July 10, 2003

I am enjoying the summer, even if it is so hot. Today I spent the latter part of the afternoon and a good portion of the evening in the lovely city of Pasadena.

For a while, I chilled at Zona Rosa and worked on my project. The Neverending Project, that is. At 1900, I walked a few blocks to Vroman’s Bookstore.

Aside: what I love about Pasadena is that a lot of it is walkable. It has a small town-feel to it and has its own identity and character, something a lot of suburbian SoCal cities lack.

Back to Vroman’s. I was there to hear Tess Uriza Holthe speak and read from her book, When the Elephants Dance. Holthe is a Filipina-American writer who grew up in the Bay Area. When the Elephants Dance is her first work as a writer and is partially based on her father’s experiences in the Philippines during WWII. Her dad suffered in a Japanese concentration camp for a while. Pretty harsh stuff.

Holthe grew up with three career choices (supplied by her parents of course): she could be a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant. She chose the lesser of the three evils and became an accountant. The first few years into her career, she decided to take a creative writing course in Marin County. Triggered by the innumerable war stories she heard around the mahjong table as a kid, she began to write. She wrote for about a month and a half straight. At a writer’s conference, she found an agent and a few weeks later, Random House bought her manuscript. The rest, as they say, is history. She’s almost done with her second book, although at Vroman’s she said that she couldn’t divulge any details.

The first few lines from Elephants:

“Papa explains the war like this: ‘When the elephants dance, the chickens must be careful.’ The great beasts, as they circle one another, shaking the trees and trumpeting loudly, are the Amerikanos and the Japanese as they fight. And our Philippine Islands? We are the small chickens. I think of baby chicks I can hold in the palm of my hand, flapping wings that are not yet grown, and I am frightened.”

Later, I took a stroll through Old Town Pas. Really, summer nights are the best. The best kind to be out and about with no agenda. Just to be out, rambling about, enjoying a summer night. Chirping crickets and all.

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