Archive | March, 2020

Stalk of Asparagus – VI

31 Mar

“At lunchtime I asked her where she had been in the Philippines and asked her if she had gone to a beauty shop. She said yes, and then I asked her if she had left her wallet behind, and she looked a little startled and said, “Why yes!” “I gave it back to you,” I told her, and a look of amazement came into her eyes. And that was the first time I met Renee, who has been my friend in the United States for all of my fourteen years here.

“I worked at Red Cross for about three months and then I met Ray Lemos, a friend of Koji, who introduced me to Mattie, another blind man who operated a snack bar at the Social Security on Mission Street near Ninth Street. I went to work for Mattie as a counter girl about the last week of May. We had a bet about Robert Kennedy’s winning the California election, but I said he would die before he became president. Mattie did not believe me, but we made the bet for $50.
And Mattie called me at 3 a.m. the morning that Robert Kennedy was killed by Sirhan Sirhan.

Mattie asked me if I knew how to run a cash register, and I told him that I had had a cash register in my shop in Manila, but we didn’t have tax. We also asked me if I thought that I could come at 6 a.m. and I said I would try, it was just only walking distance. Then he said to me, “You’re hired.”

“I arrived at 5:30 a.m. and he said “Groovy,” and I said, “My name is Remy,” and he replied, “You’re okay!” I said, “I m learning.”

“After about six weeks, Mattie trusted me enough to leave me in full charge of two snack bars, with one blind assistant, first and third floors.

“After I left Red Cross, Renee kept in touch with me by letter, and when she was on jury duty, she visited me at the snack bar. In the meantime, Redevelopment was tearing down the buildings, and we were at Natoma and 8th, because we had to move. I didn’t get a key again, and Renee came to my rescue. She had suggested that I move in without paying rent, but buying my own food. And I told her that I didn’t want to stay with her because I was hungry the whole night because I didn’t have any rice. And so she went to Soko Hardware and bought a rice cooker which I still have. And so I said yes.

At the beginning of 1969, about February or March, Renee started asking me if I had gotten my W-2 form, which I kept calling 2-W form. I showed her my pink slips which the paid me in cash $52 a week.

She kept saying, ‘But that’s not it! You have to have a form which tells your total earnings and your tax and Social Security deductions.” I didn’t believe her. So early in April, Renee Wrote a letter to the Internal Revenue, explaining my situation and asking them for assistance. And I didn’t want to go, but she kept insisting, so I went.

Internal Revenue read the letter and they said to me, “We’re going to investigate your boss, and you are entitled to have a W-2 form.” And I finally believed that Renee was telling me the truth.

When the investigators came I thought they were the potato chip men, and I said
‘I’m busy, why not have your coffee.’ They had their coffee, but behind me they also were talking to the head of the Social Security office.

They said to me that this kind of job is a job for three people and where was my boss. I told him that Mattie was in Reno with his wife, and they wanted to know which casino and hotel he was at.

“I told them that Mattie had telephoned collect at 9:30 that morning with directions for me and that if they telephoned the operator they could find out where the call was placed. “You’re F.B.I.” I said, “You know how to do it or how to locate.” They congratulated me, and they took Mattie’s license from the wall that morning.

The next morning Mattie was back, but made me stay on the first floor. He had been given one week’s notice to terminate, because he had been doing the same thing to employees also in San Diego. The place was alive with officials investigating Mattie’s operation.”

Remy’s relief and pleasure were patent when the symposium finished at 5:45. We split up for the ride home, I going with Jean-Louis and Carrie and Carrie’s sister-in-law. I fussed because their audience had evaporated and the questioning had dragged out. It was not my idea of show business, and panels were included in my personal definition.

Remy went with Gladys and took her and Feliza Casuga, her mother, out to dinner to celebrate. Before she went upstairs that night, Remy stopped by brimming with the gratification of having told her story. We rehashed the afternoon, and talked about her reactions.

“One stalk of asparagus. I’ll never forget.”

I looked at her, and she was smiling. We laughed together and said good night.

Stalk of Asparagus – IV

30 Mar

“I went out to take my picture for my passport and went to my home town with a briefcase, and I am so sure of myself. When I show my briefcase and passport and the pamphlet to my family, especially my older brother and my younger brother. They asked me, “ Who issued you the passport? “You’re crazy!” My father said, “You’re only my half- daughter, no dice.” So I went to my high school principal and he said, “There is no blood relation,: I went to Judge Arciaga who said the same thing. Dr. Macagba said the same thing. The same thing from my principal in the elementary school. They’re all brainy. I persuaded my ste-father with the help of a first- class ticket to go to Manila with me, in heavy rain, to the U.S. Embassy. I wrapped the papers in dry banana branches and put two umbrellas without handles to protect the papers from the raid. Finally, we got back to the Embassy despite the typhoon, and Tata Pepe found out that I was right!

The owner of the apartment building where I lived in Manila had a contact with Teresita Caeg in San Francisco on Clementina Street for baby-sitting: $50 a month/room and board.

“It took six months to process my papers which came through in November, 1967.I had three months to use my visit and in that time I had to close my shop and make all preparations to go. My dispededa still was with disbelieving brothers and sisters. My younger brother even threw a platter of rice in my face and said again I was crazy. My grandfather gave me ten pesos and a quarter when I went to say goodbye. He was shocked that I was going and he was U.S. Navy during World War I.

Still I never lose hope and I’ve got the gut.

My baggage allowance was 40 pounds and my excess was 30 pounds, all of it food and clothing for the people I was going to work for. I left behind my own luggage, most of it, so that I could take the baggage of the mother of Mrs. Caeg.  I paid 179 pesos at Manila and I thought that it was going through to San Francisco. The agent told me not to pay any more. But when I reach Tokyo, Haneda Airport, I was informed that I have excess baggage and that it would be thrown away unless I paid $788. I gave them $299.50 and signed my name for the difference. I thought my new bosses would help me pay the difference when I arrived. When I stayed overnight at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, I took my uniforms out of my suitcase, six blouses and six skirts and one sweater and put them all on to lower the cost of the excess baggage.

I arrived on a BOAC flight about 4:40 p.m. in the afternoon of March 6, fourteen years ago yesterday, and I went through customs. Two guys asked me if I am Miss or Mrs. And I said, “My passport says Miss.” They keep looking at me from heat to foot, and I think that my layers of clothing must have made me look pregnant. But I said to myself, “Let the whole word know.” I didn’t have any money left because my excess baggage had used up all my money except the quarter from my grandfather.

I asked, “Where can I get the phone?” They pointed the direction, so I tried to put 3 Filipino quarters in and the operator said to me, “Can you put in a dime and a nickel?” And I replied, “I just came from the island, and I don’t know which is the dime and the nickel, but I put in another quarter and the operator asked me what my address is, where I am going. I told them 333 Clementina. “Just connect me to that person,” and they mention to me that I will receive a check for $.85. Finally, after waiting Friday night, all day Saturday, I was picked up by the husband, Frank Caeg, at 4 a.m. on Sunday. When I had reached Tessie on the phone on March 6, she said that Frank had gone to Reno and since she had just had the third baby five days before she could not come out and get me. So I had to wait all that time at the BOAC counter.

What I used for food was what I got at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo as part of my coupon, and what I did not eat or give away to the housekeeping maids. It was a fish with a head about ten inches long and whole heat roles, plus an apple and an orange. They were my ‘to go’ package, my salva vida.

There were three people going up to the BOAC counter. I got behind them, peeping to see if they have my picture. At about 3:45 a.m. a big, husky man, about five feet eleven, at least 200 pounds, waving a picture in his hand, came up to the counter, and underneath this thumb, I recognized my legs and a pair of step-in sandals on my feet and a green skirt. I introduce myself, and he looks at the legs of the picture because this thumb is covering my face.

I told him I had excess baggage of $478 and he said I was crazy and got mad at the counter attendants. They told him they had nothing to do with it because it happened in Tokyo and not in San Francisco. He drove me to Clementina Street and kept looking at me at 5 a.m. in the morning.

Stalk of Asparagus – III

30 Mar

We shouted at each other, “Grouch,” I declared. “Coreeput,” Remy retorted
[Stingy]. “ She told me her mother never let anyone in the kitchen, but me, it doesn’t count,” I mumbled to my self. We managed to survive through the day, into the evening, with a few other brush fires as well as to tape and time Remy’s experiences to twenty minutes. My mother and Gladys had even listened to Remy and advised her when and how to pause for maximum effect.

The next day, the organizers had not counted on some long-winded speakers. The intellectuals came first; one talked nearly an hour, oblivious of the restiveness of the audience. Old timers left at various stages and when questions and answers were finished between the professor and the bright young people, intermission lost still more of the audience. While talking about unity, the early speakers did not remain to hear the personal experiences of the immigrants. The day’s moderator was powerless; the desired unity was negated with departures, speakers as well as audiences.

Perhaps two dozen listeners remained. [Remy later crossed off the figure to two hundred.] “I don’t want to go on any more,” Remy groaned, “Let’s go home.” But Carrie led off the personal comments – freedom fighter from World War II. Carrie talked about sectionalism and jealousy, plus the romance Americans shared with Filipinos just after World War II. A lifetime of church activities, child-rearing, fund raising, just living were reflected in Carrie’s warmth, her considerable style, her understanding. A generation apart, Carrie and Remy matched each other in their responsiveness.

Remy followed, talking from her seat. As she spoke, a chuckle was heard and then a laugh. “She should have come first,” I felt to myself, protectively.  I glanced back at Jean-Louis Brindamour, publisher of Strawberry Hills Books. He mouthed at me, “Superb.” And, in her own phrases, this is the story Remy dictated to me, alas, heard by only too few.

“My name is Remedios F. Munar, and I was born in Carlatan, San Fernando, La Union. I am G.I. – Genuine Illocana! I am number four of my family’s living five children, the third daughter. My mother married my step-father when I was six, and we have a third brother, Allan, still living in San Fernando. The rest of us have immigrated. [Note: Remy subsequently petitioned for his arrival, aided by the fact he was an American citizen because of his father’s naturalization.]

“My first recollection about wanting to come to the United States happened during the Liberation Time. The headquarters of the American soldiers was in my mother’s home in Carlatan. My mother used to handle the G.I.’s laundry. It so happened one of the guards we called “Victory Joe” gave us chicklets. He said, “If you go to the United States you’ll never be hungry the rest of your life,” and I put it in my head. He also got us medicine for our eyes when they were infected. I thought I wouldn’t have sore eyes in the U.S.

“I wanted to become a nurse, but we were all in college after I finished high school. My mother and I passed Samson Fashion School in Manila, and I got it in my head that I could give permanent waves. So I enrolled and I got pocket money while I was learning, from my models. My teacher, Mrs. Pureta Monastario, had studied in New York City. After I graduated in 1959, she asked me to run her beauty shop where a lot of American teachers had their hair done, near the American School in Manila. I used to say to the teachers, “Take me to the United States, I’ll be your slave forever in my life.” Mrs. Thawald, from New Jersey, said to me, “even an animal has paper.” I asked her to teach me how to speak English, and she said, “ Read the newspaper every day and I will ask you questions,” So I did, and I also remember that she fed me my first pizza. I didn’t know how to eat it at first. Because of the smell, the sour taste and the melted cheese, I thought the pizza was spoiled.

“I have my own shop, Remnar, and this is in 1967. First floor is restaurant, second floor is ballet, third is me and the fourth is a dentist’s office, all in Makati. A friend asked me to go to the Embassy with her for a re-entry visa to get back to New York City. I asked, “How can I go to the U.S.?” My friend pointed me in the direction of a door, and I knock and a man said, “May I help you, Miss?” “Am I entitled to go to the United States?” He said, “For what, Miss?” “My mother and step-father were married when I was 6 years old.” “For what, Miss?” “He is U.S.Army. We received $25 a month allowance when he was in Korea in 1953.” And he replied, “Oh, yes,” and gave me a pamphlet showing me that I was first preference, adopted child.

The man was interested enough to ask me about my blood father. I told him about how he was killed by the Japanese, because he and 500 others were forced to dig a pit in which they were thrown and buried alive. There is a monument to them, as martyrs, with President Marcos’ father’s name on top. My father’s name is number three.

He told me to get the marriage certificate of my first father, and my mother and their birth certificates, my father’s death certificate and the marriage certificate of my step-father to my mother, and, of course, my own birth certificate, as well as the citizenship of my step father. Bring your stepfather to the Embassy to petition you and then you’re ready to fly!”

Stalk of Asparagus – II

30 Mar


When Frankie came through San Francisco in 1981, on one of his whirlwind global forays, I think number eight, Remy and I had breakfast with him at his hotel. Frankie, small, rotund, has a head possessing the wonderfully-flat shape found in some Ilocanos and which gets him mistaken for an American Indian. Frankie told me once someone on a plane to New Mexico asked him what he was doing on the plane and he retorted, “O, I’m going to the reservation, but I left my teepee in Wyoming.” One can argue with him directly, cheerfully, even passionately about most anything under the sun and he accepts it in good humor. A novelist since the days he flunked out-of pre-med studies at Santo Tomas, his novels have been translated into Russian and perhaps three dozen other languages, and is now one of the National Artists, so designated by the Philippine Government. “My novels are now othe subject of doctoral dissertations in the Philippines,” the information evoking the piercing treble note of incredulity in his voice.

Frankie also threatened, “I’m going to write a story about you and Remy one of
these days – cross-cultural confrontation” and Frankie went off into a self-congratulory combined snort and chuckle. It all was effectively designed to keep me just a wee bit defensive and off center, and it succeeded. He and Remy possessed the knack of pulverizing my wobbly cloak of ‘dignity.’ But when he and Remy converse in Ilocano in front of me, the exchange in their mother tongue made me understand why Remy’s English possesses such flavor and why the Ilocano oral tradition possesses an epic which provide Ilocanos with a talent for story telling and an ability to hold their audience. They have the presence and the flair.

Frankie mentioned casually an exhibit of Filipino art coming to Los Angeles and Oakland. “Write a review,” Frankie said briskly,” And say that our art should be returned from the American collectors!” I let that one pass but the exhibit news whetted my appetite beyond the small cache of a santos he had given me, the ramie cloth, mats woven in Baguio, a wood strip used to incise delicate rosettes in plastic in some hidalgo’s home in Manila.

A telephone search at the Oakland Museum introduced me to Louise Revol, the Curator’s Association in the History Department. She was organizing a series of panels on the Filipino experience in California. Zealously, I submitted the name of Caridad Conception Vallangca, a Strawberry Hill author, widow of Roberto Vallangca, author-illustrator of Pinoy, about the first wave of Filipino immigrants, brought to California on American President Line ships to swell the pool of Asian labor at the height of the Asian Exclusion Act.  Louise Revol mentioned she wanted speakers to represent the second and third wave of immigrants from the Philippines.

I asked,” Would you be interested in a professional for the Third Wave?” “I don’t know what you mean by professional,” came Louise Revol’s pleasant response over the telephone. “She’s a beautician,” I replied. “We have an attorney and a professor, so this is quite a different kind,” and Louise Revol took Remy’s address.

Eight days before the March 7 Symposium on The Continuing Immigrant, I picked an envelope out of the mailbox with a stylized oak on the upper left-hand side. I felt a tremor of excitement pass over me. Carrie already had received her invitation. “So Remy will tell about her experiences after all,” I murmured to myself, feeling time telescope and excitement rising.

Remy came home late that night. When I talked to her by phone the next morning, I said, “There’s an envelope here for you. May I open it up?”

“Read it” Remy directed, and I tore open the seal to read Louise Revol’s invitation over the telephone. We both began to giggle and Remy’s voice became tinged with a ringing sound. “You must tell me what I’m going to say.”

“Just tell your story in your own words,” I replied. “I’ll type you an outline.”

Remy rang the doorbell about nine-thirty the next evening. I was working on a flow-chart for my job, and had a deadline for a manuscript for the typesetter. But time had also telescoped for Remy, and in her breathless tones was the remembered freshness, faun-like, from those days after her 1958 arrival. I lacked the heart to stop her, so she sat rehearsing her thoughts and memories while I worked on flow chart. I promised to write the outline before Sunday.

While devoted, our relationship has been push-pull, frequently turbulent. My nine years’ seniority counts little when Remy’s mind is made up or she is annoyed. Remy’s command, quantity and flavor of language, as well as its flow, can be torrential, and I have never been able to reduce her to the spasticity I have sometimes in the fever of her fierce determination or her will power once she has set herself a course. This appearance somehow summarized it all. “You’re putting me on!” Remy shouted at me in nervous exasperation at least three times.. “We discussed it and you agreed,” I vented at least once. Mostly I waited for the embers to cool a bit, knowing we both knew I had no intention of letting her down.

It went smoothly enough that Friday night, even though Remy scotched my intention to type only a further outline. Instead on the spare five by eight inch cards, eleven went into the typewriter as Remy dictated in her own phrases her experience getting ready to immigrate to this country.

Saturday morning we were scheduled to go to Concord to visit my mother, now 86 and in a rest home. Remy was going to give her a permanent. Gladys Grist, an 87 year old we called our swinger friend, was driving us over to visit with me mother.

I made the mistake of letting Remy in a half hour before Gladys arrived. My mind was still fogged with sleep and split into the weekend planning and logistics. As Remy reached for a stalk of asparagus steaming for lunch, I scolded her. Immediate story – I had forgotten – March 6 – her fourteenth arrival anniversary. Further, I had desecrated Remy’s greatest treasure – food. [“Food is my richness, Money you can find” – Remedios F. Munar, famous saying anytime.]

One Stalk of Asparagus – I

30 Mar


The Oakland Museum of California sits near Lake Merritt and, among other things, has a terrace of green and a small auditorium where interesting events occur. One such gathering happened in March, 1982 when the Museum decided to focus on the Filipino experience in the United States.

The third Asian group to immigrate and fill agricultural and urban entry level jobs, they came in more easily than the Chinese or Japanese because the United States has acquired the 6,000 plus islands and their inhabitants as the result of the Spanish-American War.

The war had been promoted by “yellow” journalism of which the Californian William Randolph Hearst was a major factor, and the price paid by Filipinos who had declared their independence from Spain was considerable. Ironically, conquering the Philippines also provided its inhabitants with easy access to the continental United States. The Filipino males were quick to take advantage of this, encouraged by the President and the Dollar lines, to try their luck in Hawaii and the Mainland.

Filipinos encountered their share of racism, exploitation and marginal livelihoods. These manongs had to live with signs that read “No Dogs and Filipinos Allowed” and, should the dime-a-dance establishments breed an understandable romance by these men, so far from home, the anti-miscegenation laws provided further inequity. Such restrictions could be considered part of the reason for Mexican-Filipino unions.

Because of the nearness of the seas in the 6,000 island nation, Filipinos have been natural seafarers, and I am sure today’s mammoth cruise ships have a goodly percentage of Filipinos as crew members. But their presence in the Manila Galleons, sailing once yearly from Acapulco to Manila and return, from 1565 to 1820, played an earlier role in bringing Filipinos to North America. Once such is recorded as having stopped in San Diego around 1650 and there are records of Filipino residents in Mexico City about the same time. Filipinos jumped ship along the Louisiana coast and were responsible for the creation of the dried shrimp industry there.  A claim is made the first slave sold in this country was Filipino.

The foregoing should provide some idea of why the Museum was anxious to hold a discussion relating to the Filipino experience in the United States. So with this preamble, I’ll commence this anecdotal record of a Twentieth century Filipina immigrant, Remedios F. Munar

Several lady critics I know mentioned the Filipino art on display at Palo Alto’s Cultural Center and at the Oakland Museum; Their vision focused briefly on the function, skill and materials I had come to know more closely. Since 1968 my life has been shaped by association with a steely wisp of a Filipina, Remedios F. Munar. At the time of this event, the connection was fourteen years old; it is now over fifty.

Since she walked into my visual orbit on morning at the former Western Area Office of the American Red Cross at 1550 Sutter Street, Remy’s life and mine have been close. With her family our paths meet, part, join, separate in an ebb and flow of emotion and experience which has altered most of my former assumptions of right and proper, culturally and humanly.
We owe our friendship to the Filipino writer and journalist, F. Sionil Jose, and in turn to the late Frank Dines who was a former boss at The Asia Foundation when it was housed on Kearny Street at Sacramento. Through Frank Dines, Frankie Jose, sight unseen, offered me hospitality should I come through Manila.

I took Frankie Jose and his wife Tessie [Teresita] up on his invitation in 1966, spending three weeks on the second floor of Solidaridad Bookstore which they own and operate on Padre Faure, in the Ermita section of Manila. It is considered the best English language bookstore in Manila and it also possesses a handsome array of volumes on Philippine arts and culture.

I arrived in mid-April, already hot at sunrise, and steaming most of the day without escape. At night, when I came in from a function, Frankie’s nephew Verjillo, would let me in through the black iron bars protecting the ship from pilfering. Verjillo and a couple of other young men who helped around the store would already have spread their blankets on the shop’s floor, sleeping, but waking with ease. They obliged this solitary American female traipsing over the face of Asia, superficially exposing herself to various cultures and their dance traditions. What they thought was never mentioned, but their natural courtesy and accommodating ways rendered me a trifle abashed and a little self-conscious, not easy for an American woman with more than her bag of ready opinions.

Their ability to let me alone in my fatigue, in my already over-indulged, undigested consumption of Asian culture, however superficial, and their kindness induced in me a personal vow. I vowed that while I would never be able to repay Frankie and his wife Tessie for what they had provided me, perhaps I might be able to do something for one of his country people. It took to two years before the subject of that vow came to materialize in the person of Remedios Flores Munar.

Remembering Reginald Pole – I

28 Mar

A psychic informed me once, long distance, that I would never be in the limelight but close to it, on the sidelines, perhaps importantly. Lord, did I ever resent that, but the years and events have proven the prediction. Before that evaluation came down the pike, however, I enjoyed some interesting associations and friendships connected to people who had enjoyed the limelight. Thinking about what to write about in the currently performance-void life, there are several readers who might enjoy knowing about some of these associations. Semi gossipy in nature, I trust they are not malicious in the recounting.  Reginald Pole is almost the first.

Reginald Pole came into my life my senior year at Pomona College. Brought in as substitute, Virginia Allen, the drama director, had suffered a nervous condition following her casting of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. I remember having been eliminated during auditions but asked to help with stage movement.

Stage movement – what a laugh and how short-lived. Win Horton, nephew of Edward Everett Horton, horsed around in such a manner that he sabotaged any attempts I made to assist. Keenly aware of what was happening, I lacked the behavioral tool box to counter his maneuvered. Reginald later said to me it was obvious I knew more about what was needed than anyone else; a comfort, surely, though only private.

Reginald was tall, lean almost to being cadaverous, his grey-black hair locks falling forward from a s-level hairline at the temple. High cheekbones made his eyes give the effect of piercing from their sockets. The cheek line descended like a skilled craftsman’s shaping of a vase into its base, the chin, but not before his mouth and lips made a horizontal slice which he pursed with disdain or consideration. Of course he possessed an English accent, tempered by early childhood in Japan and years in the United States. William [Bill] O’Connell, cast as Malvolio, enjoyed mimicking Reginald, “Show a little more of your profile,” pronounced ‘profeel.’

Reginald was a collegiate lodestar to us; Bill and I particularly were drawn to him. Obviously, so much experience and culture emanated from his looks, behavioral accents and exclamations has his withered, skinny arts, fingers spread from his palms, to make a point. There were times when he would hunch inside his worn tweedy jacket, head lowered, lips pursed as he regarded the collegiate thespians working on a scene, eyes daring from one actor to another. We were terribly aware of being in the presence of not only a professional actor and director, but an artist with an historic lineage.

Hard to say how I learned some of Reginald’s back story. He is mentioned in Wikipedia, primarily as the father of Rupert Pole, Anais Nin’s second “husband.” [She never divorced her first husband living in New York City.] If not born in Japan, he spent his first years there before being sent to the obligatory public school in England. He was quite attached to his mother and the separation was particularly destabilizing, perhaps contributing to his severe hypochondria.

Attending Cambridge, Reginald was a close friend of poet Rupert Brooke. In 1907 the two were among, if not the founders of the Marlowe Society. During a conversation with Reginald, he spoke of their relationship. “We would sit opposite one another, and our feelings were so strong, there were tears in our eyes.” Apparently, the two never practiced homosexuality, and Reginald paid tribute to Brooke when he named his only child and son Rupert.

Somewhere in my chaotic mounds of paper, I have biographical material on Reginald. Between Cambridge and Southern California arrive, he enjoyed recognition on Broadway. If my memory is accurate, one of his roles was in a staged adaptation of The Brothers Karamasov. He also worked with Boris Karloff and John Barrymore. Allergies and the beginnings of Reginald’s extreme hypochondria induced him to move to Southern California where he played the Christ figure in the Passion Play produced somewhere in the Hollywood Hills during the ‘Twenties.

Returning to Porterville for the 1950 Christmas holidays, I mentioned Reginald to my mother. She surprised me, saying, “Oh, I remember Reginald. He was hired by Pomona to direct a play in the Greek Theatre during my fifth year in Claremont. I remember his wife at his elbow bringing him tea.” I felt a little dashed he was not my exclusive find as well as my mother’s memory being solely domestic, saying virtually nothing about the production he directed. Still, it made me understand his was a history with Pomona, making his Twelfth Night rescue very plausible.

After Reginald moved to California, he moved to Palm Springs in its very early days and actually built himself an adobe home. Wikipedia had a picture of Rupert on Reginald’s shoulders outside the building. Reginald’s marriage must have founders early because Rupert went to live with his mother and her second husband, Loyd Wright, Frank Loyd Wright’s son. Reginald never married again, although liaisons, short and lengthy continued, along with his penchant for dark, cheap hotel rooms, filled with pills.

Pomona College’s gates were some dozen or so blocks south of Route 66 where several cafes and bars were patronized by Pomona undergraduates, along with others students in the growing clutch of the Claremont Colleges. The quip was “Get your kicks on 66.” One of them was the site of the cast party following Twelfth Night’s final performance. I’ve forgotten how it was I managed to get there, but Reginald was there, leaning on his cane. Beside him was a small, slender woman wearing black, jacket and flare skirt, her shoes open toed, broad straps across her ankles. Her black hair seems to have been dyed, and her eyes were rimmed with black mascara, almost cartoon-like in thickness. I felt a variety of emotions, envy to see her close to and apparently familiar to Reginald, amazement at her overall appearance, dislike in her facial enhancement choices. It was the only time I ever encountered Anais Nin.

An E-Mail From the Veneto, Italy

15 Mar

Before the U.S. began to shut down because of COVID-19, I wrote a well-wishing e-mail to Lynda Albiero, former Grass Valley resident  who grew lavender on the plot which she and her husband Carlo constructed.  The scene of many workshops and elegant al fresco lunches, hospitality galore, they sold the property when Carlo retired from his restaurant post in Sacramento, and returned to his native Schio in the Veneto region.  There, in addition to family, they have hosted a steady of visitors from Lynda’s classes at the now-closed Sewing Workshops and those weekend sessions underneath the pergola in Grass Valley.

Here was Lynda,s response, slightly edited:

Dear Renee,

Always wonderful to receive word from you.

Being a well briefed woman of world events, you are aware that Italians are currently united in staying at home until April 3. Everything is shut down that is not necessary which leaves food vendors, pharmacies for medications, kiosks for newspapers, the post office, the bank and garbage collection open for business. As citizens we are to remain home except those with permission to work, shopping for food is permitted and medical needs. The post office here is also an ATM. Universities down to nursery schools have been closed in the Veneto (our patch of Italy) since late February plus we were the first to quarantine an area with 50,000 inhabitants. The quarantine area is now reporting no new cases. People and volunteers that form a “corp to protect civilians” are posted at public transportation and have check points on streets to screen people that are still out and about. People with second homes are not allowed to go visit or live in them for fear of infecting a new area. With a mandated stay at home policy, some young people consider that the perfect opportunity to go traveling as they are off work. They are fined and sent back home. There have actually been few infractions as it is now understood by all ages that you can be a carrier as well as a patient. University students have volunteered to man hot lines and make daily calls to those in quarantine, to shop for the elderly to lessen their exposure as well as for those in quarantine. That food shopping is done in the neighborhoods to support small shops and keep them open rather than supermarkets. The national campaign is called #iorestoacasa which is translated as “I Stay Home.” Strangely it is working and I suspect some good will come of it. Younger couples with children generally both work and now find themselves together at home with no distraction of school or work duties to spend time with their children. Everyone has been forced to be creative as parks are also closed. Rai (national television which we support with a $150 television tax a year) has created special educational programs for children and young adults aired all day plus cartoons for the little ones. Book stores that are shuttered during this time offer streaming of authors reading books so that culture, not the virus, spreads. I have a membership for the museums in Venice which have been closed so daily I receive online a tour of an exhibition. I think most apartments and homes in Italy will have been super cleaned down to organized drawers to pass time. People in larger cities are singing and playing instruments from their balconies for each other to keep connected. Services that are permitted open have signs on their doors to indicate the number of people allowed at one time inside to respect the mandated meter apart policy. Hospitals are overwhelmed but I believe they must be everywhere as no health system can be prepared for a pandemic. It is amazing how the system has continued to function with the number of beds and equipment required for intensive care. Retired doctors have returned to help. Medical staff is often sidelined by a 14 day quarantine from exposure. But Italy is holding in a manner that I do not feel could happen in America. We receive information that is scientific fact, no promises of a quick remedy or vaccine, honest numbers which encourages people to understand the gravity and unite. No runs are made on toilet paper (what is that about anyway?) or panic hoarding as the food chain is stable. The choices have been difficult to make here in regards to the economy versus the health of the citizens. Fortunately this is a culture that values family so they are being kept as healthy and safe as possible with work on the economy to follow after the pandemic releases us.

Bless your governor and Nancy P. as they are willing to do what it takes in fighting for federal dollars and rights. You have no idea of what is coming toward you. We thank you for your good wishes that we are safe. I would like to add that we are also sane and dining well.  Our road trip in May is postponed due to the travel restrictions that may still be in effect for Umbria and south

A Book Review from the Seventies

15 Mar

With the virtual closure of San Francisco dance schools and cancellation of performances, one is left to improvise relative to subject matter.  Fortunately, I have several books which are worthy subjects.  The review below I believe never made it to newsprint, and if it did, I retain no clipping.  So I cannot vouch this posting as its maiden appearance on an alternate subject.

Philp, Richard and Whitney, Mary, Danseur, The Male in Ballet.
1977, McGraw Hill & Co., 185 pp, illus. $19.95.

Danseur, appearing when it does, as women are seeking equal opportunity in professional areas long the province of men, appears on the surface as something of an anomaly. Certainly, for those of us who enjoyed Youskevitch and Eglevsky in our early ballet-going days, the need for such a volume requires a second thought or two. Yet the best in one stimulates the best in another. Mediocrity can turn solitary excellence into something overhearing.  Balletically, Circe, without Odysseus never could be transformed, any more than love, without response, can be releasing and ennobling.

This coffee-table sized discussion of the male dancer is several notches above a mere picture book, handsome though the selections are. The historical and developmental aspects of the western male dancer are covered, with special sections on Nijinsky and Nureyev and rightly so. Those two have focused the charisma of the danseur far beyond the limitations of the auditorium and the proscenium arch.

Danseur is especially to be commended for discussing the development of the American male dancer, modern and balletic, and the subject matter of the working choreographer which shapes the technical demands these dancers must meet. This and the supporting pictorial record comprises the book’s most valuable contributions. Here the selections cut across company lines, national boundaries and stylistic emphasis. It evidences the thorough knowledge of the authors and their contributor Herbert Migdoll. Because of close association of the authors with this area, it conveys their special affection for this important part of current theatre history.  One only wishes that the present working choreographers had been so felicitously recorded in their own dancing prime. Nonetheless the volume conveys the progression of dancer to choreographer which feeds the continuity of dance history.

One small technical inaccuracy appears. On the caption, page 89, Billy the Kid is credited with being in the repertoire of San Francisco Ballet. In 1976 Eugene Loring mounted it for Oakland Ballet. Given that Loring and Lew Christensen were both members/choreographers of the short-lived Ballet Caravan, and Lew’s Filling Station was the other notable work to emerge from the ensemble, the error has a plausible basis. Loring’s work fed into American Ballet Theatre repertoire stream, while Filling Station has been periodically mounted by San Francisco Ballet and made a star of Jacques d’Amboise  with New York City Ballet.

As a visual and textural experience Danseur is quite satisfying, a picture book, a lively contribution and likely prospect for a second edition. Should that time arrive, I hope authors Philp and Whitney feel it necessary to expand the discussion to regional American companies and their male dancers.

Dullsville, U.S.A.

12 Mar

San Francisco’s Mayor, London Breed, decreed about March 7 that all city-owned and operated theater buildings, be closed for two weeks.  This creamed San Francisco Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.  Yerba Buena Garden’s Theatre followed suit with the spring season of ODC Downtown and more recently San Francisco Presidio Theatre’s Gamalan Sekar Jaya-First Voice-Shadowlight Productions collaboration of Draupadi.  Cal Performances in Berkeley cancelled Dorrance and Les Grands Ballets de Trocadero.

This quarantining of large venues, of course, has spread to sports events.  But more than that, it impacts the lives of individuals who have trained to play, to dance, to perform for the pleasure and awareness of others.  Classes, rehearsals can proceed, but the end aim, to perform, to be seen, is in time uncertain limbo. Pandemics are definitely not hospitable to the arts or professional athletics.

So it, indeed, is Dullsville USA., though perhaps I may find a few books worth noting.

Still, my apologies.

Izzie Accolades for Local Individuals

11 Mar

After writing Grinding Axes About Awards – The Izzies, I located an Individual Performance roster among several copies of 2006-2007 Isadora Duncan Dance Awards Programs reflecting ceremonies at Yerba Buena’s Theater, a period when the Committee shared the Ceremony with Dancers Group.

In illuminating the record of color, ethnicity and style of dance, the following records partially the Committee’s choices for outstanding Individual Performance:

1985-1986: Rosa Montoya; 1986-1987: Chitresh Das; 1987-1988: Christopher Boatwright;

1988-1989: Evelyn Cisneros; 1991-1992: Robert Henry Johnson; 1994-1995: La Tania; 1995-1996: Rhodessa Jones;

1999-2000: Charya Burt; La Tania; 2001-2002: Kelly Teo; also nominated: Robert Henry Johnson; Carole Zertuche;2003-2003; Ledoh; 2003-2004: Gonzalo Garcia; Suhalia Salimpur; 2004-2005: Prince Credell; nominated Hearen Chung; 20005-2006: Robert Moses; nominated Robert Henry Johnson; 2006-2007: Ibrahim Diouf; 2008-2009: Laura Elaine Ellis; Ramon Moreno; nominated Jose Francesco Berroso.