On Saturday, February 12, Friends of the Sierra Madre Library sponsored a talk by Lisa See, author of On Gold Mountain, our one-book one-city selection for 2011. Terrific turnout, delightful speaker, with a wicked sense of humor. On Gold Mountain was published 15 years ago, and remains a perennial favorite.
Winner of several awards, writer of best-sellers, and member of the famous Chinese family of multiple Sees, which includes her mother, the author Carolyn See, Lisa See exhibited standup comedic skills.
Among her topics: her great grandparents' manufacture and sale of crotchless panties for brothels,
her grandfather's fondness for pornography, the eccentricities of her always-barefoot anthropologist father, the whispers about ancestral polygamy.
An audience question led to observations about the Chinese antique shop Suie One, on Colorado Blvd.
in Pasadena - filled with enormous idols, furniture, temples in their entirety, which the proprietors make certain are never purchased-- by keeping the shop closed most of the time. Many of the pieces are more than one hundred years old, imported en masse from China by See ancestors with an acquisitive eye, but no plan to sell.
More than twenty years ago I stepped into the cavernous musty interior of Suie One, where I was met by two women dressed in long, loose-fitting dark clothing, tall and vaguely disinterested in having to deal with a 'customer.' Now that I know the back story, I understand.
There were no price tags on any of the merchandise. A 'if you have to ask, it's not for sale' contrarian attitude. One of the women told me that most of the artifacts were for loan to movie studios, and never for sale. I inquired about a small paper-covered decorative chest, and was told that I could telephone in a day or two to find out if it was available, and what the price would be. There was an excuse about its being on hold for someone, and my follow-up led nowhere, as I recall. That was during my Asian-artifact phase. Around that time I attended my first-ever auction, where I bid on a Japanese tansu, lost to a higher bidder, and then bid on and won another. When I learned that my first bid had been against a dealer I was impressed with my discerning eye, disappointed in not going higher.
After hearing Lisa See, and enjoying an audio version of Shanghai Girls (sequel coming in May, 2011 -Dreams of Joy) I read Carolyn See's book on writing, which contained a tip mentioned by Lisa -
write 1,000 words a day - just four pages, but five days a week - always.
I am about to decide that blogging will be my daily stint.