Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hawaii pictures

Annie and me, enjoying eating and drinking by the beach.

Sisters Ann (left) and Crystal (right) with me (middle) and Mom at Pearl Harbor.

Mom and Ann.

Mom and Crystal in the complimentary hotel limo that took us out and about one night.

Mom on Oahu. She lived on this island in the early 1950s, working as a nurse in the hospital.

Mom with star quality.

Sister Ann, Annie and me in the limo.

Hula and Hawaiian music outside at the Royal Hawaiian, the hotel where we stayed, one of the oldest on the island, known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific.

Crazy sistahs.

Ann's nephew Brice, his wife and little boy (Barrett) live in Honolulu. He's a video game designer in Hawaii, a dream life for many young men, I'm sure.

Babies in Hawaii need sunglassess too.

Babies, teenagers and animals love Annie.

Sister Ann at the top of Diamond Head.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Travel Ah City

We got back from Hawaii last night. The minute the plane took off from Honolulu, the two people in the seats in front of us reclined their seats a-l-l the w-a-y b-a-c-k. Ruthless for Annie and me, who are big girls (I'm 5'8 and she's 5'10 ... and we weigh, well, I won't go there). Although it may be a good yoga position, it's not fun flying with your knees curled up to your chest.

I hate flying but love to travel so I suck it up. I'm claustrophobic to boot, which makes sitting on the tarmac before the plane takes off torture. My doctor gave me some killer drug that I took on the way over--it made me feel like if the plane started spiraling to earth I wouldn't have a care in the world--but for the next 24 hours I was so agitated and blue I realized the backlash of anti-anxiety medications aren't worth it for me. So I went drugless on the flight home (unless you count a big, fat beer I drank in the airport ahead of time).

One thing I realized about flying is it's good to distract myself. I can't sleep, no matter how tired I am, so I listened to a book on tape and talked a lot to the woman in the seat next to me. She's 81 years old and was born in Hawaii but has lived in California since she was 18. She's of Japanese descent and told me her husband had been in a Japanese internment camp (Topaz) during WWII. I asked her if she had been interned too, and she said there weren't internment camps in Hawaii because there were just too many Japanese to lock up. Ah, the logic of racism.

We spent 5 days on Oahu. I love the air in Hawaii and the water; there's nothing like swimming in the ocean sans wetsuit. However, Honolulu is not my favorite place. I'm glad I experienced it, but I don't go to Hawaii for the city life. I like the nature. We were able to get up to the beautiful north shore for a bit. I'll post pictures soon.

I have a lot to catch up on ... and I want to get back to my novel. I feel time closing in on me. I like spring break but summer break reigns supreme.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A new kidney

This is an amazing story. I wrote last year about Savilla (sister of a friend of mine) and her quest to get a new kidney. The video explains what happened.

For more information or to make a donation, click here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


We're off!

It'll be a bit different from last time since it's a family trip (with my sisters and my mom) and we'll be doing a more touristy thing in a nice hotel on the island of Oahu, but trust me, I ain't complaining. I'll pick up a tan and drink in the sweet air (and a few special beverages) for ya'll.

Aloha: Hello, goodbye, love, peace, compassion ...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Taxes, books and aloha

Good thing I went back to check on the status of the e-filing of my taxes because I'd made a mistake I had to fix before the filing actually happens. Probably my unconscious was so pissed off at the inanity of the way we file taxes that it accidentally undermined me.

I have two more teaching days (which includes a 10-hour marathon on Wednesday) before we take off for Hawaii. My sisters, Annie, my mom and I are spending a few days on Oahu together. This will be our way of cherishing this moment because, as my dad used to say, the only constant is change. It's hard to believe that this St. Patrick's Day will mark two years since his death. Now we face all the perils of mom's Alzheimer's so we try to focus on having a good time in the moment in whatever ways the abundances of our lives permit.

I've been reading and writing like a fiend lately. I'm new to the Wally Lamb thing: Recently read and for the most part enjoyed She's Come Undone, and now I'm listening to his second book, a 700-pager called I Know This Much is True, on my ipod and am hooked. I like the lively voice and large scope of his books--and the way everything intertwines in surprising ways.

I just finished Jhumpa Lahiri's novel The Namesake. I liked the first 40 pages or so. I was very interested in the scenes in India and the way the characters perceived the U.S. after they immigrated. But soon I found myself losing interest. There were several problems. One is that Lahiri's novelistic style feels more like summary ("this happened, then this, then this") rather than a story I can experience through scenes. The voice was flat, and this was exacerbated by the fact that it's written in present tense. I never emotionally connected to these characters. I also got bored with the second half that focused on lots of rich, young New Yorkers sitting around drinking wine. I haven't read her two story collections, but I've heard she's a phenomenal short story writer--so I'll definitely give those a try. Seems like some fantastic short story writers (like Aimee Bender and Alice Munro) are pressured to write novels when in fact they are brilliant at the story. It's like asking a surgeon to be an attorney.

I jammed through My Life as Traitor, a memoir by Zarah Ghaharamani about her imprisonment and torture in an Iranian prison when she was 20 years old. She was arrested (more like abducted) for being involved in protests at her university. I found it very powerful the way her loving home life and rich portrayal of Iranian society was juxtaposed against the insanity and brutality of religious zealotry and totalitarianism. Not quite as powerful to me as Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but in the same vein.

On the writing front, the new novel is finally taking off. I think I have what are probably (how's that for hedging?) 50 or so good pages. But who knows in the final draft what will happen to those pages. It just feels good to be getting to know some new characters. Right now the novel is centering on the conflicts and internal lives of a couple in their 40s and their two teenaged kids, a boy and a girl. Nothing is as it seems. At least that's the mantra playing in my mind as the tell me about their lives. Yes, when writing's going well, that's the way it seems: that the characters are dictating the words to me.

The blurbs for Complementary Colors are beginning to come in. Here's one from Cynn Chadwick.

As with her first novel, For the May Queen, Kate Evans explores not so much a coming of age story as a coming to terms story in her new novel Complementary Colors. Gwen Sullivan returns to the Bay Area after a stint teaching English in Japan. With nowhere else to go, and mostly only the clothes in her suitcase, she moves in with her boyfriend, Daniel, a genius but self-absorbed scientist who, though inviting Gwen to live with him, makes no accommodations for her presence—physically or emotionally. Along with her increasingly unsatisfying relationship and a job that doesn’t thrill her, Gwen decides to take a poetry class to ease her discontent; it is here that she meets Cat and Jamie, a couple of rollicking rough and tumble dykes, who are as intrigued by Gwen as she is by them. And while poetry may be the medium, a myriad of creative and sexual fires are alighted within Gwen against a backdrop of a widening void between herself and Daniel. As we follow Gwen’s journey for self-awareness, we are not so much rooting for her peace as we are cheering for her to come to terms with and embrace her truest desires. Whether she is imbued with confusion or clarity, we are rallying for Gwen’s appreciation of her creative and sexual self as she comes closer to realizing and living her own truth. A deftly crafted exploration of self-identity as only Kate Evans can achieve. Brava!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Paying for success, lazy writing, a few good things

The heat isn't working in my prehistoric office building so excuse my typos because my fingers are ice cubes. It's warmer outside than in here. You can bet our campus president isn't freezing his buns off right now.

Which reminds me of the fact that all the downsizing that will be occurring on my campus will involve cutting back on students and teachers. Not one administrator will lose a job or get a pay cut. Read more about it here if you like your blood to boil. We have been so successful at San Jose State that now, yes, we must pay for it.

Oh, but I'm not done ranting. I've never been a fan of The L Word and haven't watched it in a long time, but a friend of ours had a "let's watch the last episode party" otherwise known as the Dead Jenny Party. The L Word writers have been borrowing all season on the anachronistic laurels of the "Who Shot J.R.?" crew by leading-on viewers all season with the juicy fact that Jenny is killed--and the implication that the murderer would be unveiled in the last show.

We had to sit through an hour of anorexics with bad hair mouthing horrid dialogue to discover ... a trick ending. No, not a surprise (surprises are good) but a trick (tricks are the result of lazy writing). Thank goodness there were smart, beefy lesbians at the party and good food and drink; otherwise it would have been a waste of an hour of my living time.

The students in my fiction class this semester write stories a zillion times more engaging than anything on TV these days. Truly, there are some rockin' writers in that class. It's been a blast so far.

That said, I always find spring semester more of a trial than fall semester. The fall is easier, coming in off the energy of summer. All spring I keep looking over the hump of the week for the good weather and all that luxurious time off. I know all of you who get 2 weeks off a year feel just so sorry for me.

My morning writing sessions have been going so well (knock on wood) to the point where I'm actually enjoying writing again. Imagine that. Which is another reason I can't wait for summer because spending hours on end in the world of my novel with little else pressing is, well, heaven.

Monday, March 2, 2009


I graded papers for more than 12 hours on Sunday. That's what I get for not piecing them out and grading in small chunks over the course of several days.

Instead, on Friday I went to see my 8-year-old neice in a musical extravaganza about immigration. A highlight: a little blonde 8-year-old girl holding a suitcase and singing about being a mail order bride.

My mom came with us all too and enjoyed it. I like to have a good time with her while we can because her Alzheimer's is definitely advancing. She's getting frustrated because she can't do things she used to be able to do, like dial a phone. I remind her that the people at the front desk where she lives can help her out. It's why she lives where she lives so she can always get assistance when she needs it. We are very lucky in that way, I realize. Many people cannot afford an assisted living community, much less one that is as nice as Mom's. I call it our beautiful hell.

Saturday Annie, our friend Sharon and I went on a killer hike up in the Santa Cruz mountains. The only one who wasn't tired at the end was our little dog Max, whom we also call Winky because he often does just that. In fact, we caught him winking in this picture.

I also spent too much of the weekend reading Isabele Allende's new memoir, The Sum of Our Days. I'm too wiped out from paper-grading to write a decent review, but suffice it to say, I loved every word. How that woman can make me laugh in the middle of a story about death and chaos amazes me.

Tomorrow Aimee Bender will be on our campus. Looking forward to finally meeting her. I've read all her work and think she's a surprising, special writer.