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Listen to Paul’s interview.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players… One man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. At first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.  And then the whining school-boy… the lover,  sighing… a soldier, full of strange oaths… the justice, in fair round belly… The sixth age shifts into… the pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side… Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion: sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” 

— Shakespeare


Although I’m calling this website “a personal memoir in flux,” it is also my hope that the various sections will be of interest to people, whether they know me or not. “Out on a Lim” shares short observations on day-to-day life. “Limerances” chronicles longer remembrances of things past. “Limoscenes” presents descriptions of the plays I’ve written to date, with production photos. “Images in Limbo” shows pictures of the aging process, of me with family and friends. “Limpets” are the non-human dogs in my life, and “Limitations” are tributes to people who are no longer with us. So here I am, past imperfect, present progressive, future tense. Let me know what you think. — Paul

Sit On Me When I Am Dead!

Although my brothers and I were born of Chinese parents in the Philippines, the three of us emigrated to the United States, separately and for totally different reasons, when we were all in our mid-twenties. It was in the United States where we all established our professional careers; where John and Peter met the wonderful women they married, had well-behaved children (two each) and saw them all graduate successfully from college; and where we will in all likelihood die and be buried—John and Vivian in New Jersey, Peter and Bing in Florida, and me in Kansas.

In life, we who teach and toil at the University of Kansas are paid only modestly, but one of our more attractive fringe benefits is that, when we finally drop dead, those of us who’ve put in time for at least fifteen years at the university, are entitled to be buried FOR FREE at Pioneer Cemetery, a grassy knoll owned and maintained by the university, situated between the five student dormitories on top of old Daisy Hill on Mount Oread, and the new development known as West Campus.  Let me tell you about the bridge which connects the two campuses.

There’s a rumor that foot traffic on the bridge is busiest at night, when students living in the five dorms find themselves sneaking over to the secluded cemetery to indulge, first in alcoholic beverages and other controlled substances, and then, if they’re not too inebriated or stoned, to dangle their participles and split their infinitives, maybe even learn new ways of conjugating not just their verbs but also their nouns.  That the life cycle gets reenacted nightly at Pioneer Cemetery, with the learned spirits of dead professors continuing to have a seminal effect on their young (dis)charges, is something which might give comfort to the aging faculty and staff at the university.  Who needs Cinemax or the Playboy Channel in the afterlife when the frisky students are providing live entertainment for free?   In truth, this is where many of my free-thinking friends and colleagues are buried—Ed Grier, Bud Hirsch—and this is where I too will be inurned, underneath a small rectangular slab of marble. In earlier, more promiscuous days, I thought my epitaph should read: “He finally sleeps alone.”  But, these days, I think the Bard will get to have the final say:  “The rest is silence.”

In the Philippines, the tradition among the Chinese is for entire generations of families to be buried together, if the clan can afford it, in elaborate mausoleums.  The ones at the old Chinese Cemetery are truly ostentatious, outdoing each other in sheer red-and-gold garishness.  The ones at the Manila Memorial Park are equally expansive and expensive, but in better taste, which means that you get more peace and tranquility by way of landscaping, and thus a lot less marble to house your loved ones. When my father died in December of 1969, eighteen months after I left Manila for the United States, my mother carefully studied the feng shui at the Manila Memorial Park before buying a double burial plot, one for my father, and the other for herself when her time comes.

I thought this was all settled until my brothers John and Peter decided otherwise. Since the three of us are now in the United States and will presumably be buried in the United States, they argued, shouldn’t our mother also be buried with us in America?  But where?  With John and Vivian in West Windsor?  With Peter and Bing in Orlando?  With me in Lawrence?  The University of Kansas extends burial privileges at Pioneer Cemetery only to its employees and their spouses, no other beloved family members, not even pets. 

Quite fortuitously, one year back in the mid-1990s, when my mother just happened to be visiting Peter and Bing in Orlando for Thanksgiving, John and Vivian and I all flew in to join them for the holiday weekend.  Peter had done his homework, but we were all a bit apprehensive about how my mother would react to yet another discussion involving her own mortality.  The Chinese are superstitious about these things.  Peter assured us he would broach the subject subtly, casually.  And so, while we were all out for a leisurely drive one afternoon, he said, “By the way, why don’t we all pop over to Woodlawn Memorial Park and Funeral Home?  I have a friend who works there whom I’d like you to meet.”

We all expected Mommie Dearest to crackle and explode, maybe even to spontaneously combust, as she is wont to do on such occasions, but she surprised us when she smiled approvingly and said to Peter, “You have a friend who works on Sunday afternoons?  What a hard-working boy!  His mother must be very proud of him.” 

Peter’s friend turned out to be a Latino who knew exactly how to flatter aging Chinese women.  YOU!  THE MOTHER OF THREE SONS?  IMPOSSIBLE!  SO YOUNG!  SO BEAUTIFUL!  SO RICH…IN BLESSINGS!  He could have sold my mother a swamp full of crocodiles but, wait a minute, only if the feng shui was right, with gentle winds blowing from here to here, and soothing waters flowing from there to there. After what seemed like hours, mother finally found a spot which met with her “good feng shui seal of approval.”  It was a corner lot on the corner of which was a scraggly weeping willow tree in desperate need of fertilizing.  But there was another, more serious problem.

This particular corner lot had room for only FOUR coffin spaces.  Mother said she would gather the bones of my father from his resting place at the Manila Memorial Park, and that these can be interred with her in one of the four spaces. My brother John and his wife Vivian said their particular branch of Protestantism forbids cremation, so they would need two of the four spaces.  My brother Peter and his wife Bing said their religion has no special burial restrictions, so the both of them can be cremated and placed within the same space, the fourth and last available space on that corner lot.

So what about me and my dogs? Where’s our resting place in this developing subplot?  The corner plot wasn’t cheap.  After adding up all the hidden costs, the three Lim brothers would be splitting the bill equally, roughly $6,000 each. So what do I get for my $6,000? Peter’s friend shook his head gravely. And then he had a voila! moment.  Sorry about mixing my metaphors, but I can’t think of what a voila! moment might sound like in Spanish.

Oye! of little faith,”  the man suddenly exclaimed. “Do you not see the beautiful weeping willow tree in the corner?  Imagine a marble bench in that corner, underneath the tree.  There can be as many as FOUR urns inside that bench!  You can have the ashes of all your dogs with you inside that bench!  Together, you will be guarding the final resting place of your loved ones! And all your friends and relatives can sit and rest on the bench as well, admiring the view, thinking only good thoughts of you and your family!”

“Gee, thanks,” I growled under my breath.  “All my life I’ve wanted people to sit on me, and now I get to have my wish when I am dead!”

“Don’t be petulant,” my mother said, although there is no such word as “petulant” in Fukienese, the Chinese dialect that we speak.  I was fighting a losing battle against her notions of feng shui. I could feel the wind blowing against my face, and it wasn’t fragrant.  I could feel the blood flowing through my veins, and it wasn’t thicker than water.  So what’s a dutiful Chinese son to do?  I acquiesced, and spent the next couple of years sending in the monthly payments for my $6,000 bench.

Ultimately, I don’t know if it really makes any difference, after I’m dead, whether I’m inurned at Pioneer Cemetery in Lawrence, or at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Orlando. In one scenario, future generations will be fucking on top of me.  In the other scenario, they will be sitting on me. In either case, purely for hygienic reasons, I hope they’re wearing clean underwear.  Ay, caramba!

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11 September 2009: Dicking Around with Republicans

Sordid news about self-righteous Republicans who cannot seem to keep their dicks private, or their privates out of the public forum, just keep increasing and multiplying.  Strom Thurmond, Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, and now Michael Duvall. If you’d like to see a complete list dating all the way back to 1925, with detailed descriptions of each sinful transgression, just Google “Republican Sex Scandals” and settle back for a stimulating read.  It’s almost as good as the Bible, a book which, according to Oscar Wilde, begins with a naked couple in a garden and ends with further Revelations.

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9 September 2009: Cheney International Center for…?

A new center for international students at the University of Wyoming in Laramie is being named after former Vice President Dick Cheney.  Did the international students on that campus have any say about this?  By the way, isn’t this where Matthew Shepard went to school before he was tortured and left to die on that fence in that lonely field outside of town?  It isn’t Gitmo, but maybe the university should buy that site for any GLBT student organization group that wants to use it, and also name it after the former Vice President.

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8 September 2009: Spare the President, Spoil the Child!

So who are these parents who claim to be deeply concerned about what the President of the United States might have to say to their children in his start-of-school motivational speech to the nation’s students?  Are these parents as deeply concerned about the lyrics of the songs their children are listening to on their ipods? The websites they’re visiting on their computers? The video games they’re playing? The TV shows they’re watching?  The alcohol and drugs they’re experimenting with?  The unprotected sex and unwanted babies they’re having? What happens to the unmotivated children when they fall behind in their schoolwork and eventually drop out of school?  What then? Well, at that time, these parents can always blame the President of the United States for allowing them to spare the rod and spoil the child.

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6 September 2009: Will Blog for Supper

I’m so out of it.  I just found out that the word “blog” is short for “weblog.”  Now, if only someone will tell me why, suddenly, there are all these nice young people who keep asking me to have an evening meal with them .  “Sup?”  “What?”  “Sup?”  “Do I know you?”  “Sup?”  “It’s very nice of you to ask, but I already have dinner plans.”  “Sup?”  “Well, allright, if you insist.”

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Beauty and the Beast

Some friends who’ve been journeying through time with me, after looking at the many pictures of ourselves which I’ve posted chronologically on my website, seem startled and dismayed by how we’ve all aged.  “My God,” one of them exclaimed the other day, “we were all so young and…”

He paused for a long time and, as he seemed unable to continue, in my mind I went through a list of words about what we might have been like all those years ago.  Idealistic?  Romantic?  Innocent?  Naive?  Stupid?  Unreasonable?  Unrealistic?  Untainted? Unblemished?  Unbearable?

“Beautiful,” he said finally. “We were all so young and…beautiful.” 

To be honest, this took me by surprise.  I have never been vain about my looks. When I started to gain weight after I gave up smoking in 1994, and to lose my hair shortly after that, it was of no great consequence, and I didn’t stay up nights worrying about it.  But now, thanks to the ugly rhetoric which keeps coming out of the mouths of people like Carrie Prejean, the ex-Miss California USA 2009 who won’t shut up or go away, I’ve been looking again at the pictures on my website, not of me but of everyone else, trying to determine who’s beautiful and who’s not, and by what standards.  In the Philippines, for example, given the country’s white colonial masters—first the Spaniards and then the Americans, which one witty Filipino writer said was akin to living three hundred years in a convent followed by fifty years in Hollywood—fair or unfair, guess whom the mirror says is the fairest of us all?

Among the many physically “beautiful people” I’ve known in America, there’s one I’d like to tell you about.  I no longer remember his name because this was sometime ago and I knew him only briefly, met with him only twice, spoke with him on the telephone only twice, but I”ll never forget him for what he was, a beautiful young man in his early twenties, a violinist who had been highly recommended by his professors in the School of Music at the University of Kansas. 

Back in those days, at least once every summer for many years, I would give these elaborate garden parties in my backyard for seventy or eighty people.  Lots to eat, even more to drink, and underneath the tall weeping willow tree, accomplished young musicians coaxing beautiful sounds out of their favored instruments, one year a guitar, another year a cello, and on this particular year a violin.  I remember many of the guests wandering over to the beautiful young man, listening to the way he seemed to be communing privately with Bach, Beethoven, Brahms.  There’s a picture of him on the website, resplendent in the late afternoon sunlight, as he played my one request, Massenet’s Meditation from Thais, surrounded by the weeping willows.  Sadly, the tree no longer exists.  It had been dying for years, attacked by termites, and finally I had to have it cut down and destroyed.  In its place I planted a flowering Judas Tree.

But, back to my beautiful violinist.  When the garden party was over, he came into the house and, as I was writing out a check to pay him for his work, he heard the lovebirds twittering in an upstairs bedroom.  “Do you have birds in the house?” he asked, his eyes filled with wonder.

“Yes.  Do you like birds?”

“I don’t know.  I’ve never had any.  Can I see them?”

“Yes, of course.”

I led him upstairs and showed him the original pair of lovebirds which I had started out with, and their first brood of six little ones, some bluish-green, some yellowish-orange.  The young man was transfixed.  Finally, he turned to me and said, “Can I have a couple of them? You have so many.”

“Well, I don’t know.”

“I’ll be happy to buy them from you.”

“I wasn’t planning to sell them.”

“Oh please. They are so beautiful.”  Beautiful creatures are drawn to each other, I thought approvingly.  Maybe they will make beautiful music together.

“If you’ve never had birds, you’ll need a cage to begin with, and the cage must be cleaned at least once weekly.  Then you must also buy special lovebird seeds and liquid vitamins to add to their water daily.   You’ll also need another cup containing a mixture of gravel and oyster shells to help them digest their food, sand paper for the perches to help trim their nails, cuttle bones to help trim their beaks, special treats like fruits and vegetables to supplement their diet, to say nothing of bird toys to keep them amused, and…”

“I’ll use the money you’re giving me today to buy all that.”  He flashed me a beautiful smile.  How could I resist?

He returned the next day for two of the baby birds, but he didn’t have a birdcage with him.  He said the one he bought was much too big to fit in the car after he had put it all together.  Instead, he brought a big empty rectangular aquarium.  He said he could transport the birds in this old aquarium, then transfer them to the new birdcage after he got back to his apartment.  He flashed me another smile.  How can anyone have teeth so white?  I really needed to give up smoking.

A couple of days later, I got a peculiar phone call from someone who said he was the beautiful young man’s roommate.  “About those birds that you gave him…”


“Did you know that he has a pet boa constrictor which he keeps in an aquarium?”


“He came home with those birds, and when the boa couldn’t catch them, he chopped their feet off.”


“He just sat there, drinking his beer, watching those terrified birds bleeding to death as the boa started to eat them.”


“He’s going to call you tomorrow, to ask you for more birds.  He says you have four more.  Please don’t give him any more.”

And, indeed, the young man did call, the very next day, asking if he could have two more.  He said his girlfriend had come over to his apartment, had seen the birds, had fallen in love with them, and that he had no choice but to give them to her.  So could he have two more?  In my mind’s eye, I could see him flashing his beautiful smile, yet again.  And then I thought of him feeding my birds to his “girlfriend.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, wondering why I was apologizing instead of screaming at him. “The papa bird and mama bird seem unhappy about the disappearance of two of their young ones.  I can’t give away any more of their babies.”

And that was that.  I never saw or heard from the young man again.  In this story, Beauty not only falls in love with the Beast, Beauty turns into the Beast.  Even today, as I retell and relive the story, I find myself near tears.  And I am reminded of a poem written by another friend in the Philippines, someone whom all the pretty girls in our group laughed at, when we were all so young, because they said he was so ugly.  Here are the final lines of his poem:  “Why am I Melancholy/before so much Beauty?”

The poet’s name was Jun Lansang and, like the weeping willow tree in my backyard, he too is now dead and gone.  But the young Judas Tree which replaced it and which I can see from my bedroom window flowered this spring, and will continue to do so for many years yet to come.

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3 September 2009: Male Chicks, Beware!

The Associated Press reports that it has obtained a video which shows workers at an egg hatchery in Iowa tossing live male chicks into a grinder because “they can’t lay eggs or be raised quickly or profitably enough for meat.”  Hmmmm. Animal rights groups should advocate outsourcing the industry to India or China, where males are still overwhelmingly preferred to females.

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