Flesh Delight (Revised)

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Virtue declaimed
Convention frowned
Religion constrained
Morality questioned
Reason connived
Senses rallied.

P.S I light a cigarette as a disciple of Zoroaster, worshiping sacred fire, and a student of Prometheus, who taught mortals how to kindle fire and use it for the benefit of Mankind. It’s a prerogative of a human being. Apes might simulate semblance of motion, but not the dexterity of manipulating fire and the delight of sensation. Deleterious -yes – but pleasurable and irresistible. 

Friends in need are friends indeed

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“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.”

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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?

thanks-for-reading-Rok-Hardware

 

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‘Bitter Orange’, by Claire Fuller – review

Bitter OrangeBitter Orange by Claire Fuller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller is a curious case study of a woman named Frances Jellico, masquerading as a fictitious memoir laced with escapism, voyeurism, narcissism, and eroticism, all glowing in the radiant color orange smothered by the shadow of forced guilt, self-loathing, and disorientation. Frances’s narrative is, however, far from being namby-pamby, importuning the reader with her litany of her woeful life. Rather, it is her remonstration of her failed dreams, rejected desires, and unfulfilled purposes with the world she believes has always turned its back against her in the most callous way. Her only revenge for the betraying world is her death, which bestows upon her the kind of liberty she wanted to purchase in one hot summer in an idyllic English suburb twenty years ago. It’s a mad, bad, and sad drama of Frances through which Fuller plays the last swan song of a deeply troubled woman in emotional distress with her masterful storytelling skills.

Written in the first person narrative, the reader will directly glimpse into the inner world of Frances whose days are numbered without superabundance of mawkish sentiments. In fact, it echoes Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart” in a way that  exudes a momentum of gushing stream of consciousness of a narrator that feels a combination of anger and dismay, sorrow and loneliness, and illusion and paranoia. That feeling of abstract emotions becomes physical by the witchcraft of Fuller’s atmospheric descriptions of scenes and rich dialogues. Fuller does a beautifully nuanced job of capturing all the conflicting emotions that put you in trance, carrying you over to the psych of the other.

In comparison with Dora, the subject of Sigmund Freud’s case study of hysteria, Frances’s dilemma is more existential, more corporeal, and more noogenic in terms of the cause and the nature of her Uber-Angst. To diagnose Frances’s symptoms as a typical case of female hysteria commonly associated with a timid, introverted middle-aged virginal woman does a disservice to the woman who struggled to right the ship of her drifting life all alone. IT goes against the grain to dismiss France’s story as a mere dalliance with a hedonistic couple named Cara and Peter during her brief sojourn or a pitiful attempt to break free from her socially gawky, ill-fitted rotund virginal self at the expense of her naivety. France’s narrative attests a sense of disorientation of her life without a clear vista of purpose in her life due to the lingering influence of her dead gloomy, domineering, sordid mother who bound her entire being under the rigidity of religion and morality.

Subsequently, Frances suffers from noogenic neuroses, neither pathological not pathogenic of origin, but of existential distress. In other words, Frances is not a basket case, but a human derelict adrift on a sea of life, brutally defenestrated from the comforting mooring of loving relationship and social connections by her also neurotic mother who blamed her daughter for almost anything. No wonder Frances associates her rotund appearance with her weight of guilt that is in fact nothing but her delusional imago forced upon her. In this regard, France’s narrative outstrips Freud’s Dora case with far more in-depth interior monologue of the narrator endowed with high intellect, impressible curiosities for life, and unyielding desire of being connected with the world outside herself.

Fuller is a riveting writer of dialogue and scenes, all the artistry in the marks upon the page after page, wielding a pen across the pages in an expense of her boundless imagination that seems wholly realistic and ingeniously creative, producing aesthetically sensuous ambiance of the story, as if she were painting a Renaissance triptych featuring three naked adults making furiously and frantically passionate love with one another in an Arcadian English garden tinged with citrus scents of oranges, which likewise symbolize lust, desire, and passion, all flatly denied to Frances in Bitter Reality. And it is in this subtle respect of Frances’s smoldering indignation at such cruel denial of her yearnings only natural to any woman – young and old, pretty and not-so-pretty, smart and not-so-smart – that Fuller’s vivid imaginativeness and keen observation of psyche of characters manifest to the fullest extent and hold the reader’s undivided attention throughout the book with gusto and pleasure that will make you become titillatingly insatiable as you go deeper into this arresting story.

Coffee with Bach and Thoreau

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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.

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A League of Their Own

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Reading a section featuring a small, pleasant Q&A type of interview with a writer in The New York Times Book Review on restful weekends gives me a kind of voyeuristic fillip to be privy to the life of the writer; moreover, the usual question of whom to invite for dinner is the gist of such small pleasure. I’ve found it quite stimulating to think about my own list of people to have dinner with. Therefore, I have herein drawn up my own list of invitees to confabulate with, though not at dinnertime but at lunchtime, which I think more convenient and favorable to enjoy the Californian sun and the beautiful scenery in daylight. Here’s my list of guests:

  • Eleanor Roosevelt: The paragon of the First Lady of the United States with Intelligence that ministered to her moral character. She put her philosophy into action by actively participating in social services. Besides, Mrs. Roosevelt possessed a polished but common sense of humor and wits communicative to people of all social strata with her timeless adage: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
  • Joan of Arc: The Virgin of Lorraine, The Patron Saint of France… Such are the epithets of this patriotic French maiden who was burned alive on the counts of witchery and treason, which was of course conspiracy concocted by the French ecclesiastical dignitaries collaborating with the English against whom Joan of Arc fiercely and courageously fought to victory. She was neither a religious fanatic, nor a hallucinated mooncalf, nor a certifiable schizophrenic. She might be a simple peasant woman but a courageous, headstrong, and smart woman of faith who did not even protect her face during battles with the English amid the attacks of sharp arrows, axes, and lances. No wonder did Mark Twain praise the Virgin Knight forthwith: “Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, an there you will find it.” Besides, her simplicity of faith excelled the pomposity of ecclesiastical knowledge by saying thus: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing, and we should not complicate the matter.” I can learn many things from Joan as a True Model Woman who embodied Intelligence, Femininity, Courage, and Faith.
  • Marilyn Monroe: Born as Norma Jean Baker, she was not a blonde bimbo whose physical attractiveness belied her ceaseless pursuit of  knowledge concomitant with her pursuit of meaning of life she desperately wanted to ascertain. Monroe enrolled in evening college courses in the New York City when she had no schedules during the daytime. Behind her pretty persona of movie star, there was a profound shadow of existentialist. Also, Monroe’s down-to-earth personality and kind nature would make her a lovely company striking up a convivial conversation at the table full of strangers.
  • Jane Birkin: Her bohemian look – that effortlessly sensual but charmingly delightful facade with simple French Chic style is always timeless and boundless, appealing to Womankind imbuing with a sense of emulation of the style. In fact, such qualities of Birkin had one time convinced me that she was French. She seems to wear sexuality like she’s wearing her favorite set of perfumes, which is never vulgar nor degrading. Once a shy English girl is now a sensuous cosmopolitan woman demonstrating admixture of art and individuality in the most fashionable way. She will be a delightful addition to my lunchtime table.

In view of the above, my guests of honors are an eclectic company of women, past or present, surprisingly and strictly non-professional authors who make a living by writing only, although I did not intend it to be that way. Or maybe my preconception of professional authors – especially women – as highly volatile artists with inflated egos, dazzling intelligence, divine beauty, and impressive achievements might have played a vital role in excluding unconsciously any of them from my circle of companions. But so did Michelangelo; he was never befriended with his contemporary Leonardo Da Vinci, who in fact lambasted his untidiness as a sculptor in comparison with a baker. Nor did Michelangelo make friends with other famous artists. Instead,  he was a friend of some obscure artisan who helped around various artists by doing sorts of drudgery. It all boils down to the fact that having a good company of kindred spirits can do a favorable service to your soul, making you feel charitable and magnanimous, so much so that you can- to quote the swashbuckling Oscar Wilde- “forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.”

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