physical one that was intractably lodged in Julie’s mind, and it was killing her softly. Nothing would be changed on my own, except the sure case of death, which would be a total force majeur situation. Christopher Malowe’s Dr. Faust was in league with me. And if I physically – and metaphysically – disappear from this earthly place, nothing would change. With such monologue in mind, Julie’s wish was to find herself in netherworld when she woke up in every new morning. No, it’s not pessimism or fatalism, but realism, whether you would agree or not with a sneer. W.H. Auden confirmed it in his poem, “Museum of Beautiful Arts.” Just as all the world’s great and terrible events, such as martyrdoms and nativities, took place amid everyday life, other people continued to do what they had been doing for their own interests. Whether or not you existed would not matter to the continuation of the world.

But as luck would have it, Julie woke up in this world yet again this morning, in this dysphoria of her failed and failing dreams, dwindled and dwindling aspirations, disappointed and disappointing facts, and frustrated and frustrating desires. How shall I die? It’s got be without inscrutable pains and gory details. The painless suicide will be the most cherished and coveted solution to expunge  all my baggage. Thus contemplated Julie in her usual serious self. Then came the phantasmal display of the last day of Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler. When Eva and Hitler knew that their ends were impending as the Reich was soon to fall, they hastened to kill their lives together. Hitler chose a pistol, but Eva – being nothing but a woman herself with a reason none other than being a woman – mulled over which method she would employ to murder herself in the least painful but the most feminine fashion. Out of the musing came a method of poisoning herself because it would preserve her pretty face even after death in order that anyone, the Allied or her German volks, finding her corpse would still think she was a pretty being.

This story and image of Eva Braun still imprinted in Julie’s mind and imbued her with the selfsame way of beautifully saying adieu to her pitiful life. Nevertheless, this was never realized or did not seem to be realized in any time soon for some clandestine reasons made by the Fate, or the Fury, or the beautiful goddess Fortuna. And where would God be placed among these pagan elements? He would eventually come and vanquish all in the name of one Omnipotent, Transcendent, and Infallible of All in no time.

So much so that in Julie’s religiously conditioned mannerism of reconciling herself to the limits imposed by the Reality of This World,  the image of God existed as a Bureaucrat aged somewhere between fifties and seventies with a Victorian-style mustache and gravitas that would sting you to fumble with awkwardness, making you feel like a nincompoop. Julie was not a forceful character, and she would turn herself away from this humiliated embarrassment and would figure things out for herself, even though it meant a series of trials and errors through a long period of time all alone. That was her daring independent spirit. That was her most treasured possession. That was what kept her going against her senses and sensibilities. That was her lifeline and only one.

So it was another morning, and a very first morning of a new week into the bargain. Intentionally waking up late in the morning, Julie forced herself to breakfast against her prior determination of foregoing food until she would find an employment that would make her earn the bare necessities however little it would pay her. Would this be my home forever? Would I become visible in this new land? Would I start anew in this place? Then Julie’s innermost secret and hidden questions came to surface at last: Could I chance to love? Could a man love me despite my plainness? My paroxysm of moodiness? My humdrum presence? CUT THE CRAP, concluded Julie, for all these supplementary wishes and vain hopes were verbose and verbatim Without A Job. Surely, not all pretty women with jobs – good jobs like professional ones held by the writers of all those popular memoirs bestriding NYT bestseller list for weeks – promenaded with their beaus, but Julie, always angst-ridden and precariously sentient – moped around the whirls of her mental pagoda of melancholy. She could not help making parallels with her life, comparing herself with the illustrious careers of her peers.

The third week of unemployment was hard to bear, and it was daunting to bear even with her renowned stoicism, but her real passionate self defied it, cursed it, and bitched it. Still worse, radio silence following so-called officious interviews was the worst bitch. “Don’t take it personally,” was a bromide, a humbug, a hokum out of human kindness, only to be cruel. Of course, it’s PERSONAL, when the parties engaged in the formal occasions were all humans made of blood and flesh, not robotics of steel and wire. That’s an infallible truth, n’est-pas? That’s a res ipsa loquitur case of negligence of truth, no?

All of this in her mind pushed her into the brink of a life’s cliff, leaving her one choice, and the only choice she could resort to: a Mephistophelean pact, it was. Yes, that’s darn right. She resolved to make a pact with the devil, and she was going to do it no matter what, either out of sheer spite against her fate or pure supernatural adventure or innocent curiosity. She’s up for it, and when she was in for the kill, she sure meant it. And it was today she would do it when the frivolous west sun was set, and the shadow of dark began to cover the horizon in the way the sky god Oruanos covered the earth goddess Gaia to make love to her furtively in the dark.