Sad Sandler

I went to great pains to explain to my friends my dislike with Adam Sandler, or at least with the roles he ends up with, or the films he starred in. The Cobbler confirmed the patterns, even tropes, that Sandler has been involved with in his entire career: it starts with a forlorn or existentially depressed character who, by some stroke of luck, finds a device to dramatically change his life for the better. He will face a conundrum of sorts that will give the film enough fodder to get to a much-deserved happy ending.

The only way to end the trope from happening, I realized, is to end the movie. Past Mamplasan exit we've experienced turbulence and the DVD player didn't work after that. The film froze, and it did at the very frame where Sandler was out in the snow, looking despondent about the death of his mother.

It reiterated the value of endings, the way Carver and Frederick Barthelme does it, as well as this interview of Donald Barthelme by George Plimpton. Endings, at least for me, should catch you where you didn't see it coming. (I prefer dying anywhere away from a hospital bed.) Recently I've been obsessed about endings--writing about death, about my aging Dad, about the ending of Donald Antrim's The Emerald Light in the Air, a short about an old woman's death by the pedestrian lane, and even a post about my own death, just in case.

Lost Something

Brian who loves red
apples very pretty girls Cover was
roommate's injury The gorgeous
architect best lap
dances in the area your major is Math.
Barkeeper from Spain young dancers
mostly your nicknames
and how I don't surf Nebraska
counselor You were deaf and beautiful
badass copper sculpture
more like Junya Ishigami
parents work for Merck
had a presentation on tower of london
blue wifebeater, cross necklace, soccer poster
pricey but free parking
lagrangian for a free-falling object

Candles burning

In Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, there is minimal dialogue, spartan descriptions of scenes and milieu, and an itch for a proper--if not conventional--ending: a closure, a conclusion that's just but a sentence away. Maybe it's the reason why it's best to accompany the book with one of my favorites, Law of Averages by Frederick Barthelme, since both authors end their stories in the same way: each of their stories thrive in their anticlimactic design, celebrating and indulging in the lack of a whole, unified conclusion.

However, there are stories in WWTAWWTAL that feels like it could have been boiled down to a page or less, simply because that's all there is to it. Some stories feel drab and unfurnished, and it makes you feel dirty and cheated.

**

One of the stories from the collection, "The Bath," has a striking similarity with "A Small Good Thing," one of my favorites from Cathedral, his collection written two years after WWTAWWTAL. It's the story of a couple reeling from the pain when their birthday boy was hospitalized after being hit by a car. This is punctuated by the calls both husband and wife receive from an anonymous caller, who happens to be the baker the wife hired to bake a $16 birthday cake "decorated with a spaceship and launching pad under a sprinkling of white stars, and a planet made of red frosting at the other end."

After a quick search online, "The Bath," unsurprisingly, is an early version of "A Small Good Thing." To read and compare the story against each other is worthy of a ten-page position paper, but it's an good opportunity to read these two versions and snoop into the changes, get a sneak peek on the workings of Carver's mind, and note the striking differences, the things crossed out and retained: the degree of maturity of the latter, the mechanical, action-oriented trappings of the former, etc, etc. In the end, Cathedral wins my heart: almost all the stories are on the verge of something, complete with subtle bursts of epiphanies, and it makes WWTAWWTAL feel like a malformed twin.

Wake

I had a bad review of my blog. It was from a famous writer. There were treants stopping me from cutting the World Tree. I reasoned out that we must not "keep our roots deep in the ground", that "memory is a hindrance". Then I started jumping up and down--

Tofu and kimchi

At the Korean mart about ten minutes away from our office, I bought a slab of tofu and a tub of kimchi (sweet, not sour, the vegetables fresh and still crunchy). The man behind the counter made small talk: "Kimchi Jigae?"

Yes, I said. I've been meaning to make one for Dad some two years ago, and a quick Internet stroll led me to an authentic-looking recipe.

"Mm-hmm. Tofu and kimchi. When they go together, they're crazy good, trust me."

I said I thought of it as a stew I could do to complement the cold weather.

"Yep. Kimchijigae. Two ingredients and that's it!"

&&

Looking back, the conversation felt like a pat in the back, as if to tell me that this, after all, is one of the best ideas I've ever come across. I went home to Bulacan only to find out that I wasn't able to buy spring onions, which was sitting right next to the tofu at the Korean mart. That my Dad's freezer didn't have pork, only chicken, disheartened me more. After leaving the Ziplocked chicken out of the fridge to thaw, I slept. Then woke up at 8AM and called in late at the office--only to cook the jigae.

Sear chicken in cooking oil, then sauté it in onions and garlic. Pour in the kimchi. Make sure you rinse your kimchi's container with a bit of water; those bits and pieces of kimchi makes a rich stock of umami. Simmer for 15 to 25 minutes, until chicken becomes a bit tender and the broth thickens, as in a stew. Put two tablespoons (or more, if you like it hotter) of gochujang. Add a dash of salt and pepper, then top it off with leeks or spring onions upon serving. Best with a cup of steaming white rice.

What I liked about the recipe is how it uses the sour, stale kimchi you can usually retrieve from the farthest corners of the fridge. (My wife's incredible kimchi pasta does this trick, too!) Mildly spicy, the jigae had the vibrant flavors of a refreshing soup and the wholesome textures of melt-in-the-mouth silken tofu and sinewy meat. All the more reasons to stock up your fridge with assorted kimchi: the freshest, sweetest ones paired with breakfast; the leftovers, when used with any kind of meat (maybe meatballs or liempo) for a really good jigae.

This was written last January. I was surprised that it took me so long to complete a piece about a simple kimchijigae dish! Seriously.