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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for November, 2017

You could be doing nothing and the story will still find you, Act III: The conclusion

November 30, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Places, Traveling No Comments →


A robbery by Caravaggio

The next morning, Jessica goes off to the Louvre. Anouk sets about finding replacement locks, etc. They’re expensive and theoretically should be covered by insurance, but the fine print disagrees.

Then Anouk gets a phone call, garbled, from someone who says, “I am sanitary services.” He sounds scary and raspy. He says he found her bag with her keys, passports, cards, even her cheque made out to Cash, in a public toilet. He says to meet him on the second floor of a parking building.

When Anouk gets to the ground floor of that parking building, it occurs to her that it is dangerous to meet with strangers who claim to have your stolen things. So she approaches a beefy man, explains her predicament, and asks him to accompany her.

The man says she is foolish to meet with strangers who claim to have your stolen things, but he agrees to go with her.

The second floor of the parking building is empty. They walk and walk, and at the very end of the floor there is a truck and two guys in sanitary services uniforms. They have Anouk’s bag. Everything is in it but her cash and her phone. They apologize for having opened the bag to find some identification. Anouk thanks them profusely.

So Anouk cancels some of her notices of stolen documents. However, the embassy says that once the police have reported her passports lost, the passports are cancelled. She could try asking the police to report them found, but the police probably won’t do it.

So Anouk returns to the prefecture, where a more cheerful cop tells her that this is only the second time such a thing has happened. She tells him about how something similar had happened to her friend in Manila. (That time, a bag snatched in Glorietta was dumped in a bin full of bags in Landmark.) They laugh.

In the next cubicle, a morose cop is reading out a report. A woman says her husband is trying to drive her crazy by clomping around the house at night so she can’t sleep. The morose cop overhears Anouk’s story and says, “Good thing you got your bag back.” It was the cop who took her statement the previous day!

Why did Jessica go to the Louvre? The Mona Lisa has nothing on this.

You could be doing nothing and the story will still find you, Act II: At the police station

November 24, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling No Comments →


Here the mood shifts from Rohmer to Melville.

The prefecture of police is in Clignancourt. Seedy. The kind where they march Jean-Paul Belmondo in wearing handcuffs, and slam his face against a table. There are four people waiting to file reports ahead of Anouk and Jessica.

The cops are kind of cute, and their uniforms are flattering, but Jessica is from Manila and her standards are abysmal.

One guy is pacing across the lobby like he’s about to have a nervous breakdown.

Finally, a cop talks to Anouk, then tells her someone will take her report in 30 minutes. Anouk and Jessica decide to get a drink.

The first bar is too seedy. The second has dads with kids. Anouk and Jessica sit and have Calvados and charcuterie. They catch up. Anouk apologizes again for this start to Jessica’s visit. Jessica says, “Are you kidding? It’s a story.”

When Jessica goes to the WC in the basement, a man emerges from the ladies’ room.

Forty minutes later, there are nine people sitting in the prefecture lobby. Apparently pickpockets love Sundays. One lady is wearing two straw hats and two scarves with five brooches. There are two large suitcases in front of her. She talks to Anouk, and then to Jessica. Jessica tries to explain that she does not speak French, but the woman just wants to talk, so what the hell. Jessica just nods at everything she says. Then the woman says, in English, “I will go out and smoke a cigarette. Please watch my bags, they are all I have in the world. I have no more home.” She is teary-eyed. She goes out for a smoke. The other people restrain their smiles. Jessica is the last to catch on that she’s probably loony.

Later, Anouk explains that the woman is reporting the theft of a suitcase containing all her bank books, jewelry, and titles to her property. She believes that the bank told her family that her valuables were in that suitcase, and so her family stole it. She also says her sister stole her beautiful brooches. “But you’re wearing five of them,” Anouk had pointed out. “These are the ugly ones,” the woman replied.

A family of tourists appears. They are Greek. The aunt’s bag was stolen when they were changing buses. Her passport was in the bag. They return to Greece tomorrow. The cop is nice enough to rush a document she can present to the Greek embassy tomorrow morning so she can get a temporary travel document and go home. Otherwise the police are taking their time.

Half an hour later, Anouk is summoned to an inner cubicle where a cop takes down her statement.

The process takes an hour. The cop is not happy to be interviewing people on a Sunday. He does not look at the photo from the CCTV as it proves nothing. He reads out the report in a morose monotone and stamps the papers with great force. So Anouk has her police report, and she can proceed with the tedious process of navigating the bureaucracy.

To be concluded with a twist

You could be doing nothing, and the story will still find you.

November 21, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling No Comments →

In which Jessica goes away to decompress and lands in a Rohmer-like movie.

Jessica visits her friend Anouk in Paris. Anouk is Belgian and has lived in Paris for thirty years. Upon arriving from Manila, Jessica passes out for ten hours. Anouk’s daughter Annick, who lives outside Paris, is sleeping over for the night.

When Jessica regains consciousness, she suggests Sunday brunch. Anouk says brunch is not really a thing in Paris. They go to a neighborhood café that actually serves brunch. Annick is still sleeping when they leave the apartment.

Anouk, a regular at the café, ask for a table upstairs. There’s a table free, but it has a Reserved sign. Anouk interrogates the waiter, who says the reservation was phoned in. “Aha!” Anouk says. She tells the manager that when she, a local, tried to make a reservation in the past, she was told that the café did not accept reservations. She suspects it was her accent (after 30 years in Paris).

The waiter gives them a tiny table on the ground floor. They settle in. It is draughty. When another table becomes available, they move. It is just as cramped and draughty. Anouk and Jessica eat their omelets and discuss their respective novels. Then Anouk realizes that her bag, which was under her coat, is gone.

Anouk alerts the manager. The manager checks the CCTV files. Another customer lends Anouk her phone so she can call her lost phone. It’s already on voicemail. Anouk’s house keys, passports, cards, everything, are in the bag. She decides to walk back to her apartment to catch Annick and get the spare keys. She asks Jessica to wait for the owner to give her a CCTV photo of the probable thief.

Anouk goes. Jessica waits five minutes, then the manager gives her a CCTV photo of the suspect, who looks foreign. He is not holding Anouk’s bag, so it is unclear why he has been identified as the perp. The manager and the waitress talk to Jessica very fast. Jessica took 12 units of French in college. This is her fourth visit to Paris. She has seen every Truffaut and Rohmer movie. She does not understand a word.

It is crowded in the café, so Jessica decides to wait outside. She is fascinated by a poster for a lost cat. While she is standing on the sidewalk, she sees a delivery van hit a dog. The dog, who wears a harness, yelps but runs away. Jessica prepares to join a lynch mob. Snatching bags is one thing, but hitting a dog? Jessica and several other people check on the dog. He seems alright. The van driver remonstrates with the dog’s human. The prospective lynch mob dissipates.

Jessica walks up and down the street in front of the café for 20 minutes. She could walk back to the apartment, but if Anouk isn’t there, she can’t get in anyway. She increases the radius of her walks, but always returns to the front of the cafe. She looks at a bookstore window.

Then she has to use the WC. She goes into the café and asks the manager if Anouk has returned. Yes, the manager says, but she did not know where Jessica had gone and she did not leave a number. (They probably would not have called anyway, as it is a Manila number.)

Jessica waits some more. It’s getting cold. There’s still a queue in front of the café, so maybe brunch is becoming a thing. Finally, she decides to walk back to Anouk’s house. Anouk is making phone calls. She’s had her cards cancelled, and now she has to have them replaced. In France if you lose your documents, even your supermarket membership card, you have to present a police report to get them replaced.

To be continued

Playlists for when you’re stuck in traffic 1: R.E.M.

November 20, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Music No Comments →

My solution: I’m away for two weeks, and then I’m going to hole up in my house in December with my feline overlords because I have two manuscripts to prepare for printing. (I’ve stocked up enough cat food and litter till the New Year.)

The Crash: How Ishiguro wrote a novel in 4 weeks, longhand, helped by a Tom Waits song

November 18, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Music No Comments →

From 2014, the 2017 Nobel Prize winner on how he wrote his Booker Prize winner. By the time you embark on The Crash, you should have done all your research. You will need 1. Absolutely no distractions. 2. Pen and paper. 3. The right playlist.

How I wrote The Remains of the Day in four weeks
by Kazuo Ishiguro

Many people have to work long hours. When it comes to the writing of novels, however, the consensus seems to be that after four hours or so of continuous writing, diminishing returns set in. I’d always more or less gone along with this view, but as the summer of 1987 approached I became convinced a drastic approach was needed. Lorna, my wife, agreed.

Until that point, since giving up the day job five years earlier, I’d managed reasonably well to maintain a steady rhythm of work and productivity. But my first flurry of public success following my second novel had brought with it many distractions. Potentially career-enhancing proposals, dinner and party invitations, alluring foreign trips and mountains of mail had all but put an end to my “proper” work. I’d written an opening chapter to a new novel the previous summer, but now, almost a year later, I was no further forward.

So Lorna and I came up with a plan. I would, for a four-week period, ruthlessly clear my diary and go on what we somewhat mysteriously called a “Crash”. During the Crash, I would do nothing but write from 9am to 10.30pm, Monday through Saturday. I’d get one hour off for lunch and two for dinner. I’d not see, let alone answer, any mail, and would not go near the phone. No one would come to the house. Lorna, despite her own busy schedule, would for this period do my share of the cooking and housework. In this way, so we hoped, I’d not only complete more work quantitatively, but reach a mental state in which my fictional world was more real to me than the actual one.

Continue reading.

When an artist you admire is revealed to be a creep or worse

November 13, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Current Events, Sex 2 Comments →

2017: the year all remaining illusions took a hit.

I wonder when Filipinos will have their #MeToo moment. Here, where we are told that the right response to sexual harassment is “Thank you” (As in, “Pasalamat ka na na-harass ka, hindi ka naman maganda”). Or “Pay up.” Wonder if (sociological) climate change will bring about a cold day in hell.